Thursday, 6 December 2007

Sightseeing in Verona Italy

Sightseeing in Verona Italy....

Thinking of visiting Verona for some sightseeing?

Read on to find out more about the beautiful town of Verona.

A Quick Tour Of Italy - Verona
by Levi Reiss

If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider the Veneto region of northern Italy on the Gulf of Venice. Venice, its best-known city, is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations. Ecellent tourist attractions abound elsewhere in Veneto, and the crowds are much smaller. This article examines the Shakespearean town of Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read our companion articles on northern Veneto, southern Veneto, and the university city of Padua.

Verona boasts many vestiges from Roman times. Its Roman amphitheatre is the third largest in Italy and its interior is virtually intact. This edifice hosts fairs, theatre, opera and other public events, especially summers. The Roman arch bridge crossing the Adige River was partially destroyed in World War II and rebuilt using original materials.

The Twelfth Century Romanesque Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore sits on a Fourth Century shrine to the city's patron saint, St. Zeno. Its splendid one hundred ten foot bell tower was mentioned in Dante's Divine Comedy. The vaulted crypt contains the tomb of St. Zeno and tombs of several other saints.

Verona's largest church is the Fifteenth Century Sant'Anastasia whose interior is an excellent example of Gothic architecture. Items of honor include frescoes and hunchback statues dispensing holy water.

The Fourteenth Century Castelvecchio on the banks of the Adige River probably sits on the site of a Roman fortress. Its art museum specializes in Venetian painters and sculptors. Verona's squares include the Roman Herb Square that still maintains its medieval look and some produce stalls. The Gentlemen's Square is Verona's center of activities. Next door is the Scaglieri Palace, once home to the ruling family.

Don't leave Verona without visiting those star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The Twelfth Century Casi di Giulietta (Juliet's House) long belonged to the Dal Cappello family and since Cappello sounds like Capulet perhaps... The house at Via Cappello, 23 with its courtyard probably isn't for real, but crowds come to gawk and dream. This could be the place to propose.
Verona's cuisine features typical Po Valley dishes: mixed boiled meats, nervetti (calf's foot and veal shank salad), and risotto, often cooked in Amarone wine. See our companion article I Love

Touring Italy - Verona for a sample menu and more information on regional wines plus an in-depth examination of Verona's tourist attractions. Valpolicella DOC is a world famous, often mediocre wine produced north of Verona. It can be transformed into fine wines including Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone DOC.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian, French, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. His central website is http://www.wineinyourdiet.com/ devoted to the health and nutritional aspects of wine and its place in your weight-loss program. His global wine website is http://www.theworldwidewine.com/. Visit his other websites devoted to Italian wine, Italian travel, and Italian food.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Where to find Good Views in Florence

There are a number of places where you can find unique and stunning views of the city of Florence.

Boboli Gardens - climb to the top of the hill for an amazing vista of the city

Fiesole – set amongst hills only 5 miles from Florence, Fiesole has a wonderful view of Florence. You can get there from Florence in less than 20 minutes by taking the number 5 bus.

The Duomo – climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome for a magnificent view of Florence or take the 414 steps to the top of Giotto’s bell tower.

San Miniato al Monte - this is a lovely little church on a hillside at the south of the city of Florence. Here you'll get fantastic views of Florence and of the Doumo. You can walk here from Florence or get the number 13 bus.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Historical Sightseeing in Italy

Vacation To Italy And Get A Major Dose Of History
by Will Moore

Known for its food, wine, people, culture, music, countryside and even the mafia - Italy happens to be one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the world.

Italy is where culture, history and traditions blend beautifully with modernity and fashion. What is interesting about Italy is that you will never find a single Italian flag, but they are still very particular about their culture and traditions – and of course soccer.

Whether your vacationing to Florence, Rome, Naples, Milan, or Venice your stay will be well worth the flight. Italy boasts several 5 star resort hotels that accommodate to every need you could imagine.

Italians are considered to be one of the best-looking people in the world. They are very proud of their past, their culture and for them it is all about family. Italians are very sociable.
They are friendly and will talk to anyone, what’s most appealing about them is their sense of good humor and wit. In Italy you will hear the various kinds of dialects and accents of Italian, which sound so melodious to the ear.

Italians have an ongoing love affair with food and fashion. The Italian food is famous worldwide and is a gastronomical to all the senses. Fashion is a very important part of the Italian culture, after all Milan is the fashion capital of the world, where haute couture is the word most heard.
Northern Italy is more educated, hectic and fast paced, where as South of Italy is rural and laidback. People in Italy love spending money on their expensive attire, be it clothes, watches, shoes, jewelry or their fast cars.

If you want to be understood in Italy, you will have to rely on your English-Italian dictionary or your gesturing skills, because English is not spoken or understood by many people there.
People in Italy have a gastronomical affair with food. Eating is a passion and an integral part of the culture in Italy. So when you are in Italy, expect to add a few pounds to your frame.

Italian food finds it roots back to different regions and is influenced by various factors. If you are looking for healthy and cheaper food, then you must venture into South Italy.

The world famous and supremely popular Pizza was born in Campania along with tubular pizza and the various tomato based pizza and pasta sauces. Even if you are one of those few people who do not like pizzas, you should try one.

The reason the Italian pizzas are popular is because of its simplicity and its fresh ingredients. Pizza margherita is the most popular pizza in Italy named after Queen Margherita.
If you are looking for food with Greek influence with figs, honey, aubergine and aromatic spices, then Calabria is the place to go. Sicily will give you mouthwatering, finger-licking desserts like cannoli, sweet cheese, chocolate and cassata pastries. And Italian ice-cream Gelato is oh so popular.

A typical Italian dinner would consist of an appetizer or an antipasto like bruschetta which is a type of herbed and spiced garlic bread; prosciutto which is cured ham and melon.
The primo piatto, which is the first main course, is usually a soup or pasta; the second piatto will have meat, chicken or fish with contorno, which is vegetable. The meal is then ended with dessert, fruits and coffee.

Will is the owner of TravelCheckList. Visit us today or Italy vacation deals and resources for world travelers. An Italian vacation offers something for every type of traveler. Food, scenery, museums, romance, culture, beaches, nightlife and much more can be experienced in Italy.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Wine Sightseeing in Italy

Wine Tourism In Italy
by Margit Holzer

Italy is, with 98 wine routes, by far leading the top list of wine growing countries. Being wine an enormous pleasure for our palates, it becomes always more important, and Italy has set up a real system for its wine tourism by connecting different kinds of institutions and guidelines of its wine routes.

These tours give you the opportunity to customize your day in the wine country according to your taste and budget in all the wine regions of Italy. For the curious type wanting to know a bit of viticulture and the wine making process, or the novice wanting to learn how to taste and appreciate quality wines, there are plenty of opportunities. Most of the wine cellars offer guided tours where they exactly explain everything there is to know about producing wine.

The most famous wine regions in Italy obviously are Tuscany and Piedmont.

In Tuscany there are a lot of medieval little towns like Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Gimignano and of course the Chianti area. The most famous wines are Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Chianti classico just to name some, but there are plenty of other wine producers which have highly qualified wines like Casa alle Vacce – Accanthò.

Besides to see and to get known everything about wine, this area is very, very nice to visit, to relax, spend some romantic moments and to enjoy life. The accommodations in Tuscany are mostly typical for this region. Many country inns (agriturismi) and castles are pleased to welcome you for a fantastic break out of your every days life. To complete your trip to Tuscany, there is a wide variety of typical dishes you can enjoy, obviously accompanied by a delicious glass of wine!

In Piedmont, the most famous wine area is called Langhe. The vineyards of the Barolo DOCG zones are not extensive, but they are the most carefully charted stands of vines anywhere in Italy. The landscape is made of gently rolling hills and the vineyards surrounding pretty villages. Other than the Barolo there is the Barbaresco, the Dolcetto d’Alba and the Grignolino as a good red wine. White wines of the Piedmont are Blangè di Cerretto, Arneis del Roero, Erbaluce di Caluso and Chardonnay Pinot. Piedmont is also world famous for its truffles. There is a huge truffle exhibition every year in Alba where it is possible to taste and buy truffle and every kind of its derivates. It is most interesting to attend this exhibition, but as a good tip: if you (and you really should) go to Alba during these days, book your accommodation many months before as otherwise there is not even on bed left!

But of course there are many other regions in Italy producing great wines like Umbria, Campania, Veneto, Friuli and Sicily.

It is really worth to come to Italy for getting to know more about its wines and food and to taste them while undertaking some trips in the surrounding areas and see plenty of romantic and ancient places which are spread all over the country.

For information and booking of accommodation in Italy click Dream Destination Europe
Feel free to reproduce this article. Please keep the links intact.

Margit Holzer is an international expert for the travel industry. With a degree in Economics and being a multilingual tourism expert, she is now the CEO for http://www.dde-europe.com

Contact her on her mail m.holzer@dde-europe.com for any kind of question regarding traveling, accommodation and tourism above all in Italy.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Sightseeing, Food and Wine in Piedmont, Italy

I Love Italian Wine and Food - The Piedmont Region
By Levi Reiss

Piedmont is located in the northwest of Italy. It borders on France and Switzerland and is surrounded on three sides by the Alps. The name Piedmont means the foot of the mountain. Piedmont is one of the most industrialized regions of Italy. It is considered the best organized region of Italy for wine tourism. Its population is about 4.4 million.

Piedmont was originally settled by the Celts. It was conquered by Hannibal and reconquered by the Ancient Romans. Piedmont was ruled by the French Savoy family for almost five hundred years. It was a center in the fight to unify Italy. Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Piedmont and Sardinia, became the first king of modern Italy in 1861.

Agriculturally Piedmont has it all. For example, meats include beef, kid, lamb, rabbit, and veal. Game includes hare, partridge, pheasant, and venison. Donkey meat stew is a local specialty. Another specialty is grissini, breadsticks that are a yard long. The region makes nine protected varieties of cheese. About the only food that seems to be a bit short is fresh fish, with the exception of trout.

Piedmont’s capital and largest city is Turin, a city of nine hundred thousand that is the capital of the Italian automobile industry and the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics. This city was the first capital of united Italy (from 1861 to 1865) and remains to this day the world capital of vermouth.

Piedmont devotes over one hundred forty thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 6th among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is about ninety million gallons, also giving it a 6th place. About 70% of the wine production is red or rosé (only a bit of rosé), leaving 30% for white. The region produces 44 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine and 7 DOCG wines. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior Almost 56% of Piedmont wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Piedmont is home to four dozen major and secondary grape varieties, somewhat more red than white varieties.

Widely grown international white grape varieties include Muscat (in particular Moscato Bianco) and Chardonnay. The best known strictly Italian white varieties are Arneis, Cortese, and Erbaluce.

International red grape varieties are not important in Piedmont. It is the center for Nebbiolo, felt by many to be Italy’s noblest red variety, the base of Italy’s world famous Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Other Italian red varieties include Barbera, Brachetto, and Dolcetto, some of which are grown elsewhere.

Before reviewing the Piedmont wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Cipollata Rossa Monferrina, Spicy Robiola Cheese and Scallion Spread. For the second course try Tasca Ripiena, Veal Stuffed with Salami and Scallions. For dessert indulge yourself with Budino Freddo Gianduja, Decadent Hazelnut-Chocolate Pudding.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY While we have communicated with well over a thousand Italian wine producers and merchants to help prepare these articles, our policy is clear. All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Surì Rosso Barbera d’Asti Villa Giada 2004 Andrea-Faccio Viticoltore (Winemaker) DOC 13.5% alcohol about $10.90 plus tax

Unlike the other wines in this series, I purchased this bottle while on vacation in Seattle, Washington. Frankly I thought that I was drinking the cousin of a $40 bottle of wine. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the equal of some $40 bottles. While three other Italian grape red varieties are authorized to a maximum of 15% in the Barbera d’Asti DOC, this particular wine is 100% Barbera.

I found the wine very powerful, perhaps too strong for pasta. Its tastes included tobacco, leather, cherry, and black cherry. An Italian wine site states: "An imposing wine that is always rather severe but richly and exquisitely perfumed and with a flavor that couples strength with finesse.” I agree except that I didn’t find it severe. I also drank it with a marinated, barbecued rib steak. The wine cut through the steak’s grease. Once again the flavors came out well.

Gran Padano is a classic Parmesan-type cheese made for a millennium in northern Italy including the Piedmont region. It is a cylindrical, cooked, semi-fat cheese which matures slowly. It has a grainy consistency and may be sliced or grated. Its taste is fragrant and delicate. I tried this wine with grated Gran Padano cheese on toast with a somewhat spicy Moroccan tomato and pimento based dip.The combination was excellent; I felt that both the wine and cheese flavors were accentuated. The term mouth-filling came to mind.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Presently his wine websites are http://www.theworldwidewine.com and http://www.theitalianwineconnection.com

Friday, 3 August 2007

Sightseeing in Central Sardinia

I Love Touring Italy - Central Sardinia
by Levi Reiss

If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider the island of Sardinia, a region of southern Italy. Depending on your interests, this beautiful area can be an ideal vacation spot. You can get classic Italian food, and wash it down with fine local wine. Some parts of Sardinia remain undiscovered by tourists, while other sites are favorites of Italian and international jet setters and are priced accordingly. This article presents central Sardinia. Companion articles present northern Sardinia and southern Sardinia. Before we give you our itinerary you must realize that central Sardinia is hardly flatland. Sometimes to get from point A to point B you must pass by point C; the actual distance traveled may be much further than your initial estimate. Enjoy the trip, and drive carefully (or even better let the pros drive you.)

We’ll start our tour of central Sardinia at the interior city of Su Nuraxi. Then we head to the city of Giari di Gesturi to its north. We next go southwest to the main road and then north to Oristano near the coast. Then we proceed north and west to the coastal city of Tharros (can you believe an Italian city whose name does not end in a vowel?). From Tharros we go to nearby San Salvatore, and then travel northeast to Nuoro and finally south to Fonni.

Su Nuraxi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies near the village of Barumini. It is the finest and most complete example of a nearly four thousand year old stone defensive structure called nuraghe found only in Sardinia. Nuraghe are typically shaped like a beehive, built with huge square blocks of stone, but with no foundations or cement. Yet they stand and have stood for millennia. Their name comes from the Sardinian word nurra that means both mound and cavity. They are mounds containing a cavity transformed into one or more rooms and perhaps a courtyard. Each structure may be over sixty feet (twenty meters) high. Some complexes include enough towers to englobe and protect a small village.

Sardinia is home to more than 8,000 nuraghe, all that remains of the original 30,000 plus. Few nuraghe have been studied scientifically and we are far from understanding their full meaning. But for an unforgettable experience go to Su Nuraxi and explore the nuraghe and the ruins of the surrounding Bronze-Age village.

Giari di Gesturi is a 28 square mile (45 square kilometer) basalt plateau. It’s home to dwarf wild horses and wild sheep with beautiful curved horns that have turned them into an endangered species. See these magnificent animals while there is still time.

Oristano, population thirty thousand, is the biggest town in these parts. It includes several churches worth visiting. Little remains of the original Twelfth Cathedral of Saint Mary; most of what you see comes from either the Seventeenth Century restoration or the Nineteenth Century renovation. You should also visit the French-Gothic Fifteenth Century Franciscan Church of Santa Chiara, the recently restored Fourteenth Century Gothic Church of St. Clare, and the Eighteenth Century Baroque-Piedmont Church of Carmine.

Oristano houses the Antiquarium Arborense Museum, with its important Nuraghic and Roman collection from the old cities of Tharros and Cornus. The city is not far from the Torre Grande (Large Tower) beach and resort area named for Sardinia’s tallest tower, which is now a lighthouse.

Tharros was first inhabited by the Proto-Sardinians, then by the Phoenicians before the Romans got there. Its setting Capo San Marco (Cape St. Mark) is beautiful, lying between the sea to the west and the Gulf of Oristano to the east. Tharros was first excavated during the Nineteenth Century. A lot of its artifacts were exported to the British Museum of London and the Borely Museum in Marseille. You can see some artifacts in the Archaeological Museum in Sardinia’s capital Cagliari and others in the mainland town of Cabras about six miles (ten kilometers) east. The site itself contains some ancient Roman columns, baths, and mosaics.

You’re not far from the little town of San Salvatore, the location for filming many spaghetti westerns in decades gone by. The first Saturday of September it hosts the Festa di San Salvatore (Festival of San Salvatore) in which hundreds of barefoot runners, each carrying an image of the Saviour, run five miles (eight kilometers) to commemorate saving the Cabras Church of Santa Maria Assunta’s statue of San Salvatore from Saracen raids. This church was built on an ancient Nuragic underground temple.

Nuoro, population about thirty-five thousand, overlooks the mountains. In the eyes of many the real Sardinia is found here, and not in the coastal resorts. Natives of this remote area feel a special pride that neither the Romans, nor Carthage, nor any other foreigner has ever conquered them. Traditions are very much part of the local daily life. You can see the traditional clothing during the numerous festivals and to some extent day to day in the villages.

Rural Sardinia’s traditional lifestyle seems to agree with people. Relatively many of its residents are centenarians or even supercentarians (those who live to age 110). Antionio Todde from the village of Tiana about twenty miles (thirty kilometers) southwest of Nuoro made it to three weeks short of age 113. His diet was pasta and soup with some pork or lamb each day and a glass and a half of red wine. The first time he saw television was in 1954 at age 65. Every night he would cycle thirty miles (forty-five kilometers) to see fuzzy images of dancing girls on the tiny screen. Antonio was wounded in World War I and died as the world’s oldest proven combat veteran.

Nuoro is proud of its captivating landscapes, walking and riding paths along old shepherd’s trails, and extravagantly romantic places with rare species of birds. If you’re interested in archaeological finds or in fascinating folklore and legends, you won’t be disappointed with Nuoro. Yet the city is far from an intellectual wasteland. In fact it has been called "the Sardinian Athens" because of its large number of poets, writers, and intellectuals including Grazia Deledda, the second woman to win a Nobel Prize for Literature (1926), born and raised in Nuoro.

Fonni, population about four thousand, is the highest town in Sardinia. It is a winter sports center with ski lifts but also has many spring fountains as befits its name. Be sure to see the Eighteenth Century Baroque Sanctuary of the Vergine dei Martiri with unusual paintings by local artists. Don’t miss the Eleventh Century Church of San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist) the village’s patron saint. The best day to visit is on June 24th, when in his honor the villagers are decked out in full splendor. The men wear linen trousers and black gaiters. The women wear a white chemise, a very small corselet, and finally a red jacket with blue and black velvet facings. Their accordion-pleated skirt is brown and red with a blue band between the two. Some wear two identical skirts, one above the other. The married women wear black kerchiefs and the unmarried ones wear white. This is the most traditional part of Sardinia, and consequently one of the most traditional parts of Italy and all Western Europe.

What about food? It is said that there are more than 500 types of bread in Sardinia, one for each village. The most famous is the pani carasau that resembles thin pita. It is also called carta di musica, as it supposedly rustles like a music manuscript. This bread is baked twice and consequently is quite dry. No problem, some including the shepherds moisten it with water before filling it with goodies such as the local pecorino cheese. The white kokkoi bread is considered a real treat and is proudly served at life cycle events.

Let’s suggest a sample menu, one of many. Start with Spaghetti ai Ricci (Spaghetti with Sea Urchins). Then try Quaglie Arrosto (Roasted Quail). For dessert indulge yourself with Aranzada (Candied Orange Peel and Toasted Almonds). Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.

We’ll conclude with a quick look at Sardinian wine. Sardinia ranks eighth among the 20 Italian regions in acreage devoted to wine grapes and twelfth in total annual wine production. About 57% of its wine production is red or rosé (not very much rosé) leaving 43% for white wine. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. The region produces 19 DOC wines and one DOCG wine, Vermentino di Gallura. About 15% of Sardinian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation.

Arborea DOC is produced in a relatively large area of west central Sardinia. The red or rosé wine is produced from the well-known Italian red Sangiovese grape. The white wine is produced from the well-known but more pedestrian Italian white Trebbiano grape and may be still or naturally fizzy. The Vernaccia di Oristano DOC wine is produced in a small area near the city of Oristano from a local white grape of that name. This wine may be dry or sweet and depending on its labeling must be aged for a minimum of 29 to 48 months. According to legend the vines come from the tears of Santa Giusta, patroness of Oristano and the wine helps fight malaria. The sweet wine resembles Sherry, quite good Sherry in the case of the best offerings.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian, French, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His major wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com and his major article website is www.travelitalytravel.com


Find out more about sightseeing in Sardinia
.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Sightseeing in the Tuscan Archipelago by Bike

Bicycle Tours - Italy's Tuscan Archipelago
by Luc Lacasse

The Tuscan Archipelago is actually a string of seven islands, including Capraia, Gorgona, Giglio, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri and Elba all located on the west coast of Italy.

Elba is the largest in the string with a population of about 38,000 people and easily accessible by ferry. It is a very busy touristy location not far off the Tuscan coast with a cooler climate than central Italy, but with all the same dramatic volcanic cliffs, rugged landscapes and sandy beaches. With a small data base of rental rooms and a large vacationing population, especially in the peak European holiday season, it is a must to plan ahead and avoid the panic of not finding suitable accommodation.

On these islands bicycle tours, Italy style typically takes you to the less trafficked west side of Elba Island with climbs through the central volcanic mountains with the option of challenging the peak of Monte Pomone for the more aggressive riders. Pizza’s made in volcano heated ovens are one of the key rewards for all your physical efforts.

The coastal areas offer a range of aquatic diversions from scuba diving and sailing to catching a few rays on the beautiful beaches, a great change from saddle sores and strained muscles acquired climbing the interior mountains on your bicycle tour. Italy is definitely not for the weak hearted!

There are also opportunities for horseback riding in the interior although I’m not sure that helps the rear. Guides are ready to take you on climbing expeditions or on challenging hikes if you decide to park your bike for a day.

Elba is large enough to offer some challenging rides for a number of days, with the advantage of more mild summer temperature than that found on the mainland. But after that if your agenda is not to sit and enjoy the beautiful weather and extended sandy beaches you may want to expand your geography to explore other bicycle tours of Italy on the mainland, maybe the Dolomite Mountains or Sicily a larger volcanic island further south.

Luc Lacasse is an avid cyclist with 10 years of racing motocross and mountain biking under his belt. He is the author behind myWheelsAndMore.com a website designed to share his knowledge gained as a bicycle enthusiast and mechanical engineering student.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Sightseeing in Lake Iseo, Lombardy, Italy

Guide to Lake Iseo, Lombardy, Italy
by Karen Bryan

Lake Iseo, also called Lake Sebina, is the fourth largest lake in the Lombardy region of Italy. The lake was formed by the Valcamonica Glacier, and is 24 kilometres long and up to 5 kilometres wide. This width is not always obvious as the largest lake island in Europe, Monte Isola, sits in the centre of the lake. The lake is situated just north of Brescia and Bergamo, this being reflected in the fact that it is administered on the western bank by the Bergamo district council, and on the east bank by the Brescia district council. The River Oglio, flowing down from the Val Camonica and entering between Lovere and Pisogne, mainly feeds the Lake from the north. The Val Camonica has thermal spas and prehistoric rock carvings. At the southern end of the lake lies the Torbiere, a peat bog and now a nature reserve. South of this lies the Franciacorta valley, producing the best sparkling wine in Italy.

On the eastern bank, a few kilometres up from the lake, is the Natural Reserve of the Pyramids of Zone, a unique formation of pillars created by uneven glacial erosion. The sixty-kilometre perimeter lakeside is dotted with villages and towns, the main ones being Iseo, Sarnico, Lovere, Pisogne and Marone. These towns are full of historical and cultural interest, yet it is pleasant to stroll along the promenade or linger over a drink in a café. There are a variety of water sports available on the Lake and fishing is popular with the locals, tench being the prized catch. There is a good selection of walking and cycling trails, and in Winter there is skiing north of Lake Iseo in the Presolano area.

Unique points

The fact that Lake Iseo is not well known outside Italy and therefore less touristy makes it more appealing. One of its biggest attractions is Monte Isola, the largest inland lake island in Europe, which is easily reached by ferry and with no cars on the island it is very peaceful, making it ideal for walking or cycling. There are also the Pyramids of Zone, where the erosion of glacial deposits has left pinnacles of earth up to ten metres high. On the western lakeshore are the bogns of Castro and Zorzino, sheets of limestone that plunge into the lake. North of the lake in Val Camino you can see hundreds of prehistoric rock carvings at the National Park of Rock Engravings and to the south of the lake is the Torbiere peat bog and Franciacorta, the area where the renowned sparkling wine is produced.

Getting there

Nearest airports

Bergamo (Orio Serio)
Brescia
Verona
Milan (Malpensa)
Milan (Linate)

All of these airports are within reasonable travelling distance to Lake Iseo. Most international flights come into Milan Malpensa, although the low cost carrier Ryanair uses Bergamo and Brescia.

Car: travelling on the Milan Venice motorway (A4) to go to the West bank Of Lake Iseo you would come off at Sarnico junction and on to the SS649. To reach Iseo town, travelling east on the A4, you would also come off at Sarnico exit, and travelling west on the A4 you would turn off at Brescia up the SS510.

Public transport: There are regular connections by bus and train to Brescia from all the nearby airports, then connections from Brescia by bus and train to Iseo. The train continues up the east bank to Pisogne.

Once you have reached Iseo the most relaxing and picturesque option for getting around the lake is the ferry.

Guide to Lake Iseo, clockwise from Iseo town on the southern shores.

ISEO TOWN

I am really fond of Iseo town; it has a relaxed ambience, wide squares and a lovely promenade with a fantastic view of the lake and Monte Isola. It is quite lively, mainly with Italian families and couples.

Iseo was a business centre in Roman times, and it was an important port until the end of the 19th century. The hero of Italian unification, Garibaldi, is celebrated with a statue and fountain in the main square. Also on this square is the Palazzo Vantini, built in the 1833s and now used as the town hall. The Pieve di S. Andrea dates back to the 12th century, and is distinctive because of its cusped Romanesque bell tower. The 11th century Castello Oldofredi was recently restored and now houses the public library.

Just south of the town are the peat bogs; Torbiere del Sebino is now a nature reserve. Lake Iseo was around 10 metres deeper in the past, but erosion of the bed of the River Oglio at the southern outflow meant that the lake level began to drop, cutting off a shallow basin, which gradually became a large marsh with peaty deposits. During the industrialisation of the 19th century local factories began using the peat as a source of energy, eventually excavating most of the peat deposits. Imagine digging up the peat using a caged spade with a five-metre handle!

Evidence of prehistoric settlement was found during peat cutting: stone arrowheads, blades and daggers dating from 5000 BC. Now the area is of great scientific interest and home to many species of bird and fish.

The Franciacorta region, south of Iseo, has become well known for its sparkling wine. In the mid 1950s a young entrepreneur started to make sparkling wine emulating the method using in the Champagne region of France. This means that the secondary fermentation of the wine occurs in the bottle, a process which takes around two years. Now this valley produces the legally protected Franciacorta wine, assuring it has been hand made using the traditional champagne methods in one of the thirty wineries in the area. Visits to the wineries and tasting sessions can be arranged. Wine lovers may wish to visit for the three days in September for the Wine Festival, with tasting, special meals and visits to cellars.

Villa Lechi, a Palladian style villa built in the 16th century, can be visited by appointment (phone 392 706 30087 to arrange) Just west of Erbusco is the Oglio North Park, on the eastern banks of the river.

SARNICO

Sarnico is the first resort heading west from Iseo. It was originally a prehistoric stilt village, as it stands where the lakes narrows and once again becomes the River Oglio. There are frescoes dating from 1200 AD in the church San Nazario e Rocca di Castione. You can still see ruined medieval ramparts.

For some Sarnico is best known as the home of the premier speedboat company Riva. One of the most fascinating aspects of the companys story to me is the journey of Pietro Riva from his hometown of Lagio on the Lake Como to Sarnico in 1842. The young Pietro was travelling to start a new job repairing boats in Sarnico; his 70-mile journey took him two days, travelling by boat, train and coach.

His repairs were so successful that he was soon being commissioned to build boats. The boat building business grew under Pietros son, Ernesto, who began produced boats powered by piston engines.

In 1912 Ernestos son Serafino achieved a speed of 24 kilometres an hour in a speedboat. Riva became a prestigious brand, sought by the rich and famous as a status symbol. However you no longer see speedboats on Lake Iseo because they were banned for environmental reasons in 1976!

Sarnico is home to the Bellini Gallery, a picture gallery exhibiting around 150 pieces, mainly from the period between the 16th and 18th centuries. The Gallery is in the old part of the city and was formerly a nunnery. Also on display are some sculptures and furniture.

The Palazzo to Sarnico rail line winds along Oglio River. Volunteers reopened this line recently. TrenoBlu as it is known is often steam hauled. The trains run during the Summer. There are rail connections from Bergamo and Milan.

Just outside Sarnico, heading east, stands the Faccononi villa, designed by one of Italys best Art Nouveau architects, Sommaruga, for the wealthy Faccanoni family. The villa on the lakeshore exemplifies Sommarugas trademark Floreale style.

RIVA DI SOLTO

The stretch from Tavernola north constitutes the most dramatic stretch of the west bank. Just try to blot out the quarry at Tavernola! Riva is a pretty fishing hamlet, full of arches and alleys. The old centre is up the hill at Zorzino. The Zorzino Bong, with its vertical slabs of limestone plunging Mount Clemo, creates its own enclosed bay. Further north is the Castro Bogn.

LOVERE

The Lovere area was occupied by the Gauls in the Iron Age, and by the second century BC the Roman settlement began to take form.

Lovere still has ramparts remaining from its period as a medieval fortified town. The oldest church is the 12th century Capell di San Martino. The town was famous in the 15th century as Venetian textile town. Most of the output of woollen cloth was sold in Germany and Austria. At the beginning of the 16th century there was a period of turmoil, with periods of rule by the French, the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish, which greatly disrupted the production and distribution of the cloth. There was more strife later that century with plagues and famines. By the 17th century the authorities had tackled the security problem of bandits and some Lombardy noblemen began to travel to Lovere for their holidays. The Basilica of Santa Maria dates from the 15th century and houses a 16th century organ case and frescoes. The lakeside Palazzo Tadini contains the School of Fine Arts, a gallery with paintings, sculptures and ceramics. Count Luigi Tadini began this collection in his town house in Crema. The Tadini familys only son died in Lovere in 1799 where they often took holidays. Count Tadini provided the funds to built the Palazzo, in memory of his son.

The English writer and poet Lady Mary Wortley Montagu lived in a villa on the outskirts of Lovere in the 1740s. Lady Mary is said to have written many letters to her daughter in the villa garden, and been inspired to write poetry by the beauty of her surroundings. In fact she declined an invitation to the Venice carnival saying, there are plenty things to do in this village which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful that exists. Lady Mary came to live in Italy in 1741, supposedly for health reasons, although it is thought that she no longer wanted to live with her husband. Lady Mary had travelled to Turkey as wife of the British Ambassador and there she came across the practice of inoculation against smallpox. She had her own children inoculated but was never given proper credit for introducing the practice in Britain. Lady Marys daughter married Lord Bute, who became prime minister of Britain in 1762, a year after Lady Marys death.

Lovere has another literary connection in Georges Sand, the French novelist, who wrote of Lake Iseo to a friend in London, Come, I have found a lovely place to live. Georges Sands real name was Aurore Dupin, but she had taken a mans name as it was not deemed suitable for ladies to be novelists in the 19th century, and she often dressed as a man. She had a long-standing affair with Chopin. After their break up in 1847 she wrote the novel Lucrezia Floriana. The romance between a young Italian noble and an older lady is set on Monte Isola. It is said that this novel inspired many visits by ladies seeking romance to the area!

In 1854 Lovere joined the industrial revolution, with the development of the first large steel complex in the region. Lovere prospered as an industrial centre until the 1980s, but this has left a scar on the landscape.

Valle Camonica

As you head round the north of the lake, you may wish to have a slight detour to visit the Valle Camonica. This valley is 90km long and contains 41 towns and villages, making it the longest valley in Italy. The healing powers of the waters of the spa town of Boario Terme were written about as early as 1497 by the naturalist Paracelsus. The Italian writer Manzoni was a regular visitor, living to the age of 88. Nearby at the Capo di Ponte is the National Rock Engraving Park, with prehistoric rock carvings, dating from Neolithic times through to the Iron Age. The carvings relate to the history of the Camuni tribe throughout this period. It is an amazing site, containing thousands of figures: an enormous stone history book. One of the most common carvings is that of the Camonic rose, which is now the emblem of the Lombardy region. On this site is the Archeopark, an open- air interactive park where you can try out various daily prehistoric activities e.g. lighting a fire, shooting with a bow and arrow and grinding corn and baking bread. The Archeodromo is a realistic construction of a Neolithic village with six huts perched on a rocky hill. Some school groups stay in the village for a few days to get an authentic taste of prehistoric life. Personally speaking I think Id rather go back to my hotel bed and shower. The traditional art of woodcarving continues in this area. The Cammunian Wood Handicraft Workshops in Boaria Terme, where all types of objects from religious ornaments to babies cribs are produced, can be found in the area. A fusion of modern and 16th century techniques are used to craft the goods.

PISOGNE

Pisogne was an important centre in medieval times for commerce - a large weekly market was held there. The town had a ring of walls and a system of gates but not much is left standing now. In the Market Square you would be hung in a cage suspended from the tower for non-payment of taxes due to the bishop. Tax was due on almost everything - fishing, hunting, milling, salt and iron. The bishops were forbidden to inflict any punishment that would cause loss of blood, so humiliation was the next best option to extract their dues. In 1518 eight women accused of witchcraft were imprisoned in the Widow Tower before being burned.

Just off Market Square is Santa Maria Assunta church, which contains a 150-year-old pipe organ. The facade of the Palazzo Fanzango is adorned with medallions depicting the characters from the book I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) written by Manzoni. This is an important piece of Italian literature, telling the tale of how love triumphed for two peasants despite the efforts of a local tyrant. The book also has a vivid description of the spread of the Plague in 17th century Milan.

At the end of the 17th century, Pisogne was home to the notorious bandit Giorgi Vicario. There was not much brotherly loyalty between the bandits as Vicario tracked down and killed Giuseppe Techi for a reward. Techis head was delivered on a tray decorated with bay leaves to the authorities. A double whammy, a reward and less competition locally!

Pisogne hosts the local festival of mushrooms and chestnuts on the last Sunday in September.

MARONE

Marone is situated in a beautiful spot in a green valley at the foot of Monte Guglielmo. There are ruins of a first century Roman villa, Co del Hela as you enter the town. On the lakeside is the Parrocchiale di tours, an 18th Century Baroque style church with a marble altar. Marone was well known for production of woollen cloth and felt and the quarrying of dolomite. Nowadays tourism is the main industry.

A few kilometres uphill from Marone on the road to Zone lie the Earth Pyramids. They are an amazing sight: thin spires of earth up to 30 metres high, with large granite masses perched on top almost like hats. The Pyramids are not static as they can erode, causing the boulder to fall and gradually new pyramids are created.

On the way to the Pyramids is the church of San Giorgio and on the outer sidewall are frescoes painted in the 15th century, including one of San Giorgio slaying the dragon.

Further up the hill is the village of Zone. As you ascend you can see what I initially thought was a ski lift, above the road. It is in fact suspended containers, which carry the dolomite down from the Calarusso quarry. In some respects it reminded me of a Swiss alpine village; the air was so fresh and crisp. There are two interesting churches on the Piazza Almici: The octagonal 18th century Beata Veringe di Lourdes and the 17th century Parrocchiale S Giovanii Ballista, containing wooden works of art by Andrea Falconi. The festival of honey is held in the town square at the beginning of August. From Zone there are several walking paths and, if you're feeling energetic, one to the summit of Monte Guglielmo.

MONTE ISOLA

The largest lake island in Europe is 3km long, rising to an elevation of 600m, and is sometimes referred to as the pearl of Iseo. Only public service four wheeled vehicles are allowed on the island. If you want to see more of the island you can rent a bicycle or use the local bus. There is also the option to take the gentle level walk along the southern coast from the village of Peschiera Maraglio to Sensole and return on the ferry from Sensole. If you are feeling energetic you can visit the 13th century Il Santuario della Madonna della Cerinole, which is situated at the highest point of the island.

The 14th Century Fortress Martinango is the ancestral home of the Olofredi family. It is one of the best-preserved forts in the region. It is unusual in that its highest tower is in the centre.

The population of the island is around 1700, with those not employed in tourism working as fishermen, in boatyards or making nets. In fact, the nets for the goal posts of the 1982 Football World Cup were made locally. Guess what - Italy won the Cup that year! There are still numerous naets, the typical wooden local fishing boats, to be seen. Some of the catch is left outside to dry in the sun in the traditional manner.

You can visit a traditional boatyard, Cantiere Nautico in Peschiere Maraglio, and see the construction of the handmade wooden boats.

I think that Monte Isola is a charming, tranquil place to visit, still relatively peaceful and relaxing. It is very thickly wooded, when you observe it from the shore its hard to imagine being able to reach the summit.

One of the big events on the island is the festival of Corzano, a hamlet that dates back to the 1600s. This only takes place every five years.

There are regular ferries from several towns on the lakeshore to the coastal villages in Monte Isola.

Suggested Itineraries

Day Trip:

Driving: it is possible to drive round the lake with a few stops in one day from Milan, Brescia or Bergamo and see unique sights.

Public transport: bus/train to Iseo, ferry trip from there. Trains from Brescia operate every hour, and it is a half-hour journey to Iseo, and they also go up to Pisogne, stopping at Sulzano and Sale Marsino.

Weekend/Short stay (2-3 nights) you could either be based in Iseo, spending a day visiting Monte Isola, one day visiting the west bank of the lake and one day on the east bank. An alternative would be to tour the lake in a day and spend a day either in Bergamo or Verona.

Iseo town would be a good base for day trips to the cities of Bergamo, Verona, Venice, Brescia, Vicenzia and Padova. Lake Garda and Lake Como are both nearby.

You can read to full guide to Lake Iseo at http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/Italy/iseo/

Karen Bryan is a UK based indepedent travel consultant and writer specialising in less well known destinations in Europe. In her website, Europe a la Carte, http://www.europealacarte.co.uk, she demonstrates that you can see a lot more of the real Europe if you venture, even slightly off the well beaten tourist track.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sightseeing in Apulia

I Love Touring Italy - Western Apulia
By Levi Reiss

Apulia is the heel of the Italian boot. It is located in the southeast corner of Italy on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Apulia was frequently invaded by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Among its many rulers were the Byzantines, Goths, Lombards, Normans, Spaniards, and Turks. Its moment of greatest glory was in the Holy Roman Empire of the 13th Century, when majestic Romanesque cathedrals and palaces were built. This article presents the western and usually northern part of Apulia. A companion article presents the rest of the region.

Apulia’s administrative center is Bari, the biggest city in southern Italy, with a population of over 325 thousand. It is a major port that includes a modern city center, with its Piazza della Libertà (Freedom Plaza) and a città vecchia (old town) that is definitely worth seeing. Everywhere you turn you can see the Adriatic Sea. The pedestrian-only street Via Sparano is the site of evening strolls. The nearby Eleventh Century Bascilica di San Nicola is said to contain the remains of St. Nicholas, yes Santa Claus. According to legend local sailors stole his remains from Turkey. Funny, I always thought that Santa Claus… In any case, the Bascilica is the only building to have survived the sacking of the city by the Normans way back in 1152. Make sure to see the Cattedrale (Cathedral) built shortly afterwards. Nearby is the Castello Svevo which is undergoing restoration.

About 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Bari is the small port of Trani, which was the major Adriatic port during the Crusades. Santa Maria di Scolanova and Santa Anna are two standing medieval synagogues. The city contains several historic churches, a Swabian castle, and a Gothic Palace of the Doges of Venice, transformed into a seminary.

Of course you know that Italy is shaped like a boot. Did you know that its spur is Promontorio del Gargano (Gargano Promontory), a very popular destination for both Italian and foreign summer tourists. With a rough and ready landscape and curvy mountain roads make sure that you watch your driving, even more so than in most of Italy.

The area’s major center near the tip of the spur is the whitewashed town of Vieste known for its castle. Take a ferry from Vieste to the nearby archipelago Isole Tremiti. A word of warning before you go, the name Tremiti is associated with the word tremor. There have been earthquakes. Some of the islands are uninhabited and one of them has the interesting habit of being covered by waves. But the view is spectacular. Perhaps it was a consolation to the political prisoners exiled by Benito Mussolini during his reign.

Don’t miss the Foresta Umbra (Shady Forest) which encompasses over sixty thousand acres, hundreds of animal species and two thousand plant species including beech, maple, oak, and sycamore trees that one would expect in northern climes. How do they do it? The forest is 3,200 feet above sea level?

Monte Sant’Angelo has been a major destination for pilgrims over the last fifteen hundred years. Among them were St. Francis of Assisi and Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land. You’ll want to see the Santuario di San Michele (Sanctuary of San Michele) and the Tomba di Rotari (Tomb of Rotari), a medieval baptistery. Other sights include the ruins of a Norman castle and the old city known as Rione Junno.

You might want to finish your tour of western Apulia with a visit to the famous Castel del Monte, a mysterious eight-sided castle built in the Thirteenth Century. Unlike most medieval castles, it lacks military structures. Perhaps it was a resting place for pilgrims seeking the Holy Grail. Or maybe…

What about food? Italy has a classification process for food, roughly similar to the wine classification. Among Apulia’s classified foods are Clementines, Olives, two Cheeses, and four Olive Oils. There are so many specialties that one of these days we will have to sit down and write one or several articles on the foods of Apulia. In the meantime let’s suggest a sample menu, one of many. Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.
Start with Ciceri e tria (Chick Pea and Noodle Soup).
Then try Grata alla barese (Roasted Bream with Potatoes, Garlic, and Pecorino Cheese).
For dessert indulge yourself with Carteddate (Marsala, Honey, and Cinnamon Fried Pastry).

Let’s finish by taking a quick look at Apulian wine. Apulia ranks 2nd among the 20 Italian regions for both vineyard acreage and total wine production, about 7o% red or rosé (only a little rosé), leaving 30% for white. The region produces 25 DOC wines. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. Less than 4% of Apulia wine carries the DOC designation. The best known local wine is Castel del Monte DOC, which is available overseas and is frankly not that great. If you’re in western Apulia you may want to try the Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera DOC because of its interesting name, which can be translated as ‘knock it back’. I am told that the name is quite appropriate. The word is that Moscato di Trani DOC is an excellent sweet white wine, but you may have to go to Apulia to get it. When you think about it that’s just one more reason to visit this sometimes overlooked region of Italy.

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His major wine website is http://www.theworldwidewine.com and his major article website is http://www.travelitalytravel.com .

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Sightseeing in Italy - the Vineyards

If you enjoy wine, why not combine a sightseeing tour of Italy with a visit to some vineyards?

Winemaking in Italy
by Andre Sanchez

It might come as a surprise to many that Italy produces more wine that any other country in the world. But not to the Italians. Winemaking in Italy is an art that is handed down from generation to generation and the climate and disparity of winegrowing regions is such that there is a greater variety of grapes and wine types than anywhere else in the world.

Everybody has heard of the well-known wines such as Chianti from Tuscany, Valpolicella and Soave, but what about the marvelous Rondinella, Malvasia and Sangiovese? These are marvelous wines, and the little known Malvasia is superb. There are more different types of vine grown in Italy than any other country, and Italy can truly be awarded the accolade of winegrowing country of the world. The French, Germans and all of the New World Australian and American wine producing areas pale into insignificance when compared to Italy. At least for volume.

The Italian vines are said to have brought by the Greeks. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is the saying, but if true then these gifts were welcome and did nothing but good. The success of Italian winegrowing is due to its geography and climate. The Apennines run right down the backbone of Italy, with beautiful hot Mediterranean conditions at the bottom ranging to more continental and then a fairly cold climate towards the Alps.

This geography provides every type of climate possible for growing grapes, and the cold loving vines and those larger and juicier grapes that prefer more heat are all well catered for. It never gets too dry, and never gets too wet. Were you to personally design a country and climate ideal for growing just about every variety of grapes, you would end up with Italy.

Winemaking in Italy is therefore a joy. The vines grow themselves, and all you have to do to make wine is to extract the juice. Perhaps a bit more, but not a lot! In spite of these benefits, Italians tend not to go for sweet wines, but instead prefer those with lots of body and high in tannin and acidity. Color is an important factor, and there are many more reds than whites in Italy, though few dry whites can beat a beautiful crisp Frascati from Latium, close to Rome.

Italy has 20 geographical regions, and every one of them produces wine. However, the Italian wines have never achieved the heights of the best French reds and German whites. The country appears to provide a bit of both but even so, has its adherents who prefer a good Italian wine to any expensive French chateau.

The Northeast areas of Italy have a greater technological approach to winemaking than the rest of the country, and the major customers for this area of Italy are the Germans, Swiss and French, as would be expected from its geographical location. This is where most of the DOC (Denominazione Di Origine Controllata) wines are produced. This is the Italian equivalent of the Apellation Controlee of France.

Valpolicella, Soave, and Bardolino are the best known from this area, where quality is regarded as being more important than quantity, and prices can tend to be high, at least for the better vintages. The Vinitaly wine fair of Verona with over 4000 exhibitors is something no wine lover should miss, and it is held every spring. Make sure that you visit it at least once in your life.

Freisa, the sparking Asti Spumante and the wonderful Nebiollo from which the beautiful Barolo and Barnbaresco wines are made all originate from the Piedmont and Liguria areas of Italy and the Valle d’Aosta vines display the French influence in their names such as Petit Rouge and Blanc de Valdigne.

It is beyond the scope of this article to cover every region in Italy, but it must be said that the microclimates of the regions around the Alps are perfect for wine growing. Until fairly recently it was the practice of Italian winegrowers to produce quantity at the expense of quality, but this has changed recently, with many wines being produced for laying down rather than immediate drinking, and the quality of the aging Italian wines is definitely improving.

A word to the wise about Super Tuscan wines. If you come across that term, it refers to a Tuscan wine that has not conformed to the traditional grape blending rules of the region. Chianti Classico wines, for example, must include the Sangievese grape as the dominant ingredient, but Super Tuscans can use Cabernet Sauvignon instead. This makes them ineligible for the DOC classification. They previously had to be termed vino de tavola, or ‘table wine’ because of this, even though they could be superb wines.

So do not be fooled by the term. Super Tuscans can be very good, but if you prefer the traditional Sangiovese grape in your Chianti Classico blend, avoid it.

This is just a simple example of how Italian wines are of such a great variety, and if you are looking for something different, then have a look through the Italian section of your favorite wine merchant.

This article was brought to you by http://www.CapitalistLife.com, your best resource for earning, keeping and enjoying wealth. Visit us to learn more about Wine.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Sardinia Sightseeing

The Beautiful Island of Sardinia
by Kirk Friis

The majestic island of Sardinia is located off the west coast of Italy just below the island of Corsica. The second largest island in the Mediterranean it runs approximately 250 kilometres from north to south and 110 kilometres from east to west. Italian is the main language of this vastly diverse island although various regions of the island have traditional languages of their own from Catalan in the region of Alghero through to Campidanese in the south.

The landscape of this stunning island is incredibly varied, from white sandy beaches on the coast to the mountainous terrain in the central parts of the island. From cities like Cagliari in the south to old coastal towns like Alghero in the north you will find a varied array of architecture and culture. In the region of Nuoro, at the heart of Sardinia, you will find villages and towns 800 metres above sea level that have been completely untouched by the course of time. In the northeast of the island lies the famous Costa Smerelda (the emerald coast) playground of the rich and famous. The island is also peppered with a vast array of archaeological remains including the Nuraghes, (a stone tepee like structure) which are among some of the oldest constructions known to man.

The cuisine of Sardinia is just as varied as it’s terrain with an as expected abundance of seafood dishes to be found in coastal regions including what is said to be some of the finest lobster in the world. All this having been said though the traditional delicacies of Sardinia are to be found in land where your taste buds will be tantalised with wood roast suckling pig, wild boar and traditional Sardinian sausage.

Famous the world over the beaches of Sardinia are truly something that must be seen to be believed. Crystal clear waters and white sand that runs for miles, Sardinia truly is a touch of paradise in the Mediterranean. Sardinia has always traditionally been a place of holiday for Italians and a very well kept secret due to its lack of connectivity to the rest of Europe. Ryanair has changed this. Now with flights daily from London (two flights a day in the summer months) to Alghero and connections to Barcelona and Frankfurt, Sardinia has opened its doors to the rest of Europe. With a very short winter and long summer the potential for tourism throughout the year is immense. There are though strict laws in place within Sardinia to preserve the landscape and not allow the island to be over developed. For instance construction of new property on the coast line has been restricted to not allow any building within three kilometres of the sea and there are also many other stringent regulations as to the height of constructions so as not to interfere with the ambient of the terrain. All of this means that what already exists in Sardinia can be used to its full potential without the tranquillity of the island being ruined.

Property in Sardinia is still fairly cheap compared to prices around Europe but they are on the rise. Coastal regions are among the more expensive regions to buy but have the added benefit of being a fairly certain rental investment. Inland there are many fantastic bargains to be found immersed in the tranquillity of the Sardinian countryside with the added knowledge that you are never that far away from the coast. Whether you are looking for a new home or merely the holiday of a life time, Sardinia has it all. Go scuba diving amongst the coral in Alghero, sailing in Porto Conte or even rock climbing in Barbagia here you will find a little piece of paradise for everyone.

Sardinia tourist information: http://www.sardinianconnections.com


Kirk Friis was born in London and moved to Sardinia in 2003 where he now lives with his wife and son.

Find out more about Sightseeing in Sardinia.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Milan - Italy's Ultimate City of Style and Elegance

By Laurent Fabier

If the ideal destination for you is a place where history successfully meets the present and future, then Milan, Europe's creative capital is the place to go.
Situated on the flat plains of the Po Valley, it is the capital of Lombardy and thoroughly enjoys its hard earned role as Italy's richest and second largest city. Wealthy and cosmopolitan, the Milanesi enjoy a reputation as successful businesspeople. Since the 1970s, the city has remained the capital of Italy's automobile industry and its financial markets, but the limelight is dominated by the fashion houses, who, in turn, have drawn media and advertising agencies to the city. Most of the year Milan is as comfortable as a cardigan: not too hot, and not too cold, either, a perfect destination for any season. Just keep in mind one thing: the city is overbooked almost all the time, so make sure you choose the best way of finding accommodation: online hotel booking with at least one month in advance. Here are some suggestions in case you are seriously considering Milan as your next destination.

Milan discount accommodation - cheap offers for quality services For discount travelers, the city is loaded with lodging offers. If you are looking for cheap hotel rates, you can choose the best of accommodation in the very heart of the city. One of the most irresistible offers is Edolo Hotel, situated within 300 meters from Milano Central Station, and the Air Terminal to Malpensa and Linate airports and at only 10 minutes by underground from the "Fiera Internazionale". This beautiful hotel offers a high standard of comfort and service. A courteous and efficient staff and a familiar management ensure to the guests a pleasant stay. Edolo Hotel is in the immediate vicinity of the famous Arciboldi Theatre. It is surrounded by a plethora of traditional pizzerias, pubs and clubs, public gardens and private parking; it's also easily reached by tram, bus and underground. Rooms are furnished with exquisite taste, are silent and with the most up-to-date facilities. Another offer, ideal for a family vacation package or from cheap corporate travels is Hotel Mac Mahon. This city hotel features a terrace and comprises a total of 24 rooms, also accessible for people with disabilities. There is also a breakfast room, a bar open around the clock and other conveniences on offer. This accommodation is the ideal place for both tourists and business travelers who wish to feel at home in a relaxing atmosphere. Located in the north of Milan, Centro Alberghiero Ornato, in the Riguarda district, near the motorway, is another widely convenient and functional tourist centre. It has 146 rooms with private bathroom, telephone and TV and there is also a conference room with a capacity for 50 people and both car park and coach park. . Also within the heart of the city, you may choose the comfortable Hotel Demidoff, very centrally located, situated only few meters away from central railway station and from piazza Lima undeground station.The Duomo is within walking distance from this hotel.

Italy’s ultimate corporate city unveils its offers For luxury corporate travelers, there are also plenty of opportunities that will give you an opportunity of knowing Milan hospitality. An useful solution is the elegant Montebianco Hotel, which is one of the best places in town for corporate meetings. All the comforts and amenities are at your disposals as well as front desk useful information for both the luxury traveler looking for information on art galleries, museums and clubs and for the corporate tourist seeking info in train or plane schedules. Large and well furnished meeting rooms are available, while for lunch and dinner or for a fast snack, you will find restaurants, pizzerias and pubs close to the hotel. A large guarded car park and laundry service are available. Centrally located in the hearth of Milan, the Hotel Mythos is very close to the Central Station, the Air Terminal and the city tube and is also a favorite location for corporate travels. The Hotel has a meeting center consisting of 10 up to 70 places congress rooms, ideal for meetings, incentives exhibitions, shows, cultural events. The Doria Grand Hotel is another luxury place which offers its guests the calm of an intimate and refined atmosphere.

While in Milan, choose living in style While in Milan and if willing to live in style, do not miss the Grand Hotel Duomo Built in 1860, this hotel is the only Italian building made with the same marble used to build the Cathedral (the famous Carrara marble) At the beginning, it was a private Palace, that became a hotel in 1950. The Grand Hotel Duomo is a place that conquests the heart, not only for its unique position, but also for the beauty of the decoration, for the works of art. Dominating the Piazza della Repubblica, the hotel Principe di Savoia is a five-star hotel that has been the natural home for international travellers and cosmopolitan society since the 1920's. Its imposing neoclassical facade hides one of the world's most luxuriously appointed hotels. With its superb location, superlative facilities and outstanding standards of service, the Hotel Principe di Savoia offers a winning combination of old-fashioned opulence combined with the latest innovations in technology and design. Easily accessed from all parts of the city and close to Milan's many attractions and elegant shopping districts, the Hotel Principe di Savoia is within 50 minutes of Milan's main airport, Malpensa.

Now that you have found suitable accommodation, keep in mind that this city is all about worldly pleasures, from shopping, which is of quasi-religious significance to clubbing and fashionable sightseeing. Apart from a few gems, the city is not renowned for its looks; it's lifestyle that counts.

Laurent Fabier is well known as a partner editor for online hotel reservation services like PlaniGo, economic and marketing sites. His experience ranges from important contributions in written media to news and online travel magazines

Monday, 23 April 2007

Turin Sightseeing

Sightseeing in Turin Italy - The Piazzas
by David Leigh

Almost everything you want to see in Turin is located right in the old city centre and as the area is relatively compact it is easy to do much of your sightseeing on foot. Much of Turin's character comes from the many squares, known as piazzas in Italian, many of which are lined by arcades that provide cooling shade in the summer and shelter from the wind, rain and snow in winter.

Right in the centre of the city is Piazza Castello, a wide cobbled square that was commissioned by Carlo Emmanuele I and first designed by Ascanio Vitozzi in the 16th century. The square was the power base of the Dukes of Savoy where nowadays pedestrians, cars, buses and trams all vie for priority. The central point of the city, it is where Via Po, Via Roma and Via Garibaldi converge.

Right in the middle is the "castle" that gives the square its name - Palazzo Madama, which is a mediaeval castle built on a Roman gate and with a baroque façade. The arcades surrounding the square offer good shelter from the sun in the summer, while in the winter the square is equipped with an ice rink. Palazzo Reale, the Royal Armoury, Teatro Regio and the Royal Library all overlook it, the latter containing works by Da Vinci. Also nearby is the church of San Lorenzo, the original home of the Turin Shroud when it arrived in Turin in 1578.

In the centre of Piazza San Carlo is the "Caval 'd Brons", a bronze statue of Emanuele Filiberto, while hiding in the cooling arcades lie a variety of shops, cafés and restaurants. Two famous Torinese restaurants can be found here, Caffé Ristorante Torino and Ristorante Caval 'd Brons.

Carlo di Castellamonte was responsible for the design of the piazza in the mid 17th century, while El Caval 'd Brons was sculpted by Carlo Marocchetti in 1838. Remaining open at one end the square is flanked by an arcade-lined parade and topped by the churches of San Carlo and Santa Cristina on the southern side.

Piazza Vittorio Veneto is also another square that is as unmissable as it is unavoidable. Although the centre of the square is used for parking, there are many cafes with tables outside to enjoy one of Turin's legendary aperitifs and although the city can become unpleasantly hot in the summer, it is on the banks of the river Po and therefore good for some breeze, however gentle.

Although the city centre is small and easy to navigate on foot, it is easy to overdo it a bit and cram too much walking into one day. The Turismobus Torino is ideal for overcoming this problem as it allows you to see a lot of the city without having to do much of the in-between walking - simply hop on and off and you can see exactly what interests you most, although it currently only operates on Saturdays, between 10:00 and 18:00.

The bus departs on its circular route once an hour, and although times are published it should be noted that it is not punctual by any means.

For more information on Sightseeing in Turin see http://www.bella-torino.com, with advice on all aspects of your stay.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Sightseeing in Vicenza

Guide to Vicenza, Italy

Introduction

Vicenza is situated between Padova and Verona, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is known as the city of Palladio. The 16th century architect Palladio, who worked in the city, is one of the most influential architects of all time. It is one of the wealthiest cities in Italy.

Unique Points

Vicenza has one the highest concentrations of historic buildings of any Italian city. The influence of Palladio is significant in the city. His best known works include the Basillica, the Tetro Olimpico, the world's oldest surviving indoor theatre, and the Villa Rotonda. However don't be put off and think that this is just a city for architecture buffs. The city centre is fairly compact and it is a pleasure just to wander round and soak up the atmosphere. The city is also famous for goldsmiths who were first referred to in the city statutes in 1339. There are around 1000 local firms producing half of Italy's goldware.

History

The town was declared a Roman municipability in 49 BC. It was referred to as the "mainland Venice" during Venetian rule between 15th and 18th century. It was occupied by the French in 1796 and the Austrians in 1797. In the period 1806 - 1813 it became part of the Italian state, then back to Austria before returning to the fold of a unified Italy in 1848. The city was the headquarters of the First Armed Gaurds in the First World War. The city was badly damaged by air raids during the Second World War, however it has been carefully restored to its former glory.

Getting there

Venice Marco Polo, Verona and Treviso are the nearest airports. Vicenza is on the main rail line from Milan to Venice, so has a frequent train service. It is easily accessible from the A4, the main Milan to Venice motorway. If you come by car, it would be better to find a hotel outside the city centre, as there are traffic restrictions around the city centre.

What to see

VIlla |Rotondo Palladio moved to Vicenza when he was 16. He was taken under the wing of Count Trissino, a great admirer of classical architecture. Trissimo even changed his protogees name from Della Gondola to Palladio in homage to the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, Pallas Athene. Wealthy Venetians coveted residences in the quiet countryside as a refuge from Venice, and Palladio was able to service this need with the construction of his magnificent villas. The Bascilica was one of Palladio's first major projects. His remit was to improve the old town hall. He achieved this by the addition of galleries around the buidling, open on one side supported by columns, known as loggia. The Palazzo Chiericati has been used as the civic museum since the 19th century. It houses an gallery dedicated to Vicentene artists. Teatro Olimpico was Palladio's last project, completed after this death by his son and Scamozzi. Palladio once again sought inspiration from the classical period when he was commissioned to design a permanent home for theatrical performances. The Olimpico is the sole suriving Renassiance theatre in the world. It is still used for performances but only during the Summer as there is not heating in the building. T

The author and poet Anthony Fogazzaro was born in Vicenza. He originally trained and practised as a lawyer. His work focused on moral issues and the conflict between reason and faith. His best known book is the Patriot published in 1895.

The artist Tiepolo painted several frescoes at villas near Vicenza. Rich Venetians loved to have their villa walls adorned with colourful mythological scenes. The frescoes are unusual in that they were painted during the construction of the villa, rather than as a later addition.

Where to eat

Baccalla a la Vicentina, dried cod cooked in milk, is the best known dish of the region. There is a website listing restuarants which serve this speciality on their menu.

If you are looking for a fast cheap meal self service, Righetti (Piazza duomo 3, tel 0444 543135) is close to the cathedral. It is very popular with locals, always a good sign.

The Agli Schioppi is close to the historic centre and offers typical Veneto cuisine.

Day trips

Bassano de Grappo is a lovely small town around 35 kms north east of Vicenza.

Verona lies approximately 60 kilometres west of Vicenza. It is easy to reacH Veron by train from Vicenza.

Treviso is a beautiful small city lying 50 kilmetres west of Vicenza.

You can the full guide with photos and a selection of accommodation at http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/Italy/vicenza.html

Karen Bryan is a UK based independent travel consultant and writer. Her website Europe a la Carte, http://www.europealacarte.co.uk, features less well known destinations in Europe. Karen believes that if you venture even slighly off the beaten tourist track that you will see more of the real Europe.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Italy Car Hire

If you are looking to hire a car in Italy, it makes sense to shop around. There are lots of great car hire deals online.

To get the best deal visit each of the websites below and check the price for the dates that you are planning on visiting Italy, then choose the one that gives you the best price for your stay:

Be sure to read the small print and check what is included before you make a booking.

Museums and Galleries of Florence

Florence is simply heaven for culture and history lovers. The city is packed full of museums and art galleries - enough to keep even the most avid art enthusiasts engrossed for a few weeks!

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most popular museums in Florence and a must for those who like paintings. It was originally designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1559 for Cosimo I de' Medici as offices of the government judiciary. The Uffizi is home to the finest collection of Renaissance paintings in the world and boasts around 1700 paintings and 300 sculptures, as well as a number of tapestries and some furniture and ceramics. There are 45 rooms containing works from famous artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Titian and Rubens.

The Vasari Corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti and runs through the Uffizi and over the Ponte Vecchio to the other side of the River Arno. It is over 1km long and contains paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as a famous collection of artist’s self-portraits. The corridor can only be visited as part of a special tour known as Percorso del Principe, starting at the Palazzo Vecchio. Tours can be booked by phoning + 39 0552654321.

The Galleria Dell’ Accademia was founded in 1784 and hosts a collection of sculptures and paintings. One of the most important works on display at the museum is David by Michelangelo (completed around 1504), which was transferred from the Piazza della Signoria in 1873. There are also other works by Michelangelo, including the Four Prisoners. Paintings on display in the museum date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries, as well as 15th and 16th centuries. There are paintings by Fra' Bartolomeo, Andrea del Sarto and Perugino from the early part of the 16th century.

You might also enjoy a visit to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which houses works that were originally part of the Duomo. Exhibits include tools that were used to build the Duomo, the original Baptistry doors, Donatello’s wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene and the unfinished Pieta by Michelangelo. It will only take about an hour to go through the museum since it is relatively small.

The Palazzo Pitti is a magnificent building housing many smaller galleries and museums and is the entrance to the Boboli Gardens.

  • The Galleria Palatina (Palatine Gallery) is on the first floor of the Palazzo Pitti. It contains a fine collection of over 1000 paintings from the Renaissance and Baroque eras, including works by Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Pietro da Cortona and Correggio. The ticket includes entry to the lavish Royal Apartments, consisting of 14 sumptuous rooms that were home to the Medici, Lorraine and Savoy families.
  • The Galleria d’Arte Moderna (Gallery of Modern Art) holds paintings dating from 1784 to 1924. The Dukes of Lorraine, who formerly inhabited the rooms in the museum, originally collected many of the paintings to decorate the Palazzo Pitti. The 30 rooms house paintings from neo-classicism to the 20th century and include both works by Tuscan painters and foreign artists.
  • The recently renovated Galleria del Costume (Costume Gallery) is on the ground
    floor of the Palazzo Meridiana and contains exhibits showing the changing fashions
    from the 16th to the 20th centuries. This is the only museum of fashion in Italy and
    contains over 6000 items including accessories and theatre costumes.
  • The Museo degli Argenti (Museum of Silver) is on the ground floor of the Palazzo Pitti in rooms that were formerly used by the Medici as their summer apartments. The collection includes a wide range of silver objects as well as ivory, glassware, clocks, crystal, amber and carpets. The former staterooms in this museum are decorated with 17th century Frescoes.
  • The Museo delle Porcellane (Porcelain museum) is located in the Casino del Cavaliere and can be accessed via the Rose garden at the top of the Boboli gardens. The collection of porcelain comprises mainly of tableware belonging to the royal families that ruled Tuscany, and includes many gifts from European rulers and pieces that were made for the grand ducal court.
The Bargello Museum is housed in an ancient civic palace and is home to many famous sculptures, including works such as Bachus and by Michelangelo and David by Donatello. As well as sculptures you’ll find a number of other collections including renaissance jewellery, enamels and ivories, Venetian glass and Islamic Bronzes. The building itself is three stories high and was built in 1255. It was once the home of Bargello, the Captain of Justice and then later became a prison before it was turned into a museum in 1865.

The Medici Chapels is a small museum with two main rooms: the Princes' Chapel and the Medici Tombs. The Princes' Chapel is covered with a huge dome designed by Buontalenti and contains six tombs of Grand Dukes. The tombs have elaborate designs in green and red marble. The Medici Tombs contain Michelangelo's spectacular statues Night, Day, Dawn and Dusk. Although the Medici Chapels are attached to the San Lorenzo Basilica, the entrance to the museum is from the other side in Piazza di Madonna degli Aldobrandini.

The History of Science Museum in Florence provides an opportunity for visitors with an interest in science to see a collection of about 5,000 original scientific instruments divided into the Medici and the Lorenese collection. Some of the items on show are original Galilean instruments, including telescopes and lenses. There is a hall devoted to showing the origins and historical development of the microscope. Another section shows electrostatic and electromagnetic instruments from the eighteenth century.

It is a very good idea to buy tickets for museums in advance, especially in the peak season. The lines for tickets in Florence can be extremely long. It is better to have the ticket in advance then to be disappointed when you get there. You can Reserve your Uffizi Tickets Here

The Top Sights in Florence

There are many places to visit in Florence, but here are some of the top sites which you don't want to miss on your next trip!

The Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge” was built in 1345. This is the most famous and most frequently photographed bridge in Florence and the only one that wasn’t destroyed in World War II. The bridge itself houses many goldsmiths, jeweller’s shops and medieval workshops that overhang the bridge. The best time to view the bridge is at sunset, followed by a walk along the bridge after dusk, when the lights on the bridge reflect on the River Arno and everything seems almost magical.

The magnificent cathedral or Duomo is the most distinctive feature of Florence’s skyline and is the result of years of work over six centuries. The building was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the 13th century and is located in the north end of the Piazza della Signoria. If you’re feeling fit you may want to climb the 463 steps into the dome or the 414 steps up to the adjacent bell tower to take in a fantastic view of the city.

The Piazza della Signoria is a lively square with many restaurants, bars and ice cream shops and is a must to see. The square has been the political centre of Florence for centuries and is dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio with a copy of the statue of David by Michelangelo in front of the palace. The entrance to the Uffizi Gallery is just off the square. Right next to the Piazza della Signoria is the promenade Via dei Calzaiuoli, a lively shopping street, connecting with the Duomo of Florence – a popular place in the evenings with locals and visitors alike. During the summer visitors can go on a romantic carriage ride through Florence, beginning in Piazza della Signoria.

The Palazzo Vecchio, or Old Palace is an impressive building, built by Arnolfo di Cambio during the 13th and 14th centuries. It is the main complex in the Piazza della Signoria and is so called to distinguish itself from the Palazzo Pitti, the “new” palace.Inside the Palazzo Vecchio lies the Room of the Lilies, Elenora di Toledo's Rooms and the inner courtyard with the Putto Fountain and Michelangelo's statue The Victory. Even if you don’t have time to visit Palazzo Vecchio, it is worthwhile going into the inner courtyard to see the Putto Fountain.

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most popular museums in Florence and a must for those who like paintings. It was originally designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1559 for Cosimo I de' Medici as offices of the government judiciary. The Uffizi is home to the finest collection of Renaissance paintings in the world and boasts around 1700 paintings and 300 sculptures, as well as a number of tapestries and some furniture and ceramics. There are 45 rooms containing works from famous artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Titian and Rubens.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Naples and Sorrento Sightseeing

Italy - Naples and Sorrento

Italy is really two countries in one with the wealthy, historic north dominating. To get a taste of the south, Naples and Sorrento are your destinations.

Naples
If ever there was a city with a reputation, it is Naples. Dirty, nasty, crime infested and fanatical are all words thrown around when describing. In this case, the descriptions are true and it is GREAT! The place is a madhouse and colorful beyond description. Crime is a problem, but you will be fine if you use common sense.

Naples is all about “real.” You will not get that odd touristy sensation you find in the cities to the north. Naples is about living now, now in the past. The people can be gruff, but are also a heck of lot more colorful than you will find elsewhere. If you get in trouble, just bring up the subject of football (soccer) and you’ll suddenly have friends for life.

The best way to experience Naples is just to explore it. The action is on the street, not in museums. If you’re hankering for picture opportunities, the glass dome over the Galleria Umberto I is a good spot. You can also climb above the city to take scenic pictures of the coast and madness of Naples.

If you are really pining for a tourist fix, Pompeii and the looming Mount Vesuvius are close by. Pompeii, of course, was buried in a Mount Vesuvius explosion, literally freezing everything in place. Ah, you already know the story.

Sorrento
If Naples overwhelms you, head around the bay to Sorrento. Sorrento is similar to Naples with one notable exception. It is all about the tourist and making them comfortable. Frankly, it is hard to see how Naples and Sorrento can co-exist, but they do. In Sorrento, you can stay at ancient resorts where service is the name of the game. The beaches aren’t so hot, but you can rent jet skis and such to invoke your inner tourist.

Southern Italy often gets a bad rap as a rough place riddled with crime. To some extent it is true, but seeing Italy without the gloss of the north is worth it.

Rick Chapo is with NomadJournals.com - makers of travel journals. Visit NomadJournalTrips.com to read more articles about Italy Travel and Adventure Travel.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Cinque Terra Sightseeing

Cinque Terra - the unknown Italy

If you take a train north from La Spezia, a city equidistant between Pisa and Genoa, you will pass through an exceptional number of tunnels along the coast line to Rapallo. As you look out the windows between tunnels you will see little villages clinging to the sides of cliffs, like barnacles on an old freighter. This is the area known as the Cinque Terre, the Five Lands.

Each village is basically pretty much like the next, built essentially in a gully above the seashore. The Five Lands are actually five of these villages, built in the Dark Ages to hide out from marauding pirates. The villages have been declared a National Park and to preserve their historic authenticity large hotels, in fact nearly all new buildings of any kind are prohibited. The only access is by the train and the sea. There is a well kept up hiking trail joining the five villages that can best be described as climbing out of a village, then descending into the next village, then climbing out of that village and so on. But the views from the hiking trail are spectacular.

Here the coastline is running east to west and the five villages in that order are: Riomaggiore where the hiking trail starts, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare (Red Mountain by the Sea) where the trail ends for our purposes. Because of the ban on building, there are few hotels, there are B&Bs, pensiones and other small places for the light traveller.

Vernazza has a very old ruined castle overlooking its small natural harbor and it is a great place from which to explore the Cinque Terre. First day, you can catch the early ferry to Riomaggiore and start hiking through the villages back to Vernazza. It's about six to seven hours, allowing time for a wine here, a lunch there, etc., along the way.

The first stretch from Riomaggiore to Manarola is fairly level, the locals call it the Via Dell'Amore and takes about 15-20 minutes. Manarola is a good place to pick up a few things for a picnic before heading on to Corniglia. This village sits above the coastline. You can walk right through the lower part of the town and head out to the next village, if you don't pause for a moment and notice that there is more of the village well above the trail, in fact 370 steps zigzagging up the hillside to the upper level. The climb is worth it though, the fantastic view enhances the wine and the food and there are quite a few private rooms for rent.

The story is that a Roman farmer named the village after his mother, Cornelia. Corniglian was once so famous that urns of it were found in the ruins of Pompeii. Now you can follow the high trail through the vineyards and a few olive groves. Between Corniglia and Vernazza, you'll see a beach called Guvano with (in the summer) nude sunbathers reposing along it. It's the Italian version of counter-culture: pierced nipples (male and female), tattooed punks, hippies in dreadnoughts and plain exhibitionists. Not a family beach!

This part of the trail is the most interesting, with its terraced vineyards clinging to the mountain walls all along, wild flowers, the salt-lace aroma of the sea whenever a breeze blows it up the mountain side. There are a few spots for the daring to do high dives down into the sea and numerous refreshing waterfalls. This is a two hour hike if you don't press it. Eventually it descends into Vernazza.

If you have the time to linger awhile, then plan to stay another night in Vernazza and then you can visit Monterosso tomorrow. Vernazza has pretty much one street that stretches from the harbor up a slight grade to the train station and on into the vineyards beyond. There are a quite a number of fishermen who sail out of this little harbor early in the morning each day, you can count on some very fine fresh seafood in any café here. Evening entertainment for the locals is a few laps between the station and the harbor before retiring. They're in no hurry, just leisurely strolling along, chatting about heaven knows what. There's highway that roughly follows the outline of the coast but at least 5-10 kilometers away from the towns. Some brilliant engineer in Rome decided to help Vernazza join the 20th century by running a branch road over a mountain ridge and down towards the village. Alas, the villagers had other ideas and constructed barriers at the top of the ton and that's where the road still ends. No vehicles in Vernazza, thank you very much!

Next day, hike over to Monterosso. It boasts the only sandy beach in the entire Cinque Terre, the rest are all pebbles, well worn and round pebbles, but still not sand. This is a resort town, with all the cars, hotels, paddleboats and crowds under beach umbrellas that you'll find along any sandy beach from here to the Riviera. When you've had your fill, head back to Vernazza on the train. The trains run through the Cinqua Terre like Italian clockwork almost hourly. There's also a ferry that connects the five villages.

One lasting impression that you may take away with you are the church bells ringing at all hours. In olden times, the bells would call in the fishermen and the vineyard keepers from the mountain sides in the event of an emergency. They are still calling, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Before closing, I must mention the food. Fresh seafood of course, but this is also the home of pesto. Fresh basil from the mountain side gardens, cheese (half parmigiano from the cows and half pecorino from the sheep), garlic, local olive oil and ground pine nuts, poured over a generous plate of pasta. Ambrosia of the Gods!

The Cinqua Terre is a great place to lay back and let the world go by for a few days. The wine is cheap and very good, the food is simple but incomparable, inexpensive accommodation is available if you look around for it. Great scenery and the locals pretty much ignore you. What more could you ask for?


Find out more about Cinque Terra Sightseeing