Monday, 26 July 2010

Modena Sightseeing

Are you wanting to find out more about Sightseeing in Modena, Italy?

Modena is a city situated in the mid north west of the Italian peninsula and is most famous for being the home town of the Ferrari but it's also right in the middle of the Italian food corridor which runs from Bologna, the father of Italian food to Parma, the home of ham and down to Modena. As well as these claims to fame Modena is also the home to one of the most beautiful Italian cathedrals and some wonderful architecture.

Modena has numerous claims to fame, not only is it the hometown of Ferrari (the Italians other great passion), it was also the hometown of the late and great world famous Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti and it's also one of the Emilia-Romagna region's great gastronomic cities, producer of the most beautiful vinegar in the world, balsamic among other things. If you are into your food Emilia-Romagna has to be the Italian region to visit.

But what is the real Modena like? Having visited Bologna many years ago and been overcome by its beauty I'd always promised myself I'd get to Modena one day. Other than the obvious things about Modena I knew very little about it so was looking forward immensely to finding out more about the cities Italian architecture.

As soon as I arrived in Modena for some sightseeting I headed for the main square, when ever you arrive in an Italian city for the first time the main Piazza is always a good starting point. Piazza Grande is the main Piazza in Modena, and a very grand Italian Piazza it is too, being home to the beautiful cathedral. It has to be one of the most beautiful churches anywhere in and one of the most beautiful I've seen any where in the world.

Building started on the cathedral in 1099. At the time Modena was without a bishop as the one chosen by the Pope was not approved by the locals, hence the citizens of Modena managed and paid for the cathedral to be completed, some achievement. The beautiful white stones covering the outside of the cathedral were discovered, during renovation work to be Roman tombstones, this was a surprise to the restoration workers and historians who even found inscriptions on the stones. The doorways are adorned with life-like sculptures and these really set the cathedral apart from older cathedrals that generally have flatter one dimensional sculpture's. The sculptures look magnificent in their white stone but they have a somewhat eerie appearance to them due to the use of lead as eyes, the black eyes staring down at you from the beautiful white figures is strange.

Standing proudly at either side of the main entrance to the cathedral are two magnificent Roman lions, the doorway to the Piazza Grande is also guarded by two magnificent lions, this time made from an Italian pink marble.

I could spent hours inside cathedrals just looking at the reliefs and carvings, I always feel slightly disappointed when leaving a magnificent looking cathedral that isn't regaled with historical reliefs that tell a story. I certainly wasn't disappointed in Modena. On one side of the church, beneath an arch linking it to a tower there are some wonderful carvings believed to be King Arthur and his knights as well as scenes from Aesop's fables. My favourite of all was a calendar showing the months of the year complete with an agricultural task for the Italian farmers that would be carried out in the given month. This reminded me of a similar carving I saw at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.

A later section was added to the cathedral in the 13-14th centuries, this was made out of a beautiful Italian pink marble and is of a more Gothic appearance than the earlier parts of the cathedral but it still links nicely with the older section, rather than looking like a bolt-on.

As with all Italian cities the main Piazza is the focal point of the city and Piazza Grande is no different. Up until 1931 the Piazza held the city market but this was moved to a purpose built covered site where it is still held today. Although not the site for the market any longer the Piazza is still very much the place to meet people, take a stroll or just sit and enjoy an espresso.

Modena's buildings are a wonderful terra cotta colour, the sort of colour that lends itself wonderfully to Italian architecture, so warming and gentle on the eye. The good thing about Italy is that is still so in touch with its heritage, the citizens of Modena have to respect their heritage to the degree that the colour of all buildings must fall within local council guidelines to keep the aesthetics of the city.

Walking through the narrow atmospheric cobbled streets into the sleepy piazzas you can really get lost in the sense of Italian history that Modena exudes through its architecture.

Modena has had an up and down history. Modena flourished under Roman rule but then went into steady decline as a power hub until the end of the 16th century when the ruling d'Este family made it their home. The family saw how Modena had fallen into declined and realised that it had potential and set about modernising the city to make it one of the Italian greats.

The d'Este family built their home, the Palazzo Ducale (not to be confused with the Venetian palace of the same name) on top of Modena's existing castle. The spectacular Palazzo still stands today; still in all its original glory, the unfortunate thing is that it is now an impregnable Italian military academy with no access for to the public.

After a couple of days spent walking around the beautiful city of Modena sampling the wonderful architecture it dawned on me that I hadn't even taken the time out to look deeper into Modena's gastronomic heritage.

Modena Sightseeting followed by great food is something to look forward to.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Tuscany Sightseeing

Are you looking for some Tuscany Sightseeing ideas? Read this article to find out some of Tuscany's most unforgettable sightseeting and holiday attractions.

Tuscany's Most Unforgettable Holiday Attractions
By Mark Scriven

That long awaited holiday has rolled around, and this time, you probably fancy doing something a little bit different, you're probably a little bit lost for ideas, and your partner's getting restless, they want a fun-packed holiday they can enjoy, whilst at the same time enjoying a nice relaxing break away from work and home.

If this sounds a lot like your current situation, then perhaps Tuscany is the perfect holiday destination for you. Unfortunately, Tuscany is not often thought of as a great couple's holiday hot-spot, but it has a lot to offer couples as well as families, and can give every partnership a memorable holiday, you just need to know the right spots to visit.

One of the main things couples partake in on a holiday is a shopping tour, displaying Italian fashion at its very best. The shopping facilities in Tuscany is an attraction in itself, offering couples designer labels such as Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent.

This is a true shopper's paradise if you're looking for brand names at outlet prices, and it also gives you the opportunity to soak up your surroundings in the quaint cafes that are found within the area, a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon!

If you're a culture vulture, then a trip to some of Tuscany's beautiful Museums and Gardens has to be at the top of your list. For example, the Accademia Museum is a popular attraction, home to some of the world's most famous artistic pieces, such as Michelangelo's 'David'.

There are many different Michelangelo sculpture and pictures homed here, but also displayed are the epic works of Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credi, del Sarto and Perungino, the only place to be if you're interested in enjoying some really art and culture.

The Boboli Gardens is another spot often enjoyed by tourists, it offers up a beautiful place to relax, as well as some fantastic photography opportunities too. After a you've made your way through the Pitti palace, the Renaissance gardens that occupy the hill behind the museum will call out to you, you may notice the occasional touches of sculpture - the works of Baroque and Rococo, as well as some serene water fountains and some beautiful botanical gardens. You can always pay a visit to one of the nearby cafes and pick up some food and wine to enjoy out there in the sun, a perfect end to a perfect day.

Tuscany also offers up a wide range of different Thermal SPAS and Springs, in particular, the Thermal Spring of Montepulciano is a popular destination, set up in 1966, it contains a natural sulphur spring that gives therapeutic properties to all visitors to it.

The centre itself also offers services such as hydro massages, 'Scottish baths', vapour showers, pools, toning and moisturizing, lynfo drainage, face masks and many other purifying treatments. Many men think this is just a woman's treat, but it's surprising how many men visit each year, and leave feeling refreshed and completely relaxed!

Tuscany is a beautiful and tranquil region, offering up a variety of romantic and fun attractions and activities, the stunning views and peaceful surroundings can make for a memorable Italian holiday that will have you coming back time and time again.

Mark Scriven is an online marketing expert and has written many articles on business, travel and the internet. For a wide selection of holiday villas in Tuscany visit Cottages to Castles, specialists in luxury Tuscany villas.

Hopefully this will give you lots of Tuscany Sightseeing ideas!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Sightseeing in Bardolino

Bardolino rests on the shores of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. It lies about 30 kilometres northwest of the provincial capitol of Verona.


Bardolino Harbour


Bardolino although one one of the lesser well known resorts it is still very popular with German and British visitors. Lake Garda itself is a haven for weekend visitors. It is only just over four hours drive from the Bavarian capitol, Munich, and under two hours drive from Milan. This relatively easy commute makes the lakeshore a haven for week-end visitors and weekends do tend to to be very much busier than week days.

Sightseeing in Bardolino would not be complete without sampling the local wine - and there are various vintages of Bardolino wine to sample ranging from the cheap to the more expensive. Real wine aficionados can visit town’s wine museum plus the unofficial bodega’s purporting to be wine museums. Many of the towns wine and snack bars sell excellent wine by the glass straight out of the barrel


Bardolino at Night


The harbour area of Bardolino is the hub of activity by day and by night. As well as being very picturesque it also boasts one of Italy’s finest ice cream parlours. The parlour is easy to find in the evening, simply look for a large queue of people. Although there are many fine eating places around the harbour area many of the better restaurants are a couple of streets back

Although the setting sun hides beside some of the distant mountains for the last few minutes before dipping below the horizon in the summer months the orange glow across the lakeside can still be quite spectacular particularly by the yacht club or the harbour.

Bardolino Sunset


Although Bardolino itself has lots of quaint restaurants, bars and small shops it retains its own character as do all the neighbouring lakeside towns. A regular ferry service as well as a frequent bus service makes visiting neighbouring towns of Garda, Malcesine, Lasize and Pescheira relatively easy. Even the most northerly town of Riva can be visited by bus with relative ease.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sightseeing in Perugia

Perugia is a medieval walled city located in the region of Umbria in Italy. It's location is on top of a hill with amazing views of the surrounding countryside. It's a great city to explire and also an excellent base for touring the rest of Umbria

If you are considering visiting Perugia here are a few top tips for sightseeing in Perugia.

Here are some of the top sights that you should be sure not to miss while in Perugia:
  • Duomo - this was built in the thirteenth century and you'll find it in the main square of Perugia - the Piazza IV Novembre.
  • Palazzo Dei Priori - inside this building you will find the national art gallery of Umbria and 3 other museums.
  • Fontana Maggiore - this is the main fountain in Perugia and was built and decorated in the thirteenth century
  • Etrucan Arch - this is the main city gate
  • Corso Vannucci - this pedestrianised street is filled with lots of bars, restaurants and shops.
  • Church of San Pietro & Medieval Garden - this is Perugia's largest church and was originally build between 1304 and 1458.
When you have finished sightseeing in Perugia you may also want to explore other parts of Umbria such as Orvieto, Lake Trasimeno, Assisi and Gubbio.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Sightseeing in Bassano del Grappa

Are you thinking of visiting Bassano del Grappa in Northern Italy? If so, here are a few ideas for Sightseeing in Bassano del Grappa.

Guide to Bassano del Grappa, Northern Italy
By Karen Bryan

Unique Points

Bassano sits in a stunning location by the River Brenta with Monte Grappa in the background. It is about 35 kilometres north east of Vicenza. The town's symbols are said to be the Palladian bridge, white asparagus, ceramics and the Grappa liqueur. I visited the town for the day in February 2005.

I really liked the location, the fresh air, the fast flowing river and the picturesque bridge. If you like to be slightly off the tourist track and would prefer a more rural setting for short break or as a base for a touring holiday, Bassano is ideal.

How to get there

The nearest airports are Treviso, used by Ryanair as it's airport for Venice and Venice Marco Polo. You could hire a car from the airport. It is possible to reach Bassano by train on the Vicenzia - Trento or Padova - Bassano lines.

History

It is often assumed that the city takes its name from the well known liqueur Grappa. This is not the case; it is named after Monte Grappa. The mountain's name is said to originate from crapp or greep, meaning crag in an ancient pre-Latin language. The liqueur Grappa's name stems
from grappolo, meaning a cluster of grapes.

Grappa liqueur has been produced in Bassano since 1779 when Bortolo Nardini bought a Grapperia on the Brenta River bank. Grappa is made from the by-products of wine making, the seeds, stems and skins. The company is still run by members of the Nardini family, accounting for around one quarter of annual grappa production.

Ponte Vecchia has become synonymous with Bassano. The bridge is first mentioned in the 11th century. The bridge has been rebuilt several times due to flooding or destruction during wars. It is still the original design by Palladio from 1569. The bridge is built of wood, making it more resilient to the fast flowing River Brenta.

There is a record of the city on St Mary's Hill from the 10th century. From the 14th to 18th century the city was under Venetian rule. It became well known for the manufacture of ceramics, wool, silk, iron and copper. The Remondini family ran one of the most up to date printing houses in Europe from the17th to the 19th century.

Grappa liqueur has been produced in Bassano since 1779 when Bortolo Nardini bought a Grapperia on the Brenta River bank. Grappa is made from the by products of wine making, the seeds, stems and skins. The company is still run by members of the Nardini family, accounting for around one quarter of annual grappa production.

The Town Hall was first constructed in1405. Bartolomeo Ferranci installed the present clock mechanism in 1743. The interior walls are adorned by frescoes of 120 coats of arms.

White asparagus was first produced in the 16th century after Bassano experienced a hailstorm which destroyed the asparagus crop. The farmers dug up the part of the plant below the earth and discovered that it was so tender and delicious that they started to grow it underground
permanently.

Parolini, a local nobleman, designed the Giardini Parolini in the early 19th century. In 1829 Parolini catalogued 3000 plant species in the garden.

During the First World War the Italians took a last stand against the Austrians in Monte Grappa where they entrenched themselves in tunnels and bunkers to repel the Austrian attackers. Over 12,000 Italian and 10,000 Austrian soldiers lost their lives in the numerous battles.

During the Second World War Italian partisans hid in Monte Grappa, organising raids on the main supply route from Germany to the German troops stationed in Italy. In 1944
the Germans took revenge by marching up the mountain behind women, children and elderly local inhabitants. Any partisans discovered or civilians suspected of assisting partisans were killed. There were public hangings and shootings with families forced to watch.

In 1946 the Italian prime minister awarded Basssano the gold medal for military valour. Every year the city commemorates these events during September.

The Museo degli Alpini was established in 1948 in memory of the Italian Alpine Troops It is located on the eastern side of the Ponte Vecchio. You have to enter it through a cafe. I found this rather confusing but the museum is down stairs to the left when you enter the cafe. Originally the collection was very small but has grown as more war relics have been gathered together.There are many original photos, uniforms and armoury.

Museo della Cermica is near the eastern side of the Ponte Vecchio. The building was constructed as the residence of Ferrari family, owners of a local silk factory. The entrance hall is adorned with a fresco by Giorgio Anseli. There are pieces of engraved ceramics from medieval times, Mainardi majolica pieces from the 17th and 18th century, along with modern pieces.

The Civic Musuem is one of the oldest in the Veneto region. It was built in1828 on the site of the convent of St Francis. It houses a collection of paintings by the Da Ponti family, Guariento and Magnasco, a collection of prints by the Remondini family. There is also an archaeological section
and pieces by Antonio Canova.

Bassano boasts several churches. San Donato was built in 1208. It is claimed that St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua both stayed here during the third decade of the 13th century. The church was a hospital, run by Benedictine nuns in the 14th century, then a Fransican monastery during the 15th century. The church was restored in 1900, including work being done on the cell which was used by the two saints.

The Church of San Francesco was started in the mid 12th century, after the return of Ezzelino 11, the Stutterer, from the Holy Land. The Church of St John the Baptist was originally built in 1308 but reconstructed in the 18th century by local architect Giovanni Miazzi. Giambattista Piazzetti made the altarpiece of John the Baptist and Orzio Marinali created the statues of angels and the bas-reliefs.

The Cathedral of Holy Mary was a 10th century parish church in the original high part of the town. The present cathedral dates from the 17th century. The high altar piece and the painting of St Stephen are the work of Leandro di Ponte, and the sculptures are by Mainali. Di Giacomo Dacci made the organ and the three ceiling paintings are by Volpata.

Where to eat

Trattoria del Borgo is a traditional restaurant with a garden, via Margan 7, tel 0424 522155

Birreria Ottone is an a 13th century palazzo. They offer a selection of Italian, Tyrolean and Austrian dishes, via Matteotti 48 - 50, tel 0424 522206.

Day trips

Marostica

Marostica is a 14th century medieval town where the original town wall stands intact.
It is best known as the "town of chess". Every second year a match, with people dressed in elaborate costumes to portray the pieces, is played on the giant chessboard below
the castle. This takes place on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday every second year, when the year ends in an even number. This commemorates the chess match played in 1454 when the victor was to win the hand in marriage of Lianora, the daughter of the Lord of the Castle of Marostica. Two suitors, Rinaldo d'Angarano and Vieti da Vallonara, had fallen in love with Lianora and were to fight a duel to see how would marry Lianora. The Lord forbade the
duel and order decreed that the victor of the chess match would marry Lianora. However all was not lost for the defeated suitor, as he would marry Lianora's younger sister, Oldrata.
The period costumes are permanenly displayed in the Lower Castle.

Marostica holds a Cherry Festival every year during May and June. There are kiosks in the streets selling a variety of cherries including morello, roame,marostagne and sander.
There is an annual exhibition of comic cartoons in the town. Every July and August local craftsmen display their work the exhibition hall of the Lower Caste. There are some lovely walks through the surrounding hills.

Asola

Asola is a charming hilltop town, with a castle, a cathedral with a altar piece by Lorenzo Lotto and the 15th century Palazzo della Ragione. It was called the "city of one thousand horizons" by Giosue Carducci, because of all the fantastic views. It was much favoured by the Venetian nobility. Caterina Corona, the former Queen of Cyprus, lived here in the late 15th century. Robert Browning, the English poet, bought a house ere in the mid 17th century. Eleanora Duse, credited with being the greatest actress of the Italian stage was also a resident. The travel writer Freya Stark was brought up in Asolo and spent a lot of time here between her various expeditions. There is an antiques market every second weekend of the month, except duringJuly and August.

You can read the full guide to Bassano including photos and accommodation options at http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/Italy/bassano.html

Karen Bryan is a UK based independent travel consultant and writer. In her website, Europe a la Carte, http://www.europealacarte.co.uk, she promotes less well known destinations in Europe. Karen believes that you can get more of a flavour of the real country even if you venture only slightly off the well beaten tourist track

Friday, 2 July 2010

Day Tours from Rome

If you are staying in Rome for a while you may want to consider taking a day tour or two while you are there. Here are 5 ideas for day tours from Rome.

Best Day Trips From Rome, Italy
By Christine Zibas

When visiting Rome, Italy, travelers should follow the example of emperors and popes and see some of the surrounding countryside. Fuori parta (beyond the gate), as Ancient Romans noted, lie great treasures. The area surrounding Rome, the region of Lazio, is one of the most beautiful areas of Italy in its own right, and those who travel beyond Rome's city gates will surely be in for a special treat.

Ostia Antica
To the east of Rome (about a half hour by train) lies Ostia Antica, a site that is considered to be "the Pompeii of Rome." Once the ancient site of Rome's port, this area lost its importance when the course of the Tiber River changed, leaving it (some 2,000 years later) a sandy, muddy wasteland.

Founded in the 4th century BC, today it is little more than a site for excavated ruins. Travelers exploring Ostia Antica, however, can gain a better understanding of what life was like in ancient times by exploring the excavations and accompanying museum.

Among the items worth exploring at the site are the mosaic floors with Neptune and the sea goddess Amphitrite at the Terme di Nattuna (Baths of Neptune), the theater built by Agrippa (original creator of the Pantheon in Rome), and the Mithraeum, in which the balconies and walls of this building are decorated with symbols from the Cult of Mithras religion. Close to the ruins of Ostia Antica is the Medieval city of Castello della Rovere, which began in 1483.

Tivoli
Another spot worth journeying to on a day trip from Rome is Tivoli. In ancient times, Tivoli was the place where emperors went to escape the heat and misery of Roman life in the summer. Large palaces and villas were created, but by the Middle Ages, this area had largely been abandoned. It was rediscovered by the elite of the Catholic Church, those cardinals and popes with abundant wealth, who revived the area by building anew.

Today, Tivoli is a beautiful and vibrant area with stunning views and cascading waterfalls. Two jewels remain from ancient times, the Temple of Vesta and the ruins of the Sanctuary of the Sibyl. Most travelers who make the journey from Rome (via bus or train), however, come to see the Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) or the Villa d'Este's fabled gardens.

Villa Adriana/Hadrian's Villa
One of the most accomplished of the Ancient Roman emperors, Hadrian rose to power in 1178 AD, and began a construction boom in Rome (and elsewhere) that was unrivaled. His villa at Tivoli was a masterpiece created by local artisans, which incorporated ideas from Hadrian's world travels. He much admired Hellenistic (Greek) culture. His vast estate in Tivoli was a conglomerate of baths, theaters, libraries, temples, open-air gymnasiums, and guest pavilions. The most famous element at the Villa Adriana is the Canopus, an artificial pool created to emulate a canal on the Nile. Those exploring the villa would do well, when visiting, to rent the audio tour (along with it, you will receive a complimentary map to help guide your tour of the area).

Villa d'Este
At Tivoli's center lies the Villa d'Este, built by a cardinal in the 16th century. While the villa itself isn't much to see today, the main reason for visiting this special spot are its gardens. To create these beautiful water gardens, the Aniene River was diverted, and the result is breathtaking. The gardens of the Villa d'Este are a masterpiece, with sun and shade, water and stone all working together to create a truly unforgettable experience. Perhaps the most romantic time to visit the gardens is on a summer evening, when the floodlit fountains work their magic.

Castelli Romani
Contrary to what their name might imply, the castelli are not castles, but rather charming towns and villages scattered throughout the Alban Hills, which (of course) aren't really "hills," but instead remnants of extinct volcanic activity.

These picturesque towns today are surrounded by olive groves, woods full of chestnut trees, and lovely vineyards, with accompanying wine cellars. Among those towns worth exploring are Frescati, with its Villa Aldonbrandini; Castelgandolfo, where the Pope summers (Villa Pontifica); Ariccia, with the beautiful Palazzo Chigi; and Nemi, the smallest but most beautiful of them all.

Whether one travels amongst the hill towns of the Castelli Romani or takes in the stunning villas of Tivoli or takes a step back in time at Ostia Antica, it's clear that little more than an hour outside Rome (and often less), there is a beautiful Italian countryside worth exploring. Rome is a hard city to leave, but a day trip outside the city is well worth the time away.

Christine Zibas is a veteran of the think tank world, having worked in both Washington, DC, and London. She is a former travel writer, specializing in educational travel. Her last job before becoming a freelance writer was as director of publications for a nonprofit organization, based in Chicago, Illinois.

Hopefully these will give you some ideas of day tours from Rome!