Architecture

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vasarian Corridor Florence Italy

Many people go to Florence for the sites, the museums and the food. Most tourists end up on Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge). Few realize that there is an ancient passage above the bridge. It is 1 km long going from  the Medici offices in the Uffizi Museum to their palace home (Palazzo Pitti) on the other side of the bridge. These were bankers and business men that needed to be able to pass safely from home to their offices and back again.

If you look at the Ponte Vecchio on the Uffizi side of the river, you can see a passage go from the museum over the street and then along the river to the bridge. Looking at the top of the bridge you can see the windows of the passage. On the other side of the bridge you can see this ancient passage go inland to the palace.

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Ponte Vecchio

It is still possible to walk it as the Medici once did but you will need a reservation. You have to book it in advance of your trip to Florence. It includes an English-speaking guide and admission to the Uffizi Museum. The price is 89 euros per person. You can book it at this site.

George

Categories: Architecture, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Medici, Museums, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi, Vasarian Corridor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Is it Time for you to Take a Trip to Italy?

Have you longed for a trip to romantic Italy? Have you dreamed about eating real Italian food? Do you long to see the museums or architecture? Maybe you have relatives there and just want to reunite old ties. What ever your reasons are, Italy is a great place to spend a vacation. After a week you are feeling relaxed and enjoying life. After two weeks you are totally relaxed, speaking some Italian words and loving the food. Longer periods in Italy will make you an Italian for life!

The northern lake Area offers beautiful scenery overlooking the Alps or maybe Tuscany with its wines and romantic scenery. The large cities of Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome or Naples are great places to see Italians being themselves. They also are great for seeing living history. Look at the buildings the architecture and envision the people that built these great cities. Maybe southern Italy with its Amalfi coast and Capri or farther south into the Cilento National Park. Beauty unspoiled by man and pristine beaches. What is stopping you?

If it’s being afraid of big tours or doing it on your own, we offer an alternative for the selective traveler to see what they want to see and spend as much time as the want. If you find a great Italian spot, the last thing you want is to be taken away by a tour bus. It would be wonderful to change your plans and just stay in your new found location. Italy is all about love, romance, beauty and spontanaeity.

Italy creates many wonderful memories and experiences but you have to touch it! Get away from the crowded tourists areas and meet real Italians. See places that will change you forever. Don’t eat in tourists restaurants. These will be memories you will never forget.

George

Categories: Amalfi, Amalfi Coast, Anacapri, Architecture, Beaches, Benvenuto al Sud, Blue Flag Beaches, Buffalo Mozzarella, Campania, Capri, Casal Velino, Casal Velino Marina, Castellabate, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Fish, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Maratea, Matera, Mount Vesuvious, Mountain Towns, Mountains, Naples, Paestum, Pantheon, Pasta, Pastry, Perugia, Pizza, Pompeii, Positano, Romance, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Small Towns, Southern Italy, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Tuscany, Umbria, Vatican City, Venice, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bella Perugia

Perugia is a small town in Umbria known for its chocolate (Perugina). It is the capital city of Umbria and is very near the Tuscan border. It is also close to the wonderful city of Assisi. The Tiber River flows through this city to Rome.

This is a town that invokes a lot of emotion for me. As Jo Anne and I walked this town, we were thrown way back in time. It started on the escalator  from the central parking garage to the old city on a hill. The escalator is underground going up through old ruins. If this is your first glimpse of Perugia, it will be a lasting memory.

duomo San Gimigano

Ruins seen on escalator

As we exited the escalator and building contains its terminus, we were in a small piazza in Perugia. Life was exploding all around us. As in any Italian town, life is vibrant. Motorcycles were all around us and loud. Small and larger cars were everywhere. As I looked out at the parking around the Piazza, I was reminded of my youth playing with cars. It appeared the cars were randomly placed by some giant all around the Piazza. Cars faced both directions and some were so small they could just park backed in-between two other cars.

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Parking

Italian was being spoken loud and with passion all around us. Hands are a big part of the Italian language. I am finding I use my hands more and more as I speak. It must be contagious. Life here is very visual. You can not help be emerged in it.

From the Piazza we walked down a set of stairs away from the hustle bustle of automobiles and into a restricted driving zone. Here there maybe be and occasional car or motorcycle but it is mostly pedestrians and tourists. These streets make you feel like you are in ancient times. The architecture is fantastic. Buildings almost touch each other with narrow roads in between. These roads would be impassable to large vehicles. Some passageways I can touch both sides with outstretched arms.

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Narrow roads everywhere

Walking along these streets gives a sense the buildings are closing in on you. Soon we were out in another Piazza. Life was again happening all around us without cars or motorcycles. Restaurants with outdoor seating were everywhere. Italian life is about being outside with other people. So we picked a place and joined in.

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At a bar/Restaurant in a Central Piazza

From our table we could nourish ourselves and partake in this age-old tradition of Italians. For a day we were becoming locals. We already knew we would miss this place when we had to leave. But for now we were here and enjoying life to its fullest.

In the movie Benvenuto al Sud, they say you cry twice in the south. One when you arrive and once when you leave. I felt this way as I shed a tear on my arrival at the sheer beauty of this place and another on leaving it because I would miss it. I tend to feel this way about most Italian towns. I guess I am just a helpless romantic.

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Memories of Perugia

George

 

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Europe, General Travel, Italian, Italian language, Italy, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Small Towns, Tuscany, Umbria, Walking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rome Architecture … Continued

Rome is both a modern and an ancient city. You can have all the conveniences of a modern city at your disposal while you walk the same cobblestones as the Roman army walked. Go to old Rome next to the Colosseum and imagine life back then. They watched tournaments in the Colosseum then went off to the baths. Old Rome is a ruin but you can see the pillars and the outline of buildings that were part of old Rome. Imagine, as you walk these streets, the Romans that walked here before you.

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Old Rome

As you walk the different areas of Rome, you can see the most beautiful architecture. The Vatican, which is a separate country from Italy is within walking distance of the most popular Rome sites.

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St Peter’s and the Popes Balcony

Castel Saint’Angelo is a short walk from the Vatican. It has a beautiful bridge with angels on it that leads you over the Tiber River.

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Castel Sant’Angelo

Not far from this beautiful bridge is the Pantheon. On the way you pass one of our favorite Gelato stores.

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Pantheon

No tour of Rome is complete without a climb of the famous Spanish Steps.

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Spanish Steps

Here you can see my wife, Jo Anne coming off the steps and heading to the nearby fountain. In front of the Spanish Steps is Roman’s shopping district. It has many wonderful but expensive stores. Stroll up and down each street and get a feel for Roman fashion.

Not far away is the famous Trevi Fountain. It has just been restored to its original glory. This fountain can get very crowded. Watch for pickpockets! Try different times of the day and night. The fountain in the dark is totally different from the fountain in the daytime.

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Trevi Fountain

All of this architecture and the people, food and wine! How can you not go?

George

 

Categories: Architecture, Castel Sant'Angelo, Coliseum, Europe, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Pantheon, Rome, Saint Peter's Basilica, Traveling without a tour, Trevi Fountain, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rome Adventure

A few yeas ago I introduced Jo Ann, my wife, to Italy and Rome.I knew she would love the food, wine and people but she loves architecture. What better place to see great architecture than Rome. The Romans were masters at understanding nature and gravity. They had running water in toilettes and at sinks. The water came from mountains hundreds of miles away and travelled along an aqueduct built by them to Rome. The aqueduct had to be sloped down the whole way so the water would run towards Rome. Sometimes they had to build tunnels through mountains that were in the way.

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Aqueducts

I love the look of the Rome aqueducts. They are such marvels of man.  You can see them in many places around Rome. The Romans loved their baths which had to be supplied with plenty of water and then heated. Their homes and public places all need running water. We don’t think a lot about our running water with our modern pumps and towers but the Romans did all this 2,000 years ago with no technology. All the Roman’s had was a good understanding of Physics.

Go to Italy and Rome for the museums, the people, the food, the wine, the sites but go to Rome also to see the great architecture.

 

Categories: Aqueducts, Architecture, Europe, Italy, Rome | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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