The Cities & Regionsof Italy

Italy's charm resides in its splendid landscapes, from the breathtaking, sun-kissed Mediterranean coasts to the vineyard-covered hills of Tuscany, and the majestic, snow-capped peaks of the Alps. Its cities are vibrant tapestries of history, showcasing spectacular architecture and offering a rich cultural heritage.

Abruzzo

Abruzzo is a region in central Italy, located east of Rome. It is a mountainous region with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. The region is home to three national parks, including Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, Majella National Park, and Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park. Abruzzo is also home to a number of historic towns and villages, including L'Aquila, the regional capital, and Sulmona. The region is known for its natural beauty, its food, and its wine. Abruzzo is a beautiful and unspoiled region that is well worth a visit.


The cities & towns of Abruzzo
Sulmona

In the heart of Central Italy sits the enchanting little city of Sulmona. This gorgeous yet quiet city is nestled between majestic mountain ranges and beautiful national parks that provide for stunning natural scenery. The people are generous and warm, making the city largely representative of true Italian hospitality. A trip to Italy just is not complete without a stop in this lovely countryside town that is likely to steal a piece of your heart. Located in the largely rural Italian region of Abruzzo and Province of L’Aquila, Sulmona is thought to have been the birthplace of renowned Roman poet Ovid in 43 BC. The city is estimated to have been one of the primary cities of the Paeligni Italic tribe in roughly 300 BC. There are a few dilapidated remains of ancient Sulmona sitting just outside of the modern city that indicate the town was once quite large. Today, Sulmona is a small family-friendly town of just twenty-two square miles with a population of approximately twenty-four thousand people. The local people are said to be one of the city’s best features as they are often described as extremely warm and welcoming by world travelers. Much of the city’s daily activity takes place in Piazza Garibaldi, Sulmona’s largest square. Here in the city center, traffic is restricted and visitors can find people enjoying each other’s company over a hot cup of coffee or touring local markets. It is not unusual for the square to be home to open air markets with a treasure trove of fresh and homemade foods and interesting household goods such as ceramics, brass, candlesticks and more. Travel season in Sulmona is generally in full swing from Easter through the first of November, but the summer months continue to be the busiest. With a bustling central piazza and several historical landmarks such as the Sulmona Cathedral and the fascinating twenty-one arch thirteenth century medieval aqueduct, the city has much to offer its guests. Visitors also often enjoy nearby activities such as picnicking in the mountains during the summer months and frequenting ski resorts in the winter months. When it comes to traveling to Sulmona, visitors can choose to do so by air, railway, or road transportation. If traveling by railway, the city’s station is a hub to three major railway lines including Rome-Sulmona-Pescara, Terni-Sulmona, and Sulmona-Isernia. The nearest airport is roughly an hour away in Pescara, but there are some airports in Rome that are approximately two to three hours away from Sulmona. When it comes to traveling by car or bus, the A25 Motorway stretching from Rome to Pescara or the SS17 Motorway that connects Naples and Aquila may be a traveler’s best bet. As for traveling within the city limits of Sulmona, due to its small size, much of the area can be explored on foot, although there is some limited bus service too. Some areas of the city are at least partially closed off to anything other than pedestrian traffic. GEOGRAPHY The quaint and quiet little city of Sulmona is located in Valle Peligna, a renowned plateau in the Italian region of Abruzzo. The town is located almost centrally in Italy, but is only a mere thirty or so miles west of the Adriatic coast. Sulmona is tucked in between the truly stunning natural scenery of the Morrone Mountains, the National Park of Majella, and the National Park of Abruzzo-Lazio-Molise. This gorgeous backdrop often entices the city’s visitors to hike and explore the nearby mountains. CLIMATE In general, Sulmona enjoys both warm and cold seasons which is part of the charm of the city for visitors and locals alike. The summer is generally warm with highs near or in the low eighties (Fahrenheit) and lows in the lower sixties. The remainder of the year is a bit cooler with highs averaging in the fifties and rarely reaching a low of freezing. Fall is typically the rainiest season in Sulmona. The winter is colder here, with February being one of the coldest months. By and large, some of the most pleasant sightseeing weather for the area is during the warmer and drier summer months. WHEN IN SULMONA The city of Sulmona is widely known for its production of a unique dessert and sometimes snack, known as confetti. And no, this is not confetti of the paper variety. This sweet treat consists of sugar-coated almonds that are literally every color of the rainbow and then some, arranged in beautiful, artistic shapes. This Italian tradition can be traced back to the Romans and fifteenth century nuns at the Santa Chiara Monastery in Sulmona. It was at the monastery that nuns began wrapping confetti in colorful paper to enhance their beauty as mosaics in flower and basket shapes. Today, confetti are still enormously popular in this part of Central Italy, and for the entire country they are a go-to dessert for celebrating important milestones such as births, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. This sweet concoction can be found at many shops, restaurants, and cafés in the city. Travelers often suggest that when visiting Sulmona it is best to leave plenty of room in your suitcase to pack enough confetti to enjoy on your journey home. This long-standing tradition of confetti is even honored at a local factory and museum, Confetti Pelino. The factory is home to exhibits of old-fashioned confectionery machines and equipment and related tools of the trade. Founded by the Pelino family in the late twentieth century, the museum celebrates the rich history of confetti over the years and how it became an integral part of Sulmona’s legacy. Come to Sulmona and discover the city’s rich history as well as the famous local treats called confetti. Located in Italy’s verdant Abruzzo region, Sulmona is sure to take your breath away. Travel Guides   The Abruzzo Region of Italy The Cities of Abruzzo, Italy

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L’Aquila

Tucked away in the majestic snow-covered Apennine Mountains in the very heart of Italy is the city of L’Aquila. About an hour and a half from Rome, this small town is largely off the grid for most international travelers, making it one of Italy’s best kept secrets and true delights for those that do visit. This town of Old-World charm is beloved by its residents and welcomes travelers with open arms. L’Aquila is the capital of both the Province of L’Aquila and the larger region of Abruzzo. With a population of approximately seventy thousand living on one hundred eighty square miles of land, the city is a fascinating maze of narrow streets that wind through the city, revealing treasures around every corner. The city was established by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, but was not completed until the thirteenth century by his son, Conrad IV. Since its establishment, the city has proven its strength and resilience over and over again after being subject to a series of attacks by enemy forces in the early years, and eventually earthquakes courtesy of Mother Nature. In April 2009, the city of L’Aquila experienced an earthquake that caused great devastation. Many came to the city’s immediate aid, including attendees of the 2009 G8 Summit. Originally the G8 Summit was scheduled to be held in the Sardinian seaside city of La Maddalena, but it was moved to L’Aquila at the last minute so that funds could be brought into the area to help with the recovery effort. Today, the city is rebuilding in the same spirit of resilience that it has shown in the past. A new generation studying at the University of L’Aquila may very well end up leading the way. The university boasts a student enrollment of eighteen thousand students engaged in more than sixty degree courses and eight research doctorate programs. A faculty of more than six hundred professors and researchers are helping to teach and mold this new generation that is rising up. In addition to institutions such as the University of L’Aquila, visitors can see Renaissance and Baroque buildings and churches throughout the city located in various piazze, or city squares. In keeping with that thread of culture, the city has a strong history of operatic theater and symphony orchestra performances and is home to a fine arts academy, state conservatory, and film institute. Transportation to L’Aquila is primarily via a railway station that runs trains to nearby towns such as Terni, Rieti, and Sulmona. When it comes to traveling inside the city limits, many of the residents and local college students prefer to travel by foot. Depending on the time of your visit, limited bus access may be available as well. GEOGRAPHY To say that L’Aquila is nestled in the heart of the Apennine Mountains is not an exaggeration. It is in fact a literal description of the city’s geography. At more than two thousand feet above sea level, the city is located in the Valley of the Aterno-Pescara, which sits between four mountain peaks that are each taller than six thousand feet. The city is surrounded almost completely by the Apennine Mountain Range, and to the northeast, the snow–capped Gran Sasso d’Italia. The Gran Sasso is a secondary mountain massif of the Apennines. The unique landlocked position of the city sits atop an ancient lake bed that is thought to possibly enhance seismic activity. CLIMATE The surrounding high-rising mountain peaks are quite successful at blocking the Mediterranean Sea air from ever reaching the city. The result is a much cooler temperature in L’Aquila than what is found in the neighboring areas of Central Italy. The city is rather cool most of the year without going much above, on average, about eighty degrees Fahrenheit. Based on annual temperatures over the years, the warmest month to visit the city is August and the coolest is February. ONLY IN L’AQUILA One of the most unique pieces of architecture in the heart of L’Aquila is the Fountain of 99 Spouts, which is referred to as Fontana delle 99 Cannelle by locals. The thirteenth century structure is a trapezoid shape with horizontal rows of ninety-three water spouts over small rectangular pools. Six additional spouts were later added to a stone close to the fountain entrance to create a total of ninety-nine spouts. The wall above the tiles is a piece of artwork itself with alternating rows of red and white stone tiles. Historically, L’Aquila thrived on the close connection with local villages that once established the city as a federation. It is believed that the ninety-nine fountain spouts are a nod to the surrounding castles that participated in the city of L’Aquila’s founding. The city of L’Aquila is full of culture that simply has a reverent splendor to it. Plan a visit to one of the gorgeous churches such as the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the L’Aquila Cathedral, or the Basilica of San Bernardino to behold stunning religious art and magnificent architecture. As you see the various landmarks, do not miss strolling through the main square of the city which is often a hub of activity for impromptu markets and social gatherings. The city of L’Aquila is truly an Italian treasure found high in the snow-covered Apennine Mountains. This gorgeous city abounds with culture, close community, and a spirit of perseverance and resilience that is simply unparalleled. Journey to this lovely city to see the beauty, art, and warm people of Italy come alive and forever hold a special place in your heart. *SPECIAL NOTE: While it is true the Italian city of L’Aquila experienced major devastation from the 2009 earthquake, the city continues to move forward and make progress with the rebuilding of the city. Some of the monuments and landmarks described in the narrative above are described in their pre-earthquake condition. Travel Guides   The Abruzzo Region of Italy The Cities of Abruzzo, Italy

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Aosta Valley

The Aosta Valley is a region in northwestern Italy, bordered by France and Switzerland. It is the smallest and least populous region of Italy, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The region is home to the Italian Alps, including Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Gran Paradiso. It is also home to a number of historic towns and villages, including Aosta, the regional capital, and Courmayeur. The Aosta Valley is a popular destination for outdoor activities, such as hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. It is also a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Alps. The Aosta Valley is a beautiful and diverse region that has something to offer everyone.


The cities & towns of Aosta Valley
Aosta

Tucked amidst the Italian Alps is Aosta, the capital of the Aosta Valley region of Italy and a charming alpine city filled with rich Roman history. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the city sits in the basin of the Aosta Valley, giving travelers the chance to explore the wondrous outdoors as well as experience the unique historic sites that are still very much preserved in their Roman origins. The Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Italy, and the city of Aosta is the region’s largest, featuring a population of approximately 35,000. Aosta serves as an important area for commerce, as it is the center of commercial trade routes linking Italy to France and Switzerland. Its history reflects this strategic position because the city was bounced between various powers such as the Romans, the Franks, and the House of Savoy. Today, Roman history can still be felt throughout the city’s many monuments, historic sites, ancient buildings, and Roman-style street blocking. Aosta is an incredibly well-preserved tribute to its Roman history. The dialect of Aosta is unique. Known as Aostan French, it is a specific variety of French that is only spoken in the Aosta Valley – a fusion of standard French, Swiss French, Piedmontese, and Italian. This special dialect is just one reflection of how heavily influenced Aosta is by its proximity to France and Switzerland. Travelers will see the various cultural influences throughout the city in its architectural style, local traditions, culinary offerings, and more. Aosta is truly a unique and delightful locale to visit. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Aosta is located in Northern Italy in the Aosta Valley region, an alpine area known for its mountainous geography and cool climate. The city is situated in the center of a fertile basin along the region’s main river, Dora Baltea. The city sits at an altitude of 1,913 feet above sea level and is surrounded by Mount Emilius, Becca di Viou, and Becca di Nona – mountains of the stunning Italian Alps. The climate of Aosta is a product of its location in the mountainous North of Italy. It is classified primarily as having a humid continental climate, meaning the summers tend to be warm or hot and humid while the winters are cold to severely cold. Throughout the year, precipitation is evenly distributed. The average high temperature in summer is around 75°F and the average low temperature in winter is around 25°F. WHEN IN AOSTA The city of Aosta is a historic city that offers travelers plenty to do, whether they prefer to enjoy sightseeing at ancient ruins, experience modern shopping and dining, or indulge in the natural beauty of the Aosta Valley’s outdoors. Taking a stroll through the city center can be one of the best ways to enjoy Aosta. The main square features a variety of buildings to look at, including City Hall, and is set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Italian Alps. This is a beautiful area to enjoy local dining and exploring. For history buffs, visiting Aosta’s ancient Roman ruins can be a fun tour through time. There is the Roman Forum, crumbling ancient city walls, the necropolis, the Roman Theater, and the Criptoportico Forense – an underground gallery that was once used for military storage but now serves as a one-of-a-kind experience for travelers. Other historical monuments to visit in Aosta include Saint-Martin de Corleans, the Praetoria Gate, and the Arch of Augustus. In addition, there are historic buildings and relics scattered throughout the city such as ancient roads, old homes, small chapels, and historic architectural elements. For travelers of faith, there are several churches worth visiting. Once a monastery, the Collegiata di Sant’Orso is a complex that features a church (San Lorenzo), a cloister, and a chapel. Sant’Orso is also home to amazing frescoes that depict scenes from the New Testament. Aosta’s archaeological museum is another must-see for those interested in the city’s ancient history. A kid-friendly museum, it contains Roman artifacts that guests are able to hold and examine firsthand. In the city of Aosta there are several monumental works of statuary character, of great interest to the visitors, such as the Fountains of Buthier and Dora Baltea, the Monument to the Valdaostan Soldier, the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy, the statue of St. Anselm, and the Cenotaph Tribute to St. Anselm. Outdoor enthusiasts will love Aosta’s alpine setting and the amazing outdoor activities it provides. With the Italian Alps so nearby, mountain sports are extremely popular. From mountain trekking to rafting to skiing, travelers will love the stunning views and wonders of nature Aosta provides. Although the most popular places to ski near Aosta include Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Great Saint Bernard, and Gran Paradiso, there are countless ski resorts surrounding the area. One of the most unique experiences to be had in Aosta is the Fair of Sant’Orso. Held every year since 1000 AD, the festival occurs in January and celebrates the ancient handicraft traditions of the region. Throughout the festival’s two days, visitors and locals alike swamp the streets of Aosta to browse and purchase souvenirs from thousands of the region’s artisans, including wooden sculptures, wrought iron works, stone and leather works, textiles, furniture, toys, tools, and more. If traveling during the holidays, a must-see is the annual Christmas Market, Marché Vert Noel. Held annually from the middle of December to early January, the market features an array of holiday gifts and samplings of some of the region’s traditional festive food products. After the sightseeing is done, there is an abundance of shopping and dining to be experienced in Aosta. The main road leads visitors to the city’s main square where one will find food shops, arts and craft boutiques, and plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy. Renowned for its stunning scenery punctuated by the dramatic peaks of the Alps, Aosta is one of those destinations that lingers in the memories of travelers long after they have departed. For those seeking the perfect winter destination or a place to visit that is outside of the typical traveler routes, Aosta will not disappoint. Travel Guides   The Aosta Valley of Italy The Cities of Aosta Valley, Italy

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Apulia

Apulia, also known as Puglia, is a region in southeastern Italy that forms the "heel" of the Italian peninsula. It is a region with a rich history and culture, and is home to a variety of stunning landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the Gargano National Park to the beautiful beaches of the Salento Peninsula. Apulia is a region that has something to offer everyone, from history and culture lovers to beachgoers and nature lovers. It is a region that is well worth a visit.


The cities & towns of Apulia
Brindisi

On the southeastern tip of Italy sits the ancient and beautiful port city of Brindisi. Located in the region of Apulia and the province of Brindisi, this city along the coast of the Adriatic Sea is a hub of activity for industry, tourism, and agriculture. This charming seaside town offers a delightfully down to earth experience of the people and everyday culture of true Italy. The historical establishment of the original city is not clear and remains a disputed topic. Regardless, records do show that the town was most likely an ancient Greek settlement that was established prior to Roman expansion. There is still evidence of Greek and Roman influence in architecture throughout the city today. This popular port city’s name comes more from its geography than its rich history. The Latin name Brundisium comes from the Greek word Brentesion. Both translate to “deer’s head.” If you zoom in closely on a map of the coast of Brindisi, you will see that the shape of the natural harbor is reminiscent of the head and antlers of a deer. Brindisi, also referred to as the Gateway to the East, is a major Italian port for Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. The trade here is mostly based in fuel, oil, natural gas, coal, and chemicals. Thriving industries for the city include chemicals, electricity, aviation and agriculture. In fact, Brindisi is recognized as a key industrial chemical center by The Federchimica Association. The agricultural industry is based on fruits and vegetables, the cultivation and harvesting of grapes for wine, and olives. In addition to the employees of the chemical, electricity, aviation and agricultural industries, the city is also home to many domestic and foreign servicemen in the sea and aviation industries. Brindisi is now the headquarters for the San Marco Regiment Marine Brigade, a land and water arm of the Italian marines. Also residing in the city is a fairly decent number of Americans that were once assigned to a local U.S. Air Force Station that has since closed down. A special Brindisi dialect is primarily spoken amongst the city’s eighty-seven thousand residents. The local cuisine is based on the simplest and purest ingredients, including locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as fresh seafood from the Adriatic Sea. Brindisi is especially known for their milk and homemade sheep’s milk cheeses. When visiting the city, leave yourself time to wander the streets and the coastline to take in architecturally impressive structures such as the Monument to Italian Sailors, Piazza Duomo, and the Brindisi Cathedral. For those visitors hoping for something a little faster paced, the city is also home to rugby, basketball, and volleyball teams that play in several different sports venues around town. Transportation in Brindisi is fairly diverse, with everything from roadways to ferry transport. The main roads accessing Brindisi are the Bari-Lecce Expressway and the Adriatica SS 16. Both roadways connect the city to other well-traveled cities of Italy. The Brindisi Railway Station links the city with a number of different destinations via the Adriatic and Ionian coastal railways. The Brindisi-Casale Airport in the city connects travelers with many major Italian and European cities. And as one would expect with Brindisi’s prime coastal location as one of the most important commercial and industrial Adriatic Sea ports, boat and Ferry transport are available to travelers. GEOGRAPHY In Southern Italy, the city of Brindisi sits on a natural harbor on the east side of a large peninsula that stretches deep into the Adriatic Sea. The city itself is compact and the skyline is filled with variety of buildings that line up against the port and stand staring out to the sea. The combination of beautiful landscaping and pristine ocean waters just outside the city proper lends itself well to the preservation of land and wildlife with at least three nearby reserves or parks. The Regional Natural Park of Punta della Contessa is more than two hundred acres of wetlands that act as a habitat for migratory birds and rare plants. The Bosco di Cerano, or Cerano Forest, is partially located in Brindisi and is home to one of the last remaining parts of the forest that once initially covered much of the Adriatic coast. Here you will find more than sixty different species of birds as well as foxes and badgers. The Natural Reserve of Bosco of Santa Teresa and Lucci is a protected area of the Santa Teresa and Lucci forests where trees, vegetation, birds, and wildlife flourish. The Nature Reserve of Torre Guaceto can be found on the Adriatic coast between Brindisi and Ostuni. The reserve is inhabited by turtles on the sandy beaches and amphibians and birds in the marshes. The sheer variety of landscape, plant, and animal life found in this marine reserve make it truly unique. CLIMATE Brindisi’s climate is largely Mediterranean. On average the summers are quite warm and sometimes humid, with lots of gorgeous sunshine. The temperature in early summer is typically in the mid-eighties (Fahrenheit) and can climb even higher in July and August. Winters in the city tend to be fairly mild with somewhat frequent rains. Snowfall here is extremely rare. Perhaps the most unique features of the weather in Brindisi are the Bora and Sirocco winds. The northern Bora wind comes from the Adriatic Sea. It helps cool the city in the summer and then reinforces cold temperatures during winter. The southern Sirocco wind from the Sahara is warm and humid and is known for bringing thunderstorms and some of the red sand of the Sahara in the spring and fall. While the winds of either variety may not be overpowering, it will make outdoor traveling more than a little breezy at times. ONLY IN BRINDISI There is no other port quite like the Port of Brindisi, so do not leave without soaking up the activity and culture found there. Although any spot along the port will do, one of the best ways to take in the magic of the harbor is by walking the city’s main promenade. The walkway stretches from the Virgil Monument to Via Dorotea and offers unparalleled views of commercial ports, harbor traffic, and the Monument to Italian Sailors. The Lungomare Regina Margherita is a section of the promenade with a beautifully paved walkway next to where dozens of small fishing boats are often docked. Grab a cup of coffee and stroll the promenade hand in hand with someone special as you watch the boats sail by. If wanting to capture the essence of the center of Brindisi, consider wandering the city streets to visit the local markets. With a robust agricultural industry and fresh seafood so near, the markets often sell fresh produce, seafood, and other goods. The markets are always a flurry of activity with lots of foot traffic, price negotiations, and pleasure over a deal well made. Travel Guides   The Apulia Region of Italy The Cities of Apulia, Italy

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Bari

With so many of Italy’s most popular cities located in the Northern and Central parts of the boot, and top destinations such as Naples and Sicily dominating most travelers’ dreams for Southern Italy, the city of Bari is often overlooked. Known primarily as a pathway to the Adriatic and other locales such as the Greek islands, Bari is a large, unique port city in which travelers can expect to experience all the culture, history, and beauty that Italy is known for. As the capital of the Apulia region, Bari’s most interesting quality lies in its fusion of the old with the new. Although the city has a rich, Medieval history – visible in its old-town section known as Bari Vecchia – it also boasts a current-day, metropolitan appeal, which is evident in modern restaurants and nightlife. Bari can be a place that transcends time, where travelers explore winding Medieval streets and historic churches, while also being the second most important economic center in Southern Italy (the first being Naples). With a metropolitan area population of 1.2 million people, the city itself is divided into four urban areas. Bari thrives in industries such as chemicals, textiles, machinery, agriculture, and seafood, which has led to immense growth. Its beautiful beaches offer a wide variety of water and beach activities such as watersports, sunbathing, and swimming. Its sightseeing includes a cathedral and churches containing hundreds of years of history. And its shopping district, found on Via Sparano and Via Argiro, offers great stores at which to browse or purchase souvenirs to bring home. Bari is a city not to be missed. One day travelers can visit the Basilica of San Nicola, which holds the remains of St. Nicholas, and the next they can enjoy vivid markets with amazing shopping. The scenery can range from modern residential areas to historic districts to stunning beaches. There is truly something for everyone. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE  Covering an area of 45 square miles, Bari is one of Italy’s top 10 largest cities by population, and it is the largest urban area in Italy on the Adriatic Sea. Its geography is marked by its location on the water, giving it amazing seaside views and beaches – both rocky and sandy. The water of the Adriatic is turquoise blue, making it a perfect locale for stunning photos and oceanside experiences. The climate of Bari is Mediterranean. Travelers can expect mild winters and hot, dry summers. Compared to other cities throughout Europe, it is a great choice for outdoor activities. The best time to visit is April to October, where the average temperature is 74°F. The hottest month in Bari is July, while the coldest is January, where temperatures are 47°F on average. If traveling for beach and ocean enjoyment, the water temperature is best in August at an average of 78°F. If traveling in March, be prepared to see some rain. WHEN IN BARI So much of Bari’s charm lies in its vast history. So, for travelers visiting this coastal city, there are a variety of sites to see that hold historic significance. One of the most famous is the Basilica di San Nicola (Basilica of St. Nicholas). It houses the remains of St. Nicholas and serves as a pilgrimage destination for people of several different faiths. Dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the basilica is also noteworthy for its Romanesque architecture. Another unique site to visit is the Cathedral of San Sabino. Though not as famous as the Basilica of St. Nicholas, it displays an equally impactful representation of the area’s history. It features intricate Romanesque architecture and houses a crypt with relics of various Saints from the ninth century. Those who appreciate theater should catch a show at the famous Teatro Petruzzelli. While it is Italy’s fourth largest theater, it is Bari’s largest. It has featured many amazing performers, such as famed opera singer Luciano Pavarotti and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and it is a hub of Bari’s culture. Much of it was destroyed by a fire in 1991, but it was fully restored and is now a great attraction for locals and travelers alike. With a prime location on the Adriatic Sea, Bari is teeming with amazing beaches to be enjoyed. If visiting the area, seaside dining and beach exploring are must-dos. Bari features some of Italy’s most gorgeous coastline, with both sandy and rocky beaches. Swim in crystal clear waters in the nearby town of Polignano a Mare and relax on San Giovanni Beach. Walk Italy’s longest seafront and enjoy gelato while watching the sun set. Bari’s beaches and oceanside activities promise to be as relaxing as they are photo-worthy. Travelers can end the day by enjoying the regional cuisine which is usually created with local seafood and produce such as tomatoes, artichokes, grapes, and cherries. Top it all off with a delicious glass of locally-produced wine. One cannot visit Bari without seeing Bari Vecchia – the historic district of “Old Bari,” which is contained within the city walls. Located next to the Old Harbor, a visit to this part of the city is like a trip back in time. The streets are narrow and cobblestoned. There are 40 churches, a cathedral, and a basilica to explore and learn about the local history. The small squares hold locals who maintain the traditions of the past. It is the perfect place to visit if looking for that truly authentic “Old Italy” feeling. No matter what time of year one visits Bari, there is something fun and exciting to enjoy. During spring and summer, travelers can enjoy long days at the beach or take a stunning countryside horseback ride. During fall and winter, travelers can take cool walks to the theaters, museums, or historic churches. If traveling during the holidays, check out the city’s winter festivals and meaningful Nativity scenes. All year long travelers can enjoy the abundant history, culture, shopping, and entertainment throughout the city. The historic city of Bari is a perfect gateway to the sunny region of Apulia in Southern Italy. From the stunning Basilica of San Nicola to gorgeous beaches along the Adriatic Sea, Bari is sure to impress with its many charms. Travel Guides   The Apulia Region of Italy The Cities of Apulia, Italy

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Alberobello

Without a doubt, Alberobello is one of Italy’s most unique and characteristic towns. It is named after the oak forest that used to cover the area during primitive times called Arboris Belli, which means “beautiful trees.” Famous worldwide for its unique, ancient, limestone dwellings called trulli and deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it features a population of nearly 11,000 people and has become increasingly popular for travelers in recent years. The trulli of the area are the city’s crown jewels. Dating back to the fourteenth century, they were constructed out of dry stone and created without the use of mortar. The origins of the unique design were out of necessity. As feudalism began to reign and taxes were imposed on settlers, residents began constructing homes that could be easily and quickly dismantled. In addition, they could avoid paying new settlement taxes, because the trulli were considered impermanent due to their lack of mortar. Unique to the Itria Valley, trulli are the main attraction for those traveling to the Apulia region in Southern Italy, with the greatest volume of trulli being in the western section of town. Divided into two areas – Rione Monti and and Rione Aia Piccola – this is the original location of the trulli settlement, featuring over 1,000 trulli clustered together. Visitors can walk the small, winding streets and explore the area, taking in the fairytale-like quality of these charming dwellings. People-watching can be fun in these areas as well, as many of the trulli are still occupied by locals. Within the historic trulli, many locals have capitalized on the influx of travelers by creating shops, restaurants, bars, and even hotels within the unique buildings. During the months of May to October, travelers can expect Alberobello to be a bit crowded with tourists from across the globe hoping to experience the trulli of the city. However, visiting the city provides a once in a lifetime experience by exposing travelers not only to the unique trulli, but also to the rich history and culture of the Apulia region. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE IN ALBEROBELLO, ITALY Located in the region of Apulia, Alberobello’s climate is categorized as Mediterranean. This means travelers can expect hot, dry summers with ample sunlight throughout the season. In fact, Apulia is considered to be one of Italy’s hottest and driest regions. Despite this, Alberobello’s elevation allows for evening breezes and cooler temperatures during the summer compared to other parts of the region. The winters are characterized by occasional rain and lower temperatures with little to no snowfall. While the Murge Plateau partially protects the western part of Alberobello, the town’s location on the coast exposes it to winds off the sea that can cause quick shifts in temperature, specifically the sirocco and foehn winds that bring heat from the south. The geography of Alberobello helps define life throughout the city, as the town itself is perched atop two hills. On the eastern hill sits the “new” Alberobello, home to modern architecture and more current lifestyles, whereas the western hill features “old” Alberobello, home to the two districts of Rione Monti and Rione Aia Piccola, as well as the area’s historic trulli. The landscape surrounding the city of Alberobello is storybook-like, featuring lush green countryside and charming wooded areas. WHEN IN ALBEROBELLO Seeing the town’s traditional trulli is, of course, a must-see when in Alberobello. A great trullo to start at is Trullo Sovrano. Dating back to the early seventeenth century, it is the city’s only 2-story trullo. It was originally a home for a priest’s family, however today it serves as a “living” museum, depicting the everyday life of Alberobello’s residents with its recreated rooms. It also includes a souvenir shop. Not far from Trullo Sovrano is the Basilica of Saints Cosma and Damiano, a Basilica featuring Neoclassical designs. Filled with history, it paints a different picture of the city than the classic trulli of the area. Another church to see is the Church of Sant’Antonio. Built with stone and featuring trulli-like features, it is located at the top of the Monti district and blends seamlessly into the surrounding trulli. It is known for its monumental entrance, staircase, bell tower, and cloister vault roof. Its hilltop position provides an amazing view of the entire area. The House of Love (Casa D’Amore) is the first building in the city of Alberobello that was built after the town earned freedom in 1797. It departs from the classic trulli style and was built with the use of mortar, making it unique and historical. It stands as a symbol of freedom from feudalism. Walking the Rione Monti district of trulli is the best way to take in the history of the town. It contains over 1,000 trulli, including a unique trullo called Trullo Siamese that features a double entry. Two brothers were said to have owned it and divided it down the middle with a wall once they discovered they were both in love with the same woman. This division is why the trullo is so unique. For the best view of the trulli, visit the Belvedere Trulli lookout point – not far from the town square Piazza del Popolo – to see an amazing view of the entire trulli village. The image is picturesque, almost straight out of a fairytale. Those interested in shopping can visit Rione Monti, an area of the city with many storefronts and souvenir shops. Local handicrafts are also available throughout historic areas of town, including art, sculptures, hand-woven baskets, handmade textiles, ornaments, and more. For foodies, the city is known for its amazing olive oil and locally made wine, both of which can be purchased at local food shops to be taken home as souvenirs. While staying in Alberobello, be sure to enjoy some of the local cuisine, which is traditional Apulian style – rustic, simple, seasonal, and flavorful. If traveling to the Apulia region, Alberobello is a must-see thanks to its large concentration of trulli dwellings, which are unique to the region’s Itria Valley. The town’s trulli create a charming and inviting atmosphere that is unlike anywhere else in Italy. Travel Guides   The Apulia Region of Italy The Cities of Apulia, Italy

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Lecce

The enchanting city of Lecce, located in Southern Italy on the Salento Peninsula, is truly one of Italy’s crown jewels. To walk the city streets amongst the superb Baroque architecture, quaint cafes, and even street performances is to experience the very essence of Italian charm. The culture, cuisine, and activities of this city are best enjoyed when spread out over several days and relished at a slower pace dictated by Italian custom, which encourages visitors to savor each and every moment. Lecce is a city of nearly ninety-five thousand people. As the capital of the province of Lecce and the main city of the Salento Peninsula, Lecce serves as a cultural hub for the surrounding area. Popular legend dictates that Lecce, once known as the city of Sybar, existed at the time of the Trojan War and was founded by a Greek tribe called the Messappians. In the ensuing years, the city was under the rule of several different regimes before it became what it is today. However, the Greek influence on Lecce’s culture is still evident in modern times, particularly in the Grecia Salentia towns close to Lecce where griko, an Italian Greek language, is still spoken today. The city flourished during the seventeenth century and countless stunning churches and monuments were erected at that time. Due to the remarkable Baroque architecture present in Lecce, the city has earned the nickname, “The Florence of the South.” Lecce is also known for international export of pietra Leccese (Lecce stone), a particular type of limestone that is easy to work with, making it a great stone for sculptures or architecture. It is usually mined in large open cast quarries and in addition to being an export, is widely used within the region. In fact, many of the city’s famous Baroque churches and other buildings were constructed using pietra Leccese. Additionally, ceramic production is a local craft and key industry for the city. Lecce is considered to be an agricultural center for the Salento Peninsula. It is well known for its wine and olive oil production, particularly Terra d’Otranto extra virgin olive oil. This type of olive oil is prized for its fruity taste with slightly bitter and spicy undertones. The olive oil is proudly used to flavor and enhance local cuisine, namely pasta dishes, steamed vegetables, meat dishes, and seafood. In some cases, it is possible for visitors to arrange a tour of one of the olive groves and meet the local farmers. The province of Lecce is also home to a variety of top-notch vineyards that yield fabulous local wines. Travelers can enjoy wine tasting tours that allow them to see the way vineyards operate as well as taste the proverbial fruits of their labor. Locally crafted wines include Galatina Negroamaro, Alezio, Lizzano, Narzò, Salice Salentino, and Leverano bianco. If traveling to Lecce by air, the Brindisi Airport is just outside of the city, linking Lecce and the Salento Peninsula to the rest of Europe and the world. Once in Puglia, the most efficient way to explore the Salento Peninsula is by car, either rental car or private driver. By and large, pedestrian traffic rules in the city center and exploring on foot is the best way to take in the sights and sounds of the area. With an active industrial and agricultural center, Lecce is a busy city that is always bustling with activity. Touring the city during the daytime allows visitors to appreciate the dozens of buildings with stunning Baroque style architecture. However, for many, at nightfall Lecce takes on a magical dream-like quality as people leisurely stroll the streets enjoying one another’s company under the elegant street lamps that bathe the city in a romantic glow. GEOGRAPHY   The city of Lecce is located on the Salento Peninsula in Southern Italy, but is positioned far enough inland that it does not sit on the Adriatic coast. It is the main city on the peninsula and the capital of the province of Lecce. Despite Lecce’s large population, it has one of the smaller historic city centers in Italy. While it is not unusual to find a number of cultural activities happening in the squares that attract an audience, many visitors prefer to spend the majority of their time wandering the quaint cobblestone streets between city buildings to dine at outdoor restaurants and take in gorgeous architecture at almost every turn. CLIMATE Overall, Lecce enjoys a largely Mediterranean climate. On average, the temperature here hovers around seventy degrees Fahrenheit, although lows can dip into the forties during the winter and the highs can reach the high eighties in the summer. Rainfall is rather minimal during the summer, but steadily increases in the fall and winter. This fabulously comfortable climate is a primary reason for the area’s success with productive olive groves and vineyards. ONLY IN LECCE By far, Lecce’s defining characteristic is the remarkable Baroque architecture found in the historic city center. The style flourished during the seventeenth century while the city was under Spanish rule, and is so distinctive that it is referred to as Leccesse Baroque. An integral aspect of Leccese Baroque is use of the local pietra Leccese, which imparts warm and golden hues during different points of the day. Some of the most stunning examples of Baroque architecture in Lecce are the city’s many churches. Principal among these is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was originally constructed in the twelfth century before undergoing a magnificent Baroque reconstruction in the seventeenth century. Other remarkable churches include the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Church of Santi Niccolò e Cataldo, and the Basilica of San Giovanni Battista al Rosario. In addition to the churches, there are certain civic structures that also feature Baroque architecture, such as Palazzo Tamborino Cezzi and the surviving city gates known as Porta Napoli, Porta Rudiae, and Porta San Biagio. It can be quite overwhelming to imagine how many people have passed through the city gates to Lecce over the centuries. Truly, Lecce’s Baroque churches and civic structures are all simply stunning pieces of architecture that are just a small taste of the beauty within this grand Italian city. The city of Lecce awaits you with unique treasures of legendary Baroque architecture, fabulous authentic cuisine, and warm and generous people. Be forewarned, this magical Italian city may very well steal a piece of your heart, pushing you to return to your home away from home again and again. Travel Guides   The Apulia Region of Italy The Cities of Apulia, Italy

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Basilicata

Basilicata is a region in southern Italy, bordered by Calabria and Puglia to the east, Campania to the north, and the Gulf of Taranto to the south. The region has a long and rich history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Basilicata is a popular tourist destination, known for its stunning scenery, delicious food, and friendly people.


The cities & towns of Basilicata
Potenza

Located in Southern Italy is the charming and ancient town of Potenza. Deep in the heart of the mostly rural province of Potenza located in the region of Basilicata, this town is near the rugged Apennine Mountains and its soft green valleys. This beautiful city on a hill is truly a thriving center of history and culture for the region. Potenza was originally settled under the Latin name of Potentia in ancient times. Throughout the ensuing centuries, the city came under various regimes during the Middle Ages and beyond, until the Unification of Italy in the nineteenth century. A series of damaging earthquakes and bombing damage from World War II left many of the city’s original landmarks and monuments in ruins. Recovery efforts have been successful, and the city is still blossoming today, finding new and modern ways to flourish. With a population in excess of sixty-six thousand people that inhabit roughly sixty-seven square miles, it is no surprise that Potenza is the largest city in all of Basilicata as well as the region’s capital. In addition, the city is the capital of the province of its namesake. But do not let the large number of people living inside the city limits fool you into thinking they are far removed from welcoming travelers. The people of Potenza are often considered by travelers to be some of the warmest and most friendly in all of Italy. In some ways, Potenza is considered to be a bit of a college town as it is home to the main site of the University of Basilicata, which was established in the late twentieth century. The university welcomes, on average, a little over six thousand students and six hundred employees onto its campuses each year. The school is known for its focus on science, technology, arts, and humanities. The most efficient transportation method to reach the city is via car, either rental car or private driver. Though Potenza sits on the main rail line that stretches from Salerno to Taranto, be forewarned that there are only a few trains that make their way to the city from other nearby provinces, and the area is not served by Italy’s highspeed trains. If you are hoping to fly into Potenza, the closest international airports are in the cities of Naples and Bari. When it comes to making your way around the city proper, buses, cars, and pedestrian traffic are all popular modes of transportation. The city streets are conducive to seeing much of the city by bus or car, however, many visitors often opt to see the sights on foot or rent a bicycle or scooter for their local outings. GEOGRAPHY At around twenty-six hundred feet above sea level, Potenza is considered to be the highest regional capital and one of the highest cities in all of Italy. With its naturally elevated position, the city overlooks the gorgeous valley of the Basento River in the Apennine Mountains of Lucania. CLIMATE Overall, the city of Potenza enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate. The summer months are by far the warmest and usually the driest. In the summer, the city can average highs in the upper seventies (degrees Fahrenheit) with lows in the upper fifties. The rest of the year vacillates between highs close to the fifties and lows that are above freezing. Potenza has the best of both worlds with the summers being warm and the winters chilly. Precipitation in the area is fairly average. Most months, rain totals are between one and two inches. If you are planning a trip to Potenza, it is worth noting that the summer months are generally the warmest and the driest. WHEN IN POTENZA The city of Potenza is highly unique in that it is divided primarily into two parts, an upper town and a lower town. The more ancient and historic part of the city sits perched on the top of a rather steep hill and is focused largely on the public life of its people. The lower town generally lies just beneath the upper town and is more similar in appearance and culture to that of a suburb. Because much of the city of Potenza exists literally on two different levels, it is home to a vast amount of stairways that connect the upper town to the lower town. While cars and buses are able to navigate the city easily for the most part, it is far more challenging to do so in the upper town where the streets become quite narrow. As a solution for these woes, the city established a grand escalator system to help locals and visitors alike better navigate the town. Potenza boasts that it is home to one of the longest escalator systems in the world at more than four thousand two hundred feet long. There are several escalator transit lines that are clearly marked with grandeur at the entrance, complete with a ticket booth. While the escalator system is unique and different, it is not considered a particularly fast way to traverse the city and riders must stand for the duration of their ride. However, there are frequent landings between escalators that keep the transport from being one long, continuous ride. In general, locals tend not to use this transportation as frequently as their out-of-town guests. As the capital of the Basilicata region, Potenza is an excellent place to get to know the unique culture of Southern Italy. The city, which consists of an upper and lower town with an extensive escalator transportation system, is unlike any other in Italy. *SPECIAL NOTE: While it is true the Italian city of Potenza has experienced major devastation from a series of earthquakes over the years, the town continues to both rebuild and thrive. Some of the monuments and landmarks included in the narrative above may be described in their pre-earthquake condition.Travel Guides   The Basilicata Region of Italy The Cities of Basilicata, Italy

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Matera

In the heart of Southern Italy sits the city of Matera, an enchanting town in the Basilicata region that lights up the inky night sky with the romantic ambiance that Italy is known and loved for. The unique cave dwellings and majestic churches of the city cut into the rocky terrain warmly glow against the stark darkness of the evening, giving the experience a magical effect. To see Matera at any time of day is to witness such aesthetic beauty and striking history, it renders many visitors simply speechless. This unique city steeped in tradition and culture is one of the reasons the Basilicata region was rated number three on the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2018.” This fascinating and unusual city is the capital of the Province of Matera. However, before earning this distinction, the city was recognized as the capital of the entire region of Basilicata for a time in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Matera is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with roots that trace back to tenth millennium B.C. Although the area is thought by historians and archeologists to originally have been settled in the Paleolithic era, the ancient city that more closely resembles what we see today is estimated to have been founded by the Romans in the third century B.C. With ancient connections to centuries past that are still evident today, it is not a surprise that Matera was declared one of the European Capitals of Culture for the year 2019, a distinction shared with one other city, Plovdiv in Bulgaria. The population of approximately sixty thousand lives amongst modern Matera and the beguiling caves of the Sassi. It is no secret that the Sassi’s hilltop city of rock dwellings is the internationally recognized landmark of Matera. Referred to as Sassi di Matera, the historical center is designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Sassi caves were cut so deep into the rock formations, it was known by many as la Città Sotterranea or underground city. Although beautiful even a century ago, the picturesque living quarters literally built into the rocks of Matera were poverty stricken and the area was considered largely uninhabitable during the middle of the twentieth century. Because of poor living conditions, the government moved the Sassi population in the 1950s to more suitable living quarters close by, leaving the village literally desolate. Perhaps the sentiment of that moment is best captured by twentieth century Italian writer and painter Carlo Levi who once said, “Anyone who sees Matera can’t help but be awestruck, so expressive and touching is its sorrowful beauty.” Since that time, the Sassi has experienced a profound rejuvenation process led by the government and now the city attracts curious travelers from across the globe. While much of the outer shell of the original living quarters and the traditional décor are still mostly intact, the area is now more modernized in conveniences and is home to quaint and traditional restaurants and simple but luxurious lodgings. Although Matera sits in a less traveled area of the Basilicata region, several modes of nearby transportation are available, with car being the most efficient way to reach the city. Approximately forty miles outside of Matera is an international airport in Bari and the city is connected to several national roads. However, while touring Matera’s historical center, plan to do all of your wandering by foot as you travel narrow alleyways and stairs. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Matera is located in a remote corner of Southern Italy, with the city sitting on the side of a grand rocky canyon that has been carved out over the years by the rushing waters of the Gravina River, which is now more of a stream. While mountains make up more than half of Basilicata’s landscape, Matera sits canyon-side in more of a plateau-like region with karst properties. The Mediterranean climate of the Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian coastlines and mountains in the region help regulate the changing seasons in Matera. The winter months tend to be dry and slightly cool, with temperatures bottoming out around forty degrees Fahrenheit in January. Matera is usually warmest in August with temperatures reaching an average high in the mid-seventies. Rain can become more frequent in early fall. WHEN IN MATERA Because the city is literally carved into the rock, most structures in the area have unique and rare architectural qualities. Matera is filled with beautiful Rupestrian churches, some of which have underground tunnels that lead to ancient seventeenth century frescos. One must-see church is the Matera Cathedral, which is built on the ridge that forms the highest point of the city and offers spectacular views via several lookout points. On the other side of the ravine opposite of Matera, visitors will see dozens of tiny caves carved out of the grass covered hillside. The area is Murgia National Park but is officially known as Parco Regionale Archeologico Storico Naturale delle Chiese Rupestri del Materano, or the Natural Historic Archaeological Regional Park of the Rock Churches of Matera. This area stretches between the towns of Matera and Montescaglioso, both located in the region of Basilicata. In addition to the abundance of small caves, there are a number of unique plant and animal species throughout the park. For a true picture of how the population lived in the Sassi before relocating in the 1950s, visit Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, which features a recreated cave dwelling. The average home was rather small with one bed, a tiny kitchen area, and room for the animals. A family’s animals usually stayed inside and dogs often slept with their owners to keep them warm during cold nights. To visit the Casa Grotta is to catch a glimpse of the simple yet fulfilling life of those who dwelled in the Sassi. Pack your sense of adventure and travel to the rock city of Matera to take in some of the most stunning examples of history, art, and architecture to be found in all of Italy – jaw-dropping panoramas will be waiting around every corner. Travel Guides   The Basilicata Region of Italy The Cities of Basilicata, Italy

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Calabria

Calabria is a region in southern Italy, located at the "toe" of the Italian peninsula. It is a region with a long and rich history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Calabria is a popular tourist destination, known for its stunning scenery, delicious food, and friendly people.


The cities & towns of Calabria
Reggio

On the southernmost tip of Italy lies the beautiful seaside city of Reggio Calabria. This attractive and well populated city sits right at the edge of the proverbial toe of the boot of Italy, in close proximity to both the Aspromonte Mountains and the Port of Reggio. The city is rich in ancient history and tradition and offers simply stunning sightseeing opportunities, from the craggy peaks of the Aspromonte Mountains to the startling blue waters of the Port of Reggio. Historically, the city is thought to have been first settled during the third millennium BC and has been occupied over the centuries by more than a dozen different peoples. For this reason, it is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the region of Calabria that can be traced back over thirty-five hundred years. Unfortunately, many of the remains of the ancient civilization have been wiped out by man, nature, and on occasion, an earthquake. This part of Italy is unique due to its culture and language. As a result of its Greek past, many of the locals still speak a Greek-Calabrian dialect known as Greko. This language can also be heard in the Salento area of the Apulia region. One of the prized pieces of history found here is the ancient and magnificent Riace Bronzes, which are rare Greek bronze sculptures that have become a symbol of sorts for the city. The famous sculptures can be found on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Magna Graecia and have earned Reggio Calabria the nickname of the City of Bronzes. And yet, Reggio Calabria is also home to so much more that the city itself could be considered one large archeological park. In addition to the Riace Bronzes, travelers can engage with the area’s past by visiting the Hypogeum of Piazza Italia, the Roman Baths, the Greek Walls, the Locri Epizefiri excavations, and much more. Today, Reggio Calabria is certainly considered to be one of the most populated cities in the region, with nearly two hundred thousand residents living within the city limits of ninety-two square miles, and more than five hundred thirty thousand residents in the metropolitan area. The city is one of the key economic centers of mainland Southern Italy and the Mediterranean. Fishing is a thriving industry here as well as the exports of fruits, briar, bergamot, and tobacco. Reggio Calabria’s wide cultivation of bergamot has earned it the nickname of City of Bergamot. Reggio Calabria is somewhat different from most of its Italian counterparts in navigation. The city’s roadways and walkways are quite a bit broader, making them appear less crowded and easier to maneuver. The city has a linear development along the coast with most streets parallel to the shore. From the coast, the city looks like a mass of colorful buildings of various shapes and sizes, very much resembling a still growing metropolitan area. The nearby Aspromonte Mountain peaks and the mesmerizing waters of the Strait of Messina make for beautiful sightseeing from the highest points within the city or on the waters of the Strait of Messina or Ionian Sea. Reggio Calabria’s cuisine is surprisingly not solely seafood based, but often includes meats in the form of pork or lamb. Many of the area’s desserts and sometimes liqueurs are frequently flavored with locally cultivated bergamot. The city is also known for its production of quality extra virgin olive oil. The populous city is also somewhat of a college town as it is home to several educational institutions. The University of Reggio Calabria is thought to be the first established university in Calabria. Dante Alighieri is the university for foreigners. The Academy of Fine Arts is considered to be one of the most long-standing of its kind in the region, and among the top of its kind in Southern Italy. Transportation into and around the city is widely available. Several roadways including the SS18 Naples-Regio, SS106 Reggio-Taranto, and the A2 Salerno-Reggio allow visitors access from other cities in Italy. The nearby Reggio Calabria Airport, sometimes referred to as Aeroporto dell Stretto or Tito Minniti Airport, offers daily domestic flights and some seasonal international flights. The Port of Reggio provides boat service including regular ferries that come and go several times daily. When traveling within the area, visitors and locals often rely on the Reggio di Calabria Central Railway Station, one of the largest stations in the area, as well as public buses. Despite the availability of public transportation, some locals and visitors prefer to navigate the city on foot. GEOGRAPHY Reggio Calabria sits at the “toe” of the boot of Italy on the shore of the Strait of Messina. The city’s landscape is fairly diverse as it sits amongst the slopes of the craggy Aspromonte Mountain range, yet opens up to the gorgeous Port of Reggio and the Ionian Sea. The outskirts of the city are surrounded by immense natural beauty, including the majestic Aspromonte Mountains and the ever-changing colors of the waters of the Port of Reggio, which explain the city’s other nickname of The Rainbow of Italy. Not far from the city is the Aspromonte National Park, which is located in the southern part of the Apennine Mountains in Calabria. The park features mountain peaks of up to sixty-five hundred feet, is home to several waterways, and is a sanctuary of sorts for a variety of fir, oak, chestnut, and pine trees as well as animal species such as the eagle, peregrine falcon, and wolf. The Port of Reggio is a thriving Mediterranean seaport that offers picturesque views of the Strait of Messina, which separates Reggio Calabria from the island of Sicily and opens up into the Ionian Sea. Tourists often enjoy sunning at a few of the city’s picturesque beaches while watching the boats and ferry service go by. CLIMATE With such a southern location and with half of the city opening up to the waters of the Strait of Messina, it is no surprise that Reggio Calabria enjoys a widely Mediterranean climate. On average, travelers can bask in comfortable weather here almost year round. As is with Mediterranean climates, the city is treated to far more warm days than cold ones, with a median high temperature of eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Lows consistently hover around the mid-forties during the winter months. While the city does experience precipitation throughout the year, the winter months are considered to be far rainier than the remainder of the year. Partially for this reason, summer is one of the best seasons to visit the beautiful outdoors of Reggio Calabria. WHEN IN REGGIO CALABRIA One of Reggio Calabria’s most distinguishing characteristics is that of Fata Morgana, an unusual mirage effect that is not exactly uncommon for the area. The mirage is observed in the Strait of Messina and occurs when light rays are strongly inflected by passing through air layers at different temperatures. This means that as the temperatures vary throughout the day, so will the mirage. If standing upon the shores of Reggio Calabria and looking out over the Strait of Messina at the island of Sicily, the mirage reflects distorted images on the water which is said to make things appear closer and more clearly for a short time. In some cases, onlookers have said that during the mirage they could see specific items on the shore of Sicily such as houses and cars. The Fata Morgana has an interesting legend that many believe to be true still today. Legend has it that a victorious king arrived on the shore of Reggio Calabria and stood gazing over the waters of the Strait of Messina, wondering how he could reach the distant shore. Shortly after, Fata Morgana, famous in Celtic Mythology, used her powers to create the mirage making the island of Sicily appear only a few short feet away. This change encouraged the king to willingly throw himself into the water since the island appeared to be just a few swimming strokes away. In reality, his vision was just a mirage and he is said to have sadly drowned in the Strait of Messina. To this day, the city of Reggio Calabria is sometimes referred to as the City of Fata Morgana. The Mediterranean getaway of Reggio Calabria holds natural treasures of the nearby Aspromonte Mountains and deep blue waters of the port. It also offers mystifying and captivating phenomena such as The Fata Morgana. Pack your bags and travel to the shores of Southern Italy to bask in the warm sun of Reggio Calabria and set out on a fabulous Italian adventure. Travel Guides   The Calabria Region of Italy The Cities of Calabria, Italy

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Campania

Campania is a region in southern Italy, located on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is a region with a rich history and culture, and is home to a variety of stunning landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the Cilento National Park to the beautiful beaches of the Amalfi Coast. Campania is a region that has something to offer everyone, from history and culture lovers to beachgoers and nature lovers.


The cities & towns of Campania
Capri

Located in the Bay of Naples, just off the Sorrentine Peninsula, Capri is a breathtaking isle of weathered limestone, shaped over millennia by the waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Part of the Campania region of Italy and measuring only four-square miles in size, Capri has been known for the greater portion of its history as a resort destination, even dating back into antiquity. The island is dotted with numerous beautiful beaches that are favored by travelers and locals alike throughout the summer, as well as hiking trails that lead up Monte Solaro and offer stunning views of the weathered cliffs and crags of the iconic Faraglioni. Capri is an island of duality. Known for its sensibilities both antiquated and modern, as well as its attractions both natural and trendy. Whether you favor hikes and boating trips around breathtaking natural formations or nightclub dancing and modern art, Capri has something for everyone to enjoy. The most famous attraction to be found on Capri is the legendary Grotta Azzurra or Blue Grotto. A local favorite for centuries, this breathtaking natural formation is renowned for its crystal-clear waters that seem to glow blue in the refracted light of the sun. Travelers and locals alike flock to admire this natural phenomenon. The Blue Grotto is far from all that Capri has to offer for those who love nature, however. Other great activities include taking a boating tour around the island and viewing the Faraglioni: natural rock formations of rugged limestone, beaten and shaped by the ocean waves, wind and time. For those who like to keep their feet on dry land, there’s no shortage of breathtaking beaches to relax on. Capri has been a resort island since the days of the Roman Empire. Tiberius, the Emperor of Rome from the years 14 A.D. to 37 A.D., particularly favored the isle of Capri for its natural beauty and ruled the Roman Empire from his Capri villas for ten years until his death. Since then, Capri has been lauded as a premiere travel destination by artists, intellectuals, and many of the rich and famous over the past several centuries. Acclaimed author Charles Dickens himself was once quoted as saying, “There is no spot in the world with such delightful possibilities of repose as this little isle.” GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Capri enjoys a temperate, Mediterranean climate. Spring is often considered to be one of the most beautiful times of the year on Capri, with mild weather and the island flowers in fragrant bloom. Despite this, the height of tourist season occurs in the summer, when the weather gets hot and sunny during the day and balmy at night. In autumn, the weather is still pleasantly warm enough to explore the island, but the crowds will have thinned out allowing for a more serene experience. Winter is the off season when the majority of establishments are closed and the weather becomes chilly. The geography of Capri is mountainous and rocky, with sheer cliffs and striking natural rock formations. At the base of Monte Solaro rests the town of the same name, Capri, where much of the hustle and bustle of the island takes place. Here is where one will find the beaches, the lively Piazza Umberto I (known as La Piazzetta), and the island’s two ports; the Marina Grande and the Marina Piccola. Separate from the city of Capri and located higher up on the mountain face lies the town of Anacapri, where much of the island’s more quiet, historical landmarks lie. Despite the rocky, limestone nature of the island, Capri is well known for its lush forest trails and famous botanical gardens perched above its beaches and cliffs. WHEN IN CAPRI What one does in Capri depends largely upon the nature of their visit. For those who are simply visiting Capri for a day trip, it’s generally recommended that one explore the hiking trails, visit the beach, or take a boat tour of the Blue Grotto, which is absolutely a must, being perhaps the most famous attraction in Capri. For those planning a more extended stay in Capri, there are plenty of must-see attractions. One should not miss a boating trip around the Faraglioni. For those who enjoy nature hikes, there is the incomparable Pizzolungo foot trail, where visitors can hike around the south end of the island and view Capri’s breathtaking natural formations, including the Arco Naturale, a paleolithic, natural, arching rock formation about 40 feet wide and 65 feet high. The Gardens of Augustus are a great place for more outdoor activities and photo ops. The botanical garden offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the island and a peaceful place for one to rest and enjoy nature. Another option to enjoy the nature of Capri is to take the panoramic chairlift up to Monte Solaro. Once at the top, it is possible to admire what many consider to be the best views of the whole island, featuring the blue water of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the rocky cliffs below. For those more interested in history, there is no shortage of sites to see. Capri offers tours of the ancient Villa Jovis, also known as the Villa of Jupiter. It was from here that Emperor Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire until his death in 37 A.D. One can also take in the other historic villas, such as nineteenth century Villa San Michele and twentieth century Villa Lysis. For those more interested in religious history, feel free to pop into the historical churches and religious complexes found on the island, such as the Baroque Church of San Michele, which features beautiful mosaics depicting the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or the Certosa di San Giacomo, a former Carthusian monastery constructed in the Renaissance style. The Church of Santo Stefano, one of Capri’s oldest churches, served as the cathedral of Capri until the island joined the Archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia. Finally, for those looking to relax and enjoy the resort life, there’s no shortage of beach clubs where one can reserve a small space overlooking the sea and simply let all troubles ebb away. Piazza Umberto I also offers dozens of cafés and restaurants where you can sip a cappuccino and people watch as the bustle of Capri passes you by. There are also plenty of shops offering local artisan goods such as handmade sandals and limoncello. And for those willing to stay up a little late, Capri offers many trendy nightclubs where you can dance the night away. From remarkable coastal views with rugged cliffs and lush gardens to historic villas built by a Roman Emperor, Capri is an island resort full of charm. This sparkling gem located off of Italy’s southwestern coast is a true paradise just waiting to be discovered. Travel Guides   The Campania Region of Italy The Cities of Campania, Italy

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Naples

As you travel south along the boot of Italy, you will find one of the most populous and fascinating cities in the country, Naples. The city sits on the country’s southwest side and opens to the blue expanse of the Gulf of Naples. Naples offers a unique combination of old and new as a thriving port city, making it one of the most traveled national and international tourist destinations. As the third largest city in all of Italy after Rome and Milan, Naples is the commercial and financial hub of southern Italy. With a population of nearly 950,000 living inside the city limits, it has 31 quarters or neighborhoods. The tall skyline of 13 office buildings in Naples’ business district is a nod to the city’s growth and its status as the third largest economy in Italy. In fact, Naples was the first city in Italy to build a grouping of skyscrapers in its business district. Considering the huge size of Naples, it is not surprising that it is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the world. Historians estimate it has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, but was first truly settled by the Greeks in the second millennium. As a strategic port city, Naples became a key location in Magna Graecia. Though most of the Greek settlers were Latinized by the Middle Ages, Greek influence can still be observed in many aspects of Neapolitan culture, specifically the architecture and local dialect. Naples has held some important historic distinctions over the years. In the Roman period, the Biblical Apostle Peter is said to have preached on this very shore, making Naples one of the first sites of Christianity in the Western world. In the Middle Ages, Naples became the influential capital of the Kingdom of Naples, a role it held for more than 500 years. Due to its power and subsequent development as an industrial center, Naples was a huge target during World War II, and it earned the title of the most bombed city during World War II. Fortunately, Naples rebuilt quickly and efficiently in the ensuing years. Today, the city is home to more than four hundred historical churches, hundreds more non-historical churches, and around a dozen much sought after educational institutions. The total number of historical and non-historical churches in the city is estimated to be close to one thousand in number, designating Naples as one of the cities with the largest number of existing churches. The University of Naples Federico II is among the oldest state universities in the world and one of the most sought-after education centers in all of Italy. The campus is estimated to have an average enrollment of about 80,000 students that are taught by a team of approximately 3,000 professors. The university is divided into 13 departments and counts Saint Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, and Luigi Palmieri among its alumni. In addition to the University of Naples, the city is home to several other educational institutions including the University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli (often referred to as Second University), Istituto Universitario Orientale, Parthenope University of Naples, Istituto Universitario Suor Orsola Benincasa, and Jesuit Theological Seminary of Southern Italy. Naples is also home to the San Pietro a Maiella Music Conservatory for those seeking a music education. The Academy of Fine Arts is one of the oldest art schools in all of Italy and is a dream school for many art students across the globe. With such a large college population, Naples is quite diverse in many ways. Part of the city is older and more traditional with cobblestone streets, street vendors, and older abodes that still hang their clothes out to line dry over the narrow city streets. Other parts of the city are more modern with high rise office buildings and a newer polished look. The historic center of Naples is thought to be the largest in Europe and is also a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The city hosted the 2013 Universal Forum of Cultures and the 2019 Summer Universiade, an international university sports and culture event held every two years in a different city. To many visitors’ delight, the cuisine of Naples is largely focused on a global favorite, pizza, which was born in Naples in honor of Queen Margherita of Savoy. Additionally, the city is home to one of the most distinct culinary traditions in the country, and Naples is renowned for its pasta, seafood, coffee, and delicious pastries. There are a variety of transportation options to, from, and in the city. Several roadways go through Naples including the A1 which is the longest motorway in Italy and links the city to Milan. The A3 links Naples to Salerno, and the A16, sometimes called the Motorway of the Two Seas because it connects the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Adriatic Sea, runs east. Visitors and residents of Naples also have access to the Port of Naples which offers transportation via a public ferry service and cruise ships. The Naples International Airport, the largest in southern Italy, is convenient for international travelers and serves as a gateway to the south. When it comes to making your way around inside the city limits, people use trams, buses, and an underground rapid transit railway system. Despite these offerings, the best way to truly get to know the city and embrace the local culture is to explore on foot. GEOGRAPHY   Naples is located on the Gulf of Naples on the southwestern coast of Italy at approximately fifteen hundred feet above sea level. Mount Vesuvius looms over the city and is an important component of the local landscape as well as the history of the area. The shoreline of the Gulf of Naples offers simply stunning views of the port and the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. A few of the natural phenomena in the area are volcano-related. Campi Flegrei (the Phlegraean Fields) is a large volcanic area and regional park west of Naples, and Nisida is a volcanic islet of the Phlegraean Islands north of the city. Several beautiful islands, including Capri, Ischia, and Procida, can be reached from Naples by boat. The ruins of Pompei lie south of the city, and even further south travelers can visit the sunny shores of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. CLIMATE The climate in Naples is a combination of a Mediterranean climate and a humid subtropical climate. The two come together to yield hot and sometimes humid summers and mild, rainy winters. This comfortable climate has made Naples a popular vacation destination over the years, dating all the way back to the Roman times when emperors would travel here. Although summer highs are known to sometimes reach eighty-six degrees Fahrenheit, the average temperature of Naples is closer to the high to mid-seventies. When planning your trip to Naples, it is worth considering that the fall and winter months are quite a bit rainier than the rest of the year, but Naples is still a fabulous city in any kind of weather. ONLY IN NAPLES One of the most interesting and unique things about Naples is what lies underneath the city. There is actually a “Subterranean Naples” made up of a series of deep and expansive caves that reveal the city’s past. These enormous and cavernous reservoirs are dug out of soft tufo stone found well below the city. To walk these secret pathways and tunnels that are almost one hundred feet below ground level is an awe-inspiring and eerie experience not likely to be replicated anywhere else. The paths are well lit but can be extremely tight and hauntingly narrow in some places. In other parts, the tunnels open up to larger spaces revealing Greek and Roman ruins. Another fascinating place to visit is the Baia Archeological Park, located about a 30-minute drive west of Naples. Once a chic resort for Ancient Roman elites, today the archeological park is home to a unique collection of ruins including thermal and hydraulic structures, tombs, and a theater. Many buildings of the complex rest on a hillside and can be visited on foot. Yet the truly remarkable aspect of this archeological park is the fact that the majority of Baia’s ruins are actually located underwater. While exploring the park, board a glass-bottomed boat to admire ancient columns, mosaics, statues, and more. Adventurous travelers may prefer to snorkel or scuba dive among the ancient ruins — a once in a lifetime experience! To visit a city as large and diverse as Naples can feel like exploring an entire country. The dichotomy of the region is heavily pronounced via old and subterranean Naples and new Naples. Visitors will want to take in the older neighborhoods that have a distinctive Italian charm as well as the newer parts of town with more modern structures. Make plans to visit Italy, but do not leave without touring Naples, one of the most spectacular and beautiful port cities in the country. Travel Guides   The Campania Region of Italy The Cities of Campania, Italy

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Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most coveted dream vacation destinations in Italy. This stretch of shoreline is positioned on the southwestern coast of Italy and borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. The craggy cliffs of the coast plummeting sharply down into the rich, blue sea combined with the charm of its cities resting along the water’s edge, make it one of the most enchanting areas along the country’s west coast. As a United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, the Amalfi Coast is recognized worldwide for its rich history, natural diversity and physical beauty. The area is thought to have been inhabited since the early Medieval Ages. During that time, it was well protected due to sea access and a number of coastal towers that were constantly manned to alert the people of an enemy’s approach. The area’s namesake city of Amalfi became a regional powerhouse during the eleventh century as a trading city and Maritime Republic. In time, Amalfi’s power was weakened by severe flooding and an attack by Pisa in 1137. This led to annexation by the Normans and the loss of independence. From this point forward, the Duchy of Naples became the key regional power in this part of Italy until the unification of the country, yet Amalfi’s role as a trading and cultural center remained. Today, Amalfi, along with other popular Amalfi Coast locales such as Positano, Ravello, Praiano, and more constitute one of the biggest draws for travelers to Italy. This beautiful area is typically categorized by scenic shorelines, coastal mountains, blue skies, lemon terraces, olive groves, gorgeous cliffside villas, and charming seaside villages and towns. With centuries of history and a vibrant past, opportunities for sightseeing in the Amalfi Coast abound. Among the most important sights is the Amalfi Cathedral, or Duomo di Amalfi, which is an excellent example of medieval architecture featuring elements of numerous styles including Arab, Norman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Additionally, a symbol of the charming town of Positano is the colorful, maiolica dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. In the vicinity of the Amalfi Coast, lovers of archeology will enjoy exploring the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii or the ancient Greek temples of Paestum. Shopping is a favorite pastime of many visitors to the Amalfi Coast. Most of the area’s cities are home to quaint seaside cafes, adorable boutiques, and amazing galleries. In Vietri sul Mare, shoppers will want to look for a piece of the city’s trademark hand-painted ceramics to take home. In Amalfi, travelers should plan to indulge in limoncello, a type of liqueur made with locally grown lemons. When visiting Positano, consider buying a pair of specially crafted handmade leather sandals. In between sightseeing and shopping, do not forget to indulge in the Amalfi Coast’s fabulous cuisine. The area’s culinary tradition focuses on ingredients that are locally grown, freshly picked, handmade, and caught in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Expect to enjoy Italian favorites of fresh mozzarella and pasta with a decidedly Amalfi Coast seafood touch, but be sure to save room for dessert and limoncello. To learn even more about the local culinary treasures, cooking classes are available with a focus on the fresh flavors of the area such as fragrant lemons and delectable olive oil. Although the cuisine here is amazing, any meal eaten seaside, especially at sunset, can make the dining experience simply unforgettable. Additionally, nature lovers traveling to the Amalfi Coast are in for a real treat. From remarkable hiking opportunities to parks, gardens, and swimming, the Amalfi Coast offers a natural escape from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. Whether your dream vacation features sightseeing, relaxation, or a nice mixture of both, the Amalfi Coast is a destination that has it all. The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is the international airport in Naples. The airport is roughly an hour drive from Sorrento and an hour and a half from the cities of Positano and Amalfi. After landing, the most direct way to reach the Amalfi Coast is by car. Due to the narrow coastal roads with tight corners, the drive down to the Amalfi Coast can be challenging and parking is limited. Therefore, hiring a private driver is strongly recommended. This also allows travelers to focus on the staggering scenery. For those wanting to soak in every bit of the gorgeous waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, a ferry to the Amalfi Coast is also an option if travelers have extra time on their hands. The ferry doubles as transportation and a unique way to see the Amalfi Coast from the sea. Ferry services connect the city of Sorrento to Positano and Amalfi. After arriving at one of the Amalfi Coast’s primary cities, most automobile traffic is restricted to the outskirts of the city. Pedestrian traffic is the main way to get from one place to another within the city limits due to steep and narrow roads. GEOGRAPHY  The Amalfi Coast is located along the southwestern shore of Italy on the southern part of the Sorrentine Peninsula. It is a highly scenic area with majestic green and craggy cliffs that drop off abruptly into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Positioned between the cliffs and the sea are small pebble beaches and hidden sandy coves carved into the rocks. There are thirteen cities prominently located along the Amalfi Coast including Amalfi, Atrani, Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Maiori, Minori, Praiano, Positano, Ravello, Scala, Tramonti, and Vietri sul Mare. Each is charming in its own right and offers visitors different perspectives of life on the Amalfi Coast. CLIMATE The beautiful and largely agreeable Mediterranean climate attracts visitors to Italy’s Amalfi Coast for the majority of the year. The area typically enjoys mild winters and warm summers with a healthy dose of sunshine. Winter on the Amalfi Coast is often the season that experiences cooler temperatures and rainfall, making the driest and warmest time of the year the summer months of June, July, and August. Many travelers prefer to visit the Amalfi Coast during the summer months for sunning and swimming when the area is at its warmest. However, if beach time is not a priority, a visit during the spring or fall still allows for fantastic sightseeing and Amalfi Coast experiences, typically with less crowds. During the winter months, the majority of the attractions, shops, and hotels of the Amalfi Coast close for the season. ONLY ON THE AMALFI COAST The Amalfi Coast is one of the most stunning coastal destinations in Italy that typically offers a sunny and relaxing respite from the crowds and faster pace of larger Italian cities such as Rome or Naples. An area as beautiful as this offers no shortage of ways to immerse oneself in this outdoor paradise. Avid hikers will be thrilled to find a number of scenic hiking trails along the Amalfi Coast. These hikes vary in length, terrain, and destinations. Some of the most popular hiking paths in the area generally include II Sentiero degli Dei (or the Path of the Gods) and II Vallone delle Ferriere. The Path of the Gods in particular is renowned for its breathtaking views of the coast and the island of Capri. Spanning approximately four miles and averaging an elevation of 1,600 feet, the Path of the Gods is one of the best ways to admire the unique beauty of the Amalfi Coast. Travelers wishing to soak up some sun on the Amalfi Coast will want to visit one of the beaches in the area. It is worth noting that due to the local geography most of the beaches here are narrow and feature pebbles with only a few small coves maintaining a sandy feel. Still, what the beaches may lack in size, they more than make up for with incomparable scenery. The sun, water, and paradise-like feel of the Amalfi Coast are ready and waiting for all who wish to explore her natural beauty. Travel Guides The Campania Region of Italy   The Amalfi Coast   The Cities of Campania:  

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Emilia Romagna

Emilia-Romagna is a region in northern Italy, located between the Po River and the Adriatic Sea. It is a region with a rich history and culture, and is home to a variety of stunning landscapes, from the rolling hills of the countryside to the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Romagnola. Emilia-Romagna is a region that has something to offer everyone, from history and culture lovers to foodies and beachgoers.


The cities & towns of Emilia Romagna
Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is a charming, historic city in Northern Italy tucked away in the Emilia-Romagna region. From the gorgeous open-air piazze and parks to the lovely bookshops, cafés, and theaters, this lesser-known neighbor of Parma and Modena is a quiet and stylish town that frequently captures the hearts of visitors. Arriving in the town of Reggio Emilia frequently feels like coming home again and often has visitors planning their next trip before they even leave. Although the city is known as simply Reggio to its one hundred seventy thousand plus residents, the area’s official name is Reggio nell’Emilia and residents are called Reggiani. The people here are modestly proud of their heritage and are considered to be extremely warm and welcoming. Much of the city’s charm comes from the fact that it is not a primary tourist destination such as the bigger Italian draws of Venice, Florence, or Rome. In many ways the city’s anonymity from tourists allows an endearing neighborhood community feeling to prevail, a characteristic of Reggio Emilia that is often a favorite among visitors. Historians believe the city’s roots trace all the way back to 187 BC. Over the centuries, the town was under the rule of various nations and kingdoms before eventually becoming an official city of Italy. Beginning in the fifteenth century and spanning several hundred years, groups of Jews flocked to the city to escape religious persecution. For the next few centuries up until World War II, the Jewish community thrived in the city and helped shape some of what the city has become today. Because of the Jewish influence over the years, many renowned rabbinic scholars made Reggio Emilia their home. Reggio Emilia is known in many parts of the world for the regional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco wine and balsamic vinegar. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a hard and flavorful cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and is most often grated and sprinkled over pasta dishes, risottos, and soups. Lambrusco wine is made in Lambrusco Reggiano, one of the largest producing areas of this particular wine. The city’s production of balsamic vinegar can be traced back to the eleventh century and is widely used for everything from salad dressing, a drizzle for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to toppings for pasta, meats, and even ice cream. The city is known internationally for its unique approach to preschool education that was started by its schools shortly after World War II thanks to educator Loris Malaguzzi. The main principles of the Reggio Emilia approach are based on the ability of children to learn about their world through their environment, and communication or interactions with others. In 2011, the Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Centre Foundation was established to promote and help others implement the Reggio Emilia approach. Today it is used in many schools across the globe to enhance learning for young children. When arriving or departing from the city, travelers can utilize the railway, the nearby airport, or the highway. The main railway station is Reggio Emilia Railway Station in the eastern part of the city and it connects the city with the Milan-Bologna line. The closest international airport is in Bologna, and it also provides air transportation to many other nearby destinations. When it comes to navigating the heart of the city itself, visitors and locals prefer to travel on foot or via bicycle. GEOGRAPHY Reggio Emilia sits almost entirely on a plain in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. The defining topographical feature of the city is the Crostolo, a small stream that flows through the city and surrounding province before eventually emptying into the Po River. The major city of Parma lies about forty minutes to Reggio Emilia’s northwest, Modena sits roughly forty minutes to the southeast, and Bologna a little over an hour to the southeast. A stretch of highway connects all three cities to Reggio Emilia and is an often-traveled thoroughfare in the area by visitors. CLIMATE Reggio Emilia enjoys seasonal temperatures with quite warm summers and chilly winters. Some summers will see average high temperatures somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty degrees Fahrenheit with the average low falling to the upper fifties. Winters are typically a very different story, with average high temperatures around forty degrees Farenheit and lows hovering around the thirties. Rain is fairly consistent throughout the year, although the fall months of October and November tend to receive a little above the average level of precipitation. Snow is somewhat of a rarity in Reggio Emilia, but if it does fall, it seldom sticks to the ground and sometimes melts upon impact. ONLY IN REGGIO EMILIA The city is often referred to lovingly as the Tricolor City. This nickname is a respectful nod to the fact that the Italian national flag was born in Reggio Emilia in January 1797 when it was adopted by the cities of Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Ferrara and Modena, which formed the Cispadane Republic. Because of Reggio Emilia’s role in the establishment of the flag, the city has become a symbol of sorts of the country’s independence. Evidence of this pride can be found in Casotti Square, behind Town Hall where the Tricolor Flag Museum (also known as Museo del Tricolore) displays artifacts and documents relating to the history of the national flag. Spanning a total of three floors, the museum offers a unique window into the evolution of Italy and the Italian flag not likely to be found anywhere else. Travelers can also visit the Tricolor Flag Hall, which is where the flag was officially adopted in 1797. Though often overshadowed by neighbors such as Parma and Bologna, Reggio Emilia is an excellent destination for those looking to immerse in the culture of Emilia-Romagna. Here, travelers can sample the region’s best food and delve into the city’s rich past. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Ravenna

In northeastern Italy sits the gorgeous and peaceful town of Ravenna, celebrated for the early Christian and Byzantine mosaics that adorn its churches and palaces. This modest city that is largely off the beaten path from busier neighboring cities such as Bologna and Venice, is a true treasure in the Emilia-Romagna region of the country. This delightfully unassuming town is filled with an abundance of art, architecture, history, and delicious cuisine that makes Ravenna an absolute must-see on your next trip to Northern Italy. Although it was once a full-scale seaport before the Adriatic waters receded, the man-made Candiano Canal is now what connects Ravenna to the sea. Still, the city is considered to be one of the top seaports in Italy. The town covers a large area and is estimated to be home to over one hundred fifty thousand people that call Ravenna home. With its flourishing population and industry, it only makes sense that the city is the capital city of its namesake province. This ancient city has roots that can be traced all the way back to 49 BC, but even historically the city has largely maintained a powerful presence for much of its existence. For roughly seventy-five years in the fifth century, Ravenna became the capital city of the Western Roman Empire. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Ravenna became a capital again, this time of the Ostrogothic Kingdom. Throughout the subsequent rule of the Byzantine Empire, the Lombards, and eventually Italy, the city has almost continuously held a title of honor and power. With more than twenty-one centuries of rich history and tradition, Ravenna is widely accepted as a city of great culture. Particularly of note is the late Roman and Byzantine architecture that is still evident today in structures throughout the city. Ravenna is also home to eight United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. These sites are primarily religious in nature and include the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and Orthodox Baptistry from the fifth century and the Archiepiscopal Chapel, Arian Baptistry, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Mausoleum of Theoderic, Basilica of San Vitale, and Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe from the sixth century. The more historic part of the city is considered to be primarily a pedestrian zone with almost all of the traffic being on foot or by bicycle. The beautiful city squares, fountains, statues, fabulous cafés and somewhat narrow side streets give the area a quintessential Italian charm that is often best experienced through a casual morning or evening stroll. Since Ravenna is an important port for commercial and tourism purposes, it is accessible by multiple modes of transportation, making it fairly easy to come and go. Several major highways including the E55 from Venice, the E45 from Rome, the A14-bis from the city of Bologna, and the regional Ferrara-Rimini axis of SS-16, also known as the Adriatica, provide a route directly to or nearby the city. The Ravenna railway station provides train service to several Italian cities including Rimini, Bologna, Verona, Ferrara, Lecce, Parma, and Milan. And if air travel is more convenient, the closest international airport is in the city of Bologna. GEOGRAPHY    Ravenna is considered an Italian seaport on the northern cusp of the Adriatic Sea via the Candiano Canal. The anomaly of being called a seaport is that the city does not actually sit upon the coast as it once did. It now appears further inland due to receding waters over the centuries and today is only connected to the Adriatic waters by the canal. The Candiano Canal, also known as the Canal Corsini, was born of an eighteenth-century construction project and now stretches almost seven miles, making it the longest artificial canal in all of Italy. Almost due north of the city by about two and a half hours is the bustling travel hub of Venice. Approximately an hour to the west of Ravenna is Bologna, and the city of Florence is roughly two and a half hours southwest via the highway. With a number of large and well-traveled cities close, a stay in Ravenna also provides easy access for multiple day trips to nearby destinations. CLIMATE  Ravenna has a largely agreeable climate for the majority of the year. For the months of May through September, the mostly summer-like climate is warm and dry with highs averaging around the low eighties (Fahrenheit) and lows averaging around the sixties. The late fall and winter months typically average highs in the forties and lows above freezing. The months of October and November historically average the most rain. ONLY IN RAVENNA As mentioned above, Ravenna is home to eight remarkable early Christian monuments that are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These historical monuments are roughly fifteen hundred years old and feature stunning Roman and Byzantine mosaics that thoroughly transform their spaces into unique works of art. After stepping into one of the city’s historic early Christian monuments, one is immediately taken aback by the detailed and intricate mosaic masterpieces. In general, the mosaics are made of brilliantly colored tiles of roughly a square inch in size that capture every color of the rainbow and then some, with the radiant gold mosaics shining brightly despite their age. In most of the eight World Heritage Sites in Ravenna, the interior décor of the structures is largely mosaic based. The artwork does not haphazardly and sporadically appear along the walls, but rather covers the majority of them. Rather than the mosaics consisting only of numerous Biblical scenes, the tile work extends past these religious scenes and bleeds well into the surrounding areas and even on the ceiling. One of the oldest examples of mosaics can be found in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, with its colorful ceiling mosaics set against a deep blue background. This structure is thought to be the best-preserved Western Roman mosaic art in the city. Other beautiful examples of mosaic artwork can be found at the Basilica of San Vitale with intricate mosaic scenes found on the walls and ceilings depicting biblical scenes, religious and decorative motifs, and the East Roman Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora. Let the city of Ravenna be a delightful respite from the busier Italian destinations. Fall in love with the beauty and culture of this northeastern city that will capture your heart and have you longing to return before you ever leave. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Parma

Once a city of instability and uncertainty, the Parma of today is full of history and culture. As the saying goes, “big things come in small packages” and that is proven in this small city in Northern Italy. Parma may see less tourism than its larger Italian counterparts, yet those that visit come to experience the architecture, art, fine cuisine, and rich history. It is the full package! The city was initially founded by the Etruscans who named it Parma, meaning “circular shield,” and subsequently the Romans founded a colony on the site of the Etruscan settlement in 183 B.C. Located along the Via Emilia, an important trading route that played a significant role in Ancient Rome’s connection to Northern Europe, Parma became a key regional hub for Rome. These ties allowed for considerable growth…until Rome fell. This devastation led to Parma seeing many changes in power throughout history, including its ruling under the papal controlled Farnese family. Despite the obstacles and hardships, the city was recognized as a piece of the Unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Now, the city flourishes with a strong economy, environment, and population. Located in Northern Italy between Milan to the north and Florence and Tuscany to the south, the city of Parma is the largest in its province and the second largest city in its region. Nature is at the forefront in the area, from the flatlands to the mountaintops. There are numerous lakes throughout Italy and Parma has its very own to enjoy. The beautiful Lake Santo is among the biggest in the region with a maximum length of 1,410 feet and a maximum width of 720 feet. From car to airplane, the city is accessible via a range of transportation options. Once within the city, the area has public trolley lines that make navigating the area that much easier. Additionally, Parma is located along the railway running between Milan and Bologna. Many locals and travelers opt to take in the city by foot as the overall area is compact at approximately 100 square miles. Amongst the historic architecture is one of the earliest universities worldwide, the University of Parma. While the school dates back to the tenth century, it was officially recognized as a university in 1412. It currently sees enrollment of approximately 26,000 students and is split into nine areas of study, including Medicine and Surgery, Economics and Management, Food and Pharmacy, and Veterinary Science. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Situated between the Apennine Mountains to its south and along the Po River to the north, the city of Parma is the second largest in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Visitors will find that the province of Parma’s roughly 1,300 square miles of terrain evolves from plains that are just 196 feet above sea level to rolling hills and mountains when traveling from north to south. The subtropical climate in Parma is greatly impacted by its inland location and resulting continental pressure. It is said to be an “urban heat island” as it is frequently much warmer than other cities in Northern Italy such as Genoa. It sees four seasons with a warm, humid summer and a cold winter that can be rainy. Temperatures typically peak in July with an average high of about 75 °F and bottom out in January with an average low around 36 °F. October sees the highest level of precipitation with an average of 31 inches. WHEN IN PARMA One of the city’s most iconic sites that should not be missed is the historic Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. This well-preserved piece of architecture dates back to 1092, with the earliest portion being the marble façade still present today. The interior has seen changes over the years, yet several original statues and fresco paintings remain on display in the cupolas and hall of the Cathedral. Next to the Cathedral is the Baptistery of Parma, which amazes visitors with its distinct architecture and is revered as one of Europe’s most important medieval buildings. Sightseeing in Parma would not be complete without music and theater. Opera is deeply rooted in the culture of the region as the province is the origin of well-known composer Giuseppe Verdi and conductor Arturo Toscanini. Performances can be enjoyed at the Auditorium Paganini and Teatro Regio as well as the yearly opera festival. For theater goers, the Farnese Theater is located in the palace Palazzo della Pilotta. The venue was constructed in the seventeenth century and stands well preserved today. The beautiful architecture along with the distinctive ambiance makes the Farnese Theater a cultural experience not to be missed. The food found in this province of Italy must not be forgotten! Birthplace to some of Italy’s finest cuisine, locals and travelers alike flock to Parma to get it directly from where it all started. Two of the area’s most well-known foods are Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The first is a pork product that has become a fundamental element of the country’s cuisine. The latter is the leader among Italy’s cheese roster and can by law only be produced in a few provinces of the Emilia-Romagna region, including Parma. Both are local favorites and should be enjoyed during any excursion to the region. In an area where cheese reigns, visitors can take the experience a step further by visiting a local Parmigiano-Reggiano producer to learn more regarding the history of its creation and the skill behind its production. Parma is, without a doubt, one of the finest culinary destinations in all of Italy. In between tasting the fabulous Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano produced here, travelers will marvel at the beauty of the city’s art and architecture as well as its tranquil atmosphere and verdant natural surroundings. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Ferrara

Nestled in the Po Valley in the province of the same name, Ferrara is a lovely town in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. Home to over 130,000 residents and located a mere stone’s throw north of Bologna and an hour and a half south of Venice, Ferrara is a hidden jewel of Italian culture with far more to appreciate than a mere initial glance would suggest. Though much of Ferrara’s early history is shrouded in mystery, the first known evidence of the city comes from the eighth century, when it was captured from the Exarchate of Ravenna by King Desiderius. Subsequently, the city truly rose to prominence during the Renaissance era from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. Known as the “City of the Renaissance,” Ferrara was the first major Italian city that managed to break away from the Roman style of city planning focused on highlighting major landmarks. Instead, the post-medieval parts of Ferrara were constructed with the concept of an “ideal city” in mind, where all buildings would be arranged in a manner that complimented each other, turning the whole city into a marvel all its own. Visionary architects, most notably the incomparable Biagio Rossetti, would help to make Ferrara into one of the most important examples of Renaissance urban planning, and the developments made then helped give birth to the modern art of city planning. To this day, much of the original layout remains intact. The result is a city that looks both antiquated and beautiful and yet modernly astounding. The city is full of grand houses, parks, and palazzi that appear simultaneously dignified, due to the masterful techniques of layout and architecture championed in the Renaissance, as well as humble and approachable on account of their simple brickwork construction. Much of what we see in Ferrara today we owe to the Este family, who ruled as the dukes of Ferrara between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. A family of renowned and headstrong Renaissance men, they transformed Ferrara from a simple commune into a center of art and religion to rival more well-known cities such as Florence, Venice, and Genoa. Under the rules of such patrons of the arts as Lionello d’Este, Niccolò II d’Este, and Ercole I d’Este, the city of Ferrara became an international center of culture and development. The Este family ruled Ferrara from the extravagant Castello Estense, or Este Castle at the center of the city, which now stands as Ferrara’s most prominent and famous landmark. Though often overlooked compared to the usual tourist triangle of Rome, Florence, and Venice, Ferrara offers an abundance of history and culture to discover through its multitude of museums, landmarks, and even its very streets and buildings. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Ferrara is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, characterized by its vast and expansive plains, its numerous canals, and its temperate climate. The city itself sits upon the Po River delta, though there are many more rivers that run through the area, such as the Reno River to the south. Thirty-one miles to the east of the city lies the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The area sees a great deal of rainfall year-round, though especially in the fall and winter months. Between May and September, however, the climate tends to be warm and pleasant with a greater chance of good weather. WHEN IN FERRARA   One place you cannot miss when visiting Ferrara is the unparalleled Castello Estense; the center of government and culture during the rule of the Este clan. Here you can admire the history of Ferrara through its most prominent and influential family. The remarkable structure holds apartments that allow a glimpse into Renaissance daily life, a historical dungeon, and a richly decorated chapel, all surrounded by impressive towers and walls, and even a moat. The Cathedral of San Giorgio is a beautiful representation of Ferrara’s past. Lying in the UNESCO designated historic center of Ferrara, the cathedral boasts incredible architecture and interior design, including astounding, sweeping ceilings painted with incredible frescoes by Renaissance artists. Furthermore, connected to the cathedral is the Museo della Cattedrale, or the Cathedral Museum, where one can learn the history of the cathedral and the other religious buildings of Ferrara. On the topic of museums, Ferrara has them in abundance. From art galleries to archaeological museums to Jewish wartime history museums, Ferrara has something to interest any lover of art or history. The National Archeological Museum housed in Palazzo Costabili features artifacts from the Etruscan and Ancient Greek Periods, as well as a collection of gold jewelry dating back to the fifth century B.C. Ferrara’s National Art Gallery is located in the unique Palazzo dei Diamanti, which is easily distinguishable thanks to its exterior walls that feature diamond-shaped marble blocks. The gallery itself hosts artwork from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century with important artists such as Jacopo Bellini and Andrea Mantegna represented. Those who prefer a more active lifestyle can enjoy a boat trip down the Po River or a walk through the scenic Renaissance city streets, the beautiful Parco Massari, or the Ferrara Botanical Gardens. And for those who wish to escape Ferrara for a day, one can take a quick trip south to Bologna, connected to the town by train for convenience, which offers sights like the Due Torri, Piazza Maggiore, and the Basilica of San Petronio. Though often overlooked by international travelers, Ferrara is a culturally rich city that’s more than worthy of a visit during a trip to Northern Italy. Thanks to the influence of the Este family, Ferrara is a vibrant Renaissance city with an artistic and architectural heritage that rivals those of Italy’s larger cities. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Modena

Modena is located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy in the Po Valley. It is among the most wealthy and advanced areas in Italy, likely due to its central location on the main trade routes that connect the Mediterranean Sea to Northern Europe. Its population of nearly 190,000 and a thriving economy makes it one of Emilia-Romagna’s largest and most prosperous cities. Modena’s economy is heavily rooted in publishing, craftsmanship, automobiles, and cuisine. The Panini Group, a globally known publishing and distribution company, is headquartered there. In addition, there are over 300 ceramics factories in the city and the surrounding area. The city is also characterized by its incredible sports car scene. As the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari and the location of headquarters for such heralded sports car brands as Ferrari, Pagani, Maserati, De Tomaso, and, at one time, Lamborghini, the city is an excellent place for fans of automobiles. Modena is known worldwide for being a gastronomic heavyweight, featuring some of the world’s best DOC and IGP quality products. From one of a kind balsamic vinegar to handmade tortellini and tortelloni, to the regional Lambrusco wines and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, travelers will delight in exploring Modena via its quintessential cuisine. Modena also features the University of Modena. Founded in 1175, it is one of the oldest universities in the country and is known for its strengths in economics, medicine and law. Evidence of settlers in Modena goes back as far as third century BC. Throughout Roman, Medieval, and into modern times, Modena has been a fixture of economic and cultural importance. For several centuries, Modena was a powerful duchy under the rule of the influential d’Este family. With such a vast history, the city is filled with culture in the form of art, architecture, theater, and more. Some key sites include the Baroque Ducal Palace, the city’s Cathedral with the Torre della Ghirlandina, and Piazza Grande. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Located in the Po Valley, Modena is flanked on either side by the Secchia and Panaro rivers. About six miles to the south of the city sit the Apennine Mountains. The area is divided into four circoscrizioni, or districts – the Centro Storico (Historical Center), Crocetta (Eastern Modena), Buon Pastore (Southern Modena), and San Faustino (Western Modena). Modena’s climate is described as humid subtropical, which results in summers that are warm and winters that are often wet and cold with the possibility of snowfall. The average high temperature in the summer months is 85°F, while the average low temperature during the winter months is 30°F. WHEN IN MODENA Explore the city’s Duomo, or Cathedral. With unique architecture that evokes the Romanesque style, it is one of the area’s most amazing buildings and one of the country’s most important medieval churches. Dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the Cathedral is also known for its bell tower, Torre della Ghirlandina, which measures over 280 feet and has become a symbol of the city. Travelers to Modena enjoy climbing to the top of the tower for some of the best photo opportunities in the city. Visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum. Located near Modena’s train station, this museum celebrates the sports car inventor Enzo Ferrari. Inside, travelers will find an abundance of Ferrari memorabilia as well as a showroom of unbelievable Ferrari automobiles, which are rotated. For an extra special experience, head outside of Modena to the nearby town of Maranello, which is home to the Ferrari Museum. This is the most complete museum dedicated to the famed sports car brand, with hundreds of models on display as well as trophies, photographs, and other historic objects. It is also possible to take a virtual Ferrari test drive at the museum or take the real deal for a spin at the Autodromo of Modena race track. Enjoy the city’s classic cuisine. Modena is known for its culinary offerings. The food and wine products it exports are some of the world’s best, and the local restaurants and bars throughout the city are renowned for their excellent recipes, which utilize local ingredients and traditional recipes. For a truly unique culinary experience in Modena, visit one of the historic balsamic vinegar of Modena producers and enjoy tastings of the delicious, PGI designated vinegar. For dessert, visit one of the city’s best gelato spots which are known for all-natural, farm-to-table style gelato with unique flavors including ancient fruits as well as classics such as pistachio and almond plus seasonal specialties. Explore the Palazzo dei Musei. This stunning palace is home to some of Modena’s most amazing museums, including the one of a kind Galleria Estense. Throughout the museums, visitors will find some of the region’s best collections ranging from Roman times to modern day. Among the esteemed works exhibited here are Bust of Francesco I d’Este by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Modena Triptych by El Greco, and Pietà by Bartolomeo Bonascia. Visit the home of operatic legend Luciano Pavarotti. His villa in Modena is available for travelers to explore. While it is furnished as it was when he lived there, there are additional galleries throughout the villa containing memorabilia from his life such as photos, clothing, awards, and paintings. Take in the sightseeing in Piazza Grande – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to the city’s stunning cathedral and soaring Ghirlandina bell tower, this twelfth century architecture is a must-see when in Modena. Like much of the Emilia-Romagna region, Modena is best characterized by its delicious local cuisine and the legendary automobile manufacturers founded and headquartered here. These aspects, together with the city’s rich history, breathtaking architecture, and wealth of art, result in one of the most alluring travel destinations in Northern Italy. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Bologna

Tucked away among the hills of Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy’s most beautiful and historic cities—Bologna. Though Bologna is not always included in typical itineraries when traveling to Italy from abroad, this gorgeous, ancient city is truly one-of-a-kind. Perhaps the city’s three nicknames best summarize what makes Bologna so unique: “La dotta” means “the learned one” and is a nod to the historic University of Bologna, “La grassa” means “the fat one” and refers to the area’s amazing cuisine and excellent gastronomy, and “La rossa” means “the red one,” which signifies the uniform red coloring of local buildings and their roofs, as well as the red of local motor vehicle manufacturers Ferrari and Ducati. With sublime architecture, outstanding cuisine, and rich culture, Bologna should be at the top of your list if planning a visit to Italy. Bologna is not only the capital of Emilia-Romagna, but it is the largest city in the region as well. Greater Bologna is estimated to have a population of approximately one million people, whereas the city itself is estimated to have a population closer to three hundred ninety thousand. For many centuries this city has proved to be among the most highly populated and urban areas in Northern Italy. Bologna has a rich history that traces all the way back to 1000 BC. Throughout the centuries, the city flourished under different historical regimes including the Holy Roman Empire, the House of Bentivoglio, and the Papal States. During World War II, the city became a target due to its status as an industrial center as well as its railways that easily connected with the rest of Italy. For those reasons, the city suffered substantial damage during the 1940s with almost half of the city’s buildings being destroyed, hundreds killed, and thousands more injured. After the war, Bologna experienced a rejuvenation and restoration process that resulted in the reconstruction of the city. The historic center of the city is considered to be among the most extensive in Italy and is known for its two leaning towers (Asinelli and Garisenda), ancient churches, and porticoed streets. The center is home to Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque monuments that are highly reflective of the culture thriving within the city at different periods in time. Bologna was declared the European capital of culture in 2000 and was designated as a UNESCO City of Music in 2006. The University of Bologna is considered to be the oldest continuously operating university in the Western world, dating back to 1088. With such a long history, the University of Bologna has been associated with some of the best scientific and literary minds, including Nicolaus Copernicus, Guglielmo Marconi, Dante Alighieri, and Petrarch, among many others. As such, the University of Bologna has served as a significant point of reference for European culture throughout history. The historic campus is beautiful and boasts a large student population that gives the campus and much of the city an open and modern feel. In addition to the main campus of the University of Bologna, the city is also home to private institutions like the Bologna Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The college of music known as Conservatorio Giovanni Battista Martini and the fine arts academy Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna are also a draw for students. In keeping with this modern feel, the city is home to a number of sports teams encompassing basketball, soccer, and rugby. Bologna is sometimes called Basket City due to the achievements of its two rival basketball clubs that are historically referred to as Fortitudo and Virtus. The local soccer team, Bologna F.C. 1909, won seven Italian League Championships from the 1920s to the 1960s. Local rugby team Rugby Bologna 1928 is thought to be the oldest Italian rugby union club still in operation. With the city serving as a gathering place for students, locals, and travelers, transportation is well covered. Bologna is a key railway and motorway hub for much of Italy and it is home to the Guglielmo Marconi International Airport, which is among the top ten busiest airports in Italy. Even more important is the Bologna Centrale railway station, which serves 59 million passengers annually thanks to its central position along the east to west lines and the north to south lines. As for transportation within the city, locals primarily travel by foot, ride a bike, or take advantage of the public buses and trolleybus lines. GEOGRAPHY  Bologna is a city in the center of the Emilia-Romagna region, which is located in Northern Italy. The region is the sixth largest in Italy and is home to nine provinces. While the metropolitan area of Bologna is quite large in population, it contains roughly a quarter of the population of the entire region. Bologna sits along the edge of the Po Plain that lies at the bottom of the Apennine Mountains where the Reno and Savena River valleys meet before flowing out to the Adriatic Sea. The city is approximately 170 feet above sea level and is just outside the drainage basin of the Po River. In contrast to the rolling green hills outside the city, Bologna’s Roman heritage largely dictates the winding maze of buildings and streets inside the city limits. The roads and streets follow the grid pattern typical of Ancient Roman settlements. Of the estimated one hundred eighty medieval defense towers that once stood tall in Bologna, only twenty or so remain. The most famous of these are thought to be the Due Torri (Asienelli and Garisenda) which lean slightly and together have become a symbol of the town. CLIMATE  Much of the area experiences a semi-continental climate. The summers are mostly warm and clear with temperatures reaching a high in the upper eighties (Fahrenheit). Winters can be quite cold and cloudy with temperatures bottoming out in the low thirties (Fahrenheit). While the summers are typically dry, it is not unusual for the area to experience rain off and on during the fall, winter, and spring. Winter snowfall in Bologna is mostly rare, though it has occurred in the past. WHEN IN BOLOGNA  The interesting sights of this thriving city in Northern Italy are seemingly never ending, with an abundance of beautiful architecture, rich history, and vibrant culture. That said, there are several key monuments unique to Bologna that should not to be missed. One of Bologna’s most defining characteristics as a city is the series of porticoes found in the historical city center that span twenty-four miles. The porticoes allow passersby to walk long distances in the city while being sheltered from the environmental elements. Admired by the likes of Stendhal and many others throughout history, during your visit to Bologna be sure to take time to wander these beautiful porticoes, discovering the city’s treasures along the way. Piazza Maggiore has been the heart of Bologna for centuries and it is the city’s most renowned square. The piazza boasts impressive Medieval and Renaissance architecture, and while much of the square is home to former administrative and government buildings, it also houses one of Bologna’s top sights: the Basilica of San Petronio. High above the entrance gate of Palazzo D’Accursio, the former town hall, is a statue of Bologna native Pope Greogry XIII, which is believed to continually bless those passing by. The Palazzo del Podestà, a former seat of local government dating back to 1200, is beautiful with its many arched entryways and windows. While gorgeous during the day, Piazza Maggiore is simply stunning at nightfall when the buildings light up and glow softly against the dark sky. The northwest portion of Piazza Maggiore opens up to Piazza del Nettuno, where the Fountain of Neptune, another symbol of the city, watches over the square. This interesting statue is thirteen feet high, earning it the nickname of Il Gigante or Al Zigant in the local dialect. The statue was commissioned by the church to serve as a symbol of the power of recently elected Pope Pius IV. Local students in the area take note of a legend that says if they walk around the fountain in a counterclockwise motion twice, they will pass an important exam. Perhaps one of the most thrilling experiences is to climb the Asinelli Tower, part of the Due Torri. Asinelli Tower is located in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana and stands over three hundred fifteen feet tall. The series of wooden staircases leading to the top of the tower have almost five hundred steps. It goes without saying that good walking shoes are a must for this activity, and please take note that this activity does require advance reservations. The trip to the top of the tower is considered by visitors to be more than worth it when they see Bologna in all its glory down below. Another characteristic that makes Bologna unique is its position as gateway to the “Food Valley.” In the hills outside of Bologna, some of the most delicious culinary products in the entire country are made following centuries-old traditions, including Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Aceto Balsimico di Modena. Inside the city limits of Bologna, travelers will find countless local shops and restaurants where the city’s own best culinary offerings can be tasted, including mortadella, tagliatelle alla bolognese, tortellini, lasagne, and much more. To visit Bologna is the quintessential Italian experience. The town is constantly brimming with life and activities that make it modern and unique in so many ways. Whether you are dining on the legendary cuisine at local restaurants, touring the winding streets and uniform red-roofed structures of the city, or simply enjoying the people watching and ambiance of Piazza Maggiore, Bologna will both inspire and energize you with a love for Northern Italy. Travel Guides   The Emilia Romagna Region of Italy The Cities of Emilia Romagna, Italy

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Friuli Venezia Giulia

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region in northeastern Italy, bordering Austria, Slovenia, and the Adriatic Sea. It is a region with a rich history and culture, and is home to a variety of stunning landscapes, from the rugged mountains of the Julian Alps to the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Trieste. Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region that has something to offer everyone, from history and culture lovers to beachgoers and nature lovers.


The cities & towns of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Gorizia

On the very edge of Italy’s far northeast corner is the beautiful border city of Gorizia, which serves as a frontier between the Latin and Slavic worlds. Most locals speak both Italian and Slovenian, and border locations within the city feature signs in both languages. This quiet and unassuming town is simply beautiful, with picturesque city squares and gardens galore. Gorizia is a balm for the weary soul and a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of some larger Italian destinations. Gorizia is located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and was once the capital of the province of Gorizia. At eighty-four miles above sea level at the foot of the Julian Alps, the city is rather small with an area of only around sixteen square miles and a population of just over thirty thousand. But what Gorizia lacks in size, it makes up for in character. The city proper is quite stunning, with immaculate buildings of Austrian influenced architecture lining the sides of the main thoroughfares. Here you will find beautiful shops and quaint cafes frequented by locals and visitors alike. Despite these beautiful buildings and structures, many refer to Gorizia as the “Garden City” due to the abundance of public and private gardens that seamlessly fit into the architecture and layout of the city. Despite the somewhat rural outskirts of the town, Gorizia is an industrial city and offers multiple educational opportunities. The city’s main industries include the manufacturing of textiles, leather goods, paper, building materials, furniture, and food. Educational opportunities abound at the University of Nova Gorica, the University of Udine, and the University of Trieste, all of which have a branch or facility in Gorizia. If traveling to Gorizia today, most of its visitors would probably be surprised to hear of the city’s unique history. The town began long ago as a small village. The first documentation of the city’s existence traces back to the beginning of the eleventh century. From that point on, Gorizia experienced a turbulent history under the reign of several different rulers. During the fifteenth century, the remaining heirs of the Count of Gorizia passed away and the city’s future was hotly disputed by Venice and the Austrian Empire. After World War I, Gorizia became a part of the Kingdom of Italy. Shortly after sustaining damage in World War II, the city was placed under Allied Administration until it once again returned to Italy’s care. After the war, the border between Italy and Yugoslavia was established and ran directly through the city, essentially cutting it into two parts. During these turbulent times, Gorizia gave safe harbor to Istrian Italians from parts of the city that had been annexed to Yugoslavia. Many of these individuals then settled in Gorizia and helped to shape the city into what it has become today. As for the other half of Gorizia that was annexed to Yugoslavia, the town is now recognized as Nova Gorica. GEOGRAPHY At the bottom of the Julian Alps, which are part of the larger mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps, lies the city of Gorizia. It sits almost on the border of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region of Italy and Nova Gorica, a town in Slovenia. In the background lie the picturesque and green Gorizia Hills. In contrast to other parts of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, Gorizia is not subject to the effects of the bora wind, thanks to mountain ridges that protect the city. CLIMATE Gorizia enjoys a moderate climate most of the year, with temperatures never reaching sweltering heights and seldom dipping below freezing. Late spring, summer, and early fall enjoy warmer temperatures, with the remaining months seeing a chillier trend. Fahrenheit temperatures seldom rise far above the mid-eighties during the warmer months and the average temperature during the colder months is in the low fifties. Historically, rainfall is manageable and somewhat consistent throughout the year. WHEN IN GORIZIA The landmark of Transalpina Square is an experience that is unlikely to be duplicated anywhere else. The square is actually split down the middle, with half of it existing in the city of Gorizia and the other in the Slovene town of Nova Gorica. The shared Italian and Slovene influences are evident in the multiple names the square is known by: Piazza della Transalpina (Italian for Square of the Transalpina) and Trg Evrope (Slovene for Europe Square). At one point a border wall divided the square, but now people are allowed to move freely about the piazza and essentially have one foot in Italy and the other in Slovenia without requiring a passport, thanks to the Schengen Agreement that established the Schengen Area throughout the majority of Europe. There are several specific points of interest in the square. One is the Nova Gorica railway station at the eastern end of the piazza on the Slovenian side. Another is a metal plaque found in the middle of the square marking the place where the Gorizia border wall once stood. The square is a popular sightseeing destination and for that reason has been known to be home to musical concerts and other large events. The Gorizia Castle is one of the best places to live Gorizia’s rich history. Dating back to the eleventh century, the castle stands watch over the city and is home to the Museum of Medieval Gorizia where stunning historic artifacts are on display. Travel to the small Italian city of Gorizia and immerse yourself in the area’s history and natural beauty. As you discover the city’s unique multi-cultural aspects, this journey will be one that you will not soon forget. Travel Guides   The Friuli Venezia Giulia Region of Italy The Cities of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

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Trieste

Tucked into the far northeast corner of Italy in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, is the beautiful and thriving port city of Trieste. Trieste is the capital of this autonomous region. With a population of more than two hundred thousand living in this busy commune that is estimated to be slightly under thirty-five square miles, the bustling city is a mesmerizing maze of buildings and narrow streets that often slope down toward the Gulf of Trieste. Although originally a port and large city of the Habsburg Empire for several centuries, Trieste became part of Italy after World War I. Because of those ancient roots, much of the architecture of buildings and even local cafés can be largely reflective of the city’s Austro-Hungarian heritage. Perhaps one of the most recognizable and well-known features of the city is Piazza Unità d’Italia. As one of the largest seaside piazze in all of Italy, the square is part of the town’s historic center. The square is bordered on three sides by gorgeous and stately Austrian-style buildings and on the fourth side by the sparkling blue expanse of the Adriatic Sea. Several architecturally impressive buildings such as the City Hall, Palazzo del Governo, Palazzo Pitteri, and Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino help form the square. The area is a hub of activity during most weekdays and offers visitors an up-close view of the famous Fountain of the Four Continents, as well as several statues found throughout. Trieste faces the Gulf of Trieste and Adriatic Sea, both of which are a contributing factor to the port’s industry and success over the centuries. Sea vessels still travel those waters today and are guided by the Faro della Vittoria, one of the tallest lighthouses in the world located on the Gretta Hill at just over two hundred feet tall. To many, the city of Trieste is a utopia and refuge for serious writers. For much of the nineteenth century and beyond, writers and poets have sought the atmosphere of a small café table facing the Adriatic Sea in hopes of being struck by inspiration. Some of the renowned writers inspired by Trieste include Italo Svevo, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Umberto Saba, James Joyce, and Jan Morris. Author James Joyce is credited with writing several notable twentieth century works during his time in Trieste, and possibly at a café by the water, which may be why a special plaque can be found at one of the seaside Trieste coffeehouses with a quote from him that reads, “I came here habitually.” The city is home to the University of Trieste which was established in the early twentieth century and has grown to become a rather large educational institution with more than twenty thousand students and over one thousand professors. Also found in Trieste is the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) which is a leading graduate and post graduate school of physics, mathematics, and neuroscience. The city’s MIB School of Management Trieste is one of Italy’s top business schools. While Trieste is officially a city of Italy, due to the city’s history, a number of languages can be heard here. Both Italian and a local dialect called Triestine are commonly spoken in more urban areas. In more rural and suburban areas, Slovene, German, and even Hungarian can be heard. Transportation is well established getting to and around Trieste. When arriving and leaving Trieste, consider taking a boat to the port, taking a high-speed train, or flying via Trieste – Friuli Venezia Giulia Airport. As for touring and sightseeing in the city, think about taking a boat tour in the Gulf of Trieste, riding a bus, or even using the local tram. GEOGRAPHY The city of Trieste is built primarily into a mountainside, but the downtown or central hub of the city sits at the foot of it. Directly above the city is the Karst Plateau, which stretches from southwestern Slovenia to northeastern Italy where the Friuli Venezia Giulia region lies. The city of Trieste opens up to the Gulf of Trieste which is part of the Adriatic Sea. There are not many beaches along this coast, with the coastline dropping sharply into the water in some places. The port is home to many sea vessels that form a crucial part of exports and imports for the region. CLIMATE The majority of Trieste’s coastline typically enjoys mild and pleasant temperatures and very little change between seasons. That said, this does not account for the northeasterly wind referred to as Bora. The Bora is one of the most unique weather phenomena in the region. It is a dry and often cold north to northeast wind that comes off the Karst Plateau and whips through the city. The wind most often occurs in winter and can last for days, with wind speeds as high as eighty-seven miles per hour. In the dead of winter, the wind can make the temperature feel much colder than it actually is. Because of the strength of the Bora when it blows through, it is not uncommon to find locals and visitors making their way through the city fighting the wind by clutching their clothes about them and hanging on to stationary objects to sturdy them. The wind is so strong, some buildings in Trieste have been known to put stones on the roofs to keep the wind from peeling back the roofing tiles. WHEN IN TRIESTE The Barcolana Regatta is one of the more exciting fall events in Trieste. The event is an international sailing regatta that happens annually on the second Sunday of October. The regatta is so globally renowned that it is one of the most crowded regattas in the world. The course is approximately fifteen miles, and although the finish line placement can fluctuate, the finish is often in the waters directly across from the Piazza Unità d’Italia. It is estimated that on average more than twenty-five thousand sailors enter the race and two hundred and fifty thousand spectators watch from the coastline. A mere twenty minutes from the city of Trieste is Grotta Gigante. This giant cave is thought to be one of the largest tourist caves in the world. Located on the Italian side of the Trieste Karst, this cave contains a mesmerizing sampling of stalactites and stalagmites throughout. The main area of the cave is more than three hundred feet high and two hundred feet wide. The path can be steep, and good walking shoes are definitely recommended, but the experience is truly unparalleled. The Northern Italian city of Trieste is defined by its varied cultural heritage. As one of Italy’s most important port cities and the capital of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, Trieste offers a variety of interesting sights for travelers who are eager to venture outside of Italy’s most famous travel destinations. Travel Guides   The Friuli Venezia Giulia Region of Italy The Cities of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

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Lazio

Lazio is a region in central Italy, bordering Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the region that contains the city of Rome, the capital of Italy. Lazio is a region with a rich history and culture, and is home to a variety of stunning landscapes, from the rolling hills of the countryside to the beautiful beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Lazio is a region that has something to offer everyone, from history and culture lovers to beachgoers and wine lovers.


The cities & towns of Lazio
Pontine Isles

Located off the coast of Italy between Rome and Naples is a charming and beautiful archipelago called Isole Pontine (the Pontine Islands/Isles). Despite featuring stunning seaside views, relaxing beaches, and incredible snorkeling and scuba diving, the Pontine Islands remain a relatively undiscovered part of Italy – primarily because they can only be accessed by boat. Travelers hoping to visit the islands must first fly to either Rome or Naples and then take a ferry to the Pontine Isles. Once there, travelers will discover extraordinary views, delicious fresh seafood, unique vineyards, expansive flora and fauna, a rich history, and exciting oceanside activities – all wrapped up in an authentically Italian atmosphere. To experience Italy off the beaten path, there is no better destination than the hidden gem of the Pontine Isles. The history of the Pontine Islands goes back thousands of years with evidence of inhabitants as far back as Neolithic times and the Bronze Age. Recorded history of the area began during Roman times. Settlements on the islands were encouraged during Caesar Augustus’ reign. The Romans utilized the islands as a place to retreat during wartime as well as a place of exile for problematic citizens. The islands were abandoned during the Middle Ages and re-colonized during the eighteenth century by the Kingdom of Naples, eventually becoming a part of the Unified Kingdom of Italy. Today, six islands comprise the archipelago, and while only two of the islands are inhabited, each features its own unique qualities. Ponza The namesake of the Pontine islands, Ponza is the largest island of the archipelago. One of the two populated islands, it is the most traveled and most popular of the group. In fact, it has become a celebrity hot spot for vacationing in the Mediterranean. Covering only slightly more than 3 square miles, its small footprint manages to include rocky coasts, sandy beaches, gorgeous water, and rolling hills. It is also home to charming streets lined with quaint hotels, local artisan shops, restaurants, cafés, and Mediterranean-style homes known for their unique bright colors.   Ventotene The other populated island of the Isole Pontine, Ventotene, is a certified land and sea conservation area that is overseen by the Italian State. Home to only 300 residents, it is the ideal place for a completely laid-back vacation that feels secluded from the tourist traps of the mainland. In comparison to Ponza’s boutiques and top restaurants, Ventotene’s main sights are its natural wonders, traditional villages, and quaint lighthouses. The island has a rich history that goes all the way back to when it served as a retreat for Roman Imperial families. Palmarola A much smaller island, Palmarola is very craggy and essentially uninhabited. It is considered to be one of the most gorgeous islands in the world with its pink coral beaches, pebble shores, and beautiful natural landscape views. The buildings in Palmarola are dug into the rock – a must see for fans of unique architecture. There is a boat landing and a small restaurant right on the beach, which can be enjoyed during the summer months. Santo Stefano Like Ventotene, Santo Stefano is a land and sea conservation area. Featuring unique black rock, it is the smallest island in the Pontines. The past of this area, like the island’s rocks, is dark. Santo Stefano was the location of torture for thousands of prisoners held within a jail on the island, the remains of which can still be seen. Travelers can hike to the top of the prison and take in striking views of Mount Vesuvius. Zannone Far south from Ponza, Zannone’s appeal is its wild mystery. Uninhabited without even a restaurant or café, Zannone is a part of the National Park of Circeo. Travelers take day trips to this island from other islands in the archipelago to gaze upon the darker, more wild, natural fauna. Gavi The only known inhabitants of this miniscule island are wild rabbits. Without beaches and containing only jagged rocks and coastline, Gavi is a truly wild and untouched island with one grotto known as the Grottone di Gavi. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE The Pontine Islands are an archipelago located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the southwest coast of Italy –one of the Mediterranean’s most stunning coastlines. Formed by volcanic activity, the six islands that comprise the archipelago span around 22 nautical miles and feature a geography that includes soft sand beaches, jagged, rocky cliffs, dramatic shorelines, underwater caves, and one-of-a-kind grottoes. In fact, the geography of the Pontine Islands is so rocky and jagged, much of the archipelago is uninhabitable, with Ponza and Ventotene being the only two populated islands. Though their location in the middle of the sea leads to logistical problems for building settlements, the islands’ unique geography results in gorgeous seaside views and wonderful beach and ocean activities to enjoy. The Pontine Islands have been renowned for not only their beauty, but also their mild climate, which is perfect for visitors hoping to enjoy the wonderful scenery of the islands’ stunning natural setting. WHEN IN PONTINE ISLES Enjoy the outdoors! The Pontine Islands are perfect for travelers who wish to relax on beaches, swim in the ocean, enjoy water sports, go sailing, and explore the beauty of the surrounding waters by snorkeling or scuba diving. The oceanic world that surrounds the Pontine Islands contains amazing caves, spectacular grottoes, gorgeous coral reef beds, and historic underwater treasures like sunken ships. In addition to the natural beauty that makes the Pontine Islands so wonderful, the isles are known for a relaxed culture that encourages leisure. After a day of taking in the sea, enjoy a stroll down charming promenades, take a walk and admire the colorful homes, stop for an aperitivo at local bars, or settle in for a delicious meal of freshly caught seafood at one of the local restaurants. The Pontine Isles, located off of Italy’s southern coast, offer a vacation at a slower pace compared to much of the mainland. The six charming islands are the perfect place to unwind far away from the bustle of daily life.Travel Guides   The Lazio Region of Italy The Cities of Lazio, Italy

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Rome

Rome offers a unique fusion of ancient, historical sites, masterful artistic wonders, and lively modern life, making Italy’s capital city one of the world’s crown jewels. At one time referred to as caput mundi (World Capital), due to its influence as a major world power in ancient times, Rome continues to steal the hearts of millions around the world. Attracting 12.6 million tourists in 2013, it is the rich culture and unparalleled history of the city that compels so many to come and explore the streets, museums, ruins, and local establishments. Boasting 280 fountains and more than 900 churches in 35 districts – each distinctive with their own culture, culinary flavors, and stunning architecture – Rome is teeming with intriguing experiences and activities to enjoy. From visiting iconic locales such as the Colosseum – one of the World’s seven wonders – the Pantheon, or the Roman Forum, to simply enjoying an aperitif at one of the city’s charming bistros, bars, or trattorias, visitors will find themselves in awe and inspired by the culture and vibrancy of Rome. ROME GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Located in Central Italy in the Lazio region, Rome is home to a vast variety of landscapes ranging from bustling cities to rural expanses, thanks to its large area of 496 square miles – making it the largest city in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe. The city grew to be the thriving locale that it is now by its origins as a fast-growing civilization of the past. Rome’s high cultural status at the time could be attributed to the geography of the land, which gave the people of the ancient city many advantages. Originally Rome was built on the “Seven Hills,” a term used to describe the Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, Caelian, Aventine and Palatine hills that surrounded the area. Created by volcanic activity by the Colli Albani, these hills were helpful in providing a strong, natural defense barrier to outside military attacks. The city’s location on the banks of the Tiber River – the third longest river in Italy – gave locals access to water and provided ample trade routes. Modern day Rome is now crossed by a tributary of the Tiber – the Aniene. The natural benefits of the city’s geography helped form the Rome that we know today. As for Rome’s climate, it’s nearly central location in Italy gives the area a temperate climate throughout most of the year. Technically classified as a Mediterranean climate, Rome has cool, wet winters and warm to hot, dry summers with rare fluctuations of extreme temperature and precipitation changes. Spring in Rome can have additional precipitation and the occasional cold front, while fall tends to be temperate and sunny. In general, the climate of Rome is ideal for outdoor sightseeing and experiencing the history of the city. WHEN IN ROME As one of the world’s most traveled cities, there are a near endless list of activities to choose from. Between admiring the architecture, tasting the food, and immersing in the culture, Rome promises to fill and capture the heart of every person. First and foremost, plan a wide variety of experiences in “Old Rome.” This section of Rome is the oldest in the city, and while there are a variety of modern buildings in place, parts of the area remain unchanged since the days of Ancient Rome. Here are where travelers will find the quintessential sites such as the historic Colosseum, the Imperial Forums, the Constantine Arch, the Pantheon, and so much more. The way the ancient sections of the city exist symbiotically with modern architecture is a testament to how the people of Rome honor and preserve the long history of their home. These ancient and historic parts of Rome also prove truth to the nickname that Rome is an “Eternal City,” forever holding on to its origins and legacy. For a classic and memorable Roman experience, visit the famed Trevi Fountain. Designed by architect Nicola Salvi, this fountain is the city’s largest Baroque style fountain and attracts visitors from around the world. Completed in 1762, there have been many legends, superstitions, and customs formed regarding tossing coins into the fountain. The most famous of which is the legend that if visitors turn their back to the fountain, place their right hand on their left shoulder, and toss a coin into the water, they are guaranteed to one day return to the Eternal City. So many visitors toss coins into the fountain, it is said that each night 3,000 Euros are collected from the basin – averaging to over 1 million Euro per year. The money is donated to Caritas, a Catholic charity that provides helpful services to needy local families. To experience life among the locals, visit Trastevere and Piazza Navona. Both of these areas are lively and full of Romans. Trastevere is a charming area with a medieval feel and a bustling nightlife. It is the perfect destination for having an aperitif at one of the many amazing restaurants or bars. Piazza Navona is a popular square in Rome, where one will find a large mix of locals, tourists, street performers, and artists. While there, guests can relax, mingle with locals, or simply people-watch one of Rome’s most important cultural hubs. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, a visit to Vatican City is largely considered a must-do when in Rome. While it is the smallest state in the world, it is likely one of the most beautiful. With stunning architectural and historical masterpieces such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum – home to countless pieces of art curated by the Popes – the Vatican State is as charming and awe inspiring for art and architecture lovers as it is for the faithful. After a long day of seeing the sites and exploring the city, take a dinner break and immerse in the delectable culinary culture of Rome. The Romans don’t believe in fast food – the closest thing available is street food, like a porchetta sandwich or suppli’ al telefono (rice croquettes) – so prepare to have every meal be an experience to savor and delight in. Whether dining on rich pasta carbonara, traditional amatriciana, or unique saltimbocca, Romans take their time while eating and treat mealtime as a moment to pause, reflect, and connect with others. No matter where one chooses to go in Rome, or how one chooses to spend their time there, the Eternal City is the ideal place to practice the Italian tradition of mindfulness. Known in Italy as il dolce far niente, the ability to stay present and enjoy idle time by admiring and taking in one’s surroundings is key to enjoying all the beauty and wonder Rome has to offer. From stunning architecture, to ancient ruins, to immersing oneself in the local culture, it is no secret as to why Rome is one of the world’s most cherished and traveled cities. Travel Guides   Lazio Region of Italy   Cities of Lazio  

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Liguria

Liguria is a region in northwestern Italy that borders the Mediterranean Sea. It is known for its beautiful coastline, delicious food, and friendly people. The region is divided into two provinces: Genoa and La Spezia. The capital of Liguria is Genoa, a major port city with a rich history. Other major cities in Liguria include La Spezia, Savona, and Imperia. Liguria has a stunning coastline and is home to the Cinque Terre, a group of five picturesque villages that are perched on the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.


The cities & towns of Liguria
Rapallo

Located on the Tigullio Gulf of the Ligurian Sea, the city of Rapallo is a part of the region of Liguria in Northern Italy. Located between Portofino and Chiavari, it is one of the many hot-spot destinations on the famed Italian Riviera. This seaside resort is home to about 30,000 locals and is the Italian Riviera destination of choice for those looking to escape their hometowns during the summer. The natural beauty of Rapallo is the main draw of the town. It is a part of the Parco Naturale Regionale di Portofino (Portofino Regional National Park) and boasts gorgeous sea views, palm tree-lined walkways, and a backdrop of green hills and mountains in which travelers can walk and hike. The spirit of the city is laid-back and relaxed, reflective of Rapallo’s identity as a vacation destination for locals. A walk along the oceanside promenade will reveal Italians and travelers strolling in the sunshine simply enjoying the views. In the historic city center, the heart of the action in Rapallo, people can be seen enjoying gelato, shopping in local food and souvenir shops, and sampling local cuisine like focaccia bread and seafood at nearby restaurants. Despite modern advancements which have occurred all around Rapallo at its outskirts and along the rest of the Italian Riviera, the city is still very much rooted in its past of being a simple oceanside village with a long history. The history of Rapallo begins during Roman times, and, throughout the city’s existence, it has remained an important location along the coast of Italy. Rapallo’s position on the water made it the location of many important naval battles and the city’s medieval castle, walls, and gates made it an effective stronghold during wartime. The city was autonomous until it came under the rule of nearby Genova. Afterward, it was taken over by the Savoy family before joining the Unified Kingdom of Italy during the nineteenth century. Throughout history, artists and writers like W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and Max Beerbohm all credited Rapallo’s beauty and relaxed spirit with contributing to their artistic inspiration. Even today, the historic castle at the end of the town’s seaside promenade, the palm trees which flank the sparkling sea, and the colorful villas on the hills provide a palpable historic and poetic energy. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Located in the Italian Riviera, the climate of Rapallo is moderate, with pleasant temperatures throughout most of the year. Winters are relatively mild but can reach below freezing temperatures. Light snowfall during the winter is not uncommon in the area. Rain can be expected in spring and autumn with relatively high humidity levels throughout the rest of the year. Northern winds can be common in the area, but most of the villas in the city are built in such a way that the hills protect them from the harshest winds. The pleasant climate of Rapallo is perfect for its seaside geography, which is the main draw for travelers to the city. Located directly on the Tigullio Gulf, the city boasts stunning sea views. In addition, the nearby hills allow travelers to enjoy hiking, trekking, and other outdoor activities. WHEN IN RAPALLO Rapallo is known for being a wonderful hub from which to enjoy the other cities along the famed Italian Riviera. A more traditional, old-style locale, Rapallo is often more modest compared to other nearby cities like Portofino or Genoa. Yet it features many of the aspects of the Italian Riviera that travelers are looking for – oceanside views, unique architecture, delicious seafood, and loads of Italian culture. Travelers can visit other nearby cities from Rapallo via railway, boat, or footpaths. After hiking the villages of Cinque Terre, visiting the famed Genoa aquarium, or spending time in the glitzy streets and boutiques of Portofino, Rapallo can be a welcome reprieve from the more tourist-filled locales on the Italian Riviera. The historic center, medieval architecture, and old-style streets make visiting Rapallo a unique journey through the town’s history. A once-Roman settlement, the city features a rich background that is evident throughout its sites. One of the most iconic is the Castello sul Mare, or Castle on the Sea. The stunning fortress is located just off the coast of Rapallo. Dating back to the middle of the sixteenth century, the castle was built to defend the city from pirate attacks, and today it continues to keep watch over the sea. For lovers of art and history, there are plenty of other monuments to enjoy. From various churches, such as the Basilica of Saints Gervasius and Protasius and the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, to religious celebrations to the famous Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montallegro, there are a variety of religious monuments and spiritually significant sites to take in throughout the city. Also of note is the seventeenth century Castello di Punta Pagana as well as historic towers, such as Fieschi Tower and the Civic Tower, and Hannibal’s Bridge, which dates back to 218 BC. Take a stroll on the famous promenade. Facing the sea, the Lungomare Vittorio Veneto promenade stretches alongside the coast and features a variety of shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars at which travelers can take a break. Taste the local cuisine. Located along the sea, Rapallo is known for its fresh seafood, which makes an appearance in many of the local dishes. Also found in Ligurian cuisine is an abundance of fresh, handmade pasta, pesto sauce, focaccia bread (a staple of the region), and, of course, gelato. Foodies will enjoy stopping in at the local, open-air vegetable market. Local farmers sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as homemade sauces and pasta. Located in the heart of the Italian Riviera, the charming city of Rapallo beckons travelers seeking a slower-paced vacation. After taking in the historic churches, castles, and other monuments, visitors can soak up the Italian sun at the beach.Travel Guides   The Liguria Region of Italy The Cities of Liguria, Italy

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Genoa

Historically, Genoa experienced times of prosperity as well as hardships. The Ligurian city struggled following the fall of the Roman Empire, yet eventually rebounded to become a source of naval power and a leader in maritime commerce. The economic strength of the Genoese was a result of the extensive international trade that took place out of Genoa’s harbor. While the city saw competition amongst neighboring ports of the North Sea, the local merchants and leaders fought to protect the solid economy and wealth of its people. The Genoese Navy was a force to be reckoned with and became known for its unwavering presence in the Mediterranean. As a result, the Republic of Genoa was among the most powerful Maritime Republics in the Mediterranean for approximately seven centuries. Nicknamed “The Proud One” (la Superba), modern Genoa remains a product of its past. The beauty of its landscape is something to be seen, while the history will always be evident in the old port, remaining relics, and one of the largest historical centers in all of Europe. Located in Northwestern Italy, Genoa is the capital and largest city in the region of Liguria. It is situated on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which gave the city its prominence among other ports sharing those waters throughout history. It is one of the most active ports in all of Italy, even today. Genoa has long been a hub for the maritime industry with a large part of the area’s economic success coming from foreign trade and shipbuilding. The success of the local port brought a substantial flow of both people and freight – providing the city with much of its income. This continues to be true. While goods such as crude oil, grain, and coal were most commonly imported, items such as olive oil, wine, and cotton were exported to foreign markets. Genoa’s centuries of naval supremacy brought an impressive wealth of cultural treasures to the city. Highly renowned for its art, historic palaces, music, and museums, Genoa was designated as the European Capital of Culture for the year 2004. The city is also home to one of the largest universities in Italy, the University of Genoa, and it is the birthplace of several influential figures including Christopher Columbus, Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Renzo Piano. Genoa’s location is perfect for a quick day trip to other towns thanks to its central location, which allows the city to serve as a gateway to the best of the Liguria region. Countless remarkable sites are only a short train or ferry ride away, such as the Cinque Terre. Consisting of five quaint villages positioned on the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre area offers numerous scenic footpaths overlooking the water. Other stunning nearby escapes include the fishing village of Camogli and the San Fruttuoso Abbey, glitzy Portofino, and the small town of Recco, which is renowned for its unique stracchino cheese filled focaccia flatbread. For international travels, the best way to reach Genoa is by arriving at the international airport, Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport, which serves as a hub for the Liguria region as well as southern Piedmont. Once in Genoa, the best way to explore the historical city center is on foot. Due to the city’s vast extension along the coast, it is home to 26 railway stations. The railway network connects Genoa to each end of the Liguria region, allowing for quick day excursions to stunning seaside destinations. For longer excursions, Genoa’s port is a hub for cruise lines and ferries. From Genoa, it is possible to reach both the islands of Corsica and Sardinia by ferry. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   The city of Genoa is located right in the middle of the Italian Riviera on the Gulf of Genoa along the Mediterranean coast. It ranks as the sixth largest city in Italy and covers approximately 92 square miles. The area is divided into nine districts with over 30 distinct neighborhoods. Wedged between the coastal plains and the rocky terrain of the western Apennine Mountain range, the city of Genoa stretches over roughly 20 miles of coastline. The climate of Genoa is considered Mediterranean due to its sunny and hot summer months and the rainy and mild conditions of winter. The city can be quite windy, especially during the winter months of December to February. Rainfall is typical during the spring and fall, and while annual snowfall is expected, it typically occurs in small amounts. WHEN IN GENOA The city’s historical center, filled with characteristic narrow streets known as carruggi, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. It consists of the major streets (Strade Nuove) constructed by the Genoese aristocracy during the peak of the Republic of Genoa in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as a series of noble Renaissance and Baroque palaces – 42 in all. The palaces were once part of a Rolli (List) System, which provided lodging to distinguished guests on diplomatic visits to the Republic of Genoa. As part of the system, the guests would be lodged in one of the private palaces on behalf of the government. Today, travelers to Genoa can visit all of the palaces during Rolli Days, an initiative by the city of Genoa to promote the cultural value of the historic buildings. On specified days of the year (usually certain weekends in April and October), the palaces, both public and private, are open to the public. To support the initiative, guided itineraries are organized and led by scholars from the University of Genoa who explain the historic and cultural context of the buildings. No matter what time of year you visit Genoa, the city center is the ideal location for travelers to take in the historic ambiance the city has to offer. Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Reale, and Palazzo Bianco are among the most notable palaces – and definite must-sees during any visit to Genoa. Today, Via Garibaldi is the site of several Palazzi dei Rolli (Palazzo Tursi, Palazzo Rosso, and Palazzo Bianco), which can be visited as one museum, as well as the city’s government. As you make your way through the carruggi, do not miss the two symbols of Genoa: the Lanterna, a 384-foot lighthouse that watches over the port, and the elegant fountain located in Piazza De Ferrari, the main city square. In a city filled with historic churches, the grandest is the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, a Gothic church completed in the fourteenth century, known for its distinct striped façade. So much of the city’s history is defined by its coastal location and the impact of the port on the local residents and the economy. Therefore, in order for visitors to truly have a glimpse into what made the city what it is today, the old port is a must-see. Porto Antico was the city’s connection to international trade and tourism. After a period of redevelopment and restoration led by famed architect — and Genoa native — Renzo Piano, today the port is considered the beating heart of the city’s cultural life. It is an ideal place to take a stroll through the narrow alleys and admire a bit of history and scenic beauty. While exploring the old port, visitors should experience the Aquarium — one of the largest in Europe. Originally opened for the Genoa Expo in 1992, it offers visitors of all ages an opportunity to see a large population of sea life. There are engaging exhibits and frequent educational events focused on aquatic habitats and conservation. The treasures of the “old port” don’t stop there. Visitors can watch the many boats docked at the harbor, admire scenic views of the city and harbor from the Bigo panoramic observation deck, and marvel at the Gothic and Renaissance architecture of Palazzo San Giorgio. Beneath Genoa’s industrial exterior, curious travelers will uncover a treasure trove of culture and beauty in the form of historic palaces, eminent museums, and striking coastal scenery. Any trip to the Italian Riviera should include a few days in Genoa for an unforgettable historical and cultural immersion. Travel Guides   The Liguria Region of Italy The Cities of Liguria, Italy

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Portofino

On the Italian Riviera and located in the metropolitan city of Genoa rests the picturesque harbor town and commune of Portofino. Home to a population of only a few hundred permanent residents, this tiny town has made itself famous for its beautiful harbor filled with stunning, pastel-painted buildings, as well as its tendency to attract famous and artistic people. Portofino has a long and storied history dating back to the era of the Roman Empire. In the early first century AD, Pliny the Elder dubbed the settlement “Portus Delphini,” or “Port of the Dolphin” in reference to the many dolphins that swam around the shores of the Ligurian coast. Like many towns in Italy, Portofino changed hands several times over the centuries. In the early twelfth century, it was owned by the Bobbio Abbey of Saint Columbanus, and in the early thirteenth century it was traded to the Republic of Genoa. In the early 1400s, the town was traded to the Florentines by Charles VI of France, but eventually was returned. And in the 1500s, it was a feifdom of multiple affluent families. In the early nineteenth century it came under the dominion of the Kingdom of Sardinia, before finally becoming a part of the Kingdom of Italy during the Italian Unification in 1861. In the late nineteenth century, Portofino became a premiere tourist destination to the rich and famous of Victorian England, and eventually other aristocratic travelers of Northern Europe. It became trendy for foreign visitors to build vacation homes in the town, and eventually tourism would replace fishing as Portofino’s primary industry. Portofino would see yet another spike in activity in the early-to-mid 1900s, when it was featured in multiple works of literature, music, and film. In the 1950s especially, many film directors took to using Portofino as a backdrop for their movies, and this cemented Portofino’s reputation as a glamorous destination favored by the jet set. GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE Portofino rests on the Italian Riviera, also known as the Ligurian Riviera after the region in which it’s located. This narrow strip of coastal land is nestled between the Ligurian Sea and two different mountain ranges: the Apennine Mountains and the Southwestern Alps, also known as the Maritime Alps. Located to the east of the greater metropolitan area of Genoa, Portofino rests in the part of the Italian Riviera known as the “Riviera di Levante,” or “The Coast of the Rising Sun.” Portofino has a quintessential Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers. Separated from the rest of Northern Italy (such as the Po River Valley) by the Apennines, the Ligurian Riviera enjoys far milder weather and temperatures than other cities of similar latitudes. Spring in Portofino is mild and warm, but can also be rainy. As the summer months approach, however, the weather gets hotter and sunnier. In autumn, the weather is mild and humid, with warm temperatures and mostly sunny days, though occasionally there are periods of increased rain and gusty winds. In the winter, the area tends to get foggy and rainy, but the temperatures remain mostly mild. WHEN IN PORTOFINO The most famous attraction in Portofino is the famous “Christ of the Abyss” statue in the San Fruttuoso Bay between Portofino and the town of Camogli. This sunken bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ created by artist Guido Galletti in 1954 can be viewed by renting a boat or hiring a guide before scuba diving to the location. Also in the waters around Portofino live an abundance of red coral reefs that are home to hundreds upon hundreds of species of fish and other sea life that can be viewed while diving. One excellent dive site is Isuela Rock, which is Portofino’s Marine Natural Reserve. The beauty of this area is legendary and the rock itself is home to countless examples of marine life including fish, eels, shellfish, coral, and sea sponges. However, perhaps the best thing one can do when visiting Portofino is simply relax. Portofino is not as much a town one finds things to do in, as it is a place to sit by the picturesque harbor with a drink in hand and let one’s troubles slip away. Travelers can find any number of great eateries and boutiques of all sorts in the town’s famous piazzetta, located in a small nook just off the coast. Shopping is popular in Portofino, especially for people who are into fashion. The number of high-end boutiques one can find while exploring the streets is simply staggering, including such well-known brands as Armani, Gucci, Emilio Pucci, Ferragamo and Zegna. There are also many local boutiques that sell unique accessories and jewelry. Of course, it is not all shopping and relaxation. For those that wish to see the sights, Portofino has plenty to offer. Portofino’s famous lighthouse is especially interesting and offers spectacular views. Be sure to enjoy an aperitivo at one of the town’s charming bars. One can also visit the famous Paraggi Beach, renowned for its clear water and sandy shore, and enjoy a relaxing day out on the sand and playing in the surf. For those more interested in history, one can visit the Abbey of San Fruttuoso or the Castello Brown. And for those interested in art and architecture, one should not miss the tenth century Romanesque Church of San Martino as well as the Church of San Giorgio, which was destroyed during World War II, but was subsequently rebuilt to match its eighteenth-century appearance. Portofino is a magical place where the beauty of the Italian Riviera comes to life. The small town offers its fair share of sightseeing, yet the true allure lies in the breathtaking scenery and relaxing atmosphere. When visiting the Liguria region, be sure to plan a day or two to immerse yourself in the captivating spirit of Portofino. Travel Guides The Liguria Region Of Italy The Cities Of Liguria  

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Cinque Terre

The Italian area called the Cinque Terre has a known history dating back to the 11th century. While often fighting off pirates in those early years, villages were developed one by one as a part of the Republic of Genoa. The village of Monterosso was first, followed by Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Corniglia. Today each of the “five lands,” as the name Cinque Terre translates, has its own unique landscape and contributes to what makes the area a highly desired destination. The most distinct characteristic of these villages would be the miles and miles of terraces that hug the cliffs. This painstaking endeavor, built up over centuries of constant care, is the perfect example of man adapting to nature with the ultimate goal of preservation. From the cuisine and culture to the architecture and magnificent views, this mountainside retreat has something for everyone. Cinque Terre’s chain of quaint villages can be found in the Northern Italian region of Liguria between Genoa and La Spezia. Its sandy beaches, climbing terraces, and miles of connecting trails sit on the coastline overlooking the Ligurian Sea, along the Italian Riviera. The secluded setting of the Cinque Terre adds to the calm ambiance the villages have to offer its locals and visitors alike. Away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities in Italy, the Cinque Terre area is best reached by train. Cars are not used within the villages, and each village has its own train station, allowing transport between the villages themselves as well larger cities such as Genoa and Milan. The villages can also be reached by sea via ferry or private yacht. In the late 1990s, the Cinque Terre villages were recognized not only as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also as National Parks and Protected Marine Areas. These recognitions ensure the area will maintain its cultural heritage, healthy sea life population and natural beauty respectively. From the beginning of their history, the landscape and people of the Cinque Terre have seen their share of ups and downs. While they have suffered devastating natural disasters and early attacks by pirates, the area has also seen the construction of the railroads and overall growth in crops and other natural resources. Despite the obstacles they have had to overcome, each of the five villages has its own historic elements and growth that continues today. • Monterosso, meaning “red mountain” is the largest, most northern village of the five. It is divided into the old town and the new, modern part of town with the Aurora Tower, a sixteenth century guard tower, and pedestrian tunnel running in between. The older portion is home to colorful terraced homes, a large sand beach, and the ruins of castles and watchtowers. The newer side, known as Fegina, is the village’s hub of tourist activity with hotels, restaurants, a beach, and shops. • Vernazza is known for its breathtaking atmosphere and is recognized as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. Its terraced groves of olive trees overlook the village’s main street and Piazza Marconi. The historic Doria Castle, which dates back to the 11th century, watches over the town. Vernazza is home to Cinque Terre’s only natural harbor, providing a means for ships to arrive and depart for Genoa and international destinations. This accessibility has provided the village with prosperity and power for centuries, which is evident in the visual details and commercial activity that still exist today. • Corniglia, the middle village, is smaller in size and offers a calmer atmosphere than the others. It is located 328 feet above sea level and is the only village without direct access to the Ligurian Sea below. While its lack of coastal land does limit the ways in which to access the village, Corniglia offers unique routes by foot. A more than 350 step stairway, called Lardarina, connects the village center to its train station, providing access to the other villages. With shorter homes similar to those found further inland, the village is bordered by terraces and thriving vineyards. • Manarola is said to date back to the 13th century. Its terraces of vineyards, olive, chestnut, and lemon trees that were introduced to the area continue to be cultivated today. The grapes grown there are used to make Cinque Terre’s Sciachetrà wine. Like Vernazza, Manarola is recognized as one of the most beautiful Italian villages. Its brightly colored homes, quaint village square, and restaurants and shops can be found along the rolling highs and lows of the landscape. While there is not a beach in this village, a small port and deep water swimming are available on the waterfront. Manarola is especially breathtaking during December and January as a large nativity scene consisting of over 300 characters constructed of repurposed materials is displayed and illuminated across the hillside. • Riomaggiore can be found on Cinque Terre’s southern end. Located in the valley of Rivus Maior, the village was built atop a river, which now runs under the main road through town. The railroad tracks divide the area into two sections. The lower portion borders the sea and has a fishing village atmosphere. The rocky beach and seafood cafes are a draw for visitors. With little flat land, the upper portion is geared towards agriculture with rising terraces full of olive trees and vineyards. Riomaggiore is home to the well-known walking path known as Via dell’Amore, or “Street of Love.” The romantic trail runs along the coastline between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Though this particular path closed for renovations following a 2012 landslide, it is scheduled to reopen in 2023. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   The five fishing villages that make up Cinque Terre are located in Northern Italy in a subtle coastal cove between the Mediterranean and the rugged hills that overlook the sea. They run north and south along the Italian Riviera between the cities of Genoa and La Spezia. The villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore make up the Cinque Terre National Park and cover roughly 15 square miles, or 39 square kilometers. There are approximately 1.25 miles between each village, with a total distance of about 6 miles from end to end, if measured in a straight line. Due to its surrounding terrain, the climate of the Cinque Terre is on the mild side with minimal variations in temperature throughout the year. The steep cliffs shelter the area from high northern winds, while the coastline provides relief during the winter months. Typically sunny and warm, the villages experience regular rainfall during the spring and fall. Temperatures peak during July and August, bringing dryness to the landscape, which is helpful in grape development. ONLY IN CINQUE TERRE While the Cinque Terre are small in area, must-see sites abound for visitors of all ages. From the stunning footpaths and coastal views to the timeless architecture and village squares, there are many aspects of these secluded Italian gems that lure travelers to the area for the majority of the year. A historical element present in each of the villages would be the well-preserved churches dating as far back as the 13th century. A majority of the churches still standing today have a gothic style to them with facades featuring marble, rose windows, and plenty of symbolism. Churches that should not be missed include the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Riomaggiore), the Church of San Pietro (Corniglia), the Church of Santa Margarita di Aniochia (Vernazza), and the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Monterosso). The numerous ancient footpaths throughout Cinque Terre are a draw for many visitors. With other means of travel at a minimum, the trails not only provide access to each village, they also offer spectacular views of the majestic coast and colorful architecture. Each village prides itself on a sanctuary walk that leads to ancient religious havens located on the elevated cliffs. Historically utilized for Catholic penance, they now offer opportunities for scenic views of the villages and sea below. Although accessible by car, these sanctuary walks are most enjoyable on foot for a step back in history, full immersion in the spirituality and culture, and a deep appreciation of each village’s natural beauty. The sanctuary jewels in each municipality are the Nostra Signora della Salute Sanctuary in Manarola; the Nostra Signora delle Grazie in Corniglia; the Nostra Signora di Montenero Sanctuary in Riomaggiore; the Nostra Signora di Reggio in Vernazza; and the Nostra Signora di Soviore in Monterosso al Mare. The romantic Via dell’Amore is one section of the larger Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, which is 7.5 miles long and connects all of the Cinque Terre villages. The path is favored among visitors because it is fairly easy with mostly flat terrain and it offers plenty of stunning panoramic views. The Sentiero del Crinale n. 1 or Sentiero Rosso, Ridge Trail #1 or Red Trail, is well known among the more experienced. Extending from Portovenere to Levanto and sweeping over the five villages, this former mule track is nearly 25 miles in length. Following the coastal ridge, the full path can take up to 12 hours to traverse from start to finish. Due to its length, the path is best approached in portions with many taking advantage of the rest stops located along the path. The village of Monterosso is home to the statue Il Gigante, or The Giant. This 45-foot-tall sculpture of Neptune, the god of the sea was constructed in 1910 by two men – Arrigo Menerbi, a sculptor and Francesco Levacher, an architect. The immense concrete depiction is located between the village’s harbor and Fegina beach next to the terrace of a historic villa. Though bombing during World War II and decades of rough seas have greatly damaged the imposing statue, it continues to stand as one of Monterosso’s fascinating landmarks. The Cinque Terre area of Liguria is one of Northern Italy’s most popular destinations, winning the hearts of visitors with its extraordinary charm, rich history, natural beauty, and exquisite art and architecture. The discovery of Cinque Terre’s soul is an astounding journey through time and scenery. Travel Guides   The Liguria Region of Italy The Cities of Liguria, Italy

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Lombardy

Lombardy is a region in northern Italy that is home to the cities of Milan, Bergamo, and Brescia. It is the most populous and industrialized region in Italy, and is also a major center for fashion, design, and finance. Lombardy is known for its beautiful lakes, such as Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, as well as its snow-capped mountains, such as the Alps. The region is also home to a number of historical and cultural attractions, such as the Duomo di Milano, the Castello Sforzesco, and the Pinacoteca di Brera. Lombardy is a vibrant and exciting region that has something to offer everyone.


The cities & towns of Lombardy
Pavia

Pavia is a city in Northern Italy known for being a business and university town and is located approximately 25 miles south of Milan. Nestled alongside the banks of the Ticino River, not far from where it crosses paths with the famous Po River, Pavia is home to just over 70,000 people. The city’s fame stems from its history as the capital of the Lombard kingdom, a title which Pavia held from 572 to 774 AD. Though the days of Pavia being a central political power are over, the history of its glory days can be experienced in many ways today. Travelers can view ancient artwork, architecture, and relics of times gone by throughout the city, which features an ancient Roman-style street plan. The city center is car-free so travelers can easily explore it on foot. The city is also home to a theater, Teatro Fraschini, which was built in 1700, where travelers can view opera, ballet, and orchestral performances. The economy in Pavia is based heavily in textiles, a booming industry for much of Northern Italy. Specifically, the city of Pavia is renowned for its hat making. Pavia also contributes to the metallurgical and engineering industries of Italy. Due to the geography of the area, which features lush lands ideal for growing produce, Pavia is also known for its wine production. It is one of Italy’s top winemaking areas and it is the biggest producer of Pinot Noir in the country. Other agricultural products Pavia produces include rice, dairy products, and grains. The culture and atmosphere of the city are majorly influenced by its identity as a college town. Pavia is home to the University of Pavia, an ancient, historic university that was established in 1361. There are also additional educational facilities throughout the city, including other universities and academies. Despite many students commuting in from nearby Milan and surrounding areas, the universities’ students make up a large portion of Pavia’s population, giving the city a youthfulness and vitality, which compliments its rich, vast history. Pavia was first founded by the Romans but made its biggest impact when it became the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards in 572. In 774, Charlemagne crowned himself the King of Italy in Pavia, ending the rule of the Lombards in the area. Throughout the next few centuries, multiple kings would be crowned in Pavia, including Berengar and Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. The city was a major rival of Milan for many years until it surrendered to Milan in 1359. Throughout this history, Pavia’s most notable structures were built, earning Pavia the title of the “City of a Hundred Towers.” Today, approximately 60 of these towers remain in some form, with approximately six still fully intact. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE The city of Pavia is located in Northwestern Italy in the province of the same name. The provinces that surround Pavia are Milan and Lodi to the north, Piacenza to the southeast, and Alessandria to the southwest. Pavia’s climate is temperate and warm, with a good amount of precipitation throughout the year. Travelers can expect some humidity or rain, even in drier months. Approximately two and a half miles south of the city of Pavia is the confluence of the Ticino and Po Rivers. Much of the province of Pavia is flat. The combination of plains, a moderately warm climate with sufficient precipitation, and land that is enriched by the two rivers makes the province an excellent location for agriculture. WHEN IN PAVIA Visit the Certosa, a Carthusian Monastery located approximately five miles north of the city center. One of Pavia’s biggest draws, the Certosa is a monastery and complex that was built in 1396. It is known for being one of Italy’s largest and most important monasteries, as well as for its tremendous Gothic and Renaissance style architecture. It also holds a vast collection of artwork and houses tombs that serve as the final resting place for a variety of important figures of history, such as former Dukes and Duchesses of Milan, including Ludovico Sforza, Beatrice d’Este, and Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Visit the Romanesque Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel D’Oro. Italian for “Saint Peter in the Golden Sky,” this basilica is the home of the tomb of St. Augustine, the most renowned convert of Christianity. Throughout the basilica are stunning architectural elements such as gold-leaf mosaics, sandstone quoins, and more. See Castello Visconteo, a fourteenth-century fortress. This castle is home to the Museo Civico (Municipal Museum), which contains a sculpture gallery filled with Romanesque and Renaissance sculptures, a collection of archaeological relics, and a photo gallery with works by artists such as Correggio, Bellini, and more. Spend time at the historic University of Pavia. The medieval center is dominated by the University, which was founded as school in the nineteenth century and officially became a university in 1361. Christopher Columbus was a student here, while Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery, was a lecturer at the university. Enjoy unique Pavese cuisine such as Pavese soup (a delicious soup made of broth, eggs, and cheese), one of a kind duck and goose salame, and stand-out DOC wines such as Pinot Noir, Moscato, and Pinot Grigio. Go sightseeing to view any one of Pavia’s many Renaissance churches. Some of the top churches include the Cathedral of Pavia, San Michele Maggiore, San Francesco d’Assisi, San Teodoro, and more. These religious sites are filled with history and are representative of the area’s unique architectural styles. The charming city of Pavia is typically associated with its most renowned site, the Certosa of Pavia. In addition to this famous monastery complex, travelers to Pavia should be sure to take in the stunning medieval towers and enjoy the rich cuisine of the area. Travel Guides The Lombardy Region of Italy The Cities of Lombardy, Italy

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Bergamo

Approximately 30 miles northeast from the world-renowned Northern Italian city of Milan, sits the popularly visited and gorgeous city of Bergamo. This city is tucked into surrounding hills that lie at the beginnings of the Bergamo Alps and offer a breathtaking backdrop for many magnificent sightseeing stops. Bergamo both charms and delights those who wander here with beautiful architecture, stunning landscapes, and a surprisingly luxurious small-town feel. Located in the alpine Lombardy region of Italy, Bergamo is beloved by its more than one hundred thousand residents and steady stream of visitors alike. Despite its size, the city has an enchanting quintessential Italian vibe that seems to slow your pace and open your eyes to the beauty that abounds all around you. This ancient city with roots tracing all the way back to 49 BC is divided into two unique sections: Città Alta which is the Upper Town and Città Bassa which is the Lower Town. Although both areas are part of the city of Bergamo, they differ in their composition. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Città Alta, other than the hill it sits perched upon, are the sixteenth century Venetian defensive walls that surround it. These defensive walls built by the Republic of Venice have been awarded the distinction of being a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. This older part of the city features narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways and attractive open-air squares. Much of the traffic in this part of the city is pedestrian. When visiting here, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to soak up the culture and beauty of this area as it is not to be rushed. Città Bassa is far more modern in appearance than its counterpart, but is still filled with a sense of tradition the city is known for. This part of the city flourished greatly just after World War II and is now highly residential with an estimated twenty-five neighborhoods comprising it. The Lower Town features wide main roads very reminiscent of large cities that make traveling by vehicle quite easy. Bergamo’s region of Lombardy is considered to be one of the most industrialized regions in the area and is responsible for producing an estimated quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. In general, the economy here centers on banking, industry, and retail. With Bergamo’s region being such a hub for industry, it is no surprise that many of the programs offered by local educational institutions are geared toward that sector. The facility with what might be the largest educational presence in the city is the University of Bergamo, also known as UniBg. This public university is divided into eight departments including communications and philosophy, economics, law, accounting, foreign languages, engineering, finance, and social sciences. The university also offers post graduate courses to students and enjoys a close working relationship with many of the larger companies in the area. Other Bergamo educational institutions include branches of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research and Accademia Carrara which is an academy of fine arts and an art gallery. Bergamo is also dotted with palaces and historic residences built during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by powerful and rich families as a sign of wealth and distinction. Notable examples include Baroque Palazzo Terzi and Neoclassical Palazzo Medolago Albani. Sports are also a large part of Bergamo’s culture as evidenced by the presence of a first-class stadium by the name of Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia which holds more than twenty thousand seats for spectators. The city’s football team goes by the name Atalanta, and their women’s volleyball team goes by the name of Zanetti Bergamo. Perhaps most unique to the area is the Bergamo Lions American football team, which won several Eurobowls and is considered to be one of the most successful teams in European Football League history. Bergamo is easily reached by vehicles, airplanes, and railway. The A4 Motorway conveniently links the city to other Italian hotspots such as Milan, Turin, and Venice. If traveling to or from the area by air, Orio al Serio II Caravaggio International Airport, one of the top five busiest airports in all of Italy, and the Milan Linate Airport will be two of your best bets. The Bergamo Railway Station is also a means of transportation. Transportation within the city limits is somewhat varied. Particularly in Città Alta, the traffic is primarily pedestrian. While there are roads and footpaths that connect Città Alta with Città Bassa, the most popular mode of transportation for getting to one part of the city from the other is the funicolare which is a cable car system of sorts. While Città Bassa still experiences a good deal of pedestrian traffic, the roadways are rather wide and easily accommodate vehicles of most sizes. The Bergamo Light Rail also makes several stops between Bergamo and Alzano, a town in the province of Bergamo. GEOGRAPHY The city of Bergamo is located centrally in Northern Italy. It is located roughly less than thirty miles away from the enormous thriving metropolis of Milan and for that reason is often associated with its neighbor. Although they are both parts of Bergamo, the city is divided into two main areas, the Città Alta or Upper Town and Città Bassa or Lower Town. Città Bassa is generally flatter and more even whereas the surrounding areas including Città Alta are far hillier in nature. Many of these hills are simply the base of the Bergamo Alps that begin in the northern part of the city. CLIMATE The beautiful city of Bergamo in Northern Italy typically enjoys warm summers, cold winters, and somewhere in between for fall and spring. Many travelers visit during the summer months when they can generally enjoy summer temperatures that average a high in the low eighties Fahrenheit and a low in the lower sixties. The winter season is usually much colder with highs hovering around the forties and lows dipping several degrees under freezing. Both fall and spring generally fall somewhere in between with highs reaching the sixties on average. Historically, July is often the warmest month in Bergamo and January is the coldest. While the summer months do typically bring warmer weather, they also bring rain with the months of May, June, July, and August generally experiencing the highest totals of rainfall. ONLY IN BERGAMO One of the defining features of Bergamo is the dichotomy of the two parts of the city. Bergamo offers the perfect blend of old-world architecture, open-air piazzas, and bell towers in Città Alta with simply stunning hilltop views of the city below. Città Bassa and its surrounding areas offer everything from more modern-day culture to medieval castles, vineyards, nearby tiny villages, and Lake Endine. There is a unique beauty in having so many different types of things to see and do all located in one city that seems to combine the best of many worlds to create the lovely heart of the city of Bergamo. With its rich history and unique culture, the town of Bergamo is an excellent addition to any vacation to Northern Italy. Discover the centuries-old charms of the Città Alta and the lively atmosphere of Città Bassa — you will not be disappointed. Travel Guides   The Lombardy Region of Italy The Cities of Lombardy, Italy

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Mantua

Mantua is an Italian city located in the region of Lombardy in Northern Italy. It is the capital city of the province of the same name. Once an important port destination due to its easy access to the Po River, Mantua is now a bustling art city, home to a wide array of important architecture, art, and cuisine. Often overlooked due to its somewhat somber appearance and humid, foggy weather, it is actually a treasure trove of wonderful sightseeing, artistic inspiration, and rich culture. Around 50,000 inhabitants live there, and it is considered to be among the best cities in Italy in terms of quality of life and the environment. Its economy is based primarily in processing and shipping, particularly agricultural products. This is due to the lakes which surround the city, offering easy transportation to major rivers. The old portion of Mantua, known as centro storico, or historic center, was declared, along with the nearby city of Sabbioneta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006. Sabbioneta is a truly unique Medieval city that is surrounded by walls and home to centuries of history. Together with Sabbioneta, Mantua’s inclusion in this designation by UNESCO is truly indicative of the rich, cultural and historical significance that the city holds. The first human settlements documented in Mantua date to Neolithic times, and there is evidence of settlements there all throughout to Gallic times. During Roman times, the city gained fame, as it was the birthplace of the poet Virgil. The city grew politically and financially due to its ideal location on the water, charging tolls for those who needed to pass through to get to the Po River. The city’s best centuries were when the Gonzaga family ruled. This occurred from the early 1300s to the early 1700s. The House of Gonzaga was known for deep appreciation of the arts, and as a result some of the best artists of the Italian Renaissance, including Pisanello and Mantegna spent time in Mantua creating artwork for the Gonzaga Court. It was also during their rule that the majority of Mantua’s greatest monuments and architectural sites where constructed. During Gonzaga rule, the city grew culturally, architecturally, and artistically, becoming a place of inspiration and creativity for artists, writers, musicians, and more. Furthermore, at the height of power for the House of Gonzaga, the city was recognized as one of Northern Italy’s most important cultural and musical hubs. Today, evidence of these centuries of art can be found throughout Mantua’s elegant palaces, famed theater, historic monuments, and array of important architecture in its old structures and churches.well-known walking path known as Via dell’Amore, or “Street of Love.” The romantic trail runs along the coastline between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Though this particular path closed for renovations following a 2012 landslide, it is scheduled to reopen in 2023. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Located in the southeast portion of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy, Mantua is characterized by its landscape. Three lakes – Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo, and Lago Inferiore – surround the city. They are all man-made, as they were created in the twelfth century as a defense for the city. The surrounding area of Mantua also features hills to the north and plains to the south. Mantua’s climate is temperate, verging on warm. Throughout the year, visitors can expect a significant amount of rain and moisture and an average temperature of about 60°F. ONLY IN MANTUA While the Cinque Terre are small in area, must-see sites abound for visitors of all ages. From the stunning footpaths and coastal views to the timeless architecture and village squares, there are many aspects of these secluded Italian gems that lure travelers to the area for the majority of the year. A historical element present in each of the villages would be the well-preserved churches dating as far back as the 13th century. A majority of the churches still standing today have a gothic style to them with facades featuring marble, rose windows, and plenty of symbolism. Churches that should not be missed include the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Riomaggiore), the Church of San Pietro (Corniglia), the Church of Santa Margarita di Aniochia (Vernazza), and the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Monterosso). The numerous ancient footpaths throughout Cinque Terre are a draw for many visitors. With other means of travel at a minimum, the trails not only provide access to each village, they also offer spectacular views of the majestic coast and colorful architecture. Each village prides itself on a sanctuary walk that leads to ancient religious havens located on the elevated cliffs. Historically utilized for Catholic penance, they now offer opportunities for scenic views of the villages and sea below. Although accessible by car, these sanctuary walks are most enjoyable on foot for a step back in history, full immersion in the spirituality and culture, and a deep appreciation of each village’s natural beauty. The sanctuary jewels in each municipality are the Nostra Signora della Salute Sanctuary in Manarola; the Nostra Signora delle Grazie in Corniglia; the Nostra Signora di Montenero Sanctuary in Riomaggiore; the Nostra Signora di Reggio in Vernazza; and the Nostra Signora di Soviore in Monterosso al Mare. The romantic Via dell’Amore is one section of the larger Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, which is 7.5 miles long and connects all of the Cinque Terre villages. The path is favored among visitors because it is fairly easy with mostly flat terrain and it offers plenty of stunning panoramic views. The Sentiero del Crinale n. 1 or Sentiero Rosso, Ridge Trail #1 or Red Trail, is well known among the more experienced. Extending from Portovenere to Levanto and sweeping over the five villages, this former mule track is nearly 25 miles in length. Following the coastal ridge, the full path can take up to 12 hours to traverse from start to finish. Due to its length, the path is best approached in portions with many taking advantage of the rest stops located along the path. The village of Monterosso is home to the statue Il Gigante, or The Giant. This 45-foot-tall sculpture of Neptune, the god of the sea was constructed in 1910 by two men – Arrigo Menerbi, a sculptor and Francesco Levacher, an architect. The immense concrete depiction is located between the village’s harbor and Fegina beach next to the terrace of a historic villa. Though bombing during World War II and decades of rough seas have greatly damaged the imposing statue, it continues to stand as one of Monterosso’s Explore the stunning palaces for which the city is so well known for. The grandest of them all is Palazzo Ducale. For three centuries it served as the home of the Gonzaga family, the rulers of Mantua during its glory days and one of Italy’s most powerful historic families. It covers a mammoth 35,000 square feet, complete with 500 rooms and countless courtyards, gardens, and artworks. One of the most breathtaking aspects of the palace is the famed Camera degli Sposi, which is richly decorated with frescoes by Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. There is also the Palazzo Te, home to floor to ceiling frescoes and numerous splendidly decorated rooms. The stately palace dates back to the sixteenth century and is renowned for its mannerist architecture. The grounds feature a vast park area, perfect for a relaxing afternoon surrounded by nature. Other palaces include the fourteenth century Palazzo del Capitano, thirteenth century Palazzo della Ragione, and thirteenth century Palazzo del Podestà. Dine on the city’s delicious cuisine. Having earned the title of “European Capital of Gastronomy” in 2017, Mantua’s culture is deeply rooted in food and wine. Its unique cuisine is characterized by simple, local ingredients prepared in a luxurious way. The bars, restaurants, and cafés located throughout Mantua are the perfect way for travelers to experience local traditional foods such as pumpkin ravioli (made with the area’s staple zucca mantovana, or Mantuan pumpkin), donkey stew, sbrisolona cake, and Lambrusco wine. Experience the spiritual history of the city by visiting some of local churches. The fourteenth century Basilica of Sant’Andrea is the most famous, as it holds Earth that was said to have been soaked by the blood of Christ during his crucifixion. The basilica also features artwork by Andrea Mantegna, while the cupola was designed by Filippo Juvarra. Other churches worth seeing are the Romanesque and Gothic style Cathedral of San Pietro and the ancient Rotonda di San Lorenzo, which dates back to the eleventh century and is decorated with Byzantine frescoes. When in Mantua, consider visiting the nearby town of Sabbioneta, surrounded by fascinating Medieval walls. Though small, this town holds such a vast amount of history that it earned a spot on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Thanks to its rich past under the rule of the House of Gonzaga, Mantua offers a mesmerizing array of notable art and architecture. For the perfect trip, be sure to sample some of the city’s delicious food and wine while exploring the UNESCO-recognized historic city center. The Cinque Terre area of Liguria is one of Northern Italy’s most popular destinations, winning the hearts of visitors with its extraordinary charm, rich history, natural beauty, and exquisite art and architecture. The discovery of Cinque Terre’s soul is an astounding journey through time and scenery. Travel Guides   The Lombardy Region of Italy The Cities of Lombardy, Italy

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Milan

Over the centuries, Milan has developed a solid industrial foundation and an economic presence in Europe that is unrivaled by other Italian cities. From its production of wool and armor during the 12th century to its major role in the production of automobiles and heavy machinery in the 19th and 20th centuries and its development as a center of international business in the 20th and 21st centuries, the city has long been a center of wealth and productivity. Despite enduring World War II bombings, Milan’s economy only improved with the continued growth of new industries and citywide construction. This ability to overcome is a continued theme for the people of Milan. The city has seen times of industry loss, yet it has utilized the opportunity in more recent years to revive portions of the city and use the strong historic framework to create new opportunities, including repurposing old factories into cultural gathering centers. Located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, Milan is widely recognized as the “fashion and design capital” of the world. It is also the principal city of a vast metropolitan area, and the nearby geography has so much to offer. Surrounded by mountains, lakes, and rivers – there is something for everyone to enjoy. Milan has the second highest population of Italy – after Rome – with over 1.4 million people calling the city home and more than 3.2 million people residing in the Milan metropolitan area. Of those residents, roughly 11% are enrolled in one of the city’s seven universities, making Milan the second most important center for higher education in Italy after Rome. The Polytechnic University, the University of Milan, Bocconi University, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and the University of Milan-Bicocca are among the universities that draw such large numbers. In addition, the city is home to more specialized institutions such as the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and the Milan Conservatory. While the fashion scene is a major attraction for visitors of Milan, there is so much more to see and do throughout the city. Milan welcomes over 8 million travelers annually who come to explore the well-known historical architecture, art galleries, museums, and attend the opera. Many visitors want to experience Leonardo da Vinci’s famous work of art The Last Supper as well as a performance at the prestigious Teatro alla Scala, one of the most important opera houses in the world. Everyone should walk the grounds of the Piazza del Duomo and stand in awe of the beautiful architecture of the Gothic Duomo Cathedral, which is the largest church in Italy. Indoors and out, there is so much to be seen in Milan, with the benefit of enjoying the local cuisine, from risotto allo zaferrano to cotoletta alla milanese, along the way. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   The city of Milan is located in Northern Italy in the center of the Po Valley Basin. The city is surrounded by picturesque beauty with the Po River to the south and the lower foothills of the Alps to the north. Along the base of the mountains, the three lakes – Como, Maggiore, and Lugano – contribute to the northern border of Milan’s metropolitan area. The Ticino River runs along the west side and the Adda River borders on the east. The city sits at approximately 400 feet above sea level and is generally flat with some areas of marsh land. Milan’s climate is described as continental and subtropical. Summers are hot and humid, while the winter season is cold and wet with snowfall. Spring and autumn tend to be mild with more rainfall seen in late spring. The adjacent mountain range spares the city from substantial rainfall coming from the north. Perhaps the most characteristic aspect of Milan’s weather is the blanket of fog often present in the city during the autumn and winter. WHEN IN MILAN A visit to Milan would not be complete without seeing the breathtaking Duomo Cathedral, located in the heart of the Piazza del Duomo in the very center of the city. The remarkable Gothic cathedral is among the largest in the world, standing at 354 feet tall and 302 feet wide. Construction of the church began in the 14th century and took almost six centuries to finish, though renovation works and upkeep will likely continue indefinitely. Once inside, travelers are hard-pressed not to fall in love with the beauty of this magnificent cathedral. The southern side of Piazza del Duomo is dominated by the Archbishop’s Palace and the Royal Palace, which date back to the 18th century and today host interesting art exhibitions. On the opposite side of the square is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a stunning arcade that is the oldest shopping mall in Italy and nicknamed “salotto di Milano,” or Milan’s living room. Walking through the Galleria, visitors will reach Piazza Della Scala, home of Teatro alla Scala. Northwest of the Duomo, travelers can visit one of Milan’s most popular tourist destinations: Castello Sforzesco, a 15th century castle. Not only should visitors admire the beautiful architecture, the castle also offers a number of museums focused on art, ancient artifacts, musical instruments, and historic furniture. The castle is home to Michelangelo’s last sculpture, Pietà Rondanini, and a manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci. On a sunny day, enjoy a stroll through the majestic courtyards within the castle square or Parco Sempione, a park located behind the castle. Milan offers a number of fascinating museums including the Pinacoteca di Brera (the most important art gallery in the city), the Triennale Design Museum, Museo del Novecento (a gallery focused on 20th century art), the Leonardo da Vinci Science Museum, and many others. Among the city’s many churches, we must mention Santa Maria delle Grazie, which is home to da Vinci’s Last Supper, as well as the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, the Church of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, and Santa Maria in San Satiro with its amazing example of trompe-l’œil by Bramante, among many others. To experience the city like a local, visitors can peruse the streets of the fashion district, the heart of the Milanese shopping experience. Among the most important shopping streets are Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, and Corso Venezia. Each of these streets gives eager shoppers the chance to visit the stores of luxury designers that have made Italian style famous worldwide. Do not miss the shops of Prada and Armani as both brands were founded in Milan. CityLife is another inviting residential, commercial, and business district offering a shopping mall and a park. The symbols of the neighborhood are the three skyscrapers: Allianz Tower “il dritto” (the straight one), Generali Tower “lo storto” (the twisted one), and Libeskind Tower “il curvo” (the curved one). To the east of CityLife, Milan’s state-of-the-art architecture and its vibrant nightlife scene converge amongst the skyscrapers of Piazza Gae Aulenti and Corso Como in the Porta Nuova district, the perfect place for gazing in awe at the “Bosco Verticale” (an innovative high-rise with an incorporated garden) and enjoying an evening with friends. Another place to visit in the evening is the Navigli district, the other main center of Milanese nightlife and where many locals go to enjoy an “aperitivo,” pre-dinner drinks and finger foods, in good company. Composed of canals and waterways, the Navigli district truly comes alive at night. Savor the local cuisine at one of the many restaurants located along the bustling streets. For a bit of a break from the busy city atmosphere, visitors can rent a bike and pedal along one of the popular paths – a favorite pastime of the Milanese people. After leaving Milan’s city center behind, the countryside emerges along with quaint villages and river front views. For a day trip away from Milan, consider exploring the ancient town of Bergamo – a picturesque destination known for its upper district with medieval architecture and meaningful monuments. If time allows, stop off at Lake Como to take in the natural beauty of the water and nearby Alps. From the Gothic spires of the Duomo to the magnificence of Leonardo’s Last Supper, the city of Milan is a worthy addition to any Italy travel itinerary. Though at first glance it may not be as picturesque as Florence or Venice, travelers who take the time to explore Milan will be rewarded with numerous artistic and cultural treasures. Travel Guides   The Lombardy Region of Italy The Cities of Lombardy, Italy

Explore Milan

Como

In Northern Italy, not far from the border with Switzerland, sits one of the crowning jewels of the country, the city of Como. For decades this city has been a popular destination for many travelers because of the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como, the majestic mountains of the Alps, and the innate beauty of this charming quintessential Italian city. Como transports visitors to a paradise that seems to literally slow down time and fill the mind with wonder at the city’s natural beauty. Despite having a population of more than eighty thousand, Como has a lovely small town feel to it. Living quarters, shops, and businesses are knit tightly together along the shore of Lake Como. As you wander around the city, savor walks through gorgeous piazze and down cozy cobblestone streets where beauty awaits at every turn. Behind the city, the lake gives rise to the wooded mountains which provide breathtaking scenery. With this stunning scenic background and a number of historic churches, theaters, museums, and art, it is no wonder Como is frequently one of the most visited cities in the Lombardy region. Despite its relatively small square footage compared to that of neighboring giants such as Milan, the city is home to a strong education system, including a music conservatory and university. In addition to being a quiet place of respite for the rich and famous hoping to escape the daily pressures of life, the area has a strong outdoor sports presence with dozens of water and hiking-based recreational activities popular with visitors, such as sailing, windsurfing, and trekking. The hilly and mountainous areas near Como are thought to have been inhabited since the Bronze Age, and some remains of those settlements are still visible. After these early civilizations, Como was settled by the Romans, then the city changed hands many times falling under the dominion of the Visconti family and others, until finally becoming part of the unified Kingdom of Italy. If you are traveling to the city of Como, the main ways to arrive are by air and rail. If traveling by air, the closest international airports are Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate. From the airport, the best way to reach Como is by car, either via rental car or private driver. If traveling to Como from another part of Lombardy or Northern Italy, the railway service is a convenient way to reach Como. With its proximity to Lake Como, boat and seaplane transportation may be accessed for traveling to other lakeside cities. Once you have arrived in Como, you will most likely wish to see much of the city on foot or bicycle so that you can wander the charming streets, piazze, and shoreline at your leisure. That said, one of the most popular transportation activities for travelers in Como is the funicular. This cable car ride connects the lakeside city of Como with the small village of Brunate, which sits perched on a mountain more than two thousand feet above sea level. Boats and seaplanes are primarily used for water and air-based exploration of Como and the surrounding areas. Regardless of how you choose to take in the sights and sounds of the delightful city of Como, the people and the natural beauty are sure to capture your heart. GEOGRAPHY   The city of Como is part of the Italian region of Lombardy and is the capital of the eponymous province. Located on the far southern tip of the western branch of Lake Como, this small city of less than twenty square miles is surrounded with stunning beauty courtesy of some of Mother Nature’s finest works. This natural respite is roughly thirty-five miles away from Milan and also shares a border with the country of Switzerland, making it an attractive stop for European tourists. Between the picturesque mountains of the Alps and the enticing waters of Lake Como, this city truly offers something for everyone. CLIMATE   The city of Como has mostly a humid subtropical climate. Winters can be cool and chilly with snowfall commonly occurring during the season. High winter temperatures usually average around the forties and fifties (degrees Fahrenheit) and experience lows around the thirties. Summers are generally fairly warm and are made for lounging by the lake. The summer months average high temperatures in the eighties and average low temperatures in the sixties. Fall and spring are a comfortable mix of both, making for high temperatures in the fifties and sixties with low temperatures in the thirties and forties. ONLY IN COMO There may be a handful of Italian towns that have an operational funicular as a mode of transportation, but Como’s scenic ride up to the village of Brunate and back down again is simply hard to beat. As you slowly climb the side of the mountain to the village and clear the tunnel, the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como and the charming town of Como come into view. The higher the climb, the more picturesque the view becomes. It is a fabulous way to get an aerial picture of the town and lake, all while seated comfortably for the trek uphill. It is worth noting that if you hear a loud boom around the hour of noon, there is no need to fret. It is somewhat of a tradition to fire a cannon loaded with blanks to mark the noon hour. If you are riding on the funicular to Brunate at that time, it may sound even louder as the cannon may actually be closer. It is located midway between the city of Como and the mountain village of Brunate. Como and the Lake Como area have long been known for their production of silk, which can be traced all the way back to the sixteenth century. Silk spinning became an economic powerhouse for the area, especially when Pietro Pinchetti founded the silk textile school. While today Como’s silk production is on a much less grand scale due to foreign competition, there are museums in the area that detail the historic production of silk fabrics from dyeing to weaving. The best part about visiting a city with a history of producing silk is the one of a kind gorgeous and authentic souvenirs to be found in local shops. From the awe-inspiring nature and rich history to the iconic architecture and vibrant culture, the city of Como is a classic destination set along the radiant shores of Lake Como. With old churches, elegant villas, and magnificent parks, it is easy to understand how such a place continues to live on in the hearts of its visitors, even long after they left. Travel Guides   The Lombardy Region of Italy The Cities of Lombardy, Italy

Explore Como

Lake Como

Often regarded as the most idyllic waterfront destination in all of Italy, the Lake Como area surrounds travelers with fairytale-like views including sparkling waters, lush gardens, and majestic villas covered with ivy, all set against a majestic, mountainous backdrop. A dreamy paradise, Lake Como’s landscape pairs the manmade and calculated with the wild and natural to create a fusion of manicured gardens set against free-growing vineyards, orchards, and groves. Considered by everyone from scholars to artists to celebrities as a timeless destination – one that evokes an air of old-time authenticity and undeniable beauty – Lake Como attracts tourists from all over the world. While Summer crowds can take away some of the vintage feel, the spirit and character of the area is never diminished. Travelers to Lake Como come for the views of the elegant villas and spectacular nature but stay for the local charm, lakeside restaurants, and romantic atmosphere. Nearly 30 miles long and one of the deepest lake in Europe – 1,350 feet – Lake Como has been heralded as a “Garden of Eden” of sorts for centuries. Its characteristic “Y” shape not only makes this glacier basin recognizable worldwide but also lends a wide variety of views, weather, architecture, and landscape to be experienced along its shores. Travelers can take boats, car ferries, and vaporetti(water buses) to explore the lake’s villages. Main towns such as Bellagio, Cernobbio, Tremezzo, Varenna, and of course, Como all offer breathtaking scenery, unique activities, shopping, sightseeing, and more. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, Lake Como is the most renowned lake on the Italian peninsula, despite being the third largest. Though Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda are larger, Lake Como’s status as the most gorgeous and deepest lake in Italy has contributed to its achievement of becoming the country’s most popular and most traveled lake. Fed primarily by the Adda River, its 100 miles of shore feature lush flora, staggering rock formations, unspoiled farmland, and views of the Italian Alps. In terms of weather, Lake Como is categorized as a humid subtropical micro-climate. Due to its location in Northern Italy, expect mild and pleasant temperatures in the spring and summer with colder temperatures in the fall and winter. Rainstorms can occur on summer nights, and snowfall in the winter is not uncommon at higher elevations. This unique climate for the area allows for a variety of vegetation to thrive, including trees such as laurel oak, cypress, evergreen, juniper, spruce, and olive. The lake is known for local production of olive oil on a small scale, namely on the Isle of Comacina, near the lake’s Western arm, which is called Zoca de l’Oli, or “Basin of Oil.” The most characteristic aspect of Lake Como’s climate is its breezes. Travelers will notice an almost constant breeze in the area, occasionally growing into medium or even strong winds. The lake’s position between the Alps and an area known as “pre-Alps” lends itself to these winds, which are so consistent and steady that local captains, fishermen, and sailors can count on common winds called the Larian Nautics. Interruption to the schedule of key winds, like the Tivano – which blows North to East during early hours of the morning – and the Breva – a wind which blows from the South specifically between 10:30AM and 11:30PM – serve as signs to the locals of impending storms. WHEN IN THE LAKE COMO AREA When visiting the Lake Como area, travelers can get the most out of their time there by exploring the lake’s vast shores and visiting the iconic villas that dot the lake’s edges. One of the best ways to experience the towns and villages alongside the lake is by taking the local ferries and water buses. Cruising across the lake allows visitors to immerse in the local atmosphere as they travel from town to town admiring remarkable villas and impeccable gardens. In order to properly experience the treasures of Lake Como, travelers will want to dedicate at least a few days to leisurely explore the lake by boat. While traveling by boat is the best method of transportation for sightseeing, those who like to drive may enjoy getting lost in the winding roads around the lake and taking in the beautiful scenery. No matter how you choose to explore the lake, be sure to visit the namesake city, Como, which sits on the western arm of Lake Como. Not far from Milan, Como features an incredible city center with historic buildings, such as Villa Olmo, and museums, including the Silk Museum. On the Eastern arm of the lake, be sure to stop in Lecco – this side of the lake’s main city. Other great places to visit include Abbadia Lariana – a quaint and lovely town featuring a small shipyard – as well as villages such as Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varenna, Colico, and Gravedona. To truly take in the prestige and luxury of Lake Como, travelers must make time to visit the many villas along the coast. For hundreds of years, it is these stunning villas – characteristic of the romantic history of the area – that have attracted the likes of royalty, celebrities, and influential artists to the shores of Lake Como. In Cernobbio, key villas are Villa Erba and Villa d’Este – both of which display a classic style of architecture. Today, Villa Erba is part of a larger exhibition center. Its rich botanical park features historic plants that change with the passing of the seasons. The villa was constructed in the nineteenth century following the Mannerist style of architecture. Of particular interest to lovers of film are the rooms of Italian director Luchino Visconti, who spent his childhood summers at Villa Erba. Villa D’Este, on the other hand, is now a luxury hotel. Constructed in the sixteenth century as a royal residence, Villa D’Este is considered to be one of the most remarkable examples of architecture from this time period. From the grand architecture to the breathtaking interior art and 25 acres of elaborate gardens, Villa D’Este embodies Lake Como’s old-world charm. Villa Carlotta, located in Tremezzo, features a stunning Italian Garden, Romantic Garden, and Agricultural Section as well as a museum with works by Thorvaldsen, Migliara, Canova, and Hayez. One of the best times to visit Villa Carlotta is in the spring, when many of its flowers, such as the rhododendrons, are in bloom, though the other seasons of the year offer plenty of splendor as well. In Lenno, explore the Villa del Balbianello, famous for both its terraced gardens and appearances in such films as “Casino Royale,” “Star Wars: Episode – Attack of the Clones,” and “A Month by the Lake.” Located on a peninsula, this elegant eighteenth-century building offers unbeatable views of the picturesque lake. Structures such as the Loggia Durini, an arched loggia covered with climbing fig, and the darsena, the dock, offer perfect opportunities for romantic photos. Each of the lake’s many villas and towns feature stunning examples of architecture and artistry of Lake Como’s historic past, amidst the unparalleled landscape that has made the area so legendary. Lake Como, therefore, is an ideal destination for those travelers seeking a place with a magical atmosphere that is extraordinarily beautiful from a natural standpoint. The area is perfect for long nature walks with options ranging from challenging hiking trails to gentle lakeside paths. Additionally, the constant and reliable presence of the local winds makes Lake Como an interesting destination for those who love aquatic sports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, and sailing. In fact, it is quite common to see colorful sails dotting the panorama and darting across the waves. For an unforgettable vacation filled with nature and relaxation, look no further than the radiant shores of Lake Como. Vacations To Lake Como Travel Guides  

Explore Lake Como

Marche

The Marche region is a beautiful and diverse region known for its stunning coastline, rolling hills, and charming villages. It's located in the central part of the country and bordered by the Adriatic Sea to the east, the regions of Umbria and Tuscany to the west, the region of Abruzzo to the south, and the region of Emilia-Romagna to the north. The Marche region has a long and rich history, dating back to the ancient Romans. The region is also home to several beautiful and historic cities, including Ancona, Ascoli Piceno, and Urbino as well as historical attractions, including the Roman amphitheater of Ascoli Piceno, the Ducal Palace of Urbino, and the Cathedral of San Ciriaco in Ancona.


The cities & towns of Marche
Ascoli Piceno

In Central Italy, just off the eastern coast, the beautiful city of Ascoli Piceno sits with the rising slopes of mountains on three sides and at the confluence of the Tronto and Castellano Rivers nearby. Although the city can usually be seen in a day’s time, it captivates the hearts of visitors with its quaint buildings and breathtaking open-air squares making it a destination that travelers often want to visit again. This delightful city has a charming small town feel to it, making travelers feel as though they are caught in the pages of a lovely Italian fairytale. The traffic free Piazza del Popolo is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful squares in Italy with a travertine paved road that is frequently filled with pedestrians and bike riders milling about and simply enjoying the day. This square is one of the best people-watching spots in Ascoli Piceno and a place where many go to relax and appreciate a sunny day. Another popular town square is that of Piazza Arringo. Though smaller in size than Piazza del Popolo, this square is magnificent as well and is home to Palazzo Comunale (the Town Hall), the Duomo, and the Pinacoteca Civica Art gallery. Some sites near the Piazza del Popolo that are not to be missed include the magnificent statue of Pope Paul III, an arcaded Renaissance courtyard, and the simple Gothic architecture of the Basilica of San Francesco and its bell tower. Before you leave the area, walk the arcades of the courtyard and do not forget to visit one of the charming local cafés for an Ascoli Piceno specialty, anisetta liqueur. Agriculture plays an important role in the city with wheat, olives, and fruits accounting for the majority of the agricultural industry. The area’s cultivation of green olives is responsible for one of the city’s most famous meals, olive all’ascolana. This traditional and savory dish consists of plump green olives that are stuffed with minced meat and then fried. In general, the Ascoli Piceno diet is based heavily on locally grown produce. In addition to the above, olives, truffles, anise, onions, capers, garlic, and fennel are all abundant in the area and are used to enhance the flavors of mealtime experiences. Just as the olives contribute to olive all’ascolana, anise is commonly used to flavor confections like sweet cakes. The gorgeous city of Ascoli Piceno has ancient origins dating back to the BC era and is thought to have even predated the founding of the city of Rome by several centuries. Over the years, the city’s ownership changed hands fairly often before it was officially annexed to the Unified Kingdom of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. If traveling to Ascoli Piceno, the most efficient way to reach the city is to travel by car, either by rental car or private driver. If you are planning to fly into Italy, the closest major international airport is Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport (FCO). When it comes to traveling within the city, there is far too much beauty to waste sunny days tucked away inside a car or bus. The majority of locals and visitors relish traveling the main areas of the city by foot or on bike. In several areas of the city, including large piazze, automotive traffic is restricted or banned altogether. This mandate allows pedestrians to move freely about these areas and adds to the old-world charm of the city. GEOGRAPHY The central town of Ascoli Piceno is situated within its namesake province and the larger region of Marche, Italy. On average, this town is one of the smaller cities in Italy and largely for that reason, visitors say it emanates a warm and inviting atmosphere. This picturesque town is cocooned in mountains on three sides with two natural parks sharing its border, Parco Nazionale dei Monti della Larga and Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. Adding to its natural green and rural surroundings, Ascoli Piceno sits directly at the convergence of two beautiful rivers, Castellano and Tronto. As charming as this small town is, its natural surroundings are simply beautiful. CLIMATE With Ascoli Piceno’s close proximity to the Adriatic Sea, the town generally experiences comfortable temperatures for most of the year. In the summer, the area enjoys average highs in the seventies (degrees Fahrenheit) with lows in the sixties. In the fall, the summer lows become the high for the season with lows usually in the fifties. Winter brings even cooler temperatures with average highs staying in the forties and lows hovering around the upper thirties. Springtime highs bounce around in the fifties and the city generally experiences lows in the forties. Regardless of the temperature, Ascoli Piceno experiences a fair amount of rain year-round. The fall months tend to be the rainiest with an average of three or more inches of rain per month. The season experiencing the lowest amount of rainfall is summer. With mostly enjoyable weather and an average of only two inches of rain per month, summer can be a wonderful time to visit this part of Central Italy. WHEN IN ASCOLI PICENO Although the event of Carnevale is celebrated throughout much of Italy, no one celebrates it better than the city of Ascoli Piceno. In the spring, this multi-day event begins with an annual mask parade and tons of entertainment. The Carnevale in Ascoli is one of the most traditional in Italy, but is also known to have a bit of modern-day flair. Festivities lead up to Fat Tuesday when the Piazza del Popolo comes alive with elaborate costumes and masks. Even local restaurants and eateries get in on the act by offering a special Carnevale menu that delights visitors and locals alike. The city of Ascoli Piceno is one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Make plans to see this enchanting little town and be moved by a genuine Italian spirit of hospitality and warmth that will have you planning your next visit long before you leave.Travel Guides   The Marche Region of Italy The Cities of Marche, Italy

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Urbino

If looking for classic Italy – historic buildings, artistic wonders, culture, and timeless beauty – look no further than Urbino. Set atop a tall hill, this hidden gem is characterized by its unique skyline, which is comprised of ancient Renaissance structures made of warm-toned brick. Despite the city’s bustling, modern student population at the University of Urbino, the city seems as if halted in time, which is fitting for a location whose glory days were rooted in the 1400s. Urbino’s history dates to its founding during Roman times. Originally called Urbinum Metaurense, which means “City by the Metauro River,” the town would eventually come under the rule of the Montefeltro family. It was during the fifteenth century that Urbino truly made its mark in history. After 1626, the city would decline from its position as a powerhouse and transform into a small, hillside town known for its rich history and beautiful architecture. Because the city flourished so much in the fifteenth century, it attracted a wide array of intellectuals, architects, and artists from all across Italy. Their marks are left all over Urbino, as the city is home to some of that time period’s most important art and structures. Urbino is known for its stunningly well-preserved Renaissance buildings. In fact, the city’s historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its amazing brick buildings that depict the rich history of the area. The other structures worth seeing in Urbino are the city’s Cathedral – known for its Neoclassical style and fine art, the House of Rafael – once the childhood home of the artist himself, the fourteenth century Church of San Domenico, and the grand Ducal Palace – the city’s largest and most awe-inspiring piece of Renaissance architecture. The economy of Urbino is based mainly in tourism, however other aspects of the city’s economy include the University of Urbino and artisanal industries such as ceramics, weaving, embroidery, and art restoration. The city’s population is about 14,000, but this nearly doubles during the school year due to the thousands of students who attend the city’s university, the University of Urbino. Urbino can be a great jumping off point to explore other areas throughout the Marche region and the surrounding regions of Italy, but it is best experienced thoughtfully and fully – allowing oneself to truly immerse in the history and culture that has made it Marche’s best-known travel destination. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Urbino is located in the Marche region of Central Italy. The geography of the area is characterized primarily by hills, as the city is located at the base of the Northern Apennine and Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennine Mountains. One of the most unique aspects of the city’s geography is its seismic activity. Positioned in an area called Montefeltro, a location known for its medium to high risk of seismic activity, Urbino experienced nearly 65 seismic events between 1511 and 1998. Some of these seismic events ranked higher than VIII on the Mercalli scale, a measuring system that gauges the intensity of seismic activities. The climate of Urbino is characterized by warm summers and winters that are quite cold. Throughout the year, average temperatures can range from 35°F in the winter to 83°F in the summer. The low temperature typically does not go below 28°F in the winter or above 91°F in the summer. For travelers hoping to enjoy outdoor activities, the best time to visit is between July and August. WHEN IN URBINO Admire the amazing Palazzo Ducale. A stunning testament to the nobility and artistry of Renaissance architecture, the Palazzo Ducale is Urbino’s most iconic site and one of Italy’s most important monuments. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains 27 rooms. Inside the palace, one of the most stunning rooms is Federico da Montefeltro’s studiolo, or small study, which is filled wall to wall with beautiful wood inlay artwork depicting books, scientific instruments, nature scenes, and much more. The Palazzo Ducale is also home to the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche (National Museum of Marche) which contains a wide collection of paintings, sculptures, and other works of art including The Flagellation of Christ, a masterpiece by Piero della Francesca, as well as La Muta by Raphael, Resurrection by Titian, and Crucifixion by Luca Signorelli. Visit Raphael’s house. Famed artist Raphael was born in Urbino in the late 1400s, and today’s travelers can visit the fifteenth century home where he grew up. Restored in 1875 by the Raphael Academy, the home features what is believed to be one of Raphael’s earliest paintings, as well as a few copies of Raphael’s works, a painting by Giovanni Santi (Raphael’s father and a painter of the Duke of Urbino’s court), and preserved items from the past. The architecture, culture, and history of the house are all worth experiencing. See the Duomo di Urbino, or Urbino Cathedral. Dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Urbino Cathedral was originally built in 1063, rebuilt in the fifteenth century, damaged by an earthquake in the eighteenth century, and then subsequently reconstructed with Neoclassical elements. It features a unique bright white façade that differentiates it from the surrounding buildings made of brick. It contains statues, paintings, and stunning interior details. Enjoy delicious local food, wine, and cocktails at Urbino’s restaurants, bars, and cafés. From unique, local recipes to delicious classic Italian fare like gelato and pasta, the culinary scene in Urbino is lively and delicious. Located in the Marche region of Central Italy, Urbino is a small hilltop town with a whimsical atmosphere. Thanks to the stunning Renaissance architecture that dominates the city center, a trip to Urbino is akin to stepping back in time. Travel Guides  

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Molise

Molise is a mountainous region in southern Italy that borders Abruzzo to the north, Apulia to the east, Lazio to the west, and Campania to the south. It is the second smallest region in Italy, after Valle d'Aosta. It has a population of about 300,000 people, and its capital is Campobasso. The region has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Molise is a relatively underdeveloped region, but it has several attractions for visitors including several historical sites like the ancient Samnite city of Pietrabbondante and the medieval castle of Monforte. Molise is also known for its delicious food, including its lamb, cheese, and wine.


The cities & towns of Molise
Campobasso

The city of Campobasso has a complex history that continues to be visible both physically and culturally. Founded by the Lombards, the early site of a Samnite settlement was once known for its defensive strength with the famous Castello Monforte at the center of this power. It remains a symbol of the original old town – “Campus Vassus”, which was abandoned for the lower valley plains – “Campus Bassus” in the early 1700s. Campobasso has since suffered its share of hardships leading to what visitors will find in the city today. From the destructive nineteenth century earthquakes to the conflict it experienced during World War II, there has been substantial building and rebuilding of the historic architecture. Campobasso is the capital and largest city of the Molise region and located in the Campobasso province. Just about 3 hours southeast of Rome, this quaint city has a varying landscape from the mountain foothills to the valley below. It is easily accessed by car on the modern highway system – making exploring the city achievable for travelers visiting other locations throughout Italy. Approximately 50,000 people call Campobasso home and the city gives the impression of a characteristic southern Italian town. It is known for its serene and natural environment, cooler climate, and absence of the crowds often found in popular tourist cities including Rome and Florence. Campobasso is often described as one of the country’s hidden gems – often overlooked, yet full of the same Italian ambiance visitors come to find. The city provides the chance to see Romanesque and medieval churches, archaeological, remains and quaint piazze. Historically, the city of Campobasso was well known for its production of cutlery such as blades, knives, and scissors. While that industry has declined substantially, the city remains a hub for industrial production. Today, the locals are known for their production of soap, cement, and a variety of fine textiles. As with much of Italy, the city is famed for its local culinary products. Biferno wine, sausage, mushrooms, the prized truffle, and scamorza cheese are just a few of what visitors should try when in town. A piece of the city’s culture lies in the higher education opportunity available at the University of Molise. Headquartered in Campobasso, the public college was created in 1982 with the goal of keeping all associated campuses within the Molise region. Over ten thousand students from all over Italy and beyond have been drawn to the university’s location and diverse offerings including Agricultural Science, Economics, Law, and Engineering. The Campobasso campus is home to the renowned Colozza Center – a particular draw for students, aimed at providing master’s degree level courses for future secondary education teachers. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE The city of Campobasso covers just over 21 square miles in Southern Italy. It is situated in the Biferno River’s high basin at approximately 2,300 feet above sea level. This capital city of Molise is encircled by the mountainous terrain of the Matese, Apennine, and Sannio ranges and the province is in the path of the Fortore, Biferno, and Trigno Rivers. The Adriatic Sea is just a short distance to the east of the centrally located city. The city’s position in the valley between mountains greatly impacts the overall climate that visitors can expect. Its low elevation makes Campobasso relatively cool compared to other Southern Italian cities. It sees conditions that are a blend of oceanic and subtropical climates. The fall and winter seasons can be a bit chilly with frequent rain. While this time of year can bring in the most visitors, it is not uncommon to see numerous snow events in the colder winter months. The spring sees temperatures start to warm up, while the summer provides the most sun and ideal temperatures for exploring the city. WHEN IN CAMPOBASSO A must-see while in Campobasso is the majestic Castello Monforte, a fifteenth century castle set on a hill that is a focal point of the old city. The structure saw devastating damage during an earthquake in 1456 and was rebuilt over the Norman and Lombard ruins by feudal ruler Nicola Monforte II. Its quadrilateral walls provide the basis of its massive presence. Upon closer inspection, visitors can take in the four defensive towers and the merlons that line the top of the castle to provide additional protection against intruders. The main entrance shows evidence of a drawbridge while remnants of the Oscan-Samnite walls can be found on the inside. Visitors can explore the underground shelters and galleys, water storage areas, and even a modern-day Air Force meteorological station. It is imperative to catch the magnificent view of the surrounding valley, foothills, and mountains while at the top of the castle. The Mazzarotta Palace is a sixteenth century palace located in the city’s center that was once home to the Neapolitan Mazzarotta noble family. The family’s coat of arms featuring a dolphin can still be seen. The palace is the current location of the Samnite Museum of Campobasso – run by the region’s Museum Complex. On exhibit are many ancient finds of the province of Campobasso dating from Prehistory to the Early Middle Ages. Visitors will find some of the first bronze weapons, ancient terracotta, jewels, and marble sculptures. Travelers should also set aside time to visit the remains of the ancient village located underneath the city of Campobasso. These underground tunnels once allowed soldiers to move between defensive towers. The tunnels were also used as warehouses to store goods such as flour and salt and served as air raid shelters during World War II. For a short excursion away from Campobasso, visitors should consider heading southeast to the city of Foggia in the region of Apulia. Similarly, Foggia is not a main tourist site – resulting in less congestion to enjoy all the city has to offer. It offers stunning architecture including the Cathedral of Foggia – built in a Baroque style complete with detailed stone work and a lavish organ. The main Piazza Umberto Giordano is a great location to peruse the shops and enjoy a bit of local cuisine. Visitors should also visit the nearby Parco Nazionale del Gargano – one of Italy’s largest natural parks. Located off the typical traveler routes, Campobasso is an enchanting city found in the heart of Southern Italy. During a trip to Campobasso, visitors can admire the local art and architecture and unwind in the natural beauty of the Molise region.Travel Guides   The Molise Region of Italy The Cities of Molise, Italy Campbasso

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Piedmont

Piedmont is a region in northwestern Italy that is known for its beautiful scenery, delicious food, and rich history. The region is bordered by France to the northwest, Switzerland to the northeast, Lombardy to the east, Liguria to the south, and Aosta Valley to the southwest. Piedmont is a land of mountains, valleys, and rivers. The Alps run through the region, and there are also several other mountain ranges, including the Maritime Alps and the Cottian Alps. The Po River flows through the region, and there are also several other rivers, including the Dora Riparia and the Sesia.


The cities & towns of Piedmont
Vercelli

Vercelli is a small town located in the Piemonte region of Northern Italy, better known by people outside of the country as the Piedmont region. It is located in the province of the same name between the cities of Milan and Turin, and situated on the banks of the Sesia River, which is a tributary of the Po River. The region is bordered on the west by France, to the northwest by Valle d’Aosta, to the north by Switzerland, to the east by Lombardy, and to the south by Liguria. Vercelli is notable for being one of the earliest inhabited urban sites in all of Northern Italy, with archaeologists and historians estimating that the town first appeared sometime around 600 BCE, as well as being the site of the very first publicly funded university back in 1228. The oldest evidence of civilization in Vercelli seems to suggest that it was the capital city of a Ligurian tribe before being conquered by the Romans and made a Municipium of the empire. Vercelli was an important city to the empire for its fertility and its history of growing grapes and rice. It was also the site of numerous important battles, including the Battle of Vercellae in 101 BC, and the Roman defeat of the Goths roughly 500 years afterward. To this day, many historical Roman sites still dot the area, including a hippodrome, an amphitheater, and many notable tombs and inscriptions. After the fall of Rome, the city fell into the hands of the Lombards and the Duchy of Ivrea, before eventually establishing itself as an independent town in the 1120s. Later, in the year 1228, the first ever publicly funded university was established in the city. Like most cities in Italy, though, Vercelli would change hands numerous times, bouncing from ruler to ruler over the course of the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, before being conquered by the French near the tail end of the fifteenth century. Then, again, the town was conquered by the Spanish in the seventeenth century, before finally adopting the constitution and joining what would ultimately become the Kingdom of Italy in 1821 after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Vercelli has a long history of agriculture. Since ancient times, people who have settled the region have grown rice and grapes for wine, and the city was prized in Roman times for its vineyards. In the present day, the region is famous for producing the red Italian wine known as Gattinara, which received DOCG classification in 1990. Nowadays, Vercelli is home to numerous historically and culturally relevant sites that visitors can appreciate. Places to see include the Museo Francesco Borgogna, which contains numerous works of art ranging from between the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, covering much of the Italian Renaissance with its collections of frescoes, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and more. Also worth a look is the Vercelli Cathedral, known as the Duomo of Vercelli or the Cathedral of Sant’Eusebio, which is an excellent example of how architecture evolves over time due to its history of being built and rebuilt many times over the centuries, as well as containing a museum of its own. Lastly, worth a look is the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, which is one of the best-preserved Romanesque monuments in the country. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Vercelli enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate with warm springs and autumns, hot summers, and chilly, foggy winters. The hottest month of the year is July, with temperatures that approach 87 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month is January, where temperatures tend to approach freezing. Vercelli lies in a valley that experiences heavy rainfall, with October being the rainiest month of the year. However, even the driest month, December, experiences a fair amount of rainfall. The countryside surrounding Vercelli is varied and exciting. To the north lie the Italian Alps, which are perfect for skiing. Meanwhile, the Gattinara Hills are gently sloped and peaceable, covered in vineyards and forests and crisscrossed with rivers and valleys. Surrounding the city are also vast plains and rice paddies. The wide open, gently-hilled-to-flat landscape is excellent for long bike rides. WHEN IN VERCELLI When visiting Vercelli there are several sites that simply cannot be missed. Perhaps the most famous thing to see in Vercelli, as already mentioned above, is the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, or the Basilica of Saint Andrew. Often described as a stunningly unique example of early Gothic and Romanesque architecture, those interested in religious history or construction should make an endeavor not to miss this landmark. Visitors often describe the Basilica as elegant and unique, with a stone interior that allows a more in-depth look at the structure’s architectural style, and many delightfully unique works of art, such as the painted wooden statue of the Madonna near the altar. There is also a lovely garden filled with cedar trees, sequoias, and magnolias. Those interested in religious history should also make an effort to visit the Vercelli Cathedral, also known as the Duomo of Vercelli or the Cathedral of Sant’Eusebio. This cathedral was originally built in the fifth century and was destroyed and rebuilt or otherwise restored multiple times over the centuries, making it an architectural amalgamation consisting of multiple styles that have been prevalent over the centuries. The Duomo also contains its own museum, called the Museo del Tesoro del Duomo di Vercelli, or the Museum of the Vercelli Cathedral Treasure. Here, many important religious artifacts and treasures are on display for the public to view, including the historic Vercelli Book, which is a tenth century manuscript of Old English poetry and prose. Visitors to Vercelli who are interested in Jewish history might also want to visit the Vercelli Synagogue. The Synagogue was built in 1878 by Marco Treves, a famous Jewish architect who was born in Vercelli, and is an excellent example of Moorish Revival architecture. Services and tours are also open to the public. Meanwhile, those visiting Vercelli who are less interested in religious history might be more inclined to visit some of the ancient Roman sites, such as the Hippodrome or the Amphitheater, or the towers that dot the city such as the Torre di Città or the Torre dell’Angelo. Finally, those visiting Vercelli who are interested in museums should be sure to make a visit to the Museo Francesco Borgogna. This museum contains numerous tapestries, paintings, frescoes, sculptures, drawings, prints, and other works of art, dating from the Italian Renaissance all the way to the present. Those who wish to view the drawings and prints, however, must book in advance as the pieces are as fragile as they are beautiful and are not always available for public viewing. The museum contains works by many famous Renaissance artists, such as Il Sodoma, who was a native to Vercelli, as well as Defendente Ferrari and Gaudenzio Ferrari, who, while not specifically from Vercelli, were native to the Piedmont region. Over 800 pieces are available for public viewing every day on the museum’s three different floors. Located in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy off typical traveler routes, Vercelli is a true gem. From the Roman ruins to the Renaissance art and winemaking tradition, it is easy to fall in love with this historic city. Travel Guides   The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy

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Casale Monferrato

The town of Casale Monferrato is located in Piedmont, a region of Northwestern Italy. It is the capital of Monferrato, a hilly territory that boasts abundant wineries, rice fields, sprawling valleys, and views of a stunning landscape that is worthy of the delicious varieties of wine and produce for which it is known. Casale Monferrato is a considerable town and often an overlooked one. The region of Piedmont is so well-loved and so expansive, that towns like Casale Monferrato can fly under the radar. However, it maintains such a wonderful expression of history and culture that make it certainly worth a visit. The historical town center features buildings from the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries as well as monuments of the past, including ancient courtyards and historic churches. The city is also home to countless palazzi, palaces built during the city’s glory days that now offer a glimpse into the world of what Casale Monferrato once was. While walking to see the town’s sites, travelers can enjoy the local cafés, restaurants, and bars that serve up traditional recipes like agnolotti and the characteristically Casale Monferrato dessert, krumiri (distinctive handlebar-shaped cookies). Take a stroll to the bustling town squares Piazza Mazzini and Piazza Santo Stefano for a delightful time people watching and soaking up the local culture. Casale Monferrato oozes history at every turn. While there is speculation surrounding the origins of Casale Monferrato, there is evidence that suggests the land was occupied by the Celts, the Gauls of Vardacate, and then the Romans. For example, the name “Casale” is said to have originated from a Celto Gallic name and there have been archeological remnants from Roman times discovered in the area. Casale Monferrato became a free commune in the tenth century. Casale Monferrato’s city center, which is known for its Baroque architecture and atmosphere, is reflective of the city’s long history, which was characterized by the wealthy, noble families that occupied it throughout the eighteenth century. Today, Casale Monferrato’s economy is largely influenced by the area’s geography. The city is located on a plain, which makes it an excellent location for rice cultivation – one of Casale Monferrato’s main exports. The area is also known for cement production and refrigeration industries. However, the most famous of the area’s products is the high-quality wine. From full-bodied reds to crisp whites, the Montferrato hills are known as one of Italy’s top wine producing regions. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Located in the region of Piedmont in Northern Italy, Casale Monferrato sits about 40 miles from Turin on the bank of the Po River, at the foot of the Montferrato hills. Monferrato is a beautiful area of Italy that is known for its wine production, which is possible due to the ideal geography and climate. Characterized by rolling hills and fertile soil, it is the ideal land for growing grapes. The climate is classified as continental. Springs are mild, with average temperatures around 60° to 70°F. Summers can reach hot temperatures, averaging in the high 80s. Spring and summer are ideal for travelers who wish to spend time outdoors. Autumn in the Monferrato area is mild, great for enjoying time out at the wineries, especially during the harvest time. Winters can be very cold, reaching temperatures below freezing during the nighttime. Travelers visiting Casale Monferrato during winter can expect occasional precipitation and fog, but many days are sunny and enjoyable. WHEN IN CASALE MONFERRATO Explore the city, taking in the wonderful architecture. During the eighteenth century, wealthy families built palazzi, churches, and unique buildings throughout the city. Today, those structures have since been rebuilt or adapted for new uses, but the essence of the Baroque architecture remains. Some of the top sites to see include the Cathedral of Sant’Evasio, the Paleologi Castle, Teatro Municipale, the Torre Civica, and the many palazzi and churches that are located throughout the city. Visit the Synagogue of Casale Monferrato. As historic as it is impressive, this Synagogue was built in the late 1500s and houses an important Jewish museum. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful Synagogues in Europe. Enjoy the Piedmontese cuisine, including the Casale Monferrato dessert specialty, krumiri. These cookies are a tradition of the city. Made with wheat flour, butter, eggs, and vanilla, they are crunchy and perfect for dipping in hot beverages or enjoying with an after-dinner drink such as local wine or grappa. The characteristic shape of the krumiri is said to have been inspired by the iconic mustache of the first King of Unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. Visit local wineries. The Monferrato area of Italy is widely known as one of the best wine production areas in the country. Tour local wineries and enjoy tastings alongside typical Piedmont-style cuisine. A few of the eminent DOC and DOCG wines produced in the Casale Monferrato area include Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Monferrato Casalese Cortese, and Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese. Experience local food markets, annual festivals and events, and see performance and art exhibitions. Culture is very much alive in Casale Monferrato and some of the most popular events include the Wine Festival held in September, the Feast of San Giuseppe held in March, and the Antique Market held each month in the historic city center. Whether visiting the city’s Civic Museum, sightseeing the various examples of Baroque architecture, or enjoying local events and cuisine, the historic atmosphere of Casale Monferrato promises a wonderful, exciting experience.Travel Guides   The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy

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Asti

Asti is home to nearly 80,000 people and is located in the northwestern region of Piedmont. The city is the capital of the province of the same name and the modern capital of the Monferrato geographic area. Located along the Tanaro River, the city is not far from the foothills of the Alps. It was the city’s location – one that was ideal for trade route strategies – that helped bring Asti to economic power. While Asti was once under Roman control, much of its most significant history dates to the twelfth century, when it was first beginning to develop as a republic. Throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it was passed between various European powers. And it was during the thirteenth century when the town’s famous towers – nearly 150 – were constructed. Today, the city is characterized by the towers and other historic structures such as churches, palaces, and more, which occupy the town. For travelers looking to explore culture, history, art, and architecture, Asti is a treasure trove of unique sightseeing. Walking throughout the city of Asti is like traveling through time. The eighteenth-century town squares, narrow streets, and cobblestone walkways are reflective of the rich history of the town. Travelers to Asti can enjoy a variety of activities, including visiting historic museums, a stunning cathedral, ancient monuments, and many churches. In addition, Asti is known for its incredible array of festivals and events that take over the city throughout the year. A mid-size city, Asti features many restaurants, bars, cafés, and shops at which travelers can take a break from sightseeing. Not far from Turin, the regional capital of Piedmont, visitors to Asti can also explore nearby sites. The economy of Asti is based on its culinary and winemaking offerings, including famous DOC and DOCG wines, fruit, vegetables, meat, and truffle production. The Piedmont region as a whole is renowned for its cuisine, and Asti is considered to be one of the gastronomic gems of the area. The city also has lively textile and engineering industries. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Asti is located in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. It is about 34 miles east of Turin and sits on the plains of the Tanaro River. The climate of Asti is best described as continental, featuring winters that are fairly warm and summers that are mild, with average temperatures ranging from 40° Fahrenheit in the winter to 85° Fahrenheit in the summer. These favorable temperatures are a result of Asti’s proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Travelers can expect to experience rain mostly during the fall and spring. The minimal rain that does occur in summer comes in the form of brief, heavy thunderstorms. As in other parts of Northern Italy, fog should be expected during the winter. WHEN IN ASTI Enjoy the area’s famed wines. Due to the geography and climate of the region, excellent quality grapes are grown there, yielding amazing wines. Piedmont is one of Italy’s best wine producing regions, and Asti in particular, is known for its delicious sparkling varieties. Known as the “champagne of Italy,” Asti Spumante features a high alcohol content, an excellent effervescence, and a sweet flavor. Another of the area’s renowned sparkling wines is Moscato d’Asti, known for being a wonderful dessert wine. In addition to white wines, the area features full-bodied reds such as Barbera d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, and more. Without a doubt, Asti is a true haven for wine lovers. Indulge in the region’s hearty cuisine. Known for its rich, earthy flavors, the cuisine of Asti is comprised of stuffed pasta such as agnolotti, rich courses of roasted or boiled meats, locally made DOP cheeses, and delicious desserts like hazelnut cakes and Italian cookies. In addition, the region of Piedmont is known for its truffles, which are featured in a variety of ways throughout meals in Asti, most often shaved atop decadent pasta and meat dishes. Sightsee the city’s medieval towers. Known as the “City of a Hundred Towers,” Asti is home to a variety of unique, ancient towers that are perfect for sightseeing. In the historic city center, travelers can see the Torre Comentina and Torre Troyana. The latter is one of the main symbols of the city. Standing at approximately 144 feet, Torre Troyana is the tallest tower in the Piedmont region, and it offers the most remarkable views of Asti and the surrounding area. Additionally, at the Church of Santa Caterina, there is the Torre Romana, a tower that now serves as the church’s bell tower. Experience the local culture by taking part in local events and festivals. Asti features many exciting and unique events throughout the year, including the Palio d’Asti – a horserace which has become such a tradition that hundreds of thousands of people flock to it each year. Another must-see event is the “Festival of Festivals,” which is a celebratory festival held before the palio that features local food, wine, and a parade with ornate floats. During the event, the largest open-air restaurant in Italy is created and attendees can taste wine and food from dozens of vendors. In November, Asti celebrates the truffle with the Regional Truffle Festival. Ideal for foodies, the festival offers tastings, the opportunity to purchase the rare ingredient, and more. Gaze upon the wonderful architecture of Asti. From the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a stunning thirteenth-century church with Romanesque-Gothic details, to Palazzo Mazzetti, an eighteenth-century palace that also contains a Roman artifact museum, there is an abundance of gorgeous architecture to be experienced in Asti. Asti may be best known for its food and wine, yet this charming city is also home to a remarkable number of cultural sights. From the medieval towers to the ornate churches and the legendary Palio d’Asti tradition, the city of Asti is full of surprises that delight travelers of all interests. Travel Guides   The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy

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Lake Maggiore

Straddling the northern border of Italy from the Swiss canton of Ticino to the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont, is the gorgeous and picturesque area of Lake Maggiore. This beautiful lake is the second largest lake in Italy and sits at the foot of the southern side of the snowcapped Alps. With the beautiful background scenery, sparkling blue lake water, and a number of charming towns and small islands that call this lake home, Lake Maggiore may very well be one of the best kept secrets of Italy. It is among the most beautiful locales in all the world and is quickly becoming a beloved destination for worldwide travelers. With the innate beauty of this area, it is easy to understand why archeologists suspect the area has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Over the ensuing years, the area fell under the rule of the Ancient Romans and a series of families during the Middle Ages, including the Della Torre, Visconti, and Borromeo families, before the towns on the Italian side of the lake become part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. While the area is gaining traction as a vacation destination, Lake Maggiore is still largely off the radar for a majority of international travelers. It is a shame for anyone to miss this stunning part of Northern Italy, yet the lack of crowds and general peace of the area make it a treat for those who come stay at the lake. Because of the seclusion of some of its towns and islands, Lake Maggiore has in particular become a magnet for those looking to escape from the hustle and bustle and demands of everyday life. Whether you are visiting the unique lake islands, the charming villas that boast breathtaking gardens, or a medieval castle, there are so many ways to enjoy the lake and its surrounding areas. If traveling to Lake Maggiore from an international location, the nearest international airport is in Milan. From there, the most direct way for travelers to reach their preferred location on the lake is by car, either renting a car or hiring a private driver. For some lake locations such as the islands, boat or ferry transport may also be required. When it comes to traveling within the Lake Maggiore area, there are a number of ways to see this picturesque locale. The Mottarone cable car takes visitors high up in the mountains for unparalleled and jaw dropping views of Alpine botanical gardens, Lake Maggiore, the Alps, and Mount Mottarone. If you want to visit the opposing shore of the lake, ferries and boat tours will provide terrific offshore views of the towns and islands that dot the expanse of Lake Maggiore. Lake Maggiore is a stunning natural destination offering art, architecture, museums, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites coupled with outdoor activities such as hiking, trekking, and mountain biking. Truly, Lake Maggiore can be characterized as an intersection of art and nature. In fact, many of the local museums are surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and offer remarkable views of the lake and mountains. Not to be missed are the area’s countless natural parks and nature reserves, each highlighting the flora and fauna native to Lake Maggiore. Among the lake’s natural parks are Val Grande National Park, which is the largest wilderness area in Italy, as well as the Wildlife Oasis of Macugnaga, which is home to many Alpine animals including ibex, chamois, marmots, and stoats. The area’s natural reserves, such as Fondotoce Nature Reserve in Verbania and the Lagoni Natural Park in Mercurago, protect the local wetlands and extensive reed beds. GEOGRAPHY   Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy, the longest in Italy, and among the largest in Switzerland. The lake stretches for some forty miles and flows across the border between Italy and Switzerland. Although the lake is large and quite deep, it often does not appear so due to the way it winds through the mountains. Because of its length, which spans two countries, it is difficult to see more than one section of the lake at a time. The mountain ranges surrounding the lake are the Pennine and Lepontine Alps and the Lugano Prealps. These mountain ranges are home to some of the most magnificent peaks in the region with a few well-known being Mottarone, Monte Nudo, Monte Tamaro, and Gridone. One of the highest peaks near Lake Maggiore is Monte Rosa, which stands some fifteen thousand feet tall. The length of the lake lends itself to a variety of stunning natural scenery, ranging from the majestic Alps on the northern end of the lake to rolling hills in the middle area and the plains of Lombardy in the southeast. The lake actually acts as a boundary of sorts between the Lombardy and Piedmont regions, with the western bank of the lake belonging to Piedmont and the eastern bank of the lake belonging to Lombardy. Within Lake Maggiore, the towns and villages of the Piedmont Region of Italy include Arona, Baveno, Belgirate, Cannero Riviera, Cannobio, Castelletto sopra Ticino, Dormelletto, Ghiffa, Lesa, Meina, Oggebbio, Verbania, and Stresa. Also within Lake Maggiore are towns and villages of the Lombardy region which generally include Angera, Besozzo, Brebbia, Brezzo di Bedero, Castelveccana, Germignaga, Ispra, Laveno-Mombello, Leggiuno, Luino, Maccagno, Monvalle, Pino sulla Sponda del Lago Maggiore, Porto Valtravaglia, Ranco, Sesto Calende, and Tronzano Lago Maggiore. Italian islands of Lake Maggiore include the Borromean Islands (Isola Bella, Isola Madre, Isola dei Pescatori, Isolino di San Giovanni, and Isolotto della Malghera), Castelli di Cannero, Isolino Partegora, and Sasso Galletto. CLIMATE The area of Lake Maggiore generally experiences fairly warm summers and cold winters with moderate snowfall. Summers are usually comfortable and the water temperature of the lake tends to be warm enough to make boating, water sports, and other outdoor activities enjoyable. These warmer summer temperatures also allow for gorgeous vegetation and stunning gardens to thrive and flourish. For this reason, summer is one of the busiest seasons for Lake Maggiore. Winter is typically much cooler than summer and the winter precipitation offers some spectacular views of the nearby snowcapped mountains of the Alps. Due to its proximity to the mountains, areas on and along the lake can experience reliable winds, as is common with Alpine lakes. These winds are beloved by those who depend on them to thoroughly enjoy water sports such as sailing and windsurfing. The two prevailing winds are called Moscendrino, a morning wind that flows from the mountains towards the plain, and Inverna, an afternoon wind that flows in the opposite direction from the plain towards the mountains. ONLY IN LAKE MAGGIORE One of the activities most unique to Lake Maggiore is island hopping. While it is common to see inhabited islands in various bodies of water, to have multiple inhabited islands within a lake is more unusual. The main Borromean Islands of Isola Bella, Isola Madre, and Isola dei Pescatori are truly some of Lake Maggiore’s most enchanting spots and are a perennial favorite for visitors. The series of three islands are incredibly beautiful, made even more so by the presence of opulent historical palaces and flourishing fairytale gardens. Visiting these islands is a fabulous way to spend a day in Lake Maggiore. The Castelli di Cannero are three rocky islands that showcase ruins of ancient fortresses. The Cannero Islands are generally viewed via boat only because the delicate ancient ruins are not considered safe enough for crowds to walk through. Isolino Partegora is quite a tiny island that is approximately 315 feet by 118 feet. Almost entirely surrounded by reeds, this island tends to be viewed from a boat due to its small size and the presence of protected species of animals such as swans and mallards. Particularly if you enjoy birdwatching, this miniature island has some excellent opportunities to observe local waterfowl in their natural environment. Sasso Galletto is the smallest islet of Lake Maggiore and consists of a 50-foot tall boulder that rises above the rocky coast. The name of the rock formation derives from the small metal rooster (galletto in Italian) found on its peak. Sasso Galletto is a great spot for divers who love to explore the surrounding lake bed. From the charming lakeside towns to the vast natural parks and reserves, Lake Maggiore is an ideal destination for travelers seeking a nice mixture of culture and relaxation. Whether visiting the historical treasures of the Borromean Islands, admiring the natural beauty of the lake’s surroundings, or hiking through one of many natural parks, Lake Maggiore is sure to enchant. Travel Guides   The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy

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Turin

In the far northwest section of Italy is the stunning and lively city of Turin. With the majestic mountains rising from the background of this gorgeous city, the impressive architecture of local buildings, fabulous museums, cafés, stately palaces, and wonderful open-air squares make Turin a city of great beauty and culture. Whether you are visiting for a day or staying for a week, the delights of this thriving Italian city await you. For this large city, which is abundant in culture, it is no surprise that its roots can be traced all the way back to the Romans in the late BC period. In the ensuing years, the city underwent the rule of various people and regimes. During that time, Turin served as a major European political center as well as the capital of the Duchy of Savoy and the first capital of the unified Kingdom of Italy from 1861 to 1865. Though Turin was heavily damaged during World War II air raids, the city was quickly rebuilt and kept moving forward. Over the years, Turin has expanded greatly and today it is divided into eight main circoscrizioni, or boroughs, and several historic districts. As one might imagine, the city has long since been a hub for commerce, industry, and trade and is now one of Italy’s top performing economies. In the first quarter of the twenty-first century, Turin was recognized as a Gamma World City as a nod to its connection to the world economy. With the flourish of industry and business here, it is only natural that the city be home to some of Italy’s most outstanding colleges and universities. The University of Turin is one of the city’s most attended educational facilities and one of the oldest universities in Europe. The institution has produced a number of distinguished alumni, some of which became writers, Nobel Prize winners, and prime ministers such as Italo Calvino, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Giovanni Giolitti. The city is also home to a number of other universities and academies, such as the Polytechnic University of Turin, Italy’s oldest technical university. Culture is the heartbeat of Turin. A number of local museums dot the vast cityscape, providing historical insight into the city’s rise and those who have been a part of it. Amazing architecture, impressive art collections and royal history are all huge draws to the city, but one of the most world-renowned religious artifacts housed in the city is the Shroud of Turin. This ancient piece of cloth is said to bear the negative image of a man who suffered death by crucifixion, one that some believe to be the image of Jesus of Nazareth. Held in the Cathedral of Turin since the sixteenth century in an airtight case, the Shroud is occasionally displayed to the public during special events such as a Jubilee year. Among the approximately 40 museums located in the city of Turin, not to be missed is the Museo Egizio, or Egyptian Museum. This expansive museum hosts one of the largest collections of Egyptian art and artifacts in the world after the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s most iconic landmark, houses another important museum: the National Cinema Museum. As the most important museum of its kind in Italy, the National Cinema Museum houses 20,000 cinema artifacts (including devices and paintings) as well as 12,000 film reels. The panoramic elevator takes visitors to the top of the Mole Antonelliana where they can admire the best panoramic views of the city. In addition to culture, Turin is also part of the sports world. The city has two soccer teams that have a huge following among local and international fans: Juventus F.C. and Torino F.C. This sport is beloved by residents and lively rivalry exists with neighboring powerhouse cities such as Milan. Switching gears to sports played in colder seasons, Turin was the site of the much-anticipated Winter Olympics in 2006, an event that revitalized the city and cemented its status as a key travel destination. For those that plan to take advantage of authentic Italian food and delicacies during their vacation, look no further than the city of Turin. Whether you enjoy chocolate, creamy espressos, pastries, or hazelnuts, this city does not disappoint. Bakeries here have beautiful window displays of their confections, making a trip inside hard to resist. And that is only for dessert. As the capital of Piedmont, which is renowned for its wine, fresh pasta, meat dishes, and risotto, Turin is the place to sample the best of the regional cuisine. GEOGRAPHY   Turin is tucked away into Northwestern Italy and is located within the Piedmont region. The mountains of the Alps rise above the city on the north and west sides, and the Monferrato hills flank the east side of the city. These scenic backdrops make Turin a lovely paradox of a large and thriving metropolis tucked away amidst some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Italy. In addition to elevated terrain, Turin is also home to several large rivers including the Po, Dora Riparia, Sangone, and Stura di Lanzo. The Po, as well as several of its tributaries, flow through the city before connecting with other cities and eventually the Adriatic Sea. The mountains, hills, rivers, patches of greenery, and grids of homes and buildings all combine to provide a breathtaking aerial view of this enchanting city. This, combined with its royal history, has earned Turin the nickname of “Paris of Italy” in many circles. CLIMATE Turin is typically less humid and warm than many of its eastern counterparts. Summers are generally mild to sometimes hot and winters can be fairly cold with snowfall. The high temperatures and reasonable rainfall amounts make Turin a fabulous summer vacation destination. Highs tend to hover around eighty degrees Fahrenheit and lows generally in the fifties or sixties. The weather is warm enough during the day that a cool and creamy snack of gelato could be in order, but the nights can get cold enough that a light jacket might be needed. On average, in the winter Turin is much colder with a typical high temperature in the forties or fifties with lows closer to the thirties. However, even if touring the city in the winter, the fabulous museums, churches, cafés, and other indoor activities can provide a respite from the cold. Historically, the late spring and fall months usually bring Turin’s highest rainfall totals, while the summer months typically boast the most amount of sunshine each day. Regardless of what season you choose to visit this amazing city, there is always a way to enjoy it. ONLY IN TURIN   Turin is largely known for being the headquarters of prestigious Italian car companies such as Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Lancia. Because of this history, the town is home to the Museo dell’Autombile, large outdoor car shows, and the former Fiat car factory, Lingotto, which today is home to Fiat’s administrative headquarters as well as a modern shopping complex. Whether Italian-made cars are your passion or just something that might be fun to see one afternoon, the city of Turin is the place to be. To get a true feel for the Italian automotive industry, consider a visit to Museo dell’Automobile first. Here, visitors can experience an education about the automobiles as well as new technologies. One of the best parts of the museum is checking out the models and displays located throughout. The museum is estimated to have a collection of roughly two hundred cars. Car enthusiasts can also make a stop at Lingotto and head to the rooftop where the original Fiat test track still stands. In Turin, cars are such a large part of the city’s identity and history here that it is not uncommon to see open-air car shows with dozens of different automobiles represented. Most of these shows attract thousands of visitors and last several days. Cars are usually on display in a semi-sheltered open-air exhibit, which allows people to see the cars from many different angles. Because of the size and scope of such an event, these shows are usually a joint effort of several different groups. This is a fantastic way to see amazing cars like the Lamborghini in person and picture how you might look behind the wheel. For incredible views of Turin, take the tramway up to the Basilica of Superga, a historic church just outside of Turin. Dating back to the eighteenth century and designed by famed architect Filippo Juvarra, the church is renowned for its Late Baroque and Neoclassical style. The church is also home to the Royal Crypt of the Savoy Family. Lastly, to learn more about the city’s royal history, head to the Reggia di Venaria Reale, which is located approximately 10 miles north of Turin. As one of the former residences of the House of Savoy, this expansive palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture and home to beautiful works of art and lovely gardens, rivaling the Palace of Versailles. A city that feels both ancient and modern, Turin has plenty to offer its visitors from first-class museums and royal palaces to unique architecture and stunning natural scenery. Offering something for everyone, Turin’s unique atmosphere is guaranteed to enchant. Travel Guides The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy  

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Alba

In the northeast corner of Italy, sits the beautiful and picturesque town of Alba of the Piedmont region. The city offers spectacular views of the Tanaro River, the often snow-covered Alps, and rolling green hills for miles just outside the city center. Whether you are escaping the big city bustle of nearby Turin, touring Alba’s plethora of wineries, or soaking in the charm of this lovely town, expect to be enchanted and captivated by the magic of this small and welcoming city. There are too many reasons to count why the sleepy little town of Alba is one of the hidden jewels of northeastern Italy. A prime example is Alba’s location in a hilly part of the Piedmont countryside known as the Langhe, an area renowned for its landscapes and wine making tradition that is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, Alba is known worldwide for its hundreds of wineries located in the Langhe wine region, as well as the cultivation of white truffles. Even with these modern contributions, the city has roots tracing all the way back to before the Roman Era. Many historians believe the city’s first inhabitants can be traced back to Ligurian or Celtic tribes. However, there is no denying the town’s role in the Roman Era with it being the birthplace of Roman Emperor Publius Helvius Pertinax. Over the ensuing years Alba became the Republic of Alba, part of the French Empire, and eventually part of the country of Italy. The town’s economy is largely based on agriculture. The nearby river, fertile hills, and fairly comfortable climate make Alba highly conducive to cultivating crops, specifically grapes. The greater Alba area is filled with hundreds of vineyards and is ripe with white truffles. Another notable locally-grown ingredient throughout the Langhe area is the humble hazelnut, which features prominently in the tasty chocolate creations of the city’s internationally famous Ferrero confectionery plant. The cuisine of Alba, rich with homemade pasta and white truffles, is delightfully indulgent. Tagliolini, sometimes referred to as tajarin, in Alba is generally a long, slender pasta made with egg dough. Agnolotti, somewhat similar to ravioli, is another popular local pasta that is square shaped and typically filled with meat or vegetables. White truffles from Alba are usually not cooked, but are served fresh via thin shavings over salads, risotto, and pasta. For dessert, be sure not to miss the delicious bunet, a traditional chocolate pudding. The urban center of the city of Alba is quite charming. Wander the cobblestone streets and open-air piazze on a sunny day and take in the simple ways of this adorable historical town. As you tour the city, be sure to stop at some of Alba’s biggest attractions, including the Palazzo Comunale or City Hall, the medieval towers, the city gate, the Duomo of San Lorenzo, numerous museums, and street side cafes. When traveling to the city of Alba, Italy there are several different modes of transportation to choose from. The town does not have a major airport, and the closest international airport would be Turin Airport. Due to its location in the countryside, the quickest and most direct way to reach Alba is by car, either by rental car or private driver. Transportation within the city, particularly in the center of town, is primarily pedestrian. Locals and visitors often enjoy walking through the cobblestone streets and squares of the town either on foot or by bike. With such gorgeous natural scenery surrounding the city, it only enhances the Alba experience to be outside in it rather than being stuck inside a car or bus. GEOGRAPHY Alba is a largely green and hilly Italian town in the Piedmont region and part of the Province of Cuneo. Although this scenic city is about an hour away from the busy metropolis of Turin, Alba can easily seem like a different world with its hilly terrain and more rural surroundings. The town sits fairly close to the Tanaro River, which also flows through other small villages in Piedmont. The nearby Alps rise majestically in the distance, providing astounding panoramic views from some of the highest points in Alba. The green and rolling hills that surround Alba are home to hundreds of internationally renowned wineries. CLIMATE Overall, the town of Alba has relatively comfortable temperatures that are pleasantly warm in the summer and slightly cool in the winter. If warm weather in the seventy- or eighty-degree range (Fahrenheit) is what you crave, plan your visit during the summer months, although late spring and early fall can be agreeably warm as well. The winter months tend to experience average highs around fifty degrees Fahrenheit and lows that tend not to dip below freezing. In general, winters can be mild here compared to other spots in northern Italy. The rainiest seasons in Alba usually occur in spring and fall. Although summer can sometimes feel a bit humid, it is not considered to be a season with much rainfall. Snowfall can occur at times during the winter, but when it does snow it is usually at levels of less than half an inch. WHEN IN ALBA The fertile and hilly areas of the city combined with the nearby Tanaro River make Alba the perfect location for wineries. In fact, the town and the surrounding area host more than two hundred wineries that cultivate and produce locally made wine. In short, this city feels tailor made for wandering the roads of the countryside to enjoy a different wine tasting for every meal, and even in between meals. Many of the wines made in Alba are considered to be among the finest in Italy. Some of the more frequently requested DOC wines from the area are Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto. Popular DOCG wines of Alba are Moscato, Barbaresco, and Barolo. With the abundance of fine wine and white truffles the area is known for cultivating, it is safe to say that mealtime in Alba is almost always an indulgent treat! Pack your bags and trade the routine of everyday life for a quintessential Italian adventure in Alba. Come ready to be mesmerized by the city’s natural beauty and to partake in some of the finest wine tastings available in all of Italy. Travel Guides   The Piedmont Region of Italy The Cities of Piedmont, Italy

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Sardinia

Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily. Sardinia is known for its beautiful beaches, its rugged interior, and its unique culture. Sardinia is home to a population of about 1.6 million people and while the official language is Italian, the Sardinian language is also widely spoken. Sardinia has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters.


The cities & towns of Sardinia
Cagliari

Travelers often visit Italy because it is a land of romance and great beauty, but perhaps one of the most gorgeous cities of Italy, Cagliari, is not attached to the mainland at all. The city is located on the southernmost part of a large island called Sardinia that is just west of the mainland. Cagliari is the largest city in Sardinia, one of the most important ports of the Mediterranean, and a divine spot for an Italian vacation. The ancient roots of this island can be traced all the way back to the Neolithic era. Archaeologists have recovered a number of relics from these prehistoric inhabitants, primarily in the areas of the Monte Claro Hill and Cape Sant’Elia. Cagliari transformed into a Phoenician settlement, then fell under Roman rule, and even became the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia for several centuries before becoming part of Italy. Cagliari’s name in Sardinian translates to castle. The name is particularly fitting as during the thirteenth century, the city’s inhabitants built up a medieval section of town that most refer to as the castle district. Still today, the district sits majestically atop a large hill, making a strong and intimidating presence to visitors approaching by boat, which is probably the exact effect its founders hoped to evoke. Over the years, Cagliari continued to flourish and word of the area’s natural beauty spread far and wide, making the city a peaceful respite for those seeking gorgeous beaches, crystal clear water, and the serene atmosphere of the port. Further inland, the city piazze are known for their social gatherings which include fun activities such as moonlight dancing. For all these reasons, it is no surprise that tourism is one of the biggest industries of Cagliari, second only to seafood. Mediterranean cruises often make stops in Cagliari for guests to take advantage of the pristine beaches and delightful marinas that dot the coastline. They play in the sun and water by day and check out the clubs and pubs after night falls on the shore. When traveling to Cagliari from the mainland or elsewhere in the world, the primary methods of transportation are generally airplanes or boats. For those choosing to fly into the local airport, the best option to get around on the island after landing is to rent a car. Those traveling by boat are practically already in Cagliari when they dock at the city’s port. A favorite way to take in the island of Sardinia and the city of Cagliari in all its seaside glory is a guided boat tour. The city is breathtaking from the waters of the Mediterranean, particularly the views of the castle district which seems to rise up from the center of the city. Further inland is where the castles, churches, museums, shops and arcades can be explored. Traveling by foot or bicycle is a fantastic way to take in the local culture. However, if visiting opposing ends of the city, traveling by car is the most efficient option. The cuisine of Cagliari is perhaps one of the most unique things about the city in comparison to many of its other Italian counterparts. The cuisine here is largely based upon seafood with some Sicilian influence. The port, miles of beach, and surrounding waters fittingly earn Cagliari the title of one of the largest fish markets in all of Italy. Whether you are dining on the fresh seafood, flatbread, a pasta dish, or a traditional Sardinian cake, the cuisine here is a delicious treat. When it comes to the day-to-day interactions here, both Italian and Sardinian are spoken in Cagliari. Although both of these romance languages were once commonly practiced by much of the population, today much of the younger generation speaks primarily Italian, along with a special type of slang that is a combination of both languages. GEOGRAPHY The city of Cagliari sits at the southern tip of the island and region of Sardinia. This prime location also looks out to the Golfo degli Angeli which translates to Bay of Angels. The area goes from the shorelines of the bay to the soft rolling hills of the impressive Castle District. The city is filled with beautiful public gardens and parks, all of which make Cagliari one of the country’s greenest cities. These natural areas are often home to unusual subtropical or exotic plants that grow quite well in the city’s Mediterranean climate. In addition to local parks and gardens, the Molentargius – Saline Regional Park is located nearby. Cagliari is a densely populated area that is largely divided into historic neighborhoods and modern districts. The four historic neighborhoods are Marina, Castello, Villanova, and Stampace. The 27 modern districts include areas such as San Benedetto, Genneruxi, and Sant’Avendrace. CLIMATE In general, Cagliari experiences a mainly Mediterranean climate that yields hot summers and mild winters. The summer months have little rainfall and high temperatures average in the eighties (Fahrenheit). The rainiest season typically occurs during the fall. The winters are relatively mild with highs around the fifties and lows in the forties, and heavy snowfall is considered highly unusual. One unique weather feature of Cagliari is the wind. It is somewhat normal to experience windy conditions here from the Sirocco breeze. This breeze comes off the Mediterranean Sea most often during the summer months and generally is strong enough to help cool things down a bit. ONLY IN CAGLIARI This city is set apart from many Italian vacation destinations because of its immense natural beauty. With some of the most gorgeous stretches of beach along the Mediterranean, it is not hard to understand why Cagliari is often referred to as the City of Sun. People thoroughly enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and even water sports in this part of the sea. One of the most popular stretches of beach reaches from Devil’s Saddle to Margine Rosso or Red Bluff. Whether travelers choose to dive right in to the water or simply sit seaside to take in the sunsets, Cagliari’s stunning scenery has something for everyone. In addition to being a hot spot for beach goers, who flock to many nearby areas, particularly the Poetto Beach, Cagliari is also home to a relatively wild and natural environment that features lagoons and wildlife reserves as well as bird sanctuaries. Some of the birds and animals you can see here are considered to be unique to Europe. One of the most popularly visited areas for bird watching is the salt water Stagno di Molentargius, where flamingos live and flourish. Cagliari is also home to a number of green areas and parks. Some of these must-see areas include Monte Urpinu Park which is on a hill and overlooks the city, San Michele Park, which features a castle, Monte Claro Provincial Park, which showcases a historical mansion, and Terramaini Park, which is known for its flamingo and bird population. Not to be missed are the public gardens of the city that are thought to have been established in the nineteenth century. On a much larger scale than a city park, the Molentargius – Saline Regional Park is located nearby and features heavily wooded forests that come alive with different kinds of wildlife, such as wild boars and Sardinian deer. Another natural area favored among the locals is Santa Gilla Lagoon, a wetland area that covers more than 37,000 acres and is home to approximately 70 species of birds including flamingos and cormorants. Cagliari is one of the best destinations in Italy to truly immerse in the country’s natural beauty. As the capital of the Sardinia region, Cagliari is home to historic monuments, beaches, wetlands, and natural parks all just waiting to be explored. Travel Guides The Sardinia Region Of Italy The Cities Of Sardinia  

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Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and an autonomous region of Italy. It is located south of the Italian Peninsula, and its capital is Palermo. Sicily has a long and rich history, dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The island is also home to a diverse population, with people of Italian, Arab, Norman, and Greek descent. Sicily is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning coastline, its ancient ruins, and its delicious food. The island is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and the ancient city of Syracuse. Sicily is also known for its delicious food, such as its pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) and cannoli (a pastry filled with ricotta cheese and chocolate).


The cities & towns of Sicily
Catania

Perched upon the far east coast of the Italian island of Sicily is the breathtaking city of Catania. This large metropolitan city is simply lovely with a beautiful cityscape that faces the sparkling blue waters of the Ionian Sea. This gorgeous city of roughly three hundred thousand people features a marvelous combination of magnificent architecture, flourishing culture, and amazing cuisine. If you will be traveling to Sicily, plan to make a stop in the charming city of Catania and discover why it is such a popular destination. Catania is a hub for tourism in Sicily largely because of the older part of the city that features stunning Baroque architecture and is designated as a World Heritage Site protected by the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Here visitors will find dozens of historical churches, lavish palaces, and elegant theaters. As an added bonus, the city of Catania is also home to a subterranean network of tunnels. These underground passageways are thought to have once been used as catacombs centuries ago. Also found in subterranean Catania are ancient streets and structures such as churches, amphitheaters, and thermal baths. The city’s history is largely responsible for the now subterranean part of the city. Remarkably, the city’s roots can be traced back as far as 730 BC. For much of its early existence, the city is thought to have been mostly independent. However, in 476 BC, Hiero I of Syracuse drove out many of the city’s original inhabitants, replaced them with new and more willingly ruled inhabitants before renaming the area Aetna after the nearby Mount Etna volcano. In the ensuing years, the city fell to various rulers including the Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards, and more before eventually becoming part of the Unified Kingdom of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. Catania’s rich history also lends itself to the city’s old world and modern culture. During the Renaissance period, the city was highly regarded as a center for culture, art, and politics. Several renowned cultural figures called Catania home including a legislator and philosopher named Charondas, a poet called Stesichorus, and a philosopher by the name of Xenophanes. The city is also known for being a part of the art and literature world via famous composers Vincenzo Bellini and Giovanni Pacini as well as writers such as Giovanni Verga, Federico De Roberto, Nino Martoglio, and Luigi Capuana. With so much culture in this Italian vacation destination, it is not surprising that education also has quite a legacy in Catania. One of the oldest universities in Sicily, the University of Catania, was founded in the fifteenth century and is attended by an estimated sixty thousand plus students who seek undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Scuola Superiore is another local educational institution with close ties to the university that offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The Istituto Musicale Vincenzo Bellini is well regarded for its music studies and the Accademia di Belle Arti for its rich art studies. The cuisine of Catania has a decidedly Sicilian flair. One the more famous dishes here is pasta alla Norma. This mouthwatering first course, named after one of Bellini’s operas, is made with eggplant, tomatoes, and ricotta. Also a local favorite in the city is horse meat which is frequently cooked on coals and served in both restaurants and on the street. Be sure not to miss the open-air seafood markets with one of the finer fish markets located just behind the Cathedral of Catania. When it comes to traveling to Catania, most visitors travel via airplane to the Catania Fontanarossa International Airport. This airport is one of the largest in southern Italy. It is also possible to set sail for the island from the mainland by ferry boat. For travelers who have arrived on Sicily, transportation to Catania is generally available via several motorways that connect to cities such as Messina and Palermo. The city of Catania features wide streets, so traveling the landmarks of the city is most often done via car or on foot. GEOGRAPHY Just to the west of Italy’s mainland is the island of Sicily. This island is a prominent vacation destination for those taking trips to Italy. Located on the far east cost of Sicily is the city of Catania. It sits close to the base of Mount Etna, is surrounded by beautiful vineyards, and faces the gorgeous waters of the Ionian Sea. In addition to the above ground natural landmark of Mount Etna, Catania is known for its subterranean rivers. The Amenano River is mostly subterranean, but does surface at one point near the city’s Piazza Duomo. The Longane, sometimes referred to as Lognina, is also a subterranean river of the city. Because of Catania’s proximity to the ocean, Mount Etna, and tectonic plates, it is only natural that the area occasionally sees earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. CLIMATE Catania, as most of Sicily, enjoys a largely Mediterranean climate. The summers within Catania are typically incredibly warm with temperatures on average between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes the city a traveler favorite during the warm summer months. Winters in Catania are fairly mild with temperatures seldom dipping below freezing. Snow rarely falls on the streets of Catania primarily due to the massive volcano of Mount Etna blocking potentially cold northern winds. The area does receive a decent amount of rainfall. Historically, the region has been known to reach up to twenty inches of rain within a year. The wettest months tend to stretch from late fall to early spring. ONLY IN CATANIA One can scarcely take in the beauty of Catania without seeing the nearby and imposing Mount Etna that rises tall above it. Mount Etna is the highest point in Sicily and is estimated to stand approximately eleven thousand feet high, making it Europe’s tallest active volcano. It is also considered to be one of the most active volcanos in Europe and in the world and is designated as such by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This volcano is widely documented as affecting large parts of Catania during the seventeenth century. However, residents of the city that live just beneath the volcano also reap unique agricultural benefits. The dirt and rock combination from previous lava flows of the volcano contains rich minerals that help the local agricultural industry thrive. In particular, the minerals allow grape vineyards to flourish, which ultimately contribute to a fabulous and distinctive Sicilian wine. For visitors that want to see the glory of Mount Etna up close, there is the option of taking a shuttle to the crater where it is possible to hike along the rim. The enchanting town of Catania is one of Sicily and Italy’s best kept secrets. Discover amazing natural beauty and intricate architecture above ground and subterranean marvels below. A vacation to Italy is not complete without a stay in remarkable Catania. *SPECIAL NOTE: Because the Italian city of Catania can experience earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, at times repairs may be needed in various parts of the city. Some of the monuments and landmarks described in the narrative above may be described in their pre-earthquake and volcanic eruption condition. Travel Guides   The Sicily Region of Italy The Cities of Sicily, Italy

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Ragusa

Tucked away in the tranquil countryside of southeastern Sicily is the remarkable city of Ragusa, whose distinctive architecture stands out among the lush, green landscapes. Ragusa has differentiated itself from many of Italy’s top destinations by representing the old and the new, both literally and figuratively. It has thousands of years of history and stands as a testament to Baroque architecture. Today Ragusa is one city split into two distinct parts – Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla. This separation of past and present is all due to a devastating earthquake that hit Ragusa and the rest of the surrounding area in 1693. The original city was destroyed and, as a result, had to be rebuilt. The decision was made to build a new city on the plateau above the ruins of Ragusa, which offered more stable ground. However, the local aristocracy did not want to abandon the original city. Therefore, in the years following the earthquake, two separate settlements were constructed: Ragusa Superiore, the upper area built with an ordered city layout, and Ragusa Ibla, the lower area built upon the ruins of the old city in accordance with the winding medieval layout. Today, the two towns exist as one and represent the essence of Ragusa – a city that manages to have two identities with one common history. The timing of the reconstruction in Ragusa Ibla resulted in the churches, structures, and monuments to have a distinctly Sicilian Baroque style. Other nearby cities were similarly affected by the earthquake and rebuilt in the same manner. Ragusa (together with 7 other cities in the Val di Noto) is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its incredible Sicilian Baroque architecture. UNESCO describes these locales as “representing the culmination and final flowering of Baroque art in Europe.” This unique combination of past and present makes visiting Ragusa a one-of-a-kind experience. At one moment you can be exploring the bars, restaurants, and well-organized streets of the new town, and the next you can be navigating small cobblestone avenues of the old town, taking in the historic structures which line them. Ragusa is the capital of the Sicilian province of the same name. It is home to around 75,000 people, with wonderful sightseeing, delicious cuisine, and so much more. The city is a bit remote, but intrepid travelers who venture to Ragusa will be rewarded with unbelievable sights as well as fascinating traditions and local customs unfettered by outward influence. This allegiance to history is evident in the city’s way of life, recipes, and winemaking traditions. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE IN RAGUSA Located in the southeastern portion of the island of Sicily, Ragusa is situated below the Hyblaean Mountains. The city sits atop a hill that is made of limestone and separates the Cava San Leonardo and Cava Santa Domenica valleys. The geography of the city is almost equally as important to the city’s identity and its cultural offerings because Ragusa is known for being divided into two parts. Nicknamed the “City of Bridges” the two parts of the city – Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla – are separated by a large ravine that is crossed by three picturesque and historic bridges. These upper and lower parts of Ragusa have developed their own distinct identities, though today they are considered to be one city. The Hyblaean Plateau is known for having areas of land separated by dry stone walls, and Ragusa is certainly an example of this. The climate of Ragusa is temperate and warm, with average summer temperatures reaching the high 80s. Summer afternoons can be dry and hot, so if visiting during this time of year, plan a break at a local café or restaurant to enjoy a cool beverage, such as a classic Sicilian granita. Precipitation occurs mainly in the winter and less in the summer. Travelers will find nearly any period of year to be a good time to enjoy Ragusa. WHEN IN RAGUSA Visit the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista in Ragusa Superiore. It is the main attraction for upper town Ragusa and features a majestic Baroque façade as well as a spectacular interior with three gold-embellished colonnades. It was rebuilt in the early 18th century by architects Giuseppe Recupero and Giovanni Arcidiacono, who oversaw the reconstruction following the earthquake. Be sure to spend ample time exploring the old town Ragusa Ibla as well, as you are certain to fall in love with its many historic sites. One of the best ways to do so is to head to the fifteenth century Santa Maria della Scala church. The church is located on a street that connects the upper town and lower town. If you make your way down the twisting and turning stairs beneath the church, you can take in the most splendid views of the old town in all its glory. The church itself is also rather interesting; due to the 1693 earthquake, part of the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style, while the rest was left in the original Gothic style. Perhaps the most significant historic monument in Ragusa Ibla is the stunning Cattedrale di San Giorgio, whose architecture is one of the finest expressions of the Baroque style in the world. Rebuilt in the eighteenth century atop the ruins of an ancient church that was destroyed by the earthquake, the Cattedrale di San Giorgio is known for its expansive interior with a Latin Cross layout, as well as its frescoes depicting the final events in the life of St. George. The Cathedral’s massive dome, completed in the nineteenth century, soars above the city contributing to its iconic skyline. Visit the Giardino Ibleo, Ragusa’s historic public garden. Ideal for enjoying some time outdoors on a beautiful Sicilian day, the garden features lush greenery including palm trees and Mediterranean plants as well as a church called Chiesa dei Cappucini. The gardens are beautiful on their own, but they also offer amazing views of the surrounding valleys and canyons. Enjoy the local cuisine – particularly the cheese and wine. Due to the heavy presence of livestock farms in the surrounding area, Ragusa is a city that takes cheese very seriously, from fresh and sweet cheeses to aged cheeses and everything in between. Truly, tasting local delicacies like provola ragusana, ricotta iblea, or caciocavallo ragusano paired with locally made preserves and bread is one of the best ways to experience the area’s flavors. As for wine, enjoy glasses of some of Sicily’s best reds such as Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Other delicious foods to enjoy in Ragusa include the characteristic scaccia (a local version of layered/stuffed focaccia bread), cavati pasta, and chocolate made in the nearby town of Modica. Explore the history of Ragusa – from its earliest settlers to Greek and Roman times – at the Archeological Museum. Located on the first floor of the Palazzo Mediterraneo in Ragusa Superiore, the museum contains important artifacts and art pieces from throughout Ragusa’s history. In order to truly get to know the heart of Sicily, you must travel to its historic cities and discover the unique character and culture of each. With its world-renowned architecture, breathtaking panoramas, and rich cuisine, Ragusa is a city full of charm seated at the intersection of old and new, just waiting to share its secrets with you. Travel Guides   The Sicily Region of Italy The Cities of Sicily, Italy

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Agrigento

Nestled into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea at the southern edge of the Italian island of Sicily, is the city of Agrigento. This beautiful city which is a blend of ancient and modern time periods is the capital of the province of its namesake. Whether you are a history buff or are simply drawn to the ancient beauty of this Italian jewel with deep Greek roots, Agrigento is a wonderful and unique experience for travelers touring the magnificent country of Italy. Just miles from the Mediterranean coast, the city of Agrigento is one of the top historical sites in Sicily. The ancient part of this town, the Valley of Temples, which sits on a nearby rocky ridge is considered to be one of the top historical sites in Sicily and in Italy. Many of the original temple sites are mostly ruins today, but more than a dozen of these limestone temples once populated the ridge and were a huge part of the residents’ daily lives. It is estimated that Agrigento, then named Akragas, was the third largest city in the Greek world in 5 BC. The city was originally founded by people who left Greece to colonize surrounding areas. As a result, much of Italy’s coastal areas were populated by Greek settlers, leading to the name Magna Graecia. One of the defining characteristics of the city at the time was the almost seven-mile-long wall carved out of the existing rocks of the ridge. Eventually the Romans overtook the ancient area, but it still retained much of the original Greek influence. Although most of the travelers who come to Agrigento simply pass through the modern-day city to get to the Valley of Temples, it is thriving. At the heart of the city visitors can take delight in historic churches, piazze, shops, and charming cafés that line the winding roads. While the historical center of the town is a reminder of ancient times, the surrounding parts of the city limits are urban, with tall and modern buildings creating the skyline. When traveling to the Italian island of Sicily, most visitors arrive via airplane or a boat from the mainland. Those navigating the sites of Agrigento can usually do so by car. The exception to this rule is the Valley of Temples, where it requires an automobile ride to the main area after which visitors generally do better to explore on foot. The cuisine of Agrigento, like the rest of the island of Sicily, is marked by Arab influences. The proximity of the city’s location to the Mediterranean Sea makes seafood a popular menu item along with some of the local favorites of olives, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and salted anchovies. As in most Italian cities, pasta is a staple here along with some outstanding desserts courtesy of local pastry shops. Regardless of what delicacies you dine on, a meal in Agrigento is best enjoyed with family, friends, and a fine bottle of Italian wine. GEOGRAPHY The city of Agrigento is located in a province of its namesake within the Italian region and island of Sicily. It is considered to be both a modern and ancient town. The modern part of Agrigento sits atop a hill and overlooks the ancient part of the city which sits on a nearby rocky ridge. The modern part of the city is quite urban in appearance, but the further one goes from the city limits the more rural the landscape becomes. The surrounding areas of the city are green and, in some places, can even offer a picturesque view of the Mediterranean Sea. CLIMATE The city of Agrigento enjoys mostly comfortable temperatures throughout the year, making a visit at almost any time of year a great experience. The summer months tend to see the highest number of travelers primarily because of the warm temperatures which generally peak in the low eighties (degrees Fahrenheit) and bottom out in the high fifties. The rainfall rates for summer are on average fairly low. The fall brings temperatures that decrease steadily from the summer resulting in an average high of the fifties by November, with a low in the forties. Winter continues that downward temperature trend with an average high in the forties and lows above freezing. The fall and winter months also tend to experience more rainfall than the other seasons. Spring brings a gradual warm up with temperatures reaching almost seventy degrees by May, with lows around the fifties. Rainfall amounts are a little higher in March and slowly taper off as summer approaches. ONLY IN AGRIGENTO When visiting Agrigento, travelers are almost universally drawn to the Valley of Temples in the ancient part of the city once known as Akragas. The area is roughly eight square miles and is the site where approximately a dozen or so temples once stood, earning it the title of United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. This historical area is one of the best examples of Greek ruins in the world. Of all the Greek temples that once majestically towered over ancient Akragas, the only one that is largely still intact is the Temple of Concordia. The structure is estimated to have been built in 430 BC and is probably still standing today because its structure was reinforced over the years and because it was used as a Christian basilica for a time. This limestone temple faces the east as most Greek temples did, and the perimeter is comprised of a stairway and at least two dozen stately columns. The Temple of Olympian Zeus once stood here in this same area and was enormous at an estimated three hundred feet long. Although the temple is strictly in ruins today, historians and archaeologists believe the temple once had one of the largest altars in the area for animal sacrifices. Other temples located here include the Temple of Juno (Tempio di Giunone), Temple of Hercules (Tempio di Ercole), the Temple of Castor and Pollux (Tempio di Castore e Polluce), and the Temple of Hephaestus (Tempio di Vulcano). Many of these structures are largely ruins today thanks to the weathering effects of time and an earthquake that occurred hundreds of years ago. Travelers hoping to explore the Valley of Temples should plan to take transportation to the actual site before continuing on foot. This historical area is vast and spread-out requiring visitors to travel some decent distances by foot from temple to temple. The Valley of the Temples in ancient Agrigento is a one-of-a-kind experience that typically takes several hours to explore and enjoy. Best known for the historic Valley of the Temples, the city of Agrigento is an excellent place to experience Sicily’s ancient Greek past. History lovers will rejoice at the sight of the temples, which are considered to be the best surviving examples of ancient Greek architecture outside of Greece. Travel Guides   The Sicily Region of Italy The Cities of Sicily, Italy

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Taormina

Located on a hilltop along the eastern coast of Sicily, Taormina is an absolute jewel of the region. It is one of Sicily’s most highly visited locales. While it is undeniably beautiful – its location offers simultaneous views of the ocean and the mountains, including Sicily’s famed volcano, Mt. Etna – it is not just the city’s beauty that makes it a top destination in Italy. Taormina is also a treasure trove of art, architecture, and culture. The city of Taormina was founded in the fourth century BC. It was first ruled by the Greeks but was eventually taken over by the Romans, followed by the Normans. During Norman rule, the city was relatively underestimated and fell into obscurity until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was the re-discovery of Taormina by artists and writers that helped bring the city to the attention of the rest of Europe. Eventually, the city was restored back to its glory and today, Taormina is one of Sicily’s most popular tourist destinations, particularly during the summer. When traveling to Taormina, expect to be surrounded by landscape views, historic streets and buildings, ancient monuments and ruins, and delicious local cuisine and wine. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Taormina is located in Sicily, a region of Southern Italy known for its beautiful climate, oceanside views, and active volcano Mt. Etna. The city itself sits atop a plateau just below Mount Tauro. The city overlooks the blue Ionian Sea and Mt. Etna itself. A popular winter destination for Italian locals and tourists alike, Taormina has an excellent climate for vacationing. The climate of Sicily and of Taormina is Mediterranean. Travelers can expect moderate temperatures throughout the year with wet winters, and dry summers. Because the city is located on the coast, there are a variety of beaches and ample water to enjoy throughout the warm months. In a small bay just off the coast of Taormina is an island called Isola Bella. It is a nature reserve where travelers can lounge on the rocky beach and explore the nearby grottos in the water. WHEN IN TAORMINA If there is one site not to miss in Taormina, it is the ancient Teatro Greco (Greek Theater). Entirely outdoors, this ancient monument offers an unparalleled view of the landscape which surrounds the town, particularly the blue waters of the Ionian Sea. It also hosts concerts, shows, and events such as the famous Taormina Arte festival that perfectly encapsulates the city’s appreciation for art, architecture, and history. For another historic destination, visit the Roman Odeon theater. A much smaller version of the Teatro Greco, this Roman theater is tucked away not far from Palazzo Corvaja. People from around the world travel to Taormina for its breathtaking views, including sweeping landscape panoramas. From the famous Greek theater, travelers can see the glistening sea and the outline of Sicily’s most famous natural site, Mt. Etna. At the nearby city of Castelmola, which can easily be reached during a small day trip, travelers can take in an amazing view of the entire surrounding area from a high vantage point. Throughout the city of Taormina itself, take in the views of the fascinating ancient monuments and structures, including palaces, churches, and more. Taormina is home to gorgeous beaches which travelers can enjoy. The most popular is Mazzarò, home to bathing areas and a pebble shore. South of Taormina is Giardini Naxos. This area features soft sand, plenty of restaurants to enjoy, and is the longest beach in the surroundings of Taormina. Arguably the most beautiful beach near the city is on the island of Isola Bella, just off the coast of Taormina. It is connected to the mainland via a small strip of land that is only accessible during low tide. From the island, travelers can explore bright blue grottos and immerse themselves in the nature of the area. Taormina is bursting with religious buildings and historic structures that paint a picture of what life was like in the city throughout its long history. Some of the top include the city’s cathedral – the Duomo di Taormina, Palazzo Corvaja – a fantastically well-preserved fourteenth century palace, and the Church of San Giuseppe – a seventeenth century Baroque church filled with a variety of artwork including beautiful frescoes by local artists that depict biblical scenes. To truly take in Taormina, stroll the medieval city streets and explore the various small passageways that run throughout the city. Stone walls in the town set the tone for an experience that is almost like traveling back in time. From seeing ancient monuments to discovering delicious restaurants and quaint cafés, seeing Taormina on foot is the best way to experience the city. Start along the main street, Corso Umberto I, to discover the true heart of the city. Town squares filled with people, historic streets lined with shops and boutiques, and natural beauty at every turn makes an outdoor stroll in Taormina a must-do. After exploring the beauties of Taormina’s compact city center, consider taking a day trip to nearby Mt. Etna. Intrepid travelers can choose to hike along the side of the volcano, while others may prefer to view this remarkable force of nature from below. In either case, the area surrounding Mt. Etna offers some of the most remarkable panoramas in all of Sicily. Another natural wonder near Taormina well-worth exploring are the Alcantara Gorges. Formed over thousands of years by the waters of the Alcantara River, these dramatic cliffs must simply be seen to be believed. From stunning coastal views to ancient monuments, the charming town of Taormina truly offers the best of Sicily. After sightseeing in other areas of the island, there is no place better than Taormina to unwind for a few days. Travel Guides   The Sicily Region of Italy The Cities of Sicily, Italy

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Palermo

On the edge of the bay at the base of Monte Pellegrino rests Palermo, Sicily’s capital and largest – perhaps even most interesting – city. Located on the northern coast of the island, Palermo has been molded and shaped over the centuries by a wide array of distinct cultures. Its sites, flavors, goods, and spirit are a result of a rich history that is woven from the threads of many different groups of people. To fully grasp the complex history of Palermo, one must understand the allure that major powers throughout history felt in regards to conquering the city. Palermo’s location – the middle of the Mediterranean – along with its natural harbor and status as a port city, made capturing the city an extremely strategic move for major world powers. In fact, some consider Palermo to be the most conquered city in the world. The city was established during Phoenician times, and throughout the centuries it would come under the control of the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, French, Spanish, Austrians, and, finally, the French (once more) before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. As travelers explore the city, the remnants of these various cultures can be seen in a variety of ways. From the architecture of the monuments and churches throughout the city to the flavors of the cuisine enjoyed in local restaurants to the names of streets and locations throughout the city – it is clear that Palermo is a cornucopia of culture and history. There is Middle Eastern influence in the city’s bustling markets and food, Norman influence in the city’s architecture, Jewish and Christian influences in the art found throughout Palermo, and so much more. For a truly multicultural and unique experience in Italy – look no further than Palermo. Palermo’s rich culture helps strengthen its identity as a tourism capital. Travelers who visit Palermo enjoy the city’s buildings and monuments, artistic works, passion for music and theater, and, of course, delectable food and wine. Truly, walking through the historic city center is akin to stepping back in time with the monuments, food, and even the locals serving as a visual record of Palermo’s past. Aside from tourism, the main economic supports of the city are rooted in industry, commerce, and agriculture – placing it in the Mediterranean’s top twenty largest cities. CLIMATE AND FESTIVALS   Palermo is the capital of Sicily, a Southern region of Italy that also happens to be the largest island in the Mediterranean. The city of Palermo sits in the northwest area of the island near the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The city is in a basin called Conca d’Oro (Golden Basin), which is formed by three rivers – Papireto, Kemonia, and Oreto. The Palermo mountain range surrounds the city. With the mountains facing the Tyrrhenian Sea, travelers can admire amazing seaside views during hikes or walks, particularly from Monte Pellegrino, a 1,970-foot hill offering panoramic views of the city and the sea. Palermo’s climate is considered to be subtropical Mediterranean. As a result, summers are quite long, very hot, and noticeably dry, while winters are moderate with some rainy weather, but very rarely snow. Spring and autumn in Palermo are mild and enjoyable. Palermo is great for those who wish to enjoy time outdoors, as it is one of Europe’s warmest cities and features many days of sunshine per year. The average temperature throughout the year in Palermo is around 65 °F. For those who wish to enjoy the sea, expect warm water as well with the average sea temperature ranging from 66 °F to 79 °F. WHEN IN PALERMO Explore the city’s many striking and stunning buildings, churches and monuments. Some of the top places to see include the massive Palermo Cathedral – known for its wide array of architectural styles and influences from Norman to Neoclassical, the Cappella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) – a wonderful example of Byzantine architecture and artwork, the Palazzo dei Normanni (the Norman Palace) – one of the oldest royal palaces in Europe, Fontana Pretoria – a sixteenth century fountain in Piazza Pretoria that has become a symbol of the city, and Quattro Canti – a Baroque square at the heart of the city where the two main roads meet, featuring four iconic buildings on each corner. Also worth a visit is the nearby Cathedral of Monreale, which is renowned for its gold mosaics and Norman-Byzantine architecture. In addition, the town of Monreale on its own is a gem, offering remarkable views of Palermo and the bay thanks to its position on Monte Caputo. Enjoy the outdoors. Palermo is home to the beach as well as the mountains. Outdoorsy travelers can soak up the sun by spending time on the water, on the beach, or hiking and biking on the mountain range that surrounds the city. Get insight into Palermo’s vast history at the Regional Archaeological Museum. With various sections, it features a variety of artifacts from Phoenician, Roman, Greek, and Egyptian times tied to the history of Sicily. Other important museums in the city include the Regional Art Gallery in Palazzo Abatelli, the Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum), and the Fondazione Sicilia collections in Palazzo Branciforte. Experience the Capuchin catacombs – an eerie testament to the history of the area. Inside the catacombs are 8,000 corpses and over 1,200 mummified bodies. Originally intended to serve as catacombs for the Capuchin friars, over the centuries a number of notable locals were interred here as well, up until the 1920s. Taste the culture of Palermo at any one of the city’s many food markets, which are bursting with local produce, meat, cheese, wine, and more. In addition, travelers can enjoy the classic Sicilian cuisine of Palermo at one of the city’s restaurants, cafes, and street food carts. Take in a show at Italy’s largest theater, Teatro Massimo, which is as opulent as a palace and an integral part of the city’s identity. With an illustrious history, astounding architecture, and lively cultural traditions, there’s no place quite like Palermo. Take your time exploring the city’s ancient streets and Palermo will reveal its endless treasures to you, each one more radiant than the last. Travel Guides   The Sicily Region of Italy The Cities of Sicily, Italy

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Trentino Alto Adige

Trentino-Alto Adige (also known as South Tyrol) is a region of northern Italy that is bordered by Austria and Switzerland. It is a mountainous region with a diverse landscape, including the Dolomites, the Alps, and the Adige Valley. The region is home to two provinces: Trentino and South Tyrol. Trentino-Alto Adige is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its stunning scenery, delicious food, and rich history. The region is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Dolomites and the Castle of Thun. Trentino-Alto Adige is also known for its delicious food, such as its strudel and speck.


The cities & towns of Trentino Alto Adige
Bolzano

Bolzano is the capital of South Tyrol, one of the two provinces that constitute the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige in Northern Italy. It is home to over 100,000 citizens and is South Tyrol’s largest city. Bolzano is one of Italy’s best cities in terms of daily living and was ranked as the city with the “Best Quality of Life” in all of Italy. Its citizens have the second highest per capita earnings in Italy, next to Milan. The city takes part in the Alpine Town of the Year Association at the Alpine Convention, which is meant to promote sustainable development in Alpine areas. Bolzano also won Alpine Town of the Year award in 2009. The history of Bolzano dates back to 15 BC when Nero Claudius Drusus, legal stepson of Emperor Augustus, claimed Adige for himself. The land was taken over by the Bishop of Trento Ulderico II in the eleventh century and the first town center was created at that time. True construction of the city began in the twelfth century and it was then that the city officially gained municipal rights. Over time, the city grew and passed between multiple powers. Following World War I, Bolzano and the region of Trentino-Alto Adige became part of Italy per the Treaty of Saint-Germain. Today, the city’s culture is a mix of Italian and Germanic influences. Bolzano has two official languages due to its location and history. Both Italian and German are spoken throughout the area, and the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano holds lectures and classes in three languages – German, Italian, and English. The city has been hailed for its ability to maintain and celebrate cultural differences. The economy thrives on handicrafts, such as wood and ceramics, as well as agriculture, such as wine, dairy, and fruit, in addition to tourism. Bolzano is a top travel destination because it features all the benefits of Alpine destinations in Europe – terrific mountain landscapes, hearty food, and rich history – with everything one would expect to find in Italy – stunning castles and churches, delicious wine, and nonstop sightseeing. GEOPGRAPHY & CLIMATE Bolzano is located in a basin where the Sarntal, Eisacktal, and Adige valleys and their rivers meet. The geography of this location made the city ideal as a trade destination since it sat directly over two main Alpine crossings. Its location in the Dolomites characterizes Bolzano physically as much as it does culturally. At its highest point, the city sits over 4,900 feet above sea level. At its lowest, it sits 760 feet above sea level. Bolzano’s geography also means the city is located on multiple climate borders, giving the city warm summers and Alpine winters. The average high during warm months is around 84°F while the average low during wintertime is 23°F. The surrounding mountains help shield the city from too much wind, making most days outside of winter and autumn warm and temperate. WHEN IN BOLZANO Explore the medieval town center. The architecture, the people, the shops, the fruit and vegetable markets – it all makes for a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. Attend cultural events and festivals such as the Bolzano Christmas market, the food festival called Speckfest, and the famous Südtirol Jazzfestival. All of these events highlight the best that Bolzano and the South Tyrol area has to offer. Visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology to see Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,000-year-old mummy that is on display with his original tools, equipment, and clothing. As the oldest natural mummy found in Europe, Ötzi offers true insight into ancient life in the Dolomites. Most visitors are amazed by the skills and grit needed to survive in the frigid temperatures of this area during the Stone Age. Other museums to visit in Bolzano include the Messner Mountain Museum located in the Sigmundskron Castle near Bolzano, which traces the history of man’s interaction with the mountains with a focus on mountaineering and Alpine tourism. Also of interest is the Museion where works of modern and contemporary art are on display. Soak up the splendid architecture throughout the city, which reflects the various influences that make Bolzano the unique city it is today. From medieval castles to Gothic churches to Baroque palaces, the structures of Bolzano paint a picture of its history. Some of the best architectural sites in Bolzano include the thirteenth century Dominican Church, the city’s gothic style Duomo, and the Old Parish Church of Gries. Take in art via the city’s museums or stroll through the streets and admire the colorful façades and historic frescoes. Enjoy cuisine that is the best of Germanic and Italian food. Corner side bakeshops sell fresh baked goods, particularly German-inspired bread. Local cafés dish out hearty, Alpine meals full of meat, vegetables, and flavorful spices. Restaurants and bars offer traditional Italian cured meats and cheeses as well as classic pasta dishes and locally produced Italian wine. Small pubs serve up German beer and snacking sausages. Desserts consist of Austrian specialties such as strudels and the rich chocolate cake known as Sachertorte. Shop on the historic street, Via dei Portici, complete with modern boutiques as well as small shops which sell local handicrafts. Take a cable car from Bolzano to other mountain cities and enjoy the spectacular view of the area’s incredible geography. Another way to embrace the geography of the area is to explore the countryside on foot or by bicycle. The region is filled with walking, hiking, and cycling trails where travelers can enjoy nature. Travel to Bolzano to discover the unique Germanic and Italian influences of the city and surrounding region. Visitors to the city will be amazed by the Alpine views, historic architecture, beautiful artworks, rich handicraft traditions, and delicious cuisine. Travel Guides   The Trentino Alto Adige Region of Italy The Cities of Trentino Alto Adige, Italy

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Trento

Located in Northern Italy along the Adige River, Trento is the capital of the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige and the capital of the autonomous province of Trento. The city is home to approximately 120,000 people and is the Alps’ third largest city. Trento is characterized as a university town, as it is home to the University of Trento, which is consistently ranked among Italy’s top universities. Trento is also one of Italy’s best cities in terms of quality of life, economy, and standard of living. Furthermore, the city’s per capita GDP makes it one of Italy’s most prosperous cities. In fact, Trento was designated as the Alpine Town of the Year in 2004. Alpine Town of the Year is a great honor bestowed upon top cities in the Alpine area by the Alpine Town of the Year Association. First settled by the Romans, the city of Trento is most well-known for the Council of Trent, which gave rise to counter-Reformation and convened in the city during the sixteenth century. The Council brought much of Europe back to Catholicism, so travelers will see the word consiglio, meaning “council,” throughout the city in many ways. Trento has a long history of being occupied by different rulers and Empires, including the Etruscans, Gauls, Lombards, and Habsburgs. As a result, the city’s architecture, art, and culture have a unique and multi-cultural quality. Today’s Trento is a thriving university city with a strong economy rooted in communication, tourism, science, and education. As a travel destination, Trento offers incredible architecture, such as the city’s Cathedral of San Vigilio and Castello del Buonconsiglio, as well as a variety of science and art museums, and exciting sightseeing and shopping. It is a wonderful destination to visit on its own but is also perfect for serving as a jumping off point to enjoy other locations throughout the Italian Alps, such as high-end ski resorts and Alpine mountain towns. Trento and the towns of the surrounding area are also home to interesting archeological sites. Within Trento, travelers can visit the Paleo Christian Basilica of San Vigilio, which is located underneath the Duomo, as well as the underground archeological site known as S.A.S.S., Casa Terlago, and Porta Veronensis. Additionally, the summit of the Doss Trento hill is home to the ruins of a fifth century Paleo Christian basilica. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Trento is located in the Adige Valley of Northern Italy just south of the Dolomite Mountain range. The city is flanked by the Adige River. The Adige Valley is surrounded by various mountains – Vigolana, Monte Bondone, Paganella, Marzola, and Monte Calisio – resulting in many of Trento’s provincial towns being traditional mountain villages. The city is not far from various lakes, including Lake Caldonazzo, Lake Levico, Lake Toblino, Lake Carezza, and the stunning Lake Garda. The weather in Trento is mild and comfortable, though winters do tend to be cold as a result of the Alpine setting. The average winter low is 38°F and the average high in the Summer is 77°F. There is a fair amount of rainfall throughout the city, even in drier months. WHEN IN TRENTO Stroll the city’s piazze. Piazza della Fiera, built in 1230, is the home of the famous Trento Christmas Market. Piazza del Duomo, considered the heart of the city, features the Diocesan museum and the city’s Cathedral. Piazza del Duomo is also home to the Fontana di Nettuno (the Fountain of Neptune), a nearly 40-foot-tall Baroque fountain by Francesco Antonio Gionco that features incredibly intricate and whimsical details. Visit the incredible Castello del Buonconsiglio, a castle complex that is surrounded by fortified walls. Once the home of the bishop-princes, this thirteenth-century structure now features the Castello Del Buonconsiglio Museum, impressive design elements, and an array of incredible artwork including a variety of frescoes by artists such as the Dossi brothers, Romanino, and Marcello Fogolino. See Trento’s Duomo. An amazing Romanesque cathedral, the city’s Duomo is best known for being the location that hosted the Council of Trent between 1545 and 1563. It features stunning architectural details and has a religiously significant archaeological area. It also has medieval frescoes and a colonnaded stairway. Explore the city’s museums. Trento is home to a variety of unique and important museums that reflect the area’s history, infatuation with art, and advancements in science. Not far from the Duomo is the Museo Diocesano Tridentino. This museum features important religious collections, including pieces and artifacts from the period of the historic Council of Trent. It also holds contemporary art exhibits. The MUSE is another unique museum. Housed in a wonderful architectural work of art, this museum focuses on twenty-first century sciences. Take in the city’s incredible art. Whether walking along the city streets and admiring the many frescoes throughout the area or exploring an art gallery such as Galleria Civica – a modern and contemporary art exhibition – there are a variety of ways to enjoy art in Trento. Many of the city’s churches display historic pieces as well. Take a day trip to enjoy the wondrous natural outdoors of the region. Just outside of Trento there are a stunning array of hiking and biking trails as well as an impressive selection of ski resorts. There is also the Giardino Botanico Alpino, one of the Alps’ oldest and largest gardens, in which travelers can see thousands of species of plants. Travelers can also take the Funivia Trento–Sardagna cable car up to a stunning lookout point that gives a 1,200 feet high view of the city. Well known as the site of the famous Council of Trent, the modern city of Trento is filled with gems that amaze its many visitors each year. In addition to the breathtaking Alpine scenery, travelers to Trento can enjoy the numerous examples of historic architecture, beautiful frescoes and other artworks, and fascinating archeological areas. Travel Guides   The Trentino Alto Adige Region of Italy The Cities of Trentino Alto Adige, Italy

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Tuscany

Tuscany is a region in central Italy known for its rolling hills, vineyards, and medieval towns. The region is home to the cities of Florence, Siena, and Pisa, all of which are world-renowned for their art, architecture, and history. Tuscany is also home to some of the most beautiful scenery in Italy, including the Chianti region, the Val d'Orcia, and the Maremma coast.


The cities & towns of Tuscany
Volterra

The historical and walled city of Volterra is located in Italy’s picturesque Tuscany region. This town is steeped in ancient history that can be traced back for thousands of years. It emanates an enchanting Italian quality as one wanders the cobblestone streets that wind around the town showcasing structures that can be traced back to the Middle Ages. This small town is one of the best kept secrets of Tuscany and a must for any Italian vacation itinerary with off-the-beaten-path destinations. Part of the charm of this sleepy town is its remoteness. While it is one of the more popular smaller Tuscan towns for travelers to visit and has a strong tourism industry, it is not crowded with tourists the way Florence or Rome are. The city is still home to many residents who work and live here as their families have for centuries before them. Volterra is one of the oldest cities in the Italian region of Tuscany. It is estimated to have once been a Bronze Age settlement that was later developed and inhabited by the Etruscans. Eventually the town came under Roman rule, evidence of which can still be seen in some of the local architecture. Volterra flourished during the Middle Ages and Renaissance period. Afterwards, the town was under the rule of the Republic of Florence before ultimately becoming part of Italy as we know it today. Volterra is thought to have been continuously inhabited since circa the eighth century BC. Volterra’s cuisine is marked largely by agricultural specialties such as extra virgin olive oil, truffles, chestnuts, and grapes for wine. These crops are the basis of many of the city’s most frequently requested dishes. In addition to these items, wild boar and locally made cheeses are a favorite for diners. Because of the small and communal nature of many of Volterra’s neighboring villages, it is not unusual for the residents of those areas to come to the city for certain services such as education, shopping, and more. If an Italian getaway is taking you to the gorgeous town of Volterra and you are flying in, your best bet may be the Florence or Pisa international airports. The city is approximately an hour and 20 minutes away from the Florence airport via local highways and roadways and roughly an hour away from the Pisa airport. For those travelers already in Italy and headed to Volterra, it is possible to reach the town by car. While locals will likely tell travelers there is no bad time to visit Volterra, the city typically experiences the highest number of visitors in the spring and early summer. Early fall can also be part of the main travel season. However, many seasoned travelers say that November is one of their favorite months to visit as the weather is still reasonable and there is far less tourist traffic. When it comes to seeing the sights inside of the city of Volterra, it may be prudent to plan to travel by foot or bicycle. Much of the center and heart of the city is closed off to public traffic and requires visitors to park outside the city in designated parking areas. With the quaint and charming beauty of this part of Italy, walking the city at leisure is one of the best ways to engage with local culture. Volterra is a town of rich culture and history, much of which can be found in the area’s architecture and museums. As you travel the town and the piazze to immerse in the local culture, be sure to visit the religious institutions of the Volterra Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Volterra Baptistery of San Giovanni as well as the Etruscan city walls and the Etruscan Museum. Perhaps the only thing to rival Volterra’s beauty is its fascinating history that spans millennia. Consider exploring the city courtesy of a private walking tour to learn more about this amazing place as well as the traditions and customs it still observes today. GEOGRAPHY The city of Volterra is a rather small town located on the western side of Italy within the province of Pisa and the region of Tuscany. Although the city is surrounded by protective walls, many residents also live just outside the walls. The town of Volterra is a maze of winding cobblestone streets, many of which can be steep in nature. The town is filled with modern day cafés, restaurants, and shops. Although Volterra is small, many of the nearby rural villages and communities are even smaller, making Volterra a frequent day trip to town for basic services. CLIMATE The summer climate in Volterra is seasonal with warm summers of temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and lows closer to 60 degrees. July is usually the warmest month of the year. The fall months begin a slow decline in highs and lows ending in November with highs typically in the 50s and lows in the 40s. The winter months bring cooler temperatures with averages in the 40s and lows just above freezing. January is typically considered to be the coldest month of the year in Volterra. Although the weather can vary depending on the season, most travelers consider the city’s temperatures to be conducive to sightseeing almost year-round. ONLY IN VOLTERRA When traveling to Volterra, be sure to visit one of the many stores selling alabaster products. This town is known for its ancient alabaster mines, many of which are still operational today. Alabaster is a very fine, translucent and white form of the mineral gypsum that is often used in sculpting. Visitors should plan to take a leisurely stroll down the cobblestone streets and tour several of the stores. Here travelers will find stunning handmade alabaster plates, bowls, vases, and more. These alabaster treasures make fantastic souvenirs for loved ones and excellent Italian showpieces for your own home. If the art of alabaster intrigues you, don’t miss a tour of the Alabaster Museum which features hundreds of artistic examples of this mineral. Located in the heart of Tuscany, the town of Volterra enchants with its historic architecture and rich past. Enjoy a long stroll through Volterra’s center as you learn about the town’s famous alabaster tradition and perhaps purchase a unique souvenir that will always remind you of your time in this special part of Italy.Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Lucca

Italy is no stranger to historic destinations, but Lucca is perhaps one of the country’s most unique. A charming town, Lucca is completely surrounded by ancient Renaissance walls. Beyond the stone walls, travelers are welcomed into a city filled with Romanesque churches, Gothic towers, local restaurants, quaint boutiques, and walkways that line the city walls, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the town. The city’s culture is characterized by a love of art, chamber and classical music, and of course architecture. It is the birthplace of famed composer Giacomo Puccini and is home to a variety of museums that display art from the city’s long history. Medieval buildings and historic churches are sprinkled throughout Lucca, making it an excellent city to stroll through and explore. Lucca’s history can be traced back as far as 180 AD when it first became a settlement. During Roman times, the city blossomed, and in the sixteenth century the famed Renaissance walls which surround it were built to defend the city. It was during this same time that the city experienced its glory days and the construction of so many of Lucca’s churches began, earning the city the title of the “City of 100 Churches.” Lucca prospered financially as a center for banking and the silk trade and more structures – mansions, palaces, and monuments – were constructed throughout the town. Napoleon ruled the city beginning at the end of the 1700s and in 1814 it fell under the rule of Parma before changing hands several more times. During this time the city’s squares and walkways along the walls were built. The city became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860 and its identity as a must-see Italian destination was solidified. For travelers, Lucca is a city that is teeming with history, charm, and culture. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Lucca is located in the province of the same name. The province of Lucca is positioned in Tuscany, a region in Central Italy. The area’s location on a fertile plain adjacent to the Tyrrhenian Sea gives the city a temperate, Mediterranean climate with temperatures averaging between 68 and 77°F. Travelers should expect to experience warm summers, with temperatures at their hottest in July. During the winters, which are short in Lucca, the coldest month is January. November features the most precipitation, so this month should be avoided if hoping to experience a dry time in Lucca. ONLY IN LUCCA Take a walk along the Renaissance walls that surround the city. The city’s most distinctive feature includes foot and bike paths which overlook the city. From them, travelers can see views of the inside of the city as well as the countryside around it. When in Lucca, do as the locals and enjoy a nice, scenic bike ride atop the city walls. Explore as many of the city’s churches as possible. Lucca is known as the “City of 100 Churches” so it is a top destination for those interested in religious structures’ architecture, art, history, and spirituality. Some of the main churches to visit include the city’s Duomo, the Church of San Michele al Foro, the Church of San Giusto, the Basilica of San Frediano, and the Church of Sant’Alessandro. Visit the unique Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, also known as Market Square or Amphitheatre Square. This oval shaped square was built along the shape of an Ancient Roman Amphitheatre. Although the Amphitheatre is no longer present, the area evokes the history and culture of Roman times. The square, which is considered to be the beating heart of Lucca, is home to a variety of restaurants, shops, and cultural events throughout the year. Climb the 230 steps to the top of the Guinigi Tower. Torre Guinigi is a unique tower because it is one of the only remaining towers from the ancient days of Lucca and features a rooftop garden complete with trees. From atop the tower, travelers can see the full expanse of the town and the surrounding landscape. Visit local museums. From the Cathedral Museum to the Center for Contemporary Art, there are a variety of museums throughout Lucca that display excellent and often historic works of art. Enjoy local events. Lucca holds an array of local cultural events throughout the year, such as the Lucca Summer Festival, the Lucca Comics and Games festival, the Holy Cross Celebration – a processional of the Holy Cross that features candles and lights all throughout the city, and many more. Indulge in the city’s incredible food. Characterized by a classic Tuscan style infused with Lucca’s distinctly elevated ingredients, the cuisine and wine in Lucca are unforgettable. The area produces decadent local extra virgin olive oil and top-of-the-line DOC wines such as Colline Lucchesi, “The Lucca Hills” wines. Its most famous local pasta, tordelli lucchesi, is known for its bright yellow color and delicious taste. Whether dining at a high end restaurant or just grabbing a bite at a family-owned spot, the food and wine of Lucca will be delicious additions to your vacation. For a day of relaxation outside of the city, visit the thermal baths in nearby Bagni di Lucca. The two natural steam caves there are known for their healing and spa-like properties. And the local health and wellness spa offers a variety of health treatments such as massages as well as an indoor thermal pool for optimum rest and rejuvenation. The picturesque city of Lucca exudes the quintessential charm that the Tuscany region is known for. While exploring the historic streets and admiring the seemingly endless churches, travelers are sure to fall in love with this breathtaking destination. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Cortona

Located near the center of Italy is the charming small town of Cortona. As travelers approach the town from the lower areas of the countryside, Cortona appears to be perched just above and watching over all of Tuscany. This under-the-radar town is not typically mobbed by crowds like other parts of Italy and is a delight to visit. Cortona is truly a beautiful way to begin or end an Italian getaway. This ancient city has been around for centuries and has more recently enjoyed an influx of visitors. Although travelers from all over the world have visited Cortona for more than two hundred years, the introduction of the 2003 movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, brought a new wave of visitors from the United States and abroad. Once you are exposed to the beauty of this amazing town, whether it be via film or in person, Cortona has a way of simply capturing your heart. Cortona is a quintessential small Italian town. The mostly sloping stone streets boast delicious restaurants, quaint cafés, and unique shops that feature locally made food and goods. The buildings rising up on either side of a street often feature fresh flowers outside windows during the warmer months. To walk the city during the day or during an evening passeggiata is one of the best ways to take in the local culture and customs. Estimated to have been present since Roman rule or earlier, the town’s large stone walls still stand today. This feature combined with Cortona’s elevated position above much of Umbria and Tuscany, allowed for great military advantages. Cortona is thought to have once been an Umbrian city that was eventually taken over by the Etruscans. Over the ensuing years, the city fell under Roman rule before becoming allied with the Ghibelline faction circa the thirteenth century. Cortona then became part of the lands of the Medici during the fifteenth century before eventually earning a role in the Unified Kingdom of Italy. Unlike many of the larger Italian cities, Cortona is not located at the intersection of or alongside major area highways. Sitting atop a hill above the Tuscan countryside, if traveling by car or bus, visitors would be required to exit off a nearby highway and wind their way through Tuscany to Cortona. Be advised that if traveling by car, the amount of parking options within Cortona’s city walls is limited. For those flying in, the airports of Peretola International in Florence, Sant’Egidio International in Perugia, Galileo Galilei International in Pisa, and Fiumicino International in Rome will likely be your best bets. When it comes to navigating the city itself, public bus transportation may be preferable to that of your own car so that parking will not be an issue. Many of the locals choose to traverse the city primarily on foot or by bicycle. The charm of this town lies in each city block and is best experienced when exploring at a slower pace. Even though it is a small town, touring breaks will be needed for meals. With the local cured meats and cheeses, the homemade pasta, and the deliciously creamy desserts, you will want to partake in the Italian tradition of lingering over meals. The dining experience in Cortona and Italy is much slower paced than what travelers of other nationalities may be used to and may take up to two hours or more. Most meals here will consist of an appetizer, first course, second course, and dessert, but no meal is complete without wine. With the city’s close proximity to several renowned wine areas, it is an absolute must to sip on a fine locally-made wine during the course of your meal. Whether you plan to stay in Cortona for one day or several, the rich history, culture, and cuisine all come together to make this town largely off the beaten path a wonderful Italian vacation destination of a lifetime. GEOGRAPHY The city of Cortona is located close to the heart of Italy. It is part of the province of Arezzo and the larger, famous region of Tuscany. Cortona is considered to be a part of the Val di Chiana, known as the Chiana Valley, an alluvial valley that is one of the most extensive in the Apennine Mountain range. Cortona is not a well-traveled vacation destination located alongside one of the country’s major highways. The right highway exit will take motorists through the Tuscan countryside and eventually lead them to this beautiful and secluded town. Driving in from the Tuscan countryside, Cortona is highly visible as it sits high atop a hill. The city’s elevated position affords visitors some truly breathtaking and picturesque views of the Tuscany countryside and the rolling hills of neighboring Umbria. Weather permitting, travelers may even catch a glimpse of the nearby Lake Trasimeno, which is the fourth largest lake in the country and the largest in Central Italy. However, other than those bodies of water that can be seen from the edge of Cortona looking out over Tuscany and Umbria, the town is largely landlocked. CLIMATE Cortona is most commonly visited during the summer months as that tends to be when the town is warmest. The warm summer weather hits in earnest around the middle of June and ends in early September. On average, tourists can usually expect temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit with lows in the 60s. The summer months are statistically lower in rainfall than the remainder of the year. The coolest part of the year begins in late fall and typically stretches until early spring. During these colder months, the city generally experiences temperatures around the 50s during the day and can bottom out in the 30s overnight. Despite the temperature, the city of Cortona is just as beautiful when it is warm as it is when the cold sets in. For this reason, there is really not a bad time of year to visit the town. ONLY IN CORTONA Because Cortona sits perched above Tuscany and the foothills along the edge of Umbria, the city offers unparalleled panoramic views. By standing upon a wide terrace on the clearest of days, viewers can see the two regions in one sweeping glance. One of the best ways to enjoy such a view is with a glass of locally-made wine or a sweet gelato in the company of good friends. Another particularity of the city is the presence of one main street that is conspicuously flat. The hilltop location makes the sometimes steep sloping streets of the city a part of everyday life, except for a street called Via Nazionale. Despite its official name, many of the residents refer to the street by its nickname, Rugapiana, which translates to flat wrinkle. Because it is the only truly flat road in Cortona, it is one of the main thoroughfares often traveled by townspeople and visitors. Cortona is an enchanting city that if not for cinematic hits such as Under the Tuscan Sun, might still be sadly off of most international travelers’ radars. Today the city is a coveted travel destination for those wanting to experience quintessential Italy and maybe find their true selves again amongst the rich traditions and culture of Cortona.Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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San Gimignano

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance period, San Gimignano was the ideal resting spot for pilgrims making the trip to Florence or Rome. While physical evidence remains in the twelfth century shelter found adjacent to the main gates, the town’s overall presence continues to feel history’s impact to this day. The locals benefited from their surrounding fertile land and the flow of pilgrims passing through – increasing the trade of local agricultural products including saffron and the area’s world famous Vernaccia wine. These continue to play a role in San Gimignano’s economic success – ensuring the town remains a must-see stop for any traveler. Located in central Italy’s Tuscany region, the Etruscan town of San Gimignano was named after Modena’s Holy Bishop – St. Gimignano – who historians say protected the town from groups of threatening barbarians. The town’s namesake aided residents in experiencing a period of development and prosperity, yet the hardships that followed left their own visible mark that can be explored by visitors today. An intense rivalry between local families led to the construction of 72 towers of varying heights – 14 of which remain intact. Among the highest are Torre dei Cugnanesi, Torre Chigi, and the tallest at 177 feet – Torre Grossa. The latter offers those brave enough to climb its many steps to the top, a breathtaking, panoramic view of San Gimignano and the surrounding countryside. In addition to the town’s skyline of powerful towers, which has resulted in the nickname “The Medieval Manhattan,” the hill town of San Gimignano is home to Gothic and Romanesque architecture as well as famous works of art. Much of the area’s numerous structures contain masterpieces of various mediums. Renowned artists including Simone Martini and Sebastiano Mainardi painted colorful frescoes on the church interiors, and sculptures and wooden statues by talented figures such as Jacopo della Quercia stand as focal points throughout. The towers, town squares, architecture, and artwork have all contributed to San Gimignano making the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1990. This honor expresses the importance of the history, culture, and tradition the town has and continues to embody. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE     The Tuscan town of San Gimignano is positioned in the hills of Val d’Elsa in the province of Siena. Travelers will find this unique town approximately 33 miles south of Florence and 26 miles north of Siena. The hilly landscape in and around the Italian town varies greatly in elevation and is heavily populated by locally grown crops and native trees. The location and its topography influence the climate visitors can expect while sightseeing. Summers amongst the hills tend to be hot and slightly muggy, yet brief in duration – while winters can feature colder temperatures peaking in mid-January. Fall and spring are characterized by mild temperatures. Umbrellas are an ideal travel accessory as rain can be sporadic from early fall to late spring – winters can be particularly wet. WHEN IN SAN GIMIGNANO With so much history and architecture to explore while in San Gimignano, there are some sights that should not be missed along the way. At the center of it all are the town’s four main squares: Piazza Pecori, Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza della Cisterna, and Piazza Duomo. While each of the squares should be on a traveler’s sightseeing itinerary, the latter two have notable aspects not to be missed. Piazza della Cisterna is the headliner among the squares with its triangular border of Gothic and Romanesque homes. A rustic well can be found at the center – once the town’s central water source. The focal point for Piazza Duomo is the picturesque Duomo of San Gimignano – also known as the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta. This must-see, Tuscan Renaissance cathedral is a work of art both inside and out. Detailed frescoes can be found lining the interior, including scenes from the Old and New Testaments by Bartolo di Fredi and Lippo Memmi, respectively. Famous Italian artists flocked to San Gimignano, willing to help in completing the churches’ frescoes, friezes, altars and other artistic treasures. The Chapel of Santa Fina was added to the church in 1468 and includes its own share of beautiful artwork including frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio and an altarpiece by Benedetto da Maiano. Other sites to take in while in San Gimignano include the thirteenth century Church of Sant’Agostino, the Fortress of Montestaffoli and the Civic Museum located within the thirteenth century Palazzo del Popolo – or People’s Palace. As one of the country’s more popular small towns, San Gimignano has so much to offer within its bordering stone walls. A stroll along the two major thoroughfares – Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo – provides a glimpse into the daily lives of San Gimignano’s residents. Running north and south through town, the cobblestone streets are lined with small shops selling a variety of products including the many handcrafted items created by the locals. Cafés and restaurants serve up local recipes such as wild boar dishes and the traditional, handmade pici pasta. Though strongly influenced by Tuscan customs, the town has its own take on Italian cuisine. For a brief change in scenery, travelers can take a short excursion to the nearby town of Certaldo. The quaint surroundings offer visitors colorful red brick buildings, street markets, and unique events including historic reenactments and folklore celebrations. With intact historic city walls and medieval towers that soar over the center of town, San Gimignano’s reputation as one of the most picturesque areas in Italy is more than deserved. Do not miss your chance to visit this beautiful gem tucked away in the scenic Tuscan countryside. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Siena

Located in central Italy, deep in the heart of the region of Tuscany, is the enchanting and picturesque hilltop city of Siena. This gorgeous city is known for its medieval roots and gothic architecture which are said to transport visitors back in time as they explore the treasures of Siena. Whether it is only for an afternoon or several days, plan to see Siena on your next vacation to Italy and discover the city’s vast cultural riches of art, museums, architecture, and more. In order to truly appreciate the city’s legacy and cultural heritage, a quick history lesson is most helpful. Siena is an ancient city with roots tracing all the way back to the BC era when it was thought to be settled by Etruscans. The city was under the rule of Romans and the Lombards before it eventually became the Republic of Siena. In the early years of the Republic during the fourteenth century, Siena was considered a powerhouse in Europe for being such a large city known for its military might. However, later during the fourteenth century the Black Death overtook the city, followed by economic decline that devastated Siena and the rest of Italy. After losing its independence, Siena fell to the influence of the Spaniards then the Florentines. In 1860, Siena, together with the rest of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, became part of the Kingdom of Italy. The small medieval city of Siena is a magnet for travelers, particularly the city’s historic center which is recognized as a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. It is estimated the historic center of Siena welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who come to take in the fabulous museums, exquisite art, delicious cuisine, and medieval beauty. Siena is primarily a pedestrian city with little to no traffic in the heart of the city. This contributes greatly to the old world charm of the city in addition to the steep and narrow roadways that are known for winding their way, around making outings an adventure from the start. There is no shortage of things to see while visiting Siena including the historical city center’s Piazza del Campo, the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy), the Duomo and museums, just to name a few. Piazza del Campo is Siena’s main square and one with immense historical significance. From its early years to modern day, the square has served as a primary gathering or meeting place for locals and visitors alike, many of whom choose to meet at the piazza’s Fountain of Joy. One of the most iconic landmarks within the square is that of the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall) which features the Torre del Mangia, a municipal tower that is particularly sought out by travelers hoping to climb the steps of this high structure. This piazza is a favorite for travelers at any time of day, but particularly so as dusk falls upon Siena and locals take their passeggiata, or evening stroll. The Siena Cathedral, known as the Duomo di Siena, showcases stunning Gothic and Romanesque architecture. After the original structure was completed, a large expansion was planned to make the transept the largest in the world, yet the arrival of the Plague and a shortage of funds led to the abandonment of the plans. Despite that, the cathedral is still considered the city’s highest point and is widely known for its intricate artistic masterpieces in the form of mosaics, statues, and sculptures. Be sure to leave time in between sightseeing stops to partake in the local cuisine of Siena. The city is home to quaint little restaurants and cafes tucked into the city squares and side streets. Take advantage of your time here and taste test some of Siena’s most popular items on the menu, such as crostini neri, pici al ragù di cinghiale (handmade pasta with wild boar ragù), locally produced olive oil, and a glass of Chianti. In order to reach Siena, the closest major international airport is in Florence. The quickest and most direct way to reach Siena is by car. There are a variety of options including renting a car or hiring a private driver. If renting a car, travelers can explore the city on their own time as they see fit. It is important to note that cars must generally be left outside the city walls in designated parking areas. However, if the hotel is located in the city center, travelers can drive up to the hotel following a designated route to unload their luggage before parking the car in the appropriate area. GEOGRAPHY   The city of Siena is located in northern central Italy in the heart of the region of Tuscany. It is approximately thirty miles or so south of Florence, Italy making Siena a popular excursion for those visiting the Cradle of the Renaissance. One of the main geographical characteristics of Siena is that the city sits atop three grand hills in Tuscany. Its elevated location is among a beautiful rolling green landscape of Tuscan hills and valleys. The portion of the countryside between Siena and Florence is known as the famed Chianti area where some of the best wines in the world are produced. With relative close proximity of less than an hour to several hours away from Florence, Rome, and Milan, Siena is frequently a traveler favorite for its old world charm. CLIMATE In general, the city of Siena enjoys mild temperatures. In the summer, temperatures tend to average close to seventy degrees Fahrenheit and experience some of the lowest average levels of rain for the year. The fall brings average temperatures in the fifties and sixties with a marked increase in rain amounts, with November often being one of the rainiest months of the year. The winter season in Siena usually sees average temperatures in the forties with a gradual warm up in the spring. The largely temperate weather of Siena makes it an attractive Italy vacation destination year-round for most travelers. ONLY IN SIENA One of the most time honored and largest events in the city of Siena is the historic Palio di Siena horse race. Originating in the sixth century, the event now takes place in Piazza del Campo two times a year, on July 2 and August 16, and is a favorite among locals and travelers alike, attracting big crowds. The horse race takes place among the city’s historic neighborhoods, known as contrade. Each contrada is represented by a specific animal or symbol with associated colors. These symbols and colors, which have been in use since the Middle Ages, are featured on flags and scarves during the Palio and also demarcate the borders of the neighborhoods throughout the city. The race itself is usually under two minutes long, however the event is a multi-day affair featuring a parade, trial races, a blessing of the horses, and a rehearsal dinner. The festivities begin with the drawing of lots to determine which contrade will run as well as horse assignments, rounding out on the last day with the actual horse race. For those who wish to see the Palio in person, it is recommended that they arrive very early in the morning to secure a spot in the piazza or, even better, purchase a seated ticket well in advance. During the Palio, Piazza del Campo gets very crowded with the standing spectators who enthusiastically cheer and celebrate as the race unfolds and the winner is crowned. Truth be told, nothing quite compares to the level of passion that the locals have for their Palio. For natives of Siena, the Palio is more than a biannual tradition, rather it is an integral part of life year-round. The beautiful medieval Tuscan city of Siena is one of the most fascinating and historical destinations in central Italy. If you have plans to visit Rome, Florence, or Milan, it is also an excellent idea to include Siena on your itinerary for a memorable travel back in time. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Maremma

Located at the southern end of the region of Tuscany and spanning both the Grosseto and the southern tip of the Livorno provinces lies the charming and rustic area of Italy known as Maremma. There are many towns and villages to be found scattered throughout Maremma and plenty of things for visitors to see and do there. The history of Maremma is a long and turbulent one. While in ancient times it was one of the most fertile and wealthy regions on the Italian peninsula, the rise of Rome would eventually lead to the land being overly exploited of its natural resources. After centuries of being mined to excess, with farms draining the soil of its nutrients and civilization changing the local geography, the area ended up degenerating into a swampland that was quickly infested by malarial mosquitoes. For centuries, Maremma was known as the roughest and most inhospitable place in all of Italy, and it was even featured in Dante’s Divine Comedy as the location to the entrance to hell. Over the years, the people of Maremma, known as the Maremmani, were seen as particularly poor, rustic, and weathered. Only a small number of people inhabited the region during the centuries that it remained a swamp. And despite the inhospitable nature of the region, they continued to be exploited by both foreign and local entities. The Spanish, for example, took control of the region for three centuries, draining the people and the land of what little resources remained. It was only in the nineteenth century that Maremma’s status took a turn for the better. The area was united under Grand Duke Leopold II, who used then-revolutionary hydraulic engineering technology to drain the swamp and return the area to its fertile, arable state. Centuries of being left to their own devices at the best of times and exploited at the worst of times has created a very unique cultural identity in Maremma. The Maremmani are fiercely independent, tend to generally keep to themselves, are quite protective of their freedoms and their cultural roots, and are proud of their rustic, countryside heritage. Many of the Maremmani scoff at the idea of even living in the capital of the area, Grosseto, preferring to live out in their smaller villages in the countryside. This is despite the fact that, compared to more major travel destinations such as Florence or Rome, Grosseto is actually quite small. Due to its remote and unassuming nature, Maremma is not a destination usually included on most travel itineraries. However, visitors to the region can expect to find some of the most delightful hidden gems that Italy has to offer. The Maremma area features a very rustic zone with wide open plains and hills full of trails for hiking and biking and sweeping landscapes of prairies and wildflowers. Just as interestingly, the plains are dotted with old ruins from the Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval eras that are open for public visitation. Perhaps the biggest draws to the Maremma region, however, are its beaches. Maremma hosts some of Tuscany’s most beautiful and remote beaches along its coastline. Despite the relative remoteness of the area, resort towns have sprung up along the shore, promoting lush beaches to weary tourists who want to stop and relax for a while. Meanwhile, the hills of Maremma are dotted with natural hot springs. The most revered of these are the Thermal Baths at Saturnia. This travel destination is perhaps the most well-known attraction that Maremma has to offer, and is beloved by both travelers and locals. The thermal baths are infused with minerals and heated by naturally-occurring geothermal activity beneath the surface of the earth. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Due to its sparse population, much of the landscape of Maremma remains unindustrialized and unspoiled. The countryside features a varied mix of plains and hills, and the land is lush with grasslands, wildflower prairies, and forests. Maremma borders the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the coastline varies between rocky outcroppings and sandy beaches. Maremma has a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers that are somewhat mitigated by the sea breezes. Winters are mild and humid, and the rainiest months tend to be October and November. WHEN IN MAREMMA Visitors to Maremma will have no shortage of outdoor activities to engage in. The hills and plains are crisscrossed with trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Closer to the sea, many of the resorts that line the coast also offer fun activities in the water, such as kitesurfing, waterskiing, windsurfing, and fishing. Maremma also hosts a number of historic ruins scattered throughout the countryside. Some of the more famous ruins are found at the ancient city of Roselle just outside the capital city of Grosseto as well as at the Open-Air Archeological Museum in Pitigliano. Those interested in history should make an effort to explore at least some of the many ruins scattered throughout the area. Also for those who are interested in Maremma’s ancient history, there is the Museo Archeologico e d’Arte della Maremma. Here, many artifacts from the ancient Etruscan Era of Maremma are collected for the public to view and learn about. For those more interested in the natural sciences and the geography of the region, there is the Museo di Storia Naturale della Maremma, or the Natural History Museum of Maremma, found in Grosseto. Here, visitors can learn about the flora, fauna, and natural geography of the region. However, the two most important things for visitors to experience in Maremma are its divine beaches and its hot springs. The beaches along the Maremma coast are some of the most remote and pristine of all the beaches in Italy, and tend to be far less crowded and more relaxed than many of the other beaches in the country due to how relatively unknown the area is compared to other tourist destinations. Every year, Maremma is awarded with the prestigious Blue Flag award for the quality and purity of the waters. As for the hot springs, these sulfur-rich mineral springs bubble up from geothermal vents in the bedrock and are widely regarded as incredibly therapeutic. Due to the longstanding medicinal traditions surrounding the springs, many resorts built on these hot springs will offer exclusive wellness treatments. Of all the various hot springs found in Maremma, the most famous one is the Thermal Baths at Saturnia. Renowned for its rugged natural beauty and therapeutic hot springs, the Maremma area of southern Tuscany is one of the most unique places in all of Italy. Featuring endless landscapes of lush vegetation as well as historic towns that date back to the Etruscans, Maremma is the perfect destination for a modest and peaceful vacation.Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Montepulciano

Located in Southern Tuscany, Montepulciano is a hilltop town that encompasses the spirit of medieval and Renaissance Italy. It has been called the “Pearl of the 1500s,” as the city is filled with stunning examples of Renaissance artwork by famed artists in addition to medieval and Renaissance architecture such as town squares, historic churches, and monumental palaces. The economy of the town is driven by food production. The city is known for its winemaking, particularly the red wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and also its food products, such as pork, handmade pici pasta, lentils, honey, and locally-produced cheeses. Though Montepulciano is steeped in medieval history, its origins go back much farther. Archeological evidence suggests that the city was once settled by the Etruscans. In 715 AD, the town was known as Castrum Politianum and was self-governed. The culture of winemaking in Montepulciano goes back as far as nearly 800 AD. Over the centuries, many powers repeatedly sought to invade the town, particularly the Sienese Republic. In 1559, the wealthy Medici family took over, declaring the city noble. It is the artistic, architectural, and cultural remnants of these glory days that make Montepulciano what it is today – a historic, medieval town rooted deep in tradition. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Montepulciano is a hilltop town, located on top of a high limestone ridge in the region of Tuscany that is positioned in Central Italy. The hillsides of the area allow for winemakers to grow splendid grapes due to the exposure to the sun, enriched soil, and dry winds off the sea. The climate of Montepulciano is classified as marine by the Köppen-Geiger system. As a result, the summers are warm, but not too long, and feature mostly clear weather. Winters are can be longer and quite cold with a tendency for clouds. The average temperature in Montepulciano can run from 31°F in the winter to 86°F in the summer. Precipitation throughout the city is quite common over the course of the year. For those vacationing to Montepulciano, July through late August will result in the hottest temperatures, ideal for summertime activities and outdoor exploration. WHEN IN MONTEPULCIANO Visit the town’s main square. Officially called Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, but more commonly known as Piazza Grande, the square has some of the town’s most important structures surrounding it. This makes it a great place to spend time admiring the town’s many sights. While in Piazza Grande, one can visit the splendid Palazzo Comunale, a fourteenth century Gothic palace that also serves as Montepulciano’s town hall. The tower, which was remodeled during the fifteenth century, continues to serve as the town hall of Montepulciano. The structure features a set of 67 steps that lead up to an adjoining tower. After climbing to the top of the tower, travelers can admire spectacular views of the town and the surrounding Tuscan countryside comprised of rolling hills and cypress trees. Also located in the piazza is Palazzo Contucci, a sixteenth-century palace built by Antonio da Sangalla the Elder. Inside, travelers will find frescoes by artist Andrea Pozzo. Another palace located there is the Palazzo Tarugi. It features an open loggia, a fountain, Etruscan columns, and two lion statues. Travelers should not miss Palazzo Ricci either, which dates back to the sixteenth century and is best known for its loggia that offers truly remarkable views of the countryside. Today, Palazzo Ricci is home to ancient wine cellars as well as the European Academy for Music and Performing Arts. Visit the Duomo, or Cathedral, of Montepulciano. It is located at the town’s highest point, atop a steep hill in the old town center. Built in the late 1500s on the what used to be the ancient Church of Santa Maria, the Cathedral still features the original structure’s fifteenth-century bell tower. Inside the cathedral is a massive triptych from the Sienese School. Venture a bit outside of town to see the Church of San Biagio. Located below the town in a cypress tree-filled area, the sanctuary is made of gold travertine and features stunning Renaissance architectural details including an image of the Madonna, a high dome, and two bell towers. The Cathedral also features sixteenth-century frescoes and a high altar with figures of the saints. Nearby is the priest’s house, which features a fountain and a small museum. Other churches worth seeing in Montepulciano include Santa Lucia – a Baroque church with an altar by Luca Signorelli, Sant’Agostino – a church known for its Renaissance façade complete with a terracotta relief by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo, and Santa Maria delle Grazie – a sixteenth century church with a simple façade, single nave, and terracotta altar by artist Andrea della Robbia. Visit the Museo Civico di Montepulciano, or Civic Museum. Located in Palazzo Neri Orselli, a fourteenth-century palazzo, the museum includes Etruscan and Roman archaeological artifacts, medieval and Renaissance paintings, and terracotta pieces by Andrea della Robbia. For a more unique museum experience, visit the Museo della Tortura. This one-of-a-kind museum features objects of torture from medieval times through the eighteenth century. Some of the items included in the museum are thumb screws, Catherine wheels, guillotines, inquisition chairs, and other harsh instruments. Located in the Palazzo Bellarmino, the museum’s galleries are appropriately dark and spooky. To top off any day of sightseeing, enjoy a delicious Tuscan style meal in Montepulciano. The ingredients are locally sourced, the flavors are deep and rich, and the style of cooking is rustic, evoking the spirit of the common “peasant style” cooking of Tuscany. Pair meals with a delicious glass of local Montepulciano wine. From spectacular panoramic views of countryside scenery to remarkable locally-produced wine, a trip to Montepulciano offers the best of Tuscany. Travel to Montepulciano and discover why so many travelers have fallen in love with this charming hilltop town. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of  Tuscany, Italy

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Montalcino

The village of Montalcino is a town situated about 1,860 feet above sea level in the province of Siena, which is part of the Tuscany region of Italy and is rooted in the heart of wine country. The town derives from notable Etruscan-Roman beginnings and has an ancient heritage. Historically, it was an important location along the road to Rome and presents a sweeping perspective of the Asso, Orcia, and Ombrone Valleys. Along with the hamlets of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Camigliano, Montisi, Sant’Angelo in Colle, San Giovanni d’Asso, and Torrenieri, Montalcino is a beautifully modest town with a storybook look where the sightseer feels like he or she stepped into the pages of a fairy tale. The small city is surrounded by a fourteenth-century fortress complete with thick stone walls and numerous turrets. The very first settlement of Montalcino, (earliest records indicate 814 AD), was influenced by feudal monks. They expanded the site into a municipality of substantial importance, both from a political and military standpoint. As a result of its strategic positioning on the Francigena Way, the town clashed with Siena starting at the end of the twelfth century and continued to do so for approximately seven decades. During this period, war alternated with times of precarious peace. Though autonomous for a period in the twelfth century, the town fell under Sienese rule. Throughout the fourteenth century, the city’s fortress was engaged to safeguard the southernmost boundary of the Sienese Republic. The Palazzo dei Priori, the focal point of the city that today functions as the town hall, is an attractive loggia with Gothic arches in stone. The nearby Civic Diocesan Museum houses remarkable works of Sienese art. From the fortress ramparts, you can observe the Val d’Orcia Natural Park, as well as the ambling sun-drenched hills that are blanketed with flowers, old oaks, and beautiful olive groves. Picturesque avenues wind through fabulous vineyards sloping gently away from the elevated city. In medieval times, the village was recognized for its tanneries and for the goods crafted from the premium quality leathers that were made there. Nowadays, Montalcino is renowned for its wines, especially the Brunello di Montalcino. Besides delightful wines, the region also yields high-quality extra virgin olive oil, savory meats, cheeses, and honey, all of which may be experienced in one of the local bistros or wine bars. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Nature lovers are in for a treat and will enjoy visiting the lovely countryside that surrounds Montalcino. The terrain here is characterized by lush forests scattered with olive trees and grapevines. These kinds of stunning vistas have made the landscape of Val d’Orcia a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Montalcino is among the warmest and driest environments in Tuscany. Monte Amiata, the tallest mountain in Southern Tuscany, offers a sheltering effect from the southeast, mitigating the region’s temperatures and rain conditions. The climate is warm and mild in Montalcino. The winters are rainier compared to the summer months. The driest month is July, and the wettest month is in November. The climate is such that virtually any time of year proves an excellent opportunity to visit this treasure trove of Italian delights. WHEN IN MONTALCINO Like most if not all of Italy, and Tuscany in particular, there is much history, art, architecture, food, wine, festive events, and beautiful countryside to take in and savor in Montalcino. Art and history enthusiasts can discover treasures at the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, which houses one of the most valuable collections of art, sculptures, and frescoes in the area — a visit well worth experiencing. Among the places of worship in town, the fourteenth-century Church of Sant’Agostino stands out for its sheer architectural beauty and should be high on the list of places to see, along with the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso, the Church of Sant’Egidio, and the Neoclassical Cathedral of San Salvatore. Though it is not a church, the tall clock tower of the Palazzo dei Priori is a lovely edifice right out of history. The singular yet striking Abbey of Sant’Antimo, a monumental construction dating back to the twelfth century, is an excellent representation of Romanesque architecture encompassed by serene surroundings. A must-see for visitors who enjoy ancient architecture with a rich history, the abbey is situated a few miles outside of Montalcino. The Museo del Vetro or Glass Museum tells the history of glass making. The museum, residing in the splendid Castle of Poggio alle Mura, showcases a fascinating assortment of glass and tools from Egyptian to Roman to the Venetian times. Wine aficionados will appreciate the local Montalcino vintages. Brunello di Montalcino is among Italy’s most well recognized and esteemed Tuscan wines. In international marketplaces, it receives much interest. The wine is deep red in coloring with fragrances of fruit and underlying spice. Brunello di Montalcino wines are created solely from Sangiovese Grosso grapes cultivated on the slopes around Montalcino, south of Siena. Those with a discerning palate will quickly understand the quality of this fine wine. The small streets that are paved with natural stone make for pleasant and enchanting strolls. The streets are lined with shops, storefronts, and bistros where you can purchase local wines, delicious food, and more. The Fortezza is the location for a sizable food festival that takes place in October and offers delicacies such as polenta, roasted thrushes, and Brunello wine. Visitors will delight in many events, including concerts, wine tastings, and shows. The celebrated Jazz & Wine Festival is a jazz concert series held in the fortress that enlivens summer evenings and features famous musicians from all over the world. The festival customarily takes place in July. An easy stop from anywhere in Tuscany, experience Montalcino for something a little different and unique. The town has not been affected by the passage of time and still retains the old-world charm of the sixteenth century. The churches, cobbled lanes, fort, clock tower, and municipal palace harken back to a distant and fascinating era. Montalcino, located in the heart of the Val d’Orcia area, is well-worth a modern-day trip back in time. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of  Tuscany, Italy

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Arezzo

In the heart of central Italy sits the ancient yet modern Tuscan town of Arezzo. The city is located just an hour and a half southeast of the powerhouse of Florence. All too often travelers planning an Italian getaway will skip from Florence to Rome without ever thinking to stop in this charming, lesser traveled town that is one of the country’s best kept secrets. If you are planning on spending time in Tuscany, be sure to add the captivating town of Arezzo to the itinerary. Arezzo is a town of ancient history. It was once thought to be one of the twelve main Etruscan cities of the BC time period as suggested by remnants of the city walls as well as bronze statues. After a period of Roman rule, Arezzo became what historians believe to be perhaps the third largest city in Italy during the Augustan time period. It is one of only a few episcopal seats that has a complete listing of bishops to the modern day. In the nineteenth century, Arezzo officially became part of the Kingdom of Italy. Despite sustaining heavy damage to many structures during World War II, Arezzo is still home to amazing examples of architecture and art. Piazza Grande, the main square of the town, is a gem. Some of the best-known landmarks in the area include the Episcopal Palace, the Cathedral of Saints Donato and Pietro, the Basilica of San Francesco, the Basilica of San Domenico, the Palazzo Pretorio, and the Medici Fortress. Booking a private walking tour of Arezzo is perfect for an Italian vacation and allows for travelers to learn the historical value of each landmark as well as their legacy in the modern day. One of the more unique features of the architecture in Arezzo is the history of the city walls. Over time, these walls continuously pushed outward to incorporate a larger area. Even with this periodic growth, the town has managed to effortlessly combine its ancient tradition with modern day life. Amidst all the many historical and religious landmarks, is an affluent city that also offers a wide variety of high-end shopping experiences at boutiques as well as the famous monthly outdoor antique market experience, which is one of the most revered of its kind in Italy. A central area that is also the heartbeat of the city is Piazza Grande. This city square is often home base for these unique shopping experiences as well as a place of relaxation that is also perfect for people watching. The cuisine of this landlocked town has a simple focus on creating quality food with fresh, locally-grown and obtained ingredients. Whether enjoying one of Arezzo’s specialty cabbage or tomato soups, Tuscan bread, homemade pasta, or traditional cakes, the city offers a wide variety of mouthwatering meal options. Be sure to pace yourself so as not to miss out on any of this authentic Italian dining experience. During your visit, do not pass up the opportunity to indulge in locally-produced Tuscan wine. Regardless of if you prefer red or white wine, there is likely something here that will enhance your mealtime experience. If time allows, a visit to local vineyards and wineries can be a fantastic way to spend a day in the countryside of Tuscany. For those already on the mainland wishing to visit Arezzo, driving by car is the most efficient way to travel and often involves taking the SS73 or Autostrada di Sole. This ride can be quite scenic so it is best to build in a little extra time for sightseeing along the way. For those flying into Italy and heading straight to Arezzo, the most convenient international airports are in Florence and Perugia. Hilltop Arezzo is traveler friendly when it comes to getting around the city. Visitors can easily opt to travel the city via car, bus, foot, or by bicycle. It is worth noting that some of the steep roads of Arezzo can be difficult to navigate for those choosing to bicycle. The crowds in Arezzo are typically minimal compared to those of Rome or Florence, making the city easier to navigate. GEOGRAPHY This ancient hilltop city is located in the Italian province of its namesake and the region of Tuscany. The city’s beginnings can be traced all the way back to the Etruscan period and still today it sits just above the Arno River floodplain. Nearby destinations include Florence, which is roughly an hour and a half away. Although it is small enough to be seen in one day, travelers that are here for such a short time may miss out on the finer nuances of local history and famous landmarks. A stay of a couple of days or more will allow visitors to more adequately capture the spirit of this beautiful city. CLIMATE The summer months generally bring some of the warmest temperatures of the year with highs typically around eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The coolest months of the year tend to be the winter months with highs hovering in the fifties on average. The fall and spring months bring respective gradual cool downs and warm ups. For most of the months of the year, average lows tend to have approximately a twenty-point difference from the highs. Winter months can be the exception to that rule. ONLY IN AREZZO If you are looking to participate in an event that is authentically Arezzo, consider booking your Italian vacation during the Saracen Joust which typically takes place during the months of June and September. This event is held in the main square and literally brings the area to life with bright colors, medieval period costumes, and a spirit of competition and celebration. The event is such a time-honored tradition and integral part of the annual Arezzo calendar, that the locals take it quite seriously. The jousting competition features teams from each of the four quarters of the city. There are many celebratory activities associated with this highly competitive jousting tournament. While this jousting event is a traditional event that locals largely participate in because of its history and a winner’s bragging rights, travelers are more than welcome to witness this one-of-a-kind event in person. Come discover the magic of the city of Arezzo for yourself. Talk to your travel specialist about adding a few days in this traditional and yet modern city to your itinerary and learn why Arezzo is quickly gaining popularity amongst both domestic and foreign travelers. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Florence

Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Florence is a captivating Italy destination that Mark Twain once described as a “city of dreams.” With its abundance of timeless art, rustic Tuscan cuisine, incredible boutique shopping, and mesmerizing views at every turn, the city of Florence is nothing short of spectacular. Known worldwide as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence embodies the spirit of Italy’s past and has managed to preserve it for nearly 700 years. With over 350,000 who call the city home, and nearly one million who reside in its surrounding metropolitan area, Florence skillfully fuses the past with the present, creating a unique time capsule of ancient aesthetics housed within a hustling, bustling world of modern-day Italy. Containing a wealth of preserved artistic and architectural masterpieces, the city is home to the world’s most significant concentration of art, according to UNESCO, a UN organization that designates world heritage sites to preserve the most important cultural locations and artifacts. With a near countless number of art galleries and over 45 museums – including the Galleria degli Uffizi (Uffizi Gallery), the world’s best collection of Italian Renaissance art, and the Galleria dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery), home to the legendary statue of David – it is no wonder why the city captures the hearts and imaginations of all who visit. From the ancient churches and stunning buildings that line the city streets to the priceless artistic masterpieces created by Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Giotto housed within Florence’s galleries, the city is bursting with art and culture.Florence’s influence can be felt in more than just the world of art. The capital of the region of Tuscany, Florence is the birthplace of the Italian language. It was famed Italian poet Dante Alighieri who advocated for the use of vernacular language in literature. For his most important works, including the Divine Comedy, Dante wrote in the Florentine dialect, rather than in Latin. This inspired later influential writers, such as Boccaccio and Petrarch, to follow suit, and eventually standard Italian was born from the Florentine dialect. With its rich history and incomparable influence on modern Italian life, Florence certainly changed the way that most view Italy. The most iconic and historical elements of the city are heavily concentrated into a small area, making Florence an ideal travel destination. Much of Florence’s sightseeing can be done on foot since the majority of the city’s prized sites are within walking distance. The streets are often filled with pedestrians and speeding mopeds while locals and tourists alike travel to sought after sites such as the Piazza della Signoria, Florence’s heart and the political center of the city since the fourteenth century. This L-shaped town square is the center of activity for Florentines and visitors alike. Nearby one will find the Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall, as well as Piazza del Duomo, home of the iconic Florence Cathedral with Brunelleschi’s Dome. Each view and experience throughout Florence is more magical and culturally enriching than the next. With a city as spellbinding and magical as Florence, it is no surprise that more than 15 million visitors are compelled to visit every year, and it is considered one of the world’s most highly desired travel destinations. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE OF FLORENCE Florence is located in Northern Tuscany. Practically in the heart of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, Florence is situated in a basin and is surrounded by hills. With Emilia Romagna to the north and east, the city of Arezzo to the southeast, the city of Siena to the south, and the cities of Prato, Pistoia, Lucca, and Pisa to the west, Florence is a cultural hub characterized by a variety of traditions. Its geography is varied as well, boasting hills, valleys, rivers, streams, and views of the Apennine mountains. However, the city’s geography is primarily marked by one of the important rivers in Italy, the Arno. Originating from Mount Falterona in the Apennines, the Arno river is 150 miles long and practically splits the city in half. Running below famous Florentine bridges – the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinità – the Arno river often appears as the main subject of many iconic photographs of the beautiful city. The hills that surround Florence also make for eye catching panoramas in stunning areas such as Fiesole, Cercina, Settignano, and Arcetri. Other unique landscape views can be found in areas such as Greve in Chianti, where endless vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, and Montespertoli and Certaldo, which both encapsulate the quintessential Tuscan landscape. The climate of Florence is considered to be temperate and humid. During the summer months, Florence can be both hot and humid, particularly within the historical city center. Winters can be cold, and in some parts of the metropolitan area, snow flurries are not abnormal. While rainier than summer and winter, Florence’s autumns and springs are temperate and enjoyable. Truly, there is never really a bad time to visit Florence. WHEN IN FLORENCE The best way to experience Florence is to immerse oneself into the local life and culture. This is done best by walking the streets and experiencing the vibrancy and life of the city firsthand. Florence is a city that expresses itself through its architecture, landscape views, and sheer artistic essence that permeates throughout the city’s streets. Taking a stroll to one of Florence’s piazze is the perfect way to soak in the city. Florentines are friendly and welcoming in their beloved city squares, often meeting other locals there for an aperitivo or simply to catch up. One may also find themselves in one of Florence’s many markets, which are an important part of Florentine life. From the fruit and vegetable market of Novoli to the historic Mercato Centrale and Mercato di San Lorenzo where shoppers can purchase produce and other staples of Tuscan cuisine as well as leather goods and souvenirs, markets are a place where handmade and local products are as abundant as the crowds who flock to them. Though navigating the busy lanes and squares can take time, there is no better way to soak in Florentine life than to slow down, look around, and be one with Italy. After a stroll around town, visit one of Florence’s many cafés, restaurants, or bars to indulge in classic Florentine cuisine. When in Tuscany, dine as the Tuscans do! Tuscany’s iconic rustic cuisine is characterized by its simple yet flavorful recipes that are handcrafted with local, seasonal ingredients. Since the cuisine is derived from “cucina povera,” or Italian peasant culture, there is a deep appreciation and respect for food throughout Florence that is evident in every snack or meal. Whether sitting down for a multicourse meal or grabbing an espresso and some biscotti from a café, eating time is cherished in Florence as a moment to stop and truly savor both the nourishment of one’s body as well as the invaluable time spent with friends, family, or even strangers at the table. One cannot visit a city that is called “the Cradle of the Renaissance” without experiencing Italian Renaissance art. Luckily, Florence is home to some of the world’s most important museums and art galleries. Tourists have been enamored by the city’s wealth of iconic pieces such as Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus for centuries. From the paintings in the largest museum complex in the city, Palazzo Pitti, to the many wonderful sculptures of the Bargello, Florence’s art scene is a true testament to human achievement in art. To escape the busy city, one should not underestimate the beauty and wonder of Florence’s surrounding areas. Small towns on the outskirts of the city offer unique insight into the area’s history as well as their own special landmarks and views. Towns such as Fiesole, Certaldo, and Vinci – the closest town to the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci – are all spectacular examples of the richness of the Tuscan countryside. Renting a car for a day or scheduling a day with a private driver is a wonderful way to take in the area’s winding roads and rolling landscape. Florence’s beauty is subtle, yet unparalleled. From its magnificent palaces, to its bustling squares, to the sheer volume of Renaissance art held within its famed museums, the irresistible heart and spirit of Florence can be felt throughout the entire city and its surrounding areas. Travel Guides   Tuscany Region of Italy Cities of Tuscany  

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Pisa

In the early Middle Ages, Pisa thrived as one of Italy’s four major Maritime Republics. Along with Venice, Amalfi, and Genoa, the city was dominant from both a military and commercial standpoint. Now, Pisa is well-known for being home to one of the most recognizable symbols of Italy – the iconic Leaning Tower. Drawing more than one million visitors each year, this incomparable site has solidified Pisa as a premiere travel destination which rivals the popularity of Italy’s major cities of Rome, Venice, and Florence. Luckily for travelers, Pisa is a compelling city that offers more than meets the eye, including a variety of worthy sites, an array of Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture, and a unique charm that transcends the Piazza dei Miracoli – the square in which the Leaning Tower sits. Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Pisa is the capital city of the Province of Pisa and features the Arno river – famous for being the main river in Florence – which crosses the city just before emptying into the Ligurian Sea. Home to over 90,000 residents, the city is known for its architecture. Many spectacular bridges straddle the Arno, offering beautiful views. Literature’s greatest poets, such as Shelley and Leopardi, once referred to the view from the Ponte di Mezzo bridge as the best sunset view in the entire world. In addition, Pisa features everything from Gothic churches to Renaissance squares to a handful of Medieval palaces. While much of the elegant buildings and architectural features of Pisa were funded by the city’s days as a maritime power, and education also served as a primary fuel for the local economy. Today, along with tourism, education continues to define the city. The University of Pisa, one of the most important universities in all of Italy and ranked in the top 500 universities in the world, draws students from across the country, creating a culture of education throughout the city. Pisa is also home to Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa and the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, which together with the University of Pisa form the Pisa University System. These universities create a vibrant scene throughout the town, including a variety of cafés, restaurants, bars, and lively nightlife which feature more locals than visitors. Though less densely packed than Florence – a city which Pisa is so often compared to – the town of the Leaning Tower offers culture, education, and some of the most incredible locales in Italy. One of the most interesting sites, of course, is the home of the Leaning Tower, Piazza del Duomo (also known as the Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles), which also features the city’s Cathedral and Baptistery. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   The city of Pisa is located in the Northwest area of Tuscany, positioned along the Arno river. The town is the capital of the Provincia di Pisa – a province that occupies a good portion of the coast and features towns such as Marina di Pisa, Tirrenia, and Calambrone. The entire province and the city of Pisa features a geography comprised mostly of plains. However, near the province’s border with Lucca, a series of hilly and mountainous areas can be found. The climate of the city of Pisa is defined as a mixture of humid subtropical and Mediterranean. Winters are mild while summers can be very warm with the occasional rain shower. Rainfall in Pisa is at its peak in autumn, while spring is temperate. WHEN IN PISA A must-see is the building that brings most travelers to Pisa – the Leaning Tower. Built in the twelfth century, the lean was unintentional. The result of an inadequate foundation on ground that was too soft to support the weight of the structure, the tilt started out small and hardly noticeable, but over time became worse and worse. The tower was eventually stabilized, but the characteristic lean remains as a photo opportunity and major site to see for travelers from all over the globe. Visitors can even climb to the top of the tower, which is approximately 185 feet tall, depending which side one measures. The Leaning Tower is in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) – an UNESCO World Heritage Site, ancient civic center, and complex set atop a vast green field. Given its nickname by famous Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, the Square of Miracles offers visitors stunning beauty and incredible monuments available throughout. Home to such buildings as the Baptistery and the Duomo, as well as sites like the Monumental Cemetery and the historic Santo Spirito Hospital, the square is always bustling with travelers and locals – often students. Regardless of the crowds, the square is a truly magical place to visit, especially on bright, sunny days. Pisa boasts a lovely and historic city center, which is perfect for travelers to walk and explore. The best walkable area leads from Cavalieri Square to Corso Italia. This path passes through Borgo Stretto – filled with shops and cafés to enjoy – and over a romantic, historic bridge that crosses the Arno river, Ponte di Mezzo. When travelers arrive at Corso Italia, they can shop local boutiques and enjoy the area like the locals do. This walk, which surrounds travelers with the charming atmosphere of Pisa, passes through the heart of the city and represents the typical Sunday morning for a Pisa local. And yet, Pisa’s offerings extend beyond art and culture. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the surroundings during long walks or bike rides. While in Pisa, travelers will find parks throughout the city center and nature reserves on the outskirts. To escape the city of Pisa for a day, consider a short trip to the nearby towns of San Miniato and Volterra – spectacular Medieval towns featuring amazing architecture and rich histories. Or, visit the nearby San Rossore Estate, which spans nearly 20 square miles. The estate, considered to be the largest pine forest in Europe, is part of the larger protected natural area called the Park of Migliarino, San Rossore, and Massaciuccoli, which extends across the Tuscan coast. The flora is diverse with numerous species of trees, including beech, poplar, and oak, as well as rare plants and animals. Just a short drive from the center of Pisa, the park is a natural oasis that can be explored on foot, by bike, or even on horseback. Thanks to its characteristic Leaning Tower, the Tuscan city of Pisa has gained international fame. Yet, travelers who take the time to explore this historic city beyond the Piazza dei Miracoli will find fascinating museums, remarkable architecture, and tranquil nature reserves. Travel Guides   The Tuscany Region of Italy The Cities of Tuscany, Italy

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Umbria

Umbria is a region in central Italy, often called the "green heart of Italy" due to its rolling hills, lush forests, and winding rivers. The region is home to a number of charming towns and villages, including Assisi, Perugia, and Orvieto. Umbria is also home to some of Italy's most important historical and cultural sites, including the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi and the Etruscan Necropolis of Orvieto.


The cities & towns of Umbria
Spoleto

The enchanting and sleepy town of Spoleto sits perched upon a hill at the bottom of the Apennine Mountain Range in the heart of Italy. This beautiful city is bursting with quintessential Italian character that is only enhanced by the natural aesthetics of the green rolling hills in the surroundings. Although Spoleto is one of the largest medieval towns in the southern part of the region of Umbria, it maintains a small town feel that often makes it a favored respite from larger and more crowded cities, such as Rome. When making plans for your Italian vacation of a lifetime, be sure to set aside a day or two for the lovely town of Spoleto. This charming town simply exudes Italian appeal with gorgeous sloping cobblestone streets that wind between buildings hosting citizens, local businesses, and fabulous restaurants and cafés. It is a splendidly romantic destination for a getaway to Italy. Those who stroll the streets of Spoleto can literally stop to smell the flowers in the planters stationed just outside first floor entryways and apartment balconies. It seems as though every nook and cranny of this fantastic town is filled with a touch of old-world Italian charm, such as pretty wooden shutters bordering windows and elegant lamps that light up the street when darkness falls. Upon entering the town, travelers can expect a drastically and blissfully slower pace of life than what they may be used to at home. Locals here tend to value living each moment in the present. Whether it is taking time to water the flowers on the balcony while sipping a cup of hot coffee, strolling through the heart of the city to visit with neighbors, or wandering the countryside to contemplate some of Mother Nature’s finest work, life is to be unhurried and thoroughly enjoyed in Spoleto. Spoleto has been a jewel of the Umbrian hills since as early as 241 BC when it was a Roman settlement. The city’s strategic location at the top of a valley surrounded by mountains historically made its inhabitants believe they were better safeguarded against enemy forces compared to other settlements. The city served as the capital of the powerful Duchy of Spoleto from the eighth century to the thirteenth century. Spoleto was later a part of the Papal States and eventually became part of Italy. Of all the influences exerted upon Spoleto, that of the Romans is perhaps the most evident still today in key landmarks of the city. Even though Spoleto is considered to be a tranquil alternative to larger Italian cities, it does not lack in sightseeing opportunities. The Roman influence is perhaps most evident in the rebuilt Roman Theater, the ancient bridge called Ponte Sanguinario, and the Roman Aqueduct. Spoleto’s ancient history and rich ties to religious history also make the town a must see for travelers of faith. In addition to a number of local historic churches and monasteries, the renowned Saint Francis of Assisi had connections to this town that have made it a popular site for religious pilgrims to this day. Regardless of your reason for visiting the splendor of Spoleto, there are several ways to reach this Umbrian hill town. If flying into the area, most travelers prefer to fly into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport. From there, the most efficient option is to travel by car, either a rental car or private driver, up to Spoleto. Once travelers arrive in Spoleto, they can choose to traverse the city by car, taxi, bus, or foot. It is worth noting that much of the city’s upper town is mostly pedestrian, but there are parking lots available just outside the city. GEOGRAPHY The central Italian city of Spoleto is located in the province of Perugia and the region of Umbria. This adorable town sits perched on the foothills of the Apennine Mountains and overlooks the Umbrian countryside below. Spoleto and its surrounding areas are rural and offer a stunning combination of scenery from Monte Subasio to the rolling green hills below. A large part of the city’s charm is widely considered to be its natural landscape and unity with nature. CLIMATE Because the city of Spoleto is landlocked and sits at the base of the Apennine Mountains, the weather tends to be cold in the winter and warmer in the summer. Spoleto’s late summer months often experience some of the highest rates of tourism due to the warmer weather. Travelers can expect highs to be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and for lows to hover around 50 degrees. Fall experiences a steady decline in warm temperatures with highs averaging around the 60s and lows coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of the 40s. The winter months in Spoleto are cold with an average high in the 40s and lows in the 30s. The spring season ushers in a gradual warming up with highs around the 50s or 60s and lows in the upper 30s or 40s. The area’s highest rain chances usually arrive in spring and again in fall. ONLY IN SPOLETO One of the most unique characteristics of Spoleto is that it is a stop along what is often referred to as the Way of St. Francis. As mentioned above, Saint Francis played a large role in Christianity in a number of cities throughout Italy, including in Spoleto. The Way of Saint Francis is a roadmap of sorts that can take travelers through various places the saint visited hundreds of years ago. Although there are a number of different versions of the Way of Saint Francis that cater to different activity and difficulty levels, the beginning of the journey is generally considered to be in La Verna and the ending to be in Rome. One of the stops along this journey is Spoleto where travelers can contemplate the natural beauty of the Umbrian countryside that was so beloved by Saint Francis. The official path of the Way of Saint Francis is marked well with signage so that travelers can easily make their way through. Participating on this walk can take as little or as long as a traveler wishes based on which cities and hillside communities they choose to stop at along the way. It is worth noting that Saint Francis did not make this journey in a day and neither should you. Those who have walked the Way of Saint Francis say that the beauty is in the journey rather than the destination. This walk offers some of the most intimate looks at the natural beauty of the area that might never be seen otherwise. Make the gorgeous hill town of Spoleto a stop on your Italian vacation itinerary. The beauty of this city and surrounding area has a way of seeping into the soul of travelers making “arrivederci” (goodbye in Italian) a difficult word to say.Travel Guides   The Umbria Region of Italy The Cities of Umbria, Italy

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Gubbio

While in Umbria, a region known for being soft, green, and lush, travelers can experience a bit of Italy’s more medieval history in Gubbio. The town, which is characterized by being more dark, imposing, and Gothic than the rest of Umbria, is one of the region’s most beautiful and historic hill towns. Tucked away in the foothills of Umbria, Gubbio is a quiet and somewhat isolated city. Travelers can experience hillside views and historic sightseeing throughout the city without the overrun of large crowds of tourists. Like much of Italy, the city’s culture and atmosphere are reminiscent of its history, which dates back to its founding in the third century BC when it was originally called Ikuvium or Iguvium. At the time, the city was a political and religious power. In the first century AD, Gubbio solidified itself as a historically important city when it was known as the Roman town of Iguvium. Legend states that Rome would exile madmen to Gubbio, and this history can be seen today in Gubbio in the Palazzo el Bargello’s Fountain of the Fools. Tradition states that visitors to the fountain must run around the fountain three times to become a “madman of Gubbio.” After the fall of the Roman Empire, Gubbio passed between the hands of the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. In the early 1000s, the city was under siege by a dozen Umbrian cities until Saint Ubaldo saved the city by convincing Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to grant Gubbio its independence. The city would go on to be led by many more powers until the early 1600s when it became a part of the Papal States. Arguably, Gubbio is Umbria’s most medieval town, featuring winding streets, characteristic houses, and medieval style architecture throughout the city. There are even remnants of the imposing medieval walls that protected the city. The town is known for being the home of the Iguvine Tablets, seven bronze tablets which are considered to be the Rosetta Stone of the Umbrian language. They are the earliest record of the language and are the longest and most important documents for Osco-Umbrian languages. More history can be found by visiting the city’s Roman amphitheater, opulent palaces, and medieval structures. Between the city’s historic sites, stunning Alpine setting, and rich culture which can be enjoyed by attending local events and festivals, Gubbio is a wonderful city to visit. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Gubbio is located in the region of Umbria, nearly 25 miles north of Perugia. The city is located in Northern Umbria on a low slope of Mount Ingino, one of the smaller mountains of the Apennine range. The city’s location on the foothills of a mountain gives great views of the valley below. Positioned near the border with the Marche region, Gubbio covers a little over 200 square miles. Gubbio’s climate is temperate and warm, making it a great locale to visit nearly any time of year. While the temperature is comfortable, travelers should be aware that the city receives a noticeable amount of rain throughout the year. Even in the city’s driest month, travelers should expect some rainfall. WHEN IN GUBBIO Admire the city walls. Gubbio’s historic city walls, which were completed during the fourteenth century, still stand to this day. The walls will be your constant companion as you explore the city and can be spotted from almost any point in the historic city center. The walls feature six gates that served as the historic entrances into the town. Today, some of the gates still feature centuries-old wooden doors or the remains of historic decorations. Of these gates, the St. Augustine Gate is the most well-preserved. Visit the Roman amphitheater. One of Gubbio’s most visited sites, the ruins of an ancient Roman amphitheater depict the rich history of the city. The theater was built during Emperor Augustus’ reign and, at the time, the theater was the second largest throughout the Roman Empire. Today, the ruins of the theater, which was greatly damaged during the fall of the Empire, are located in an open field. Travelers can visit the theater for free and admire the backdrop of the mountains as well. Explore the Palazzo dei Consoli – a palace built in the early 1300s. Located in Gubbio’s main square Piazza Grande, the palace is one of the city’s most stunning medieval structures and houses the Civic Museum of Gubbio. Inside the Civic Museum, travelers will find the historic Iguvine Tablets, a must-see when visiting Gubbio, as well as a variety of archaeological artifacts. The Piazza Grande also features great views over the town and its surrounding countryside. Ride the unique cable car to the top of Mount Ingino. One of Gubbio’s most unique activities is a ride on the funicular, also known as the Funivia Colle Eletto. This truly one-of-a-kind cable car is open-air, and each car only holds two people standing. The six-minute ride, while not for the faint of heart, will give travelers panoramic views and take them to another one of the city’s best sites. At the top of Mount Ingino, travelers can visit the Basilica of San Ubaldo. Built in the early 1500s, this Basilica is not only named for Saint Ubaldo, Gubbio’s patron Saint, but it actually houses his body. At the top of the Basilica’s main altar sits a glass casket which holds the body of the Saint himself. In addition, the Basilica houses important artworks. If traveling in May, a must-see is the Festa dei Ceri, an event also known as Saint Ubaldo Day. This event is Umbria’s largest, most important, and most historic festival. During the festivities, which honor the life of Saint Ubaldo, a massive race occurs. The event features groups of citizens racing with massive pillars, each weighing over 400 kilograms, up the slope of Mount Ingino to the Basilica of San Ubaldo. The pillars represent the Saints Ubaldo, Antonio, and George. Thousands of people attend the celebration, and it is a cornerstone of Gubbio’s culture. Travel to the scenic region of Umbria and discover the charming city of Gubbio. Renowned for its medieval architecture and the fascinating Festa dei Ceri, Gubbio is one of the best places to get to know the heart of Central Italy. Travel Guides   The Umbria Region of Italy The Cities of Umbria, Italy

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Perugia

The city of Perugia is the capital of the Central Italian region of Umbria. Much of this beautiful city is built on a hill, which provides breathtaking views of the city itself as well as the surrounding Umbrian countryside. Although Perugia is not as well traveled as some Italian powerhouse cities such as Rome or Florence, that elusiveness is part of what adds to its charm. The city itself is often referred to in two main parts, the old town located on the hill and the more modern city that sits below. Regardless of where you wander in Perugia, beauty abounds in every cobblestone street, historical piazza, and more. Visitors to the city say they particularly enjoy walking the scenic streets and narrow alleyways that wind up and down the hill for a one-of-a-kind quintessential Perugia experience. The town’s pedestrian avenues and major squares are considered to be main gathering areas for locals and visitors alike. While these areas are quite active for most of the day, there is said to be something special about the hour of dusk when the glow of the sunset mingles with the charming evening lights of the city. The streets are often most crowded during the evening passegiatta just before dinner. Not to be missed as you stroll about town are the main streets of Corso Vannucci, Via Oberdan, the piazze, the Fontana Maggiore, the aqueduct walkway, and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. One of the most striking characteristics of this town is the blend of the traditional and modern parts of Perugia. The older part of town is full of history that can be traced all the way back to 300 BC. Originally, Perugia is thought to have been occupied by the Etruscans before they were conquered by the Romans. The barbarians eventually conquered Perugia after the Romans, then the city experienced a few more political scuffles over the years as it rose to become a regional power. Eventually, the Popes became enthralled with the city and largely took it over for a time until the Unification of Italy in the mid-nineteenth century. One of the most notable historical contributions is the establishment of the University of Perugia. This public educational institution was founded in the early fourteenth century and is estimated to serve approximately thirty thousand students and employ more than one thousand staff members today. In addition to being one of the most prominent universities in the region, it is one of the oldest in Italy. Also in Perugia is the University for Foreigners, which was originally established as a language school to teach foreigners Italian, but has now expanded to include a variety of bachelor’s and master’s level degree programs. With the amazing educational offerings this gorgeous city has, it is not surprising that almost a quarter of the town’s population can be attributed to college students. The nightlife of Perugia is alive and well with many saying it is the time when the town really comes alive. The streets of the city are often crowded after darkness falls with people wandering about to stroll, dine, or take in an impromptu musical performance in one of the piazze. For those traveling to Perugia by air, the closest international airports are in Florence and Rome. For those not needing to cross an ocean to arrive in Perugia, rail lines or highways may be a good bet. A state railway connects the city with Rome and Florence, while three main highways intersect with Perugia including the Raccordo Perugia A-1, the E45, and the SS75bis. For those with cars, the city does have several parking areas. When it comes to navigating the city itself, there are both pedestrian and automobile areas. That said, much of the historic city center is a pedestrian zone. With the city being so compact, it can easily and joyfully be explored on foot. This particularly comes in handy when planning to use the escalators to access the Mini Metro subway rail line in the city. GEOGRAPHY    The region of Umbria is centrally located within the country of Italy. Tucked within Umbria is the city of Perugia which also serves as its capital. The city is within roughly one hundred miles of Rome and because it is so central it is often a great home base location for a number of day trips to nearby places such as Assisi and Siena. Perugia is surrounded by the picturesque Umbrian countryside which is largely rural and green and dotted with beautiful trees and winding country roads. Because the city is partially located on a hill, at some of the highest points or landmarks, visitors can take in amazing views of the lower city and distant countryside. CLIMATE IN PERUGIA The summer is a fabulous time to visit Perugia. With average highs hovering in the eighties (in degrees Fahrenheit) and average lows bottoming out in the sixties, the weather is fairly comfortable and makes traveling the city on foot a delight. The fall months in Perugia become increasingly cooler as it nears the winter season. Fall typically brings average temperatures of highs in the sixties with lows in the forties. While it is cooler than the summer, temperatures still lend themselves to exploring Perugia. In winter, the area becomes colder with average highs only reaching the upper forties and the average lows bottoming out in the mid to low thirties. With a cup of hot chocolate and the right winter outerwear, a winter trip to Perugia is certainly not out of the question. Spring in the city is a gradual thaw that generally starts in March and concludes in May. Temperatures at the start of the season are usually at an average high in the fifties and a low in the thirties. However, as summer approaches, May temperatures typically reach the seventies for a high and bottom out in the upper forties. Rainfall throughout the year is fairly light with an average of a couple of inches falling each month. Fall and winter seasons tend to see slightly more rainfall than the remainder of the year. ONLY IN PERUGIA One of the most unique structures in Perugia is Rocca Paolina. Although not the first fortress to be built in the area, it is one of the best known. Estimated to have been built in the first half of the sixteenth century, the construction of the fortress is said to have negatively affected nearby historical buildings and in effect put much of the city’s ancient streets of the city center into what are now underground passageways open to the public. Despite its troubled political past, today the Rocca Paolina is often used as a commuting route to the bus station by locals and visitors. It is also frequently the site of holiday exhibits and cultural events. Do not miss the opportunity to wander the underground city and dungeons of the fortress. Regardless of where you travel within Rocca Paolina, treasures abound in almost every corner. Perugia has a strong artistic and cultural tradition. It was home to painters and masters such as Pinturicchio, Vannucci, Fra Angelico, and Piero della Francesca. While strolling around the city, visitors meet the dramatic architecture of the Basilica of San Pietro, the Great Fountain with scenes of Old Testament, and interesting historical palaces. The National gallery is stunning and displays art from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century by renowned artists such as Giovanni Pisano and Duccio di Boninsegna. Collegio del Cambio, Collegio della Mercanzia and the Sala dei Notari are other museums that should not be missed. History lovers should stop by the Archeological Museum, venture down into the third century BC Pozzo Etrusco (Etruscan Well), and explore the several churches that dot the city: the Chapel of San Severo, the Church of Sant’Agostino, the Church of San Domenico and many others, all of them full of works of art. As the capital of the region, Perugia serves as a gateway to Umbria. During a trip to the city, travelers can enjoy Perugia’s history, architecture, and art as well as the countryside charms of the verdant Umbria region. Travel Guides   The Umbria Region of Italy The Cities of Umbria, Italy

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Orvieto

Located approximately an hour and a half north of Rome and situated atop a butte of volcanic tuff rock, the city of Orvieto is a unique and fascinating place to visit, and makes for an enigmatic and novel stop that is sure to stand out on tours of the more commonly visited destinations in Italy. Located in the province of Terni in southwestern Umbria, with a population of less than 25,000 people, Orvieto has a history that dates back to well before the Roman Empire, to the time when the Etruscans were the dominant civilization on the Italian peninsula. With much of its historical artifacts and structures surprisingly well preserved, Orvieto stands as an incredibly important historical site that allows a glimpse into humanity’s distant past. The town of Orvieto could be described as being divided into two districts. The newer, more modern Orvieto sits level with the rest of the surrounding countryside, situated below the rise of the volcanic butte. The historical district of Orvieto rises proudly and majestically above the rest of the valley and is considered by many to be a must-see location that will stick out in one’s memory forever. Locals and visitors park their cars below the rise of the butte and take a footpath, escalator, or elevator up to the historical city, where they can enjoy the near complete lack of traffic, the narrow, winding historical streets, the churches, cathedral, old palaces, and the enigmatic caverns, catacombs, and labyrinths that wind beneath the surface of the town. Orvieto features several prominent landmarks that are truly unique to the town. One of the most famous landmarks in Orvieto is the Duomo of Orvieto, also known as the Orvieto Cathedral. While there are many prominent cathedrals throughout Italy, the massive Orvieto Duomo stands out as being one of the most stunningly beautiful and keenly memorable. The cathedral features four prominent columns emerging from its front façade, all surrounded by statues, intricate windows and beautiful golden mosaics. And if one finds the outside of the building breathtaking, then visitors will get a delightful shock once they actually enter the cathedral. Inside the Duomo lies the Chapel of San Brizio. The chapel features some of the most striking and magnificent examples of Renaissance Italian art, created by Luca Signorelli, who is known to have inspired Michelangelo’s work on the Sistine Chapel. The Duomo of Orvieto stands out as one of the can’t-miss cathedrals on any tour of Italy for its distinctive architecture alone. Of course, churches are not all that Orvieto has to offer. When visiting Orvieto one would be remiss if they were to ignore seeing the fascinating tunnel system and caverns carved below the town. Orvieto Sotterranea, or Orvieto Underground, allows visitors an in-depth look into the Etruscan era as they tour the old dwellings and streets of the subterranean city. The catacombs are incredibly well preserved, despite the earthquakes that have hit the region in the millenia since the Etruscans lived there, and this remains one of the most important Etruscan archaeological sites in the world. A guided tour through these catacombs will teach visitors about the ways the Etruscans lived, what their society was like, how they ate, and much more. To top it all off, Orvieto is surrounded by truly stunning landscapes and nature. Within the city, travelers will find countless parks and green areas, while just outside the city are protected forests filled with pristine natural beauty. There are three protected areas in total near Orvieto as well as three important rivers, which are the Tiber River, the Chiani River, and the Paglia River. Truly, Orvieto is an amazing stop for hikers, trekkers, and nature lovers of all kinds. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Orvieto is located only a short jaunt north of Rome in the valleys of the southwestern Umbria region. The town enjoys a warm climate, almost never dipping below freezing temperatures, even in the dead of winter, with summer temperatures averaging in the 80s Fahrenheit. The summers are usually rather dry, while rain tends to fall freely and heavily in the late fall and winter months. The geography of Orvieto is incredibly unique. The surrounding area is mostly composed of lush green valleys, dotted with fields and vineyards for growing crops and grapes. The city itself, though, sits atop a butte formed from volcanic tuff rock. Tuff rock is created mostly from compressed and pressurized volcanic ash and is considered by geologists to be both sedimentary and igneous. It is a relatively soft rock, which is why it was perfect for the Etruscans of antiquity to tunnel into and build dwellings out of. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the surrounding countryside to better experience and understand the region’s traditions of winemaking, as well as taking a trip to experience the historical city atop the volcanic butte. WHEN IN ORVIETO While Orvieto is not a well-known destination in comparison to other Italian cities, there is truly a cornucopia of interesting things to see and do in this eccentric city. Visitors who plan an extended trip to Orvieto will be delighted by the sheer number of things to experience. Travelers to Orvieto should, of course, not miss out on visiting the Duomo of Orvieto or Orvieto Sotterranea. Taking a guided tour of the underground area is an ideal way to see how the ancient Etruscans lived and is a favorite activity for visitors. Other things one should be sure to do when visiting Orvieto include taking a guided tour of the historical city itself. There are many landmarks and interesting things to see along the narrow, winding streets of the town, and it is truly charming to walk down a historic street with little to no traffic, yet still feels lived in and inviting as residents and business owners carry on with their daily business. Visitors should consider taking a food and wine tour through the region, as the area surrounding Orvieto has long been famous for its history of wine making. Other highlights include the Albornoz Fortress, which protected the town throughout the fifteenth century, the Abbey of Saints Severo and Martirio, and the Pozzo di San Patrizio well, which was constructed in the sixteenth century when the town’s water supplies were under threat from invaders. While the well is no longer needed for sustenance, visitors can actually descend the well these days and marvel at the carved, helix-structured spiraling staircases that allow the curious to delve into the deepest and darkest parts of the well. Other places to visit in Orvieto include its multitude of museums, such as the Etruscan Museum, which houses many of the well-preserved Etruscan artifacts that have been recovered from the region. There is also the Museo Emilio Greco, which features a gallery of bronze sculptures created by Emilio Greco, the same artist and sculptor who designed the doors of the Duomo. And those who are interested in religious history can make a visit to the Museum dell’Opera del Duomo Orvieto, which houses a multitude of religious art and artifacts, including some truly ornate paintwork. With everything that Orvieto has to offer, it is no wonder that many visitors make plans for their next trip before the first even ends. And thanks to Orvieto’s position between Rome and Florence, it’s feasible to visit this lesser-known city during a first-time trip to Italy. Travel Guides   The Umbria Region of Italy The Cities of Umbria, Italy

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Assisi

Tucked into the heart of Italy is the gorgeous green and hilly town of Assisi. This medieval city located in the region of Umbria is surrounded by nature and considered a peaceful oasis by locals and visitors alike. Whether traveling to medieval castles such as Rocca Maggiore, checking out the Roman ruins, witnessing the legacy left by Saint Francis, or just soaking up the natural beauty of the area, Assisi is a welcome breath of fresh air that will captivate your heart and soul. Assisi is a small town steeped in ancient history and it attracts visitors from all over the world who come to experience just that. The city is estimated to have been inhabited since 1000 BC by the Umbrians, followed by the occupation of the Etruscans and then the Romans. Although the area changed hands many more times by several different regimes in the following years, the Roman influence on the city can still be observed. If touring the city today, visitors can expect to see important Roman landmarks such as the fortifying city walls and the Temple of Minerva. In addition to viewing the medieval and Roman accents in the city, many travelers come for a more religious experience. Assisi is known to be home to a number of saints, the foremost being St. Francis of Assisi, who was born in Assisi in the late twelfth century. Other local saints include Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Assisi, Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Rufinus of Assisi, Vitalis of Assisi, and Sylvester of Assisi. Although the city is less populated now (with an estimated population of nearly 30,000) than it was during the height of the medieval period, it can feel more densely populated as Assisi is visited by avid travelers and pilgrims every day. Visitors frequently enjoy spending time in the city’s main piazza, Piazza del Comune, which is largely a pedestrian zone. The square is a gathering place for all, featuring an artistic water fountain, several local government buildings and outdoor cafes. From a faraway glance, the city appears to be a collection of medieval structures tucked into the rolling green hills of Umbria, and, upon closer inspection, pockets of charm and beauty abound within. Much of Assisi caters to pedestrian traffic, which seems to encourage visitors to wander the narrow alleyways and streets under lovely stone arches beside the living quarters of city residents. The people of Assisi take great pride in continuing the tradition of natural beauty within the city walls by decorating the outside of their abodes with an enchanting assortment of colorful potted flowers, flourishing gardens, small trees in bloom, and even quaint chairs and benches that beckon to the weary. If traveling by air to Assisi, the closest airports are Rome’s Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci, Florence’s Aeroporto Amerigo Vespucci, and Pisa’s Aeroporto Galileo Galilei. From these airports, or even other Italian cities, the quickest and most direct method to reach the city is by car, either via private driver or rental car. Once you arrive in Assisi, you will find most of the population is happy to travel the city on foot. ASSISI’S GEOGRAPHY  Assisi is located in the province of Perugia and the region of Umbria in the central part of Italy. The region is completely landlocked. The town itself is elevated at an estimated thirteen hundred feet so that it appears to majestically stand atop a hill surrounded by vast green rolling hills of the elegant Italian countryside. The town overlooks the nearby Chiascio and Topino rivers. The Apennine Mountains rise into the horizon about an hour north of Assisi, and to the city’s east is the Parco del Monte Subasio. CLIMATE IN ASSISI The nearby Apennine Mountains protect the region from the temperature influences of the Adriatic Sea and cold air from further north. In general, the summer temperatures hover around the eighties (degrees in Fahrenheit) and experience lows in the fifties. From fall to winter, the city experiences highs that drop from the eighties in July to the forties in December and January, and lows that generally stay above freezing. Spring slowly rebounds with warmer temperatures close to seventy degrees by May, although it can still be quite cool in the early morning and late evening. There is not a wrong time to visit the charming town of Assisi, but most travelers tend to visit Assisi during the time period between March and September. ONLY IN ASSISI The town of Assisi is perhaps best known for its religious ties to the famous Saint Francis who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in the early thirteenth century. Today Assisi is one of the most frequented pilgrimage sites in Italy. Even the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took notice and designated the Franciscan structures of Assisi as a World Heritage Site in 2000. Born Francesco di Bernardone towards the end of the twelfth century, Saint Francis traveled the Assisi countryside in a simple woolen tunic tied with a rope belt and humbly spread the message of Christ to all he encountered. He is known for following in Christ’s footsteps by living with very little, regularly communing with nature, and loving all of God’s people. Over time, Saint Francis attracted hundreds of followers who admired his lifestyle and sought to live the same humble way. Together, Saint Francis and his followers initiated a movement to partially reform the church with a simplified and thoughtful approach to religion. Upon Saint Francis’ request, the Pope eventually endorsed the Franciscan order and Francis went on to be a deacon and eventually a saint. As the town of Saint Francis, Assisi is home to a number of churches and monuments tied to the legacy of Saint Francis. First and foremost is the Basilica of Saint Francis, which is divided into an upper church and a lower church. Notable features of the Basilica include the tomb of Saint Francis and frescoes painted by Giotto that depict the life of Saint Francis. Also of importance is the Basilica of Santa Chiara, which contains the tomb of Saint Clare as well as several objects pertaining to Saint Francis. Perhaps the most important is the famous San Damiano Cross, which, according to legend, is the cross that spoke to Saint Francis. It is interesting to note that the Basilica of Saint Francis is not the Cathedral of Assisi. Rather, this distinction falls to the Cathedral of San Rufino, which predates Saint Francis and is dedicated to Assisi’s patron saint, Saint Rufinus. The Assisi Cathedral is where both Saint Francis and Saint Clare were baptized. It is an excellent example of Umbrian Romanesque architecture and its façade features three beautiful rose windows. The Temple of Minerva, which today is a Baroque style church, is also part of Assisi’s UNESCO recognized Franciscan sites. The temple has an interesting history and was constructed during the first century B.C., likely around 30 B.C. Though it is called Temple of Minerva, it was most likely dedicated to Hercules instead. The temple is featured in Giotto’s frescoes in the Basilica of San Francesco where it is depicted as a jail, and this was most likely the structure’s function during the lifetime of Saint Francis. In the sixteenth century, the temple was transformed into a church that still stands today. The Eremo delle Carceri is a small monastery above the main area of Assisi where Saint Francis is said to have sequestered himself for prayer and time with God and nature. This is also where Saint Francis is believed to have preached to birds. Friars still reside close by and they continue to live in the way set by the example of Saint Francis. Another famous structure that is part of the Saint Francis legacy is the Porziuncola, a small and historic church located within the enormous Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The term Porziuncola refers to a small portion of land. The chapel was built by Saint Francis and his followers and is the site where the Franciscan movement began. In the years following Saint Francis’ death, it became clear that this tiny church was not suitable to host the crowds of pilgrims who traveled to Assisi to visit the holy sites of Saint Francis. Therefore, the larger Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built around the church. The Porziuncola still evokes a sense of extreme reverence through the simple façade, frescoes, and the legacy of the religious man that lived to work here in an effort to spread Christ’s message to others. Last is the Bosco of San Francesco, a historic wooded area where Saint Francis himself would walk in harmony with nature. The entrance to the wood is in front of the upper part of the Basilica of San Francesco, providing a natural oasis just steps away from the city center of Assisi. This magnificent spot, which some believe to be mystical, features fields, olive groves, hills, art, and the Church of Santa Croce. Saint Francis was eventually designated as one of Italy’s patron saints, and in the early twenty-first century, Pope Francis took on the saint’s name, a first for the papacy. Saint Francis’ legacy lives on in Assisi and beyond via the historical buildings he established and resided in, the message of Christ that he professed, and the name that is now shared with a Pope. Whether your interests include history, art, or religion, Assisi offers a unique experience for travelers of all types. Follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis and lose yourself in the history and nature of this remarkable hilltop town. Travel Guides   The Umbria Region of Italy The Cities of Umbria, Italy

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Veneto

The Veneto region of Italy is located in the northeast of the country, bordering Austria, Slovenia, and the regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Emilia-Romagna, and Lombardy. Veneto is known for its beautiful scenery, delicious food, and vibrant cities. The region is home to the city of Venice, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. Venice is a city built on a lagoon and is known for its canals, gondolas, and beautiful architecture. Other popular destinations include the city of Verona, the town of Vicenza, and the mountain resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Verona is a city with a long and rich history and is home to the Roman amphitheater and the Juliet balcony. Vicenza is a city known for its Renaissance architecture and is home to the Palladian Villas. Cortina d'Ampezzo is a popular winter sports destination and is known for its beautiful scenery. The Veneto region is a beautiful and diverse region that is well worth a visit. Whether you are interested in history, culture, food, or beautiful scenery, you will find something to love in the Veneto region.


The cities & towns of Veneto
Padua

Located less than an hour west of the city of Venice and less than an hour and a half east of Verona, the city of Padova is a truly fascinating stop for any traveler to make on their journey through Italy. Known in English as “Padua,” the city of Padova is among the oldest in Northern Italy, with millennia of history to its name. Located in the Veneto region and serving as the capital of the eponymous province, Padova is home to over 200,000 people and is one of the region’s key cities. Padova’s history dates back to long before the Roman Empire was ever established, with local legends claiming that the city was founded by the Trojan prince Antenor in the year 1183 BC after the fall of Troy. While of course this is only a legend, archaeologists have proven that there were permanent settlements in the area dating all the way back to the tenth or eleventh centuries BCE. Padova is a city of two distinct identities. Its first face, appropriate for such an ancient city, is one of history and preservation. The sheer number of historical landmarks that dot the city is astounding, and the city has managed to preserve a cultural identity all its own throughout the millennia. To this day, the center of the city retains many of its older, more historical buildings, and walking through the center feels like being thrust into an era long since lost to time, especially when compared with its more modern outskirts. On that note, Padova’s second face is one that looks toward the future and forever works to bring mankind forward into the next age. Padova has long been a city focused on education, academia, and the sciences, largely thanks to the famous University of Padova, founded all the way back in the year 1222. The university is the fifth oldest university in the world that remains in operation to this day, and some of the greatest minds in history have studied and taught there, including Copernicus and Galileo. Nowadays, Padova features numerous culturally and historically relevant landmarks that help to weave the story of Italy’s heritage. Visitors to Padova can visit sites like the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel, which seems unassuming at first glance, but a peek inside reveals it as one of the most relevant art history sites in all of Italy. The interior of the chapel is entirely covered in fresco paintings by famed medieval artist Giotto. People who are interested in religious history should also make a trip to the famous Basilica of Saint Anthony. One of the most architecturally stunning sights to see in Padova, this massive shrine to Saint Anthony remains an important pilgrimage site to followers of the Catholic faith to this day. Those less interested in religious history and more interested in academia and culture will still find plenty to do in Padova, however. The University of Padova makes for an impressive visit, with historical buildings such as Palazzo del Bo, which is open for the public to visit. Here, one can catch a glimpse of the world’s oldest anatomical theater. Also, at the university, one can find the world’s oldest botanical garden which, while not the most expansive or complete botanical garden in the world, began the tradition of housing plants for study and public viewership. Over its long history, the university has amassed impressive collections of art and historic artifacts that can be admired at eleven museums overseen by the university. There are also numerous other museums in the city of Padova that allow visitors a glimpse into the city’s storied past. Visitors to the Veneto region should endeavor to try and make a stop at Padova. The city is easily accessible by train from both Verona and Venice, as well as from other parts of Italy such as Florence or Bologna. If one is eager to get out and be active, one can also reach the city by bike. The land around Padova is delightfully flat and the climate mild, so the city makes an excellent biking area. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE   Located on the Bacchiglione River, the city of Padova enjoys a subtropical climate characteristic of Northern Italy. The temperature is generally mild, though it tends to spike to over 85 degrees Fahrenheit at times in the summer. The winters rarely reach below freezing for extended periods, though they do approach those temperatures. Padova has a particularly humid climate, however, and even during its driest months there is generally still rainfall. Visitors should remember to pack raincoats and umbrellas due to the chance of unexpected showers. The geography around Padova is generally quite flat. Though regions further to the north are quite mountainous, the city is located directly in the center of what is known as the Venetian Plain. This vast expanse of grassland is broken up only by a few low hills and is a perfect location for cross country walks and bike rides. South of the city lie the picturesque Euganean Hills. WHEN IN PADUA Visitors to Padova should endeavor to take in as much of the history of the city as they possibly can. The opportunity to learn offered by a city so old and ancient as Padova should not be passed up. People that are interested in the religious history of Padova should make an effort to visit the aforementioned Scrovegni Chapel and the Basilica of Saint Anthony, but that is not all that the city has to offer. Neither the Scrovegni Chapel, nor the Basilica, are considered the ‘main chapel’ of Padova. That honor falls to the aptly named Duomo di Padova, or the Padua Cathedral. This cathedral, though unassuming from the outside, is an architectural marvel on the inside with massive religious frescoes found in the baptistry by the artist Giusto de’ Menabuoi. In the center of the town one can also find the Abbey of Santa Giustina. This Benedictine abbey dates back to the tenth century and is attached to the Basilica of Santa Giustina, which dates even further back to the sixth century. Here, many ancient works of religious art and other Catholic artifacts are open for public viewing. Those who visit Padova can also find the Church of the Eremitani, or the ‘Church of the Hermits.’ This thirteenth century Augustinian structure barely escaped destruction in World War II, and much of its interior remains damaged, though the tragedy has lent a certain melancholic beauty to the remaining paintings and artwork held within. Indeed, most of the frescoes were destroyed in Allied bombings on the nearby Axis headquarters, but some paintings, such as The Assumption of the Virgin and The Martyrdom of Saint Christopher still remain. For those less interested in religious history, however, there are still many places in Padova to explore. There is, of course, the university, which has no end of things to see and experience, but there are also several prominent museums scattered throughout Padova. One in particular, the Musei Civici di Padova, is a complex of historical buildings and sites. Indeed, this is where one will find the aforementioned Scrovegni Chapel, for example. However, this museum also contains a number of archaeological collections for the public to view, dating back to eras before and during the Roman Empire. Visitors interested in ancient history should not pass up the opportunity to see such valuable historical artifacts. Other museums to visit in Padova include places like the Museo dell’Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, or the Museum of the Astronomical Observatory of Padua. This tower observatory began its life as the tower of a medieval castle, but was transformed into an observatory in the year 1767. Here, one can view the sorts of tools and instruments used by past astronomers as they studied the heavens. Also found in Padova is the MUSME. Known more formally as the Museo di Storia della Medicina, or the Museum of the History of Medicine in Padova, this modern museum offers a plethora of displays and stations that one can interact with to get a better understanding of medicine. The museum is aimed at both adults and children, and people of all ages can have fun with the interactive displays and setups as they learn about anatomy, the development of pharmacology, surgery, and the history of medical education. Visitors to Padova should also make an effort to visit the Orto Botanico, or the Botanical Gardens. The gardens in Padova are the very first of their kind, dating back centuries, which started the whole tradition of keeping plants for study and viewership. While not the most complete or expansive of botanical collections, it’s still a delightful experience for all ages. For visitors who are not as interested in academia, religion, or history, however, Padova is still a location with plenty to do. There are four main piazze around the city where one can go to shop or sit down at a café and have a cup of coffee or a nice apéritif. These piazze include Piazza dei Signori, Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza Eremitani, and Piazza della Frutta. Also found in Padova is a series of historical markets located in the piazze and beneath the massive Palazzo della Ragione. The markets are a tradition kept alive by the locals for centuries. Here, visitors can purchase any number of locally made goods, regional foods ranging from local fishes, meats, cheeses, and vegetables, and much more. Finally, visitors to Padova should make sure that they see the famous Prato della Valle. This enormous public square, known as Il Prato by the locals, is a massive public park in the center of the city ringed by a moat and surrounded by statues of famous historical Padovans. Locals from the university come here to study or sunbathe on the grass, and when night falls the citizens play music or enjoy a nice stroll after their evening meal. Though not as famous as nearby Venice or Verona, Padova’s impressive wealth of history and art makes this charming city a must-see during a trip to Northern Italy. From the magnificence of the Scrovegni Chapel and the famed Basilica of Saint Anthony to the many fascinating museums, Padova leaves a lasting impression on all who visit. Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of Veneto, Italy

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Riviera del Brenta

A trip to Venice would not be complete without some time spent cruising the area’s famous canals. One of the most spectacular boat trips to take is a riverboat cruise down the Riviera del Brenta, a canal which runs 108 miles from the Veneto region to the Adriatic Sea connecting Venice and Padua. Along this path, travelers will see some of the region’s crown jewels – a selection of luxurious and historic villas that dot the Brenta Canal. The beauty and culture of the Riviera del Brenta’s villas can be attributed to the area’s history. As early as the eighth century, noblemen from Venice began traveling up the Brenta Canal to build homes, as it was at the time illegal for citizens to own property on the mainland. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as commercial industries boomed and the passageway became more essential for travel, even more buildings began to take shape. Homes became grand villas with expansive grounds and luxurious details rivaling those of some castles and palaces. There were villas of all kinds. Some served as vacation homes, others as farms, some as havens for artists to escape and create their masterpieces, and many as hosting locales for important people such as royals. Many of the villas were designed and built by important architects, such as Andrea Palladio, Vincenzo Scamozzi, Gerolamo Frigimelica Roberti, and Francesco Maria Preti, and decorated by famous artists, including Canaletto and Tiepolo. As a result, the interiors of the villas are often lined floor to ceiling with stunning frescoes and the exterior and interior architectural details make statements all on their own. Though many of the villas along the Riviera del Brenta are privately owned after being passed down from generation to generation, several are open to the public. If given the opportunity, travelers with an appreciation for art, architecture, and history should absolutely take a day cruise along the canal and explore the villas. Whether simply admiring their exteriors from the boat as it cruises by or exploring the interior of the villas firsthand, the Riviera del Brenta offers a unique glimpse into the life of fifteenth to eighteenth century Italy. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE The Riviera del Brenta is a part of the metropolitan city of Venice in the region of Veneto in Northeastern Italy. The area of Venice is known for its canals that allow travelers to take in the beauty of the area by boat or gondola. The Riviera del Brenta is no different. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Brenta River was used as a consistent passageway for nobility between two large cities, Padua and Venice. Today, the same passage that the noblemen of yesteryear would use can be navigated by travelers to explore this historic region of Veneto. The climate of Venice and the Veneto region is considered to be humid subtropical. This means that travelers can expect cool winters and warm summers. During the winter, the average temperature is around 40°F while during the summer the temperature averages 75°F. WHEN IN RIVIERA DEL BRENTA The main draw for travelers to the Riviera del Brenta area is the stunning and historic villas that line the canal. By traveling via riverboat, travelers can stop at various locales to take in the beauty, art, and culture of the villas. As early as the Renaissance, the noblemen of the Venetian Republic would construct remarkable structures along the Brenta River to serve as their summer homes. The dwellings were further enhanced with artwork by the most renowned artists of the time and expansive gardens. While there are many villas constructed along the Brenta Canal that survive to this day, some of the must-see sites include: • Villa Pisani Nazionale – An eighteenth-century villa known for its opulent gardens, well-preserved hedge maze, expansive main building with over 100 rooms, and national museum that features art exhibitions ranging from ancient to contemporary. • Villa Widmann – Also known as the Villa Widmann-Rezzonico-Foscari, this villa features beautiful outdoor gardens, many works of art, and a beautiful interior. • Villa Foscari – Designed by architect Andrea Palladio and commissioned by the powerful Foscari family, Villa Foscari is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its original charm and feel that have remained intact over the centuries. • Villa Foscarini Rossi – In addition to having stunning Baroque architectural details, this villa features a museum of shoes containing almost 2,000 varieties of luxury styles. • Villa Contarini – Truly a palace, the Baroque Villa Contarini sits atop a massive slice of land complete with a lake, private canals, and stunning gardens. Owned by the region of Veneto, it is home to many public events such as concerts and festivals. In addition to visiting the many villas along the canal, there are a variety of cultural festivals and events that travelers can enjoy when visiting the area. The opening event of travel season, Carnevale degli Storti, is an exciting and beautiful event that features intricate floats and artistic masks similar to Venice’s popular Carnival. Another stunning spectacle to see is the Riviera Fiorita (Flowering Riviera), an event where locals dress themselves and their boats in bright colors and festive costumes before floating down the canal. If traveling to the Brenta Canal during October at the time of the Venice marathon, you can join the spectators and cheer on the runners, as the marathon route runs along the shoreline. There are also a variety of antique markets and flea markets to visit in the various towns that rest along the canal. Travelers seeking a unique day trip to take during their stay in Venice will not be disappointed by the Riviera del Brenta. A delightful cruise along the Brenta Canal is one of the best ways to learn more about the Veneto region’s long history and impressive cultural heritage.Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of  Veneto, Italy

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Lake Garda

Italy has long been a favorite vacation destination known for its ancient history, rich culture, natural beauty, and handmade cuisine. Although there are a number of fabulous cities both large and small to visit on your trip to Italy, perhaps no area is quite as breathtaking as the simply stunning Lake Garda. Located in Northern Italy within just a few miles of the city of Verona, it is the largest lake in Italy. Home to roughly one hundred miles of impressive shore line, the lake itself is an estimated thirty miles long, ten miles wide, and more than one thousand feet deep. The clear blue waters of the lake can be mesmerizing and are only outdone by the majestic Italian Alps that rise around it. Lake Garda has been a popular Italian vacation destination for years, and with good reason. The approximately one hundred miles of shoreline are dotted with exclusive and picturesque lodging options, open-air piazze, quaint cafés, and charming restaurants. Some cities along the lake have a more gradual rise into the mountains and are easily navigable for most whether they are strolling through the city center, sipping a drink in the piazza, or soaking up the sun lakeside. Cities with a more immediate rise into the mountains offer various uphill adventures such as steep cobblestone roads or cable car rides to the top of a mountain. Lake Garda is thought to be the product of glaciers that once dominated the region. Today, the lake is quite long and narrows the further north it stretches. The ecosystem of the lake is rich with natural wonders. When it comes to agriculture, the area is widely known for the groves of olive trees and citrus trees, particularly lemons. The lake itself is home to a number of fish including the rare Carpione del Garda, which is now considered to be endangered. Some of the more popular lakeside destinations in this area include Limone sul Garda, Malcesine, Salò, Sirmione, and Riva del Garda. Each of these towns are regarded as amazing vacation destinations and receive a fair amount of tourist foot traffic each year. Towns such as Riva Del Garda are a favorite for those that enjoy historic sites, but also value a calm and relaxing pace in the presence of the lake’s tranquil natural beauty. When traveling from long distances, many visitors choose to fly into nearby airports such as the Verona, Milan, or Venice airports. Once in Italy, it is possible to reach the Lake Garda area by car or by train. Various rail options such as those lines that operate between certain towns in Lake Garda and Verona or Milan, are also an excellent option if you are already close to the lake. Because of Lake Garda’s miles of shoreline, tourists who visit the region seldom stay in one place for too long. Whether it is taking a boat tour, a ferry, the rail, a bus, or even a cable car, there are a number of different ways to take in the area and all offer a different perspective of the beauty of the lake and the surrounding communities. The lake’s history can be traced back to at least the eighth century, and it is thought to have been named after a town whose name meant “place of observation” or “place of guard.” With the area’s natural splendor, it is no surprise that its ownership was highly contested at times. Over the years, Lake Garda saw its share of action on the water including Roman battles, Austrian naval battles, and a role in World War II when the town of Salò became the capital of Benito Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and a headquarters for military operations. GEOGRAPHY This pristine lake is Italy’s largest and it sits at the edge of the Italian Alps. Throughout much of the lake’s northern coastline, mountains can be seen rising up sharply just off the shore. Lake Garda is conveniently located only miles from Verona and is often regarded as a halfway point between the larger Italian cities of Venice and Milan. Many of the towns and cities located on the northern half of the lake were at one time part of Austria. In addition to life along the shoreline, the lake also features several islands including the largest, which is Isola del Garda, as well as Isola dell’Olivo, Isola San Biagio (sometimes referred to as Isola dei Conigli), Isola di Trimelone, and Isola di Sogno. The Sarca River is the main tributary of Lake Garda, but the lake is fed by an estimated twenty-five other tributaries including the Ponale River and the Varone or Magnone River. CLIMATE Both the spring and fall months generally experience a range of temperatures with highs averaging just over or under the 50s (in degrees Fahrenheit) and lows in the 30s. Depending on the day, these seasons can be excellent for those who enjoy hiking and exploring their natural surroundings. Winter is generally a bit cooler with temperatures only rising to an average high of the mid-40s and the lows generally bottoming out around the high-20s or low-30s. January tends to be the coldest month for Lake Garda. The area is quite popular amongst winter sports enthusiasts thanks to the nearby Dolomites. The warmer summer months can be a fantastic opportunity for summer sport enthusiasts to take advantage of the lake winds to enjoy activities such as sailing. During this season, the lake water typically stays at a temperature in the 70-degree range and those onshore can expect high temperatures that hover around the high-70s or low-80s. July is generally one of the warmest months of the year for Lake Garda. Depending on your location on the lake, winds may be present. The length of the lake and the various altitudes that it is a part of make the wind a varying factor for different areas. That said, it is not unusual to have a light wind or more whipping through your hair on a trip to Italy’s Lake Garda. ONLY IN LAKE GARDA Whereas some areas of Italy can be more touristy than others, Lake Garda is a perfect blend of sightseeing and nature. The area is quite breathtaking at a glance with the often-snowcapped mountains rising above the rippling blue waters of the lake. However, sports and adventure enthusiasts can find hidden beauty of the land when venturing out for unique sporting activities. Lake Garda is a perfect destination for a group or people of opposite interests. Those that wish to sightsee and soak up the local culture can visit lakeside towns while adventurers conquer the great outdoors with activities such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, paragliding, biking, climbing, trekking, Nordic walking, and skiing, to name just a few. Among the most characteristic towns are Sirmione with its Grotte di Catullo and Scagliero Castle, Gardone Riviera with Il Vittoriale, the Apponale Tower in Riva del Garda, and the medieval village of Arco with its castle. Those travelers who wish to take advantage of sunny days can find plenty of opportunities for relaxation at Lake Garda’s numerous beaches. The majority are pebble beaches, though there are a few sandy beaches as well. After sightseeing in other parts of Italy, Lake Garda is one of the best places to unwind and soak up the tranquil atmosphere of this scenic area. Escape to the gorgeous natural wonders of Lake Garda where you can find adventure, relaxation, and a soul soothing peace all wrapped into one of the most stunning vacation destinations in Italy.Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of  Veneto, Italy

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Verona

Verona is many things. It is the setting of two of Shakespeare’s works – “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” – making it a top destination for fans of literature and love. It is a town with many bustling fairs, events, and festivals which celebrate the city’s vast history and many passions. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site with spectacular Roman and Medieval monuments, buildings, and churches to explore. It is home of a unique and hearty cuisine, characterized by a variety of meats and rich locally produced wines. It is a truly amazing destination to visit, filled with countless sightseeing opportunities, immersive activities to enjoy, and a vast historic culture to experience. Verona’s growth into the Veneto region’s largest city began during the reign of the Roman Empire. The city was desired due to its strategic position for military and commerce. The importance Verona had to the Romans can be seen today in the form of the city’s many Roman relics that are still present in Verona – the amphitheater, Roman gates, stunning bridges, and more. In fact, Verona’s wealth of Roman ruins is second only to that of Rome. After Roman times, the city grew continuously throughout the reign of many leaders. In the early 1400s, Verona came under the control of Venice. Influences of Venetian features can be seen throughout the city today, as well. When the region of Veneto was united with Italy in 1866, Verona became an Italian destination with a multiculturally influenced identity. Home to over 250,000 people, Verona is one of Northern Italy’s top travel destinations. Its key attractions include the mammoth Verona Amphitheater, known as the Arena di Verona or Verona Arena, bustling squares Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza Bra, the city’s Fair and Summer theater season, and the many “Romeo and Juliet” sightseeing locales. Despite being a large city, it has a provincial and historic feel. Locals and travelers alike explore the historic city center and piazze, taking in the city’s unique architecture, shops, and restaurants. Even more impressive is the fact that much of the architecture features stunning pink hued limestone from the Valpolicella region, making a sunset walk through the city center purely magical. Verona offers the best of Italy – stunning art, amazing architecture, fascinating history, and rich culture. In addition to being an amazing travel destination in itself, Verona is close enough to other popular destinations such as Venice and Lake Garda, as well as Veneto’s wine areas, such as Soave and Valpolicella, that it makes a great starting point for exploring Northern Italy. GEOGRAFY & CLIMATE   Verona is located in the northern section of Italy in the region of Veneto. The city is cut by the Adige River and covers an area of 80 square miles. Verona is the largest city in Vento and the fifth largest in Northern Italy, making it a wonderful place to live and visit. The climate of Verona is classified as humid subtropical, despite the city’s Northern location. This climate is due to the fact that the city is located on a plain as opposed to in the northern mountains of Italy. Travelers can expect hot summers averaging 80–85°F and cold winters averaging 40–45°F. Winters also bring precipitation and high levels of humidity, which often result in characteristic fog that hangs from daybreak to late morning. WHEN IN VERONA Visit the one of a kind Arena di Verona. The third largest open-air theater in Italy, this Roman Arena was once the home of ancient gladiator shows. The history of the space is palpable, and the sheer size of the theater is staggering. In contrast to other Roman amphitheaters, the Arena is still used regularly. It can accommodate approximately 15,000 guests and is the home of some of Verona’s most popular events, including concerts and the city’s renowned summer opera season. Verona has plenty of sightseeing opportunities with a variety of historic monuments and buildings. From the city’s Romanesque Cathedral to remnants of ancient Roman gates to Medieval churches, there are countless buildings, piazze, bridges, castles, and more that reflect Verona’s rich history. The short list includes Piazza Bra, Torre dei Lamberti, Castelvecchio, Ponte Pietra, and Palazzo Maffei, but it could go on and on. In fact, the city has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its spectacularly well-preserved structures and monuments. Explore the world of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” As the setting for the world’s most famous and tragic love story, Verona is home to many sites that evoke the spirit and passion of the classic play. Travelers can see firsthand the famous balcony at Juliet’s house, Romeo’s home, and the tomb of Juliet. Indulge in the area’s rich, hearty, and flavorful cuisine. Characterized by thick, homemade pasta, rich, meaty sauces, and delicious local produce, the cuisine of Verona pairs perfectly with the area’s full-bodied, top of the line wines. Wine lovers will also enjoy a trip to Verona because the city is in the middle of one of Italy’s biggest and best wine production regions. Verona hosts a massive annual wine fair, Vinitaly, which attracts thousands of visitors and features an unparalleled selection of wines and wine-centric events. During the event, Veneto’s most eminent wines are on full display including Prosecco, Soave, Amarone, Pinot Grigio, and more. Explore the city’s museums. From contemporary art in the Palazzo Forti to historic paintings and sculptures in the Castelvecchio museum to the natural fossils and ancient artifacts in the city’s Natural History Museum, there is a little bit of everything to see in Verona’s museums. Located along the picturesque Adige River just a stone’s throw away from Italy’s largest lake, fair Verona more than lives up to its Shakespearean fame. The medieval city center, characterized by the majestic Arena di Verona, sprawling squares, and stately buildings, has earned the love and admiration of international travelers for centuries. Travel Guides The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of Veneto, Italy  

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Treviso

Located a mere 20 miles north of the city of Venice in the plains of the present-day Veneto region of Italy lies an undiscovered gem of a city known as Treviso. Home to roughly 80,000 people, Treviso is sometimes known as the gateway to the Veneto region due to its proximity to both Padova and Venice. Indeed, Treviso is a city that, sadly, suffers in obscurity due to its proximity to the much better known and more popular Venice. Despite this, Treviso is a beautiful town with a relaxed atmosphere and more than enough to entertain and entice the visitors that all too often overlook it. Treviso is a little walled city built of brick and stone nestled between the Sile River and several other tributaries. Like a version of its neighbor Venice in miniature, the town is crisscrossed with small waterways and canals that run through gardens, houses, and street corners. The city features narrow, brickwork streets that wind in mazelike paths through the town and old millstreams, still with their waterwheels intact, though serving little more than a decorative purpose these days. Treviso is in many ways the absolute perfect picture of an old, traditional European small town. Compared to the more bustling nature of its neighbor, where tourists hustle from attraction to attraction, camera shutters clicking all the way, Treviso is a much more laid back and relaxed place to visit. Many of the stores and restaurants are quainter compared to similar places in tourist-heavy cities like Venice. The serene atmosphere of Treviso has earned it the moniker of “città cortese,” or “the courteous city.” Of course, like any city with such a long history in Europe, there is no shortage of things to do or see in Treviso. Perhaps its most notable attraction would be the Treviso Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of San Pietro. This massive cathedral is one of the most distinctive landmarks in the area with its seven domes. The church contains many notable works of art, an ancient catacomb that runs beneath it, and even its own museum – the Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra di Treviso. Visitors to Treviso will also want to make a trip over to the Piazza dei Signori near the center of town. On market days, visitors will find this town square filled to the brim with all sorts of interesting shops and stalls, selling delicious, traditional Italian foods and goods. In this bustling piazza there are also three major palazzi – the Palazzo del Trecento, the Palazzo del Podestà, and the Palazzo Pretorio. The square also opens up into Treviso’s main street, Via Calmaggiore, which is lined with many excellent examples of upscale fifteenth and sixteenth century houses, still well maintained and decorated. For those interested in going back in time to find out more about when Treviso was characterized by feuds between extremely powerful families, the area offers historic castles and towers. However, in keeping with Treviso’s relaxed atmosphere, perhaps the best thing to do when visiting the city is to merely take a leisurely walk. Visitors can explore the outer walls and gates of Treviso, observing the old military fortifications that kept the city safe in the past. Or, for those more interested in nature, a visit is surely due to the Natural Park of the Sile River, which protects over 10,000 acres of wetlands, forests, meadows, and the river. GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Treviso lies at a confluence of many different rivers and tributaries. More than six rivers flow through the middle of town, including the Botteniga, the Cagnan, the Buranelli, the Cantarane, the Roggia (also known as the Siletto), and, of course, the largest and most famous river that flows through the town, the Sile. As would be expected of an area with so many waterways, the landscape is humid and a little bit marshy, sometimes referred to as a lagoon landscape. However, towards the northeast end of the town, the landscape begins to transform. Vineyards and farmland dot the landscape, including the many radicchio fields that the town is famous for, as well as the vineyards that grow the area’s beloved Prosecco wine. Beyond these vineyards and farms lie rolling green hills that eventually extend into large, glacial peaks, such as the Montello peak. Treviso has a mild, Mediterranean climate with cool winters that only occasionally dip below freezing and warm summers that rarely crest 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainfall is mostly consistent year-round, with the rainiest month being June. WHEN IN TREVISO Most visitors to Treviso only spend a brief amount of time in the city before moving onto Venice or Padova. While it is certainly recommended that people who decide to extend their stay in Treviso make a day trip to both of these illustrious cities, it would be a true shame to merely use Treviso as a place to rest one’s head away from the crowds and noise and spend all of their time in these more popular cities. Visitors should not miss out on the small-town charm of Treviso. Travelers to the city should make an effort to visit the many landmarks that dot Treviso. One of these landmarks is the Church of San Francesco. This church has been greatly abused by conquerors and militaries over the years, and yet it is remarkable just how much of it and its treasure still remains. Visitors can admire a Madonna and Child with Saints painted by Tommaso da Modena, and even the tomb of the son of the famed Dante Alighieri, Pietro Alighieri. Another church worth visiting in Treviso is the Church of San Nicolò. This church is one of the more interesting examples of architecture found in Treviso, with massively tall, straight walls, round piers, and a vaulted, timber roof. Inside, the church’s altar features a painting known as Madonna Enthroned by fra Marco Pensaben and Girolamo Savoldo. But perhaps the most interesting works of art in the Chiesa di San Nicolò are the frescoes found in the chapterhouse of the former monastery. Here, over 40 frescoes by Tommaso da Modena wrap around the room, and the detail and liveliness of the paintings of the monks at their desks and going about their duties is impressive even to this day. All that said, perhaps the most impressive church to be found in Treviso is the Treviso Cathedral, or the Cathedral of San Pietro. With its iconic seven domes, it is undoubtedly the most distinctive structure in the city containing the famed Museo Diocesano and the eleventh century crypt. Treviso also has several museums that visitors should take the time to see. The Museo Bailo, also known by its full name as the Luigi Bailo Civic Museum, contains a fantastic collection of classic art and archaeology from the area, as well as many contemporary pieces spanning a range of diverse art styles from Impressionism to avant-garde. Visitors to Treviso should also check out the Museo Civico di Santa Caterina, which contains even more frescoes by Tommaso da Modena, including perhaps his most famous work, The Life of St. Ursula. In addition, there are many other paintings featured here as well, including paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Pisanello, Lorenzo Lotto, and many other artists. Treviso also features a famous fish market known as the Pescheria. This fish market rests on a small island in the middle of a confluence of rivers and is surrounded by historic buildings and sculptures of mermaids and other fish. This bustling market is one of the most atmospheric sites in Treviso, but for those who do not favor fish then a trip to the Piazza dei Signori is in order. Translating to English as the “Gentlemen’s Square,” on market days this square is bustling with dozens upon dozens of stalls, selling traditional Italian foods, ingredients, and wares. The square is also surrounded by three different palazzi, and opens up onto the town’s main street, which is lined with beautiful fifteenth and sixteenth century Italian houses. However, despite everything there is to see and do in Treviso, perhaps the best thing to do in town that keeps in line with the atmosphere is to simply take a leisurely walk around the gates and walls of the city, or in the local Natural Park of the Sile River. For those that would prefer to explore the old urban areas of the ancient town, some highlights include the Porta San Tommaso and Porta Santi Quaranta gatehouses, which separate the old city in the center from the more modern sections of the city around the edges of town. For the nature lovers, highlights of the natural park include the many small ponds, marshes, forests, and springs that dot the surrounding landscape. Often overshadowed by neighboring Venice, the cultural city of Treviso is well worth a visit in its own right. Travelers who spend time in Treviso will be rewarded with stunning medieval and Renaissance frescoes as well as the breathtaking architecture of the Treviso Cathedral and the tranquil atmosphere of this city positioned at the confluence of several rivers. Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of  Veneto, Italy

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Vicenza

In Northeastern Italy sits Vicenza, one of the most architecturally stunning cities in the country. A perfect addition to any Italian vacation itinerary, the city is a traveler favorite because of the grandiose feel and multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites located here. Still, Vicenza is generally less crowded with tourists compared to many of its larger counterparts, which allows people to move about the city more freely. Whether you come seeking the rich culture, authentic cuisine, or ancient history of this gorgeous city, Vicenza is a fabulous destination for an Italian getaway. Vicenza is home to an estimated one hundred thousand plus residents. The city is quite diverse with many residents hailing from different countries. A number of Americans reside in Vicenza, primarily due to the presence of a nearby United States military base. Vicenza’s history is almost as diverse as its residents. This ancient town can be traced back to circa the third and second centuries BC courtesy of the Euganei and Paleo-Veneti tribes which referred to the area as Vicentia. Soon after, the city came under Roman rule and was renamed Vicetia, which translates to victorious. During this time period, the area was widely known and respected for its flourishing wool production, agriculture, marble, and brick industries. Over the ensuing years, Vicenza fell under various rulers including the Venetian Republic and the Austrian Empire before eventually becoming part of Unified Italy. The city sustained heavy damage during World War I and World War II due to bombings, however, in an event that is commonly referred to as the miracle of the northeast, the area experienced an inspirational revitalization and economic boom. With such a long and rich history, it is no wonder that in 1994 the city was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site entitled City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. In fact, many of the famed Palladian Villas now sit on the outskirts of town. The term Palladian refers to renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and his work throughout Vicenza and the Veneto region. Much of Vicenza has a regal and stately ambiance that is only enhanced by the number of museums, palaces, and piazze that dot the city. Culture simply flourishes here in a unique way thanks in part to the amazing talents of Andrea Palladio. The sixteenth century architect is considered to be one of the greats of architecture. Some of the more renowned masterpieces of Palladio’s that can be found in Vicenza include the Teatro Olimpico, Basilica Palladiana, Villa Almerico Capra, and a handful of palazzi. Today, Vicenza pays homage to Andrea Palladio as the main street of the city is called Corso Palladio. The street measures nearly 2,300 feet and is home to historic buildings, cafés, and shops. Another important street is Contrà Porti, which is lined with elegant palaces including Palazzo Thiene, Palazzo Porto-Breganze, Palazzo Colleoni-Porto, and Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, which houses the Palladium Museum. The Teatro Olimpico, or Olympic Theater, is one of Palladio’s most stunning works. The theater, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was constructed during the sixteenth century. It is thought to be home to one of the oldest surviving stage sets in the world. The theater exudes old world grandeur with a hint of luxury and is still used for performances in Vicenza today. The city and surrounding areas are known for agricultural, clothing, jewelry, silk, wool, musical instruments, and pottery industries. Many of these industries made a resurgence during the economic boom that began after the destruction of World War I and World War II and still flourish today. Vicenza is also a city of sports. The town has its very own American football team, the Vicenza Hurricanes. In addition, the city also boasts a competitive football club, L.R. Vicenza, and rugby team, Rangers Rugby Vicenza. The city’s cuisine is authentically Italian and specializes in amazing taste and tradition. Dishes here typically center around meats, polenta, pasta, cheese, and vegetables with accents of truffles and wine. Popular traditional dishes include polenta e osei, baccalà alla vicentina, and bigoli all’arna. If planning to travel by air to Vicenza, there are several airports such as Marco Polo Venice Airport, Valerio Catullo Airport of Verona, and A. Canova Treviso Airport to choose from. Travelers will need to catch a train or drive to get the rest of the way to Vicenza. With so much architectural beauty abounding throughout the city of Vicenza, many visitors choose to see the city on foot or by bicycle. Touring the area this way affords travelers to set their own pace and explore every nook and cranny of this amazing city. GEOGRAPHY  The city of Vicenza is located in Northeastern Italy in its namesake province. It is located in the larger Italian region of Veneto. It sits in between the two Italian powerhouses of Milan and Venice. The city is located close to the Bacchiglione River and is surrounded by varied landscapes including southern plains that give way to hills and mountains in the northwest. The Vicenza cityscape is quite stunning against the picturesque backdrop of rolling green hills and majestic mountains. CLIMATE  Vicenza has a fairly warm climate during the summer months with July usually being the warmest month of the year. The coolest part of the year typically occurs in early winter during January. Summer temperatures generally yield highs hovering around the eighties (degrees in Fahrenheit) and lows in the low sixties. There is a gradual cool down during the fall months with winter eventually yielding average high temperatures in the forties and lows close to freezing. The spring months bring a gradual warm up in preparation for summer. Vicenza can have a somewhat rainy weather pattern, with the wettest months typically occurring in spring, summer, and fall. ONLY IN VICENZA  The city of Vicenza is widely known in Italy and across the world as being a jewelry production headquarters. Jewelry has been a long-standing tradition for the city with jewelry studies even being an option for some students. The city’s Basilica Palladiana is home to the Museo del Gioiello, one of the only jewelry museums in the country. The International Vicenza Gold Fair is one of the highlights of the area when it comes to special events. The word fair hardly does the event justice with jewelry makers, buyers, and traders attending from across the world. It is one of the largest jewelry trade fairs in Europe. The International Vicenza Gold Fair is a unique assembling of the finest gold jewelry in the world. If visiting during this one-of-a-kind event, be sure to stop by and check out the amazing craftsmanship and perhaps pick up a souvenir for yourself. Vicenza is a true treasure of Italy, and for far more than just its gold and jewelry. Plan to spend a few days in the stunning city to find all the ways that it inspires you. Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of  Veneto, Italy

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Venice

No trip to Italy would be complete without a stop in one of Italy’s crown jewels, it is no wonder why people have been flocking to Venice for centuries. With emerald canals that flow in place of bustling city streets and a labyrinth of complex alleyways crisscrossing over the entire city, it is a city that truly has to be experienced firsthand to be fully appreciated. Having been depicted in countless photographs, paintings, films, and television shows, there is something to be said about taking in this grand city in person. When standing on one of Venice’s 435 bridges and admiring the iconic gondolas which transport passengers from one end of the city to the other, there is an almost dreamlike quality to the moment. With closed eyes, take a deep breath in, pausing to listen to the gentle sounds of the canals’ lapping waters. This is Venice. With over 400,000 inhabitants, Venice is a group of almost 100 small islands sitting in a lagoon. Hence the iconic and fairytale-like maze of canals that made the city famous. The city and its lagoon were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, citing the artistic and architectural achievement of this “floating” city and the rich history of the area. There is no doubt that some of the world’s most influential and impactful forms of architecture call Venice home, including the church of Santa Maria della Salute and Torcello’s Cathedral. 84 bell towers of varying heights can be seen along the skyline of Venice, with some of them leaning like Pisa’s tower due to their foundation on the water. The mere existence of the city given the natural landscape is a testament to humans’ ability to coincide and thrive with nature. As for the city’s history, the story of Venice is a prestigious one, as it was once one of the most important Maritime republics of the 10th century. The city was founded when populations of Venetian people took shelter on the region’s many islands to escape raids by Barbarians. Eventually, the people became permanent residents and the city of Venice became a maritime power. Over the centuries, Venice has defended itself against being overtaken by many groups of people – Arabs, Genoese, Ottoman Turks – and maintained its position as one of the greatest medieval republics. It is this long, sturdy history and magnificent presence that has led to the various nicknames such as La Serenissima(the most serene), La Dominante (the dominant), and La Perla dell’Adriatico (the pearl of the Adriatic Sea). GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE Located in the Veneto region of Northeast Italy, Venice is a group of over 100 land masses in the shallow Venetian lagoon, an enclosed bay located between the mouths of the rivers Po and Piave. As the capital of the Veneto region, Venice is divided into six major boroughs, or sestrieri. They are San Marco, San Paolo, Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello, and Santa Croce. Each of these sestrieri have their own identity, customs, flavors, and views of the floating city. Of the over 100 islands that comprise the region, some are still considered wild areas and others – Murano, Burano, Torcello, Giudecca, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, and San Giorgio Maggiore – stand out as important areas on their own. Being located in a lagoon, the primary connection between these various boroughs are water channels and canals. The main waterway, the Canal Grande (or Canalazzo), is the Venetian equivalent of a major highway, as it splits Venice in half and is the main channel to travel on to view the best that Venice has to offer. However, it is not just the canals that makes Venice’s infrastructure unique. The city is also known for its numerous, winding, and narrow streets. Italians call the streets of Venice calli, meaning “path,” as opposed to the general Italian term for streets, vie, mainly because the roadways in Venice are sized more like tiny walking paths than standard roads. In fact, the narrowest street in Venice, the Calletta or Ramo Varisco, is only 53 cm wide. As for Venice’s climate, it is described officially as humid subtropical, meaning visitors can expect very warm summers and cool winters. Because of its location in the Northern part of Italy, the Autumn and Winter seasons can bring fog, rain, and cold temperatures. Spring offers great weather, including mild temperatures and soft breezes, while Summers can be warm. For those hoping to snap beautiful photos of Venice’s canal views, professional photographers and locals alike prefer to visit the city during Fall and Winter, as the visual wonder of fog floating among the canals is unparalleled. Because of its unique location on the water, another weather event, Acqua Alta, or high water, is another striking visual. These unusually high tides submerge much of the historic center of Venice during the rainy season. It gives the illusion that the city is sinking or even floating. The Venice government is working on a series of barriers that will help prevent this event by 2019. WHEN IN VENICE It is enchanting to explore the floating city by foot. With the vast number of bridges, channels, architectural wonders, and calli to explore, walking is, by far, the ideal way to give Venice the attention it deserves. While exploring Venice, one cannot miss the essential and iconic bridges, which connect various parts of the city and offer spectacular views. The Rialto Bridge, considered by some to be the heart of Venice, is the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal and one of the city’s most iconic sights. Meanwhile, the Calatrava Bridge is one of the most recent bridges in Venice. A stunningly sleek and modern feat of architecture, this bridge was designed by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The Bridge of Sighs is another bridge not to be missed. The enclosed bridge has a gorgeous view of the city, and was the final bridge walked by convicts before they were to be imprisoned. It was given its name by Lord Byron, due to the implication that prisoners would sigh at the beauty and wonder of their final sight of Venice from the bridge. After a long walk exploring Venice’s many bridges, many enjoy a break at one of the city’s popular bacari, or small taverns, in which locals enjoy drinks such as white wine and snacks such as bruschetta, or cicchetti, with fresh toppings. Following their break, many head to the famous Piazza San Marco, otherwise known as St. Marks Square. It is home to the main attractions of the city and is hailed as the religious, social, and political center of Venice. It is the location of the world-famous St. Mark’s Basilica, which boasts stunning architecture and religious history. Right next to St. Mark’s Basilica is Doge’s Palace, an iconic piece of Venetian architecture which is home to many wonderful pieces of artwork as well as the the adjacent prison that convicts would cross the Bridge of Sighs to get to. Also in the square are the St. Mark’s Clock Tower and the San Marco Bell Tower. A trip on the water is the perfect way to experience the outlying islands. Take a vaporetto, or a water bus, to islands such as Murano, home to the world’s best glass masters, Burano, which boasts an array of bright, colorful houses perfect for photo taking, or San Giorgio Maggiore, home to the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. No matter which islands the vaporetto travels to, rest assured that the charming destinations that await are a welcome reprise from the hustle and bustle of the main parts of Venice. With its vast history, shimmering canals, iconic architectural landmarks, and bustling Piazza, Venice is a literal floating city filled with culture, art, cuisine, and stunning views. Travel Guides   The Veneto Region of Italy The Cities of  Veneto, Italy

Explore Venice

Your dream vacation starts here

No more endless scrolling through travel sites looking for the perfect fit. Tell us about your ideal trip and preferences, and let our Italian-born travel experts do the rest.

Your dream vacation starts here

Just share a few details about your ideal trip & let our travel experts do the rest.