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In a setting near Lake Garda, room and half board are an inexpensive $49.00

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, was originally named Garda Benacus by the Romans.

Of Glacial origin, It is distinguished by the intense blue color of its water. Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, was originally named Garda Benacus by the Romans. Nearby Moniga del Garda is a quaint village comprised of ancient streets dominated by a castle and bell tower. The crenellated boundary walls preserve lookout towers. The Villa Brunata is poised near the town’s main square, its elegant façade and portico face a century-old park. The parish church of San Michele was rebuilt in the 7th century, its interior reveals a beautifully sculpted Pieta.

The town recently renovated its “passeggiata” and port and increased ferry connections across the lake. On the outskirts of town, Grotte di Catullo are Roman ruins (once a villa) set on a hillside of ancient olive groves.

In the immediate vicinity, Malcesine is a picturesque gem and the locale of the cable car to Monte Baldo with its wonderful views of the lake. Sirmione is noted for its Roman ruins and the Rocca Scaligera. A classic example of a medieval castle, the imposing structure is accentuated by battlemented towers and a drawbridge.

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The Allure of the Ligurian Coast is its history and beautiful cities (Part two)

Friday, February 17th, 2012

The monastery we selected (from among hundreds in The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries) has eight double rooms with private bath.

Portofino is one of the most exclusive resorts in Italy. A harbor town, it is anchored on a promontory overlooking the sea and coastline. What makes the town even more delightful are the brightly colored houses that edge the portside piazza and compose a postcard pretty picture. As hikers, we found another trail that was quite lovely. If you’re up for the walk, take the road near the16th century Castle of San Giorgio through a pine woodland to the Punta del Capo lighthouse. And whatever you do, wherever you go in this part of Italy, don’t forget your camera.

Nearby Genoa, capital of the region, remains the most important harbor in Italy. It is laid out along the seashore like an amphitheater. A maze of narrow streets comprise the heart of the old city where humble houses, medieval churches and 16th century palaces stand side by side. The austere facades of the churches, often layers of black and white marble, belie the beauty within. The surrounding hilltops are scattered with walls and fortresses from the early 17th century. In the 13th century, the city was the main maritime power of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Some of the city’s sights include the Palazzo Rosso and its fine gallery showcasing Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Veronese and Durer while the Palazzo Bianco exhibits the works of Pontormo, Reubens and Van Dyck. Don’t miss the Staglieno. It is as much a sculpture garden as an amazing cemetery. Planned in the mid 15th century, it is a place unto itself. There’s a map that will show the way down numerous cedar and cypress lined avenues to some impressive monuments. Make note of the often provocative granite and marble female figures on the tombstones.

The monastery we selected (from among hundreds in The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries) has eight double rooms with private bath. The rooms are in a recently renovated section that is open year-round. The cost per person, per night depends on the time of year. As an aside, the monks produce an ointment that heals wounds and extracts splinters from under the skin. The ointment is sold throughout Italy. For more information about other monasteries in every part of Italy, visit

Experience the authentic character of the Ligurian Coast when you stay at this monastery in the Cinque Terre.

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Vernazza, one of the towns, boasts a spectacular bay.

Built by locals seeking shelter on the mountains, far from the coast and the Lombard invasions, the monastery is enveloped by a Ligurian landscape of steep, wooded hills and archetypical lush hillside terraces.

The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) are extraordinarily scenic seaside villages which look today as they did thousands of years ago. Built into the mountainside, the fishing villages cling to a rocky coastline, on cliffs that drop precipitously into the sea. The Cinque Terre forms a natural park of sublime beauty (cars are banned from the towns). An ancient footpath known as the Sentiero Azzurro, offers breathtaking views. The trail traces the coast along a narrow, vertiginous path through vineyards and olive groves that link one village to another.

Vernazza, one of the towns, boasts a spectacular bay; its setting highlighted by a seaside promenade and piazza. Green-shuttered houses line the streets that are connected by steep stairways A walk down the hillside reveals quaint stone bridges, grape vines, sepia-toned houses with sloping slate roofs and terraced gardens filled with fragrant lemon trees.

Close by is the seaside town of Portovenere, at the end of the rocky slopes of the Gulf of Spezia. A romantic village of narrow streets and richly colored row houses, the marina bobs with toylike fishing boats, its church of black and white banded marble presenting a handsome contrast to the blue sea. The English poet Byron once lived in town and often spent time in a cave named Arpaia. Portovenere faces the island of Palmaria, an intriguing locale of grottoes and sea stacks.

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