Unique Places in Italy

  • Wall of Pinocchio masks
    Wall of Pinocchio masks
    by GrumpyDiver
  • arched house in the old core of Ferrara
    arched house in the old core of Ferrara
    by croisbeauty
  • the pool
    the pool
    by croisbeauty

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Italy

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    Roccantica

    by solopes Updated Dec 23, 2013

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    Ninety per cent of the tourist share an image of each visited country, that only in a small part coincides with reality. To know the real country and people, you have to step outside of the common circuits, and... get lost (I love to loose myself when travelling with time, to Fernanda's despair).

    Not far from Rome, Roccantica is small town perched in a hill, with a magnificent look. And you will not being wasting your time, if you make a brief stop.

    I was not lost! I went there expressly and twice.

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    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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    The church of Saint Michael Archangel in Roncole

    by margaretvn Written Nov 30, 2013

    The parish church in the village played a very important part in the life of the composer Verdi and below the church is a room with some mementos of him. Verdi was baptised in the church the day after his birth. The organ on the left wall of the apse was built in 1797 by the Francesco Bossi company. The fresco's in the church are beautiful and are attributed to the Cremona school of the 15th-16th century.

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    • Music
    • Museum Visits
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    Roncole Verdi

    by margaretvn Written Nov 30, 2013

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    This little village is the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi's father was an innkeeper and his mother was a spinner and they lived in a rented house in the centre of the village which was a tavern- but a postal station, a canteen, and inn had been added.
    Their son Giuseppe was born on the room overlooking the village square and the churches bell tower at 8 pm on the 10th of October 1813. As young boy Verdi played on the church organ with his teachers.
    The Pallavicino Marquises were the long time owners of the house and they wished to keep it unchanged. In 1939 the Municipality of Busseto bought the house. There is a bronze bust of the composer at the entrance of the house. It was cast in 1913 for the first centenary of the composers birth.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Music

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    Madonna della Stella, with fascinating story

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    This church is an example of a very much unexpected find in the middle of Valle Umbra, away from any village. When I drove from Montefalco to Campello sul Clitunno I suddenly saw this huge church in the distance and wanted to know what it is. I wouldn’t have seen it if it would not stand that much isolated – nothing around but plain meadowns and fields. And when I arrived on the premises, I was amazed of the huge parking facilities and a little shop around the church. Only later (when doing my “post research”) I found out the background of this all. It was a bit difficult as all I found was in Italian only, but “babelfish” helped me to understand what I was reading.

    Madonna della Stella (Madonna of the star) was built in Medieval times and dedicated to Sant’ Bartolomeo. Mid of 19th century, so the story tells, voices of the madonna were heard here and that she wanted this church to be restored. In 1861, a little boy, Frederico “Righetto” Cionchi, son of a poor family, said that the painting of the madonna inside the church had spoken to him but as he was the only one, no one didn’t believe him. However, he insisted that there was a beautiful woman in red dress who spoke to him and walked to the little church daily. One year later, a very ill woman was brought to the church and immediately recovered, as soon as she has entered the church. This was the moment when the locals started to believe the boy and the stories about the madonna and started to restore the church. Righetto became a friar and died 1923. Later, his remains were brought to the church, where many people go on pilgrimage to visit his tomb. Next to the church is a little statue (photo 5) in memory of him. It was built at the occiasion of his 100th year of birth in 1957.

    As I didn’t know anything of this all when I saw the church, I must have missed a lot. So in case you are interested to visit this church, be prepared and read the long articles in the websites below.
    apparition of the Madonna,
    story of sanctuary Madonna della Stella

    Directions:
    (it is useless to write down the directions of how I found it as I took the most tiniest roads from Montefalco). On SP451 between Bastardo and Spoleto, near Castel Ritardo, or just before Mercatello to be precise, turn north direction (most probably) Il Piano, Borghetto, San Lucca. You will see the church from the road and there should be a sign as well. It is located on Google Maps, but zoom in as much as possible.

    Location of Madonna della Stella on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Umbria
    Nearest airport: Roma (Ciampino, CIA or Fiumicino, FCO) or Perugia (PEG).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: region/airport added.

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    Little church, one of the many along roads

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    I found this wonderful church only by accident, when I drove north into Valle Umbra coming from Lago Piediluco and Terni. I left the highway (E45/SS3bis) north of Aquasparta and only 5 minutes later I saw this church at the street so I got off and looked a bit closer. I was amazed to say the least (couldn’t close my mouth to be precise). There was this most magic church sitting there without a big sign or any notification. I found a little explanation board though. But it wasn’t mentioned in any of my guidebooks. Only later I found further information on Massa Martana’s website (the village next to it to the north). But this is very much typical for middle Italia, at least the way I perceived it: there are so many churches with very fascinating history and treasures inside which are hardly mentioned anywhere.

    This church is very old. According to legends it was built in 5th century but more likely in 7th or 8th and subsequently expanded over the years. From the outside it looks a bit weird, as the entrance façade is very much inclined (photo 3, although part of the effect in this photo is from my wide angle lens). But it is very pretty with the big rose window (3 carved fish inside) and the fascinating poited arch above the entrance portal (main photo). Though much of the insert work is gone (maybe earthquakes, maybe course of time), the flower friezes are beautiful and somehow similar to the ones in Tempietto di Clitunno (but definitely newer). Inside, the church is also simple in constructions, albeit it has two aisles. According to the “principle of architectural recycling” (see local customs), some Roman fragments have been used as decorative elements. There are also many frescoes on the aisle walls (some are visible in photo 5). But what fascinated me most were the drawings or unfinished frescoes on the pillars (as the one in photo 4). There is much more to admire inside and outside of this church, as I found out later on the website below. But… there is always a next time, certainly for me, as Umbria is just too beautiful and I am wondering already now how many more churches like this I will find next time.

    Oh, the church’s name is Santa Maria in Pantano – pantano means swamp, and obviously Valle Umbra was wetlands in the very past (see also the previous tip about Fonti di Clitunno).

    Location of Santa Maria in Pantano on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Umbria
    Nearest airport: Roma (Ciampino, CIA or Fiumicino, FCO) or Perugia (PEG).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: region/airport added.

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    Tempietto Clitunno, tiny and unexpected

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    Next to Fonti di Clintunno is a little temple. It seems to have built in 4th to 6th century. The historians are not exactly sure about the date, because material was used from older buildings and temples (a very much common practice as I found throughout middle Italy). Maybe there was even once a pagan temple devoted to Clitumno, the Umbrian river god. Plinius mentioned this temple in one of his writings.
    The temple is tiny (photo 3) and quite interesting, maybe because it is so tiny and yet has so much to look at. Corinthian columns of different style have been used for the front (photo 2) and the tympanum has an inscription SCS deus angelorum qui fecit resurectionem (god of the angels who ensures resurrection – I hope my age old school Latin didn’t abandon me) which means that it was indeed a Christian temple. There is another piece of stone inside the temple with parts of an inscription (photo 4), but apart from SCS deus there is not much to decipher (maybe “Romanus”?). The apse has beautiful frescos and a marble altar (photo 5). The frescos depict blessing Christ (the bible in his hand is still visible) and below are apostles San Pietro and San Paolo.
    I was the only one who visited this little temple that day and I even had the impression that the guard didn’t expect any visitor. She sat in her guardhouse and watched TV, barely noticed me. Maybe this was why I could take photos inside, which is not allowed (there is a sign at the guardhouse). But I didn’t use flash. Somehow it was very strange here, but not in a negative way. Here I was standing inside an age old temple, one of the many left in Italy, but as this is so tiny and so very much off the pathes of Rome and the major Roman “centres” today.
    Interesting is also the outer part of the apse, visible from the main street. It also shows that it was a Christian temple – among flowers and grapes in the cross and the Greek letter Rho (top right), which stands for Christ (main photo).

    Next to the temple is the old mill at Clitunno river/creek. It has been turned into a hotel, and what I could see from above, it looked very nice. Maybe another option for accommodation in Umbria? For more information here: Veccio Molino

    Entrance fee is 2 € (April 2008).
    Opening hours: daily, April-Oct.: 8:45 – 19:45, Nov.-March: 8:45 – 17:45.

    Directions:
    In Umbria, between Assisi and Spoleto. Leave the highway SS3 at Campello sul Clitunno and drive north. Drive slow, you will miss is otherwise. It is on the left (west) side of the street, turn into a little side street to the west where it says “Vecchio Molino” (which is a hotel). The temple is approx. 500 m north of Fonti di Clitunno.

    Update, June 2011:
    During the meeting of UNESCO end of June, Tempietto di Clintunno was added to the World Heritage list, together with 6 other sites as “Longobards in Italy”.

    Location of Tempietto di Clitunno on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Umbria
    Nearest airport: Roma (Ciampino, CIA or Fiumicino, FCO) or Perugia (PEG).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.). Update (UNESCO listing): June 2011

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    Fonti di Clitunno, Plinius already knew it

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    Fonti di Clitunno was one of these unexpected finds which are close to a main road but not easy to recognise but once one gets off the car, bike or bus – provokes this special “wow” factor and one feels as if on another planet. When I was driving along the street next to SS3 (the one that connects Assisi and Spoleto) I suddenly saw a little temple, but it was too late to turn off the street. So I continued down south to look for a place to turn around. I found one, but then I saw this sign “Fonti di Clitunno” and decided I stop here and look what this is all about. Oh my…. Such an enchanting place!! At the entrance I got a little leaflet (Italian only) with the history of this spring and garden and was let onto the grounds. Ducks were greeting me and they seemed to be happily living here and happy to share their home with the visitors.

    This place got its name from the spring of river Clitunno, which was named after the Umbrian river god Clitumno. Alread the Romans have discovered this place and were so enchanted that they have built villas and a spa here. In ancient Roman literature Plinius and Vergil wrote enchanting poems about this place. These days the river was still navigable. But over the years, the landscape did change due to several earthquakes, so today there is only the tiny river spring which forms a biotope lake with many willows, poplars and cypresses and then continues its way along the little temple (next tip) as a small creek.

    It is very lovely inside. Not much to see, but the atmosphere is very quiet and very much relaxing. There are benches at the lake to sit and watch the world go by. Outside of the park, but overlooking the lake are benches and tables invite to have picnic.

    Opening hours: vary much (i.e. 30 min earlier or later – see website below), depending on the month.
    Entrance fee: adults : 2 €, kids up to 10 years enter free and groups with 15 or more people pay 1,50 € p.p. (as of April 2008)

    Outside of the park is a restaurant and gelateria. I didn’t eat here but had a very much delicious gelato.

    Directions:
    In Umbria, between Assisi and Spoleto. Leave the highway SS3 at Campello sul Clitunno and drive north. Drive slow, you will miss is otherwise. It is on the left (west) side of the street, exactly where the street makes a bend to the west.

    Location of Fonti di Clitunno on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Umbria
    Nearest airport: Roma (Ciampino, CIA or Fiumicino, FCO) or Perugia (PEG).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: region/airport added.

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    Lago Bolsena, charming and relaxing

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    Lago Bolsena is only a 30 minutes drive away from Orvieto (southwest). I didn’t spent much time here (which I regret), but while I was looking for accommodation, I thought I could at least drive to the lake and get an idea if I want to come back. And oh yes, I will definitely come back! Already the little road which winds downhill (exit SS 71 from Orvieto) gives a rough idea of how this lake was formed: it once was a volcanic crater which then filled with water. All has a very peaceful atmosphere.
    I can’t write much at the moment, as I wasn’t here long enough to explore. But I’ve read a bit on their website (see website section below) and I am sure I will come back for a longer stay here. Please make sure to open the website link. I am amazed how extensive and informative this site is. It explains much about the lake and the Etruscan origins (they even write “welcome in our 4th millennium), how the lake was formed, much information about the villages and islands (including links to the respective websites and photo albums), actual waether forecast, restaurants and accommodation and extensive information about the sports possibilities.
    Big kudos to the makers of this website!!

    Update March 2011: unfortunately the former excellent website is gone. It was replaced by a new one but i.m.o. this is not as good as the old one :-(

    Location of Lago Bolsena on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Lazio (at the border to Umbria)
    Nearest airport: Roma (FCO or CIA, 1 hour by car).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: region/airport added.

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    Lago Piediluco, hidden lovely lake (Umbria)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 14, 2013

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    This little lake attracted my attention when I saw it on the map. It looked small and no bigger city nearby. So I wanted to see it on my way from San Pietro in Valle to Valle Umbra. What a good decision! It was a bit tricky to get “uphill” to Marmore, as the road lead through the very tiny and narrow streets of Papigno, off SS 209 (the street through Valnerina) but once I was up at Marmore, the lake is signposted. And when the lake came in view I was amazed of this very much beautiful setting. The area is rather flat in this region, a kind of high plain but surrounded by little hills and the big mountains of Monti Reatini in the background to the east. There was such a quiet and serene atmosphere around the whole place, it was as if I was in another world. Maybe it is different in summer, when the little village of Piediluco prepares for summer guests with many watersport options such as boat rides and kayak and swimming of course. Italy’s kayak national team is exercising here by the way. The village is really a lovely spot and a hike uphill leads to the top of Monte Luco with the old papal fortress Rocca dell’ Albornoz.

    The cone shaped mountain Monte Caperno, opposite of Piediluco, by the way, is called Monte dell’Eco, as it is famous for an extraordinary clear echo at a point near a picnic area. This is the mountain on the left side in photo 2.
    After I had a lovely gelato I tried to drive around the lake, but this is not possible, as the road leads around it in a circle. Hiking oir cycling would have been an option – well, next time! While I drove around I saw many signs for historical buildings and churches, so there is definitely a lot to discover here! To the southeast is another little natural reserve which must be beautiful, Riserva Naturale diei Laghi Lungo e Ripasottile, and the fact that the website is only available in Italian shows that it is very much overlooked by other than Italian travellers. I especially liked the southern part of the lake with gentle hills and ah so green meadows. To the north (and back to the road to Marmore) it gets a bit ugly, they seem to build something like a huge street, so maybe the magic of this western part will vanish soon.

    Directions:
    From Terni (southern Umbria) drive east, SR209. Look for signs to Marmore (the artificial waterfall) and turn off to the south at the little village of Papigno. Once through this village, continue to drive direction Marmore, pass Marmore and then it is only some 3-5 km further down southeast.

    Location of Lago Piediluco on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Umbria (at the border to Lazio)
    Nearest airport: Roma (FCO or CIA, approx. 1 hour by car).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.), update March 2011: region/airport added, link repaired.

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    The Oliero Caves.

    by Maurizioago Updated Jul 9, 2013

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    If you happen to be in Bassano del Grappa I would suggest to do a day trip to Valstagna to spend some time at a beautiful park. Inside there are some caves. One of these has various stallatites to see. You'll go inside with a small boat and there is a guide who gives you a good explanation about this cave and other info on the matter. This small cave is home of the so-called "human fish" or proteus. This is a white-pink reptil that was brought there long ago in order to see if it was able for this kind of being to survive and reproduce. The experiment was succesful. Nowadays there are some proteus into the cave. We didn't see them, but we watched a documentary about caves at the Museum of Speleology and Carsism outside the park.

    Inside the park there are some facilities as a cafe-restaurant, toilettes and a pic nic area.

    To go to the Oliero Caves you have to take the train from Bassano del Grappa to Carpanè Valstagna station. Then walk for about 1.5 km on a pleasant path.

    Related to:
    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Eco-Tourism

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    Asolo.

    by Maurizioago Updated Jul 9, 2013

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    Asolo is a well preserved Medieval town located some 15 km from Bassano del Grappa.

    It is overlooked by a fortress (Rocca) Asolo has an ancient castle (now a theatre and cafe-restaurant); a cathedral and a City Museum. Unfortunately this is open only on saturday and sunday.

    Asolo was chosen as a living place by several artist, like the poet Robert Browning, the actress Eleonora Duse and the writer-traveller Freya Stark.

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    Bassano del Grappa.

    by Maurizioago Updated Jul 9, 2013

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    Bassano del Grappa is a nice town in northern Italy. It is located some 35 km a north east of Vicenza and 43 km nord of Padua. This town is known for a covered bridge, for grappa; a liqueur produced in the area; the locally produced ceramics and the white asparagus. The covered wooden bridge; over the Brenta river was designed by Andrea Palladio (see my Vicenza page...) to replace an earlier one. Then it was rebuilt various times. The current structure was made after the destruction in the WWII.

    The town has a couple of museums to visit. A museum with a rich collection of ceramics; housed into the Sturm Palace; not far from the bridge and the Civic Museum; located inside the ex hospital of the convent of Saint Francis.

    Bassano del Grappa has a good choice of restaurant and cafes even if it isn't a touristic town.

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    The Island of Ischia.

    by Maurizioago Updated Jun 6, 2013

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    Ischia is an island in the Thyrrenian Sea. It is the largest and the most populated island in the Gulf of Naples. It has an area of 47 sq km. (18 sq mi.). Ischia is located only 33,3 km. far from Naples.

    This island is much frequented as a health and vacation resort. Ischia has lots of thermal springs. Many hotels on the islands have pools with thermal water and offer various kinds of cures; see massages and mud baths.

    On Ischia there are some sights to see; including the ancient Aragonese Castle in Ischia Porto, several museums and gardens.

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    Stair, steps and hills

    by razella Updated Mar 16, 2013

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    If you wish to see a town on a hillside then you must go to Taormina in Sicily. There are so many steep hills, hundreds of stairs to climb and breathtaking beauty all around. There are old castles, cathedrals, the sea from all points, many aquatic sports and ancient ruins to discover. The hospitality is wonderful as is the many little tratorrias and cafes on the main concorses. There are affordable guest houses as well as the expensive hotels overlooking the sea. The fish is plentiful and delicious as most of the country's Italian cuisine. I stayed in a home, that caters to guests that was situated on a hillside and the view from my window was incredible, rolling hills, lush greenery and the Ionic Sea. This place is not advertised, I happened to stumble upon it. If you walk up or drive to Via Pirandello towards Porta Messina and continue up, you will see typical Sicilian homes and guesthouses. This one is way on top accessed by a wide staircase called Via Salita Branco N.3 leading to the apartment. The rooms are simple and clean but the hospitality is amazing. The owners are so generous and will gladly share their meal with you or offer you some local wine. They are very knowledgeable about the areas and will give you some good useful information like where to shop, eat or visit. A quiet hideout above to rest and to contemplate the beautiful scenery
    above and below you.

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    • Women's Travel

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    Jewish Community of Venice

    by hopang Updated Dec 26, 2012

    The Ghetto of Jewish Community of Venice is principally situated at Cannaregio sestiere of Venice with Ghetto Nuovo (New Ghetto) and Ghetto Vecchio (Old Ghetto). However the Old Ghetto is more attractive to visitors. The population of the Jewish Community in Venice living in the Ghetto is approximately 500 persons today. Well-known residents living in the Ghetto in Venice include the famous writer Leon of Modena. Jewish Community of Venice also operates Jewish Musuem. The information center of Jewish Community of Venice located at the Old Ghetto may be attractive to foreign tourists.

    To reach the Old Ghetto in Venice, visitors can walk from Santa Luca Railway Station towards Campo S. Geremia and after crossing the bridge Ponte della Guglie, turn towards your left until you reach Gam Gam Restaurant. Walk towards your right before Gam Gam Restaurant along Calle Ghetto Vecchio. You should be able to see the Information Center of Jewish Community of Venice.

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    • Family Travel

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