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
Urbino: a Touch of Renaissance in the Heart of the Marches
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about Italy is probably its excellent food, its beautiful landscapes, monuments, and history. Urbino, named a UNESCO heritage site in 1998, surrounded by hills in the southern area of Montefeltro in the Marche region, has all of this and more.
The ancient name of this small, historic city was Urbinum Metaurense, and during the Gothic Wars of the VI century, it became an important strategic stronghold. In medieval times, the town was conquered by the Montefeltro family and during this period beautiful mansions and monuments were built.
The most important building is probably the Palazzo Ducale, erected around 1454 by Maso De Bartolomeo for the royal family which still attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world.
Urbino was even the birthplace of Raffaello Sanzio, the famous Italian Renaissance painter, born in 1483. His house, with the typical architecture of the XV century, is still visitable.
Before you go, don’t forget to try the local, traditional dish: the delicious crescia urbinate, a flatbread made with pepper, lard, flour, and eggs.
Article by: Flavio Capoti
Palazzolo Acreide in Sicily: Three Thousand Years of History
On the south-eastern tip of Sicily, about an hour from Siracusa (Syracuse) lies one of the most ancient and beautiful villages on the entire island and one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”. Today, we’re journeying to Palazzolo Acreide. Although difficult for non-Italian speakers to pronounce, thankfully, it’s easy to visit.
A Bit of History
If you’re not familiar with the island, it’s hard to imagine that just an hour away from the turquoise water and white sandy beaches that you could find yourself at 670 meters above sea level but it’s true.
Although people inhabited this part of Sicily as early as the 11th century BC, Palazzolo Acreide (Akrai) was founded by the Syracusans around 664 BC. If you’ve read Greek literature then you’ll be familiar with the name Thucydides, and according to him, the Syracusans defeated the Athenians right here. It was later occupied by the Romans, then Arabs, and finally Normans. During the Arab raids, most of the ancient city was destroyed only to be later demolished by a massive earthquake in the late 1600s.
What to See
It’s difficult to know where to begin when describing what to see in Palazzolo Acreide. From its ancient Greek and Roman ruins to its Sicilian Baroque and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s all incredible!
As already mentioned the Syracusans founded Akrai as their first colony for its strategic, hilltop location. In just 5 minutes from the historic center, you can visit the ruins of the ancient theater of Akrai and the Santoni, an ancient rupestrian sanctuary.
Within the historic center, there are two churches that have earned the title of World Heritage Sites- the churches of San Paolo and San Sebastiano. Both are beautiful examples of Sicilian Baroque as is the Church of the Annunziata and the Immacolata. These are not even the largest of the town’s churches either! What is known as the Chiesa Madre is actually the main cathedral which was reconstructed after the massive earthquake of 1693.
There are also various museums: the Antonino Uccello Regional Casa Musem, the Archaeological Museum of G. Judica, and the Travellers’ Museum. Antonio Uccello was a scholar and the museum is dedicated to anthropology and the local agro-peasant culture of the area. The G. Judica Museum is where visitors can see over 2,000 items that were uncovered during the excavations of Akrai in the early 1800s. All wanderlusts will enjoy the Travellers’ Museum which is an interesting collection of documents and various items linked to the history of travel.
At one point, Palazzolo Acreide boasted a massive Norman castle of which only ruins remain.
Do not miss the neighborhood known as Lenza where you’ll find the ancient clock tower. It’s been described as a secret and magical labyrinth of alleys and colorful houses.
While you’re exploring, be sure to try some of the local specialties. The signature pasta dish is the homemade cavati topped with a braised pork, tomato sauce. Pork is by far the most common meat dish and Palazzolo is famous for its sausage. Ricotta, almonds, honey, and other nuts are all very important elements of the cuisine.
Throughout the year, the city holds numerous festivals and events that are both cultural and religious. Some of the most popular include a Classic theater festival in May; the Saint Paul the Apostle (San Paolo) festival in late June/ early July and also on January 25; Carnival and Christmas; and of course, summertime is prime time in Sicily with concerts, entertainment, and food galore.
Umbria in Bloom: the Flower Fields of Castelluccio di Norcia
The Umbria region has always demonstrated its strong bond with nature, deserving the epithet, the “green heart of Italy” and rightfully so. As soon as you start traveling along the Umbrian roads, you can’t help but notice the majesty of the landscape and it won’t take long before you’ll be looking for the first rest stop to take some photos to share with envious friends. Those lucky enough to find themselves in this verdant region between late May and early July will certainly not want to deprive themselves of a show that has fascinated the Umbrians themselves for hundreds of years: the flowering of Castelluccio.
Castelluccio di Norcia: a Rainbow of Colors
Every year, the plateau of Castelluccio di Norcia (province of Perugia) – specifically the Pian Grande and the Pian Perduto – tinges the monochrome of the pastures with colors ranging from yellows, reds, and purples, for all to behold. The lentil, wheat, and sainfoin crops create a rainbow of colors that bloom every year and attract hundreds of tourists from all over Italy.
Photography enthusiasts will prefer the early hours of dawn in order to capture those moments in which, even in the middle of July, the fog still hovers over the fields, creating suggestive and unforgettable images. If you’re not an early bird then you’ll need your hat and perhaps more patience in order to admire the fields in the hottest and most popular part of the day.
The top of the plateau is occupied by the characteristic – and, by now, the more touristy – Castelluccio di Norcia. Following the unfortunate earthquake of 2016, most of the residents had to move to safer areas. Four years later, the road to reach the plateau is once again completely paved, thus making the trip to reach the top of the hill a pleasure.
If I could give you some advice it would be to convince someone who has not read this article to drive, so you can gawk at the jaw-dropping views of the beautiful green hills sprinkled with color that will welcome you to this little corner of paradise.
Article by Samantha Bianchi
The Fairy Tale Village of Sant’Angelo di Roccalvecce
This summer, what could be better than exploring a practically secret, magical village on a hilltop in Lazio? What if this magical village was adorned with giant, colorful murals done exclusively by female artists? This is a real place in the Viterbo province of Lazio and it’s called Sant’Angelo di Roccalvecce.
The entire area known as Tuscia is absolutely enchanting and is where you’ll find other villages like the now-famous “dying city” of Civita di Bagnoregio, Bomarzo, and Vitorchiano as well as Lake Bolsena.
Since 2017, the tiny hamlet of Sant’Angelo has been inviting artists to decorate their historic center with gigantic murals depicting some of the most-loved fairy tales ever written. It has since turned into a true festival that takes place in the summer.
This year, artist Stefania Marchetto will be adding Cinderella alongside past years’ murals like the Sword in the Stone and Alice in Wonderland. In all, Sant’Angelo boasts some 30 murals throughout the historic center.
Just 5 minutes away by car is another tiny village called Roccalvecce. Ancient houses made of tuff, a castle, and the atmosphere alone make it a must-see! If you enjoy exploring fairy-tale locations, then also make a stop in nearby Celleno.
The Abbey of Grottaferrata Just Outside of Rome
In the heart of an area known as Castelli Romani, just south of Rome, you’ll find the town of Grottaferrata. It’s renowned for its wine, fantastic countryside, and its abbey.
Its origins are ancient: in the distant year 1004 Nilo, a monk from Calabria, decided to build his monastery on the land the Pope had given him. The settlement began before 1054, which was the year of the schism that divided the church into the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.
Nilo, who was a Byzantine monk, brought Byzantine liturgy and spirituality as well as art from this culture into the region of Lazio. The peculiarity lies in the fact that the abbey of Grottaferrata is a Byzantine church founded, not only in a western territory, (Latin Church) but right at the gates of Rome.
Numerous traces of its millennial history have been preserved in the abbey. Its original nucleus rises around a grotto with a window closed by an iron grate or a crypta ferrata. Hence the name Grottaferrata meaning “cave with an iron grate” in Italian.
The Church, dedicated to Saint Mary, preserves works of high prestige with the oldest ones dating back to the 12th century. It houses important works of art: the mosaic that overlooks the entrance portal, the marble baptismal font and the mosaic that lies inside the church above the altar, as well as the splendid icon of the Virgin called in Greek Theotokos, which means “The Mother of God”. Also noteworthy is the powerful altar, called macchina barberiniana, built in the seventeenth century. Walking along the right nave, you can admire the ancient crypta ferrata.
The famous painter Domenico Zampieri, better known as “Domenichino”, came here and frescoed the chapel with the stories of the Saint in the beginning of the 17th century.
From the external square, visitors can appreciate the peace of the monastic life, as well as the baptismal font, used to commemorate the most important Orthodox Church feast, the baptism of Christ.
The monastery offers archeological sites as well. From the square, you can descend underground into the cryptoporticus. Used throughout the centuries for various purposes, this area offers tourists a breathtaking panoramic view.
Outside, the whole structure has the typical aspect of a fortress thanks to its powerful defense towers ordered by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, who later became Pope under the name of Julius II. Pope Julius II is famous for commissioning great works of art in the City of Rome, such as the Sistine Chapel’s vault frescoes.
The abbey is a myriad of Byzantine art (practically the only one of this level in Lazio), where you can admire works of great painters and sculptors, as well as ancient Roman structures. All of this beauty within the intimate Greek monastery.
Within the complex, the Abbey Museum has recently reopened to the public. The museum preserves the church’s decorative apparatus and houses archeological pieces of great value (such as the funeral stele and the garland tomb).
You can visit the Abbey of Grottaferrata Monday through Saturday by appointment only.
Amalfi Coast- Slightly Off the Beaten Path
In the heat of the summer, our thoughts tend to wander and places like the prized Amalfi Coast along Italy’s western coastline come to the forefront of our mind. There probably isn’t an aspiring traveler on earth that hasn’t either heard of it, dreamed of it, or actually been there. It is truly a dream.
The Dream of Amalfi
It is also exactly how it’s pictured in the movies from the era of Vittorio de Sica and Sophia Loren to those of late such as Under the Tuscan Sun and The Talented Mr. Ripley. So, where I am going with this? It is paradise… right?
Well, almost (sigh). The hoards of tourists that make their pilgrimage to the well-known Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi, and Positano during high season (mainly July and August) have somewhat ruined it for the rest of us.
By “the rest of us” I mean those travelers that are looking for a more authentic experience; those of us who would like to get into a lengthy, (although botched) conversation in Italian with a local at the bar in the piazza; those of us who would like to know the name of the signora who painstakingly made the homemade pasta at dinner. For “us”, if we have the possibility, the months of May, June, and September are going to be a far more rewarding experience.
The Little Haven of Maiori
The town of Maiori in the month of May was the “off the beaten path” type travelers’ dream. From Salerno (a major station well connected by both the Italo high-speed trains as well as the Trenitalia Frecce) one can easily take a bus (SITA) and reach Maiori in about an hour. The bus routes are basically Salerno-Maiori-Amalfi and then Amalfi-Positano-Sorrento. Private taxis are available but very expensive.
The bus ride in itself is an almost guaranteed adventure straight out of a movie scene! Our ride included infinite treacherous curves and passing other buses with literally a few centimeters in between. Of course, there were a multitude of locals that hopped off their Vespas or stopped their work only too happy to direct the drivers with excited gesturing and yelling as only Italians can do. It’s all part of the marvelous experience that is so truly unique to Italy.
Maiori offers a lovely town center with numerous shops and restaurants run by locals. You’ll immediately notice the abundance of lemons. They’re everywhere! From lemon-shaped soaps to perfumes to olive oil to the famous limoncello liqueur– they are the pride and joy of the entire coast.
I had been to Sorrento years before and fondly remembered eating a spaghetti al limone dish that I had tried to recreate multiple times since. I began my quest asking at various shops if they knew of a good place that served it and low and behold, a friendly shop owner handed me a business card of a restaurant that she knew served it. It was late that evening so we decided to go the following day for lunch.
As soon as we walked in and I asked the server if, in fact, they did serve spaghetti (actually tagliolini) with lemon, her face lit up and she proudly exclaimed, “Oh! You’re the one! They told me you’d be coming in today! Sì! We have it!”
Dumbfounded- I contemplated how it could be possible that the shop owner from 11 pm the night before could have already contacted the restaurant and told her about us. Then I remembered- this is Italy. Not just Italy, but southern Italy. The climate is warmer, the people are warmer, and anything and everything is possible.
We dined on the most delicious lunch of the entire trip that day: warm focaccia bread with oregano and lemon-infused olive oil, spaghetti al limone, the seafood catch of the day, a sliced lemon salad (surprisingly amazing!), and a delectable lemon sorbet. It felt good knowing that our smiling server would tell the shop owner from the night before that we had come and dined and enjoyed her spaghetti al limone and that the tradition would continue. We would not be the ones to break the chain of this wonderful heritage.
Of course over the course of our short, three-day stay, we did visit the inevitable Amalfi, Positano, the island of Capri, and Ravello- all breathtaking and totally worth it. But every evening we were relieved to return to our little haven of Maiori where the locals smiled and nodded their heads as we strolled by them along the promenade and where there is still an authentic piece of Italy left for “the rest of us”.
photo copyrights: positanonews.it; thatsaleaf.com; vesuviolive.it; lonelyplanet.com
Cremona and its Beauty from Violins to Torrone
Cremona. Cremona is synonymous with so many beautiful things. We could begin with the violin, or perhaps the torrone dessert, or maybe even, the Torrazzo- the highest belltower in Italy. And yet, when you type in “Cremona” in the search engine, it might actually auto-suggest the phrase, “Is Cremona worth visiting?”
Is Cremona worth visiting? That’s like asking if coffee is really all it’s cracked up to be or any other number of extremely rhetorical questions. Cremona is only about an hour by train from Milan, yet it gets very little attention from tourists.
Stradivari and Cremona’s Violins
In my opinion, being a lover of music of all kinds, Cremona’s most beautiful contribution to humanity has been its violins. I would go as far as to argue that, if played correctly, there isn’t a more beautiful, man-made sound in the entire world.
In the 1600s the Amati family began making violins in Cremona and soon, pupils like Antonio Stradivari began making their own as well. Stradivari made revolutionary changes to the violin that would forever change music. Their contributions to world heritage were so important that “Cremonese traditional violin craftsmanship” was actually declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Visiting the Museo del Violino is an absolute must while in Cremona. There is even a consortium of luthiers (violin-makers) that hold workshops on the violin-making process.
Piazza del Comune
One of the most photographed and stunning piazzas in all of Italy, if not all of Europe, is Piazza del Comune. Everything a city holds dear can usually be found in its central piazza and this is true in the case of Cremona. Its Duomo and Baptistry in their blinding, white marble set against the red brick along with the Torrazzo are some of the most striking you’ll see anywhere in Italy.
The Cathedral dates back to 1107, although the facade as seen today probably dates to the 14th century. It’s considered one of the finest Romanesque churches in Italy. Its octagonal Baptistry also dates to the 12th century. Since the year 1309, Cremona’s Torrazzo has proudly stood as one of the tallest brick towers in the world. At 112 meters, it is the absolute symbol of the city. The clock dating to 1583 is the largest astronomical clock in the entire world! Also located here are the Loggia dei Militi and the Palazzo Comunale.
San Sigismondo Monastery
If you enjoy finding hidden jewels when you travel then you must make the slight effort to get to the Monastery of San Sigismondo. This is a monumentally important church for many reasons. One, it was where the marriage of Biancamaria Visconti married Francesco Sforza in 1463. Big deal? Yes, when you consider that this union united the Visconti- Sforza families giving rise to the Sforza family rule in Milan. The nave is completely covered in frescoes and is one of the best examples of Lombard Mannerism.
For more art and even musical instruments, you can visit the Civic Museum of Cremona “Ala Ponzone” which holds more than 2,000 pieces of beautiful art.
And now for all of you gluttons out there- what kind of Italian city would Cremona be without its signature dish? In this case, it’s known as Torrone. Invented here for none other than the above-mentioned wedding of Biancamaria and Francesco and created in the likeness of the famous Torrazzo. By 1911, it had made its way to America via the Sperlari family who is still making it today.
The cuisine here is a luscious combination of Lombard and Emilia-Romagnan with dishes like marubini (like tortellini) and cheeses like Grana and Provolone.
The Charming Village of Castelrotto in the Dolomites
Northern Italy’s South Tyrol region is known for its skiing and winter sports but has also become increasingly popular in the warmer months as well. Over 450 km of hiking trails, lakes, fresh air, great hospitality and so much more are putting it at the top of many travelers’ “must-see” list. Today, we’ll explore the town of Castelrotto (Kastelruth) in the Bolzano province.
Castelrotto is located just 45 minutes from Bolzano and is the largest town in the area known as the Alpe di Siusi in the Dolomites. The town is located at the foot of the largest Alpine pasture in all of Europe known as the Seiser Alm. Since the area is best known for its natural beauty, let’s start there!
Castelrotto lies within the Sciliar-Catinaccio/Schlern-Rosengarten Nature Park and, as already mentioned, there are over 450 km of hiking trails in this immediate area alone. One need not be an expert hiker because there are plenty of trails for all ages and abilities. The trails are well-marked and equipped with Alpine huts where you’ll be able to rest and taste the best cuisine South Tyrol has to offer.
A good starting point might be to take the Marinzen chairlift from the center of town which takes you to a lovely area in just a few minutes. You can choose to stay there with the kids and enjoy the petting zoo, fishing pond, sunbathing, and the restaurant or continue on to various trails.
This area is also a paradise for mountain biking enthusiasts, Parkour, swimming, golfing, and horseback riding!
There is so much to see and do in this small village. In 2018, Castelrotto made the exclusive list of one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” and when you visit, you will see why. This quaint medieval hamlet is made up of tiny shops and beautifully painted, colorful manor houses in the town center.
The church steeple is the third-tallest in all of South Tyrol and visitors can book a visit every Thursday at 5 pm. There are also various museums that really put the visitor in touch with the local culture and customs which are vastly different from the rest of Italy including a traditional costume museum, farmers’ museum, and a school museum to name a few.
From town, you can take the path up to Kofel Hill where you’ll find the remains of the castle, a beautiful park, and seven Calvary chapels constructed at the end of the 17th century.
Pflegerhof Farm is another interesting place to visit if you’re interested in Alpine culture. This farm has been growing native herbs and plant species for medicinal uses since 1982. They have a shop where you can purchase local products.
Trostburg Castle is also in the vicinity and includes a very extensive visit of the grounds and the interior.
South Tyrol Cuisine
Uniquely Tyrolean, the cuisine here is a perfect marriage of Mediterranean and Alpine influences. Dishes tend to be heartier than those of the rest of Italy and include bacon, sausage, and goulashes. Dumplings (canederli), risottos, and polenta are very common first courses while cured meats (speck) and Alpine cheeses also adorn the table. Common bread includes pretzels and heartier, dark rye. Artisan beer as well as wines like Lagrein (red) and Gewürztraminer (white) are the drink of choice. For dessert, you’ll, of course, want to try the strudel, the famous Sacher torte, and the delicious strauben funnel cakes.
The Seaside Town of Sperlonga and the Villa of Tiberius
If you’re looking for a coastal city that is also one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” then look no further than Sperlonga. Located along the Tyrrhenian coastline between Rome and Naples, Sperlonga has the perfect mix of history, culture, and sea.
Sperlonga and Emperor Tiberius
Sperlonga’s history dates back to Roman times and its name is derived from spelunca, Latin for “cave” or “grotto”. In fact, Emperor Augustus first developed the grotto into a residence, but it was his successor Tiberius who made it famous. He lived here until 26 AD when the roof collapsed while he was dining.
Incredibly, the villa’s statues and sculptures were not discovered until 1957 during a local road construction project! You can visit the Archaeological Area of Sperlonga on the weekends between 8:30 am and 7:30 pm. The entire area has been protected by the WWF since 1995 under the name Oasi Blu and comprises over 10 hectares of land and sea.
The Historic Center
The historic center of Sperlonga is a typical medieval village and you will delight in meandering through the tiny alleys lined with quaint shops. The two original gates to the city can still be seen- Porta Marina and la Portella. Three watchtowers dating back to the Saracen raids once protected Sperlonga: Torre Truglia (still intact), Torre Capovento, and Citarola.
There are two churches that are of great importance. Santa Maria di Spelonca was constructed in the 12th century and is the oldest while the Church of San Rocco dates to the 15th century. Pope Clement VII lived here in Palazzo Sabello in the 14th century.
Blue Flag Beach
Sperlonga’s beaches have boasted the prestigious Blue Flag for over 20 years. Sperlonga boasts 10 km of sandy beaches between the Gulf of Gaeta and the Gulf of Naples. From the town, you can reach the most popular beach on foot (Spiaggia di Levante or Spiaggia dell’Angolo) which extends from the Torre Truglia to the Grotto of Tiberius.
Beachgoers will find a variety of water sports from windsurfing, kitesurfing, beach volleyball, as well as lots of tour operators that will take you to the secluded grottos along the rocky coastline.
The family beach is the stretch known as the Spiaggia di Ponente. This beach also has a nice cycle path making for easier access. Other beaches to check out are Spiaggia del Lago Lungo, Spiaggia della Sorgente, Spiaggia di Bazzano, Spiaggia delle Bambole, and Spiaggia dei 300 Scalini.
Being a seaside town, of course, what’s on the menu is fresh fish and seafood! The most typical dishes are sardines and anchovies as well as mussels and clams. Sperlonga is also famous for its interesting variety of white celery and Gaeta olives.
The Region of Salento in Puglia: the Sun, the Sea and the Wind
Puglia is not just Alberobello, Lecce, and Brindisi. Puglia is much more; Puglia is Salento. Salento is the heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, located between the Province of Lecce and parts of Brindisi and Taranto.
Salento is the deep color of the earth and the green of the olive trees; it is the blue shades of the sea. Salento is the sun that warms your heart all year round, not just in the hot summer months. Salento is the wind- either the humid Scirocco blowing from the south, from Africa, or the dry Tramontana blowing from the north.
Salento is also tradition. Salento is music; it is a folk dance (the pizzica) that makes your body come alive and moves you. Salento is the melody of its dialects, which vary from one town to the other, even if only a short distance away. Salento is the “griko” language (Hellenic heritage) still spoken in a few villages, in the part of the region called Grecia Salentina. You can visit and experience Salento all year round from the summer festivals to the Christmas markets.
Salento is a stroll through the narrow streets of Otranto and Specchia, two of the most beautiful Italian medieval villages. Salento is the smell of fresh tomato sauce simmering early on Sunday mornings. Salento is the figs dried in the sun after summer, waiting to be stuffed with small pieces of chocolate or almonds. Salento is a good glass of Negramaro wine by the sea, accompanied by local taralli.
Salento is a walk in the old town of Lecce, to discover the workshops of local paper mache artisans. Salento is homemade pasta prepared by our grandmothers and mothers, the delicious orecchiette and sagne ‘ncannulate.
Salento is a day-trip by bike either to the Alimini Lakes or to the nature parks along the coast. Salento is a mix of different cultures, from the Saracen to the Byzantine. Salento is also represented by the beautiful caves located on the Adriatic coast. Salento is its local terracotta handicraft made in the hinterland (e.g. Cutrofiano). Salento is joy, hospitality, laughter.
All this and much more has been referred to as “Salento-therapy” by some scientists. So what are you waiting for? Come and experience this beautiful place for yourself!
Article and photos by M. Cafiero
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