Fun things to do in Italy

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    View from our balcony.
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Italy

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    Travel by train

    by jwilliams2005 Written Jun 12, 2014

    While living in Siclly, Italy, we caught the Salerno Ferrya from Messina . We had two options. The first option was to drive to Messina, drive your car onto the ferry, and transit to mainland, Italy. Then you could drive up the coast to whichever city that you wanted to visit. The second option was to take the train from downtown, Catania to Messina. At Messina, the engineers would uncouple the train and secured the train cars onto the ferry. When we reached the mainland, they would couple the cars, and we we would be on our way. Venice, Rome, Florence, etc. Florence is famous for it's leather goods.

    Venice, Italy
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    • Trains
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    Sardinia

    by solopes Updated May 20, 2014

    I must confess that I came somewhat disappointed from Sardinia.

    Good weather, many (good) beaches, beautiful landscape, but... I missed something - life, history, shopping, are topics where I expected better.

    Anyway, I can't blame anyone for my insufficient information, and it was a very good week in the beach, the main objective.

    Sardinia - Italy Sardinia - Italy Sardinia - Italy Sardinia - Italy
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    • Eco-Tourism
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    Leonardo da Vinci Cenacle

    by jorgejuansanchez Written Mar 21, 2014

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    I had to wait in Milano my night train to Aosta, so I had about 8 hours time to revisit a city where I had been several times in previous journeys to Italy.
    I walked from the huge train station to the Duomo and visited it inside, then headed to the castle of Sforza.
    After that, without hopes, I walked to the Santa Maria delle Grazie basilica, just to have a look to the paintings inside and to the Sacrestia del Bramante. I had no hopes to get a ticket to watch the famous painting of the Cenacle, by Leonardo da Vinci. Anyway I asked and ¡surprise! I was given a ticket!
    I could not believe it. Previously I have asked some tourists while queuing ion the Duomo and all told me that it was useless to try. Nevertheless they offered me a ticket without any problem.
    I bought it, of course, and entered the place together with about 30 other tourists. There was a guide giving explanations in Italian, so I could learn more about that refectory and its painting. I felt in the seventh heaven!
    That painting, together with the Giaconda, the Greco work The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, Las Meninas by Velazquez plus Night Watch by Rembrandt, are considered the greatest masterpieces in the world. Now I was lucky to have seen them all.
    Happy, I returned on foot to the train station and travelled to Aosta Valley.

    Santa Maria delle Gracia
    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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    Udine

    by solopes Written Dec 23, 2013

    I never planned to visit Udine, and, even being not far (in Lignano Sabbiadoro) I was not expecting to go there, until the day when a few portuguese friends suggested it as na alternative to beach in a rainy day. We went there, and the visit was rather interesting. A good surprise.

    Udine Udine Udine Udine Udine

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    Capri

    by solopes Updated Dec 23, 2013

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    One of the highlights of Italy, the bay of Naples, has Capri as its central attraction. Frequent boats from Sorrento and other harbours allow a visit that may be accomplished in just one day.

    Beware of touts and the promotion of the blue cave - only in some days, at some hours, you'll be able to enter.

    Capri - Italy
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism
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    Amalfitan Coast

    by solopes Updated Dec 23, 2013

    Capital of "beach tourism" in Italy, this is, really, a very beautiful region. The beaches are small, but the views are great. And also the prices. That's the problem.

    Amalfi and its coast are, really, a selected place to selected people.

    Amalfitan Coast - Italy Amalfitan Coast - Italy

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    How do you say 'bargain' in Italian? Chiesa!

    by goodfish Updated Dec 19, 2013

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    Just kidding; a chiesa (kee-AY-za) is a church, in the local language. I'm not kidding about the thousands of chapels, basilicas and cathedrals being a budget-strapped traveler's best friends, though. Don't have the entry fee for the Uffizi or Borghese Galleries? See works by Bernini, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael and others of the Italian masters for the price of some shoe leather and a bit of research. Spent your colosseum euros on gelato instead? Wander the Pantheon in Rome: now a Christian church, it's one of the the best-preserved Roman structures of its age in the world, and an architectural marvel.

    From massive, spire-studded duomos to crumbling little monastic cloisters, they're all interesting and the vast majority of them are free. Have some small change in your pocket? Donations of any amount are always welcome and encouraged.

    Certain rules do apply to visitors so see my "It's church: behave" review for the skinny on that.

    Related to:
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    • Architecture
    • Budget Travel

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    Torrechiara tells a love story

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    The location of Torrechiara castle is splendid. It sits high above the wide Parma river valley and with its four massive towers it gives the impression of power. It belongs to the many castles and fortresses of provinces Parma and Piacenza which together form the Castelli del Ducato

    The castle was built in 15th century on the remains of a former castle by Pier Maria II Rossi, count of San Secondo. It was built as both a military and residential castle but was also meant to be a castle for his lover Bianca Pellegrini. The Camera d’Oro (golden chamber) is a magnificent tribute to her. The walls are covered with terracotta tiles showing four symbols: the coat of arms, the castle, hearts and the initials of the lovers. Once they were painted in gold and blue, but all is faded by now. Only on some tiles remains of the paint can be seen. The vault is painted with frescoes of the woman walking through the lands of her lover, searching for him. The whole room is splendid, several reliefs like arches and pillars create an almost three dimensional view. This is best seen from the door which leads out onto the terrace.
    But the other rooms are also interesting. All covered with frescoes of specific themes, thus the rooms are named according to the themes: Sala di Giove (Jupiter), Sala dei Paesaggi (landscapes), Sala della Vittoria (victory) etc. The most interesting frescoes, apart from the one in Camera d’Oro, were the ones in the Salone dei Acrobati: acrobats, indeed an unusual theme. An excellent description of the rooms is given on the website of Festival di Torrechiara which takes place in July and August and which is dedicated to Renata Tebaldi, a famous soprano (1922 – 2004). That’s why there is an exhibition dedicated to many of the operas she sang and the dresses she and her partner singers were wearing. I think it is a permanent exhibition, although it wasn’t mentioned anywhere. In this exhibition the most fascinating exhibits to me were the miniatures of stages, displayed in showcases. I loved the way they were made, giving the feeling of perspective when looked at them from the front and how this was achieved when looked at from the sides. Silly me forgot to take photos. Oh, photos: it is forbidden to take photos inside, but.... well.... more photos on my Torrechiara page :-)
    And to get an idea of the many castles in this region, watch the short video on Discover Italy website.

    Opening hours:
    November – February: Tue – Fri: 9:00 – 16:30, Sat & holidays: 10:00 – 17:00
    March – October: Wed – Sat: 8:30 – 19:30, Tue & holidays: 10:30 – 19:30.
    Entrance fees: 5 Euro for adults, 3 Euro for kids below 18.

    Directions:
    Torrechiara is located south of Parma, on road SP665R, between Pilastro and Langhirano (the village of Parma ham).

    Location of Torrechiara on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Emilia Romagna;
    nearest airport: Bologna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., April 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Torrechiara, entrance to the inner castle Torrechiara, one of the balconies Torrechiara, view over Parma river valley Torrechiara, old wood inlay work Torrechiara, terracotta tile in Camera d'Oro
    Related to:
    • Castles and Palaces
    • Historical Travel
    • Photography

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    Canossa, the castle behind the saying :-)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    In the cold and snowy days of a January day in 1077, so say history experts, a famous incident happened here on Canossa Castle: Salian Emperor Henry IV stood in front of the entrance portals for three days, barefoot and full of penitence. It was to have a preliminary end to the fierce dispute (investiture controversy) between pope and emperor who would be the “higher ranked” and thus have the right to declare bishops and popes. (of course the whole story is much more complicated but I leave that to the respective websites). When Henry IV walked all the way down to Canossa, he came from Speyer, where the Salians had their seat. Speyer is located close to where I grew up and that’s why I always wanted to see what was left of that famous Canossa Castle. Add to this the history classes at school and the famous saying “to walk to Canossa” when something painful has to be done and penance is being asked for, then you have the reasons why I was pleased to see how close Canossa is located to a friend’s house. Most naturally we went there when I stopped by in May 2010 and I was impressed! Not much is left of the castle itself, although it must have been impressive given the reconstruction sketch. It belonged to Mathilda of Toscana during the famous year of 1077. She was a close friend of pope Gregorio VII and cousin to Henry IV and a very strong woman of her time. A little museum (Museo Nazionale di Canossa) on top of the castle hill explains a lot about her life and of course about the famous day in January many many moons ago.

    Opening hours of the museum:
    Daily 11:00 – 18:30 (and closed during noon time: 13:00-13:30).
    I am sure there must be a small entrance fee, but we were invited.

    Directions:
    Oh my god... the castle is located south of Parma and Reggio nell’Emilia (almost forms a triangle with these). From Parma, drive to San Polo d’Enza and further south to Ciano d’Enza and look for the signs “Castello di Canossa”. It is a tiny road and leads up to the castle.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Emilia Romagna;
    nearest airport: Bologna
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Location of Canossa on Google Maps.

    © Ingrid D., March 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Canossa Castle ruins Canossa Castle and ... some Renaissance girl :) Inside the museum, a model of the church Mathilda's dress The countryside around Canossa
    Related to:
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    Outside Siena: marvellous countryside

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    The countryside southeast of Siena is marvellous. This is the part of Toscana where these endless winding streets with cypresses are found and where Crete Senesi is located, this in a way moonlike landscape. Very much worth a day trip. Unfortunately it is rather difficult to find public transportation for such a countryside trip; it would involve many changes and at the end not much would be left from the day. So it is easier to rent a car and drive around. Rental cars are available in Siena.

    I found the most enchanting landscape being along the street SP/SS438, south of the highway that connects Siena with Perugia. When I drove past in November the fields were already harvested and had this earthen colour which, together with a ray of sunlight here and there, gave this all an almost out of this world appearance.

    And then there is Abbazia di Monte Oliveto nearby, a Benedictine monastery with marvellous frescoes by Luca Signorelli, the one who painted the side chapel in Orvieto’s duomo. And next to this monastery is an almost lunarlike landscape, eroded white clay. Most magic!

    Maybe the best time for a visit is summer indeed, or early autumn. In case you are interested, have a look at the off path section on my Siena page.

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    Region: Toscana;
    nearest airport: Firenze (aka “Florence”)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Abbazia di Monte Oliveto on Google Maps.

    © Ingrid D., March 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Crete Senesi - outstanding light impressions Eroded landscape near Abbazia Monte Oliveto Abbazia Monte Oliveto Abbazia Monte Oliveto
    Related to:
    • Photography
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  • Trekki's Profile Photo

    Siena, much more than Campo...

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Siena is well worth a visit not only as a day trip to Campo and duomo. I would suggest a minimum of two or even three days and especially visits to Museo Civico and Santa Maria della Scala. Museo Civico houses a marvellous collection of frescoes of the time of council of the nine, a magnificent way to walk back in time. Santa Maria della Scala is another sadly very much unnoticed museum. Rather humble it sits just opposite of the entrance to the duomo but it has an amazing history: it was one of the first hospitals in Europe, dating back to the 9th century.
    Add to this a very lively atmosphere during the days around Siena’s most famous festival, the Palio, and a very charming feel of the old town anywhere off the main touristy axis between duomo and campo and you have all the ingredients for a very much relaxed visit.

    I stayed in Siena for two weeks in November 2010, to attend a language lesson. Dante Alighieri School was the perfect place for both: learning and enjoying this vibrant atmosphere of Siena.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Toscana;
    nearest airport: Firenze (aka “Florence”, code FLR)
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Location of Siena on Google Maps.

    © Ingrid D., February 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

    Siena, reflection of duomo Siena, Santa Maria della Scala museum Siena, SM Provenzano church Siena, Palazzo Chigi Saracini, vaulted ceiling Siena, typical old clock
    Related to:
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    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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    Santa Maria Angeli and San Francesco

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    I didn’t visit Assisi when I travelled in Umbria. Somehow I was in a kind of spiritual mode, “light and easy” and slow and hadn’t seen many tourists. I planned to visit Assisi though but when I approached it and saw the masses of busses unloading more masses of travellers I decided that it is not my time to see the city and churches. So I passed it and went further down (= down the hill) to Santa Maria Angeli, which is located at a place with high significance for San Francesco and his followers. Not that it was all empty and quiet, but at least not that crowded. I had some difficulties to imagine that this was once the place where San Francesco was praying in the forest; nowadays the whole region is quite settled. And somehow I had a bit of a strange feeling that the tiny little wooden church, which was the first one, the Franciscans built (Porziuncola, something like nucleus), is now surrounded by this huge baroque chiesa Santa Maria degli Angeli. The little church inside looks forlorn. And as soon as the busses come and unload their masses into the church, it gets loud inside. So I was even more happy not to have been in Assisi, I think I would have gone mad and not found what I looked for. Next time, but then in winter maybe.
    I liked the surroundings though. The long and wide pathway which leads to the church has interesting mosaics picturing Porziuncola (photo 3) and the church’s sideway is paved with thousands of little cobbles with the names of pilgrims who went from here to Assisi by foot (photo 5).
    (There is no entrance fee to the church, BTW, and it is forbidden to take photos – erm, well, I saw the sign only when I left the church..)

    Location of Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli 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.)

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    Lago Trasimeno, in the footsteps of Hannibal

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Who does not remember Hannibal and the famous battle at Lago Trasimeno from school days? I did, because when I went to school, our teachers were that much focussing on Roman and Greek history and later Medieval times that when I left school at age 18 and I didn’t get past Thirty Years War… My memories of Hannibal were even that bad that I heavily protested when my parents wanted to stop here on our way to southern Italy holidays later. And when I was preparing my Umbria trip and saw the lake sitting in the map, a brief “oh no” shoot through my brain. But then I thought, I should overcome these memories and simply visit the lake. Actually I liked the lessons in Greek and Roman history somehow. Well, easy said and easy done – I started on a beautiful sunny day from Bevagna (one of the few I had) and headed southwest. I didn’t want to approach the lake via the motorway from Pergugia but rather sneak in through a side gate. What a good decision, as the road from Marsciano (20 km south of Perugia) to the lake was a delight itself, as it was winding up and down through gentle hills. And when I finally arrived near Monte Buono (at the southeastern side), the lake peacefully stretched out in front of me. I wanted to drive around the lake as close as possible but found that this is not possible for most parts. But at least I went through San Feliciano, which has a fishermens’ museum (which must be excellent from what I have heard) and found the beautiful ruin of Castell Zocorro (photo 2), although I didn’t find out much about it. The nearest bigger city is Passignano sul Trasimeno, a quiet little village at the lake. Once, SAI/Ambrosini was located here, of which the monument built in the lake reminds (main photo). I had a lovely stroll along the shores of Lago Trasimeno here and an excellent snack at one of the little restaurants. There is certainly more to discover in Passignano, but I wanted to continue and find “ma Hannibal”. But before I turned off at Tuoro to visit this trange monument Campo del Sole, a group of 27 stone monuments (photo 5) which are said to comemmorate the famous battle. Hm, I am not a fan of modern art, that’s why I didn’t see the connection. But they look interesting and some even funny like the bird in my photo.
    The battlefield finally is not easy to find, and to be honest, I didn’t look for it. I found the place where a huge board explains the battle in all the 4 different possibilities historians were once drawing. But I was distracted by a magnificent wild flower forest behind this and so I was more photo hunting than learning my history lessons. Maybe next time.

    There is more to see around the lake, lovely village of Panicale in the south for example, the little islands and Castiglione del Lago. Next time for me :-)

    Location of Lago Trasimeno 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.)

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    Marmore waterfalls, manmade and strange

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Cascata delle Marmore are something strange! They are really beautiful – but artificial. Well, not actually artificial, but they won’t exisit without man’s interference. This interference began already in Roman times when it was decided to drain the plains of Rieti (which is the region around Lago Piediluco) by directing river Velino over the cliff down into river Nera (the one which gave name to Valnerina). Those days it must have been a constant waterfall, but since 1924 it is used to generate energy in the nearby Galleto hydroelectric powerplant. Thus it is controlled now and can be viewed in its splendor only at specific times per day. These change constantly depending on month and day of the week, but they are published on the Marmore website: waterfall timetable.

    I came from San Pietro in Valle and was on my way to Lago Piediluco when I drove past the waterfall. Originally I didn’t plan to visit it but then I saw that it was “on” and briefly stopped at the huge parking lot (obviously made for a tremendous amount of busses). I checked the prices but decided that for 5 € I better stay outside and look at the waterfall from the street. Which was also nice :-)

    According to the website, there is a path leading from the waterfall’s bottom (Belvedere Inferiore = lower viewpoint) to the upper one (Belvedere Superiore).

    As I love legends, I must share this one of how Cascata delle Marmore was formed with you: once upon a time, nymph Nera and pastoralist Velino were in love. But Jupiter very much disapproved and transformed Nera into a river. Velino, in desperation, plunged down the cliffs to reunite with her.

    Location of Cascata delle Marmore 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.)

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    San Leo, tiny hilltop village (Le Marche)

    by Trekki Updated Aug 13, 2013

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    Even if you only drive through Le Marche, you will soon realise that it is full of hilltop castles, villages and fortresses. So why not make a short stop somewhere and explore one of them. A good “somewhere” is San Leo, only half an hour to the west of San Marino Republic. Already when approaching San Leo from the east, the huge rock with the roundish castle catches the eye. But it all gets better as soon as you drive (or walk) up the only entrance street to the village. The village is narrow and full with old houses and even two churches, which date back more than 1000 years. San Leo can be easily visited in 2-3 hours (without lunch or dinner). It has two very old churches (parish church and cathedral) and the castle which sits high on the rock. Careful – if you want to visit the castle, you should plan minimum another hour or so, as it has a very interesting museum inside.

    Location of San Leo on Google Maps.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Region: Emilia Romagna;
    nearest airport: Ancona (Falconara, code AOI).
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    © Ingrid D., May 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)

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