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
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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Italy

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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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    For a Real Off the Beaten Path Experience

    by deecat Updated Aug 3, 2005

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    One of the best Off the Beaten Path" experiences, try a Bed and Breakfast called "Casa dei Chianti" in Corsignano.

    Talk about difficult to find! We had read about this place in the Karen Brown Bed and Breakfast Book and wanted to try it and the restaurant next door. We kept stopping to ask how to get to Corsignano, and we kept receiving different directions.

    We were on some out-of-the-way road when we saw a lady getting out of her car. We stopped, and I asked her for directions. She said, "Forget that place and stay in our rental; I will take you there, just follow me".. We did as we were asked. That began quite an adventure.

    The rental home was HUGE with four bedrooms, dining room, living room, three bathrooms, and a sunroom as well as a large balcony and a gigantic patio. It was Way Out in the country. She was renting it to us for the equivalent of $100.00 per night!" Reluctantly, we said no because it was too isolated for this late in the afternoon on a Sunday, and we had no food. Plus, we already had a reservation. [If only we could find out its location!]

    After another hour, we finally found "Casa dei Chianti Bed and Breakfast". We were so glad that we waited. It was a joyful, lovely place. That evening, we had a devine dinner next door. But, best of all, we met Lorenzo and Olga & Bob and Dee from San Diego, California. We talked with them for about 2 hours and discovered that they were staying in the same place we were. It was said the next day when we had to say good-bye to such interesting people.

    However, one day in Lucca when Allan and I were visiting the church next to our Hotel, who did we run into but Lorenzo, Olga, Bob and Dee. Now that is real Serendipity!

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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.

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    Marostica

    by croisbeauty Updated Nov 26, 2005

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    Marostica, a stronghold of the Ezellini in the 12C-13C, was rebuilt in 1311-1386 by the Scaligeri. Today it is a charming old fortified townlet preserving its medieval ramparts, which connect the lower castle on the square with the upper castle on the green hillside above.
    Partita a scacchi (chess game), in which the whole town participates, take place every two years in early September in Piazza Castello. The match commemorate and reproduce a duel fought in 1454 between Rinaldo d'Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara for the hand of Liopnora, daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the local Venetian governor. At the end of the game the wedding take place, with some 500 participants in 15C costumes.

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    Lago di Garda - Desenzano

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Desenzano del Garda is a pleasant resort, well equipped with hotels. From the quay a bridge crossesa tiny pitoresque inlet used as a harbour for small boats. Behind is the main squarewith a monument to St. Angela Merici (1474-1540), foundress of the Ursuline order, who was born here. The parish church contains "Last Supper" by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

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    Lago di Garda - Malcesine

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Malcesine is a likeable resort which was the seat of the Veronese Captains of the Lake in the 16C-17C. Narrow roads lead up to the 13C-14C castle of the Scaligeri, restored by Venice in the 17th century. Very well maintained and open daily, it has various small museums and separate buildings, including one dedicated to Goethe.
    A cableway mounts to ski-slopes on Monte Baldo (1750m), and there are pleasant walks in the area.

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    Lago di Garda - Peschiera

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Peschiera del Garda with its ancient fortress and one of the four corners of the Austrian quadrilateral, the other three are Verona, Mantova and Legnago. The town stands at the outflow of the Mincio from Lago di Garda.
    The impressive fortifications, begun by the Venetians in 1553, were strengthened by Napoleon and again by the Austrians.
    Gardaland, the most famous children's theme park in Italy, is nearby.

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    Lago di Garda - Bardolino

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Bardolino is another ancient place on Lago di Garda known for its wine. The tower and two gates is al what remain from and old castle of the Scaligeri. The most important sight of the town is the tiny Carolingian church of San Zeno, which retains its 9C form with a tower above the crossing and ancient paving stones. Next to it stands the 12th century church of San Severo, with contemporary frescoes.

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    Tower of the Asinelli (Torre degli Asinelli)

    by Paul2001 Written Mar 25, 2004

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    Everyone has heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa but how many people know of the "Leaning Towers of Bologna"? The Tower of the Asinelli (Torre degli Asinelli) & Tower of the Garisenda (Torre degli Garisenda) are the two leaning towers of Bologna. I never heard of them until I visited Bologna. Bologna, like other cities in Italy built high towers as a symbol of status. They were the skyscrapers of the Middle Ages. Both towers were built in the 12th century. The latter tower of Garisenda is the shorter of the two and has a more pronounced lean. This is because it was built on poor foundations. It stands 49m high but was initially higher but was truncated in 1390 for reasons of public safety. The Tower of Asinelli does not lean quite so badly and is 102m high. This tower can be climbed and apparently the view are quite interesting however I cannot say so from experience.
    The towers are located at Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. It cost 3 Euros to climb up the Tower of Asinelli which is open from 9am to 6pm.

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    Lago di Garda - Torri del Benaco

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Torri del Benaco, known in the Roman times under the name Castrum Turrium, was the chief town of the Gardesana after the 13th century. There is a pretty port, right in the heart of the townlet, with a duck house.
    The castle of the Scaligeri dates from 1383, and is open daily. It contains a small museumthat illustrates the history of the fishing on the lake.

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    Lago di Garda - Salo

    by croisbeauty Updated Feb 4, 2005

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    Salo is perhaps the most appealing town of the western shore of Lago di Garda, with a slightly old-fashioned atmosphere.
    It was the birthplace of Gaspare Bertolotti, also known as Gaspare da Salo (1540-1609), generally considered to be the first maker of violins.
    The town also gave its name to Mussolini's short-lived pupper republic. Mussolini returned here in a last attempt to re-establish the fascist government of Italy. The Republic of Salo ended with the Liberation in 1945 and Mussolini's execution a few days later.
    The Cathedral of Salo is a fine building in a late-Gothic style built at the end of the 15th century.

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Italy Off The Beaten Path

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