Dooid’s Suggestions for This Weekend in Italy
Are you in Italy this weekend and wondering what events might be going on near you? We have you covered here with lots of ideas in every part of the Bel Paese!
- Marché Vert Nöel – Aosta Valley
- Christmas in Bolzano – Trentino Alto Adige
- Christmas in Spilimbergo – Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Beatles Exhibition – Lombardy
- The Biggest Christmas Village in Italy – Lombardy
- Villaggio di Babbo Natale – Emilia Romagna
- Niki de Saint Phalle Exhibition – Emilia Romagna
- Christmas market in Palazzuolo – Tuscany
- Christmas in Palazzuolo – Tuscany
- Tyrolese Village– Tuscany
- Christmas in Florence – Tuscany
- Christmas market in Siena – Tuscany
- Book Fairs – Lazio
- Christmas market in Perugia – Umbria
- The Gradara Castle – Marche
- Luci d’artista – Campania
- Christmas Traditions in Agnone– Molise
- Night of the Faugni– Abruzzo
- Caria Exhibition in Cagliari – Sardinia
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Stay in Lucchesia: discover Lucca and its surrounding area
Have you ever visited the beautiful city of Lucca? Have you ever been there when the camellias are in full bloom? Have you ever dressed up as a ninja with your friends for the famous Lucca Comics event? If not, the time has come for you and a group of friends or family to make unforgettable memories in Lucca. Enjoy this Stay in Lucchesia package!
Cost and Terms & Conditions
Up to 4 guests ( 2 rooms ) € 160,00/per night.
Each additional person is € 25.00 / night. The offer varies according to the number of people.
Minimum stay 4 nights.
10% off only with dooid (taxes included) on a minimum of a 7-night stay
Payment Method: by bank transfer
How to Book: read the final paragraph and fill out the form below.
Cancellation policy: free up to 30 days before arrival, after this deadline, 50% of the price of the stay will not be refunded.
An additional security deposit of € 400.00 is required for any damage caused to the property which will be refunded upon check out (after checking the house).
The house was built around 1784, when it originally housed nuns. In the early 1900’s, however, it was transformed into a small farm. The building has been finely restored, preserving the stone exterior, and is ready to offer tourists an authentic experience. The structure is located in the neighborhood called vicinato, perhaps because it is isolated, but yet close to the real village. This area is the oldest part of the town and if its walls could only talk!
What to Do and See
Lucchesia, as it’s known in Italian, is an area of Tuscany rich in art and culture, but also in various events that attract tourists and enthusiasts from all over Italy and beyond!
The city of Lucca is one of the jewels of Tuscany. The town is protected by walls on which you can take pleasant walks accompanied by the sound of rustling trees. You’ll see the famous towers (Torre delle Ore and Torre del Guinigi) above the rooftops. In the historic center you’ll find the Cathedral: Lucca is nicknamed the “city of a hundred churches” due to the large number of sanctuaries scattered within the city walls.
As you wander along the cobblestone streets of the city and window shop, you’ll make your way to Piazza Napoleone, or Piazza Grande as it’s known by the locals. This is where most of the events, such as Lucca Comics and Games and the otaku event, take place. The piazza is also home to concerts like the Lucca Summer Festival which brings international stars such as Elton John.
Going back towards the village of the camellias, or Pieve and Sant’Andrea di Compito, art and nature come together. Strolling along the streets of these villages, you’ll be able to witness the most spectacular camellias, parks and historic villas. Sant’Andrea di Compito is a charming Tuscan village with narrow streets, stone walls, ancient buildings and even some villas from the 1700s.
If you need additional information or if you’d like to personalize your package, please fill out the contact form below or send us an email at email@example.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page.
If you’re interested in this offer, contact us for additional information!
Let us organize your stay in Lucchesia:
from your hotel to everything you might need for a pleasant trip!
Package code: 201903141658
Catania package, Sicily: includes hotel, shuttle, meals!
How does a relaxing weekend in Catania, Sicily sound? Overlooking the Ionian Sea and Mt. Etna, you’ll discover Catania’s art and natural beauty. With this special Catania package you can enjoy a well-deserved break and indulge in Catania’s amazing cuisine!
Cost and Terms & Conditions
199€ per couple (meat dinner menu)
225€ per couple (fish dinner menu)
Payment Method: Deposit of 99 € required, balance due at check in. You can book at any time, even last minute (subject to availability).
How to Purchase: Read the final paragraph and fill out the form below
Cancellation Policy: Cancellation policy: the deposit amount paid will not be refunded, but you will be given the option of applying it towards a credit for a future reservation (within 6 mos).
Valid During: all year except 3-day weekends and holidays at which point there would be an increase of the offer price.
An oasis in the baroque heart of Catania where you’ll enjoy the comforts of personalized rooms, completely renovated spaces, furnishings and colors.
On the fourth floor of the building (equipped with elevator) you will enjoy a 180 ° view from the covered terrace of the most beautiful façade of the city center, in an area with limited evening traffic on weekends.
Ideal for leisure stays, individual or group, or business trips, you will be “pampered” by the managers and the attentive and dedicated staff. Free Wifi, available in all indoor and outdoor areas.
Also available for your leisure: a reading area with seasonal guides and information, tour desk, book-exchange and relaxation room, with refrigerator and drinks, kettle and herbal tea, toaster and microwave.
What to Do and See
Catania is not just a city of art! It overlooks a crystal clear sea just waiting to be discovered!
The Riviera dei Ciclopi or the Cyclops Riviera is stunning: characterized by black lava that has reached the sea. Equally beautiful and noteworthy are the Grotte di Ulisse or the Ulysses Grotto where you can take a swim in the clear waters. In the fishing village of Acitrezza you can visit the protected area around the Faraglioni and the Lachea Island by pedal boat. And you cannot leave without tasting the best granita and pastries in the area at the Eden Bar!
Admiring Mount Etna, whose prominent outline is the backdrop to the whole city, is obviously a must.
Besides the amazing gifts of Mother Nature, you’ll also want to visit the Cathedral of St. Agnes which dominates the Piazza del Duomo; the town hall and the elephant fountain; the Roman Theater; Via Etnea and so much more!
If you need additional information or if you’d like to personalize your package, please fill out the contact form below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact us on our Facebook page.
If you’re interested in this offer, contact us for additional information!
Let us organize your Catania package:
from your hotel to everything you might need for a pleasant trip!
Package code: 201903081544
Folk Traditions Festival in Petralia
That’s right, folk is not just tradition, but a life style! It’s like a drug; once you go into the tunnel, you can’t come out. You don’t even try to stop, but if for some reason, you distance yourself from it for awhile, you miss it. After awhile you get used to being without it, but as soon as you hear that distinct sound of a cheerful accordion or an upbeat mazurka, you realize that your feet are independent of the rest of your body being commanded by the beat.
The Festival of Popular Traditions – Pantomime dance of Cordella in Petralia Sottana (Palermo) is an example. This will be the XXXV Mediterranean Meeting of International Folklore held every year during August in this beautiful location within the Madonie Park. During the typical celebration of the Cordella dance, the ancient peasant traditions are recalled as a sign of hope for a fruitful harvest and married life. The festival lasts for four intense days that are packed with events, workshops and concerts from morning until late evening. There are even signing and dance workshops for children.
The last day is where the real party takes place which consists of the re-enactment of the traditional Sicilian wedding complete with a church ceremony and a wedding procession that from the village parades up to the pine forest above Petralia Sottana. The traditional Cordella dance concludes the festivities in a blaze of colored ribbons woven by twelve pairs of dancers to the rhythm of the cheerful sound of the tambourines.
Over the course of these four days the city changes its appearance, coming alive with people of all ages who fill the streets. Guests will notice the proud faces of children in their traditional garb and locals who participate enthusiastically keeping their island’s folk culture alive. Parades of local folk groups and international guests, cuisine from around the world, book lectures and finally concerts will delight.
But that’s not all. Grab a speaker, connect to a telephone, find a free square, some dancers and start again. Maybe you’ll only start with a few, 6 or 8 people, but as the music goes on, some passerbys stop to look. The energy and enthusiasm soon overwhelms them, and their swept into the growing climax of the dance.
It captures you and overwhelms you in its vortex.
It is an indispensable exchange of energy! You suddenly realize you are very tired, but the energy that your body expended is all returned to you in spirit by your dance partner, the people who dance around you, the music, the joviality of the moment, the desire to dance until exhaustion, to make friends and to fly … you realize that your body no longer feels tired.
The newcomers can initially be skeptical, embarrassed because they do not know the steps or people with whom you dance; it’s normal. The Circassian circle loosens tension, loosens the body, confuses you, amuses you. You are inexorably involved. When the music starts, the dancers frantically run in search of a partner. There are never enough men. You search through the crowd looking for a volunteer. You can not find one. You draw one against his will. Resistance. You hastily reassure him that the steps are easy and that he will learn them in a few rounds, at each change of partner. It begins. He’s tense and embarrassed. He hesitates and his steps are uncertain. He continuously makes mistakes, again and again until finally, he’s having fun. He’s passionate and alive.
There is no age. Everyone is dancing with everyone. It is pure magic.
Artigianato Vivo Festival in Cison di Valmarino
ArtigianatoVivo is an artisan festival held from 5 to 15 August in Cison di Valmarino in the province of Treviso, between Follina and Vittorio Veneto. It has steadily and increasingly attracted thousands of tourists from far and wide since 1980. There is talk of a turnout of 400,000 people this year.
The town of Cison – which has recently been inducted into the exclusive “club” of Borghi Più Belli d’Italia (Most Beautiful Villages of Italy)– comes to the forefront of excellent artisan craftsmanship that Italy truly does best.
200 exhibitors will present their unique products made strictly by hand at stands throughout the village. These types of festivals keep the Italian tradition and the art of “know-how” alive in this technological era in which craftsmanship is slowly dying.
In conjunction with the event, the Proloco organizes a series of side events such as concerts, animation shows, exhibitions and literary meetings.
ABOUT CISON DI VALMARINO
As I said, the tourist turnout is very high, and the whole territory merits a holiday of at least a few days. The artisan festival is a great opportunity to explore this beautiful area.
Cison di Valmarino is located in Valmareno, a valley dominated by the fortifications of the XII century Brandolini Castle which has been converted into a luxury hotel.
The Brandolini Counts were men of arms in feudal times and later became gentlemen dedicated to the economy, leaving an indelible imprint throughout the village.
The heart of the historic center is Piazza Roma which is dominated by Palazzo Marcello. It was the ancient Venetian villa of the Venetian doges Marcello, famous winners of the battle of Lepanto and the Loggia.
You will notice while walking through Cison that almost all the old houses have red or maroon shutters; a red that in these parts is called Rosso Brandolini.
Another example of the restoration of feudal buildings is the Antiche Cantine Brandolini. The building already appeared, as a basic structure, in fifteenth century maps. It has always been a particularly important place for the life of the village: built by the Brandolini family, it was initially used as a stable and then adapted to the wine production and conservation of agricultural products. It’s proof that the viticulture industry was already present in this area in distant times due to the high demand from Venice and the entire Veneto region.
As early as 1440, Valmareno already specialized in the cultivation of vines … and even today the entrire economy of the area is based on the production of wine, especially Prosecco.
Needless to say, this is an area where food and wine tastings are among the top tourist attractions.
Rolle of Cison di Valmarino
You can not go to visit Cison di Valmarino without going through Rolle, a very small town surrounded by Prosecco vineyards. The poet Andrea Zanzotto defined it as “a postcard sent by the gods”. Beautiful all year through, the most fascinating season to visit Rolle is undoubtedly in autumn when the hills glow red.
Copyright photo The most beautiful village in Italy + Antiche Case Brandolini + Rolle: Carla La Rocca
Copyright photo Palazzo Marcello: villevenetecastelli.com
Copyright photo Castelbrando from above: hotelcastelbrando.com
What (else) to See in Matera
In part I of our article on Matera we explored Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, or the rupestrian part of the ancient city. Part II will focus on other parts of the city (and beyond) that should definitely be included in any visit to Matera. We’ll also give you tips on what to eat while you’re here! Let’s go!
Let’s begin by highlighting some incredible museums that were not mentioned in part I of our tour. Not far from Sasso Caveoso, you’ll find the archaeological museum, Museo Ridola. Artifacts dating as early as 6,000 BC including bronze armor have all been found in the surrounding area. If you’re fascinated with rupestrian Matera, then you’ll also enjoy MuDeSca, or Museo dello Scavo, located in Sasso Barisano.
One of the newest museums in the city pays homage to a collection of art ranging from medieval to modern-day: the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art located within Palazzo Lanfranchi.
In Sasso Caveoso, another impressive collection of sculpture lies within the MUSMA, or the Contemporary Sculpture Museum.
For a complete list of Matera’s museum system, visit this link.
The Crypt of Original Sin
One of the most visited sites just outside of Matera, and considered an absolute must-see by any proper guide, is the Cripta del Peccato Originale or the Crypt of Original Sin. Referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of rupestrian art”, this chapel is a fabulously-frescoed underground wonderland. To think that this 8th-century masterpiece completed by an unknown artist(s) was discovered in the early 1960s by a group of young kids!
You can also visit the underground water system known as the Palombaro Cistern. Getting water to its residents has always been a challenge in Matera and so a system of cisterns was devised in order to solve the problem. Palombaro is located under Piazza Vittorio Veneto and is navigable by boat!
There are also natural parks and reserves located around Matera for those who want to explore outside of the city. The Parco della Murgia Materana is a fascinating place between Matera and Montescaglioso that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here, you’ll find more caves and entire villages (Murgecchia, Murgia Timone, and Trasanello) carved out of the limestone landscape that date to the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron Age. Not to mention rupestrian churches and over 1,200 species of wildlife and plants.
Matera’s culinary traditions have remained very much intact for centuries due to its geographic isolation. Many dishes are similar to those found in neighboring Puglia and reflect the agricultural and pastoral traditions of the area. Dishes are hearty and often vegetable or legume-based.
Pane Materano is the delicious bread made from durum wheat that can weigh up to 2 kg! Pasta is also made exclusively from durum wheat and many times, still by hand. Varieties include orecchiette, cavatelli, and strascinati. One of Matera’s signature dishes is Orecchiette alla Materana which involves topping the pasta with a rich tomato sauce (usually lamb-based), mozzarella, and pecorino cheese and then baking it in the oven.
If the weather is chilly then make sure to enjoy any of these traditional dishes that include legumes, grains, and vegetables and are sure to warm your heart and belly: Ciallédd, Crapiata, and Cutturidd.
Probably the most famous dessert is the scrumptious strazzate. These cookies are made of almond paste with a hint of lemon and liqueur! Yum!
The Church of Dante and Beatrice in Florence
Really close to the Duomo in Florence and to Piazza della Repubblica, there is a little church called Santa Margherita dei Cerchi, one of the most ancient churches of the old town center.
Named after Santa Margherita d’Antiochia (patroness of women in labor) and the Cerchi family, who owned the patronage of the church from 1353 after the Portinari. Inside the church you will find an altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin Mary by Neri di Bicci (a reknown painter from Florence). This magical place tells two stories about topics that are always near and dear to the heart of Italian people: love and food.
A little love story
It is said that the first encounter between Dante and Beatrice (described by the Tuscan poet in his work Vita Nova) took place right in this church. Even today, the remains of Beatrice rest in this church. A few roses and little sheets of paper where Florentines write about their love sorrows, are easily found on her grave.
A little story of food
This church is still the headquarters of the Venerabile Compagnia di Quochi, a historical brotherhood which today is part of the largest Florentine Chefs’ Association.
The church still preserves the remains of the oldest members of the confraternity, which is dedicated to St. Pasquale Baylón- famous for inventing the Italian dessert, Zabaione cream. Initially, it was called “Cream of San Baylón” which later became Sambajon and finally, into the modern Italian word, Zabaione.
Copyright photos: C.F. Ottaviani
Article written by: C.F. Ottaviani
DiVin October: an Entire Month of Events in Trentino
The wonders of the autumn harvest season will be celebrated the entire month of October in Trentino with the tasting event “DiVin October“. Every weekend of October will be booked with various tasting events located throughout the province of Trento.
Strolling through the ever-changing colors of the vineyards in autumn, sipping a glass of red wine accompanied by the crackling sounds of the first fires, enjoy a warm meal and the unmistakable flavor of roasted chestnuts.
The 15th edition of the DiVin October is back again every weekend of October and includes everything from trekking to pumpkin festivals. Every town involved will be able to show off its unique contribution to the local and national territory. From food products such as wine, pumpkins, chestnuts, radicchio, corn, and potatoes, and other events that will let visitors discover the secrets of winemaking and tasting.
The First Weekend: October 2-4
Beginning on Friday, October 2 to Sunday, October 4 at 10.00, with Un Inkino in autumn in the hills of Trento with a guided tour of the cellar, a walk and a picnic among the vineyards. This event will repeat each weekend throughout the month.
On Saturday, October 3, in Cavedine, in the Valle dei Laghi starting at 10.30, Il ciclo della vite/vita takes place. A day discovering the various production phases of the vine that begins with a beekeeping tour followed by a visit to the vineyard with tasting, lunch in the farmhouse, and finishing off the afternoon in the distillery. This event will be repeated on Saturday 10 and Saturday 17 October.
In Ala, on Saturday and Sunday, October 3/4, from 9.00 to 18.00, the October Enotour program is scheduled, a “multisensory” itinerary with wine tasting among the vineyards and local products. Event repeats every weekend in October.
A real dive into the traditions of Alpe Cimbra with Herbsttorgelen Zimbar, scheduled for Sunday, October 4, from 10.00 in Luserna: food and wine trekking to discover the delicacies of local cuisine. In Valle di Cembra, again on Sunday, October 4, starting at 4.00 pm in Altavalle there’s Musica & Gusto, a musical aperitif dedicated to local food and wine excellences.
The Second Weekend: October 9-11
The second weekend of October is in Marzemino with La Vigna Excellent. Isera is scheduled for Sunday, October 11 with a special day in the “City of Wine” to experience this typical red wine that has been able to express itself at its best in this area. In addition to tastings and Marzemino themed menus, the day includes the award ceremony of the La Vigna Excellent competition, the first and only one in Italy and Europe that rewards, not the best wine but the most refined grape variety and the farmer who cultivated it.
The Third Weekend: October 15-17
The third weekend is dedicated to Müller Thurgau, a typical vine of the Cembra Valley, with the XXXIII Müller Thurgau: Mountain Wine Festival, scheduled from Thursday, October 15 to Saturday the 17th in Trento at Palazzo Roccabruna-Enoteca Provinciale del Trentino which will offer more than 50 labels of wines nominated for the Müller Thurgau International Wine Competition.
On Friday, October 16, from 6.00 pm, a special aperitif is scheduled in the cellar in the hills of Martignano di Trento with Coralli and Bollicine. This event celebrates a card game invented by Trentino women.
Saturday, October 17, is Caneve en festa, dinner through the streets of the village of Cembra Lisignago experiencing local flavors and knowledge.
The Fourth Weekend: October 24-25
Beginning at 6 pm on October 24-25, it’s time for an aperitif with autumn flavors of local specialties in Val Sugana’s Roncegno Terme.
Alternatively, you can choose to participate in the Sagra della Ciuìga in San Lorenzo Dorsino, where this particular Slow Food Presidium cured meat will be celebrated, obtained from the encounter between pork and white turnips in the setting of one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”. An arts and crafts market with local specialties, music, and lots of tastings too!
The Fifth Weekend: October 31-November 1
In addition to the second weekend of the Ciuìga Festival, scheduled for Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, the last weekend of October gives wine lovers an appointment with Reboro. Territorio & Passione. Scheduled for October 31 in Valle dei Laghi, this event is dedicated to a special wine- the result of a project shared between some local wineries.
Plus, Every Saturday in October …
Every Saturday in October, from 9.30 onwards, Taste & Bike is a day to discover the food and wine side of Vallagarina, between Rovereto, Mori, Isera and Nogaredo. The tour, which includes a cooking workshop, lunch, and various tastings, includes stops in different wineries of the Trentino Wine and Flavors Road, which can be reached by e-bike or, if you prefer, by car.
DiVin Ottobre is part of the calendar of wine events called #trentinowinefest. During the events it will also be possible to taste La Trentina local apples.
The official website is currently updated in Italian only. The official hashtags are as follows:
Press Office Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Trentino
Camogli and Recco on the Ligurian Coast
The coast of Liguria is one of the most famous in the world. Names like Portofino, Cinque Terre, Genoa, Sanremo, and Savona all sound familiar. The two coastal towns of Recco and Camogli are lesser-known but just as spectacular! Let’s find out what to do and see on the Ligurian Riviera!
Recco is located between Genoa and San Remo on what is known as the Golfo Paradiso (Paradise Gulf) of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sadly, Recco was subject to heavy bombing during World War II which practically destroyed the old city. Most of what visitors see today was rebuilt beginning in the 1950s.
The church of the Madonna del Suffragio dating to the 1700s and that of St. Francis are worth a visit although they have been entirely reconstructed.
Aside from the obvious turquoise blue sea, the area also has a number of hiking trails that depart from the historic center and climb up into the surrounding hills for views that are out of this world. Three of these are Megli, Polanesi, and the Collina di Cortù which reaches the church of St. Bartholomew.
Known as the “gastronomy capital of Liguria”, Recco is most famous for its focaccia al formaggio or focaccia di Recco. Other specialties include pesto dishes like pesto lasagna and even crepes al pesto. Chickpea flour is also commonly used.
Camogli is the quintessential postcard Ligurian coastal town with its pastel-colored houses that hug the sloping hills. In the historic center, aside from simply wandering through the streets and admiring the fabulous flowered balconies, you’ll want to see the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta dating to the 12th century. The porticciolo (marina) and promontory are full of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops that will delight any visitor.
Right next to the Basilica is the medieval fortress, the Castello della Dragonara which provides an excellent view of Portofino.
If time allows, one of the most fascinating places on the entire Ligurian coast is the Abbey of San Fruttuoso located in Camogli but only reachable by a trekking route or by ferry. Since 1983 the abbey has been named an “architectural heritage” site by the Italian government. Originally a Benedectine monastery dating back to the year 1000, the abbey was later renovated by the Doria family.
In Search of the Hidden Treasure: la Badiazza
The beautiful church known as “La Badiazza” in Messina was part of the 2017 edition of Sicily’s Le vie dei tesori, an event that has taken place in Palermo since 2006. Twenty-eight enchanting places were open to visitors in order to tell their own stories.
But there are places that are not just about dates or legends, but they also give you a sense of peace, serenity, a special atmosphere that vibrates and that excites, like the’ Badiazza’, the church of Santa Maria della Valle.
The Story of La Badiazza
The building was named after Santa Maria della Scala during the Middle Ages because it is linked to a legend that has as its protagonist a sacred image, stolen in the east, portraying the Virgin Mary with a staircase next to it.
The Marian icon traveled on board a ship from Syria and when the boat stopped in the port of Messina, it was impossible for sailors to leave the ship on the shore and they were forced to leave this icon on land, thus revealing the theft. Once brought to the ground, realizing that behind the event there was a divine will, the sacred icon was placed on a cart pulled by a pair of heifers, who without a guide, walked up to the church of Santa Maria della Valle, which changed its name from that moment.
Badiazza is located at the foot of the San Rizzo hills, at the highest part of the Badiazza district, along Via Palermo. The sides and facade of the church are surrounded by woods that help us imagine how the life of the Benedictine nuns living in these places must have been like.
The foundation date is not certain, but it probably dates back to the beginning of the 13th century, along with the construction of an adjoining monastery, of which there is no trace today. It was inhabited until 1347 when the plague forced the nuns to leave the building, and later it was used as a holiday resort until the total abandonment in the 16th century.
Over the course of its history, the church has undergone many changes, but they haven’t made it less monumental. The battlements above the presbytery make it look more like a fort or a castle and its architecture makes it unique.
Inside you can appreciate unique architectural elements that recall other sites and other names. The large octagonal columns, for example, surmounted by decorated capitals, are reminiscent of the Ionian coast of Sicily– from the Ursino Castle to Catania, to Maniace Castle in Syracuse.
Art has always traveled and has always brought new worlds to mix with others, creating unique wonders that we have the privilege of admiring and the duty to preserve and pass on.
Finally, Badiazza allows nature lovers, especially those who love trekking and horseback riding, to plan a trip on the Peloritani mountains independently or with the help of guides.
Copyright photos: Fabiana La Rosa
Article written by: V. Miroddi
Matera: What to See in Sasso Caveoso and Sasso Barisano
One of the most striking and now recognizable cities in the entire world, Matera is the mysterious “Città dei sassi” or “the City of Stone”. Virtually unknown to tourists until the late ’90s and early 2000s, Matera has gone from one of the most impoverished cities in Italy to a booming cultural destination.
Located in the region of Basilicata, the city of Matera borders the also newly-famous region of Puglia in the heel of Italy’s boot. It has been called nothing short of a miracle that it could make such a transformation in a relatively short amount of time. In 1993, it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2006, Mel Gibson chose it for his film The Passion of the Christ. Many say that this kick-started its renaissance.
Thousands of Matera’s residents were living in cave dwellings as recent as 70 years ago. Today, we see them as characteristic and fascinating, but at the time, they were overcrowded, rampant with disease, and unfit for humans.
But, the caves go back much, much further. Most scholars believe that Matera’s caves were the first human settlement in Italy and one of the most continuously occupied human settlements on earth- at least 12,000 years.
In the early 1950s, the government funded a program to relocate the “cave dwellers” and move them into housing developments in the city. This led to the eventual abandonment of the ancient caves until the late 1980s when the government did a complete 180 and began funding a revival project to encourage people to move back in and open businesses. It worked and the rest is history.
Luckily for anyone visiting after 2019, Matera has come into the modern world while still maintaining its extreme unicity since it was named the European Capital of Culture. So, let’s find out what to see and do in part I of our tour.
The cave dwellings are really divided into two neighborhoods or districts: Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso.
Just a few steps away from the Cathedral in the upper part of Sasso Caveoso, visitors will find Casa Noha. This is a perfect starting point for your tour (whether self-guided or hired). Tickets are required for this introductory and informative multimedia presentation of Matera’s sassi.
From here, you can move toward Piazza di San Pietro Caveoso where you can visit the rupestrian church and enjoy a spectacular panoramic view!
Next, you can visit the two important churches of Madonna dell’Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone both carved into a mass of calcareous rock (tufo). Near here, you should also visit the Casa-grotta (cave house) which was inhabited until 1957 and has now been turned into a museum giving visitors a true picture of what it would have been like to live here.
The Cathedral, Santa Maria della Bruna, dates to the year 1268. Considered to be Apulian-Romanesque, it is positioned in the highest point of the city and allows for a spectacular view of the Sasso Barisano.
Barisano (from the city of Bari) is the oldest part of Matera and where most of the hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops are located.
There are also numerous churches and crypts dating back over a thousand years as well. For example, the Church of San Pietro Barisano is the largest rock church in Matera. Its Romanesque-Baroque facade and beautiful frescoes inside make it a must-see on your itinerary.
Another highlight is the Church of San Agostino and the Crypt of San Giuliano located at the highest point of Via d’Addozio. This is one of the best spots to get amazing shots of the sassi.
If time allows, you should also visit the Sassi in Miniatura, an amazingly well-constructed model of the sassi on via Fiorentini as well as the Museo-Laboratorio della Civiltà Contadina (Museum-workshop of Peasant Culture).
Stay tuned for part II of our guide to visiting Matera!
Islands of the Ponza Archipelago off the Coast of Rome
After having covered the beaches of the island of Ponza in detail, now it’s time to shine a light on its “companions”. We are talking about the Ponza archipelago islands of Santo Stefano, Ventotene, Palmarola, Zannone, and Gavi. Let’s find out more about these little jewels.
Let’s start from the second-largest island that makes up this archipelago. Ventotene is the ideal destination for those looking for a quiet but luxurious vacation. The sea here is clean and clear, characterized by a dark backdrop due to the rocks typical of volcanic islands. In the uncontaminated green that distinguishes this island, the northern side of the island is populated.
To arrive at Ventotene, you’ll depart from the port of Formi, easily reachable by all means of transport (the journey by ferry takes a couple of hours). A must-see is the Roman port of Ventotene: excavated in the tuff, it offers a mix of nature and irresistible history, with a magnificent backdrop where you can admire the ancient fish ponds that once stood here. There are numerous hiking trails to do on this island, such as the paths that reach the Cisterna of Villa Stefania and the Cisterna dei Detenuti. The coast of Ventotene is mainly rocky, but there are also beautiful beaches like that of Cala Nave or Cala Rossano. To disembark in Ventotene you’ll pay a small fee (€ 1.50), whether it is a ferry or a private boat. The island is perfectly connected both to the mainland and to the other surrounding islands.
This is the third-largest island of the Pontian archipelago, after Ponza and Ventotene. This island is also called the hairpin because of its shape, but its name derives from the dwarf palm that grows wild in this area. Not surprisingly, Palmarola is the wildest island of the archipelago. On this island, there are no houses, accommodations, or ports. You’ll only find one restaurant with some rooms for rent. Typical and unique to Palmarola are the cave houses– dwellings that have been carved into the rock. Palmarola can only be reached from Ponza and you can also organize beautiful excursions. Alternatively, you can also rent a private boat to reach the island.
The coasts of Palmarola are wonderful, in fact, this island is part of a nature reserve. There are numerous caves and coves that will delight the most adventurous tourists. The most beautiful and those undoubtedly not to be missed are the Cathedral, the Faraglione di Mezzogiorno, the Grotta del Gatto, and the Galere. Cala del Porto or Spiaggia della Maga Circe (also called Spiaggia de O’Francese) and Cala Brigantina are also fantastic.
Our tour brings us to Zannone. Among the smaller islands along with Gavi and Santo Stefano, Zannone is deserted and only inhabited by two forest rangers. This small island is part of the Circeo National Park. Il Varo is the only place where you can land and where you will find an ancient Roman fish market, carved from the rock. The trekking routes, despite the island’s size, are numerous and one of the most beautiful starts from il Varo. At the end of the hike, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking view of Ponza and Palmarola. The island of Zannone has been uninhabited for a long time, so if you’d like to venture out and visit, you have to book through the Circeo National Park. You can get to the various beaches by sea or through some paths that cross the woods and rocks.
The island of Gavi is completely uninhabited, but it is easily reachable by private boat since there are no commercial or public ferries offered. This tiny island has numerous caves and diving spots that might be worth the effort if you are so inclined.
Santo Stefano Island
Let’s talk about another of the small islands of the Ponza archipelago: Santo Stefano. This island is famous for hosting one of the oldest prison facilities. Unfortunately, there is no beach where tourists can stop, rest and enjoy the sun, but despite this small detail, the island of Santo Stefano offers magnificent views.
Procida Island in the Gulf of Naples
Everyone has heard of its popular neighbors, Ischia and Capri, but too many times the island of Procida goes unnoticed. This article will hopefully convince you to give this idyllic islet a chance and include it as either your main destination or at least, as part of your tour of southern Italy.
Located in the Gulf of Naples (Tyrrhenian Sea), and just an hour ferry ride from Naples, Procida is an easily accessible paradise. You will be awestruck by its colorful houses lining the coast reminiscent of Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. The bright colors originated so that the fishermen could easily spot their own home from out at sea. Even today, it is still largely a fishing village.
Procida, along with Ischia and Capri, is part of the municipality known as Massa Lubrense. Legend has it that this was the land of the sirens that would lure sailors to the shore. When you visit, you’ll see why it must have been so appealing.
Ferries dock at Marina Grande where you’ll immediately notice Palazzo Montefusco which dates to the 12th century. The church of Santa Maria della Pietà is also located here. With its buttery-yellow facade and beautifully-frescoed dome, it’s a lovely first stop upon arrival. This port area also has lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can pick up a souvenir and get a taste of the local flavors.
What to See on the Island
The most photographed spot of the entire island is probably Corricella (from Greek for coros callos or “beautiful district”). This is also where most of the luxury hotels and fine dining are located. It also happens to be where part of Il Postino (or The Postman) was filmed.
If you want a perfect view of colorful Corricella then you need to explore Terra Murata which is a little hamlet of the island. At just 90 meters above sea level, the climb provides you with the perfect panoramic view. Terra Murata was built during the 16th century to protect the residents from sea raids. Today, you can visit Palazzo D’Avalos as well as the Abbey of San Michele Archangelo.
Another interesting part of the island is what is known as casale vascello which is a type of dwelling built in the 16th century designed to defend residents against Saracen attacks.
The marine protected area of Regno Nettuno encompasses Procida, Vivara, and Ischia and is actually home to the largest population of dolphins in the Mediterranean. There are also whale-watching excursions as well as archaeological ruins.
If you want to really appreciate the island and all of its spectacular coves and grottos, then the best way by far is to hire a boat tour. There are numerous tour companies located in Marina Grande that provide this service. It might be difficult to make your way to some of the most enchanting spots without a local’s help.
If you are determined to “beach-go” on your own, then two options are the Spiaggia della Lingua and the Spiaggia della Silurenza which are both sandy and accessible from Marina Grande. On the western side of the island, the dark sand beaches of Ciraccio and Chiaiolella are also an option. In particular, Ciraccio has some awesome faraglione, eroded rock formations that jut out of the sea.
What to Eat- “Mangiare!“
After touring the island, taking a dip in the crystal clear waters, and picking up some souvenirs, you will surely have worked up quite an appetite. Here are some suggestions for what you should sample while you’re here.
We hope you like fish and seafood because it would almost be a crime not to taste the catch of the day while you’re here. Everything from squid to shrimp to octopus is delicately battered and fried in fritto misto mare. Or try a scrumptious linguine pasta with lobster sauce. Lemons abound here and you will find them everywhere- even in salad- and especially made into the delicious liqueur limoncello and the creamy lemon dessert lingue di suocera!
Discovering Beautiful Varenna on Lake Como
“Live your novel” is the slogan on the tourism website for the town of Varenna. Sounds inviting, right? We assure you it is just that. Lovely Varenna is a lakeside village of under 1,000 on Lake Como. If strolling along a lakeside promenade with a gelato in hand to the gentle sound of Como’s lapping waves sounds relaxing to you, then read on!
Castles and Villas
Our visit begins with some magnificent historical sites. The first is the Castle of Varenna (or Castle of Vezio) which dates to the 11th century. Built by the Lombard queen Theodelinda, Vezio was an early-Medieval military outpost. Today, visitors can enjoy falconry shows as well as a permanent exhibition of a Lariosaurus (Como’s version of a Loch Ness Monster). The view from above is absolutely spectacular!
There are two fabulous villas that visitors can experience: Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. Villa Cipressi is a formal noble residence that is now owned by the City of Varenna. Its tiered grounds and botanical gardens are stunning and host hundreds of weddings every year.
Villa Monastero’s origins date to the 12th century when it was a Cistercian Monastery. It has undergone numerous renovations and additions over the centuries and today houses a museum as well as a botanical garden containing hundreds of very rare species from all over the world.
One of the rarest sights in Varenna (and actually, in the world) lies within the Church of the Beata Vergine Annunciata. The statue of the Virgin Mary is black (actually known as the “Black Madonna”) while the Christ-child is white. The church dates to the year 1685 and the statue a reproduction of the Virgin of Loreto.
A perfect example of Lombard construction is the Church of San Giorgio. Dating to 1313, San Giorgio is a three-nave construction with black marble floors from Varenna. Its simplistic facade and belltower are symbols of Varenna.
Known as the “Mother Church of Varenna”, San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) dates to the 11th century. The frescoes on the dark brick walls date to the 16th century.
Varenna also has numerous trails that provide spectacular views while allowing visitors to get in close contact with the surrounding environment.
The Sentiero del Viandante (the “Wayfarers’ Trail”) actually dates to Roman times and is 45 km long connecting Abbadia Lariana to Piantedo. It is considered “easy” with only a few climbs of less than 350 meters in elevation difference.
A much more accessible trail for everyone, especially those with limited time, is the “Greenway of the Patriarchs” which is a 6 km walk around the hamlets of Varenna. Another trail, known as the “Ring of San Giorgio” leads from the Church of San Giorgio to Vezio Castle and only takes 30 minutes.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you can see the Fiumelatte (“milk river”) which is one of the shortest water sources in Italy at just 250 meters. Typically, the season lasts from March through October when visitors can watch in awe as the seemingly “milky” waters rush down at a steep gradient.
There are definitely a few dishes that are “musts” when you visit Lake Como. The official name for the cuisine here is “Larian” and it comprises lake fish (such as whitefish and perch) as a staple ingredient. Polenta is also very commonly served and is often made of buckwheat (polenta taragna). You may be surprised to see that salsa verde, or “green sauce” (made of parsley, anchovies, breadcrumbs, vinegar, capers, garlic, egg yolk, and olive oil) is actually more common than tomato-based sauces.
Getting around Lake Como is simple as the entire lake is well-connected with water taxis, ferries, and trains that connect from Lecco to Milan and Bergamo.
Santa Maria di Leuca and the Italian Maldives!
Once upon a time there was a siren called Leucasia, named for her white skin, who fell in love with a shepherd named Melisso; however, Melisso was already in love with Aristula. The annoyed siren took revenge, overwhelming the two lovers with waves unleashed by her tail and the Goddess Minerva turned their bodies into stone. Today, the two stone points can be seen as Punta Ristola, from the name Aristula, and Punta Meliso from Melisso. Leucasia, after having lost her voice that enchanted the sailors, commited suicide and her petrified bones are now the white cliffs of Leuca.
Or so the story was conceived by the Salento writer and poet Carlo Stasi to explain the origins of this wonderful place. In the wake of invented stories and legends, it seems that Santa Maria di Leuca was the first landing place of Aeneas, and subsequently of St. Peter the Apostle who came from Palestine and began his evangelizing before arriving in Rome.
Charming, appreciated, rich in seascapes but also history, and yet so geographically minimal; it only has about a thousand residents and is parter of the municipality of Castrignano del Capo. Also referred to as “Finibus terrae”, to indicate its extreme position on the boot that over the centuries has represented a meeting point for various peoples and cultures. In fact, Cretans, Phoenicians, and Greeks have left tangible signs of their passage benefiting from the fruitful meeting point between the commercial networks of East and West.
A stairway of 296 steps connects the Basilica to the underlying port, framing the monumental waterfall of the Apulian Aqueduct that ends in Leuca and flows into the sea. This tourist resort is also known for the nineteenth-century villas built according to various styles by the architects Ruggeri and Rossi; towards the end of the nineteenth century there were 43. Today, many are in disuse or appear to have been renovated.
But if Leucasia enchanted seafarers with her sweet melodies, today the sea is enough to bewitch tourists, hikers, and art lovers young and old. And oh what a sea! Here the Ionian Sea melts into the Adriatic and vice versa as in an idyllic rendezvous between two lovers who can not deny each other.
The sea remains the undisputed protagonist, and just a stone’s throw from Santa Maria di Leuca are the “Maldives of Salento” in Marina di Pescoluse. One of the most beautiful and particular of the entire coast of Salento, characterized by fine white sand, shallow waters, and thanks to its south-facing position, its clear and transparent water.
The beaches are long and very wide with only a few resort establishments so that with your own towel and umbrella, you can claim your front row seat for the spectacular show of the sea. Aside from sunbathing, the area is perfect for strolling along the promenade, lively water sports, and happy hours with live music. The night of San Lorenzo is particularly special when numerous bonfires are lit for the occasion, and together, with the mantle of stars, completely illuminate the beach.
Find out about our hotel packages in the area
photo copyrights: paesionline.it, marevivo.it, spiaggedelsalento.com