Archive for ‘architecture’

December 11, 2013

Italy’s Christmas Markets

Christmas in Milan- Duomo

 

Piazza Navona Christmas Market

Piazza Navona Christmas Market

As many Americans are already planning their holiday shopping strategy, I am wishing I could be working on my ‘gift list’ in the Mercatino di Natale in Italy. Milan hosts a Wonderland Village in the historic center from early December through January 6 with a market, ice-skating rink, and entertainment. Rome’s Piazza Navona hosts a big Christmas Market. Babbo Natale, Father Christmas, makes appearances for picture taking opportunities and there is a life-size nativity scene set up in the piazza later in the month. Lucca, in Tuscany, holds a Christmas market in Piazza San Michele, usually through December 26. Siena holds several Christmas markets during December as does Arezzo, Montepulciano, and Pisa.

Florence Noel starts at the end of November. Children can visit the house of Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), there’s a Christmas market with colorful lights displays. Also in Florence, Piazza Santa Croce holds a popular German-style Christmas market consisting of many booths from the end of November through mid-December. Naples holds a December Christmas market near Via San Gregorio Armeno, known for its many nativity workshops. Some of the vendors dress in traditional shepherd costumes. Nearby Sorrento, on the beautiful Amalfi peninsula in the Bay of Naples holds it’s market in Tassi Square through January 6. Wherever you are doing your holiday shopping, I wish you a a Buone Feste !

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November 11, 2013

Sicily’s World-Class Resort – VERDURA

Verdura Golf and Spa Resort located on the scenic northwest coast of Sicily is an ideal destination to chill out from the the hustle bustle of Palermo. This low-rise Rocco Forte resort is on more than 500 acres with an extensive private beach. Most rooms have sea views, due to the low-rise buildings and expansive grounds. The resort boasts 45 holes of golf and I can attest to the fact that the course is championship quality, having recently played the North Course.
Dining options are plentiful and each offer a unique atmosphere with both indoor and al fresco options. The Verdura guest rooms are exceptionally large and all have either a balcony or terrace.
For the non-golfers, Verdura has a tennis center with 6 lighted courts, allowing night time play, an enormous infinity pool, an extensive spa with another swim pool, a series of thalasso treatment pools, a gym, and sauna. For the beach goers, all the chaises, umbrellas, towels, water sports equipment, and beach front restaurant make for an ideal day at the beach. Complimentary bicycles are all over the property, just waiting for guests to snag one for use during their stay, which I thought was a very nice touch.

To my surprise, there is a dedicated children’s center, proof that Verdura welcomes families.

Want a diversion, about 30 minutes south of Verdura is one of the best preserved Greek Temples in the world at Agrigento…The Valley of the Temples. Not to be missed is an excellent Archeological Museum, with well displayed artifacts found during the excavations.

After a few days at Verdura, one can drive along the southern coast to Siracusa, preferably with a few overnights inland and then up to Taormina before departing from Catania.

May 14, 2013

Barcelona: Capital of the Catalunya Region

Upon disembarking from the Windsurf, I made my fourth visit to Barcelona and it continues to entice me – bubbling with life in its narrow pedestrian only street, the grand boulevards, the parks and placas (squares), the chic neighborhoods..both new and old, the shopping, and of course the cuisine, including the tapas.
Many visitors either begin or end their visit to Barcelona at the port – as it is a convenient and modern Mediterranean port that has a long maritime history. The 200-foot-tall Columbus Monument greets you at the ports roundabout that was built for an exposition in 1888. It was in Barcelona that Ferdinand and Isabel welcomed Columbus home after his first trip to America.

Highlights include Gaudi’s remarkable cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, which was recently consecrated by Pope Benedict with incredible service and grand celebration. Though works continues, the interior is finished and awe-inspiring. The colossal Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona is also impressive and the Placa de la Seu is surrounded by inviting outdoor cafes that offer a splendid view of the Cathedral.
Strolling the famous Rambles is a must – the pedestrian thoroughfare goes to the port and is both colorful and gritty filled with street vendors selling gelato, flowers, books, arts and crafts and the mimes are exceptional. Don’t miss La Boqueria, the lively produce market, surrounded by cafes and bars.

April 19, 2013

Valencia, Spain’s Third Largest City

photo2Still an agriculturally rich city, Valencia is the Spanish gateway to the Mediterranean, with the special charm that a seaport city has.  It has an excellent balance of commerce, culture, theatre, museums, music, and business.
Architecturally, Valencia is comprised of significant historical buildings that are beautifully maintained and abundant avant-garde modern structures that somehow blend harmoniously.  It is quite remarkable, as the contrast is so dramatic.
High points include the Cathedral dating to 1262, the iron and glass Mercado Central, the Ayuntamiento (Town Council), the Correos (main Post Office), as well as the ultra-modern City of Arts complex – the largest of it’s kind in Europe devoted to culture, education, and recreation designed by the world famous Santiago Calatrava.By the way, Valencia is where Paella originated and they make the most mouth-watering version I have ever had.
April 16, 2013

Sevilla’s April Fair Week Kicks off today

The capital of Andalucia and Spain’s fourth largest city, Sevilla, is beautiful and flamboyant – enveloped in the fragrances of orange trees, jacaranda, and myrtle. It is a place where bullfighting is still politically correct and little girls still dream of growing up to become flamenco dancers.

The center is very pedestrian friendly and architecturally rich. From Plaza de Espana, the sight of Spain’s pavillion built for the 1929 World Exposition; to Los Reales Alcazares, built by the Moors in the 10th Century and still serving as the royal digs; to the Cathedral, the third largest in Europe (after St Peter’s at the Vatican and St Paul’s in London).

A side note of interest, the town of Jaen, within an hour of Seville, produced three times more olive oil in 2012 than all of Italy. A testament to the agricultural production of Andalucia, also famous for it’s sherry.

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