Italy - irusso

 

If you plan on traveling to any of these locations, here is some advice based on our experiences. Click a location to see more.

Click here if you want to view or print the full list.

  • To drive the Amalfi Coast is to take the SS163 from Sorrento on the west end all the way to Salerno on the east end. If you have flexibility in your timing, try to be traveling east (towards Salerno) in the afternoon or traveling west (towards Sorrento) in the morning so that the sun will be behind you for better picture-taking.

    Lodging

    Hotel La Bussola

    Older hotel located on the waterfront in Amalfi. The main road on the Amalfi Coast SS163 runs right in front of the hotel so it can be a little bit noisy. But convenient to town and to the pier. Older, traditional hotel which some might consider "dated" but otherwise a good deal.

    Hotel Le Terrazze

    Small town of Conca dei Marini (located between Amalfi and Positano); beautiful hotel on cliff with gorgeous ocean views

    Restaurants

    Ristorante Pizzeria Il Tari

    Small local ristorante, located a short walking distance up the hill from the main piazza in Amalfi.

    Stella Maris

    Located on via Marina Grande (also the SS163) right ion the waterfront, just a few steps north of the pier. Good views, great views, altogether enjoyable evening.

    Trattoria Da Meme

    Via Salita Marino Sebaste, 8. Small family-run trattoria. Somewhat difficult to find but worth the effort; maybe 100 yards up from the main piazza, left through a small winding alley and up some stairs. Follow the signs. Great local fish, Mediterranean dishes, traditional Italian dishes.

    Sights

    Boats Along the Coast

    From either Positano or Amalfi, you can take a boat ride between the two towns and get an altogether different perspective on the amazing architecture and engineering along the Amalfi Coast. The view from the ocean is remarkably different than from the highway.

    Mount Vesuvius

    Monte Vesuvio is located on the other side of the mountains from the Amalfi Coast, nearer to Naples. You can drive almost all the way to the top; just follow the clearly marked signs off the main Autostrade. You can park your car in an actual parking lot -- a rarity in rural Italy -- and then "hike" the rest of the way to the summit on a dirt road. At the top, there's a trail that goes all the way around the crater as well as gorgeous views of Naples, the Bay of Naples, Sorrento and Capri.

    Ruins of Pompeii

    The ruins of Pompeii are located directly adjacent to Monte Vesuvio, for those not familiar with the 79 A.D. fate of the ancient Italian city. The ruins and what's left of Pompeii are fascinating but the really good stuff has long ago been removed to the National Museum in nearby Naples.

    The Town of Amalfi

    The town of Amalfi is located midway between Sorrento and Salerno on the SS163. The town has a rich history and in 12th and 13th centuries was a major naval power in the Mediterranean.

    The Town of Positano

    The town of Positano is located midway between Sorrento and Salerno on the SS163. Positano is decidedly more upscale and expensive than neighboring Amalfi, with many art galleries and shopping and high-end hotels. It is also, along with Ravello, among the most photographed locations along the entire Amalfi Coast.

    The Town of Ravello

    The town of Ravello is located off the SS163, closer to Amalfi than to Positano, and clearly marked on the road. The town itself sits high above the sea with gorgeous views up and down the coastline.

    Vietri al Mare

    Excellent pottery and ceramics shopping in the small town of Vietri S. Mare, located on the SS163 on the east end of the Amalfi Coast near Salerno.

  • Beautiful medieval hill town, best known for the stunning Basilica di San Franceso (Saint Francis), built in 1228 and containing the tomb of St. Francis. Perhaps almost as famous as the Basilica itself are Giotto's 28 frescoa panels in the lower church, depicting the life of St. Francis (painted between 1290-1295). The town of Assisi itself is also worth a couple of hours to explore: beautiful streets adorned with bright flowers, large open piazzas with lots of fountains, terrific views of the surrounding countryside from nearly everywhere, etc.
  • Bagnoregio is a small town in the mountains, NW of Rome. Follow the signs off the A1 Autostrade. This is really just a detour when traveling out of Rome -- it's not a town where you would stay or spend more than a couple of hours. Follow the signs towards town. At the end of the road is a parking area, then an elevated walk path about 300 hundred yards to the top of the rocky perch on which the town was built. There are no cars in Bagnoregio, which will be obvious once you arrive at the parking lot. Quiet, peaceful, quaint little town sitting high up on the cliffs; terrific views of the surrounding valley and moun
  • The historic center of Bologna looks and feels like many other Italian cities, with the San Petronio Duomo (1390) at the center and medieval palaces clustered around two main piazzas (Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno). What is unique are the Torri degli Asinelli e Garisenda (the Asinella Tower and the Garisenda Tower), both built in the 12th century. At one time there were as many as 200 similar towers in Bologna, though today only a handful remain. It is 500 spiral steps to the top of the Garisenda Tower, with amazing views all over Bologna from the top. Bologna is also home to the oldest and one of the largest
  • The Isle of Capri is located in the Bay of Naples and is accessible via ferry from either Naples or Sorrento. Tourists are not permitted to bring autos onto the island so you'll need to arrive at the ferry terminal via taxi from either the train station or the airport or wherever you plan to stow your rental car. Ferry rides to the island are about 30 minutes from Sorrento and 60 minutes from Naples.

    Lodging

    Hotel della Piccola Marina

    Exceptional hotel in every way. Located just off the main street in Capri, the Piccola Marina is an easy walk into town but far enough away to be quiet and removed from the crowds. Great pool with views of the ocean.

    Restaurants

    Capri's

    Slightly upscale, white table cloth, candles. Mediterranean dishes with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Located at via Roma, 38 just a short distance from La Piazzetta. If making reservations ahead of time, be sure to request "una tavola con vista mare" (a table with a view of the sea).

    Da Gemma

    On via Maria Serafina, 6. Located up the stairs, just a short distance from La Piazzetta. Terrific food. Very casual atmosphere and relatively inexpensive.  Pizza and traditional Italian food.

    Edode

    Located along via Cammerelle, 83. Be sure to ask for an outside table to enjoy people-watching throughout your meal. Quiet jazz music being played inside, which you can easily hear outside. High end expensive, but not stuffy. Very good -- easily one of the best meals we had anywhere on the island.

    La Capannina

    Located along via Botteghe, 12 on one of the small winding streets that lead off of the Piazzetta. The walls are covered with pictures of international stars and celebrities who have eaten here over the years.

    Ristorante Al Grottino

    Located on via Longano, 27 (along one of the passageways running off of La Piazzetta). Takes a little bit of effort to find it. Great, older restaurant.

    Ristorante Sollievo

    Located on via Fuorlavado, 36 amidst all the shops and restaurants located down the hill away from La Piazzetta. Great traditional Mediterranean dishes with an emphasis on fresh seafood. We made reservations and requested a table outside where we could enjoy the night air and people-watch along via Fuorlavado during dinner.

    Sights

    Anacapri and Monte Solano

    The other major town on the island is Anacapri. From Capri Town, it is a short 10-15 minute ride on one of the small municipal buses. More shopping, restaurants. However, be sure to take the ski lift from the center of town up to the top of Monte Solano. It's the highest point on the island, with gorgeous views everywhere on the island as well as Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. From the top, you can either take the ski lift back down or follow an easy, leisure hiking trail.

    Cannone Belvedere

    A spectacular vista from nearly the highest point on the Capri-side of the island. From via Roma, there are a set of stairs opposite where the buses turn around. At the top of the stairs, turn right and follow the signs towards Cannone Belvedere. At any juncture point or split, just keep taking the option that goes up. It's about a 30 minute walk from the time you leave via Roma. At the top, incredible views all up and down the coast, including the famous Faraglioni Rocks. There are also gorgeous views over the entire town of Capri from various points on the road.

    La Piazzetta

    The main piazza in Capri Town; an excellent place to spend an hour or two in the late afternoon with an ice cold Peroni or Moretti, people-watching from your small outdoor table at the Gran Cafe.

    Cooking Vacations

    We arranged for a private cooking class through Cooking Vacations (www.cooking-vacations.com). We spent the day with Chef Maria at her home in Anacapri. Crostini, fried dough with zucchini blossoms, beef cotaletto stuffed with mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, homemade fettucine with eggplant and tomatoes, zucchini fritti, lemon cake. A truly unique and thoroughly wonderful experience.

    Hike Southern Coast

    Enjoy a hike along the southern coast of the island, with breath-taking views of the coast, the cliffs and the Faraglioni Rocks. You can start from either end -- from via Tiberno or from the Tragara Viewpoint. The length of the hike itself (maybe two miles) is relatively flat and easy, except on either endpoint where you transfer from Capri Town down to the sea cliffs. Worth the effort, especially the Natural Arch.

    Rent a Private Boat

    One of the best ways to see the entire island is from a boat, sailing around the island. There are commercial boat tours that leave from Marina Grande, but the boats tend to be crowded and they're on a schedule. We recommend going down to the marina and bartering with one of the locals to take you out on his boat for a private sail. We paid about 100 euros for a 4+ hour sail around the island, which included the Blue Grotto, a stop to go swimming in the Green Grotto, and plenty of drinks and snacks.

    The Blue Grotto

    An amazing detour and worth the hassle. The blue grotto gets its name as the sun reflects off the white sandy bottom of the cave, making the water inside the pitch black sea cave appear to glow a beautiful shade of blue. Getting in and out of the sea cave in a small dingy, complete with a local oarsman who sings the entire time, is half the fun.

  • The Chianti Region is primarily located between Florence and Siena. As the name implies, this is the region where Chianti wine comes from, noted by the Gallo Nero (black cockerel) official symbol of the Chianti Classico Consortium. The S408, the S429 and the S222 will take you on a circular route around the region, hitting the towns of Meleto, Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and Grieve in Chianti. Be sure to look for signs that say "Venditta Diretta" (sell direct) along the way, indicating local wineries that offer tastings and product for sale.

    Sights

    Castello di Gabbiano

    Excellent vineyard and winery located just outside the town of Greve. In addition to the winery, the old castle has been converted into a small luxury hotel (which we're pretty sure we'll check out the next time we're in the area).

    Organic Tuscany (Cooking)

    We arranged for a private cooking class through Organic Tuscany (www.organictuscany.org). It was an outstanding experience. We spent the day with Manuela and her husband Silvio, at their home in Tavernelle. Chicken liver and sausage crostini, homemade fettucine,homemade pasta sauce, stuffed turkey breast, vegetables, frangipane (apple cake) for dessert. A truly unique and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

  • Cinque Terre means "five lands" in Italian. Easily one of the most beautiful places in all of Italy. Five tiny villages situated on the Mediterranean, connected by a series of footpaths and trails (from easy to moderately difficult) and the train. Only Monterosso al Mare allows automobiles; the other four villages are foot traffic only. The best way to visit is to take a train to La Spezia and then transfer to the local line with stops in all five villages. From south to north: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso.

    Lodging

    Hotel Barbara

    Vernazza. Simple, basic hotel in a great location (it fronts onto the harbor at the bottom of the hill, on Piazza Marconi). Not much to look at, but a good hotel.

    Hotel Marina Piccola

    Manarola. Simple, basic hotel in a great location (ocean front at the bottom of the hill); good value, great location.

    Restaurants

    Aristide

    Manarola. Located at via Discovolo, 290. Top of the hill near the tunnel to the train station. Good, moderately priced. For reservations, see the hostess at the top of the stairs (but request a table downstairs).

    Ristorante Marina Piccola

    Manarola. Located at via Lo Scalo, 16. Waterfront at the bottom of the hill, near the beginning of the footpath to Corniglia. Restaurant for the Hotel Marina Piccola. Really terrific lunch and dinner.

    Trattoria dal Billy

    Manarola. Located at via Aldo Rollandi, 122. Don't let the climb discourage you -- the restaurant is essentially at the top of Manarola and requires climbing a lot of steps. A lot. But it's absolutely worth it. Make reservations and ask for a table outside. The view is almost as good as the food.

    Sights

    Hiking the Cinque Terre

    There is a whole series of hiking trails that crisscross the mountains between the five villages. The most popular is the No.2 Trail, sometimes referred to as Sentiero Azzurro (the Blue Trail). It runs along the water between Riomaggiore and Manarola and Corniglia, and then heads up the mountain for the final two legs between Corniglia and Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The trails all begin and end in each village, so you can skip sections and take the train if you prefer.

    Riomaggiore to Manarola

    The easiest hike in the Cinque Terre. The total time is only about 30-45 minutes and the entire hike is level with no change in elevation and along the sea cliffs. Tremendous views.

    Manarola to Corniglia

    This is also a relatively easy hike -- about 60-75 minutes with only moderate elevation change. The entire length of the hike is on the sea cliffs with incredible views up and down the coast. However, the trail from Manarola leads to the Corniglia train station. In order to get to the town itself and or continue the hike to Vernazza, you need to climb nearly 400 steps, roughly the equivalent of a 25 story building. Corniglia is the only one of the Cinque Terre villages that is not on the water. Otherwise, you can cheat and take the train to Vernazza in about 4-5 minutes :)

    Corniglia to Vernazza

    The trail starts out easy enough, skirting through some vineyards and olive groves and around some houses on the outside of town before heading up the mountain. This section of the trail is moderately difficult and will take between 2-3 hours, depending on the pace you keep. Be sure to bring water and snacks with you. There are intermittent views along the way, but the trail mostly zigs and zags along the mountain before a rather steep and tricky descent into Vernazza.

    Vernazza to Monterosso

    They saved the best for last. The trail from Vernazza over to Monterosso al Mare is without doubt the most difficult but also the most rewarding. Total time will be about 3 hours, depending on your pace. Once the trail leaves Vernazza, it wastes no time heading straight up the mountain, crisscrossing through any number of vineyards and lemon, lime, olive groves. However, unlike the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza, this leg affords stunning views of the terraced mountainsides and the coastline throughout. Be sure to bring water and snacks.

  • Cortina is a small town nestled in the midst of the dolomites (in Italian -- i dolomiti) in the southern Italian Alps. It's a world-class ski resort town in the winter and was the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. This part of the country looks much more like Austria and Germany than Italy, owing to the fact that it was a part of Austria until after WWII. Cortina d'Ampezzo also marks the beginning of La Strada delle Dolimiti, the S-48 Highway that snakes its way through the Dolomites to the town of Bolzano Bozen on the other end.

    Lodging

    Hotel Mueblé Villa Neve

    Wonderful hotel on the East side of the village, off the main thoroughfare but within easy walking distance of everything in town.

    Sights

    Falzarego

    The Falzarego Pass is located along La Strada delle Dolomiti, closer to the Cortina end of the journey. At the point where the road crosses the Falzarego Pass, there is a cable car station where you can get a lift to the top of the mountain. The cable car ascent is a crazy, nearly vertical lift to the upper station at almost 8000 feet. Falzarego was a key outpost during WWII where Austrian soldiers guarded one of the only routes through the Southern Alps. You can easily explore many of their bunkers and fortifications.

    La Strada delle Dolomiti

    The section of the S-48 Highway that goes through the Dolomites and connects Bolzano Bozen in the West and Cortina d'Ampezzo in the East. The total distance is only about 58 kilometers or 35 miles, but the going can be slow at times due to the narrow roads, the climbs through the mountains, the hairpin turns, the sometimes lack of guard rails, the dizzying heights, etc. Leave plenty of time so that you can stop to take in the scenery and the occasional side hike.

  • One of the oldest towns in Tuscany. The old city is completely walled in and sits high atop a small mountain to provide for maximum protection. The main street for shopping is via Nazionale, though most of the better restaurants are scattered throughout the city. At the opposite end of via Nazionale from Piazza della Repubblica is an old road that leads straight up the mountain to Santa Maria della Grazie (about a 30 minute walk). Beautiful older 15th century church with amazing views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain.

    Lodging

    Il Sole del Sodo

    Nice comfortable traditional B&B located at the bottom of the hill from the old historic center of Cortona. Proprietor: Claudia. Property is located adjacent to vineyards. Small but nice pool around back.

    Restaurants

    Fufluns Ristorante Pizzeria

    Cortona. Located at via Ghibellini, 3 -- just a few steps off of Piazza della Repubblica on the downhill side. Small, casual pizzeria with good pizza and good panini.

    La Locanda nel Loggiato

    Cortona. Located on Piazza di Pescheria, 3 (above Piazza della Repubblica). Terrific casual dinner; outdoor seating on the terrace overlooks all the evening activity in Piazza della Repubblica.

    Osteria del Teatro

    Cortona. Located at via Maffei, 2 -- just off one of the main streets, headed downhill towards Piazza della Repubblica. Nice white table cloth restaurant with plenty of outdoor seating.

    Ristorante La Bucaccia

    Cortona. Located at via Ghibellina, 17 -- just a short distance downhill from Piazza della Repubblica. Best meal we had in Cortona. Be sure to try their specialty -- the local black pork in peppercorn sauce :)

    Ristorante Preludio

    Cortona. Located on via Guelfa, 11 -- just a short walk from Piazza della Repubblica. Nice white table cloth restaurant with very friendly staff.

  • Ferrara is one of Emilia-Romagna's great walled cities. The city of was under control of the D'Este Dynasty for nearly 350 years from the mid 13th century to the late 16th century. At the center of the city is the imposing Castello Estense (built in 1385), complete with moats, towers, battlements, dungeons and draw bridges. The city also includes numerous museums and a massive Duomo, testament to the power of the D'Este family during their period of control over Ferrara.

    Lodging

    Ripagrande Hotel

    Ferrara. Nice hotel, located in a renovated older building inside the walls of the main city.

  • Florence (Firenze) is easily our favorite city in Italy. There is so much to do, and it is so easy to walk everywhere. And it is a perfect city to book for 4 or 5 days and take short day trips to the countryside. The beautiful town of Fiesole is just a quick bus ride away. Tuscany and the Chianti region are an easy drive and can be explored on day trips. Wine tasting anyone?

    Lodging

    Hotel Bellettini

    Nice, moderately priced hotel; just two blocks west of Piazza Duomo. Easy walking distance to everything you want to see and do. Slightly older, probably could stand a little updating, but a good value for the price and the location can't be beat. No on-site parking if you arrive by car.

    Hotel Davanzati

    Outstanding boutique hotel in the historic center of Florence, within easy walking distance of everything you want to see and do. Free wi-fi, in-room laptops, i-pads available for use in the lobby. Daily happy hour, great breakfast, extremely helpful staff. No on-site parking if you arrive with a car. Fabbrizio and Tammaso couldn't have been any more helpful.

    Restaurants

    Aurora (Fiesole)

    Fiesole, Piazza Mino 39. The Aurora is the restaurant in the 4-star Villa Aurora Hotel, just off the main piazza in Fiesole. Be sure to ask for a table on the garden terrace so that you can enjoy "la piu bella terrazzza su Firenze" along with an outstanding lunch!

    L'Osteria di Giovanni

    Located at via Del Moro, 22 in the historic center of Florence, though several blocks away from the crowds of Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria. Outstanding in every way. Go hungry :)

    La Bussola

    Great food, great service, great experience. Located on Porta Rossa, 58 (directly across the street from the Hotel Davanzati). Be sure to request a table outside so that you can enjoy the people-watching.

    Pizzaria il Borgello

    Florence. Ristorante and Pizzeria, located on the southwest side of Piazza della Signoria, next to the Loggia dei Lanzi. The best pizza in Florence. Also, with an outside table, it is some of the best people-watching anywhere in Florence.

    Trattoria Parione

    Outstanding restaurant located west of the center of things, just past the Ponte Trinita on via Parione, 74. Unbelievable appetizers, wide range of delicious entrees, terrific wine list, very attentive wait staff. Only drawback -- no outdoor seating.

    Sights

    Cappella Brancacci

    The church of Santa Maria del Carmine is famous for the Brancacci Chapel. Here you will find the amazing frescoes on "The Life of St. Peter", commissioned in 1424 and completed in 1480. The 12 enormous, separate panels were completed by three artists over nearly 50 years: Masolino, Masaccio and Filippino Lippi.

    Fiesole

    Tuscan hilltown located about 10 miles north of Florence. The town is located in the hilly countryside above the city with amazing views of Florence from nearly everywhere in the small town. Includes the remains of a 1st century BC Roman amphitheatre and Etruscan walls dating back to the 4th century BC. Easy to get to: just take the #7 bus from the depot adjacent to the train station (tickets less than 5 euros roundtrip).

    Galleria dell'Accademia

    The Academy of Fine Arts, founded in 1563, was the first school established in Europe specifically to teach the techniques of drawing, painting and sculpture. The most famous piece is Michelangelo's David. The statue stood in Piazza della Signoria for more than 300 years before being moved to the Accademia in 1873. Among other works, you will also find Michelangelo's Quattro Prigionieri.

    Mercato Centrale

    Main farmer's market in Florence.

    Oltrarno

    Literal translation: the other side of the Arno. Refers to the neighborhoods on the other side of the River Arno from the historic center of Florence. The two main bridges to get you there are the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte Santa Trinita.

    Opera at St. Marks

    St. Mark's English Church, located on via Maggio in the Oltrarno section of Florence (translation: other side of the Arno). The opera company from Siena, under the direction of Franz Mozur, performs full-length operas each night (http://www.stmarksitaly.com) from April to October. It is a small, intimate environment where no one is more than 50 feet away from the performers.

    Piazzale Michelangelo

    Located a short distance from the city, Piazzale Michelangelo is a public park on a hillside overlooking the Arno River and the city of Florence. Cross the Ponte Vecchio, turn right and it's about 20 minutes down the river...hard to miss. Spectacular, picturesque views of the entire city and surrounding countryside.

    San Lorenz, Medici Chapel

    San Lorenzo was the parish church of the Medici, the ruling family of Florence for nearly 300 years. The Medici Chapel was designed by Brunelleschi in 1419. The chapels contain numerous statues by Michelangelo and the tombs of several popes, numerous members of the Medici family and Lorenzo the Magnificent.

    Santa Croce

    The Gothic Santa Croce church was built in 1294 and includes the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo Bruni, Marconi, Machiavelli and others.

    Santa Maria Novella

    The church of Santa Maria Novella was built by the Dominicans in 1279. Located near the central train station.

    The Duomo

    The magnificent Duomo in Florence, the fourth largest church in Europe (behind St. Peter's in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, the Duomo in Milan). Unique white, green and pink Tuscan marble exterior. Construction began in the 13th century and was completed in 1463 with the addition of Brunelleschi's dome. The complex also includes the Baptistry, dating back to the 4th century, and the Companile. If it's a clear day and you've got the energy, consider climbing the stairs inside the massive dome for 360-degree views of the city from the cupola. The climb itself includes close-up views of the ceiling and do

    The Palazzo PItti

    Located on via De'Guicciardini, directly across the Ponte Vecchio and up the hill. Built in 1457. The enormous palace contains several different museums, including: the Porcelin Museum, the Royal Apartments, the Museo degli Argenti (silverware and other precious objects) and the Galleria Palatina. Behind the Palazzo are the Boboli Gardens, first laid out in 1549 after the Medici took over the Palazzo from the bankrupt Pitti family.

    The Uffizi

    Italy's greatest art gallery was built in 1560. Primarily a portrait/painting gallery, with some sculptures in the hallways connecting each of the 45 separate (but linear) galleries. The Uffizi is easy to navigate because all of the galleries are laid out in a linear path, from beginning to end. Showcase pieces include Michelangelo's "The Holy Family" and Botticelli's "Birth of Venus". Buy your tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines in the summertime.

  • Gallipoli is a small town located near the bottom of the heel of the boot on the Gulf of Taranto. It's a very pretty, idyllic sea-side Italian town. It's certainly not a destination location but rather someplace you pass through on your way somewhere else. In our case, somewhere else was a couple of days spent exploring the beaches, olive groves, dramatic coastline and simple life in Southern Italy (including Brindisi, Locorotondo, Taranto, Lecce and Otranto).
  • Lake Como is located about 2 hours north of Milan on the A-9. It is the largest and one of the most popular of the lakes that make up the "Lake Region" of Northern Italy: Lago di Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago di Garda, Lago D'Iseo, etc. The lakes begin in the northern Lombardia plains and extend up into the sourthern Alps. They are characterized by the quaint, smaller towns that dot their shores and the towering mountains that grow taller the further north you venture.

    Lodging

    Grand Hotel Menaggio

    Older, lakefront 19th century hotel located an easy 5-10 minutes walk from the town of Menaggio. Located on the main road. Be sure to request a lakefront room in order to enjoy the gorgeous views Lake Como and the towering mountains that surround the lake. Large, heated outdoor pool on a terrace overlooking the lake.

    Restaurants

    Albergo Vecchio Pizzeria

    Menaggio. Located on a smaller side street, via Lago 11, in the heart of town. Great local pizzeria with a great selection of (draft beer) birra spina :)

    Albergo Lario

    Mezzagra. Located lakefront on the main street (SS340). The restaurant at the Hotel Lario.

    Osteria il Pozzo

    Menaggio. Great local restaurant in the heart of town, on Piazza Garibaldi. Be sure to request an outside table on the patio. Best home-made panna cotta we had anywhere on vacation.3

    Ristorante Antico Pozzo

    Bellagio. Located at the top of one of the hilly streets in Bellagio, at Salita Mella, 26. Terrific local restaurant with tradition italian dishes, along with pizza and panini for lunch.

    Sights

    Lake Como (Eastern)

    Lake Como is wishbone shaped. The SS36 from Lecco will take you up the eastern shore, including Varenna and Dervio. A better way to see the lake and visit the small towns in by boat. A number of smaller water taxis operate all along the lake, carrying locals and tourists back and forth across the lake. Schedules are available in every town and the boats generally run every 30-45 minutes. Fares are a couple of euros.

    Lake Como (Southern)

    Lake Como is wishbone shaped. The town of Como is located at the southern end of the lake, on the western branch of the wishbone. After getting off the A-9, you can transfer to the SS583 which will take you all the way up the southern shore. Small towns along this route include: Bellagio, Onno and Lecco. A better way to see the lake and visit the small towns is by boat. A number of smaller water taxis operate all along the lake, carrying locals and tourists back and forth across the lake. Schedules are available in every town and the boats generally run every 30-45 minutes. Fares are a couple of euros.

    Lake Como (Western)

    Lake Como is wishbone shaped. The town of Como is located at the southern end of the lake, on the western branch of the wishbone. After getting off the A-9, you can transfer to the SS340 which will take you all the way up the western shore. Small towns along this route include: Cernobbio, Mezzagra, Tremezzo and Menaggio. A better way to see the lake and visit the small towns is by boat. A number of smaller water taxis operate all along the lake, carrying locals and tourists back and forth across the lake. Schedules are available in every town and the boats generally run every 30-45 minutes. Fares are a couple of euros.

    Monte Bisbino

    The hike up to Monte Bisbino is not particularly difficult. The hike is essentially above the town of Cernobbio. At the summit you are on the border between Italy and Switzerland, with views of Lake Como to the east, the Alps to the north, and Switzerland to the west. Roads are pretty well-marked; drive as far as you can, then park and continue on foot. The summit is at around 4000 feet.

    Refugio di Menaggio

    The hike up to Refugio di Menaggio is not particularly difficult. The hike up to the refuge/shelter is essentially above the town of Menaggio; you can pick-up a detailed hiker's trail map in town. Roads are pretty well-marked; drive as far up as you can, then park and continue on foot. There is a refuge/shelter at the top of the mountain (about 6000 ft). The views up and down the lake from nearly everywhere along the trail are amazing.

  • Lecce is a small town located near the bottom of the heel of the boot. It's a very quiet, typical farming-based Italian town. It's certainly not a destination location but rather someplace you pass through on your way somewhere else. In our case, somewhere else was a couple of days spent exploring the beaches, olive groves, dramatic coastline and simple life in Southern Italy (including Brindisi, Locorontodo, Taranto, Gallipoli and Otranto).
  • Locorotondo is a small hilltop town located between Brindisi and Bari on the Adriatic side of the heel of the boot. The white-washed and conical roofs of the tulli architecture, while characteristic of the region, is very unique in Italy. It's certainly not a destination location but rather someplace you pass through on your way somewhere else. In our case, somewhere else was a couple of days spent exploring the beaches, olive groves, dramatic coastline and simple life in Southern Italy (including Brindisi, Locorontodo, Taranto, Lecce, Gallipoli and Otranto).
  • There are two ways to get from Courmayeur (Italy) over to Chamonix (France) -- one is on the A5 Autostrade through a 21 kilometer tunnel under Mont Blanc, the other is by cable car over the mountain. Once in the small town of Courmayeur, look for signs to the cable car (funivia). The small cars (only 4 people in each) take you up the mountain to two transfer stations before reaching the summit of Auguille du Midi (at 12,500 ft). For most of the journey, you are 500-600 feet above the mountains and the glaciers with some absolutely breath-taking views. At the Auguille du Midi station, you have incredible views of the ne
  • You are able to drive about two-thirds the way up Mt Vesuvius, park and then walk the rest of the way to the summit crater (Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio). Look for signs to Vesuvius or signs for the SP19 or SP156 off of the A3 Autostrade, just south of Naples. Drive as far as the road will take you; there's a parking lot at the end of the road. From there, follow the dirt road on foot to the summit where the trail splits and goes all the way around the crater. There are also spectacular views of Naples, the Bay of Naples, Sorrento and Capri from the top.
  • Sights

    Via Montenapoleone

    Via Montenapoleone is the center of the Italian fashion district, very much like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. All the great Italian fashion houses are located here: Prada, Gucci, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgia Armani, Hugo Boss, Ermenegildo Zegna, etc. Surrounding streets Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni and Via Sant'Andrea are all worth checking out.

    La Scala

    Teatro alla Scala (known as La Scala) is one of the most famous opera houses in all of Europe. It is located on Piazza della Scala, at the other end of the Galleria from the Duomo. The opera house opened in 1778. Imagine seeing Giuseppe Verdi present "La Traviata" in 1853 or Giacomo Puccini present "La Boheme" in 1896.....

    The Duomo

    The third largest church in the western hemisphere (behind St. Peter's in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris). Piazza del Duomo in the center of the historic district. Construction began in the 14th century. One of the most unique features of the architecture are the 135 spires and nearly 200 statues and gargoyles that adorn the roof. A visit to the roof is recommended to see these up close, as well as the views of the Alps to the North.

    The Galleria

    The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (also known simply as The Galleria) is located off Piazza del Duomo, directly adjacent to the Duomo. Built in 1865, it is essentially several city blocks of high end shops, cafes, and restaurants, all enclosed under glass. Be sure to check out the intricate mosaic tile floors.

    The Last Supper

    Leonardo da Vinci's 15th century masterpiece Cenacolo (The Last Supper) can be found at Santa Maria della Grazie. It's best to purchase your tickets ahead of time. You can do this at www.cenacolovinciano.it

  • Sights

    Capella Sansevero

    This family chapel was designed by Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, in the late 18th century. Why you want to stop for a visit? Three of the most extraordinary sculptures you will ever see...anywhere. Giuseppe Sanmartino's "Il Cristo Velato" (The Veiled Christ), Francesco Queirolo's "Il Desinganno" (Release From Deception), and Antonio Corradini's "Pudizia" (Modesty). The amazing ceiling fresco "Glory of Paradise" was painted by Francesco Maria Russo in 1749.

    Museo Nazionale

    The building itself dates back to the late 16th century and housed Naples University until 1777. It became a public museum in 1860. Today the Museo Archeologico Nazionale is where all the really good stuff from Pompeii is kept :)

    Pompeii

    The first town plan for Pompeii was laid out in the 6th century BC and the city flourished until 79 AD when Mt Vesuvius erupted, burying the city and all its inhabitants until they were discovered in 1750. The ruins of Pompeii are maybe 15-20 miles southeast of Naples, on the other side of Mt Vesuvius.

    The Duomo

    The Basilica di San Gennaro. Construction on the massive Naples Duomo began in the late 13th century. The relics of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius), the patron saint of Naples, are kept in the crypt.

  • Orvieto is another one of those places that are great to stop in for a couple of hours while on your way from one place to another (in this case, between Rome and Florence on the A1 Autostrade) but you wouldn't want to actually stay overnight. The town itself is located on top of a 1000 ft plateau with terrific views of the surrounding country side from all angles. The center piece is the Romanesque-Gothic Duomo; construction began in 1290.
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Torre Pendente di Pisa)

    Construction on the tower began in 1173; the leaning began almost immediately and construction was halted in 1178 for nearly 100 years. Gradual, continual leaning has persisted throughout its history, resulting in the tower being closed in 1990. Engineers removed 38 cubic meters of soil from beneath the raised end and added more than 800 tons of lead counter-weights to stabilize the structure. It was re-opened to the public in 2001. Recommend buying tickets ahead of time online.

  • Another beautiful medieval town, though fairly industrialized outside of the historic center. Parking is down below, with a series of many escalators that take you up to the historic center and thereby limit the amount of automobile traffic. From its high position, there are terrific views of the countryside from nearly everywhere. The main avenue is the pedestrianized Corso Vannucci. At the far end is Piazza IV Novembre which is dominated by the famous 13th century Fontana Maggiore, sculpted by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. In Piazza Giordano Bruno, you will find the 14th century church San Domenico, including the tomb
  • Ravenna was a major naval power in the 1st century BC under Emperor Augustus and was later established at the capital of the Western Empire in AD 402. The primary draw for Ravenna are the intricate Christian mosaics found in churches and buildings all over the city. Highlights include: the 5th century Battistero Neoniano, the 6th century Basilica di San Vitale, the 5th century Mausoleo di Galla Placidia, the 5th century Battistero degli Ariani, and the 6th century Sant'Apollinare Nuovo. Dante's tomb is also found in Ravenna.
  • Rimini is a small town on the Adriatic coast. It is mostly known as a seaside beach town with numerous hotels, bars and restaurants. Towns along the Adriatic coast, like Rimini, tend to have white sandy beaches which are all but non-existent on the Mediterranean side.
  • All roads lead to... oh, you've heard that before. Rome is astounding in its ancient architecture, sculpture, art, music, food, and drink. It is also a big, noisy, busy city. So if you're used to quiet country charm, leave your expectations at the gates and just enjoy the hustle and bustle and the amazing sights, sounds, and tastes.

    Lodging

    Albergo del Senato

    Terrific boutique hotel located in the center of the historic district, adjacent to the Pantheon on Piazza Della Rotonda, 73. Terrace and rooftop bar overlooking the piazza. Front desk staff remembered us and greeted us by name throughout our stay -- nice touch.

    Hotel Aberdeen

    Located only a few short blocks from the main train station (Roma Termini) at via Firenze, 48. Nice, comfortable hotel; easy access to the Metro (both A and B lines) and walking distance to everything you want to do and see.

    Roma Fiumicino Hilton

    Hotel is on-property at the main terminal at Fiumicino (FCO) which is great for early morning departures. Series of moving sidewalks from the front door of the Hilton take you directly to either the train or the ticketing concourse.

    Restaurants

    Carla Menta

    Located in the Trestavere neighborhood at via Della Lungaretta, 101. Nothing fancy but good traditional Italian dishes in a crowded, noisy, bustling environment. Indoor and outdoor seating. No reservations.

    Il Caminetto

    Located in the quiet Parioli neighborhood (north of Villa Borghese) outside the main historic district at Viale Parioli, 89. You'll need a cab but it's worth the extra effort. Outstanding food. Make a reservation and be sure to request a table outside on the sidewalk.

    Sights

    Campo dei Fiori

    Farmer's Market. Very early in the morning till early afternoon; most things have closed and cleared out by mid afternoon.

    Catacombe San Domitilla

    The catacombs were where Christians secretly buried their dead during the days of the Roman Empire. There are several catacombs located around Rome - and it typically involves a bus ride, or a short drive if you have a rental car. Tours are offered frequently throughout the day but not all will be in English - be sure to sign up for one with an English speaking tour guide.

    Il Bioparco di Roma (Zoo)

    The National Zoo, located in the vicinity of Villa Borghese.

    Piazza Navona

    Very popular destination for anyone in Rome. Large, rectangular-shaped piazza with Bernini's famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in the center. Numerous restaurants and cafes line the perimeter while the interior is full of local artists, street performers, musicians, etc. Often crowded and noisy, it's still a great place to spend some time.

    San Pietro in Vincoli

    Small church located about a 10 minute walk from the Colosseum. Michelangelo's massive statue of Moses; also chains which held St. Peter while he was in prison.

    Santa Maria Maggiore

    The second largest church in Rome; construction began in 1127. Church contains relics from the nativity manger and the tombs of Bernini, eight Popes (including Clement VIII, Clement IX, and Pius V) and Saint Jerome.

    Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

    Beautiful church located right around the corner from the Pantheon. Construction began in 1255. Important works of art include Michelangelo's statue of "Christ the Redeemer" (sometimes referred to as "Christ Carrying the Cross") was completed in 1522. There is also a Bernini statue of an obelisk on an elephant in the courtyard.

    The Ancient Forum

    The ruins and remains of the commercial and government center of the Roman Empire. Many of the building and markets and temples here date back as far as 300-400 BC. You can explore many of the sites in detail with ticket admission or you can take it all in from street-level with a walk along via dei Fori Imperiale between the Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument and the Colosseum.

    The Colosseum

    Maybe the most iconic image in all of Rome. The Colosseum sits at the opposite end of the Ancient Forum from the Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument. Built in 70 AD, the Colosseum held as many as 50,000 spectators. Lines can be long during peak times so go early. One of the view A-list tourist sites directly accessible from the Metro (Line B).

    The Sistine Chapel

    The Sistine Chapel is essentially one of the last stops in the Vatican Museum. Recent changes now allow for some short-cuts for those who are not interested in seeing the majority of the exhibits in the Museum. Follow the signs. Lines are long;  buy your tickets ahead of time online. The Sistine Chapel includes the ceiling painting by Michelangelo depicting nine scenes from the Book of Genesis, though that description hardly does it justice. Also features Michelangelo's fresco painting of "The Last Judgment".

    The Spanish Steps

    Located at the end of via del Condotti. Not much in terms of historical significance, but pretty in the spring when the azaleas are in bloom and a great place to relax and people watch.

    The Trevi Fountain

    Impressive in its overall size and scale, the Trevi Fountain was built in 1629 and marked the terminal point of the Acqua Vergine, one of the main aqueducts that carried fresh water into Rome. Pope Urban VIII originally commissioned the fountain to be designed by  Bernini, but after the Pope's death the project was abandoned. Later, Pope Clement XII resurrected the project and awarded the commission to Nicola Salvi.

    The Vatican

    Including St. Peter's Basilica (the largest church in the world) and St. Peter's Square. Lines can be long,, further slowed by metal detectors and security screening. Michelangelo's Pieta is located in the first chapel on the right. Strict dress code enforced nearly all the time -- no bare shoulders or exposed mid-sections for women, no short pants for men. For those with the energy, consider the long climb up the narrow and winding stairs to the top of the dome for amazing 360-degree views of all of Rome.

    Vittorio Emmanuele

    Il Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emmanuele II is a massive monument built in 1911 to commemorate Victor Emanuel II, the first king of unified Italy in 1860. Located at the opposite end of the Ancient Forum from the Colosseum. Climb to the top and enjoy 360-degree views all across Rome.

  • One of many beautiful, traditional Tuscan hill towns. San Gimignano is characterized by a dozen or more stone towers that give the town its unique "skyline" profile. Parking is all in surface lots scattered outside the city walls -- the historic portions of the town are all pedestrian zones. It's a great place to spend an afternoon or a day but not much more. You can easily do it as an easy day trip from either Florence or Siena.
  • San Remo is a small coastal town in the northwest corner of Italy, located just across the border from France and Monaco. The region is referred to as the Italian Riviera due to its close proximity to the French Riviera. Beaches, palm trees, cool ocean breezes, nice driving. There's not a lot to do in the town itself except relax and enjoy either the pool or the ocean. Monte Carlo and Nice are less than an hour's drive away.

    Lodging

    Royal Hotel San Remo

    The Royal Hotel in San Remo is on the main thoroughfare, west of the main commercial are of town. It is directly across the street from the sea. Nice hotel, nice pool.

  • Santa Margherita Ligure is a small sea-side town on the Portofino Peninsula. The town and all hotels are about a 30 minute walk from the train station, so depending on the amount of luggage you have, you may want to take a taxi. Distinctive, colorful buildings line the harbor. Very quiet, peaceful environment. If you plan to stay there for any number of days, it's because you want to relax and enjoy time by the pool. If you only want to see the town, you can do so in an afternoon on your way down the coast.

    Lodging

    Royal Hotel San Remo

    The Royal Hotel in San Remo is on the main thoroughfare, west of the main commercial are of town. It is directly across the street from the sea. Nice hotel, nice pool.

    Grand Hotel Miramare

    Gorgeous older hotel, oceanfront, great pool overlooking the sea, easy 5-10 minute walk to town. Outstanding luxury hotel.

    Restaurants

    Da Gennaro

    Traditional Italian pizzeria, located on Piazza Martiri della Liberta, 30.

    La Cambusa

    Nice, quiet traditional Italian restaurant. Located on via Tommaso Bottaro, 2.

    Trattoria dei Pescatori

    Note: website features both Trattoria dei Pescatori (in Santa Margherita) and sister restaurant Luca (in nearby Rapallo). Emphasis on Mediterranean dishes and local fish. Located on via Tommaso Bottaro, 43.

    Ristorante Palma

    Great restaurant on the main street through town -- be sure to get a table outside for people-watching. Pizza, pastas, other traditional Italian dishes. Located on Piazza Martiri della Liberta, 9.

    Sights

    Portofino

    Portofino is a small, exclusive town located at the tip of the Portofino Peninsula. You can either drive or take a local bus from Santa Margherita. The town, with its horseshoe-shaped waterfront, brightly colored buildings and yachts and sailboats in the harbor, is one of the most photographed towns in all of Italy. If you plan to stay there for any number of days, it's because you want to relax and enjoy time at the pool or in the sea. If you only want to see the town, you can do so in an afternoon on your way down the coast.

    Rapallo

    The nearby town of Rapallo is a 30-minute bus ride from Santa Margherita. The main attraction in the town is a cable car which carries you to the top of the mountain and the Santuario di Montellagro. There is an old church and monastery, a small restaurant and a small inn at the top of the mountain, along with spectacular views of the entire Portofino Peninsula.

  • Lodging

    Hotel dei Pini

    Located about 15 minutes outside the town of Alghero on the coastal road. Good location, beachfront with private beach. Halfway between Alghero and Capo Caccia.

    Jolly Hotel Cagliari

    Located away from il centro on the Autostrade, convenient to airport; Cagliari (il centro) was a complete disappointment.

    Restaurants

    La Lepanta

    Nice, formal restaurant with an emphasis on fresh seafood served in typical Alghero/Catalyan (Spanish) style. Chef Moreno Cecchino is the son of original founder Lepanta Cecchino. Located at via Carlo Alberto, 135.

    Pizzeria Nettuno

    Basic local pizzeria with nice views over the marina. Located at via Maddalanetta, 4.

    Ristorante Novecento

    Smaller restaurant with traditional Italian and Sardinian dishes. Located at via Roma, 48.

    Trattoria al Refettorio

    Traditional, basic Italian dishes. Located at Vicolo Adami, 47.

    Sights

    Capo Caccia

    About a 30-45 minute drive from Alghero out to the coast and up to Capo Caccia. Breath-taking scenery from the top of sheer cliffs over the Mediterranean. From the top of the cliff, follow a dizzying series of more than 500 stone steps cut out of the cliffs that lead down to the Grotto di Nettuno. Inside the grotto, you can follow paths through a series of caverns accessible during low tide.

    Coastal Highway

    Beautiful drive along the northern coastal highway (S200) from Alghero to Capo Testa, Capo d'Orso, Bosa Marina, and La Maddalena. Beautiful scenery including views of Corsica to the north and easy hikes along the coast.

  • There are basically three ways to arrive in Sicily: by ferry from Reggio di Calabria to Messina (15-20 minutes), by ferry from Naples to Palermo (13-14 hours), or by plane from Rome to Palermo. The interior of the island is very rugged and mountainous. The exterior coastlines are famous for beaches and ancient Greek, Roman, Arabic and Catalyan ruins.

    Lodging

    Grand Hotel Baia Verde

    We absolutely love this hotel. Located a few miles north of Catania, just off the main highway in the small town of Aci Castello, right on the Mediterranean. The hotel was built on an ancient lava flow from Mt Etna; there are lounge chairs and umbrellas out by the sea, along with several ladders that enable you to get in and out of the sea with ease. There is also a heated pool.

    Hotel Mediterraneo

    San Vito Lo Capo, northwest of Palermo. San Vito Lo Capo is a resort town, located on the coast about a 2-3 hour drive (narrow, single lane roads) northwest of Palermo. Smaller, boutique hotel located in the seaside town, wkthin easy walking distance of the beach.

    Hotel Midi Lagonegro

    Northern coast of Sicily, near Palermo. Located on the A3 highway between Palermo and Reggio di Calabria.

    Hotel Oriente

    Aeolian Islands, northern coast. Located on the island of Lipari (part of the Aeolian Islands, off the north coast of Sicilia). Hotel is located about two blocks of the main street in town.

    Hotel San Paolo Palace

    Palermo. The San Paolo Palace is a basic business hotel, located about 10 minutes from the main port in Palermo. Easy and convenient for anyone arriving via ferry late at night or departing early in the morning.

    Sights

    Aeolian Islands

    The Aeolian Islands are located off the northern coast of Sicily and accessible by ferry out of Milazzo. There are seven islands: Lipari, Vulcano, Stromboli, Panarea, Salina, Filicudi and Alicudi. We visited and stayed on Lipari. Each island is easily accessible from any of the others by small boats that operate daily.

    Agrigento

    Agrigento is located in southwest Sicily and includes some of the most well-preserved Greek temples and ruins outside of Greece. Most of the structures in the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) date back to 600 BC when Agrigento, then known as Akragas, was a thriving city of nearly 200,000 people. From the main parking area, you are able to explore the entire valley on foot, including: Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Castor and Pollux, Temple of Heracles, Temple of Concord, and the Temple of Hera.

    Caltagirone

    Small town in the southern mountains, northwest of Catania and northeast of Siracusa. The town is known as a major center of majolica ceramics. Caltagirone is most well-known for the wide La Scala di Santa Maria del Monte (built in 1608), some 200 steps that connect the lower old town and the upper new town. Each step is decorated with a different, unique ceramic tile pattern.

    Gola Alcantara

    Gola Alcantara is located on the southern coast, between Taormina and Catania. The river cut a narrow, deep canyon with high, sheer walls through solid black obsidium. To get the full effect of the canyon and the black obsidium walls, you need to take your shoes off and wade through the knee-deep water further back into the canyon.

    Mt. Etna

    Mt Etna is a live, active volcano -- the last eruption was in 2003, although it is continually smoking. For those with a keen sense of adventure, it is possible to get all the way to the summit crater. You are able to drive about two-thirds of the way up, to what's left of a ski chalet (Refugio Sapienza) destroyed in an eruption in the early 1990's. From there, guides will take you in all-terrain vehicles to about 1000 feet below the summit crater. From there, you hike across the pumice fields and the trail leads directly to the edge of the crater. Easily, one of the most incredible experiences we have ever h

    San Vito Lo Capo

    San Vito Lo Capo is a small resort town located on the Mediterranean Sea, about 2-3 hours drive west of Palermo. Once you leave Palermo, it's a very beautiful drive along the coast and out onto the peninsula. San Vito Lo Capo is one of the few places in Italy to feature, wide white sandy beaches.

    Siracusa

    The ancient city of Siracusa is located on the southeast coast of Sicily. The city was founded nearly 3000 years ago by the Corinthians and much of the original Greek architecture and structures have survived to today. The Greek Theater was built in 500 BC. The Catacombe di San Giovanni date back to 360 BC. The main historic part of the city is located in Ortygia, including the Temple of Apollo which dates back to 600 BC.

    Taormina

    Taormina is arguably the most beautiful town in Sicily, located high on a bluff at the base of Monte Tauro with views up and down the southern coastline to one side and views of Mount Etna to the other. Corso Umberto is the main walking street through town, extending on either side of the central Piazza IX Aprile. Taormina is also well-known for its 5000 seat Greek Amphitheater, built in 300 BC.

  • Without a doubt, the most famous city in the Tuscany Region outside of Florence. Somewhat unique among Italian cities in that the town isn't built around the Duomo and Piazza della Duomo; rather, it is built around the fan-shaped Piazza del Campo and the Palazzo Pubblico. The Siena Duomo was built in 1136 and is one of the largest in all of Italy. The Duomo is noted for the black and white stone used to built its exterior facades and the intricate inlaid marble floor interiors. The Piazza del Campo is bordered by elegant and exclusive palazzi. At the center is the large Fonte Gaia, including reliefs of Adam and Ev
  • Lodging

    Gabbiano Hotel

    Nice hotel, nice pool, located across the street from the ocean.

    Sights

    Southern Italy

    From Marina di Pulsano, you can easily explore most of the Puglia Region and the vineyards and small towns that are located along the heel of the boot: Gallipoli, Lecce, Leuca, Lizzano, Sava, Madrano, San Catalda, Capo Santa Maria, Capo d'Otranto, Grotto di Zinzulusa etc. We now know where all the olives in the world come from (apparently).

  • Venice is almost impossible to navigate without getting lost but since you're entirely surrounded by water, you can't go far without having to turn around and go back. Large water taxis move people up and down the Grand Canal while smaller traghettos ferry people back and forth across the Grand Canal (there are only three bridge across the Grand Canal: Ponte Scalzi at the train station, Ponte Rialto between San Marco and San Polo, and Ponte Accademia between San Marco and Dorsoduro). Venice itself is divided into 6 districts: San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, Castello and Cannaregio.

    Lodging

    Locanda Antica Venezia

    Smaller boutique hotel, located on the top 2 floors of an older building in the San Marco district. Convenient to Piazza San Marco (5-10 minute walk). Breakfast served on their rooftop terrace.

    Restaurants

    Osteria La Patatina

    Located at Ponte San Polo, 2741 -- right off one of the larger canals that cuts through the San Polo district.

    Sights

    Dorsoduro

    The Dorsoduro district is located south of San Marco, across the Grand Canal. There you will find two really outstanding art museums (the Accademia Belle Arte and the Peggy Guggenheim) as well as Santa Maria di Salute. The Dorsoduro is known for local painters, working along the canals and for terrific views of San Marco from Punta di Dogana.

    Il Ponte Rialto

    The largest of three bridges across the Grand Canal. The Ponte Rialto (the Rialto Bridge) was first built in the 12th century but it was made of wood and subject to fire and rot. The original wooden structure was replaced in the 15th century with the stone structure that exists today. Until the 19th century, this was the only bridge across the Grand Canal.

    La Strada Nuova

    Popular, crowded shopping district in the Cannaregio district. Begins just north of the Ponte Rialto.

    Murano

    Murano is a small island in the Lagoon where all the glass blowing studios and factories are located. Murano glass is among the most famous in the world, owing to centuries of craftsmanship passed down through the generations. The artisans were all moved to Murano in 1291 due to frequent fires and the abundance of smoke. No trip to Venice is complete without a stop in Murano. You can get a short ferry from Fondamente Nuova in the Cannaregio district.

    Piazzo San Marco

    The iconic center of Venice with the expansive piazza, the Basilica di San Marco, La Palazza Ducal (The Doges' Palace) and the Campanile (the Belltower). The piazza itself is lined with restaurants and cafes, as well as administrative buildings and apartments. The Basilica and the Doges Palace both date back to the 9th century.

    La Scuola Grande di San Rocco

    La Scuola Grande di San Rocco was founded in honor of St. Roch and served as a sort of artist's fraternity in early Venice. Construction on San Rocco began in 1515. San Rocco is best known for the work of Jacopo Robusti, also known as Tintoretto, who was commissioned in 1564 to decorate the walls and ceilings with his truly remarkable cycle of paintings.

  • Verona is located on the Adige River and is the second largest city in the Veneto (behind Venice). The city also boasts some amazing Roman ruins, generally thought of as second only to Rome itself. Highlights include: the massive Verona Arena, completed in AD 30 and still the third largest amphitheater in the world; the Castelvecchio, built in 1355; the Ponte Scaligero (1354); Piazza Erba, site of the city's main market; San Zeno Maggiore, built in 1120 to house the shrine of Verona's patron saint; Sant'Anastasia (1290); the Duomo (1139).
  • Small Tuscan hill town. Beautiful surroundings. Good for a morning or an afternoon but not much more. Can easily be combined with a day trip to San Gimignano or Monteriggioni or Greve.
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