things to see in Milan

10 Unmissable Things to See in Milan

Unlike Rome, Florence or Venice, Milan is not one of the first destination travelers have in mind when thiking about Italy. Nonetheless there are so many things to see in Milan that will make a weekend in the city an unforgettable one: here are our 10 favourites!

  1. Admire Milan from the roof of the Duomo

Milan’s Duomo, the ‘hedgehog’, as D.H. Lawrence once nicknamed it, hosts countless treasure inside its walls, but it’s on its roof that you can enjoy the best this building has to offer. Climb up to the top of the Church and you will admire a marble forest of more than 3,000 statues and more than a 100 spires, delicately set on flying buttresses. Bonus: if you visit the Duomo on a bright, sunny day you will get to see the white tops of the Alps!

  1. Wonder for 15 minutes at Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”

If you are lucky enough to get hold of a ticket to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” you will only have 15 minutes to admire it. But it will probably the best 15 minutes of your Milan adventure. The refectory (“cenacolo” in Italian) that hosts the 15th century mural painting is a building attached to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, a Dominican convent included in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list.

  1. Walk on the red velvet of Teatro alla Scala

The Theatre “Alla Scala” in Milan, is surely on of the best Things to See in Milan, one of the symbol of the city . In the “Temple of Opera” the most important plays are represented all over the year. Its neo-classical, simple façade is in contrast with the rich interior, made of red velvet, gilded balconies and glittering chandeliers. Tickets to opera and ballet performances are not difficult to obtain: check out La Scala’s superb programme on the Theatre website. (http://www.teatroallascala.org/en/season/2016-2017/index.html)

  1. Immerse yourself in Classical Art…

If you want to admire some of the best classical Art Galleries in Italy you can dedicate a day to visit the Pinacoteca di Brera. This art gallery is hosted in an imposing palace which contains also a Botanical Garden, an Academy of Fine Arts and an astronomical observatory. The Gallery contains many works Napoleon got hold of during his life, like the Dead Christ by Mantegna and Supper At Emmaus by Caravaggio. Equally worth a visit is the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, once an Academy of Fine Arts founded in 1618 by Cardinal Federico Borromeo. Main aim of the Academy was to educate new generations to art, displaying stunning works of art by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Raffaello, Bramantino, Titian, Caravaggio, and Francesco Hayez, as well as copies of other masterpieces, like the “Pietà” by Michelangelo, the Laocoon group and the Last Supper.

  1. … but don’t forget to see some modern art!

Both open since 2010, Museo del Novecento (1900s Museum) and Gallerie d’Italia (Italy’s Galleries) are perfect to observe some beautiful pieces of modern art. In the Museo del Novecento 400 pieces by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse, Futurists painters and Italian artist from the 50s and 60s. Gallerie d’Italia, located in front of “La Scala” theatre, is an Art Gallery owned by “Intesa San Paolo”, one of Italy’s biggest banks. Works of Art are displayed in two different rooms, one dedicated to the 19th century ad one to the 20th century. In the first one you can admire works by Canova, Boccioni and other futurist artists, while in the second one countless works by Italian artists of the whole 20th century are displayed next to international masters, such as Picasso, Kandinsky and Warhol.

  1. Shop in the oldest shopping mall: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Symbolized by its glass-and-iron dome and enriched with mosaics and marble floors, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele arcade is Milan’s most glamorous shopping mall. The first shop by Prada opened here in 1913, then Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Versace chose to open a branch in this gallery. When you are inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele don’t forget to spot the floor mosaic depicting a bull and spin your heels in the hole where the animal’s testicles should be: it brings good luck!

  1. Visit the Sforza’s Castle and Michelangelo’s unfinished masterpiece

The Sforza’s Castle (or “Castello Sforzesco”, in Italian) is a Renaissance residence, built on what remained of a 14th century Fortress. Its two rounded turrets, courtyards and passageways are alone worth the visit, but this building also hosts a series of Museums and one of the most overlooked piece of art in Milan, the “Pietà Rondanini”, an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo. The marble sculpture was moved in the former Spanish Hospital inside the “Cortile delle Armi” (Arms Courtyard) in 2012, an exclusive location which is the perfect frame to this masterpiece.

  1. Don’t believe your eyes at Santa Maria presso San Satiro

Located among the chain stores on the shopping street, Via Torino, the church of Santa Maria presso San Satiro is one of the unmissable Things to See in Milan. It holds yet another unmissable sight, the Bramante’s Chorus. Once inside the 15th century Church you will bet the gilded apse at the end of the barrel-vaulted nave is at least two metres deep. But once you get closer you won’t believe your eyes: instead of the apse there is a trompe-l’oeil niche, just 97 centimetres deep.

  1. Visit Sant’Ambrogio’s Church, the Patron of Milan

Ask residents in Milan what the most important church in the city is: most of them won’t answer the “Duomo”, but “Sant’Ambrogio”, the Church dedicated to the city’s patron saint. Sant’Ambrogio is not very appealing from outside, but the interior is full of ancient works of art. There is a Golden Altar, a 9th-century masterpiece of Carolingian goldwork, the Stilicone Sarcophagus, and the remains of Sant’Ambrogio and other two Saints, hosted in a bronze and crystal casket in the crypt of the Church.

  1. Grab some delicious lunch at Luini’s

If you don’t want to sit at a restaurant table and just need something quick for lunch try Luini, in a backstreet beside the Duomo. Try to avoid the peak hour, especially during weekends, as the queue can be quite long. Everyone want a bite of their legendary “Panzerotti”, a fried pastry filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Originally from Puglia, in the south of Italy, this delicacy is now one of the best treats you can find in Milan.

museums for kids in florence

The best parks and Museums for Kids in Florence

Discover the best Parks and Museums for Kids in Florence. Find out were to bring your little ones to have some fun in the open air and 5 museums where kids can learn about the rich history of Florence in an interactive way.

 

Parks for Kids in Florence

 

If you want to let your kids steam off after a long walk or if you want to enjoy a sunny day in the open air, Florence is full of green spaces.
The “Parco delle Cascine”, stretching along Vittorio Veneto Square until Indiano Bridge, is perfect if you are looking for a nice and safe playground. Here you can rent roller blades or have a refreshing a swim in the swimming pool.
Also very nice is the “Horticulture Garden”. Its “tepidarium”, a spectacular greenhouse in iron and glass built in 1880, hosts plants during the winter season. The garden also has a playground and a linking passage to the “Parnassus Horts”, a wonderful terrace overlooking a breath-taking panorama of Florence. Your kids will love the Fountain of the Dragon,  whose tail of stone stretches from the highest part of the garden and ends with its big mouth wide open.
Another big playground is hosted inside the Garden of Villa Strozzi. It was designed in the 16th century and boasts water fountains and mannerist artistic elements.
Last, but absolutely not least, is the Boboli Gardens, a real open-air museum! They were so beautifully designed and contained so many elements and buildings that they inspired the Gardens of Versailles.

Museums for Kids in Florence

1) Palazzo Vecchio

Literally “Old Palace”, this building has been the symbol of the political power of the city of Florence for over 700 years. Today is the headquarters of the Mayor of but also features an amazing Museum, which includes an area for children. Here the Mus.e Association holds daily activities to entertain children from 4 years old, which can be booked in different languages, including English, to guide the whole family through all sections of the Museum. The Museum for Kids in Palazzo Vecchio brings the Renaissance city to life for kids with demonstrations of how the Medici lived and ruled. If you are not scared of heights, climb up to Palazzo Vecchio’s tower: it has a wonderful view and is not as tough a climb as the one to the Dome of the Duomo of Florence. (just keep in mnd children under 6 are not allowed to go up the tower).

2) Palazzo Strozzi

Palazzo Strozzi is among the Museums for Kids in Florence that offer the most comprehensive range of activities, for toddlers, kids and teens. Families with young children can take place in workshops that include storytelling, take at the entrance a “drawing kit”, to keep the little ones engaged and evn a stroller tours for parents with children under age three. If you think exhibitions would bore your kids ask at the entrance for a “family kit” full of games and information designed to breathe life into the visit and explore the exhibition in a uniquely captivating way.

3) Galileo Museum

The Galileo Museum hosts an important collection of tools designed and made by Galileo Galilei as well as a scientific collections of the Medici and Lorraine families. Among the items displayed is a huge collection of compasses, armillary spheres and astrolabes, together with thousand more instruments and scientific equipment. It will be like a journey into the past, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

The museum is easy to reach, being located along the Arno River and not far from the Uffizi Gallery. It has been completely restored and is now a real interactive museum with many activities for kids, even though only in Italian. Why not visiting It with one of our kid-friendly guides?

4) Leonardo Da Vinci’s Museum

Located in the centre of Florence, no far from the Duomo, The Leonardo da Vinci Museum is of course completely dedicated to biggest genius of the Renaissance. He wasn’t just a painter, but also a valid architect and engineer. The museum displays reconstructions of various civil engineering, military and flying projects designed by Leonardo for the Medici family and other powerful people.

Why would a kid have fun here? Because several machines are interactive and even the younger ones can experience them directly and discover how they operate. Every object features an explanation and a detail description: you can read it and explain the machine to your kid… or maybe he will explain to you! Want to have a tour with a kid-friendly guide inside the Museum and in the centre of Florence? We can organize a nice tour of the Market of Florence, a stroll in the cty centre ad a guided visit inside this museum with a local guide!

5) Natural History Museum

Among the top kid-friendly museums in Florence, the Museum of Natural History is a favorite among the little ones! The 6 sections that make up the Museum are located in different areas of the city, but are still inside Florence historical centre. Although founded 300 years ago it’s been constantly updated and is today one of the finest collection in Italy.

In the Geology and Paleontology section a large number of fossils from Italy are displayed, to show the evolution of life on earth from 3.5 billion years ago. Your kids will love the elephant “Pietro”, with its 4 meters height, one of the fossils found in the Valdarno area in Tuscany.

The Museum La Specola is all about animals! It’s the oldest science museum in Europe and houses a collection of 5000 stuffed animals and 3000 skeletons. Don’t miss the beautiful Galileo Tribune, showing frescoes and bas-reliefs celebrating the discoveries and instruments of the great Florentine genius.

Need help organizing your trip to Florence? Want to book a tour  and visit Museums for Kids in Florence with a kid-friendly guide? Our booking staff is at your complete disposal to build the holiday of your dreams. Browse our tour and enter your requet in the booking form!

Italy's best hot springs

Relax in Italy’s best hot springs.. for free!

Everybody knows how great Italy’s beaches are for a holiday in the summer. But the Belpaese also hosts an incredible number of sulphur hot springs, which can be found throughout the country and are perfect for a dip in any season. Let’s see how and where to find Italy’s best hot springs!

Thanks to its geological properties, Italy is full of natural hot springs, which are rich in sulphur and a variety of minerals. The water flowing in these baths boasts endless health and beauty benefits, which will surely attract women and people suffer from different condition. However anyone can find in these baths the perfect place to relax body and mind and enjoy their holidays, whether staying in the north or the south. The best part is that many hot springs, natural pools and thermal parks in Italy haven’t been tapped by spas and are therefore totally free!

Saturnia, Grosseto (Tuscany)

The steaming hot water of Saturnia, in Tuscany, runs down from Mount Amiata and the beautiful hills of the Maremma region: they are probably one of Italy’s best hot springs. Rich in sulphure, these waters collect in the calcareous rock pools at the mount feet, forming a natural bath which was loved by Ancient Romans. The legend has it that the Roman God Saturn, tired from all the wars created by men, sent a lightening on Earth and created these ivory white springs to pacify mankind. Anyway, due to a malaria outbreak occured in the 16th century, the Baths of Saturnia were completely forgotten until the 19th century. Saturnia is possibly the most famous hot spring in Italy: nowadays thousands of locals and tourists come to enjoy its curative waters and roll in its sulphur-rich mud, famous to lower blood pressure and treating skin diseases and rheumatisms. Saturnia’s baths are divided into two areas: one offers paid treatments, while the other hosts free wild springs.

Ischia: Sorgeto and Fumarole (Campania)

Beside being one of the most beautiful islands in Southern Italy, Ischia is famous for its thermal springs. The island has of course a number of expensive spas, but tourists can also enjoy beautiful free areas to have a dip in its curative, hot waters! The best two free hot springs in Ischia are called Fumarole and Sorgeto.

Fumarole Hot Springs can be easily reached with a walk from Sant’Angelo district. The waters here give out a special steam that can even come out from the ground, through the sand! That is why so many people sleeps on the sand during summer nights, to enjoy the nature with friends!

Sorgeto’s hot springs are a bit different: its waters come out from the seabed with a temperature of 90°C (194°F) so be very careful when dipping your feet in the sea! To reach these hot springs there are around 200 steps to take, so consider this if you are traveling with kids or people with walking problems.

Fosso Bianco, Tuscany

Also known as “Bagni San Filippo” (St. Phillip’s Baths),  the Fosso Bianco natural pools is just at the confluence of different hot springs. The waterfalls of Fosso Bianco fall down hitting a calcium-carbonate encrusted rock-face, to end in a natural basins below. These natural baths are perfect to visit anytime of the year.  A leafy path will take you down to the so called “white-whale” (the widest calcium formation of the area), where the white-blue water makes a nice contrast with the green and copper shades of the surrounding woods. With a nice temperature 48°C, the water of Bagni San Filippo allows you to have a dip also in the winter season.

Vulcano, Sicily

If you are enjoying a holiday in Sicily and you want to relax in nature, take a boat and reach the Aeolian Island of Vulcano. Here you will find “Mud Lake” thermal springs and mud baths which are known as a treatment for muscles, joint and bone pains and as a skin beauty treatment! The white steams coming up from the fumaroles create a stunning contrast with the dark sands of Sicily: sit down in the natural basins and relax your body and mind in the nature.

Bagni di Bormio, Lombardy

If your holidays bring you in the north of Italy, or if you have business to do in Milan, take a day off and head to the medieval town of Bormio.Here you will find three resorts, called Old Baths, New Baths and Bormio Spas. The Old Baths are the most fascinating as they are 1000 thousand years old! They feature a pool in an ancient roman tunnel and a spectacular view of the white tops of the Western Dololomites.

Terme del Bullicame, Viterbo, Lazio

If you are enjoying a roman holiday, you might think about escaping the hustle and bustle of the city and heading north, in the province of Viterbo. In this region you can visit the Bullicame hotsprings: even poet Dante Alighieri mentioned them in his works, to praise their relaxing powers. The word “Bullicame” comes from the verb “Bullicare”, to boil: in these hotsprings you can enjoy two pools, one hot and one cold. The area does not provide a security service, so we suggest you visit these pools within a group of friends!

Would you like to enjoy Italy’s best hot springs and restore your body and soul? Ask us and we will provide you with a VIP trasnfer service to reach the best places in Italy in comfort and style.

itineraries in umbria

Itineraries in Umbria for couples

Discover the best itineraries in Umbria for couples, in the region where Saint Valentine was born! Nature, art and good food are not only in Tuscany: the region of Umbria will surprise you in more than a way.

If you are a couple planning to visit Italy and you want a romantic itinerary immersed in nature and art, a trip to Umbria is the perfect choice. This region is in the centre of Italy, next to Lazio (Rome), and Tuscany (Florence) is a real gem, which has nothing to envy to Florence or Pisa. You can bring your lover to its several cities, parks and mountains and whisper words of love watching breathtaking views. Let’s start with our itinerary in Umbria: choose your favourite destination and let us know if you need any guided tour!

 

  1. Terni, Narni and Marmore Falls

    Marmore falls in Umbria

    Marmore falls in Umbria

    Any romantic journey to Umbria should start with a visit to Terni, the city known for a very famous inhabitant: Saint Valentine! You can visit the Church of Saint Valentine’s and share your promises onto a book for lovers set in the last chapel on the left, near the apsis. If you are going around February-March check out the Valentinian Events, a collection or religious and cultural events. School boys, couples, families and tourists can all enjoy the celebration of love, in all its aspects. After this romantic stop, you can proceed to the neaby city of Narni, with its stunning views and medieval architecture. The bridge of Augustus, located over the River Nera, dates back to 27 BC. and has often been painted by famous French artists, come to Italy for their “Grand Tour“, the journey through Italy so fashionable in the XVIII and XIX centuries.
    Speaking of “Grand Tour”, another destination also included in this journeys were the Marmore Falls. Bring your lover here to get swept by the force of nature: kiss under the Balcony of Lovers and admire the first jump of the falls (bring your macs with you!) and if you want to propose in a very romantic way, tell your partner about the romantic legends of the Marmore falls. Legend says that Saint Valentine wanted to prove the purity of the beautiful Nerina (from Nera, the river of Umbria) to her lover and to do so he hit the rocks with his pastoral stick. A jet of water originated from the rocks giving life what seems like a bridal veil!


     

  2. The Lakes of Piediluco and Trasimeno

    Lake of Piediluco in Umbria

    Lake of Piediluco in Umbria

    Not far from the Marmore Falls is the Lake of Piediluco, famous for its echo. Take your lover on a boat on the lake and when you reach the centre leave him/her speechless shouting “I love you”… the echo will do the rest! Drive 122km northway to find another lake, Trasimeno.

    The whole territory surrounding Lake Trasimeno has a romantic aura. We suggest to reach Isola Maggiore for a nice walk at sunset. Walk through the old fishermen borough and look at the Museum of Lace, until you reach the cliff of Saint Francis. Legend has it the Saint took refuge here during his stay on the island. A further step could be the Church of Saint Michael. Take the chance to admire the stunning reflections that water and sunset lights will offer you. If your lover is a contemporary art lover you can go to Campo del Sole, an original collection of 27 big statues, reminding of those adorning the Easter Island. Set up between 1985 and 1989 Campo del Sole was created in order to build a memorial on the land where the battle of Annibal took place.


  3. Orvieto, Gubbio and Perugia

    the Duomo in Orvieto, Umbria

    the Duomo in Orvieto, Umbria

    These are the three biggest cities in Umbria,  apart from Terni. Orvieto, famous for his Duomo, offers amazing views over a huge cliff. But we think a couple would appreciate more the ancient part of the city, to have a priviledged view over the surrounding hills, between Via Alberici and Via Ippolito Scalza. Just park in Campo della Fiera: a lift will bring you up there directly! If you are keen on tasting some wines, not far from this spot you will find “Palazzo del Gusto” (“Palace of Taste”) and Umbria’s Regional Wine Centre, host in the former convent of Saint John, inside narrow passages dug out in tufo rocks. The Wine centre collects the best Controlled Origin Denomination wines of Umbria!
    Gubbio is another city full of romantic spots and nice views. For a romantic walk start from Piazza Grande and go up through Via Galeotti, Via della Cattedrale, to reach the Duke Palace and the Duomo. During this stroll you will meet imposive vaults: walk beneath them and you will find a nice terrace, perfect to admire the Consuls Palace and the rest of the city, sipping a nice drink. If you want to impress your partner, another great city in Umbria is Perugia, the sweet city of the “Bacio” (“kiss”) chocolate made from the brand “Perugina”. A nice spot for lovers is on Corso Vannucci, one of the main streets. If you are in the mood for some laughs and some love, go to Piazza Italia under the portal of the provincial building and try out the Whispering Arches. Stand at diagonal opposite corners of the arches and whisper to each other, you’ll hear the other loud and clear!


     

  4. Castelluccio, Mount Cucco and the Oasis of Alviano: for sporty lovers

    The Flowering Plain of Castelluccio

    The Flowering Plain of Castelluccio

    Those who love to keep active and live in the nature will love a trip to Castelluccio Plain, near Perugia. During the winter you can enjoy a “ciaspolata“, a walk on the snow with rackets at your feet. During the spring you get the best of this place: you will love the “Flowering” on the plain- For several weeks the monotony of grassland gets broken by a thousand colors, with flowers ranging from yellow and red, to purple and orange. The kind of flowers growing in this plain are countless, among these we can name: gentianellas, daffodils, violets, poppies, buttercups, daffodils, purple eugeniae, clovers, shamrocks etc. If you love biking, take a ride in the areas of Arrone, Ferentillo and the Fluvial Park of the River Nera. It will be an easy path of 10 km, also fine for people with limited experience. For more extreme couple a nice suggestion is going down the Carsic Grotto of Mount Cucco, a huge underground path extending fot over 30 km, with the deepest point reaching 923 meters! Our last proposal is a trip to one of the biggest Oasis of WWF in Alviano, full of points of observation: you could even spot a white heron or an osprey!

 

Would you like any more information about these places? Would you like a friendly private guide to visit Umbria or any other region in Italy? We are here for you: email or call us for a free quotation…

Bramante Staircase

Bramante Staircase: one of the wonders of the Vatican

The Vatican City boasts countless great museums, with extensive art collections attracting thousands of visitors everyday. Inside these galleries we can admire classical sculptures and masterpieces of the Renaissance art. Among these few are able to admire Bramante Staircase, a revolutionary piece of architecture that is hidden inside the Vatican walls.

Inside the Vatican Museums a vast number of art pieces and amazing architectures can be admired, belonging to different persiods, cultures and countries from all over the world. One of the biggest exhibition spaces inside the Vatican is the Pio-Clementine Museum, built in the 18th century as ordered by Pope Julius II to host countless Ancient Greek and Roman collections belonging to the Papacy.  Among these priceless pieces lies an uncompared Renaissance architecture, commissioned by the same Pope Julius II at the start of the 16th century to link the Belvedere Palace of Pope Innocent VIII to the city of Rome. Tucked inside the large square tower belonging to the Pio-Clementine Palace we can see a breathtaking spiraling structure, carved in stone by a famous architect from Tuscany, Donato Bramante.

The amazing thing about the “Bramante Staircase” is its shape: centuries before the DNA was discovered, Bramante created a staircase with the shape of a double-helix, something its contemporaries had obviously never seen before. His creation soon gained a huge popularity among the public. The purpose of this staircase, though, was very practical: it was once an entrance from street level to the Papal apartments, but it was built to accommodate even horses and mules carrying large items back and forth from the Papal Palaces.

Not only is this staircase beautifully designed and carved: climbing it to the top will allow you to gain a breathtaking view across Rome and the Vatican estate. Today, though, Bramante staircase is closed to the general public. Only visitors who has been granted a special access have the privilege to walk this precious staircase. If you want to be among those few priviledged visitors, do not hesitate to check out our “Tours of the Vatican with Restricted Areas” and discover how to visit the Vatican with a Private Guide, entering most of the restricted areas of the Museums!

 

what to see in trastevere

What to see in Trastevere

When travellers ask for a place to savour real Italian food or having fun at night we always suggest a walk in Trastevere. Discover what to see in Trastevere and why a visit to this neighbourhood is something you can not miss!

Perhaps the most fantastic neighborhood in the city, some say Trastevere is somewhat losing its Italian touch, due to the increasing number of international (especially American) student life. Despite this, Romans still think Trastevere is one of the most beautiful areas in Rome.

You’ll be amazed by the beautiful views of winding cobblestone streets, ancient buildings with ivy vines climbing on the facades, narrow alleys full of the tables of the typical italian restaurants, “trattoria” and the lively vintage shops, pubs and clubs. It will be immediately clear why tourists falls in love with this neighbourhood ‘just across the Tiber’, as its name suggests.

What to See in Trastevere

what to see in trastevereWhen it comes to attractions, the area of Trastevere has no shortage of them. If you want to explore its history and art you should walk to Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. Outdoor cafès here overlook the square, its fountain and the majestic Santa Maria in Trastevere Church. Tourists are left speechless when admiring the golden mosaics of this building, glistening in the sun. Santa Maria in Trastevere, the first church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome, is also one of the oldest in the city. By night, but also in the afternoon during the winter, the piazza gets a lot of action between diners and street performers. Your next stop will be the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere: enter here to admire some really amazing frescoes made by Pietro Cavallini at the end of the 13th century. Tourists and pilgrims also visit this Church to marvel at the sculpture of Saint Cecilia: the white marble statue is located just beneath the altar and features the saint with her head half-severed, with a shroud covering her face after the beheading.


 

What to Eat in Trastevere

what to see in trastevereOne of the best things about Trastevere is the infinite choice of restaurants, pizzerias, cafés, pubs and, on top of everything, the “trattorias“, which are local, traditional restaurants. If you wish to taste traditional roman dishes, sit down one of the outside tables and order carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes) pasta arrabbiata (spicy tomato), amatriciana (tomato, onion and pancetta), or carbonara (egg and pancetta). If you’re in the mood for some pizza, you will discover that Roman pizza is exceptionally light and crispy thin, very different from the soft, thick pizza you can have in Naples. If you are in Rome with your friends and you want to have some fun, enter one of the many pubs and order a beer: you will find there are very few italians here, though! Pubs, as most places in Trastevere, are full of tourists and international students.

 


Where to have some fun in Trastevere

what to see in trastevereWhen you want to grab a drink after a hot day walking in the city or if you feel like enjoying a glass of wine while marveling at the people passing by, Trastevere has something for all walks of life. One of the most popular places in Trastevere is Freni e Frizioni (“brakes and cluthces”), located near Piazza Trilussa. Many youngsters come to this former autobody shop from 7pm for an aperitivo. Order a beer, some wine or a mojito (they’re legendary!) and eat as much as you want, helping yourself from the huge table in the middle of the room. Most of the food is vegetarian and fresh: you will find bowls of rice and oat salads with veggies, toasted bread to be topped with chopped tomatoes and hummus, fruit, pasta but also some meat and potatoes.
During the summer you can also visit the event “Along the Tiber… Rome” which enlightens summer nights in Rome, every day from 7 pm. Walk down the stairs near Piazza Trilussa and go ahead along the river: pubs, stalls selling clothes and accessories and stages for concerts and cultural events are set up from Ponte Sublicio to Ponte Sisto. There will be expositions, exhibitions, contests, meetings, workshops, with free admission.


 

Where to Shop in Trastevere

Forget about malls or department store shopping here. Trastevere will give you a completely different shopping experience. Its streets are concentrated with various funky boutiques selling clothes, accessories and some very interesting shoes. High street brands are also present, but the good thing about shops here is the chance to look and buy vintage clothes and original pieces of furniture or jewellery. For a list of the best shops in Trastevere follow this link.

Tarot Garden in Capalbio

The Tarot Garden in Capalbio

The Tarot Garden is located near the city of Capalbio, in the beautiful area of Maremma, Tuscany. This magic space was built by French artist Niki de Saint de Phalle and is full of huge, colorful sculptures, representing the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot cards.

The idea behind the Tarot Garden in Capalbio

This amazing Tarot Garden in Capalbio was the result of the artist’s wish to express her idea of a “small Eden where man and nature meet“, exactly the same philosophy behind the Catalan artist Gaudì. It is not a mistery that she took inspiration from the beautiful Park Guell by Gaudì in Barcellona, Spain. After coming back from her journey she chose a plot of land in the wild Maremma region, just a few kilometers from the city of Capalbio, and started her epic work.

Construction began in 1979, ending only in 1996: the Tarot garden in Capalbio was finally opened to the public two years later, on 15th May 1998. Building it cost more than 10 billion liras (the old italian coin, approximately 5 million euros) which the French artist completely self-financed.
When the works were finally over, Niki de Saint Phalle even founded “Tarot Garden Foundation”, whose primary aim is to keep the artist’s work intact and to finance any mantainance.

What’s inside the Tarot Garden and who built it

Niki de Saint Phalle felt that this garden had to represent the magic and spiritual garden of her dreams. She worked for almost 20 years to give life to the 22 huge sculptures: each of them has a steel soul, covered by concrete with ceramics, colored glass and mirrors.
She didn’t work alone, though. Se was helped by a team of professionals and from an equipe of famous contemporary artists, such as Rico Weber, Marino Karella, Paul Wiedmer, Pierre Marie and Isabelle Le Jeune, Sepp Imhof, Dok van Winsen, Alan Davie and even her husband, Jean Tinguely. He collaborated until his death, in 1991, to help her creating the enormous metallic structure which support the statues and also featured many of them with his “mécaniques”: he joined different moving iron elements to give life to the statues!

Niki was also joined by many of the best italian professionals in her adventurous creation: Riccardo Menon, friend and personal assistant of Niki, Venera Finocchiaro, a Roman ceramist, and architects Mario Botta and Roberto Aureli, who designed the pavillion which welcomes the visitors to the park. It is a thick wall, fencing the garden, with just one big circular opening in the middle, meaning to represent a sort of ideal boundary dividing the Tarot Garden from the outside world.

The 22 sculptures of the Tarot Garden: a comprehensive work of art

The 22 scultpures adorning the garden represent the personal artist’s view of the esoteric Tarot cards, one her main passions. The Empress is probably the sculpture which best represents the soul of the garden. Portrayed as a large woman-sphinx, this artwork was indeed chosen by the artist as her house for the whole time while she was working on the garden! Another tarot card, The Justice, inspired a work of art encasing a sculpture inside created by Jean Tinguely, which represents iniquity being imprisoned by a huge lock. And then the Tree of Life, with snakes as branches and a trunk covered by designs and texts created by the artist. Go on and discover The Devil, The Magician, The Sun, The Wheel of Fortune and all the cards of the Major Arcana.

Why visiting the Tarot Garden in Capalbio

The Tarot Garden is a magical place, a small Garden of Eden in Maremma, that really deserves a visit. Its strong connection between art and architecture really sets it apart from any other garden in Italy: the statues are of course a work of art, boasting a peculiar linguistic and figurative repertoir, but they also possess a dimension which is usually a feature of an architectural work. They have a human dimension, they can be walked into, explored and touched and are thus loved by the kids who visit the garden!

Have you ever been there? Would you like to visit it? The Tarot Garden is open from March to October, every afternoon from 2:30 to 7:30: entrance costs 12 euro for adults and 7 euros for students and seniors over 65, free for kids under 7 years old.

Things to see in Venice

7 beautiful things to see in Venice

Romantic, fascinating, unique: Venice is a city like no others and therefore one of the most visited places in Italy. We all know that. What you might not know is which are the best things to see in Venice: read our blog and start dreaming of your next trip…

    1. Bridge of Sighs: the most romantic spot in Venice!

      One of the most romantic scenes in the city, the Bridge of Sighs takes its name from a legend linked to Romantic literature. People in the past used to say that from this bridge one could hear the sighs of the condemned people being led to prison.
      The bridge houses two overlapping corridors, which follow an arched profile. It was built at the start of the 17th century upon a project made by designer Antonio Contin: its purpose was to serve as a link between the Old Prisons contained in the Doge’s Palace and the New Prisons which stood beyond the Palazzo River.

    2. Doge’s Palace: a symbol of the history of the city

      The Doge’s Palace (or, as you will hear Italians call it: Palazzo Ducale) is a gorgeous palace built in Venetian Gothic style, probably one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace used to be the residence of the Doge of Venice, who was the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, but also the headwuarters of the Tribunal of the Republic, where judges decided about the life and death of hundreds of people.When you get there it won’t be difficult to feel like a doge of the “Serenissima” (another name for the Republic of Venice). Imagine living in this elegant and prestigious palace. Close your eyes and see yourself welcoming your hosts, walking down the amazing staircase known as the “Scala dei Giganti” (“Giants’ Staircase”), framed by two gorgeous statues of Neptunes and Mars.
      The main door is the Porta della Carta, a beautiful example of Late Gothic Style. The door is framed by two lines of statues and pinnacles and hosts on the top a statue of the Doge Foscari, kneeling in front of the winged lion, the symbol of Venice.

    3. St. Mark’s Basilica

      It’s impossibile to describe the emotion you feel when you finally see this Basilica in front of you. Just looking at its every detail would take hours. St. Mark’s facade is adorned by golden mosaics and is enriched by the works of artists who travelled from all over Italy and Europe to give their contribution to this masterpiece.
      The contruction of the Basilica started as early as 828 AD, when the Doge decided to build a Church to host the newly found body of St. Mark, but the building remained quite plain until 1200. During the 13th century, after the conquest of Costantinople, five domes were added as well as the four bronze horses which are still located over the main arch. Artists from Florence and Milan area also added Gothic ornamental elements all over the exterior and interior of the Basilica, as well as mosaics and altars, which make St. Mark’s one of the most rich and amazing Churches all over Europe.

    4. Golden Pall

      This beautiful piece of art can be admired on the main altar inside St. Mark’s Basilica. Built around 976-978 AD by skilled bizantine goldsmiths, its main purpose was to serve as a shrine to host the body of St. Mark, but it is so much more than that.
      It is a big board covered in golden and silver sacred images and enriched by hundreds of precious stones.  The Golden Pall hosts images of the God, Apostles, the Virgin Mary and the main episodes from the life of Jesus.
      During particular celebrations the Golden Pall is hooked to a pivot, in order to make it turn and be shown all the participants to the Mass: during the years of the Maritime Republic it was just another way to show the power of the Venetian state.

    5. Enjoy a Gondola Ride

      No trip to Venice would be complete without a ride on one of its unique boats: gondola! Gondolas first appeared in the 11th century, simply as a mode of transport, since the city is almost all built on the water. Many were used as we use a shuttle bus today: to take people back and forth across the canals.
      Taking a ride on a gondola can be quite expensive. Since the price is mandated by the city of Venice, the minimum price is 80 euros for a 40 minutes ride, so don’t expect to pay less than that. It may seem like the most touristy thing to do, and it probably is, but is so worth it, because it is the best way to explore the city and its romantic lagoon!

    6. Visit the other islands in the lagoon: Murano and Burano

      We highly recommend you set one day aside to visit these two islands: Burano is reknown for its beautiful lace and brightly colored buildings, while Murano is world-famous for its glass: assisting to a glass blowing demonstrations is entertaining and educational, an experience you will never forget! We suggest you don’t book one in Venice, since most are quite touristy and some are real tourist’s traps!

    7. Visit the Rialto Market

      A food market is always an interesting place to visit, but this is so much true for Venice. Touring the Rialto Market is as culturally interesting as it is food-related, since it is a great way to see how Venetians manage to get their food supplies. All the locals go food-shopping there, from restaurant owners to ordinary people just stocking their kitchens. The Rialto market is best known as a fish market, but there’s also plenty of veggies and fruit for sale. If you decide to buy something, remember that you shouldn’t handle any item until you’ve paid for it: point at what you’d like to buy and the person behind the stall will pick it up and bag it for you.

Now that you know what to see in Venice, we are sure you don’t want to miss anything! To make sure you have the best experience in the city why not booking a guided tour with us?

There are more than one to choose from:

trip to the amalfi coast

Why planning a Trip to the Amalfi Coast

A Trip to the Amalfi Coast is the perfect destination for your honeymoon or for a romantic escape with your partner. Discover why the Amalfi Coast is so special!

The Sorrento Peninsula, which includes Amalfi Coast, is a beautiful area in the South of Italy, in the region of Campania. It has everything you could ask from a relaxing, romantic holiday: look one way from Sorrento and you’ll see Vesuvius looming up next to Naples. Turn your head to the other direction and here are the dramatic cliffs of the Amalfi Coast: a paradise for couples and newlyweds! Sorrento and the near cities are rather crowded and full of tourist shops. But it’s worth putting up with this and have the chance to enjoy its unique beaches, villages and history!

The Sorrento Peninsula offers an infinite series of breathtaking natural views and seaside resorts, but is also made special by its architectural and historical wonders. The history of the peninsula is long and complex: having been ruled by so many different cultures, the buildings and monuments, together with the food and popular traditions, are eclectic and varied. Despite this, the population has a strong cultural identity and is a wonderful example of hospitality and generosity.

The most attractive area in the Salerno Peninsula is the world-famous Amalfi Coast.
The main cities you’ll definitely have to add to your itinerary of a
Trip to the Amalfi Coast are Amalfi, Ravello and Positano. Start fresh in the morning and allow 8 hours time to visit all three cities. Let’s start with Amalfi!

AMALFI, THE WEALTHY MARITIME REPUBLIC

trip to the amalfi coast
A picturesque interlacing of alleys overlooks the blue sea with its amazing colors reflecting the unique landscape of Amalfi, the town which gives its name to the entire coast.
Dominated by the Cathedral of Sant’Andrea (St. Andrew), Amalfi offers visitors so many testimonies of its glorious past as a Maritime Republic. Famous is also the beautiful Baroque fountain of Sant’Andrea, meeting point for young people in the area. Built in 1760, it is the starting point for the parade of Sant’Andrea, which takes place every 30th November and 27th June through the streets and the beach of Amalfi.

RAVELLO, THE PEARL OF THE AMALFI COAST

trip to the amalfi coast

Another must-see of the Amalfi coast is Ravello, elegant and refined village, tucked in the green and full of luxurious villas (perfect venues for a wedding!). The heart of the city is represented by Piazza Vescovado, with the wonderful architecture of Palazzo Rufolo and the Cathedral with its majestic portal and 10 feet high bell tower. Ravello has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 and is today a favourite destination for intellectuals and music ad art lovers. Ravello also known all over the globe for its Music Festival, organized in the Spring in the garden of Villa Rufolo, where an evocative setting and the emotion of the music create an experience of great intensity.

POSITANO, A PARADISE ON EARTH

trip to the amalfi coast
A Trip to the Amalfi Coast won’t be complete without a visit to Positano, a true paradise on earth. This city is often compared to Montecarlo, for its vertically developed buildings and a tangled overlay of streets, shops and alleys that make the colorful views of Positano a must for any nature lover and photograph-addicted!
The main street divides the city in two parts and any area is linked to one another by small staircases, another symbol of the city. Its warm climate makes Positano the perfect destination during the Summer as well as during the autumn and spring, since the temperature rarley goes below 6°C, even during the winter!
In the town center you can visit the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta with its large dome, tiled in majolica and sheltering precious works such as polychrome marble altars. After visiting the main sites you can relax with some shopping and buy souvenirs in unique local handcrafts shops. Typical of Positano are also linen hand-made shirts and dresses!

Did this blog aroused your curiosity? If you need help planning your Trip to the Amalfi Coast, we are here for you. Send us an email and we’ll do our best to plan the trip of a lifetime!

Fountains in Italy

Discover the 10 best Fountains in Italy

Fountains in Italy are among the most beautiful architectural elements you can admire during a journey. We have selected 10 among the most important Fountains in Italy, linking them to interesting legends and traditions.

Fountains in Italy are so many and so different in shape and size that is difficult to count them all and describe them in a few words. The tradition of building fountains can be traced as early as the Ancient Rome Age: Romans’ relationship with water was very strong and this is of course witnessed by the majesty of their baths, aqueducts and fountains.
For most ancient cultures, and Rome was not an exception, water was vital and was therefore considered a gift from the gods. The several water springs located all over the region of Lazio (which contains Rome) were all dedicated by the Romans to the god Fons, while every single source had its own tutelary god or nymph.

The very first fountains in ancient Rome had a merely practical function: to bring water to the population and to livestock, of great importance in a culture who relied so much on breeding as a source of food and wealth. The first fountains were mostly made of rock and in the shape of a simple square, simply featuring a spout to bring water out.

But it wasn’t long before romans started building more decorated fountains. Architectonical elements, statues, apsis and floreal elements were used to adorn fountains all over the city.
Later on, the abundance of water in the whole region, inspired romans to channel it through aqueducts, making it possible to build fountains everywhere in the city, not only near natural springs. This led also to the building of bigger fountains, which sometimes were as big as monuments.

Today all italian cities have their own fountains adorning squares and streets: from the huge and majestic ones, like Trevi Fountain, to the small and ubiquitous small fountains scattered all through the territory, which are a continuous source of fresh drinking water for the lucky tourists!

We have collected for you ten of the most beautiful Fountains in Italy, along with curiosities and traditions linked to them.

1. Trevi Fountain in Rome

trevi fountain rome

One of the most monumental Fountains in Italy, Trevi Fountain is the fruit of long-running, discontinuous working by different architectects, including Bernini. It was actually completed by architects Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Pannini, who put the finishing touches on the fountain between 1732 and 1766.
With its 85 feet height and 65 feet width, it’s the biggest fountain in the entire city of Rome. In the center of Trevi Fountain a statue of god Oceanus dominates the scene, on top of a shell-shaped chariot, pulled by two horses. To each side of the god the architects put a statue: those of the gods of Health and Abundance.
The fame of Trevi Fountain has two different reason. First of all, Rome’s biggest fountain appeared in more than one  movie, the most famous being Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” and “Roman Holiday”, starring Audrey Hepburn. Not everyone knows about these movies, but we’re sure most tourists know the legend linked to Trevi Fountain. The original legend says that if you  throw a coin into the fountain – with your back to it – that will make sure you return to Rome. This is such a popular tradition that Rome’s Council drags each day an average of 3,000 euros coins from the bottom of the fountain! Part of the money is used to fund charity projects, for example it was used to build a supermarket for the poors, an idea of Italian Red Cross

2. Fountain of Neptune in Bologna

Fountain of Neptune Bologna

Another God of the Waters is the main character of another of the best Fountains in Italy: a bronze sculpture of Neptune, the God of the Sea, takes centre stage on the Fountain of Neptune, in the eponymous Piazza in Bolgona, north of the country.
This monumental bronze and marble fountain is an early work by Giambologna, completed about 1567: Neptune’s figure is depicted extending his reach in a lordly gesture of stilling and controlling the waters, sorrounded by nereids. The statue of the god Neptune was placed at the exact point where the cardo and the decumanus – the proto-typical main streets of any Roman city – intersected.

An interesting legend is worth mentioning: it says that before an important exam, students must walk around twice Neptune’s Fountain counter clock-wise, if he wants to pass the exam, just like architect Giambologna did to celebrate when he finished working on the fountain.

3. Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome

fountain of the four rivers rome

The fountain, located in Piazza Navona, in Rome, was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most celebrated sculptors in history. The giant statues adorning the fountain symbolize what were considered the world’s four greatest rivers (the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata) and the four continents that were known at the time. The sculptures rest on a big rock that rises from a circular basin and are surrounded by animals and flora of each continent. The fountain culminates in a tall obelisk that rests on a large plinth.

4. Fountain of the Elephant in Catania

fountain of the elephant catania

If you decide to visit the wonderful Region of Sicily, pay a visit to Catania to admire its famous “elephant fountain”: the elephant figurine inserted in the fountain, which balances an obelisk on its back, is made from the black lava of Mount Etna and some say it might date back to ancient Roman times. But this fountain, made by architect Vaccarini, is definitely more recent, having been completed only in 1736.

5. Arethuse Fountain in Sicily

arethuse fountain sicily

Continue your trip of Sicily and reach one more example of Fountains in Italy: on the Ortygia island, near the city of Siracusa, you can admire an enormous fountain, whose legend will remember you how romantic Italy can be! Ancient Greek legend says that Goddess Artemis turned the nymph Arethusa into this fountain, so that she could avoid losing her virginity, which was endangered by the passionate river god Alpheus. In turn, God Alpheus asked to be turned into a river, so that, flowing into the sea-water spring, he could finally unite to her beloved Arethusa.

6. Fountain of the 99 Spouts in L’Aquila

fountain of the 99 spouts l'aquila

The Fountain of 99 spouts is one of the most icon monument in L’Aquila, in the Abruzzo region, probably erected in 1272. Trapezoidal based, it is made up of two separate basins and intertwined slabs made of white and rose stone, which were take from a nearby cave. The fountain main feature is a series of 99 stone masks called “cannelle”, literally “spouts”. Water comes out from the most of them. According to the legend, the spouts represent the lords of the 99 castles that united to found in L’Aquila in XIII century. In fact, it is said that L’Aquila is made up of 99 squares, 99 churches and 99 fountains.
After undergoing serious damages after the earthquake of 2009, the Fountain of 99 spouts has been recently restored with funds raised by Italian National Trust (FAI).

7. Barcaccia Fountain in Rome

barcaccia fountain rome

The abundance of water in centre Italy inspired the Romans to channel it through their monumental aqueducts. Aqueducts became important centuries later also for the Catholic Church, which used them to manifest its power on earth: still today you can see the family crests of the main Popes branded onto many Fountains in Italy!
The most famous example of this is the “Barcaccia Fountain” in Piazza di Spagna (right in front of the Spanish Steps, also known as Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti). This Fountain was built between 1627 and 1629 and is the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s father, Pietro. The peculiar name of the fountain, Barcaccia (literally, “ugly boat”) refers to the legend saying that a boat was found in this Piazza, after the great flood of the River Tiber in 1598.

The boat has recently been restored and polished and remains one of tourists’ favourite spots for taking a picture to remember them of their journey in Rome.

8. Bargello Fountain in Gubbio

Bargello fountain gubbio

This characteristic and well-preserved fountain in Gubbio, dating back from the 14th century, takes its name from the palace it stands in front of, tradtionally the residence of the “Bargello”, the magistrate in charge of the city police. This fountain is also called “la fontana dei matti” (“the fountain of the madmen”) and is very famous among Italians. This popularity is due to a funny legend, according to which visitors can gain the license of “matto di Gubbio” (literally, “madman of Gubbio”) if they are baptized with its waters and after running three times round it!

Geologic studies have tried to explain this strange tradition: peculiar rock formations that surround the city of Gubbio show that the territory has been contaminated for a long time by highly toxic iridium!

9. Fountains in the Palace of Caserta

caserta palace fountains

The Palace of Caserta is a former royal residence in the city of Caserta, southern Italy, near Naples. Built for the Bourbon kings of Naples it is one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. In 1997 it was even was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside this huge Palace, several fountains can be admired, adorning a monumental park which was modeled after that of Versailles. Their names are:

  • The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon
  • The Fountain of Venus and Adonis
  • The Fountain of the Dolphins
  • The Fountain of Aeolus
  • The Fountain of Ceres

The Fountains waterway, fed by a Caroline aqueduct,  shows Vanvitelli’s ability to create optical illusions: the linear canal shows a discontinuous articulation, alternating big basins, little waterfalls and wide segments of grass land: a solution which, together with the slope on which the fountains are built on, creates an optical artifice that makes the street seems shorter than it actuall is (around 3 km). The most evocative aspects of the waterway are of course the fountains, decorated with a very rich sculptural apparatus.

10. Babuino Fountain

babuino fountain rome

The fountain of the Babuino (meaning Baboon) gives its name to Via del Babuino, which runs parallel to wider Via del Corso, the main shopping street in Rome. A small statue of Silenus (the ancient Greek woodland satyr) is reclined and adorns a fountain just outside the church of St Athanasius, which used to be a fountain horses could drink from. His wicked grin and his grubby brown torso makes this statue look a lot like a Babbon and make it one of the most impressive among the “talking statues” of Rome.

If you want to know what the Talking Statues of Rome represent, read our article on the Talking Statues of Rome!

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