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Archive for italy

Capitals of Culture in 2019

By Linda Tancs

Happy New Year! And you know what that means—another set of European Capitals of Culture! This year’s honorees are Matera (Italy) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria). Plovdiv is one of the oldest cities in Europe, with a history dating back to 4,000 B.C. During Roman times, it was a thriving industrial center and remains so today. Its annual International Fair is an epicenter for international business, conducted on fairgrounds representing one of the largest exhibition venues in southeastern Europe. Matera is a city on a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy. It includes the Sassi area, a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside. Many of the caves are now hotels, bars, restaurants and homes. Take the train from Bari to Matera and explore the area on foot.

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The Green Island

By Linda Tancs

In the heart of the Tyrrhenian Sea sit three islands off the coast of Naples—Procida, Capri and Ischia. Capri may get the glitz, but Ischia is the largest of the cousins. Its abundant pines and lush Mediterranean vegetation earn it the nickname “The Green Island.” Of volcanic origin, the island also boasts a high concentration of thermal springs and a large variety of waters giving way to some 300 spas, making it a haven for relaxation. Poseidon Gardens in Forio is the biggest thermal park on the island with over 20 pools.

Art, Food and Cars

By Linda Tancs

Ninety miles north of Florence, Italy, the city of Modena is noted for its art, food and cars. If the place name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the home of balsamic vinegar. But no less tantalizing is the local tortellini, stuffed with pork, prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Dubbed the land of motors, its automotive heritage includes Ferrari, Maserati, Pagani Automobili, B.G. Engineering, De Tomaso and Bugatti. The Enzo Ferrari Museum captures some of the glitz of the city’s manufacturing history; the facility boasts a semi-professional simulator to allow visitors to experience the exhilaration of driving a Ferrari Formula 1 single-seater. The locale’s industriousness is balanced by its cultural diversity in the nature of old Roman ruins, great masterpieces from the likes of luminaries such as El Greco and Correggio and the cathedral, one of the most beautiful and elegant from the European Romanesque period.

An Etruscan Wonder in Italy

By Linda Tancs

Founded by Etruscans more than 2,500 years ago, the Italian village of Civita di Bagnoregio is one of some 20,000 ghost villages, remnants of a bygone era characterized by isolated living in precariously perched hamlets forged by medieval artisans. Located on a tufa rock hill that can be reached only by crossing a pedestrian bridge, Civita di Bagnoregio’s perch is all the more dramatic considering that large portions of the commune have been reclaimed by the valley due to landslides and other natural disasters. Still, the gorgeous panoramic views make this hilltop enclave a favorite of tourists who gladly pay an entrance fee designed to shore up its crumbling infrastructure. Around 74 miles north of Rome, it’s a popular day trip with tour groups.

Skiing in Paradise

By Linda Tancs

Contiguous with Vanoise National Park in France, Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park joins with it to form the largest protected area in Europe. The first national park in Italy, it’s located in the Graian Alps, between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions. Gran Paradiso is a mountain located entirely within Italy, its highest at over 13,000 feet. Leave behind the hustle and bustle of slopes in France and Switzerland. The quieter pistes south of the Mont Blanc Massif offer charming alpine huts and traditional Italian hospitality.

Art, Science and Genius

By Linda Tancs

Leonardo da Vinci was truly a Renaissance man. Regarded as one of the world’s greatest geniuses, he was a painter, engineer, scientist, architect, sculptor, designer, scenographer, anatomist, musician, planner, botanist and inventor. The life and works of such a big man are memorialized on a small square in Venice, Italy, at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. Located at the Scoletta di San Rocco (in front of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco), the vast exhibition rooms explore da Vinci’s life—from his masterpieces like Mona Lisa to his contributions to industry. Accompanied by multimedia displays and hands-on models, you will see the workings of his most important engineering projects, with more than 60 perfectly functioning machines. The museum is conveniently located within minutes of the main railway station as well as St. Mark’s Square and Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (the biggest church in Venice).

Opulence in Brescia

By Linda Tancs

Brescia is regarded as one of Italy’s most ancient and beautiful cities. The largest province in Lombardy, it boasts three poet-inspiring lakes and three valleys amidst its Bronze Age archeological finds, cathedrals and squares. One of the most opulent attractions is no doubt Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, a hillside estate in the town of Gardone Riviera overlooking Lake Garda that was occupied by controversial writer and poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. The enviable locale is met with tiered gardens hosting a 1,000-seat Parlaggio amphitheater, the remains of the Puglia battleship cruiser and D’Annunzio’s tomb. Inside the home is a collection of 30,000 books and a dizzying array of paintings, furniture, frescoes and strange objets d’art. Take a guided tour to get the most out of your visit.

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