Tag Archives: Italy

Lucca, Italy

After all the farewells and the packing up of our London Life, we traveled to Italy to recharge before returning to the US.  Relaxation was on our minds and Lucca, Florence, and Pisa were on the itinerary.  We began in Lucca.  Here are the highlights from this charming, Tuscan city…

City Walls

Lucca’s City Walls

Passeggiata

La Passeggiata della Mura (The Walk of the Walls)

One of Lucca’s main attractions is its city walls surrounding the historic center.  Atop these 39ft/12m high walls sits the unique, tree-lined footpath, Passeggiata della Mura, offering 4km/2.5 miles of picturesque scenery.

Rabarama Sculpture

Rabarama Sculpture along the city walls

Currently on display in Lucca are the amazing sculptures of Rabaramathe immensely talented Italian contemporary artist.

Duomo di San Martino

Facade and bell tower of the Duomo di San Martino

Lucca’s magnificent Cathedral of St. Martin, (Duomo di San Martino) with its grand, marble façade, dates back to the 11th century.  The Volto Santo (Holy Face of Lucca), a large wooden crucifix believed to be carved by Nicodemus, is a highlight inside.

Piazza dell'Anfiteatro

Piazza dell’Anfiteatro

The oval Piazza dell’Anfiteatro was built on the site of the Roman amphitheater. Today it is home to restaurants, shops and cafes.  A great place to park your bike and unwind…

Chiesa e Battistero di SS Giovanni e Reparata

Back of Chiesa e Battistero di SS Giovanni e Reparata

The striking Church and Baptistry of St. Giovanni and Santa Reparata was built upon several layers of past civilizations, providing a unique insight into Lucca’s history. 

I Don' t Like Chocolate

And, finally, a “chocolate lie” brings this short yet relaxing visit to a close.  We enjoyed our time in this lovely city.  Molte Grazie, Lucca!   

Now, off to Florence…

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Rome, Italy

After leaving Naples, we headed to the Italian capital by train and arrived in just under two hours to continue our holiday.

Colosseum Up Close

This trip was extra special as it was my sister’s first time visiting Rome.  It was the second time for me, but this time Rome seemed even better.  It’s a very special place—a living history lesson that simply astonishes.

Here are some of the spectacular sights of this great city…

Colosseum

The Colosseum

A trip to Rome wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Colosseum.  Construction on this “colossal” amphitheater began in 72 AD, which says a thing or two about Roman engineering.  It could accommodate about 50,000 spectators for gladiator contests or other public performances.

Colosseum Floor

Reconstructed Colosseum Floor with Subterranean Level Below

Currently, the subterranean level and the third tier are open to private tours— it was definitely well worth the extra money to see these areas up close.

Subterranean Level

Subterranean Level

Subterranean Lift

Lift shaft that raised animals up to Colosseum floor.

The subterranean level, or “the backstage”, was a series of passageways and rooms where animals and gladiators were held before they took center stage to fight.  (I’m sure it wasn’t the most pleasant place to be at that time, but so interesting to see now.)

The Colosseum Tiers

The Colosseum Tiers

Standing on the upper tier of the Colosseum offered us spectacular views.  We really got a sense of its colossal size from this vantage point.  Amazing.

Roman Forum Main Square

Roman Forum Main Square

Next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, the center of Roman life during the great Roman Empire.  Set between Rome’s seven hills, the Roman Forum has so many significant ruins it’s mind-boggling.  Here’s a glance at some of the surviving structures…

Temple of Venus and Rome

Temple of Venus and Rome

Temple of Julius Ceasar

Temple of Julius Caesar - Site of Caesar’s Cremation

House of the Vestal Virgins

Site of The House of the Vestal Virgins

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

Near the Roman Forum and the Colosseum stands the Arch of Constantine—a triumphal arch to mark Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in 312 AD which, in turn, made Christianity mainstream.

Staying on the topic of Christianity, a visit to the tiny independent city-state of Vatican City is a must-see on any Rome itinerary.

St. Peter's Basilica and Square

St. Peter's Basilica and Square

This small country (about 100 acres), ruled by the Pope, has its own postal system, currency, armed Swiss guards and mini train station along with the largest Christian church in the world (St. Peter’s Basilica), an immense museum (Vatican Museum), and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel.  So many treasures in such a small space.  It’s magnificent.

Other sights we visited…

Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill

Capitoline Hill was once the center of Roman politics.  The square,  the Piazza del Campidoglio, was designed by Michelangelo.

Piazza Navona

Artists in Piazza Navona

Victor Emmanuel

National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II

The National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Altare della Patria) was built to commemorate Italy’s unification and celebrate their first king, Victor Emmanuel. The statue of the king on the horse in the center is simply enormous.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain - One of the most famous fountains.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

The Pantheon once served as a temple in ancient Rome and is still in use today as a church, some 2,000 years since its construction.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps - One of Rome's iconic sights.

Basilica of San Clemente

Basilica of San Clemente

A brilliant example of Rome’s layered history can be found within the Basilica of San Clemente.  This 12th century basilica was built upon a 4th century basilica which was built upon a 2nd century pagan temple.  A very interesting place to see.

Michelangelo's Moses

Michelangelo's Moses at St. Peter-in-Chains

Built in the 5th century, St. Peter-in-Chains Church (San Pietro in Vincoli) is home to Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses as well as the chains that held St. Peter.

With so many sights, sounds and flavors to digest, one should never find themselves bored in this magnificent city.  Even after all the pasta we consumed, we still managed to burn some serious calories walking through history.

Grazie, Rome! Grazie, Italy!

Naples, Italy

Last week my sister joined Kevin and I for a short holiday in Italy.  We visited Naples and Rome and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and flavors of these two popular Italian cities.

A Street in Naples

A Street in Naples

We headed to Naples early Saturday morning with one goal in mind—to eat pizza.  Having only one night here, we knew we had to spend our time wisely.

Since Naples is…

Where Pizza Was Born

…you can’t visit here and not try the pizza.  Just about everyone (from travel writers, bloggers, and past visitors) seems to have an opinion on where to go for the best pizza.  Author Elizabeth Gilbert made Antica Pizzeria da Michelle (even more) famous in her book Eat, Pray, Love (followed up by a visit from Julie Roberts who played the author in the movie version).  However, we decided to stay away from Hollywood and visit the popular Pizzeria Sorbillo instead and indulge on some of the best pizza we’ve ever had.

The real Neapolitan pizza (la vera pizza napoletana) has a thin crust,  just the right amount of toppings and is cooked in a wood-fire oven.   Local favorites are margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) and marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, and olive oil), so we ordered those.  We also opted for a third, diavolo (tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami),  and they were all delicious!  The margherita was our favorite.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Marinara Pizza

Marinara Pizza

Diavolo Pizza

Diavolo Pizza

Despite Neapolitan pizza, Naples is also known for fresh seafood and…yes…we tried that too, at Ristorante La Vela, and it was superb.

Much has been written about Naples being “dirty” or “grimy” and, unfortunately, in many parts of the city it’s true.  However, the extremely welcoming Neapolitans, with a palpable love of their city, make you overlook the less attractive parts.  This is the truly fascinating thing about Naples, as it’s all about the people.  We met some of the most memorable taxi drivers here—humorous, high-spirited with melodious singing voices.  A real treat!

With impressive architecture, old European streets, art galleries, marvelous churches, views of Mount Vesuvius over the Bay, Naples has so much to see.

Streets of Naples

Streets of Naples

Streets of Naples

Naples Cathedral

Naples Cathedral

Church of Gesu Nuovo

Church of Gesù Nuovo

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius - Can you see it behind the clouds?

One fascinating place we visited was Sansevero Chapel (Cappella Sansevero).  Built in 1590, the Baroque-styled chapel contains over 30 works of art from influential Italian artists, but one remarkable masterpiece steals the spotlight—Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ (Cristo Velato).

This incredible, almost lifelike, depiction of Christ covered by a veil is one of those sculptures you can stare at for hours and wonder, “How exactly did the artist do this?”

Take a look for yourself (Sansevero Chapel)...
http://www.museosansevero.it/inglese/cappellasansevero/cristovelato.html

Waking up on Easter morning, we still had some time before our train departed for Rome.  So, at the recommendation of our hotel’s concierge, we ventured off to find Scaturchio, a pasticcieri in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, to treat ourselves to Pastiera, the traditional Neapolitan Easter cake.  With coffees in hand, we sat in the piazza and shared a slice.  Happy Easter to us.

Pastiera Napoletana

Pastiera Napoletana - Easter Cake

Despite several bouts of rain, we unquestionably enjoyed our short visit to the birthplace of pizza.  Grazie, Naples!

Rainy Naples

And now…off to Rome.

Milan, Italy

From the foodie capital of Italy to its fashion capital, our last stop on our (Thanksgiving) trip was to the vibrant city of Milan.

With only one day in Italy’s second largest city, we still managed to see some of the top sights.  Here are the highlights…

Duomo di Milan

Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milan)

The Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milan) is probably one of the most spectacular structures I have ever seen in person.  This massive, Gothic cathedral took nearly 600 years to build, beginning in 1386.  It is adorned with about 3,500 statues and 135 spires that add to its fairy-tale-like appearance.

Duomo Roof

On the roof of Duomo

We climbed the stairs to the roof for a closer look at the highly detailed work…simply amazing.  (The views of the city weren’t so bad either.)

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - shopping arcade

Galleria

Glass-vaulted ceiling in the Galleria

Close by the Duomo, in Piazza del Duomo, is the elegant, glass-vaulted Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade.  Lined with high-end retailers (think Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.), this is a special place to shop.  Too bad we didn’t have more time…or money.

Teatro alla Scala

La Scala (Teatro alla Scala)

One of opera’s legendary venues is the world-renowned La Scala (Teatro alla Scala), in Piazza delle Scala.  Besides opera performances, ballet, concerts, and other cultural events are held here throughout the year.

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)

Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle

Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) was once used to protect the city from its enemies and as the residence of the Sforza dynasty.  Today it is home to several museums dedicated to art, archaeology, furniture, and music.

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie

And finally, Milan’s most famous attraction…Leonardo da Vinci’s mural of The Last Supper.  The mural, painted from 1494 to 1498, is located on the north wall of the refectory at the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie church.  You must reserve tickets several weeks in advance to view this masterpiece, but—and now for the bad news—since we did not expect to be in Milan, we were unable to obtain tickets at such short notice.  I can only imagine how amazing it is to see in person.  Not a bad reason for a return visit.

With that said, this wraps up our Italian getaway.  What fun we had!