Archive for ‘History’

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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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 18, 2013

Ronda: Oldest Bullring in Spain

Inland from Marbella and Malaga about an hour by car, Ronda is a charming gorge-straddling hill town of about 35,000 residents. It dates to the Moors and was taken back by the Spaniards in 1485.
Ronda is the cradle of modern bullfighting and the home of the 19th century bandoleros. The two tiered bullring was built in 1785 and is a true show piece, complete with 136 Tuscan columns and a fascinating exhibit glorifying the sport.

The lovely Ronda Parador Hotel is perched on the rim of the gorge and adjacent to the bridge that joins the old historic center and the new. The city is very pedestrian friendly and well tended by the locals. Balconies are brimming with flowers and the cafes and shops are very welcoming throughout the old and new town. Ronda is well worth the trip inland from the coast.

On a side note, the route from Malaga to Ronda, passes the highly secured test track for the Formula One race cars.

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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.

February 27, 2013

Cruise the Baltics in June

Join us on the Azamara Quest for a cruise visiting Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Germany, and Russia. Best to reserve your stateroom for this 11 night sailing from Stockholm to Copenhagen soon.
Contact me for more details.

Baltic-Azamara-Cruise-Updated-FLYER-webres

January 31, 2013

Dining with the Mayor of Rome

Dinner with the Mayor of RomeI just returned from a tourism symposium in Rome. The first evening, after a day packed with informative meetings, Mayor Gianni Alemanno of Rome hosted a gala dinner for about 60 of us. The event took place in the Palazzo Esposizioni Museum after hours, which meant we were treated to a private viewing of the ‘On the Silk Road’ exhibition.

Rome never fails to lift my spirits and make me feel priviledged to be there. To walk past ancient structures mingled with the new, the many beautiful piazza’s, fountains, and historic buildings and monuments in this very ‘lived in city’ is a joy.

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