Travels in Italy: Tuscany – Siena (May 30, 2015)

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Attractions:

  • Piazzo del Campo
    • Palazzo Pubblico
    • Fonte Gaia
  • Duomo
Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

We stopped briefly at Siena on our way back to Rome. This hillside town is where horse races took place. We entered the town at the Piazza del Campo, where we admired the medieval Palazzo Pubblico’s bell tower and the Fonte Gaia.

Interior of Palazzo Pubblico

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We briefly stopped in a café for a latte. Afterwards, we explored the narrow streets. Old buildings lined the street and displayed brightly colored flags with animal symbols; each flag symbolizes the ancient rivalries of the influential families of the town. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Tuscany – Pisa (May 28, 2015)

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Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

Map of Tuscany (Tuscana) region of Italy (courtesy of Google Images)

The Tuscany region of Italy is known for red meat, pork, and olive oil. The people of the Tuscany region are also known for their broths and soups that are usually made from beans.

On our way toward Florence, we visited Pisa—an ancient medieval city. The most famous is the Leaning Tower (Torre Pendente).

Construction of the tower began in 1173 on sandy subsoil but the tower tilted before the third story was completed in 1274. The entire structure was completed in 1350 but it became dangerous for the public to venture in.

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Today, the tower has been reinforced and the lean decreased by 14 inches. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was known to have performed experiments on the velocity of falling objects at the top of the tower.

Unfortunately, we only had two to three hours here, so we had a quick lunch and only got to explore the grounds near the tower. We were not able to climb to the top of the tower or visit the Duomo and Baptistry.

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References

Machiavelli, F., Martin, S., Townsend, H., & Tyrrell, N. (Eds.). (2014). Italy. New York, NY: DK Eyewitness Travel.

Italy

Travels in Italy: Lombardy – Isola Isabella & Isola Madre on Lake Maggiore (May 27, 2015)

Isola Bella

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

The Isola Isabella (Isabelle Island) is home to a few wonders. The Borromeo family built a Baroque and Neoclassical palace that took 150 years to complete. Inside there are several paintings and sculptures that the family collected. Also, it is said that Napoleon and his entourage once stayed at the palace for one night but left the rooms in a disorganized state.

On the bottommost level, there is a grotto made of volcanic rock from Pompeii and several pebbles from the local surroundings. The grotto is dedicated to the Lady Isabella Borromeo and houses a sleeping Venus statue as well as several artifacts.

Isola Bella

Isola Bella

The sculpture garden at the back of the palace is built on several layers of stone with twisting vines. It also is home to several white peacocks and peahens that shrill indignantly when one walks close by. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Lombardy – Milan (May 26, 2015)

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Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Attractions:

  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Duomo
  • Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Opera House)
  • Castello Sforzesco (Sofrenza Palace) with Pietà

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region of Italy—the region begins at the Alps near the Switzerland border and goes down to the River Po. The Lombards, a Germanic tribe, resided in the area in 6th century AD were adept at trade and commerce, giving rise to the fame of the region. Today, Milan is still the financial and fashion center of Italy.

We only spent half the day in Milan, so we were only able to visit a few places with the local tour guide. We met our guide at the Palazzo Marino, which is central to the main attractions in the city.

Then we walked to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II—an ornate shopping center built in the shape of a Latin cross with mosaics representing the four continents of the world. Filled with designer brands, the Galleria is a shopping paradise for the wealthy.

Galleria

As we exited the Galleria, we entered the Piazza del Duomo, where we had a grand view of the Duomo of Milan.

Piazza del Duomo

The Duomo is one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world and originated from the 14th century.

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The outside of the cathedral is made of pink and white marble; the façade is elaborately decorated with several spires and statues. Admission costs 2 euros per person to the cathedral and crypt. We were allowed free time to explore on our own. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Lombardy – Lake Como & Lake Maggiore (May 26-27, 2015)

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Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Map of the Lombardy region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Maps

Lake Como is a resort area for the ritzy and trendy peoples of the world. At Lake Como, our tour director arranged a private boat to give us a tour of the lake. One can see the villas of famous celebrities, including the Queen of England, George Clooney, etc. It is a pleasant experience for those who enjoy learning of the private lives of famous people.

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The town of Lake Como is a small, touristy place that had its usual shops and a Gothic-style church. We only had a couple of hours to wander around.

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We resided in the resort area nearby Lake Maggiore at Grand Hotel Dino for two nights (while we visited Lake Como and the nearby Isola Isabella and Isola Madre). Unfortunately a lot of the shops in the nearby area close early, so it was difficult to do any grocery or souvenir shopping.

Italy

Travels in Italy: Veneto – Verona (May 26, 2015)

Entering Verona

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Attractions:

  • Piazza Erbe
  • Casa di Giuletta

Verona, historically, is a city built on the site of an ancient Roman forum. The Piazza Erbe at the center is named for the city’s herb market. Today, lots of vendors sell their wares and fresh produce at the piazza.

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A visit to Verona is not complete without a looksee at Casa di Giuletta (Juliet’s House).

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Guided by a tunnel doodled with the names of lovers and couples, one enters a courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet worn to a polish around her arms and breasts from her many visitors (or admirers, I should say) and the balcony supposedly where Romeo visited her on his night excursions. Continue reading

Travels in Italy: Veneto – Venice (May 24-25, 2015)

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Map of Veneto  region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Map of Veneto region of Italy. Courtesy of Google Images

Attractions:

  • Grand Canal
  • Gondola ride under the Bridge of Sighs to the Grand Canal
  • Mark’s Basilica and Square
  • Doge’s Palace
  • Lido Island

Called the “Queen of the Adriatic,” the city of Venice is made up of 118 islands joined by a sprawling network of 450 canals. Located on a lagoon, the main transportation of this city is by boats. On May 24th, we traveled down the Grand Canal in private motor boats courtesy of our tour director.  As it happened, it was the day of a boat competition. Teams of four or five; young and old; women and men skillfully maneuvered their sleek boats past us. This sight coupled with the old buildings on either side of the canal banks made it an experience to remember.

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Our tour director then instructed the boat captains to dock the boats at San Marco. Here we mingled with the tourists while we waited our turn for the gondola ride. It was worth the wait!

The gondolier took us under the Bridge of Sighs that connected the Doge’s Palace to the prison and guided us into the heart of Venice’s canal system. Ancient buildings flanked each side like sentinels welcoming our passage. Then, behind us in one of the gondolas, a man began to sing an Italian serenade accompanied by an accordion player.

Immersed in the beautiful Venetian song, one can enjoy the sights and sounds of Venice.

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Later we were taken by a ferry to the island of Lido, where we would stay for two nights. We stayed at the Hotel Grande Albergo Ausonia and Hungaria, whose architecture was influenced by the art nouveau style with its flora and fauna motifs. Although the hotel rooms were old, it was fairly comfortable. Continue reading