Monday, December 9, 2013

The Beautiful Amalfi Coast


The Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast

(Naples, Salerno, Sorrento, Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, Praiano, Pompeii, Islands of Capri & Ischia).

This is an area of Italy that almost everyone has heard about, read about, or seen, via movies and photos.
However, it is everything and more than depicted in photos and movies. The entire area is a series of picture post cards. It takes some time to see and immerse oneself into the beautiful surroundings. No matter where you look there are spectacular vistas of the sea, mountains, cliffs, hillside towns, etc. 
The best way to start a trip to this area, is to take an auto tour with a driver in a private car. (never drive it yourself if you want to enjoy the scenery) After you take in the breathtaking views you will want to go back and spend time in a number of the seaside and hillside towns and villages.  Savor some of the best seafood in Italy as part of your adventure.
Don't miss Sorrento, Naples, Ravello, Positano and the islands of Capri and/or Ischia, easily reachable by fast or slow ferry boats, and don't forget Pompeii for an amazing historical experience.


One of many amazing sites and
 sights of the ruins of Pompeii, a 


A victim of the volcano that buried Pompeii,
the playground of the Romans

The entire area is famous for a number of food items such as flavorful San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella and burrata cheeses, semolina pastas, and of course, the best pizzas in the world! A visit to Naples to taste the original Neapolitan pizza is a must. The quality of the local wine may surprise you. Of course limoncello is native to the area because of the excellent lemons grown here.

As you can see by the photos below, the area has spectacular views and picturesque villages for miles. This is clearly an area of Italy in which "a picture is worth more than a thousand words!!"

You will never regret having spent time in this romantic and beautiful area of Southern Italy and you will want to "Ritorno a Sorrento"


The picturesque town of Amalfi and its coastline is a postcard
as seen form the Bay of Naples


The beautiful and spectacular Amalfi Coastline,
for viewing as a passenger!









Unbelievable view from high above the town of Ravello
as you look upon the beautiful coastline of Amalfi

A magnificent Sorrento sunset taken from my hotel room balcony
in the city of Sorrento.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

                                          UMBRIA

The Region of Umbria, which is a neighbor of Tuscany, shares much of the same landscape. There are some very interesting cities and towns to visit in Umbria, many which you have heard of, and others which may be new to you. For example, those familiar to you might be Perugia and Assisi. Others not so familiar might include Ascoli, Piceno, Pescara, Todi, Montefalco, Spoleto, or Gubbio.
Here is a sample of some towns worth visiting in Umbria:

Perugia, Umbria's capital and largest town, is a lively hill town with Etruscan and medieval roots. There's a lot to do and see in Perugia and since it's well served by public transportation, it makes a good base for exploring Umbria's hill towns. Perugia has a good Italian language school, a world famous jazz festival, and a chocolate festival. 
Piazza in Perugia

Spoleto is a walled hill town and one of the largest towns in southern Umbria. Spoleto has Etruscan, Roman, and medieval sites. Above Spoleto is a medieval Rocca and spanning the deep gorge to one side of the Rocca is Spoleto's most famous sight, Ponte delle Torri or Bridge of Towers (shown in the photo). The world famous Festival dei due mondi, two worlds festival, is held in Spoleto in late June through early July.
Bridge of Towers or Ponte del Torri in Spolet
Lake Trasimeno is one of Italy's largest lakes. Three picturesque islands can be reached by ferry and there are beaches around the lake. One of the prettiest towns is Castiglione del Lago with a medieval center and castle by the lake. The lake was the site of a famous battle between Hannibal and Rome.

Montefalco is a stunning and beautiful town located in the heart of Umbria, and offers some interesting attraction for tourists. The ancient walls of the town, cobbled streets, stone buildings along with the medieval architecture with some lovely churches and cathedrals, are some of the main highlights of this town. Just across the Spoleto valley, Montefalco offers some of the best scenic glimpse of the landscape along this region. You can find some lovely orchards and olive groves along with vineyards in this lovely town. Try the local red, called Montefalco.
Beautiful rolling hills of Montefalco with vineyards, orchards and olives

Assisi is famous as the home town of Saint Francis, or San Francesco, the patron saint of Italy. The Saint Francis Basilica in Assisi holds the tomb of Saint Francis and is a popular tourist and pilgrimage destination. Assisi also has several other interesting churches, Roman ruins, medieval sites, museums, and shops in its walled medieval center. There are good walks from town into the nearby countryside. 
St. Francis of Assisi Basilica
Because Umbria is not too large an area, it makes for easy driving and access to many of its towns. It also abuts Tuscany near  the area of Cortona.




Saturday, November 9, 2013

ROME

Is there anything that hasn't been said or written about Roma? From books, to movies to TV we have all seen the gladiator and Roman Empire movies. So maybe not, but that doesn't change the fact that it must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. There is so much to see and experience, in old Rome, and the countryside, so try to spend a reasonable amount of time in order to drink in everything that the area has to offer. There is much more to see than I can begin to do justice to in this blog, so let yourself go and look around every corner to find more wonders.

The Roman Empire from its inception to its "fall" has left us architectural, engineering, political, and cultural firsts, many of which have withstood the test of time. The election process, the creation of a legislative body called the Senate, and, imagine, even the idea of input from the populace, to name a few, have been replicated all over the world. Engineering and architectural wonders such as aqueducts, roads like the Appian Way, the Colosseum, and so many more physical designs are still with us. In fact, many are still in use in Rome, and others have been models for todays deisigns.

Even with all there is to do and see related to Rome's history, don't forget to eat. Roman cuisine is very good especially if you stick to their specialties. Try the Carbonara, Rome's most notable dish, or Cacio Pepe (black pepper), or spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti and fresh clams). Tuesday is fresh catch day in all the restaurants, so you won't go wrong with seafood. Regarding wines, white wines are more notable in Rome, but local reds are on the rise. Of course, because Rome is an "international" destination, you will find manay different cuisines, and wines from nearly everywhere.
Some of the local scenery and points of interest are seen in the photos included here, but again, there is so much to explore on your own.

There are hundreds of hotels in Rome of all sizes and quality but for location, the Mozart Hotel is very convenient  for being able to walk to many points of interest. They are also very restaurant savvy and will point you to the non-touristy locations.

For a convenient and reasonably priced place to eat, try Taverna del Corso, close by the Mozart Hotel.

Start packing and enjoy your journey to Rome and beyond!!


The Spanish Steps


Inside Colosseum





St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City



Thursday, October 24, 2013

THE ITALIAN RIVIERA (LIGURIA)

The Italian Riviera has much to offer. It has beautiful beaches, scenic sea views, great food, and a lot of history. It is shaped like a horseshoe and stretches from Nice, France around to the Tuscan border in Italy.
Tellaro on the Riviera


Hotel in Rapallo

Genoa styleSpaghetti con vongole (clams)

Coastal view along Italian Riviera

World Famous Aquarium in Genoa

In between there are a number of interesting towns with Genoa in the center. Everyone knows of the Cinque Terre, five picturesque towns hugging the seashore and cliffs of the Ligurian coast. There is Portofino, a retro port community, featuring multicolored pastel houses and shops. Nearby are the towns of Santa Margherita and Rapallo, lovely seaside areas with miles of promenade.
Pesto sauce was created here and it is fabulous. White wines dominate the area. If you want city life, venture to Genoa, a historical and bustling city. Be sure to visit the aquarium,  one of the best in the world.
Try taking ferries and boat tours to get the best views of the coastline towns.
The Italian Riviera is a great place to relax and tour around at your leisure. The climate is mild throughout the year. Needless to say the seafood is excellent and fresh.
Fly into Genoa or Pisa and take the short drive or train to the heart of the Riviera.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

VERONA

Compact and easy to navigate, Verona remains one of Italy’s most underrated cities despite its picturesque center of cobblestone streets lined with medieval pink-hued buildings, well-preserved Roman sites and dozens of churches. A short hop from major hubs like Milan and Venice, the former Roman settlement never feels overrun by tourists, although visitors descend on the town for events like the summer opera festival, which runs June 14 until Sept. 8 and which celebrates its centennial and Verdi’s bicentenary this year, and Vinitaly in April, one of the wine world’s most important events. In between the landmarks and happenings that keep Verona so culturally vibrant, you’ll find time for lavish meals in inventive new restaurants, tastings at wine bars tucked away behind unassuming facades and shopping in small boutiques off the main arteries. Who are we to point out that Juliet’s much-visited balcony actually has no historical connection to Shakespeare’s star-crossed characters? After all, the city is just about as romantic as it gets.






























Wednesday, September 4, 2013

VENICE

Venice is a true wonder of the world. It is worth every minute you spend there. There is so much to see and not enough space here to include it all. Make a visit and see the wonders for yourself. It is the most unique city in the world!

See

  • Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), (San Marco Square). Don't miss the guided tour named Secret Itinerary (€20), which will let you discover the part of the palace where the city's administration worked, as well as Casanova's jail and the wonderful five hundred year old roof structure.  

Bell tower of Saint Mark
  • Bell tower of St. Mark (Campanile di San Marco) — The current tower dates from 1912; an exact replica of the previous tower which collapsed in 1902. The top of the tower offers great views of Venice and the lagoon. €8
  • Clock tower (Torre dell'Orologio), (San Marco Square).— Having been closed for restoration for many years, the restored astronomical clock is now visible. The fascinating tour of the clock mechanism (and rooftop bell) can only be visited on a guided tour, which has to be booked in advance.  
  • Scuola grande di San Rocco — A masterpiece of Tintoretto, this guild house is an exquisite example of Manierist art in its best. In order to allow a comfortable admiration of the detailed ceiling mirrors are offered to the visitors.
  • Jewish Ghetto of VeniceWhile racial and ethnic neighbourhoods had existed prior to the Venetian Ghetto, Venice's ghetto was the first "ghetto" (coming from a Venetian word for the Iron Foundry that was on the site previously) and "ghetto" eventually came to mean any neighbourhood that was made up of a single ethnic/racial group. Today, Jewish life is still very active in the ghetto, and elsewhere in Venice, and is home to five synagogues. Visiting on Saturdays or late Fridays (the Jewish Sabbath) will prove very fruitless because all shops, restaurants, and other Jewish places will be closed. If you wish to sense the unique Venetian atmosphere coming from the East you can take part in an itinerary covering the Jewish Ghetto and the Rialto area to discover the crucible of races, cultures and religions that have co-existed for centuries in Venice and admire a different side of this city.  


Outdoor sights, piazzas, bridges, canals


Rialto Bridge
  • Don't miss the Rialto market and the Rialto Bridge (Italian: Ponte di Rialto) on San Polo, the smallest sestiere. The Rialto market is for shoppers. To the east is a neighborhood of small shops and restaurants; to the west is the Rialto farmers' market. Shopping is slightly less expensive than in the tourist-filled Piazza San Marco. The bridge has become one of Venice's most recognizable icons and has a history that spans over 800 years. Today's Rialto Bridge was completed in 1591 and was used to replace a wooden bridge that collapsed in 1524.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

LAKE COMO


LAKE COMO

Lake Como, in the region of Lombardy, is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. Leave your car parked for a few days if you have one, and enjoy the boat rides to the lakeside communities, of Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna, Tremezzo, Lenno and, of course, Como. You might run into George Clooney along the way! There are many beuatiful villas to visit including Villa Carlotta and Villa Melzi. When you decide you might like a drive, get the car and take the short ride to Switzerland just north of Lake Como. You can also venture to Milan if you crave the big city. Bellagio is the heart of Lake Como and sits in a beautiful location. There are good restaurants which feature fresh water fish as well as traditional pasta dishes. Varenna is also worth a visit and has a lot of charm, shops, hotels, etc. Sprimg is a beautiful time to vist lake Como. Let the journey begin!



Hotel Lenno, great location with ferry dock

View Villa Melzi waterfront

Flower Gardens on Villa Melzi property



Luxury hotel in Bellagio

Lake Como from Hotel Lenno



Villa along Lake Como near Bellagio

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Piemonte Region


 PIEMONTE REGION


The Piemonte  Region of Italy has some of the most beautiful countrysde vistas in Italy. It also features wonderful wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. We know them as Barolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and Barberesco. The City of Torino is a beautiful and vibrant city, full of young people due to the large university there. The River Po flows through the city and is home to many rowing competitions. It is an easy city for walking around and sightseeing. By the way, the cuisine is excellent especially in Autumn when the truffles and mushrooms are plentiful. By Italian measures of age, Torino is relatively modern, and well-designed. There are great views of the Alps here as well. Readers will recall that the 2006 Winter Olympics were hosted here.

From Torino it is a short drive to the rolling hills and vineyards of the Alba and Asti areas.

Alba is a wonderful small city in the heart of the Piemonte wine region, and it is a proud home of some of the best Italian truffles. Wonderful wines and Asti Spumante are produced here. Visit the town of Barolo and its spectacular interactive wine museum. Be sure to taste the Barolo while you are there. Alba is also home to Nutella, because of the major harvests of hazelnuts in the area.
In Alba you can arrange a truffle hunt experience with trained dogs, and watch them sniff and dig out the truffles. Alba is surrounded by beautiful scenery, featuring rolling hills filled with vineyards. There are beautiful vistas spanning miles. The area around Alba is easy to see by car because the villages are not too far apart. The city of Alba, itself, is comprised of a number of historical buildings, and it is designed for walking so everything can be enjoyed on foot. Don't miss having a pasta dish with fresh truffles and/or porcini mushrooms. From Alba, Asti is a short drive if you like sparkling wines. 
Also, a day trip to Genoa and  the Riviera is very doable.

Torino Municipal Building

Downtown Torino


 
Rolling Hills and Vineyards of Alba Area

Medieval Castle in Alba Wine Area



Piazza in Alba


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TURIN

TURIN


Turin is located along the Po River in the Piemonte Region of Italy. The area is known for its fresh truffles in October, great wines, and creative cuisine. It is the home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. It has the largest piazza in Italy (see photo).  It is also the home of an historic and active university.
It is a vibrant city with lots of life and activites, but it is the right size to get around by foot or public transportation. There are great restaurants and wine bars in walking distance from the city hotels. Accommodations are available in all price categories. Take a day trip to taste wines in Alba and Barolo. Go to Visitatorino.com/EN for more information or Google Turin restaurants and hotels.