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
Getting to Know the Wolves of Tuscany’s Apuan Alps
“Wolf! Wolf !! ” Until the last century, this cry could only mean one thing: danger. Not to mention how they were depicted in books: the wolfman, and werewolves. There’s no denying it; wolves simply have never had a good name. Let’s reexamine these amazing mammals and their presence in Tuscany’s Apuan Alps and Garfagnana area.
Wolves are one of the oldest and most fascinating creatures in the world. Aside from the fact that popular legends have always described them as monsters, wolves have a complex social structure. They live and hunt in packs raising their offspring and defending their territory in an integrated and coordinated way.
On hunting trips, after rubbing each other’s faces (a sort of ritual), they depart in a single file line. Once the prey has been identified (deer, moose, or smaller mammals), they alternate in pursuit until it tires, and then they attack en masse. We’re talking about a very intelligent and cunning animal.
Problems Caused by Man, Not by Wolves
Wolf hunting became a sort of hobby over time. Due to large-scale hunting by humans, wildlife has been dramatically diminished in forests and woodlands. This has happened all over the world, not only in Italy, and is one of the main reasons wolves have been forced to look elsewhere for food. Wolves instinctively have made the choice of targeting easy and abundant prey such as livestock. It is a matter of survival.
Due to a problem caused by man, the wolf started to hunt cattle more and more frequently wreaking havoc on farmers. Then to make matters worse, man found the perfect excuse to fight back bringing the wolf population to the brink of extinction. Very few know that the wolf’s presence in nature is essential!
Not long ago I read an article in National Geographic that in 1995, fourteen wolves were placed in Yellowstone Park in a repopulation effort and that’s when something of a miracle happened. It all started when the wolves started hunting deer. Their presence meant that the deer avoided certain parts of the park which led to the grassy areas replenishing. The poplar and willow forests flourished. The trees and bushes produced more berries attracting more insects, and as a result, several animal species moved into the park.
In fact, the abundance of trees attracted other species, such as the beaver. It had previously been extinct in the region and it began to build dams that provided a perfect habitat for otters, muskrats, and the like. The number of rabbits also increased, as the wolves soon chased away the coyotes as well, which also led to more hawks, red foxes, and badgers. Wolves created a greater balance between prey and predator, managing to increase the number of some species, and over the years altered the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone for the better. They literally changed the physical geography of the park.
The Wolves of the Apuan Alps
Getting back to beautiful Tuscany, and more precisely in Seravezza (Lucca), towards the end of 2014, the wolf returned to populate the Apuan Alps almost one hundred years after the animal’s disappearance. Today, Apuan Park has relayed that the predator’s presence is ever-increasing and becoming more and more stable.
Let’s take this good news as an opportunity to coexist with these wonderful creatures and not as yet another excuse to point the finger at them and cry, “Wolf!” Hopefully, we can collectively realize that wolves are fundamental in nature, and like many other species, have falsely earned a bad reputation.
Continue reading about other places in Tuscany’s Apuan Alps.
Article by M. Gaddini
Photo Copyrights: depositiphoto.com (photo 1); petleyrieri.it (photo 2)
The University of Padua’s Botanical Garden Since 1545
“The Botanical Garden of Padua is at the origin of all botanical gardens in the world and represents the cradle of science, scientific exchanges and the understanding of the relationships between nature and culture. It has largely contributed to the progress of numerous modern scientific disciplines, in particular botany, medicine, chemistry, ecology, and pharmacy. “
For these reasons, the World Heritage Committee has included the Botanical Garden of Padua in the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a cultural asset.
The Ancient Garden
The garden is the oldest in the world and the only one that has maintained the same location and architecture since its birth in 1545.
Its function was the cultivation of medicinal plants which at that time constituted the great majority of all basic medicine. It was sourced directly from nature and for this reason, the first botanical gardens were called “simple gardens”.
At the time of its founding, the treatment of diseases was very “empirical”. It relied on the doctor, often identified by the people as a sorcerer magician who prescribed bloodletting and medicinal herbal drinks.
It was easy to mistake the identification of the plants used in therapy by the famous doctors of antiquity who were the reference points of this discipline. First of all, there was Galen, a doctor of ancient Greece who between the second and third centuries AD, composed medicinal remedies “personalized” by mixing various herbal extracts and substances in appropriate concentrations.
He was the forerunner of the modern-day pharmacist whose pre-eminent work until 1930 was preparing medicinal remedies prescribed by a doctor in the pharmacy or in his laboratory in the back of the store.
It would look somewhat like the oldest European pharmacies with those wonderful vases containing various species of herbs.
The first “guardian” of the Botanical Garden (today, called a prefect) established a medicinal garden by cultivating about 1,800 species of plants, precisely to allow pharmacy students to learn “in the field” to recognize medicinal plants.
At the entrance to the garden, they were given a sheet with a map divided into four sectors with the positioning of the various plants without their name. The future pharmacists had to write the scientific names corresponding to the individual species in order to prove their competence. Not an easy task.
The garden was enriched with plants from different parts of the world, which, due to their rarity and the cost of the medicines obtained from them, were the object of continuous theft.
For this reason, a protective wall was erected around the square that made up the ancient garden divided into four smaller squares and inscribed in a circular crown.
The plant species mostly came from the territories controlled by the Serenissima Republic of Venice, that is, all the way to Constantinople.
Also for this reason Padua had a privileged role in the introduction and study of botany. It must be said that at the time of the creation of the Botanical Garden, Padua was already famous in the world for its Athenaeum where the medical and pharmacological application of plants was studied.
This year, the University of Padua is celebrating its 800th anniversary. Founded in 1222, it has always been considered one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. Make sure to include it in your visit to Padua! More information can be found at the links below:
Trees and Habitats
The Ancient Garden hosts a great variety of plants divided by categories and species: 3,500 different species represent a significant part of the plant world. There are “historic trees”, the oldest of which is the Palm of San Pietro planted in 1585, a ginkgo from 1750 and a magnolia from 1786.
The plants are also divided into thematic collections based on common characteristics even though they do not belong to the same species: insectivorous plants, medicinal and poisonous plants, plants of the Euganean and rare hills, and introduced plants.
The reconstruction of the natural habitats where plants grow is also very interesting:
Mediterranean scrub, alpine rock, freshwater environment, succulent plants, and the tropical greenhouse also known as the orchid greenhouse.
The Biodiversity Garden
A particularly spectacular part of the Botanical Garden of Padua is the Garden of Biodiversity. This modern structure has terrestrial environments within some greenhouses that simulate the climatic conditions of the different biomes of the planet.
1,300 species are present in the tropical zone, sub-arid zones, temperate, and arid zones.
It’s an amazing journey through Earth’s vegetation from America to Africa, Madagascar to Asia, and temperate Europe to Oceania.
Outside the biodiversity garden, make sure to check out the spectacular ponds of aquatic plants.
To prepare yourself for the visit to the Botanical Garden and to learn more about the plants you will encounter along the way, (even though there are illustrative and interactive panels located throughout) I recommend the site:
Article by: C. La Rocca
Venzone: A Fortified 13th-Century Village in Friuli
If you haven’t ever heard of the village of Venzone you’re not alone. This hilltop town in Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region isn’t on most tourists’ radar, but in this article, I hope to prove that it should be. Recently inducted into the prestigious list of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, Venzone has everything you could possibly need for the perfect Italian getaway.
A Bit of History
While Venzone may be new to you, it certainly is no novice in European history. Due to its strategic location, it found itself smack dab on the road to the north, from the Celts in 500 BC to the Romans who made it a major pit stop. In fact, it was on the Via Julia Augusta which connected Aquilea to present-day Austria. Not until the year 923 AD do we have actual evidence of Venzone being an urban center. By 1258, Venzone had double fortified city walls, a moat, and as many as five castles. It happens to be the only fortified, 13th-century city left in the entire Friuli region and it was recognized as such in 1965.
Just eleven years later, in 1976, the entirety of Venzone’s historic center was completely demolished in a devastating earthquake. It measured 6.4 on the Richter scale and Mount San Simeon, just a few kilometers from Venzone, was its epicenter.
Venzone’s Major Sights
Casa Marcurele: Entering from the Porta di sotto gate, it will be on your right. It’s the oldest building in Venzone, dating to the 11th century.
Palazzo degli Scaligeri and Palazzo Zinutti: 13th and 14th-century buildings with ornate balconies.
The Duomo: A Romanesque-Gothic cathedral built in 1338. This magnificent building above all others is a true testament to the strong-willed Friulian people and the rebuilding effort that took place after the 1976 earthquake. In the particular case of the cathedral, over 9,500 stones were numbered and painstakingly put back in their exact original position. It took almost twenty years to complete the reconstruction project. It was a jigsaw puzzle of epic proportions!
Make sure to note the beautiful organ that was restored in 1996 but was original to master organ maker Callido and dates to 1792.
The San Michele Chapel in front of the church dates to the year 1200 and is now home to a mummy museum. About forty mummies that date from the 14th to the 19th centuries were excavated during a construction project on the Cathedral. Their natural mummification was due to a specific type of mold that dehydrated the bodies. Today, there are a total of five mummies on display.
Piazza Municipio: The Town Hall building dates to the 14th and 15th centuries and displays the many coats of arms of Venzone’s ruling families.
Palazzo Orgnani Martina: This 18th-century noble palace is considered the finest example of the era in Venzone. Inside you’ll also find the earthquake museum, Tiere Motus, which tells the story of the 1976 quake’s destruction and the rebuilding effort.
Church of St. John the Baptist: This is a 14th-century church that was not rebuilt after the quake.
Porta San Genesio: The only completely rebuilt tower dating to the 14th century.
Just outside the city walls, you can enjoy numerous trails through the Parco Naturale delle Prealpi Giulie including the ancient Celtic Way. It connects a series of churches and convents dating from the 10th through the 18th centuries with stunning views of the mountains and the Tagliamento River.
Events and Culture
Two of Venzone’s biggest events are a week-long celebration in honor of Santa Lucia (December 13th) and the Pumpkin Festival (Festa della zucca) in October. This is a great opportunity to taste some of Venzone’s traditional recipes including tripe and bread and dessert made from millet flour.
When to Visit
Any time of year is the right time to visit Venzone, but autumn and winter are especially lovely and put you in a strategic location to enjoy all kinds of winter sports in the Carnic and Giulian Alps. Read more in our article about Tarvisio.
A Sicilian Romance: The Island of Ortigia
Spending a weekend in Sicily is not only possible, but it’s also a necessity! And it is even more beautiful than what you would expect. At least for me, a native Umbrian, Sicily has been a recent discovery and now that I’ve been, I’m totally enthralled. I decided to go back for a romantic getaway on a sunny weekend in September. I chose the Island of Ortigia, the old city of Syracuse.
Syracuse is a very ancient city, home of artists and philosophers, and Ortigia is a concentration of beauty that exudes history from every brick.
From the two bridges that connect it to Syracuse, you can immediately reach the Temple of Apollo, the most important monument on the island and one of the oldest in Sicily. The ruins of the temple, surrounded by a very nice garden, are the entrance to the old city and are only the beginning of the journey in time that Ortigia offers its visitors.
In the square in front of the Temple, concerts and meetings are often organized and we were lucky enough to be able to listen to live music the night of our arrival. You can also find the best cafe in town, known for its exquisite cannoli and typical Sicilian breakfast of a sweet roll with a granita. This is the Sicilian remedy for renewing both the body and mind on torrid summer days.
Continuing downtown towards the center of the island, you will have two choices: walking down the main street, full of boutiques, and up to the fountain of Diana, or taking the chaotic Via Cavour which leads to the famous Piazza del Duomo. Personally, I recommend the latter, because it is full of little characteristic shops. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can take in Ortigia’s true atmosphere. Indeed, nothing is more beautiful than getting lost in the alleys and lanes and letting yourself be carried away by the scents of the Sicilian delicacies, coming from every direction.
Ortigia’s Piazza del Duomo is surrounded on all sides by a tangled web of alleyways. You’ll likely find yourself strolling along one of them serenaded by one of the many street artists playing a melody. The Cathedral is one of the most beautiful architectural examples in all of Italy. The façade is Baroque, like all the churches in south-eastern Sicily, but the remains of the ancient Greek temple on which it was built are still visible. Places like this make you realize that true beauty is immortal.
From here, you cross what I have renamed “the artists’ street” for its numerous stalls selling local handicraft items. You’ll arrive at the Fountain of Artesia, a small, semi-circular lake formed by a spring of fresh water. This peculiar fountain is close to the sea and has a group of papyrus springing up from its water (said to be the only spontaneously planted in all of Europe). Whether it’s because of the papyrus or the legend of Arethusa and Alpheus, you’ll be in awe of this fountain.
From here, you can continue on the promenade towards the extreme tip of the island and visit the Maniace Castle, dating back to medieval times. You can also go back and walk along the brand new port, perhaps under the shade of the tree-lined avenue that runs alongside it. If that is the case, you’ll have the added benefit of passing through a small park shaded by giant ficus trees. My advice is to sit here and listen to the birdsongs of the many species that populate the foliage of these majestic trees on clear sunny days, taking a break from the world.
As you can see, much of Ortigia’s beauty is found in the open air, simply by wandering around the city in search of unique views and landscapes. The sea is just another example of its breathtaking atmosphere. Even though the coast here seems rocky and inaccessible, Ortigian ingenuity installed floating platforms for easy entry into the water.
I’ve barely touched upon the food here; it is almost impossible to eat poorly in Ortigia. There are countless places where you can sample real Sicilian cuisine and appreciate its excellent quality.
When our little getaway came to an end, we left the island with our bellies and hearts full, fully aware that it wasn’t our last goodbye.
Read more on Ortigia by other authors who have visited!
Article and photos by: G. Sdei
The Perfect Getaway: Murano in the Venetian Lagoon
If you’ve already been to Venice, maybe more than once, then it might be time to discover something new in the lagoon! We propose the darling village of Murano. Famous for its exquisite craftsmanship of handblown glass, Murano is full of charm and is the perfect getaway.
Murano’s Infinite Charm
Murano has a long history as rich as Venice itself. It earned its reputation for artisan glass making when the Most Serene Republic of Venice ordered all the glassmakers to transfer their shops to the tiny island of Murano in the year 1291. They realized that keeping the shops in Venice posed too great of a fire hazard. Of course, Venice has been known for its exceptional craft of handblown glass since Roman times.
Murano’s Colorful Houses
So you’re probably wondering what the vibrantly painted houses have to do with glass. The most plausible theory for Murano’s (and Burano’s) signature-colored houses likely stems from their ancient fishing traditions, not glassmaking. It’s believed that the fishermen needed to identify their particular house in order to dock when they returned home from sea in the thick fog. Today, the hues of blue, pink, yellow, orange, purple, and green are a big part of the villages’ appeal.
What to See in Murano
Aside from the colors, the first thing that will strike you as interesting is that Murano is set up like a miniature Venice- it even has its own Grand Canal. There is quite a bit to see here for such a tiny island.
Church of San Pietro Martire
One of its highlights is definitely the Church of San Pietro Martire where you’ll find numerous pieces of precious art that were stashed here for safekeeping during Napoleon‘s raids. Great Venetian artists such as Giovanni Bellini, Bartolomeo Vivarini, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo and Domenico Tintoretto all left their mark here. The original building dates to the mid-1300s but a devastating fire completely burned it to the ground in 1474. The church as it appears today is a result of its rebuilding in 1511.
Basilica dei Santi Maria and Donato
The Basilica of Saints Maria and Donato is a Venetian-Byzantine masterpiece of overwhelming proportions. If you think the exterior is impressive, wait until you see the mosaics inside. Both the floors and central apse contain exquisite mosaics done by master Venetian artists trained in Byzantine style from the 12th century.
The Glass Museum
Now for the reason most people visit Murano: its signature glass. The Museo del Vetro recounts Venice’s great artisan history from the 13th century to the present with hundreds of one-of-a-kind examples. Open daily from 10 to 6. Visit the official website for more information.
The “Glass Cathedral”
Santa Chiara, la Cattedrale del vetro is a furnace and glass factory housed in the former Santa Chiara Cathedral. It is one of the oldest buildings in Murano and has seen the likes of Casanova and many of Venice’s Doges. Today, you can tour this magnificent space and witness a live glass-blowing demonstration. Santa Chiara also holds numerous private events including weddings and masquerade balls during the Carnival season. Visit the official website for more information.
Murano is very easy to get to from Venice via public transportation, known as ACTV. You can purchase tickets in advance online on the ACTV official website.
Visiting the Village of Piediluco and Its Lake in Umbria
On the border of Umbria and Lazio lies the village of Piediluco and its splendid lake. This charming area of Umbria is off the beaten path and just waiting to be explored. It makes a lovely trip when visiting nearby Nera River Park and one of the most famous falls in Italy, the Cascata delle Marmore. It is also along the pilgrimage route that follows the path of St. Francis of Assisi: St. Francis’ Way.
Piediluco is Umbria’s second-largest natural lake, after Trasimeno. Even though it only sits at about 370 meters above sea level, it is often compared to the Alpine lakes of northern Italy. Throughout the year, Piediluco’s color changes from emerald to an almost transparent blue reflecting the surrounding landscape.
Boat rides are available year-round and depending on the season, you can even book a tour that will take you from Piediluco along the Velino river and on to the Marmore Falls. Sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, and fishing are all widely practiced here. You can also rent a pedal boat and an umbrella and chaise lounge on any of the three sandy beaches of Miralago, Velino, and Ara Marina. You’ll definitely notice the presence of rowers because Piediluco is where the Italian National Center for Olympic Rowing Preparation is based.
If the temps are too chilly to be in the water, then you can always explore the lovely wooded area around the lake and the numerous nature trails available. After a short one-kilometer hike through the Holm oaks, you can reach an elevation of 600 meters and admire the statue of the Virgin Mary placed here in 1903.
The Village of Piediluco
Literally translating to “at the foot of Mount Luco”, the village of Piediluco is completely charming. This tiny hamlet of just over 500 residents is well worth exploring.
One of the highlights is the gothic Church of St. Francis erected in honor of the saint in the early 13th century. It’s a historical fact that Francis spent a lot of time in this area of Umbria. In fact, St. Francis’ biographer, Thomas da Celano, mentions Francis crossing Piediluco Lake on numerous occasions and tells of two specific accounts of blessings over animals on the lake. Since 1999, the church has also housed relics of the saint.
Piediluco’s Medieval Castle
The castle known as the Rocca di Piediluco or the Rocca di Albornoz is a massive fortress dating to the early 14th century. It is perched at the top of Mount Luco and surrounded by what was once believed to be a sacred forest. Despite its current state of abandonment, it’s still worth the drive or the hike to see its exterior and enjoy the panoramic views of the lake.
Interesting Facts About the Lake
Galileo Galilei sailed this lake in 1624 where he conducted various experiments in the field of physics. Much later, in the summer of 1961, Brigitte Bardot was captured sunbathing in her iconic bikini and relaxing on the shores of Piediluco.
Read more about the nearby city of Terni.
Vernante: The Village of Pinocchio
At the border between Italy and France, in the Natural Park of the Maritime Alps, surrounded by trees, streams and lakes, you’ll find Vernante. This small village is in the province of Cuneo, known all over the world as “the village of Pinocchio”. Within the charming village walls, more than 150 murals illustrate the adventures of the famous wooden puppet.
Attilio Mussino, the Illustrator
Attilio Mussino, also known as “Pinocchio’s uncle”, illustrated the first edition of Collodi’s work. He moved to Vernante after the loss of his son and his wife, and he stayed there until he died. In 1954, Bruno Carlet and Meo Cavallera decided to honor Mussino’s work by painting some of his illustrations on the walls of the houses in the old town center.
Year after year, the number of murals has multiplied, exceeding 150, creating a truly charming atmosphere. Walking through the streets of the center, in fact, you can “meet” all the characters of Collodi’s tale: Geppetto, the Fox and the Cat, the terrible Dogfish, the Blue Fairy, Mangiafuoco and many others.
The Attilio Mussino Museum
An entire museum has also been dedicated to Attilio Mussino, where you’ll find the first illustrated edition of Pinocchio from 1911, the book with the animated pages of 1942, and 33 illustrated tables of the last edition that appeared in Il Giornalino in 1952.
In addition to visiting the village, if you don’t mind walking, I suggest you visit the castle of Tourusela, a medieval castle built between 1275 and 1280. The panoramic route has a lovely view of the village and the mountains. Vernante is actually located within the Maritime Alps Natural Park where there are numerous hiking trails, lakes, and rivers to explore.
In conclusion, if the fairy tale of Pinocchio holds a special place in your heart, then this beautiful village is a must-see.
Vernante is easily reachable by car. At the entrance of the village, there are ample parking spaces for cars and parking areas for campers.
It is also possible to reach Vernante on the Turin – Cuneo – Ventimiglia – Nice railway line.
You may also want to read about Collodi, Tuscany and its Pinocchio Park
Article written by: E. Mencarelli
Via Francigena in Italy: The “Journey of Life”
One of the most well-known and spiritual journeys in the world is along the Via Francigena. If you have traveled around Italy, you have most likely noticed the brown signs with the little pilgrim figure indicating the famous via. But have you ever wondered what it’s really all about and why it’s become so popular in the past few decades?
What is the Via Francigena?
2,000 kilometers across some of the most beautiful terrain in all of Europe, the Via Francigena has been called the “journey of life”. The word Francigena literally means “from France” because it was the road that led from France to Rome from where pilgrims would continue their journey along Via Appia or Via Latina and then Via Traiana to the ports of Otranto, Bari, and Brindisi and on to the Holy Land. It actually begins in the English city of Canterbury, passing through France, Switzerland, and Italy. The path differs from Roman roads in that it doesn’t connect cities but rather, abbeys.
The route today is often mimicked after Sigeric the Serious who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 990 to 994 AD. He made the 1,700 km journey in 79 stages which he documented on his return trip. Pilgrims can obviously choose to complete the entire route or certain legs either on foot, bike, or even horseback.
Pilgrims must have a “Pilgrim Passport” or credential with them at all times which is an official document allowing them access to numerous discounts including train tickets along the route. There is also an official app that every traveler should download which contains interactive maps as well as indicates availability at accommodation facilities.
Via Francigena in Italy
Within Italy, Via Francigena passes through the regions of Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and finally, Lazio. Along the route, in some places, pilgrims can choose to stay in spedali which are hostel-style accommodations or sometimes, in monasteries or low-cost hotels. Since 2009, Italy has been working steadily to increase the number of facilities available along the route to attract more pilgrims.
From Switzerland, the route descends into Aosta Valley via the famous San Bernard Pass. Due to its altitude, this part of the route is only open from June through September. This stage includes beautiful towns like Hone, Bard, and Donnas.
The Piedmont portion of the route actually has various options- a total of 4, with one connecting to the famous Camino di Santiago. Lombardy’s portion includes 120 km through beautiful countryside and the major city of Pavia. Crossing into Emilia-Romagna through Piacenza, Fidenza, and then entering into Tuscany via the Cisa Pass.
Completing the Journey
And finally, on to where else, but St. Peter’s Square in Rome where after a long, arduous journey, pilgrims will receive their Testimonium.
The Testimonium is the official document stating that you have completed at least 100 km on foot or 200 km by bike. You must prove this with stamps received along the Via Francigena.
About 50,000 pilgrims walked the entire Via Francigena in 2019 alone. The majority say it is a life-altering experience and as Confucius said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.”
Official website of the Via Francigena
Morciano di Leuca: One of the Most Authentic Villages in Italy
In this article, we’re going just about as far south as you can go on the Italian peninsula to the town of Morciano di Leuca. This part of Puglia is known as Salento, a sub-region that has become very well known and loved by tourists from all over the world. Let’s find out more about this amazing village.
Where is Morciano di Leuca?
For a visual, Morciano di Leuca is basically at the very bottom of the heel of Italy’s famous boot shape. It is technically part of the Lecce province but it is closer to Gallipoli on the Ionian side. Most people end up visiting this slightly inland town during their beach holiday at Torre Vado, Pescoluse, or Santa Maria di Leuca.
A Bit of History
Like just about everything in Salento, Morciano’s origins date to the Paleolithic era. The first datable settlement in “recent” history was in the ninth century AD. when the nearby settlement of Vereto was destroyed by an Arab invasion and the residents fled and settled in Morciano di Leuca. Some believe that the name Morciano is likely derived from the word merce or “merchandise” since it was likely a major port and trading center.
Although it’s only about four kilometers inland from the Ionian Sea, Morciano actually sits on a slightly elevated area known as the Serra Falitte at about 130 meters above sea level.
The Ionian Coast and Hot Springs
The area is known for the natural, freshwater hot springs that flow up between the rocks along a portion of the coast of Torre Vado. Prior to the 1980s and before the area experienced a boom in tourism and “outside” visitors, locals would use the thermal pools for a refreshing bath after a long, tedious day in the fields or even for washing precious linens.
Another interesting phenomenon in the area is known as the Vore di Barbarano del Capo, deep chasms in the earth reaching a depth of 35 meters that are tied to many legends and superstitions among the locals.
Morciano di Leuca’s Historic Center
There are several buildings and churches that you’ll want to visit in the historic center. One is the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary of Constantinople which dates to the 16th century. A unique monolith stone known as a menhir is frescoed with the image of the Virgin and child.
Another is the Chiesa Madre di San Giovanni Elemosiniere or the main church dedicated to St. John the Almoner. The church was erected in the 16th century and designed in Romanesque style initially with later additions of Baroque architecture. St. John the Almoner is also the patron saint of Morciano di Leuca and his relics were supposedly preserved inside the church at one time.
Underground Oil Mills and Granaries
You’ll also notice a massive stone wheel in the church piazza which is a testimony to the town’s ancient history of oil production. Underground oil mills known as a frantoio ipogeo are present in many towns in Salento and Calabria. You can organize a visit through local tour guides and pro loco associations.
Make sure and take note of the interesting historic homes that are arranged with open courtyards. These common areas were where the peasant farmers would gather to wash clothes in the cistern and also crush wheat on the large stone blocks. In the evenings when it cooled down, the townspeople would gather to sing songs and tell stories or continue with their work. This is a practice that is still very much a part of the culture even today.
Castle Valentini is an impressive fortress that dates to the year 1335. It was built for Gualtieri VI and it originally had four defensive towers. The castle is still privately owned by the Valentini family.
You won’t regret visiting Morciano di Leuca, one of the most authentic villages in Italy.
copyright bottom photo: Di Lupiae – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9620157
Cefalù: A Fascinating City on Sicily’s Northern Coast
Cefalù (pronounced cheh-fah-loo) is an unbelievably beautiful town along Sicily’s northern coast. Both the Madonie mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea serve as its backdrop. For the wanderlust traveler, Cefalù offers everything from history and culture to amazing food, and a stunning coastline. It is also part of the exclusive club of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy” and in this article, you’ll find out why.
Cefalù’s History in Brief
Once you learn how to pronounce it correctly, Cefalù begins to roll off your tongue with such ease that even the word itself becomes intriguing. It was the ancient Greeks who first named it, Kephaloídion, then the Romans with Cephaloedium, and Gafludi in Arabic. The Normans would follow suit as well as the Swabians, Aragonese, and Spanish- and that’s not even a comprehensive list. In fact, Sicily is likely the most conquered country on earth, particularly the city of Palermo. It isn’t any wonder that the influences of all these invaders can still be observed today in its architecture, food, and traditions.
Now that you’ve had a brief history lesson (rather necessary if you’re going to truly appreciate Cefalù) we can dive into what you must see and do during your stay.
Its first outstanding feature is impossible to miss! The Rocca is a massive limestone rock that soars 270 meters (885 feet) above the town making for a dramatic backdrop. We highly recommend hiking up to the top which will take you about two hours. Along the way, you’ll pass by what remains of the Temple of Diana (9th century BC) as well as Cefalù’s 12th-century (estimated) Norman castle.
Most who visit agree that the view from the top from Palermo to Capo d’Orlando was one of the highlights of their trip. The path begins in town on Corso Ruggero then on to Salita dei Saraceni where you’ll find the ticket office for the castle.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, the Duomo is absolutely the most symbolic monument in Cefalù. It was commissioned by Sicily’s first king, Ruggero II, in the year 1131 and wasn’t completed until 1267. The two prominent towers are its standout feature so typical of Norman-Romanesque architecture. Its interior is even more astounding with the culminating feature being the central apse and the depiction of Christ Pantocrator in precious Byzantine mosaics dating to the mid-12th-century. Visit the Cathedral’s official website for guided tours and ticket info.
Named after Enrico Pirajno di Mandralisca, a Baron who lived in Cefalù in the mid-19th century, the Mandralisca Museum is a must-visit for all art connoisseurs. Most of the museum’s contents are from the Baron’s personal collection including archaeological finds from Cefalù’s Magna Grecia period that he personally excavated (read about nearby Himera Archaeological Park). A vast collection of art, coins, zoology specimens, and what is now the public library are all included in your visit. Open every day of the year.
Piazza Marina lies between the city’s historic center and the deep blue sea. From here the old city walls (5th century) are still visible. You can follow the old wall around the perimeter of the town for a breathtaking stroll along the sea. A small, sandy beach crowded with sunbathers and Cefalù’s pier are also here.
The “Megalithic” City Walls
Referred to as “megalithic” for their proportions, Cefalù’s stone walls are three meters thick and five meters tall. Until the 16th century, they served as protection from invaders as well as from strong winds. Originally, there were four gates that allowed access into the city, but now, the only one standing is the aforementioned Porta Marina. You may recognize Porta Marina from the 1988 cinematographic masterpiece, Nuovo Cinema Paradiso which won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1990.
Palazzo Osterio Magno
The Osterio Magno Palace just recently reopened in April of 2022 after having been closed to the public for over 20 years. The palace was the former residence of Norman King Ruggero II and of the historic Ventimiglia family. It is a rare glimpse into Cefalù’s vast history in a single building. Osterio Magno is now managed by the Diocese of Cefalù and is included in some of the guided tours along with the Cathedral. Visit the Cathedral’s official website for complete details.
Cefalù’s Best Beaches
It’s a bit obvious to point out that Cefalù has amazing beaches because, after all, we are talking about Sicily! The shores that surround the historic center would suffice even the most serious beachgoer’s every need. The Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio and Spiaggia di Cefalù offer sandy shores and lots of options as far as lidos where you can conveniently rent an umbrella and a chaise lounge chair.
If you want to explore more of the coast and have the means to, by all means go at least as far as Sant’Ambrogio (to the east) with its tiny pebbles and few tourists and Settefrati and Salinella to the west. The latter is an excellent place to try your hand at windsurfing.
What to Eat
When we talk about Sicily, there are really two guarantees: the first, the above-mentioned turquoise sea, and the second, the food. Entire articles could be written about every single dish on the island and how diverse they all are. We’re going to narrow it down to a simple few that you absolutely must try while you’re in Cefalù to make things easier.
Lo Sfincione is a cross between focaccia and pizza and is a specialty of the Palermo province, including Cefalù. It’s a favorite street food as well and very easy to find. The classic recipe is topped with tomato sauce, anchovies or anchovy paste, onions, oregano, and caciocavallo cheese. Divine!
Seafood and the fresh catch of the day should be on your menu every day you’re here as well. Some favorites include mussels au gratin and swordfish “rolls”, involtini.
For your sweet tooth, it’s really hard to go wrong. A morning pastry made with ricotta, or almond paste, and served with a classic granita, and an afternoon gelato in any flavor should become a daily habit!
The best time of the year to enjoy everything Cefalù has to offer is, well, anytime! In all seriousness, Sicily enjoys very mild winters but it probably won’t be “beach weather”. Your best bet for great deals and avoiding the masses are the months of April and May and mid-September to early November. Just try to get here before Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones 5 film is released! You’ll want to say, “Hey! I’ve been there!” during the scenes filmed in Cefalù.