Category Archive: Italy

Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

  The ruins of Pompeii have become one of Italy’s most visited sites. On August 24th, 79 A.D., erupted in a violent two-day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy by any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years and was presumed lost until its accidental rediscovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the ruins of Pompeii provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, the ruins of Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its […]

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5 Tuscan Towns for a Perfect Day Trip

It’s been awhile since we’ve traveled to Italy and it’s time to start making plans for a return visit. Our travel preference is to travel with friends and rent a home in Italy to use as a home base. Having a home base lets us set up a combination of days at leisure to relax and soak up the Italian way of life along with busy days of day trips seeing the countryside. There are many things that we love about Italy, especially the hill towns in Tuscany. Here are a few of our favorites, perfect as a home base, day trip, or weekend getaway. Castiglione d’Orcia Where it is: In the Siena province in Tuscany. Population around 3,000. What to do: Visit the Castle of Tentennano and the Santi Stefano and Degna to see art. Relax in the baths. […]

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Visiting the Ruins of Pompeii: From Tragedy to Tourism

On August 24th, 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted in a violent two day display that destroyed the city of Pompeii, Italy, and the surrounding area. It is one of history’s largest recorded volcanic eruptions, and a tragedy any measure. The city was buried under ash and pumice for nearly 1700 years, and was presumed lost until its accidental re-discovery in the mid-1700s.   The subsequent excavation of the site provided a peek at what life was like during the height of the Roman Empire. Rising out of the ash and lava over a thousand years later, Pompeii turned a horrible tragedy into a tourism opportunity. Millions of visitors a year now visit this UNESCO World Heritage site located not far from Naples, along with its sister city Herculaneum. The site is stable and safe to visit, but there have been some […]

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Talking About Tuscany on the Amateur Traveler

I’ve written here many times about how much I enjoy the small towns and villages in Tuscany, predominantly the southern part of the area. From staying at La Montalla in Contignano, to wine tasting in Montalcino, to shopping and dining in Pienza, to exploring in Montepulciano, it’s all part of how I love to see the Italy. This past week I had a chance to discuss some of my favorite places with Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler. You can listen here, or head on over to iTunes and subscribe to the Amateur Traveler. Tip:  Download the past episodes and catch up on all of them when you have a chance. There’s some great stories, tips, and information to be discovered there. Travel to The Hill Towns of Southern Tuscany – Episode 350

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Photo Friday: Art of St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice

No matter where you are in Venice, it seems like there’s an arrow pointing you to San Marco Piazza.  And why not?  Along with the gondolas on the Grand Canal, the piazza is one of the most popular spots in a city that’s full of popular spots.  The Piazza fronts Saint Mark’s Basilica, a Catholic Cathedral and the most famous church in the city.  It’s Byzantine architecture and grand design has been a symbol of the power and wealth of Venice for over 10 centuries. This photo is of the lower lower level of the Basilica, and is one of the arched portals that is surrounded by columns.  The arch is above a set of bronze doors than open into the interior of the cathedral, where even more awe inducing art and architecture is found.  The interior is probably best […]

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Photo Friday: Wisteria on Capri

From Sorrento, a visit to the island of Capri is a short boat ride away, making it an easy day trip.  In high season, reservations may be important, but otherwise just head down to Marina Grande, figure out your timing, and buy a ticket.  The ticket will depend on the time of boat service and the current Euro exchange rate, but figure about $15-17 and allow 20-30 minutes transport time. Before you go to the island, though, learn how to correctly.  It’s pronounced CAH-pree.  The often heard cuh-PREE is a pair of pants.  Locals will know what you’re talking about if you say it incorrectly, but what not try for a little authenticity. Once on the island, visitors typically either head off for a tour of the famous Blue Grotto, or take the funicular up to Capri Town.  The town […]

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Remembering Tuscany: Opening Wine Sent Home From Italy

You know how there are those moments when you get to re-live your travel experiences all over again?  Well tonight is one of those nights for me. For the last few years that we’ve been in Italy, we’ve made a point to send a case (or two) of wine home.  The process isn’t difficult, we head off to Montepulciano where we have a favorite wine shop, do a little tasting, select a nice combination of favorites and new discoveries, and let the shop take care of the packing, shipping, and customs part of things.  We look for a combination of wines that we love, wines we cannot get at home, and choices that represent good value.  It’s not a precise science or art, but I choose wines I like and that’s most important to me. Tonight I opened a bottle […]

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Throwing Three Coins in Rome’s Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi, better known to most of us as Trevi Fountain, is  Rome’s most spectacular and popular fountain.  In a city with so many impressive fountains, that’s a pretty big claim. The Baroque-style  fountain, designed by architect Nicola Salvi and completed in 1762, is located in a busy section of the city, not far from the popular Via del Corso.  To get to the fountain you walk down narrow streets, some of which seem more like alleys than streets, to the historic center of Rome.  There’s signage to help you find the way, and asking for directions will help get you pointed in the right direction, but if you find the noise gets louder and louder it means you’re getting close. When I first stepped into the Piazza di Trevi, its intricate sculptures, cascading water, and faded stones wowed […]

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Photo Friday: Venice by Water

While riding in a gondola in Venice is one of the most common ways to see the city, it is also one of the most expensive.  A ride on the traghetto, a sort of foot ferry on a gondola, is usually crowded and quick, leaving little time to see the city from the water.  A ride on the vaporetto (water taxi) can be so crowded that you may not even be able to see the water from your standing spot. Although I think a trip to Venice should include all three of the above, on a hot summer day I’d suggest taking to the water on a motor boat. A motor boat will take you nearly everywhere that a gondola will.  The faster pace may be a little less romantic, but the trade off is a little breeze on your […]

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Italian Vacation: Gondolas in Venice

Can there be a more iconic experience of Venice than a ride in a gondola?  For centuries this flat-bottomed boat was the primary means of transportation and moving goods within the city Venice, but today they are primarily used for sightseeing by visitors, weddings and funerals, and the occasional regatta.   So yes, riding on a gondola is a touristy thing to do – but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it out of hand.  This quintessential experience can be relaxing, fun, and romantic.  It will let you see the city from the water, and for a few minutes, let you imagine what the city was like in an earlier era. The cheapest way to ride a gondola is also the quickest.  For about a dollar (depending on exchange rates) you can take a traghetto, a sort of foot ferry shuttling […]

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