We encountered this wonderful community celebration/religious festival while walking in the Cinque Terra National Park last autumn. When we arrived in Biassa, the small square in front of the church was packed with people of all ages, there were stalls selling local wine and chestnuts and an exhibition of photos of village life. Then a group of priests in green and gold robes emerged from the church, followed by the statue of Mary carried on the shoulders of half a dozen villagers and the rest of the congregation. The procession was accompanied by a group of musicians and we could hear it winding its way through the narrow streets of the village long after we left to continue our walk. It was a wonderful way to experience a tradition that dates back centuries.
Take a passenger boat starting at Lerici which is a beautiful old town and calling at all five of the Ligurian hamlets. If possible catch a boat that has a guided tour on it. You will benefit from the guide's description of what you are passing and what to look out for.
Buy a ticket from a kiosk on the old harbour in Lerici.
Google map: bit.ly/AByI9p
All of the Borromean Islands are magical – but Isolo Bella is the crowning glory. The Borromean family employed only the most accomplished architects and gardeners to transform a rocky crag into the setting for a magnificent Baroque palace and Italianate gardens. A visit will provide a taste of how an aristocratic Italian family lived in the 17th century.
As well as admiring the grand architecture and decoration, the palace contains a wealth of treasure including valuable paintings, sculptures, musical instruments, Flemish tapestries and gilded ornaments. However, on our visit we were most fascinated by the collection of marionettes and the grottos on the lowest floor. The audio guide was very entertaining and informative.
We didn’t really do the gardens justice on our visit, as it was pouring with rain, however we did brave the rain to admire the terraces and the Giardino dell’Amore.
The basilica of San Clemente, not far from the Coliseum, is three buildings in one - a church within a church within a church.
The church above ground dates from 1100 and is simply beautiful; one of the most lavishly decorated in Rome. A €3 entrance fee will take you down to the other two levels. There is a fourth-century church below which still houses the remains of ancient frescoes. Below that is the dark and intriguing house of Mitra (the Roman god of the equinoxes), which dates from the first-century, and was later used as a secret meeting place by early Christians. Amazing to think that this labyrinth of tiny rooms and corridors is hidden below two other churches and has still survived.
Art studios that run concurrent courses for parent and children. So while the parent gets a professionally tutored art course the children have a great time action painting, tie dying etc. It's great, you are together and apart at the same time, with lots of fun to be had in the evenings and new friends for both adults and children from all around the world.
All set in the beautiful Le Marche hills, complete with views of the medieval town of Camerino. Meanwhile Andrea's amazing regional cuisine will challenge the fussiest of eaters. Really, really good fun.
Italy's Le Marche has everything neighbouring Tuscany or Umbria has in terms of culture, art, and the natural beauty of the rollings hills etc, but with the added beauty and drama of the Sibillini national park. I recommend hiring a car and just going for a drive towards Macerata and on to villages like San Ginesio and Sarnarno, and then into the Sibillini mountains.
You could also stick around and join in some of Montanaro circle's holiday courses, including icon painting, woodwork, transcendental meditation and geometry.
We wandered round the streets alleyways and canals. Venice is a great city to get lost in. Taking in the history and architecture while listening to the sound of opera coming from the shops. Stopping now and then for chicheti (bar snacks) or to share a deliciously thick Italian hot chocolate.
We eventually got to our destination, Rialto, and then it started to snow. Venice is romantic at anytime but in the winter it’s never bettered.
What better than Verona, the city of ill-fated lovers Romeo and Juliet? Arrive in the early morning sunshine via the sleeper train from Paris then breakfast with the locals on strong black coffee and pastries.
You can spend the day exploring this beautiful old city hand in hand taking the Adige river, Piazza del Herbe, the renaissance garden Giardino Giusti and, if you can brave the tourist hordes, Juliet’s balcony.
In the evening you can experience the joy that is opera under stars in a magnificent roman amphitheatre - Arena di Verona. Then round off the perfect romantic day by following the locals in the know to Bottega Del Vino for a glass of red wine with intimate old fashioned charm.
Among the most beautiful Italian cities, Florence is a favoured location when it comes to romance. This Tuscan city is fairly small and its well-known attractions, such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, are within walking distances. Although it is a very touristic destination, there are countless quieter spots for a romantic proposal. Couples can enjoy a stroll or a picnic in the Boboli Gardens, or use the service of a “Renaiolo” for a boat trip on the River Arno. Climbing the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo rewards visitors with stunning views of the city and a few more steps take you to another Florentine treasure: San Miniato al Monte. Of course a romantic weekend in Florence would not be complete without the delicious food, wine and ice cream on offer.
About one hour outside Rome, near the lovely lake and town of Bracciano is the Grand Hotel delle Terme di Stigliano. The hotel is beautiful and the setting in the hills of Lazio very peaceful. You can relax by the huge hotel pool or choose one of the various thermal pools. Spa treatments are available in the hotel, but also in the thermal centre nearby which is open to the public. There have been thermal springs here since Roman times: one of the treatments is in an original Roman Grotto!
Fantastic farmhouse serving slow food dinners with ingredients mainly sourced from their own farm, swimming pool and great garden views near to the stunning town of Treia in central Le Marche. Best thing is the prices of £25 per night of £40 including the excellent evening meals
Amazing resort with 23 lifts and 50 runs that is only an hour from Rome in Abruzzo National Park. The resort is at 1750m and the lifts to 2100m which guarantee snow. Cheap passes and hire charges and midweek its virtually empty - we didn't queue at all. All pistes have snow cannons and are really well kept. Look out for five-day deals for about €300 for half board boots, skis and passes!
the countryside around Lucca features some beautiful antique villas & castles. perfect for weekly rental, incentives, events or weddings. if you stay in this area you are very close to many interesting sides in Italy (Tuscany) like Florence, Pisa, the Versilia coast with the Mediterranean. we booked a holiday home with www.cometosee.it
they also offer tours etc.
There’s a secret that I’m hesitant to share as the rest of the year Venice is always overflowing with tourists, but at Christmas it’s a real joy. Not crowded, but enough people around to give it a magical Venetian atmosphere. You’ll stumble upon little Christmas markets in the squares, admire the crafted Murano glass tree baubles glistening from shop windows, and relish the beautiful fresh foods near the Rialto. This time of year there are no queues for the Acadamia Gallery or the Saint Mark's Basilica and we’ve even been in the vast council chambers of the Doge’s Palace with just us and the security guard. It’s cold there this time of year – but often with bright blue skies during the day, so a good coat is an essential. Then, by a tick of the Torre dell'Orologio clock, it’s time to ring in the New Year with the annual huge celebration and party in St. Marks Square. A great way to see Venice full of people again.
Google map: bit.ly/umO3Wi
TuttiFrutti, in the heart of what used to be Rome's Smithfields, is an inexpensive family run restaurant. It's Italian, so you'll always find variations of the what makes Italian cuisine so famous (gnocchi, pasta dishes, pizza) on the constantly changing menu. TuttiFrutti does for food what Paul Smith does to traditional English fashion: old style with a twist. The wine list is extensive and the staff are sophisticated and incredibly genial. This restaurant has become my regular spot to take people when they visit Rome.
Via Luca Della Robbia, 3/A, 00153 Roma
Nearest Metro: Piramide
Google map: bit.ly/sRAJ7r
This is a great restaurant right in the centre of Amalfi. Great cooking and wines. Quite pricey but worth it.
Luxurious holiday apartments right in the city center of Florence
available also transfers, private tour guides & italy tours
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apartments in Florence:
It is a lovely bed and breakfast in Nicolosi, the closest town to Etna.
Despite its central position the bed and breakfast is surrounded by a peaceful and quiet environment.
The Sabatini Restaurant is in the heart of Trastevere opposite the Basilica of Santa Maria. This area is a must when visiting Rome, as it is one of the oldest parts of the city. There are great shops and restaurants and it is in walking distance of the Vatican and Piazza Navone. There are frequent shuttle buses outside of Ciampino airport which take only about 20 minutes to arrive in the center of Rome, whereas from the larger airport Fiumicino, the train takes about 30 minutes.
Google map: bit.ly/shp4Op
We have stayed at the Hotel Mediterraneo twice and found it to be a really good hotel. It is about 15 minutes from Sorrento and has frequent buses into the town. There is a train station in S'Agnello to take you to Pompei. The Marinella beach is infront of the hotel and we went there almost every day, it has fabulous views of the Bay of Naples. An ideal hotel for relaxing, as it is near enough to visit Sorrento whenever you want, but a little quieter. We went often to the foreigners club which has great views and good food.
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