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
Prato della Valle- the Largest Square in Europe
There are places we cannot part from because their timeless charm is deeply etched in our souls. One of them is undoubtedly Prato della Valle (Lawn of the Valley), the beating heart of my town, Padua. It is a majestic square that holds the ancient history of Roman Patavium. It’s an evocative, magical place with spectacular glimpses of rare beauty, where light offers a surprising and moving experience. In the midst of the morning fog, you could be overwhelmed by the pearl-colored Isola Memmia (Isle Memmia), a view that can sometimes be surreal and fantastic, almost like a painting. Whereas in spring and summer the sun-drenched square bustles with people and conveys pure delight. The surface of the Canaletta (Little Channel) shines with an endless range of colors, whereas the shapes of trees are clearly outlined against the blue sky.
Actually, Prato della Valle (or as we call it, just “the Prato”) is not simply a place, but a state of mind through which everyone can freely rediscover his own true nature. If you want to grasp its real essence, just let yourself go. You can stroll around the square admiring this huge area in amazement, check out its sumptuous historical mansions, sit on the benches and enjoy an ice cream, rent a bicycle, or taste our popular “spritz” at one of our many outdoor cafés. You could also admire the perfect harmony created by the double ring of statues in their elliptical shape, and learn more about the prominent citizens portrayed. Most of them were born in Padua, others became adoptive citizens; however, all of them made our town renowned.
I think this is the secret behind its charm. The Prato is full of art, history, and traditions. It is also known as “Il Prato senza erba” (The lawn without grass). In fact, according to chronicles in the nineteenth century, a hundred trees were planted, which for a long time, made it impossible for grass to grow. It is only a few minutes’ walk from Saint Anthony Basilica. Thanks to a surface of 88.620 m2, it is considered the biggest square in Europe.
Its unusual name dates back to the Medieval Age. In fact, at that time the Latin word Pratum meant a wide area devoted to trading purposes, which, if not paved, could also be covered with grass. Whereas the word Valle (Valley) i.e. ‘marshy place’, referred to the quaggy land where still water created some sort of basin or valley. However, that area already existed before the Middle Ages. The present square was a Roman circus for horse races and a theatre during the first century b.C. in the ancient city of Patavium. The theatre stood until the eleventh century and later it was used as a pit. In fact, some of the stones were used to build Rialto Bridge in Venice. At that time it was called Campo Marzio, due to the military briefings occurring there.
Certainly, the Roman origin of Padua also played a key role in the following centuries. The value of this legacy was celebrated in 2017 on the two thousandth anniversary of Titus Livius’ death (a famous Paduan historian). The Municipality, in cooperation with the University of Padua and the Heritage Department, gave the green light to the excavations of the ancient Roman theatre. It was an ambitious project aimed at draining the Canaletta located along the Isola Memmia and studying the artifacts that were found after bringing the cavea (enclosure) to light. Up until December 2017, archaeology lovers could admire the site through scheduled guided tours which were really successful.
Going back to our historical outline, it should also be emphasized that after the Roman Age, this area went through numerous transformations. During Christian persecution, the circus was used for battles and two of the four patrons of Padua were martyrized here including, Saint Justine (for whom the homonymous Basilica is named) and Saint Daniel. Later on, it was called “Valley of the Market” and also “Lawn of Saint Justin”.
Whereas in the Middle Ages the square held jousts, public holidays and fairs. Among them, two were worth noting: the races of sedioli (a Paduan two-horsed chariot) and the “castle of love” where young men attempted to conquer the hearts of maidens who were locked up in a tower.
But it was in the eighteenth century that this square underwent great changes. The idea came from Andrea Memmo, a high-ranking official of the Venetian Republic who was also fond of architecture. He arrived in Padua in 1775 and ordered the reclamation of the entire area that until then, was basically a swamp. The project was assigned to Domenico Cerato, abbot and Professor of Architecture at the University of Padua. The works started in summer 1775, in preparation for the autumn fair dedicated to Saint Justin. The new look of the Prato would feature a central isle (named Isola Memmia after its creator) surrounded by an artificial elliptical channel displaying a double ring of statues, in total 78 (the original project envisioned 88 of them). Among the most eminent people portrayed was Andrea Memmo himself, but also Antenore, the mythical founder of Padua in 1132 b.C., Titus Livius, Petrarca, Tasso, Ariosto, Mantegna, and Galileo.
It still looks this way today after over two centuries, and we can still admire it in all its splendor. In fact, it is the meeting point for skaters and joggers, but its breathtaking beauty also makes it the favorite place of musicians, lovers cuddling along the Canaletta, families with children, and the hundred thousand tourists who have always been enchanted by it.
The local market with more than a hundred and sixty stands takes place on Saturdays welcoming plenty of visitors. The most renowned event undoubtedly occurs on 13th June, the Fair of Saint Anthony, which celebrates the saint’s death which took place in Padua in 1231 a.D. For this occasion, thousands of pilgrims arrive in town in order to pay homage to him, as well as to attend the procession in his honor.
The square typically hosts numerous events throughout the year ranging from Italian and European food and wine shows to sporting events to prestigious concerts. Two other major events are New Year’s Eve and the 15th of August (National Holiday called “Ferragosto”) when a joyful crowd meets for a firework show that explodes in a whirlwind of colors and unforgettable emotions.
Of course, its charm also inspired artists, travelers, and writers. Among them, Canaletto and Francesco Piranesi. Gabriele D’Annunzio praised its beauty by dedicating a sonnet to his “City of Silence” and composed some lines which are carved on a memorial stone under the portico of Loggia Amulea.
The Prato is a treasure to discover but, if you wish to fully understand it, you really must come and experience it for yourself.
Article by: Cristina Zuccato
Photo copyrights: ilgazzettino.it, padovacultura.padovanet.it, pratodellavalle.it
Calcata: the Coolest Village in Italy
If you love visiting unique places that seem to be both suspended in time and in air, then the hilltop village of Calcata is for you! Perched atop a tuff mountain in Lazio’s Viterbo province, Calcata is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Known as the “artists’ village” for the talented painters, sculptors, musicians, and even actors that live here, the little alleys are filled with studios and shops.
Not Your Typical Village
In the beautiful Treja Valley just 45 km from Rome and about 30 minutes away from Lake Bracciano, Calcata makes a perfect day trip and will be unlike anything else you see in Italy! It has been called the “hippest” village in Italy. So how did a typical medieval village become such a haven for an international artistic community?
It all started in the 1930s when the village was actually evacuated due to government concerns that it would literally collapse and slide off the tuff stone hill. Most of the residents moved to nearby Calcata Nuova, or “New Calcata” just a couple of kilometers away. With the rise of the hippie culture in the US in the 1960s, squatters began to occupy the abandoned buildings in old Calcata soon giving rise to an actual community. Eventually, the government allowed the new residents to purchase the homes, and new businesses and art studios sprang up all over the historic center. Today, it has even been described by the New York Times as one of “the grooviest villages in Italy”.
What to See and Do
Besides picking up a cool souvenir and wandering around the tiny streets with colorful shops and studios, unusual restaurants, and cafes, you might be wondering what else there is to do in Calcata. First of all, there are actually more cats than people who live here on a permanent basis. You’ll see them everywhere! But let’s not forget that this tiny village was here long before the hipsters.
The only entrance into the village leads to the castle also known as the Palazzo Baronale. Its crenelated tower is part of the famous skyline and the palace itself has witnessed thousands of civil marriages over the centuries. It also hosts numerous art exhibits throughout the year.
A 500-Year-Old Legend
The Church of the Santissimo Nome di Gesù has quite a history and is tied to a famous legend. Built in the 1300s and later restored in the late 1700s, the real importance of this church dates to the year 1527. It is believed that a German mercenary was arrested and held here after the sacking of Rome where he stole the Holy Prepuce (or Jesus’ foreskin). The relic was held in this church drawing thousands of pilgrims over the years until 1983 when it was stolen, jeweled case and all. Traditionally, January 1st was the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ and the relic was part of a celebration in Calcata for centuries on New Year’s Day.
Of course, Calcata is not the only church to have claimed ownership of the Holy Prepuce, and the matter has been studied by historians for years without really drawing any definitive conclusions.
In the Area
Between Calcata and Lake Bracciano, make sure to explore the Treja Valley Park. There is a 7km trail between Calcata and the Monte Gelato waterfalls which is highly recommended during the late spring and summer months. Of course, you can also drive and enjoy the falls just the same. There is also an outdoor museum within the woods that includes 40 different pieces all made from natural materials and camouflaged into the landscape- the Opera Bosco Museum.
The Castle of Roccascalegna in Abruzzo and Its Sinister Past
In the Chieti province of the Abruzzo region, the Castle of Roccascalegna is majestically perched upon a rocky mountain. Like all castles, it too has a story to tell about its mysterious past.
The Village and Castle
Roccascalegna is a small village that for centuries has been guarding la Rocca (the castle). This Lombard outpost in its dominant position seems to be suspended in a void towering over the houses of the village. The name Roccascalegna itself has something to do with this ancient castle. In fact, it comes from Rocca con scala di legno (fortress with a wooden staircase) and refers to the staircase that leads from the village to the castle’s tower. Today, it is still visible in the municipal coat of arms.
Founded by the Lombards in the 12th century, precisely in 1160, the castle had two functions: that of controlling the underlying Valle del Rio Secco and that of defense from the Byzantine arrival on the Adriatic coast. Initially, the building was composed of only a watchtower and was expanded later to its current appearance.
The Rocca, as it’s referred to by the villagers, saw the alternating phases of oblivion and abandonment. The first restoration, after a period of abandonment, was carried out in 1525 and then the castle fell back into a period of darkness until 1705 when the access ramp was added to the building and some restoration work was done. But the date that marks the return to splendor for the fortress is 1985 when the Croce Nanni family donated the castle to the municipality, which carried out a massive restoration completed in 1996.
Today, the fortress can be visited and accessed from the center of the village through a staircase where you can still see the remains of the old drawbridge.
The accessible rooms of the fortress house a torture chamber, but also an armory where a reproduction of the Byzantine flamethrower is preserved. This machine is made of wood, bronze, and leather and was in fact able to launch the “Greek fire“- the secret weapon of the Byzantine army.
This particular flammable mixture, whose composition still remains a mystery today, had a peculiar feature- it couldn’t be extinguished with plain water (which actually enticed the flames further), but only by using vinegar or urine. In addition to the flamethrower and the various torture devices, the Rocca also houses an ancient presence.
Its Mysterious Past
Romantics and history buffs take note: Corvo De Corvis, a baron who lived (and some would say- still lives) in this castle, was renamed Corvo (raven in English) for his innate wickedness and perverseness. He actually forced his vassals to venerate a black raven!
It was in 1646 when Baron De Corvis reintroduced the medieval practice of Jus Primae Noctis. Every bride had to spend her first wedding night with the “Raven” rather than with her spouse. But one night a brave bride stabbed De Corvis directly in his heart with a stiletto dagger. At that moment, Corvo made a desperate attempt to grab onto a rock wall with his bloody hand, and there, he left his bloody imprint. In the following days, many people tried to wash his handprint off the rock, but no one ever succeeded. To this day, there are still some people who claim it is still visible.
The baron seems to have left more than a visible mark on the castle. On stormy, windy nights, many people claim to hear a flock of ravens announcing the return of Corvo De Corvis to his castle in search of eternal peace.
So, if you aren’t afraid to meet the wicked baron, the castle and the village below are worth a visit with its many churches and spectacular view of the Majella Mountain that can be enjoyed from a privileged position.
Copyright photos: Anna Falasca
Article written by: A. Falasca
Visiting the Monte Rufeno Nature Reserve in Lazio
The Monte Rufeno Nature Reserve lies in the extreme northeastern tip of the Lazio region. The park borders Umbria to the east and Tuscany to the north. This lush area is full of animal species and rare plants, streams, and trails of all kinds. Let’s find out how to plan your trip!
Made a reserve in 1983, the area is only about 3,000 hectares and interestingly, up until about 50 years ago, was actually inhabited by quite a few farmers. Grain, olives, vineyards, and livestock were all part of the landscape here not long ago. Now, the government has converted many of the farmhouses into guesthouses and inns. Mt. Rufeno itself is the highest peak in the park at under 800 meters and most of the area is covered with a dense forest.
Numerous trails crisscross throughout the park in varying degrees of difficulty. Some are super easy and just an hour-long while others are marked as challenging and require up to 5 hours. Mountain biking, cycling, and horseback riding are also possibilities here.
Many animals have been able to flourish in this unique environment that has been virtually isolated for so many years. Mammals such as the roe deer, wild boar, badger, porcupine, and even wolves can be spotted on the various trails throughout the park. It is also a birdwatching haven with over 70 species of nesting birds. The freshwater sources provide the perfect environment for crabs, crayfish, and marsh tortoises as well as numerous fish.
Throughout the year, especially in the spring, visitors can witness over 1,000 plant species, some quite rare. Orchids, daffodils, the red lily, and heather are among the favorites.
Bosco del Sassetto
The Sassetto Wood was purchased and transformed in the late 1800s by Edoardo Cahen. He built a series of paths, labyrinths, and eventually a mausoleum for himself which is still standing today.
Museums within the Park
As previously mentioned, many of the former farmhouses have been converted into inns, restaurants, and even museums in various locations throughout the park. The Flower Museum (Museo del fiore) in Giardino; the Geology Museum (Museo della geologia) in Cava del Bianchi; an observatory in Rufeno; a local rural traditions museum in Felceto and even two workshops dedicated to breadmaking (in Mulino) and biodiversity (in Marzapolo).
Just outside of the park, lies the town of Acquapendente (from Italian meaning “hanging water”) which is lovely in its own rite. The landmark Torre Giulia de Jacopo is also the visitors’ center for the park. Historically, aside from being Etruscan, the town was also part of the ancient Via Francigena route from Rome to the Holy Land.
Its most famous landmark is probably the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher which was originally a Benedictine monastery. Its crypt is the true marvel here which dates to the mid-10th century and contains a bloodstained stone supposedly from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
You’ll also want to see the fantastic Gregorian Bridge at the gate of the city over the River Paglia. It was built in the 16th century to replace the existing wooden one at the time.
Other nearby villages just outside the reserve are Torre Alfina with its stunning castle and Trevinano.
There are a total of 6 entrances into the park including Monaldesca, Sambucheto, Felceto, Giardino, Monte Crocione, and Tigna.
The official park website is very helpful in planning your visit and there is also a park guide you can download with a map.
Oplontis and Villa Poppea in Torre Annunziata
Part of the Pompei Archaeological Park, Oplontis was one of the ancient cities buried in ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Located in present-day Torre Annunziata on the Gulf of Naples, Oplontis holds some of the most well-preserved villas and buildings from ancient Rome including Villa Poppea. Let’s find out more!
Oplontis: Part of the Pompei Archaeological Park
Many people don’t realize that aside from the well-known Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are a total of 9 sites that are all part of the archaeological park and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Oplontis is considered to be a sort of a suburb of Pompei and is located in the present-day city of Torre Annunziata.
The villas that were excavated are generically known as “Villa A” and “Villa B” although “Villa A” also goes by the name of Villa Poppea (also written Poppaea).
Poppea was most likely named after Emperor Nero’s second wife, princess Poppaea Sabina. This was a luxurious residence filled with opulence in the 1st century BC and would have been her residential villa outside of Rome. Exquisite gardens, porticos, baths, and rooms all with a view of the Gulf of Naples and fabulously decorated walls in rich colors filled the villa. A swimming pool was even added during an expansion project.
In the 16th century, during the construction of the Conte Sarno Canal, Villa Poppea was unearthed but not truly excavated until the 18th century. Like most of Pompei, the site is still being excavated to this day.
Villa B is also referred to as “Lucius Crassius Tertius” and was smaller than Poppea but still impressive. It is not open to the public. It was built sometime in the 2nd century BC and in contrast to Poppea, Villa B was used for the storage of goods.
Excavations have revealed hundreds of amphoras used for local wine production and olive oil. Sadly, in one of the storehouses, 54 people were found buried alive in the eruption of 79 AD. Many were found with gold coins and other possessions clearly attempting to flee their imminent fate. Incredibly, Villa B wasn’t discovered until 1974 when a school gymnasium was being built!
Make sure to check the official website before planning your trip!
photo credits: pompeiisites.org
Where to Stay in Trentino: the Agritur Pisani Agriturismo in Brez
Trentino in northeastern Italy is famous for many reasons: winter sports, thermal spas, delicious apples, beautiful lakes, and its major city, Trento. There truly is something for everyone at any time of the year here! If you’re wondering where to stay, look no further than the Agritur Pisani Agriturismo in Brez in the stunning Non Valley.
Agritur Pisani Agriturismo
Agritur Pisani is located in Trentino’s Non Valley (Val di Non) in the town of Brez. This lovely agriturismo has 5 rooms all newly decorated in classic mountain style. Warm wood and simplistic furnishings plus a lovely kitchen and dining area will have guests feeling like they are at their home away from home. The owners have paid particular attention to renovating two of the rooms and bathrooms for guests with limited mobility or disabilities. There are also rooms that can sleep a family of up to 6 as well as a sauna at guests’ disposal.
Breakfast includes homemade sweets with ingredients like apples, cherries, and apricots cultivated on the family farm.
Guests can also take a horseback ride around the agriturismo as well as renting electric bikes.
Taking Care of Guests
Agritur Pisani is a small, family-owned and operated hotel that has taken every precaution to ensure its guests feel at ease during the pandemic. Specifically, each entrance has hand sanitizer available and rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis with high-quality, professional products. Cleaning is done by the family themselves and not by an outside service which further limits the risk of contamination.
Special Offers Spring/Summer 2021
- Quadruple room with breakfast and a visit to the Canyon Parco Fluviale Novella or Castel Thun- €126,00 per night
- Quadruple room with breakfast and dinner in a local restaurant- € 138,00 per night
- Double room with breakfast and dinner in a local restaurant plus daily sauna use- € 99,00 per night
- Double room with breakfast and sauna- € 80,00 per night
Val di Non
Brez is in the southern part of the Non Valley at approximately 1,000 meters above sea level. Most people think of the Dolomites for winter sports and the Christmas markets but actually, any time of year is the right time to visit!
In the immediate area alone, the possibilities are endless. The Canyon of Rio Sass is just minutes from the agriturismo and is an adventure for the entire family. Stalactites and stalagmites, waterfalls, and steep gorges will have you in complete awe.
This area is also famous for its apple orchards which blossom in the springtime and are harvested in September. Visitors can take part in the harvest at a number of locations in the area and the entire family can participate. Many of the farms also have animals and petting zoos for the little ones.
Lake Santa Giustina is just 15 minutes from Agritur Pisani and is the perfect spot for kayaking in the summertime.
Trekking, cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, lake sports, and virtually any outdoor activity you can think of can be done in the Val di Non. Summer days here are mild and temperate with cool nights.
In the winter, snowshoeing is widely practiced as well as skiing, snowboarding, and trekking. This area is one of the most suitable for families with young children because there are lots of trails that are very easy. The closest ski resort area is Madonna di Campiglio, about 45 minutes away which offers free lessons for beginners and is very suitable for new skiers of all ages.
After a long day on the slopes, treat yourself to a thermal spa treatment at any of the numerous wellness facilities and spas in the area.
There are also food and wine tours throughout the year that specialize in giving visitors a true taste of Trentino and sometimes even combine trekking or other outdoor activities into the tasting tour.
One of the most famous castles in the entire region is that of Thun also just 40 minutes from the hotel. Valer, Nanno, and Coredo Castles are also all within reach when you stay at Agritur Pisani.
An added benefit is the Trentino Guest Card which is included with your stay and offers all kinds of discounts to museums, nature parks, castles, tours, food tasting, as well as the use of public transportation for free!
What are you waiting for?
Book your room at the Agritur Pisani Agriturismo in Brez, Trentino!
From the hotel, you can visit…
|Rio Sass Canyon|
|15km away||Santa Giustina Lake|
|30km away||Thun Castle|
Hiking in Lombardy’s Adamello Regional Park
For many people, the mountains in wintertime only mean skiing and snow. Many renounce going to mountain destinations convinced that if they don’t ski, there won’t be anything else to do. In this article, one of our writers will take us on a journey along the trails of the Adamello Regional Park in Lombardy.
Adamello Regional Park
Just because temperatures drop and become frigid, that is no reason to give up mountain excursions all together. Many peaks take on a whole new look during the autumn and winter seasons that you would otherwise not experience in the spring or summer.
By arming yourself with excellent boots (or snowshoes) and patience you’ll see new landscapes and terrain. Some of the lakes will be frozen and can be appreciated in their dormant state.
Lombardy’s Alpine Lakes
The trail pictured in these photos is a very nice hike located just before the town of Edolo, at the end of Valcamonica. There are four mountain refuges and three lakes in a six-hour hike.
The classic itinerary starts from Malga Premassone to Lake Baitone with the refuge of the same name. Along the four and a half hour route, you’ll come to the Baitone and Tonolini refuges which overlook the small Rotondo Lake. The starting point is located at Ponte del Guat which can be reached quite easily. Following the only possible road to Valcamonica, (which starts approximately at Sulzano, touching Pisogne, Darfo, Bienno …) you’ll reach Malonno and a small sign for Zazza and Sonico.
After crossing an intersection with another road, you’ll follow a beautiful road (by car) through a green, mossy forest with very narrow, blind curves. In twenty minutes you will be at Ponte del Guat (elevation 1,540 m.) where you can park. Otherwise, you can reach the Malga Premassone car park (for a fee on a slightly unpaved road).
The refuge is very suitable for families with children or for a relaxing weekend, being in a large clearing crossed by a crystal clear stream and with a view of the Baitone. Once past Malga, there is a fork in the road almost immediately. Continuing to the right, you’ll face the “Miller Stairs” – a very steep rocky path – which leads into a beautiful valley often covered with snow until the end of May and to the Gnutti Refuge, a lovely chalet overlooking Lake Miller.
From here, you can go back to the hut or follow the Passo del Gatto, which leads to the Baitone refuge and offers a beautiful view of the valley below. Warning: it’s not suitable for those who suffer from vertigo given the very narrow and exposed path. Instead, taking the detour to your left, you will follow the most direct route to the Baitone and Tonolini, or a path half through the woods and half outdoors, with a wide view of the Gnutti refuge plateau and the surrounding peaks.
In truth, the first part is not that exciting, but a little monotonous. Most of the hikes in the Adamello Park only have one flaw- very long climbs and very long descents, with no middle ground. Whereas in the Dolomites, you’ll encounter lots of ups and downs in the demanding climbs that are interspersed with high-altitude plateaus. In any case, your effort will definitely be rewarded. After about an hour and forty-minute walk along an easy path, you’ll reach the imposing dam of the Baitone refuge. During the winter and with snow covering the path, the climb is longer and more demanding, especially without snowshoes, but it does not have dangerous or exposed sections such as the Passo del Gatto.
Once you reach the slopes of the dam, you can cross over to the opposite side and enjoy a magnificent view of the lake. In the summer, the water is crystal clear and almost turquoise. From here, you can already see the Tonolini refuge and its nearby waterfalls. You may even be able to spot numerous ibexes that climb the dam tens of meters high to recover the salt from the bricks and their cracks. Considering the wall is practically vertical, it is impressive. In winter when the lake is frozen the thick layer of ice takes on a beautiful blue color with white veins. Although the water level has fallen a bit lately, the view of Lake Baitone is always remarkable and it is worth stopping for lunch near its high banks.
From here you can choose from two routes to reach the Tonolini refuge. The first one, near the Baitone refuge (yellow with red shutters), is about half a kilometer shorter but less panoramic, while the second path is to the left of the dam. The latter, although a few minutes longer, is the most interesting. It runs along the western part of the lake, allowing you to enjoy a wide and wonderful view of the back of the dam, the lake, Plem Peak, and the horn of the lake.
Lake Rotondo and Falls
The path is short and, after about twenty minutes on flatland, you’ll reach the last ascent of the day. From here you can admire three, twin waterfalls that disappear underground presumably to feed the lake. After as many minutes of ascent, you’ll finally arrive at the Tonolini refuge (2,450 meters). The refuge is made of stone and wood and its small round lake is appropriately named Lago Rotondo. On clear summer days, the reflection of the surrounding peaks in this body of water is beautiful. The refuge is small but very welcoming, and you can rest on the edge of the lake on one of the smooth, stone slabs.
Those wishing to extend their excursion (by a lot), can follow path number 50 toward Gelati Lakes. These small lakes are practically always frozen. The climb is about an hour and forty-five minutes, but the rocky landscape and the numerous lakes are worth the effort. Otherwise, you can return via the Tonolini refuge towards the Baitone refuge and Ponte del Guat. You may want to choose the opposite route from your ascent for a change of scenery.
Summing up, the combinations and possible routes to the different refuges and lakes in the Baitone group are varied and suitable for anyone who loves the outdoors. Above all, it will be well worth the effort.
Why You Should Visit Specchia in Italy’s Salento Region
The inland village of Specchia is nestled in the extreme south of Italy’s Puglia region in the area known as Salento. Although it may seem isolated, it is only minutes away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world and has all the qualities required to land it on the exclusive list of one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”. Let’s find out more about visiting Specchia!
Just 45 minutes south of Puglia’s capital city of Lecce, Specchia actually makes an affordable and convenient option for your holiday since it is very close to major destinations. The other advantage is that villages like Specchia will expose you to a side of Salento that many tourists won’t necessarily get to see. The authenticity, simplicity, and truthfulness of what is known as the entroterra (inland area) will be refreshing.
A Bit of History
Much of Salento was populated by the Messapians during pre-Roman times and Specchia was most likely part of their vast network of city-states. The name itself probably derives from specchia which is a type of ancient construction technique found throughout Puglia and believed to date to the Messapians or even earlier.
Specchia’s historic center dates to between the 15th and 17th centuries and is typical of the Salento region in its beautiful mix of blinding white and cream limestone (pietra leccese) and Baroque influences.
Risolo Castle may not initially seem like others you’ve seen in Italy and is the result of numerous additions and reconstruction dating from the 15th to the 18th centuries. You’ll notice statues and a coat of arms belonging to the Protonobilissimi who were marquises in the 17th century.
Churches and Convents
Specchia’s main church is called the Madonna dell’Assunta and dates to 1605 with additions being made much later to again, reflect the Baroque architectural style.
The Franciscan Convent (Convento dei Francescani Neri) dates to the early 1500s but was later remodeled in Baroque style. The Chapel of St. Catherine was carved into the rock in 1532 and contains fabulous frescoes depicting the life of the martyr.
Dating to the 9th century, the Church of St. Nicholas (San Nicola) as well as that of St. Euphemia were both Greek Rite later converted to Latin Rite. The apse faces east in accordance with Byzantine tradition symbolizing the sun rising and the divinity of Christ.
Don’t miss the underground oil mills known as a frantoio ipogeo which were common to this area of Salento and used for hundreds of years until recently. You can take a guided tour with the pro loco association of this ingenious ancient “factory” of sorts.
Culture and Traditions
The local traditions are still very much alive and deeply rooted in the area’s agricultural history of olive oil production and much more. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting during a festival, you will surely have the chance to see locals dancing the pizzica to the fervent beating of a tambourine or serving the famous local dishes of orecchiette pasta or massa e ciceri. It will definitely be an experience unlike any others you might have had in other parts of Italy.
In the Area
From Specchia, you are just minutes away by car in all directions from some of the most stunning beaches on the planet including Otranto, Santa Maria di Leuca, and Marina di Pescoluse (compared to the Maldives). You can also explore the vast inland area of tiny villages like Specchia such as Presicce also named one of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy!
When you visit Salento, stay at…
the Lu Cantoru B&B in Marina di Pescoluse just 15 km away from Specchia!
From the hotel, you can visit…
|12km away||Santa Maria di Leuca|
Visit Taormina, Etna and Nearby Cities: the “Magical” Land of Aci
In Sicily, there is a “magic” place located halfway between Syracuse and Taormina, a few steps from the sea and half an hour drive from Mt. Etna … a place of ancient lavas and groundwater and lemon groves … Land of Aci. This virtual name indicates the real existence of nine small towns all called “Aci”, from the name of the shepherd of the Ovidian myth (Aci and Galatea) or, as history reminds us, from the abundance of waters (in Latin, Aquis).
In the beginning, it was in fact one single Akis, which later became Aquilia and Al Jag and Aquilia Nuova. It was in 1642, under the reign of Philip IV of Spain, that the center of Aquilia, which in the meantime had assumed the name of Aci, became “Reale”, royal, or special possession of the crown as a reward for its loyalty towards the sovereign.
The suburbs instead separated from this central nucleus and each assumed a different name, according to their territorial or noble characteristics: Aci Bonaccorsi, Aci Sant’Antonio, Aci Platani, Aci San Filippo, Aci Catena, Aci Santa Lucia, Aci Trezza, Aci Castello. Today the “Acis” are less than nine because some have been incorporated in the same municipality (for example, the famous Aci Trezza is a hamlet of Aci Castello and Aci San Filippo with Santa Lucia are part of the municipality of Aci Catena) and are part of a well-defined tourist route that also includes Catania, Taormina and Etna.
It only takes two days to see all these towns! Acireale is a baroque city overlooking a lovely coast … Aci Sant’Antonio is the “home” of the Sicilian parade float artists … Aci Trezza is the land of the “Malavoglia” from the novel by Verga, in Aci Catena they cultivate green lemons, and so on.
Why choose the Acis as your “home” base? Because it makes it easy to visit Etna or nearby Taormina; because they are well connected to the Catania airport by bus and taxi services; because hotels and B&Bs cost less than in Catania or Taormina and because the food and hospitality are fantastic.
As far as eating goes … if you are looking for excellent fish you will find it everywhere – in Aci Castello and Aci Trezza. Acireale is famous for its cafes and sweets, especially granita!
Photos by Grazia Musumeci
Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region: Where to Go
Emilia-Romagna, sometimes simply called Romagna, in northern Italy is considered to be the cradle of true Italian cuisine. For foodies, the impressive repertoire of delicacies would be enough to warrant a trip, but there’s more. It is where the world’s finest luxury vehicles have been made for decades, where some of the most intricate mosaics on earth are held, where you’ll find the Republic of San Marino, snow-covered Apennine peaks, and luxurious beach resorts. With everything there is to see, it can be hard to narrow down a “must-see” itinerary. We’ve put together this list for you that we think covers the major sights.
The “Big” Cities: Bologna, Parma, Modena, and Ferrara
Every Italian region has a capital, and Emilia-Romagna’s is the marvelous Bologna. It has the oldest university in the Western world founded in 1088 and is still widely considered a “university town”. At one point, the historic center boasted over 200 towers, 20 of which are still standing today. The Asinelli Tower is the best-known today and provides a stunning view from almost 100 meters above the historic center. It is also revered by connoisseurs as the gastronomy capital of Italy.
Parma was the birthplace of the famous composer Giuseppe Verdi and is a wonderful city to include on any itinerary of northern Italy. Rich in art, museums, and palaces that date to the former rulers, the Farnesi. For most visitors who are not art historians, Parma is probably more significant for its contribution to modern cuisine. To name just a couple, the city is the birthplace of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano both of which are protected under strict laws.
Luxury motor capital of the world and industrial powerhouse, Modena is a must for car buffs. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Dallara, Pagani, plus Ducati motorcycles are all made here. Nearby Maranello holds the Ferrari museum and should not be skipped if you love fast cars. Its Piazza Grande and Duomo are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it is also the birthplace of Luciano Pavarotti!
Lastly, we come to Ferrara with its massive Este Castle smack dab in the historic center. The stunning Duomo is a UNESCO Site and dates to the 12th century. The Palazzo dei Diamanti holds fabulous permanent and temporary art exhibits throughout the year and is covered with 8,000 diamond-shaped marble blocks.
Mosaics in Ravenna
The city of Ravenna was actually the capital of the Western Roman Empire from 402 to 476 AD and was later conquered by the Byzantines. It has a total of 8 monuments that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is widely considered to hold some of the most fantastic mosaics in the entire world. The Orthodox Baptistry and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia date to the early 5th century!
The Republic of San Marino
San Marino is actually a “country within a country”, or a sovereign state similar to the Vatican. Perched upon a rock spur at 750 meters above sea level, this entirely walled city is absolutely breathtaking! It boasts three fortresses and is known throughout Europe for its duty-free, luxury shopping! Another hilltop village whose history is closely linked to San Marino is neighboring San Leo which is definitely worth visiting while you’re in the area.
If you’re into seeing unique locations that not that many tourists get to experience, then the Rocchetta Mattei Castle is for you! This architectural masterpiece is in the Apennine mountains just outside of Bologna and doesn’t resemble any other castle in all of Italy. Built in the 1800s, the castle is an eccentric mix of various architectural styles.
As already mentioned, the Emilian Apennine chain runs through the region with its three peaks above 2,000 meters located within the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park shared with Tuscany. Skiing and outdoor sports as well as mushroom, truffle, and game hunting are practiced year-round.
A unique feature of the region is that it’s part of the Po River Basin shared with the Veneto region. The Po Delta Interregional Park is full of plant and animal species that you may not expect to see in Italy including flamingo and even salt mines (Cervia). This coastal area develops into lagoon-like locations such as Comacchio that are compared to Venice but on a much smaller scale.
Moving further south along the Adriatic coastline, the Riviera Romagnola boasts famous coastal cities like Cesenatico, Rimini, and Riccione all famous for their wide, sandy beaches, nightlife, and summer festivals.
As already mentioned, the entire region is truly a foodie’s paradise! The list would be endless but suffice to say that in addition to Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Grana Padano, Coppa di Parma, and of course, Balsalmic vinegar di Modena, it is also home to world-famous dishes like tortellini, lasagna, Bolognese sauce, piadina flatbread. The Lambrusco sparkling red, Albana DOCG white, and the full-bodied Sangiovese di Romagna are all excellent choices to pair with your meal.
For a complete guide to the Emilia-Romagna region, click here!