Archive for November, 2016

November 17, 2016

Ideas for visiting Italy when you only have a week.

Focus on the south, starting with Rome.  The capital of Italy and home to the Catholic Church has thousands of years of rich history: the pull of the Eternal City is inevitable. From the Roman Forum, with the landmark Colosseum, to the Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the list of what to see could be endless. But sometimes, you just want to wander around and take in all that history, appreciating the way that it creates visible layers – an ancient column worked into a modern façade, a Medieval church next to a 19th-century house.

The many fountains of Rome are another thing to look out for as they signify the strength of the various rulers and benefactors who built them. The one immortalized by films is the recently restored Trevi Fountain, where legend has it that tossing in a coin will ensure a trip back to Rome!

The food lover will find solace in Rome’s down-home trattorie, where pasta with cacio e pepe should be on most menus – creamy and simple, with the kick of freshly cracked black pepper. Vegetarians also have a blast with the many simply prepared and delicious seasonal vegetables like artichokes (in the fall), made every which way, or the bitter puntarelle served with anchovy sauce, or other bitter vegetables prepared simply on the grill.

Head south to the ruins of Pompeii, south of Naples, are on the bucket list of every art and history lover, while Naples may be given the backseat due to its gritty, chaotic reputation. But give it a moment and you’ll realize that this city has more of a bustling aura than a chaotic one. Not only is it Italy’s third largest, but also one of its oldest, artistic cities, but its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with impressive archeological riches in the midst of an urban stretch of tumult and confusion. It may seem shabby and unkempt, but dig a little deeper, and its elegance will catch you off guard.

What art has come off the street has made it into the Naples Archeological Museum that also holds almost all of the artifacts, sculptures and frescoes found among the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Other parts of the collection come from the Farnese family. Naples is the city to use as a base when planning trips to Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento and anywhere else around the Bay of Naples.

If Italy is famous for pizza, Naples is the place you must have it, since pizza was invented here in the 19th Century, it’s safe to say the Neapolitans know how it’s done.

Pizza in Naples, Italy

It’s a simple but tasty dough that should contain nothing more than flour, salt and water, topped with fresh tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and – for purists – not much else. Colleen Colosseumnaples1

November 15, 2016

Lecce, the Florence of Pulgia


Lecce is on the Salento Peninsula, the heel of the boot, in southern Italy’s Puglia region and was most certainly on my agenda on my recent travels in Puglia. The climate is fairly mild although it can get very hot in summer. Lecce, sometimes called the Florence of the south, is the main city on Puglia’s Salento Peninsula. Because of the soft limestone that’s easy to work, Lecce became the center for the ornate architecture called the barocco leccese and the city is filled with Baroque monuments. The historic center is compact making it a great place for walking and its restaurants offer abundant fine food typical of Puglia. Also notable are the traditional handicrafts, especially the art of paper ‘mache’.

It is a lively town, with a well attended university, more than 40 churches and at least as many palazzi, all build or renovated between the 17th and 18th centuries. The city’s focal point is   Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square. It dates top 12th C and has a massive bell tower.   Via Vittorio Emanuale is the main street lined with shops and cafes that runs between Piazza del Duomo and Piazza Sant’Oronzo.   Roman Amphitheater was built in the second century AD and once held 25,000 spectators. The amphitheater is partially excavated and concerts are held there.   Church of Santa Chiara, famous for its ceiling with paper mache’ decorations, is a short distance from the amphitheater.   Basilica of Santa Croce, on Via Umberto I, has a richly decorated facade and is considered the emblem of the city.




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