Agrigento, Sicily, was built on top of the ancient Greek colony town of Akragas. It is home to the amazing "Valley of the Temples", a site hosting some of the greatest Greek ruins in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site, these ruins are some of the best preserved Greek ruins outside Greece proper. Roman and Gothic buildings are also present, but the town`s main attraction remains its Greek heritage.
Alberobello looks like a picture from a fairytale. The historical center has a great concentration of "trulli" and has been declared an international monument. Trulli are beehive-shaped houses that were built in the 13th century. Their whitewashed limestone walls and conical fieldstone roofs utilize the materials in such a way that mortar isn't needed to keep the pieces together. Here you will see people making ceramics according to the way it used to be done some 500 years ago.
Amalfi is a jewel of a picturesque seaside resort that has an ideal climate, breathtaking views and unique natural beauties plus the most vibrant, typical Italian atmosphere. It is a graceful place with its cluster of white buildings which amble up the hillside from the water rather than clinging vertically to it like the other towns in the area, making it a bit easier to walk around. The city starts at the water`s edge with a pretty promenade along the Mediterranean and a marina full of colorful boats and their international flags. The focal point of the historic center is the Piazza del Duomo, in front of the striking cathedral. The piazza is clustered with sidewalk cafes and elegant shops, sixty steps lead to the church with its the Byzantine style structure that bears Moorish-influenced arches and decoration. Dedicated to St. Andrew, the Duomo di Sant`Andrea is a truly beautiful structure. Inside is the hidden Cloister of Paradise, dating to 1266, with a forest of columns, Arabesque arches and an amazing fresco. The crypt is highly decorated and worth a visit, too.
MUST SEE`S: The Emerald Grotto is one of Amalfi`s natural wonders, at Cape Conca. It emits an eerie emerald hue that emanates from its depths thanks to an underwater crevice that refracts sunlight. Convento di San Francesco (now Hotel Luna Convento). Its 16th-century watchtower over the cape to the east of town is an annex of the hotel. Here you can visit the well-conserved 13th-century cloister and the attached church.
The Amalfi Coast has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Sites for its remarkable beauty and distinct natural landscape. Traditional houses, painted in pastel colors, follow the slope of the foothills of Mounts Lattari, creating a picturesque scene. From the characteristic terraces, the strong scents of the lemon groves, the vineyards, the broom and the vibrant colors of bougainvillea combine with the salt air to delight the senses.
The Amalfi Coast is comprised of bays, coves and quaint small towns, precariously perched on mountainside. The blues of the sea, the greens of the Mediterranean vegetation and the colors of the houses all combine to paint one of the most spectacular landscapes on the Italian coast. Sorrento, Amalfi, Ravello, Vietri sul Mare and Positano are compared to precious pearls that make up a ?necklace? of small towns (twelve total) on the coast.
Arezzo is a beautiful town that sits atop a hill at the crossroads of four valleys: Val Tiberina, Casentino, Valdarno and Valdichiana. The `Man of the El` was discovered here and found to date back to the Paleolithic era. In the 9th century BC, it became the Etruscan Arretium and rapidl turned into one of the most important cities in Tuscany, due to its strategic position along the Via Cassia. Today it is one of the wealthiest cities in Tuscany.
Even though the Medieval center was destroyed during the World War II, Arezzo has plenty of monuments, churches and museums remaining that offer visitors a chance to step back into history. The Church of San Francesco is probably the most famous in Arezzo, with the incredible Early Renaissance fresco cycle by Piero della Francesca depicting the Legend of the True Cross. You should then head uphill to the Medicean Fortress, visit the Cathedral dedicated to San Donato, then back down to the Roman Amphitheater and the Church of San Domenico with the wooden Crucifix by Cimabue.
Nearby: Visit the area of Valtiberina (Sansepolcro, Anghiari, Monterchi) the area of Setteponti (Loro Ciuffenna, Castiglion Fibocchi, Castelfranco) and Cortona, Castiglion Fiorentino Distances: Florence - 50 miles, Siena - 57 miles, Cortona - 19 miles
A medieval hill, known for being the birthplace of Saint Francis and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its represents `a series of masterpieces of man`s creative spirit.` Everything revolves around its most renowned citizen, St. Francis, Patron Saint of Italy: from the Basilica, which is dedicated to the Saint and contains his tomb, to the hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri), a few miles outside the town walls, where St. Francis used to retreat in prayer.
Must See`s: Basilica of Saint Francis (UNESCO World Heritage Site from the 13th century); Church of Santa Chiara (houses the San Damiano Crucifix which spoke to Francis in 1206); San Rufino Cathedral (12th century Romanesque façade); Rocca Maggiore Castle; Roman Amphitheater from the first century surrounded by medieval houses; Piazza del Commune (with the 13th century Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and Palazzo dei Priori and the Temple of Minerva facing the square.
Barberino Val d`Elsa is located in on the ridge that separates the watersheds of the Elsa and the Pesa rivers. The town has retained its mediaeval elliptical shape with a main street running between the two turreted tower gates, the Porta Romana and the Porta Fiorentina. Barberino has conserved its medieval structure with its walls, gate and towers and its Pilgrims` Hospital; the center of town is still ringed by its original fortifications.
Barberino Val d`Elsa lies in the heart of Tuscany. It is an area that simply pulsates with history and legend. There isn`t a hill that does not have a church, a castle, villa or simply a chapel at its top. The Val d` elsa area of this municipal territory is made up of hills that are rich in vineyards and olive groves and is dotted here and there with centuries old cypress trees. This area is recognized as the Chianti Classico belt, Chianti Classico being the prince of Italian wines renowned and appreciated all over the world.
Nearby: Visit the Chianti area, Siena and San Gimignano Distances: Florence - 19 miles, Siena - 25 miles, Arezzo - 60 miles
Situated on the Brenta River, Bassano del Grappais a picturesque town, famous especially for its centuries-old production of handcrafted ceramics and of grappa, Italy's national firewater of choice. The main attraction is the historic center with its medieval buildings, baroque palazzi and with the Duomo built around the year 1000. The wooden covered Bridge or Ponte degli Alpini on the Brenta River, designed in 1569 by the architect Andrea Palladio is the highlight of Bassano's historic center.
The Bay of Naples envelops in its crescent-shaped cuddle some true natural masterpieces; famous Capri, the spa haven of Ischia, and the tiny village like Procida. They offer a landscape of rare beauty molded by the wind, the sea and man, where vacationers can relax in complete tranquility during the day and enjoy the best of fun and entertainment at night.
The Bay of Naples is a 9.3 miles wide gulf located along the south-western coast of. It opens to the west into the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered on the north by the cities of Naples and Pozzuoli, on the east by Mount Vesuvius, and on the south by the Sorrentine Peninsula and the main town of the peninsula, Sorrento, with the seaside Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum at the foot of Mount Vesuvius (destroyed in the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius), along the north coast.
Travel to the islands is only available by boat from Naples, Sorrento or Amalfi
Bergamo is a lovely little town divided in two distinct parts: "Città alta", a hilltop medieval town, surrounded by 17th century defensive walls, and "Città bassa", the modern center. The main attractions of Bergamo Alta are the Piazza Vecchia with its Renaissance buildings such as the Biblioteca Civica and the Palazzo della Ragione and the Piazza del Duomo. In Città Bassa, of artistic relevance are the Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Carrara and the nearby Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea.
Bologna is one of the most overlooked gems in Italy, one of the most architecturally unified in Europe - a panorama of sienna-colored buildings, marbled sidewalks, and porticos. Located at the crossroads between Venice and Florence and surrounded by hills, Bologna provides the best of several worlds; it has beautiful piazzas, churches and museums, as well as being a thriving university town, filled with cafes, bars and nightlife. The bars, cafes, and squares fill up with students, and an eclectic mix of concerts, art exhibits, and avant-garde ballet and theater performances always marks the calendar.
Once belonging to Austria, Bolzano has only been part of Italy since the end of World War I. It is a fascinating city at crossroads between Italian and Austrian cultures. The city's Austrian character, enhanced by the narrow cobblestone streets, Austrian-style churches give Bolzano an unique charm. The main attractions are: the Gothic Cathedral dating from 1184, Walther von der Vogelweide Platz, the Archeological Museum, which hosts the Ötzi mummy and various beautiful castles.
Capri is famous for its wonderful natural beauty, deep-rooted history, mild climate and bright landscape. Inhabited since the Paleolithic era, when it was joined to the mainland, the island was first Greek and later Roman. Caesar Augustus visited it in 29 B.C. and was the first to build a villa here. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the island belonged to the Longobards, Normans, Anjouins, Aragonese and the Spanish. Following the rediscovery on the Blue Grotto in the 19th century, artists, intellectuals, writers, exiles, eccentrics and wealthy visitors chose it as residence, contributing to form the highly varied cosmopolitan international colony that has made the name of Capri famous throughout the world. Beaches are scattered around the island. There are only two towns - Capri, just above Marina Grande, and Anacapri, the higher town. Lemon trees, flowers, and birds are abundant. A stroll through its famous piazzetta is a must if you want to revel in the heart of this charming and mysterious place. The island is spectacular, with postcard-worthy soaring cliffs, surrounded by a deep-blue sea.
MUST SEE: The Blue Grotto, Grotta Azzurra: The most fascinating of the island's many caves. Refraction of sunlight into the cave makes an iridescent blue light in the water. The Blue Grotto has been known and used since prehistoric times. Stone artifacts were found inside the cave and it was a favorite pool of the Romans during the time Emperor Tiberius had his villas on the island. To enter the cave one takes a small rowboat from near the cave entrance.
Travel to Capri is only available by boat from Naples, Sorrento or Amalfi.
Castellammare di Stabia is a small town, shaped as a natural bowl among the hills, into an extremely fertile area, rich in mineral waters. It was built over the ruins of the ancient Stabiae: a delightful village totally destroyed in 79 AC by the violent eruption of the volcano Vesuvius, which buried even Pompeii and Herculaneum. The town offers the ancient archaeological finds of Stabiae, charming architecture, numerous churches, and wonderful works of art. It also offers a Thermal centre renowned since 1800 which offers lovely days of water tasting, therapeutic treatments and cultural events.
Castellina in Chianti, on a hill at the crossroads of the Arbia, Elsa and Pesa valleys, is set along the Chiantigiana road that connects Florence to Siena. It is one of the most important destinations in Chianti. The city`s origins go back to Etruscan times and came under Florentine control starting in the 12th century. It offers an imposing fortress. Along the ancient walls remains an underground tunnel, now called Via della Volte, a fascinating tunnel with shops and restaurants. The view of the surrounding Chianti countryside is marvelous. Inside Palazzo Squarcialupi, the Enoteca Antiquaria is now housed, a wine shop for over a 100 years which represents an important historical archive of wine and which has helped preserve the original characteristics of Chianti Classico wine itself.
Nearby: Barberino Val d'Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Greve in Chianti, Monteriggioni, Poggibonsi, Radda in Chianti, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Distances: Siena - 18 miles, Florence - 25 miles, Arezzo - 46 miles
Castelnuovo Berardenga stands on a pleasant hill, located in the southern area of Chianti Classico less than 20 miles from Siena, bordered by the rivers Ombrone and Arbia. Castelnuovo. It was built in 1366 as the `new castle` by Siena because of it`s strategically advantageous position on the border of the Sienese land. In the historical center is the impressive Vicolo dell`Arco, characterized by steep stone stairs that have a tympanum arch decorated with a beautiful bas-relief. Nearby is the Church of San Giusto and Clemente, built during the 19th century and which displays a Madonna with Child by a Sienese artist from the Renaissance. Probably what turns Castelnuovo di Berardengo into a great destination in Chianti, in addition to Chianti wine and beautiful landscapes are its beautiful surroundings full of castles and fortresses, villas and churches. Some of the most famous are the delightful village of San Gusme, the Certosa of Pontignano, the Castle of Montalto and Villa Acerno.
Nearby: San Gusme, Gaiole in Chianti, Chianti area Distances: Siena - 16 miles, Florence - 56 miles, Arezzo - 37 miles
Situated at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna, Catania is the second largest city of Sicily. Much of the ancient monuments of the Roman city have been destroyed by the numerous earthquakes, but there are still several interesting places to visit: the Theater (2nd century), The Amphitheater (2nd century), The Odeon (3rd century CE). The so-called Liotru, symbol of the city, a manufact in lava stone portraying an elephant and surmounted by an obelisk, is probably from Roman times.
Chianciano Terme traces its history back to the 5th century BC and the Etruscans, who had built a temple dedicated to the god of Good Health, close to the Silene springs where the newer quarter of Chianciano (the Terme section) stands today. News of the curative power of Chianciano`s water became well known during Roman times, as Horace visited the area on the advice of his physician during the 1st century BC. Luxurious Roman villas were built in the area near the thermal baths.
Present day Chianciano Terme has two distinct areas. Chianciano Vecchia (Ancient Chianciano) is located atop a small hill. The Porta Rivellini, with its elegant Renaissance structure, is the main gateway into the town at the end of the Via Dante. In contrast to this is the modern quarter, the Terme, whose nucleus has grown around the thermal springs and stretches northward in a crescent shape along the Vale della Libertà towards the older city. Today, the Terme section is considered among the finest health resorts in Italy with its parks, numerous hotels and especially its therapeutic water that is reputed to cleanse the liver via an increase in the production and excretion of liver bile.
Nearby: Chiusi, Montepulciano, Cetona, Sarteano Distances: Siena - 52 miles, Florence - 82 miles, Arezzo - 46 miles
Chianti, located in the center of Tuscany between Florence, Siena and Arezzo, is a charming hill-covered region offering a picturesque landscape of small stone villages, sprawling vineyards and olive groves. With tall green cypress trees and woods bordered with yellow broom, its palette of colors combine to create a painting beautiful enough to rival those of the famous art museums nearby.
From its Etruscan beginnings through the time of the Romans, the ancient region of Chianti was a rich and bountiful land. Mostly inaccessible, it was preserved from ruinous barbarian invasions after the decline of the Roman Empire. By contrast, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, it was a constant battlefield for the struggle between Siena and Florence that both wanted control over its riches. When the fighting finally ended, valleys were cleared and cultivated with chestnut woods as well as olive groves and vineyards, which continue to enrich the region today.
La Spezia is the main hopping-off point to Cinque Terre and your homebase for your visit to the beautiful Cinque Terre which are most easily reached by train (the journey time to the first of the villages, Riomaggiore, is just eight minutes, and there are generally at least a couple of trains every hour). It is a busy provincial capital and the main training and shipbuilding centre of the Italian navy. It offers low-key charm, several good-value restaurants and some worthwhile museums.
Colle di Val d`Elsa is a town located above the valley of the river Elsa on the route of the ancient Via Francigena, the mediaeval highway frequented by pilgrims and merchants travelling to Rome from Canterbury and elsewhere in northern Europe. Major archaeological finds in the area date as far back as the 4th millennium BC, but the first documents mentioning Colle di Val d`Elsa are from the 10C, as is typically the case for Tuscan settlements.
The town was originally made up of three independent areas with separate structures and urban arrangements: Borgo di Santa Caterina, Castello di Piticciano and Piano. The two oldest settlements are both situated on the same hilly ridge which runs from east to west and, separated by a wide valley, and dominate the valley floor which is home to the third `hamlet`, Piano, which has a more recent urban structure built specially to accommodate manufacturing activities. Colle di Val d`Elsa became known as the Bohemia of Italy in the 19th century. Today it is an authentic `Crystal City`, producing 15% of the world`s crystal.
Nearby: Visit San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Casole d`Elsa, Chianti area Distances: Siena - 17 miles, Florence - 30 miles, Arezzo - 72 miles
Cortina d'Ampezzo is Italy's best-known resort and probably among the three most exclusive mountain locations in Europe, renowned for its first-class hotels and shops. Surrounded by the Dolomite peaks, of which eighteen rise more than 10,000 ft, it has stunning views. The most famous peaks in the city's neighbourhood include Le Tofane, Il Cristallo and Le Cinque Torri. Cortina appeals to the vistors with 90 miles of ski runs and 50 cable cars and chairlifts that make the slopes easily accessible.
One of the oldest hill towns in Tuscany, surrounded by 3,000 year old Etruscan walls, Cortona retains much of its history through its architecture, layers of history built upon the Etruscan core. The plain below Cortona is speckled with Etruscan tombs. But Cortona isn`t just about the past; it is the setting for `Under the Tuscan Sun` (book and movie) and has a thriving Expat community which is quite involved with the city.
Cortona`s Etruscan walls are incorporated into the medieval walls that surround its historic center. Inside the walls, you can wander the narrow medieval streets of Cortona`s historic center. Near the walls, you`ll often be rewarded with fantastic views of the valley below. Be sure to visit the century town hall and clock tower on one of Cortona`s main squares, Piazza della Republica. There are cafes nearby for enjoying the piazza life and the 13th century Palazzo Pretorio on Piazza Signorelli is the Etruscan Academy Museum. Besides good Etruscan artifacts, the museum holds Roman remains, Renaissance and Baroque paintings, 15th century ivories, and a small Egyptian exhibit.
Nearby: Visit Arezzo, Castiglion Fiorentino, Montepulciano, Pienza Distances: Siena - 45 miles , Arezzo - 19 miles, Florence - 64 miles
Eversince the 16th century, Cremona was renowned as a centre of musical instrument manufacture, beginning with the violins of the Amati family, and later included the products of the Guarneri and Stradivari shops. The main attractions of the city are: the medieval historical centre, the beautiful paintings and frescoes of the Campi, a Renaissance family of painters, and the violinmaking tradition, superbly represented by the workshop of Antonio Stradivari who lived between the XVI and XVII Century.
Situated on the banks of the river Po, Ferrara is a beautiful renaissance city with much of its legacy intact. Among the historic treasures are sumptuous palazzos dating from the 14th century and the narrow Medieval streets. Don't miss the great exhibitions staged at the Palazzo dei Diamanti, where the works of Dalì, Mirò, Monet, Chagall have been hosted. Other sights include the façade of cathedral, the renaissance frescos of Palazzo Schiafanoia and the stately of the Este Castle.
Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is one of Italy`s most atmospheric and pleasant, retaining a strong resemblance to the small late-medieval center that contributed so much to the cultural and political development of Europe. Art treasures Michelangelo`s David Botticelli`s Birth of Venus, and Raphael's La Velata draw millions of visitors every year. Throw into the mix fabulous architecture (the Duomo with Brunelleschi's dome, Giotto's campanile, Santa Croce), fine restaurants and earthy trattorie, plus leading designer boutiques and bustling outdoor markets, and the city of the Renaissance becomes quite simply one of the world`s must-see sights.
Recommended Stay: At least 2 nights Must See`s: The Duomo Complex, Church of Santa Croce, The Cathedral, The Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell`Accademia, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens and so much more!
Foggia is a city in Apulia's northernmost province of Capitanata, also known as the granary of Italy. Due to its tragic history marked by both an earthquake in the 1700's as well as extensive allied bombing during WWII, Foggia has little to offer in terms of the historic attractions one would expect of an Italian city. Nonetheless, Foggia makes for a good base for exploring the nearby attractions of Lucera and Troia or the Gargano Peninsula.
One of the first beach resorts in Italy, begun at the turn of the century and becoming instantly popular with royalty and the rich "beautiful people" who still flock to villas in the pines. The number of bathing establishments is enormous. Andrea Bocelli lives here; Armani has a villa. The streets are ordered with umbrella pines, dotted with Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Miu Miu. It offers a Wednesday market that deals in designer clothing, among other things. It is known to offer bargains and the place to go to get cut-price reproductions of expensive designer clothes. Close to Forte dei Marmi is Torre del Lago (sometimes called Torre del Lago Puccini), where Giacomo Puccini lived and wrote his operas. Today there`s an open-air theatre by the lake where one can enjoy Puccini`s operas beneath the stars. A summer festival is held here.
Gaiole in Chianti is an important city within the Chianti Classico region, located along the river Massellone and on the road connecting Chianti to Valdarno. It had its origins in mediaeval times as the market for the Castles of Vertine and Barbischio. Since it was a marketplace, it never had the need for defensive walls such as those in Radda in Chianti. The main attractions in Gaiole in Chianti are the wineries in its surroundings which include beautiful castles and parish churches. Among the most beautiful is the Parish Church of Spaltenna, displaying a valuable 15th century crucifix, the Castle of Vertine, a small medieval walled village, and the Abbey of Coltibuono, a former monastery now turned into a wine estate.
Nearby: Visit Radda in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, San Gusme, the Chianti area Distances: Siena - 20 miles, Florence - 44 miles, Arezzo - 35 miles
Genoa is one of the oldest and well preserved cities in Italy, offering to visitors many ancient Renaissance buildings, famous museums and very good restaurants. The main sights are: St. Lawrence Cathedral, the Old Harbor, transformed into a mall by architect Renzo Piano, and the famous cemetery of Staglieno renowned for its monuments and statues. The Museo d'Arte Orientale has one of the largest collections of Oriental art in Europe. Genoa also has the second largest aquarium in the world.
The oldest village in Umbria reached its full splendor in the Middle Ages; the Cathedral; the Consul`s Palace, symbol of the town; and the Ducal Palace are just some of the attractions that testify to Gubbio`s status as a jewel of Umbria. Gubbio is a well-preserved medieval hill town in the Umbria region of central Italy. Gubbio`s compact center has a good selection of medieval, Gothic, and Renaissance monuments built of gray limestone and has great views over the beautiful countryside. Just outside the town is a Roman amphitheater. Gubbio is also famous for its spectacular traditional festivals like the Corsa dei Ceri (Candle Race) and the Palio Balestra (a Medieval crossbow contest on horseback).
Must See`s: Roman Theater (dating from the 1st century AD); Church of San Francesco with an impressive rose window; Piazza Grande (Piazza della Signoria) with spectacular views over the countryside; Palazzo dei Consoli (huge 14th century Gothic building with the prized Eugubine tablets, seven bronze plaques from over 2000 years ago, written in the ancient Umbrian language): The Duomo; Palazzo Ducale; Porte del Morto and so much more.
Ischia delights with its superb thermal spa gardens where you can spend the day dipping in and out of thermal pools in between swimming in the sea. Thanks to its volcanic origins, Ischia boasts one of the best hydrothermal situations in the world. Modern and well-equipped spas offer a wide range of curative and beauty treatments surrounded by the magical scenery of this wonderful island. It also offers many dark sandy beaches.
Ischia is the largest of the beautiful islands located off the Gulf of Naples (19 miles WSW). The `Green Island` as it is known is around 30 square miles in size and is divided into six towns, Ischia, Casamicciola Terme, Lacco Ameno, Forio, Serrara Fontana and Barano. The most visited monument of the island is the Aragonese Castle.
Travel to Ischia is only available by boat from Naples and Sorrento.
Situated less than an hour by train or car from Milan, Como is a remarkable destination, not only for being used as a backdrop for one of the Star Wars movies, but also more importantly for its beauty. The dramatic backdrop of the azure lake makes this little town a romantic destination rivaling Venice. All romance aside, Como is a serene place to escape from the madness of the modern life, where visitors can savor every moment.
Formed by glaciers, Lake Garda, the largest and easternmost of the lakes, is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Its exotic landscape has attracted the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, whose villa near Gardone is one of the area's major attractions. Visitors come here to swim, windsurf, and enjoy the relaxing ambience of Garda's many pleasant lakeside resorts. The ancient fortified town of Sirmione, located on the south of the lake is one particularly popular destination.
Since the early 19th century, Baveno has been a well-known tourist resort, as witnessed by the precious examples of architecture, the beautiful villas of the surroundings among which, villa Henfrey (now Branca), where Queen Victoria stayed, and villa Fedora, which belonged to the composer Umberto Giordano. Baveno is also famous for quarrying of the precious pink granite, still carried out today. The main sight is the church, dedicated to Saint Jervis and Saint Protasio, with a 12th century facade.
Lake Maggiore is a popular tourist area with many international renowned destinations such as Arona, Belgirate, Stresa, Baveno, Verbano. Overlooking the area of Verbano, Belgirate has a characteristic town centre with loggia and portico houses. The main attraction is the Gothic church of St. Martha, with its 15th century frescoes and Romanic bell tower. Another important sight is the Villa Carlotta where Guido Gozzano, Rosmini and Manzoni stayed and that has been transformed nowadays in a hotel.
Stresa is a small town on the shores of Lake Maggiore, where relaxing is the main activity for tourists and locals alike. The lakeside promenade will give everyone a chance to admire both the lake scenery and the grand lakeside hotels. The Borromean Islands, where Hemingway set his famed A Farewell to Arms, are a short boat trip away, and it would be pity to miss them.
Also known as the 'Florence of the South', Lecce is situated in Southern Italy, region of Apulia, Lecce province. Geographically, Lecces lies in the middle of the Salento Peninsula and is best known for its unique style of baroque architecture, which bears its name - barocco leccese. Although its history goes back to pre-Roman times, Lecce's fine-grained yellow limestone buildings set the city apart from its neighbors.
The Tuscan gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, is crossed by canals and situated by the seaside. Planned as an ideal town in the 16th century, Livorno reveals its history through its districts characterized by the Medicean canals, which are still navigable, and through its port, overlooked by towers and fortresses, leading to the town center. It offers many bathing establishments, hospitable and welcoming, situated along the shoreline promenade that stretches for many miles among impressive 19th-century buildings, villas in the Liberty style and the green vegetation: pine trees, tamarisks and oleanders. The Terrazza Mascagni offers a wonderful view over some of the islands of the Tuscan archipelago: Elba, Capraia and Gorgona, as far as Corsica.
Beaches, Pisa and Lucca
Florence - 56 miles; Pisa - 15 miles, Lucca - 30 miles; Forte dei Marmi - 36 miles
Lucca is located on a plain at the foot of the Apuan Alps and is less than half an hour from the Tuscan coast. Lucca is one of Tuscany´s gems, a haven of religious buildings, interesting history and fabulous places to eat. Of Etruscan origin (founded in 180 BC), it belonged to the Romans and then proclaimed itself independent and stayed so for 5 centuries.
Lucca is famous for its Renaissance city walls that have remained intact while so many other Tuscan towns saw theirs destroyed in past centuries as they lost their military importance and became a pedestrian promenade circling the old town. It is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini. If you are interested in religious art, enter the 14th-century cathedral Duomo San Martino to see Nicola Pisano's Descent from the Cross or have a look at the multi-patterned columns at "San Michele", the church of the archangel. At the Doumo, visit the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, a moving sculpture by Jacopo della Quercia commemorating a young woman who died in childbirth. And be sure to take some time to enjoy Lucca's tranquil atmosphere and its many fine restaurants.
Nearby: Visit San Galgano, Terme di Petriolo, Bagni di Lucca Distances: Florence - 48 miles, Pisa - 11 miles , Siena - 89 miles
Manfredonia is situated on the coast, facing the south of Monte Gargano. The best time to visit is autumn, when you can enjoy the colors of the Umbra Forest. At Lesina and Varano, you'll find salt lakes where you can enjoy swimming and watersports in the mild climate and calm waters. The main sights are historic monuments - Byzantine, Romanesque, Norman, and medieval. In the church of San Domenico, the chapel of the Maddalena contains old paintings of the 14th century.
Having a charming location, on the meandering river Mincio, Mantua is one of Lombardy's finest cities that reached its peak on both the administrative and artistic level under the rule of the Gonzaga family. It still keeps the mark of the Renaissance period in its monuments and art collections. The old historic city centre has small medieval streets, many piazzas, churches or palaces, the most renowned one being the Palazzo Ducale with its many rooms, numerous courtyards and impressive frescoes.
Martina Franca is a charming, ancient city on the hills of Puglia, with Moorish flavor. This town is still part of the trulli district. Trulli are beehive-shaped houses that were built in the 13th century. The main attraction of the city is the splendid historical center built in Baroque style with monumental churches and beautiful squares. The core of the city from the Middle Ages makes the visiting trip worthwhile.
Massa Lubrense is popularly known as the legendary Land of Sirens, who lived along the coast and with their haunting and beautiful voices lured sailors onto the rocks. According to the legend, Ulysses passed for Leranto Bay, and built the temple of the goddess Athena. Leranto Bay or Baia di Ierantois one of the rare Italian places inhabited from the very ancient times, and the only intact creek of the Amalfi Coast. While at Massa Lubrense you will be able to taste sublime olive oil, fresh fruit, grapefruit, dairy products and cheeses. Excellent pastures feed optimum heifers, known as ?Vitelle di Sorrento? and even the wine is unbelievably good; the tradition to raise grapevine in the ancient Greek way is still used.
In 1990, 11 pedestrian routes were created through lemon and olive trees. The classical walk is a triangle with its points in Termini, Monte San Costanzo and Punta Campanella. You can do the walk in one direction or the other; whichever way it is a just spectacular!
Located inside a basin, surrounded by mountains standing up to 3,335 m, Merano is a nice place to visit for a day or two of relaxation or hiking to its surrounding mountainous wilderness. It is best known for its spa resorts, for its mild climate and clear air. Among the town's landmarks are the Museum of Tourism, which was opened in the spring of 2003 and shows the historical development of tourism in the South Tyrol, and the botanic garden. Both sites are located in the Chateaux Trauttmansdorff.
Milan is Italy`s window on Europe, its most sophisticated and high-tech metropolis. La Scala, its landmark, is one of Europe's most prestigious opera houses. In addition, it's the site of several world-renowned annual trade fairs. Milan is one of Europe's top shopping cities, with an incredible concentration of sophisticated, high style boutiques - and that's only fitting because Milan is the dynamo of the Italian fashion industry. Dolce & Gabbana, Ferré, Krizia, Moschino, Prada, Armani, and Versace have all catapulted to international stardom from design studios based here. Inevitably, shopping is of almost religious significance.
Recommended Stay: 2 nights
Must See`s: The Last Supper by Michelangelo, The Duomo, Pinacoteca di Brera, Quadrilatero d'Oro, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Scala museum and theatre, Piazza Fontana. Arco della Pace, the churches of Santa Maria delle Grazie and San Lorenzo, Corso Venezia and Piazza San Babila and Sforzesco Castle.
Mòdena is an important industrial town surnamed "the capital of engines" because of its automobiles factories: Ferrari, Maserati, and De Tomaso. It is also known for producing Lambrusco wine and balsamic vinegar. The old city in the centre is truly monumental, with one of Italy's finest Romanesque cathedrals. Mòdena is also a city of culture housing an university founded in 1683 with traditional strengths in medicine and law. It also famous as the birthplace of the tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
Montaione is a beautiful medieval village immersed in the heart of Tuscany, in the province of Florence. Set on a green hill, the village is surrounded by beautiful vineyards, olive trees and woods, offering an evocative landscape typical of the Tuscan countryside. Rich in history, Montaione is also famous for its glass-making, particularly in the production of bottles, flasks and cruets and which dates back to the 13th century.
Despite the destruction of the Second World War, the historical center and part of the fortified wall have preserved its ancient structure taking you back in time. Inside the center, visitors will find several important museums and churches including the Pretorian Palace which hosts the Civic Museum and the Church of San Regolo.
Nearby: Visit San Gimignano, Colle di Val d`Elsa, the Chianti area Distances: Siena - 40 miles, Florence - 33 miles, Arezzo - 80 miles
In the beautiful Umbra Forest, 10 miles north of Manfredonia, the site of Monte Sant`Angelo, standing on a spur, offers panoramic views of the surrounding terrain. The most important sight of Monte Sant`Angelo is the Sanctuary of Monte Sant`Angelo, built in the 13th century by Charles I of Anjou. Another attraction is the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (11th-12th centuries) has a façade with blind arcades and a baldachin portal with sculpted frames. The walls have Byzantine-style frescoes.
Montecatini Terme is heaven for those who love spa treatments! The curative powers of the hot springs and steaming vaporous caverns of the Valdinevole have been renowned for centuries. The Parco dei Termi, a long park of neoclassical temples expanding over the sources of various underground hot springs is the ideal place for relaxation. Here you will find Terme Tettuccio, a historic spa famous for its thermal waters. It`s a lavish Liberty-style building with a park was built in the latter part of the 18th century by Leopold of Hasburg, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He also had two other spas built, the Regina and the Leopoldine, and the three spas made this area famous all over Europe, boasting their obvious riches and royalty. There is also the Grotto of Monsummano, a series of lime caves with a steaming lake and hot rooms that are said to cure people who enter.
But it`s not only spas! Walk the town`s main street of Viale Verdi ; visit the Hamlet of Montecatini Alto with ancient castles, churches and towers upon an enchanting hill; and go to Piazza Giusti, an ancient sanctuary with its original stone flooring and noble coat of arms. There is also the Parlascio, a historic site of public markets and assemblies, the town center`s historic fountains, as well as the Roman Church of Saint Peter with its gorgeous paintings spanning through several historical ages.
Distances: Florence - 31 miles, Pisa - 33 miles, Siena - 74 miles
Montepulciano is an interesting walled hill town in Tuscany, built on a sloping and narrow limestone ridge in the heart of the Vino Nobile wine growing area and commanding the southeast part of Tuscany near the Umbrian border. It is the ancient Etruscan city of Nocera Alfaterna, (300BC). It is the biggest and highest of southern Tuscany`s hill towns with medieval alleyways, beautiful Renaissance palaces and churches as well as an impressive central square and views.
The fields around the town produce a violet-scented, orange-speckled ruby wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This area has been known since at least the 8th century for its superior wine. Vino Nobile is known as Tuscany`s number-two red because it`s slightly less beefy than Montalcino`s Brunello.
Nearby: Visit Val d` Orcia, Pienza, San Quirico d` Orcia, Bagno Vignoni Distances: Siena - 42 miles, Florence - 70 miles, Arezzo - 34 miles
Situated at the northern end of the region, Monteriggione occupies the peak of a small, rolling hill covered with cultivated slopes, vineyards and olives. Monteriggioni represents one of the most important walled castles in the territory, both exterior walls and the buildings within are some the best preserved in all of Italy, attracting tourists, architects, medieval historians and archaeologists. The intact fortified wall presents 14 towers and 2 gates. The town appears to float above the valley at night due to the hillside walls and towers being lit from below with light.
Special Note: Every July one of the most beautiful medieval festivals in the region is celebrated here. The city goes back in time to the Middle Ages; the streets fill up with craftsmen, cavaliers and people in period costume creating a really enchanting atmosphere. Dances, live performances, music, theatre, kids entertainment, duels, acrobats, storytellers and more entertain the public as well as recreate the atmosphere of what chaotic life in a castle used to be like. Be sure to exchange your euros with medieval coins to sample the wine and food of those times inside the castle.
Nearby: Visit Casole d'Elsa, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Colle di Val d'Elsa, Poggibonsi, Sovicille. Distances: Siena - 13 miles, Florence - 34 miles, Arezzo - 57 miles
The proximity of the city of Naples (Napoli) to the Vesuvius gives its inhabitants a certain edge. Its reputation as the most vibrant city in Italy can be a double-edged sword, explaining why some tourists like it and some hate it outright. Nonetheless, the charm of Naples resides in its narrow streets with numerous ancient churches, street markets, cafés, bars and restaurants, all leading to a cacophony of sounds and images embodying the spirit of the Italian South.
The Neapolitan Riviera is one of Italy?s most popular vacation destinations. Its coastline curves around the sun-soaked bays of Sorrento and Naples on Italy?s southwest coast. Inland you?ll find ancient ruins like Pompeii and natural wonders like Mount Vesuvius; cosmopolitan cities and rustic towns dot the coastline. The main city is Sorrento, with its designer boutiques and sidewalk cafés. Swing around the peninsula and you come to the hamlet of Massa Lubrense and then a bit further along the Amalfi Coast comes into view. Here, towns like Ravello and Positano spill down the cliff sides in vivid showers of pastel houses.
The Neapolitan Riviera is a rocky jagged promontory that shores up the southern end of the Bay of Naples. This peninsula of hilly terrain ends abruptly at a cliff that plunges sharply down to the Mediterranean Sea. From the Sorrento Coast, panoramic views sweep along the bay to Naples, Mount Vesuvius and across the water to the island of Capri. Sunset is absolutely stunning from the point of Massa Lubrense, Faro, or one of the coves below the cliffs on the promontory's edge. Along the coast of Sorrento you'll find numerous hidden bays, deep gorges, sandy sunbathing spots and hilltop hamlets.
Northern Umbria is an exquisite landscape of unblemished nature where olive trees, fields of sunflowers and wild flowers glow under the warmth of the Umbrian sunshine. Perugia, the capital, offers silky chocolates, medieval alleys, and one of Italy`s top painting galleries. Just east is one of Italy`s spiritual centers, the hill town of Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis. Further north the rocky border city of Gubbio is home to one of Italy`s wildest pagan festivals, and Città di Castello contains its own stash of art treasures. To the south, along the Tiber River valley, are the towns of Deruta and Torgiano, best known for their hand-painted ceramics and wine . This land is the home of so many high quality wines.
Must see`s: The famous wines of Montefalco, a ride on the Funivia Colle Eletto; water sports on Lake Trasimeno; the Eurochocolate festival or the Giostra della Quintana in Foligno.
Northwest Tuscany riding along the Apennines and the Emilia-Romagna border remains relatively uncrowded despite its being wedged between Florence and Pisa. The towns here enjoy true architectural beauty and charm: the maze of narrow streets in Lucca:Prato, with its renowned theater and the best cantucci in Tuscany; Pistoia, known in the Middle Ages for its murderous tendencies but today for Romanesque churches and beyond them stretches a land of genteel spas such as Montecatini Terme and tall alpine mountains buried in green forest and capped with snow.
Don`t forget the thousands of castles scattered across the Lunigiana; the tremendous peaks around the Garfagnana Valley which hide the marble of Michelangelo, a hotbed of the anarchy movement, and some of the most extensive caves in Italy; the fantasy world of the Pinocchio Park in Collodi, an attraction for children and adults alike, and the pampering experience of a thermal bath in Bagni di Lucca.
Distances: From Florence to Prato - 14 miles; to Pistoia - 25 miles; to Montecatini Terme - 31 miles;to Lucca - 47 Miles.
Prato to Pistoia - 13 miles; Pistoria to Montecatini Terme - 11 miles; Montecatini Terme to Lucca - 19 miles
One of the most dramatic hill towns in Italy. The site of the city is among the most dramatic in Europe, rising above the almost-vertical faces of tufa cliffs that are completed by defensive walls built of the same stone. The main attraction of the town is the spectacular Duomo, one of Italy`s finest Gothic buildings dating from 1290. Its glittering mosaic facade is visible for miles around.
Must See`s Duomo (Started in 1290 - the stunning facade is embellished with mosaics that shine in the sunlight. The Gothic style interior holds frescoes by Fra Angelico and Signorelli and beautiful wooden choir stalls.); Saint Patrick`s Well (an architectural marvel with a double spiral staircases running along the sides of the well, 62 meters deep, without meeting.); Underground city (Passages dug into the tufa beneath the city in use since Etruscan times); Torre del Moro (highest point in the city with incredible vews over the valley and hills); Albornz Fortress (a Spanish castle where an Etruscan temple once stood); Etruscan sites (remnants of the Etruscan wall around the town, tombs and a necropolis).
A former Roman settlement, Padua's importance grew during the 13th and 16th centuries when it had become the second biggest university city in Europe. Dante and Copernicus studied here, Petrarch and Galileo taught here. It has a picturesque atmosphere. "Basilica di Sant'Antonio" with the grave of "Sant'Antonio" is the most important attraction. Here one can also admire works by medieval and renaissance artists, such as Giotto. The Prato della Valle, the biggest square in Europe is worth a visit.
Palermo is the capital of Sicily, notorious for its mafia glamour. All organized crime aside, Palermo has plenty to offer to the intrepid visitor. Palermo`s Arab-Norman buildings are unique on Earth. There are also plenty of treasures to uncover in its rather forgotten museums. Arabic and North African influences are still visible in outdoors markets such as Vuccirria, and an interesting mélange of Arab, Byzantine, Norman and baroque architectural styles are visible to the trained eye.
Parma is a medieval city, famous for its architectures and the beautiful countryside around it. The boulevards are stylish, there are many important sights like: the Romanesque Cathedral, the church of Saint John, the Monastery of Saint Paul, the Museo Lombardi that exhibits a collection of art and historical items regarding Maria Luigia of Habsburg and her first husband Napoleon Bonaparte. Around Parma you can visit many castles that belonged to the Duc of Parma and Piacenza.
A lively medieval walled hill town that is Umbria`s main city. The historic center abounds with cultural and architectural masterpieces and offers one of the most extensive museum collections in Italy. Perugia is famous for chocolate and holds its chocolate festival, Eurochocolate, in mid-October. It also hosts a huge international Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival that runs for two weeks in July and MusicFestPerugia, two weeks of classical music performances in historic monuments and churches in August. A truly pleasurable experience is to wander through the narrow streets and along the walls at the edge of town for views of the valley. It is also a good base for visiting other hill towns in Umbria such as Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio.
Must See`s: Piazza IV Novembre (a large, open square with Fontana Maggiore, surrounded by the Duomo), the Palazzo dei Priori, and medieval buildings with shops and bars); Fontana Maggiore ( decorated with intricately carved panels of astrological signs, Aesop`s fables, mythical monsters); Palazzo dei Priori (houses the National Art Gallery of Umbria and three other museums); Corso Vannucci (main pedestrian street, lined with elegant shops, restaurants and bars); Rocca Paolina (fortress built by Pope Paul III over buildings he destroyed); 3rd century BC Etruscan well, the Etruscan Arch (one of the city gates), and remains of the massive Etruscan wall around the city); Tempio di Sant`Angelo (5th century Roman temple); remains of the Roman wall and Roman city gates.
Pienza, in the Val d`Orcia in Tuscany, between the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino, is the `touchstone of Renaissance urbanism.` In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire valley, the Val d`Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO's World Cultural Landscapes.
It is widely known as the `ideal` city of the Renaissance, the creation of the great humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini that later became Pope Pius II. Piccolomini had the money and influence to transform his birthplace village, the humble Corsignano, into what he considered a Utopian city should be, exemplifying the principles and philosophy of classical times and of the great Italian Renaissance. The project was designed by the architect Bernardo `il Rossellino`. In only 3 years, a group of amazing and harmonious buildings were realized: the Cathedral, the Papal or Piccolomini Palace, the Town Hall, and the lovely central square. Today, village of Pienza retains its remarkable city-size piazza, one of the grandest achievements of Renaissance architecture and the only intact example of a city-planning scheme from the era. Director Franco Zeffirelli was so taken by the village's look he dethroned Verona as the city of the Montagues and Capulets and filmed his Romeo and Juliet in Pienza. Pienza was also used in the Oscar-winning epic The English Patient.
Nearby: Montepulciano, Montalcino, Chianciano Terme, Distances: Siena - 34 miles , Florence - 74 miles , Arezzo - 38 miles
Best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, yet there are other architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city. Around the Campo dei Miracoli`s perimeter you`ll also find the Camposanto, Opera del Duomo museum and Museum of the Sinopie. A few blocks away, the Piazza dei Cavalieri once was the heart of power in the city and later the headquarters of the Knights of St. Stephen. Today, it is a center of culture and learning as the famous Scuola Normale di Pisa has its base in the Palazzo della Carovana that faces onto the piazza. Birthplace of the famed Galileo Galilei, Pisa is also home to one of Italy?s top universities. The city is animated by the students, who organize parties, shows, and cultural events, and fill the central street of the city at night. The University of Pisa has 60,000 students in a city of about 100,000 inhabitants. Few bother to find out that Pisa was founded circa 1000 b.c. and became an important maritime republic alongside Venice, Amalfi, and Genoa.
Nearby: Tuscan Coast, Lucca
Distances: Florence - 62 miles, Lucca - 10 miles, Forte dei Marmi - 25 miles, Tirrenia - 10 miles
Pistoia`s centro storico offers elegance and refined beauty, its Roman origins are clearly visible, with an unforeseen series of churches, cloisters, palaces and art treasures. It is sometimes referred to as a "little Florence" for its amazing concentration of art and architecture in a city barely half the size of Lucca. Pistoia's amazing main square, the Piazza del Duomo, is bounded by some outstanding examples of medieval architecture, including the Cathedral of San Zeno and its bell tower and the 14th century Gothic Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte. Adjacent is the medieval marketplace, still in service today, the market stalls in medieval style with heavy shutters and stone benches. Amidst the narrow, Medieval streets and irregularly-shaped piazzas, prestigious palaces and small tower-houses, a surprising city emerges, bearing an innate and discrete charm, perfect for travelers who appreciate quality and slow-paced tourism.
Montecatini Terme, Pescia, Prato
Florence ? 26 miles, Siena ? 66 miles, Montecatini Terme ? 10 miles, Lucca ? 25 miles
Although the area around Poggibonsi was already settled in the Neolithic age, the first traces of civilization dates from Etruscan-Roman age, attested by a series of necropolises and by place names such as `Talciona` or `Marturi` (from the Etruscan name of Mars). The inner old town of Poggibonsi actually corresponds to the ancient urban layout of Borgo Marturi, a settlement belonging to the overhanging Abbey and Castle bearing the same name. As early as the beginning of the 12th century, the village was an essential cross-road on the ancient Francigena Road. Sites of interest are the Fonte delle Fate (fairies` fountain) of the 13th Century, with its beautiful ogival arches and the unfinished fortress, designed in 1478 and from the Convent of San Lucchese, first belonging to the Camaldolese order and then from 1213 to the Franciscans.
Nearby: Visit the Chianti Area with the town of Castellina in Chianti, Radda in Chianti etc. San Gimignano is only 11 Km away
Distances: Siena - 20 miles, Florence - 25 miles, Arezzo - 67 miles
Portofino is one of the most beautiful resorts of the Italian Riviera southeast of Genoa. Mountains with beautiful sceneries, clear bays, thick evergreen forests, a National Park, all make Portofino an ideal place for a relaxing vacation. One of the most scenic walks takes you uphill for about 10 minutes along a signposted path from the west side of town just behind the harbor to the Chiesa di San Giorgio, built on the site of a sanctuary Roman soldiers dedicated to the Persian god Mithras.
Positano seems to be standing, leaning against the jagged mountain rock face, with many multicolored houses that seem to be built in a single cluster, all on top of each other. The town is very unique and incredibly attractive. It is the kingdom of many flights of little steps, of narrow passageways enlivened and colored by wonderful shops, lively bars and cafes, and restaurants that specialize in seafood.
Positano was originally a Roman settlement where wealthy patricians had seaside villas. Ruins from that epoch are found near the Church of Assunta. The majolica tiled dome of the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta can be seen from every corner of the town. A Byzantine inspired Icon of a black Madonna, dating back to the 18th century, is conserved inside the church. The beaches of Positano are formed from volcanic sand and small stones, which lend to the background. The main beach of Positano is large and located at the foot of the town; rocky mountains separate the main beach from smaller seashores: Fornillo beach, situated just to the left and La Porta and Arienzo beaches just to the right of the main beach.
Puzzuoli is a pleasant, colorful maritime town. The main attraction is the Anfiteatro Flavio, built in the last part of the 1st century and the third biggest in Italy. One of the finest surviving ancient arenas, it's particularly famous for its large underground cavers where exotic beasts from Africa were caged before being turned loose in the ring to test their jungle skill against a gladiator. In the immediate vicinity is the Solfatara - the most impressive volcanic phenomenon known.
Just 10 miles from Florence, Prato is a charming Tuscan town with 13th-century stone walls and watchtowers which enclose a beautifully preserved pristine city that is easily walked. In its historic center you will find the Emperor's Castle (Castello dell'Imperatore) which stands out as a testimony to the unique Swabian architecture of central southern Italy). On the facade of the Duomo is the Pulpit by Donatello and Michelozzo, used for the revealing of the Sacra Cintola (usually every September 8, during the Historic Court). Adorned with local albarese stone and rich green marble, Fra Filippo Lippi?s magnificent frescoes in the Cattedrale di Santo Stefano are newly restored.
Located up on a hill, covered with woods and extensive vineyards between the valleys of Arbia and Pesa, Radda in Chianti is a beautiful medieval town enclosed in large defensive walls. It has ancient origins, inhabited since the 9th century and was already mentioned in a document from 1002. After being fortified in 1400 it was, from 1415 onwards, head of the League of Chianti, and it preserves the remains of its ancient walls. The town maintains its medieval look characterized by narrow streets meeting in the main square where you'll find the Church of San Niccolo, of 14th century origin and the Palazzo Pretorio, built about 1415.
Just outside the village, in the Vignale farm, are the headquarters of the Chianti Classico consortium and the Centro di Studi Chiantigiani (Centre for Chianti Studies), founded in 1984, with a small library and an archive devoted to the history of Chianti and its agriculture. In the surroundings of Radda you`ll find many castles and parish churches, such as the medieval Castle of Volpaia.
Nearby: Visit the Chianti area, Castellina, Greve, Panzano, Volpaia Distances: Siena - 17 miles, Florence - 32 miles, Arezzo - 37 miles
Rapallo is a beautiful old seaside resort known especially for its pleasant climate that made it over the years the winter residence for most of the Italians. The symbol of Rapallo is its old castle surrounded by the sea that once had to defend the city from pirate invasions and where nowadays original art exhibitions are held. Take the funicular up to the Holy Virgin of Montallegro hill and admire the most breathtaking view. The walls inside the 7th century shrine still preserve many precious "ex-voto".
Ravello is one of the most charming towns on the Amalfi Coast. It is situated in a more elevated position than the other pearls of the Amalfi Coast and it boasts exceptional landscapes that have earned Villa Cimbrone`s terrace the name of "Terrace of Infinity". It offers some of the best views of the famous coastline, with sweeping seascapes and breathtaking scenery. The town`s villas offer vivid vantage points for the views. Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo are famous for their encompassing panoramas. Villa Rufolo inspired the composer Wagner when he wrote his famed opera, Parsifal. Ravello is still known for its musical events, including the Ravello Festival, which is strongly connected to the composer and his symphonies. The town boasts its cultural roots, too; just stroll the alleyways, enjoy the architecture and piazzas to see the town`s history and pride at its best.
A recommended tour is to take the bus uphill, then walk back downhill to Amalfi. There`s a nice path alongside a stream between Amalfi and Ravello and it is well signed on the maps. Have lunch in Ravello and then walk off the pasta on the pathway! The views make it well worth the effort.
Located on the Adriatic midway between Venice and Florence, Ravenna is a city with a great history. It has been the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the Visigoth Empire, and the Byzantine Empire under Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora. Today, it is best known for the Byzantine mosaic decoration of its churches and tombs that have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city itself is very charming, with many good restaurants and a lively nightlife.
The northernmost town on the Lake Garda, Riva del Garda is one of the most spectacular spots. A prosperous Italian town, with medieval towers, churches and palazzi from the Renaissance period, Riva del Garda is best known as Europe's windsurfing capital. One of the most amazing sights in the area, Cascata Verone is located just out of town. Other fascinating sights in this region are the Dolomites, a section of the Alps, with amazing viewing locations at the top of the various peaks.
Rome is Italy's treasure, packed with masterpieces from more than two millennia of artistic achievement. Modern Rome has one foot in the past, one in the present. Find a cafe at summer twilight and watch the shades of pink turn to gold and copper before night finally falls. That's when another Rome comes alive; restaurants and cafes grow more animated and after dinner you can have a gelato (or an espresso in winter) or stroll by the fountains or through Piazza Navona, and the night is yours.
Recommended Stay: At least 3 nights Must See`s:
Roman Colosseum, Roman Forum, Vatican, Pantheon, Capitoline Museums, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Ancient Appian Way, Borghese Gallery and so much more!
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the Tuscany, known as the `City of Beautiful Towers`, which has preserved its medieval appearance more completely than any other town in Tuscany. It stands on the site of a small Etruscan settlement dating to second BC. Its history begins around the Tenth Century. Truly a little gem, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Walking through the Old City means plunging into the Middle Ages and getting a taste of what the city must have been like more than seven hundred years ago.
The Old City is enclosed with 13th-century walls and is accessed by two main streets that intersect to create two wonderful piazzas. It is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form `an unforgettable skyline`. Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches. The town also is known for the white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area. San Gimignano is also famous for its Torture museum, with a display of instruments and devices for torture in various times and places.
Nearby: Visit Colle val d` Elsa, Casole d` Elsa, the Chianti area Distances: Siena - 29 miles, Florence - 32 Miles, Arezzo - 74 miles
Founded in Roman times, San Remo has become nowadays the most cosmopolitan resort on the Italian Riviera, catering mostly to sun-seeking families with a wonderful climate all year round. Shaped like an amphitheatre between Cape Verde eastwards and Cape Nero westwards, it offers visitors a long stretch of beach and a hilltop Old Town known as La Pigna and also, for cosmopolitan pleasures, a casino. San Remo hosts several cultural events such as the Sanremo Music Festival.
Sant`Agnello di Sorrento is located between Piano di Sorrento and Sorrento itself, overlooking the Gulfs of Naples and Salerno, shaped as a squat rectangle. This splendid town is geographically really old; it dates back indeed to the Quaternary Age. Sant`Agnello is a quieter alternative to staying in the centre of Sorrento . There are restaurants and bars around Piazza Sant`Agnello and near the coast, with great views. Near the cliff top is a Capuchin church and monastery (1586). Views from Sant`Agnello`s cliffs are as dramatic as those from Sorrento and the typical (for the area) beach area is reached by steep steps/escalator. Enjoy the great views and sacrifice a padlock to declare your undying love.
Not as famous as its neighbor Portofino, only 15 minutes away, Santa Margherita Ligure is a fashionable Mediterranean resort, and makes a pleasant base to explore the Cinque Terre villages which are about 60 minutes by a train that leaves every hour. One can also catch day trip cruises to the villages. Santa Margarita has a pleasant promenade and an attractive small old town. To the west the rocky coast is interrupted by little inlets, among which there is Paraggi, with a strip of sandy beach ideal for sunbathing.
Siena is a city of brick, where urban development all but ceased after the great plague of the 14th century, busy as it was defending itself. Today, Siena is one of the largest Tuscan cities to maintain a distinctively medieval atmosphere and a great place to discover Tuscany at its medieval best, with numerous gothic palaces, pastry shops, and unequaled altarpieces.
The best-know town on the Neapolitan Riviera is Sorrento, which is situated in a stunning location, on a long cliff amid lemon and olive groves overlooking the sea. Sorrento offers charming cobblestone streets, alluring lungomare (seafront promenade), colorful and fragrant flowers, matchless vistas, and lively cultural scene. The old town still retains its Roman grid of narrow streets and its centro storico are alive with cafes, clubs, and restaurants, which become positively crowded during the sweet nights of summer. A ravine divides the town with the pretty old town on one side and the suburban area with hotels on the other. Emperor Augustus and his successor, Tiberius, were two of Sorrento`s early devotees. In later years, the town became a favorite destination for artists and writers, as well as tourists.
Sorrento offers seaside splendor coupled with easy access to other points of interest: to the west, the best of the peninsula`s unspoiled countryside and, beyond that, the Amalfi Coast; to the north, Pompeii and the archaeological sites; off-shore, the fabled island of Capri. There are hamlets in the hills that should be explored, too. These time-worn villages maintain their traditions and their charm. Visit Vico Equense, which is dwarfed by the Lattari Mountains that rise up behind it, the village of Seiano, the white-washed town of Priora and Sant`Agata sui Due Golfi, high in the hills. Up here you`ll find natural beauty, hiking trails, tranquility and clean, dry air. The park of the Villa Communale offers a fantastic view across the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Also found nearby are the most famous villas of the Roman Age are Agrippa Postumo`s villa with a water lily fishpond, and artificial wharfs; the villa at Capo di Sorrento (known as Queen Giovanna`s baths); the villa at Punta of Massa; and the villa at Punta della Campanella. Sorrento marks the start of the 43-mile infamously winding coastal road that runs to Salerno.
South East Tuscany is a land of castle-dominated hill towns, misty blue mountains, and the remnants of Apennine forests. Snowy-white cattle graze in the wide Chiana Valley, while light industry toils at the edges of medieval centers. Splendid landscapes where you can find famous monastic settlements, completely surrounded by century-old trees and numerous Romanesque parishes. This is the area where the humanist Renaissance of Florence meets and melds with the intangible, hazy spirituality of Umbria`s green hills.
Nearby: Arezzo, Cortona, Anghiari, Monterchi , Sansepolcro and the beautiful castle of Poppi - these are just some of the most beautiful towns in South East Tuscany, waiting to be discovered on your Tuscan trip.
The hill towns and valleys south of Siena comprise perhaps Tuscany`s most captivating and picturesque region, much of the area is filled with the expansive and beautiful Val d'Orcia (most people`s idealized picture of Tuscany). It is a land of medieval castles guarding narrow road passes, isolated farmhouses sitting atop long, eroded limestone ridges, clusters of cypress and ribbons of plane trees against a rural setting, and thermal spas dating from long times past. Most of the region has been landscaped over thousands of years, turning the low, rolling hills into farmlands and vineyards that produce Tuscany`s mightiest red wines.
Southern Tuscany`s cities are textbook Italian hill towns. This is Etruscan country, where the necropolis near Sovana hints at a rich and somewhat mysterious pre-Roman civilization, where Roman settlements like Montalcino and Montepulciano grew into medieval cities and today produce two of Italy`s top red wines, the powerhouse Brunello di Montalcino and the noble Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. And where the gemlike village of Pienza shelters within its tiny ring of walls a Renaissance core of the most perfect proportions and planning.
Southern Umbria offers a kaleidoscope of colors and a wide variety of different landscapes. Spoleto, once seat of the Lombard duchy that controlled most of Umbria in the Dark Ages, today offers its world-class music-and-dance Spoleto Festival. Moving west, Montefalco is home of fine Sagrantino wines. Todi, a quintessential Italian hill town offers medieval charm. Farther south Orvieto, rises above the valley with its giant cathedral and perhaps the best white wine in Italy. Interesting architecture from the Etruscans, the Umbrians, the Romans, the Lombards who left their permanent marks on buildings and artifacts today seen in museums, castles and cathedrals.
Orvieto´s magnificent Gothic cathedral; Spoleto`s festival performances; Amelia, the most untouched Etruscan village; Monti Sibillini, a land of demons, fairies and fortune-tellers, as well as a paradise for its magnificent flora and fauna.
A picturesque walled medieval hill town that boasts a thousand-year-old history. The first Roman settlement, Spoletium, began in 241 BC and there are Roman remnants throughout the historic center. The town is built on a hillside with most of the sites in the compact upper town. Above the town is a medieval Rocca and spanning the deep gorge to one side of the Rocca is the most famous sight, Ponte delle Torri or Bridge of Towers.
Must See`s: Ponte delle Torri ( a 14th century bridge built over the foundation of a Roman aqueduct); Rocca Albornoziana (built on the foundation of the Roman acropolis in the 14th century); Piazza del Duomo and the Duomo are at the foot of a scenic stairway (The Teatro Caio Melisso, one of Italy`s first theaters, is on one side of the square); Piazza del Mercato (once the site of the Roman Forum); Casa Romana (believed to have been the house of Vespasia Polla, mother of Emperor Vespasian who was responsible for building the Roman Colosseum); The Roman Theater (built in the first century).
Syracuse (Siracusa, in Italian), is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and was once considered one of the most impressive cities in the Greek World, competing for supremacy with Athens and even taking on the rising powers of Rome and Carthage. The multi-millennia decline is rather visible, and the Old City probably the only worth visiting on the small island of Ortygia, abundant in ancient ruins, as well as medieval and baroque buildings.
Taormina dates back to the 4th century BC, when it was a Greek colony. Dimmed the most beautiful town in Sicily for its location on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea with Mount Etna in the background, it achieved international fame in the early 20th century when it became a huge magnet for expatriate writers and intellectuals. Countless stores and cafes, along with numerous piazzas and palazzi dating as far back as the 15th century will give you plenty to do and see while visiting.
Taranto is an important military and commercial port in Apulia, Southern Italy, thought to be founded by the ancient Spartans, who used to call it Taras. Seafood is this town's claim for fame, as its strategic location, on a peninsula bordering the seas of Piccolo and Grande make it easy to be awash in the region's (some say even Italy's) best shellfish.
Petriolo Thermal Bath is near the town of Monticiano, in the province of Siena, situated on the road that connects Siena to Grosseto. The environment is natural and enchanting - there's a forest made of oaks, holms and strawberry trees. You can still admire Roman tombs and the ancient medieval bath, made of 4 rooms. Petriolo Thermal bath is the only remaining fortified bath (dated 1404). Above of the present bath lies a Romanesque church and a small bell tower (1276).
The sulphurous water gushes from the springs and falls in the river Farma with a series of waterfalls and pools carved into the rocks where you can swim. The particularity of Petriolo is that in the same place you have two completely different situations: at one side the hot waters of the thermal spring and on the other the cold waters of the river Farma. So Petriolo is very indicated for those who suffer circulatory disorders. Access is free. The water is salt-sulfate-bicarbonate-alkaline-sulphurous hyper thermal (43 ° C) and contains a very high rate of sulfur and carbon. It is used for baths, mud, inhalations, facial masks very effective in treating skin diseases, respiratory problems, orthopedic and rheumatism. The place is enchanting both in summer and winter, but it could be very crowded especially on Saturday night.
Nearby: Monticiano, Montalcino, Siena, Distances: Siena - 21 miles , Florence - 61 miles , Arezzo - 72 miles
The modern and elegant resort of Tirrenia is set in a vast Mediterranean pine forest, at the center of the Tuscan coast. The town boasts a wide, stretch of beach is mostly occupied by bathing establishments but there are also short stretches of free beach that are perfect for sunbathing and enjoying the clear, blue sea. A wide variety of sports can be practiced on the beaches or in the many sporting facilities immersed in the green of the pine forest: beach volleyball, sailing, underwater fishing, tennis, soccer, golf, horse riding. Tirrenia`s pine woods and dunes reserve - a protected area of unique flora and fauna run by the WWF - are perfect for relaxing walks, hikes and bicycle and horse rides.
Nearby: Beaches, Pisa and Lucca
Florence - 56 miles; Pisa - 10 miles, Lucca - 25 miles; Forte dei Marmi - 31 miles
A picturesque medieval hill town surrounded by medieval, Roman and Etruscan walls. Although it`s a hill town, its center at the top of the hill is flat. The central piazza, originally the Roman forum, has several beautiful medieval buildings. Sights are close together and there are good places to linger, enjoying the views. Todi is a peaceful base for visiting southern Umbria.
Must See`s Piazza del Popolo (built above Roman cisterns, was the site of the Roman forum); Palazzo del Popolo (one of Italy`s oldest public building); Palazzo del Capitano (grand building housing the Etruscan-Roman Museum and the Pinacoteca, art museum); The Duomo (built over a Roman temple); Tempio di San Fortunato (built in 1292 with 13th-14th century frescoes and tomb of Jacopone da Todi, a medieval poet and mystic); Santa Maria della Consolazione (one of central Italy`s best Renaissance churches); Santa Maria in Camuccia (erected in the 7th-8th centuries between the two Roman perimeter walls. Underneath the church is an archaeological excavation); San Nicolo` de Cryptis (built in 1093 on the site of the Roman amphitheater) and Piazza del Mercato Vecchio (also has some Roman remains).
Founded by the Romans, Trento is a beautiful city on the banks of the Adige River surrounded by mountains. Although it spent most of its history, from the 10th century though 1813, as a German-Austrian bishopric ruled by powerful princely bishops, Trento is essentially Italian with broad piazze and ocher-colored palaces, unlike other towns in the north, which tend to lean heavily on their Austrian heritage. Walk around the historic centre and admire the outdoor fresco's on historic buildings.
Treviso is a prosperous small city in the northern Veneto. The charm of Treviso does not just lie in its heritage of churches and buildings, but much more in the intimate atmosphere of the city. The main attractions are the medieval palazzi and houses with painted facades, churches frescoed by Tomaso da Modena, and the medieval streets cut across by pretty canals. The most charming corners of the city are: Isola della Pescheria, Canale dei Buranelli, Ponte San Francesco with the windmill.
Idyllically placed where the Mediterranean touches the heart of Europe, Trieste is a beautiful city with medieval, neoclassical, and modern buildings. Its sights include numerous examples of Art Nouveau and neoclassical architecture from its Austrian past, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, International School for Advanced Studies, Trieste University, and a beautiful coastline outside the city. Don't miss the Cathedral of S. Giusto, and the castle with some baroque extensions.
Tuscany`s coastline begins at Bocca di Magra, the mouth of the Magra River and runs almost to the Arno. This coastline is made up of extensive beaches surrounded by high dunes and fresh pinewoods, characterized by clean water (certified blue flag beaches), interesting villages, and a background of the Apuan Alps, known for its famous marble production.
Sun and clear seas as well as fun and fashion can be found in Forte dei Marmi and Viareggio, and culture in Pietrasanta and Camaiore. Pietrasanta is famous for being the land of artists and marble workers, known as Little Athens, whereas Camaiore boasts a wealth of relics from the past. The Pisan coastline offers total relaxation and secluded beaches. Sandy beaches, clear sea and vast Mediterranean pine groves can be found near Marina di Pisa, Tirrenia and Calambrone. Along the Etruscan Coast there are countless corners of paradise: from Antignano to Quercianella and Castiglioncello as well as Vada di Rosignano Marittimo, four very different beaches yet all provide beautiful views of the sea. There are Blue Flag beaches a-plenty at Cecina, Marina di Bibbona, Castagneto Carducci and San Vincenzo as well as the Nature Park of Sterpaia (Piombino), with its sandy dunes in the very heart of nature, complete with pine woods. Another resort worth seeing is Castiglione della Pescaia, with its old town center that dominates the coastline.
Umbria, the only Italian Region having neither a coastline or a border with other countries, is characterized by hills and historical towns such as Assisi (a World Heritage Site associated with St. Francis of Assisi), Norcia (the hometown of St. Benedict), Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi, Città di Castello, Orvieto, Castiglione del Lago, Narni, Amelia, and other small cities. Umbria offers a union of art, nature, peace and calm, which is brought to climax in its Renaissance masterpieces and small medieval towns embedded in the hills. Removed from outside influences, the Etruscans, Romans and medieval feuding families have left their indelible imprint on its pretty hill towns and its countryside with overlapping hills and wildflower-flecked meadows. Often called Italy's green heart for its nature parks, it also has one of Italy's largest lakes, spectacular waterfalls, and an interesting mummy collection.
With sumptuous palaces and romantic waterways, Venice is straight out of an 18th-century Canaletto masterpiece. No matter how many times you have seen it in movies or TV commercials, the real thing is more surreal and dreamlike than you ever imagined. Its landmarks, the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale are exotic mélanges of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. It is full of secrets, ineffably romantic, and - at times - given over entirely to pleasure. You must walk everywhere in Venice and where you cannot walk, you go by water.
Recommended Stay: 2 nights Must See`s:
Basilica of San Marco, St. Mark`s Square, The Doge`s Palace, Accademia gallery, Peggy Guggenheim Collection , The Rialto Bridge, Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands and so much more!
The city of Verona in the province of Veneto, Northern Italy, rivals Venice in terms of magic and romance. Visitors turn here in numbers, making this town the most visited of the province after Venice. Aside from Romeo and Juliet's strong pull, Verona is a charming medieval and Renaissance city, with numerous medieval palazzi, churches, towers, and centuries-old piazzas. Among other objectives of interest are the Roman amphitheatre (the third largest in Italy), Arco dei Gavi, Basilica of San Zeno.
Viareggio is the southernmost Italian Riviera style resort on Italy`s Mediterranean coast and the largest beach town in Tuscany. Liberty style buildings housing shops, cafes, and seafood restaurants line its promenade and there are several good Liberty style villas, including one built by Puccini, in town. There are excellent beach establishments along the whole stretch of this beach where you pay for loungers, umbrellas and have the use of the attached bars, restaurants and showers. The sea is usually calm and good for swimming. A long seafront promenade lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants runs between the beach and town. The south end has Liberty-style architecture. The promenade is the place to see and be seen, especially during the evening passeggiata. A holiday here offers you the best of everything, from a perfect beach holiday to a hectic round of shopping and night clubs to a nature lovers paradise.
Nearby: Beaches, Pisa and Lucca
Distances: Florence - 62 miles; Pisa - 14 miles, Lucca - 16 miles; Forte dei Marmi - 12 miles
Situated 60 km west from Venice, Vicenza is a town with a great history. Surrnamed "the City of Palladio" due to its great Palladian architectural treasures considered of exceptional interest and value, Vicenza has been included in the UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1994. Don't miss the Villa Capra (also known as "La Rotonda"), centrally located in Vicenza's Piazza dei Signori, of which Palladio himself said that it might stand comparison with any similar work of antiquity the Teatro Olimpico.
Volterra stands on a rocky hill some 1770 feet above the sea level, surrounded by strong walls. The city of Volterra has its roots in 3,000 years of history. It is possible to find evidence and traces from every historical period: The ancient city walls, the imposing Porta all`Arco, the Necropolis of Marmini and the numerous archeological finds conserved in the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci bear testimony of the Etruscan period; the Theatre of Vallebona survives from the period of Augustus and suggests the importance of Volterra under Roman domination. Today the city conserves above all a medieval aspect not only for the 12th century city walls but also because of the urban layout with narrow streets, palaces, tower houses and churches. The Renaissance had an important influence on Volterra as well, from this period are the superb palaces of Minucci Solaini, Incontri-Viti and Inghirami, , the imposing Fortezza Medicea and the Convent of San Girolamo.
Volterra is the city of alabaster par excellence. The large natural deposits of alabaster in its surroundings are considered one of the most precious around the world given its particular compactness, transparency, veins and hardness. The Museum of Alabaster in Volterra displays over 300 alabaster art works made between the 18th and 19th centuries. The private collection has been assembled over the course of 30 years by the Bruchi family.
Nearby: Visit San Gimignanco, Colle val d` Elsa, Poggibonsi, the Chianti area Distances: Siena - 34 miles, Florence - 47 Miles, Pisa - 44 miles, Arezzo - 89 miles
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