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Archive for italy

Spurred On in Italy

By Linda Tancs

Most would liken the shape of Italy to a boot. The spur on the heel of that boot is the Gargano Promontory. Jutting into the Adriatic Sea, much of it is in preserved land comprising Gargano National Park. Regarded as the most extensive national park in the country, its heart is the Umbrian Forest, home to some of the nation’s oldest trees. The locale is the best place to experience an ancient forest in Italy; consider taking a jeep tour.

A Rival to Versailles

By Linda Tancs

The Medici family ruled Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance. Their contributions to local culture are legendary, as are the many villas and gardens that family members accumulated over the centuries. One of their largest estates was Villa di Pratolino, its mansion and park environment worthy of comparison to Versailles. Eventually abandoned, the villa and the majority of its outdoor trappings became lost to history, and the complex was eventually purchased by a Florentine council for use as a public park. It hasn’t lost all of its Medici charms, however. A surviving element of the original estate is the imposing Colossus of the Apennines, a gigantic, 16th-century stone sculpture by Giambologna. Pratolino is about seven miles from the center of Florence; take bus #25A from Piazza San Marco.

Free Museums in Italy

By Linda Tancs

Free museum entry on the first Sunday of every month is making a comeback in Italy for state-operated museums, palaces and archaeological sites. That’s good news for tourists visiting renowned venues like the Colosseum in Rome, Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, Pompeii, the Palace of Caserta, Trieste’s Castello di Miramare and Turin’s Palace of Venaria. A complete list of participating sites is on the Ministry for Culture’s website.

Italian Island Bans Plastics

By Linda Tancs

Italy is no stranger to banning environmentally bad behavior. Remember the rule in Venice regarding littering? Now comes Capri on a crusade to ban plastics. In May, the island passed a law banning all single-use plastics that are not biodegradable. So, listen up, day trippers: leave your plastic bottles, bags and utensils on the mainland. Scofflaws will pay dearly, up to 500 euros. In the end, however, everyone will benefit from the new rule because the European Parliament approved a law banning a wide range of single-use plastic items by 2021 to curb ocean pollution. Indeed, some reports indicate that plastics make up at least 80% of marine litter.

Italy’s Butterfly Haven

By Linda Tancs

Nestled in the mountains in northeast Italy, Bordano hosts the largest butterfly enclosure in the country, Casa della Farfalle. Thousands of butterflies of every species fly about in greenhouses designed to replicate ecosystems in Africa, the Amazon and Asian and Australian rainforests. The facility is open daily from March to September.

From Tyrol to Italy

By Linda Tancs

From Austria’s highest peak (Grossglockner) to the Adriatic Sea, the Alpe-Adria Trail is a 466-mile trek winding its way through Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Signposted throughout, the trail is divided into a series of stages, each taking about six hours to walk. The hiking season begins in April and ends in October, the whole stretch taking up to six weeks. If you go now, you’ll likely see snow lingering on the high passes in Carinthia and Slovenia.

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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