The Griffon and the Guelph Lion of Perugia

 

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Legendary animal symbols in Italy intrigue me and they usually impart some meaning to a particular place. While visiting the lively city of Perugia in Umbria, I saw the Griffon and the Guelph Lion bronzes, medieval symbols of Perugia, Read more

The Charisma Of Castiglion Fiorentino

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Magic is alive in Italy and the vast majority of it is found in the medieval walled hilltowns that dot the landscape. The preservation of tradition, the old ways, and the  ancient sites lead directly to the heart and soul of a community. It is here that one begins to truly understand the Italians and their culture. Read more

A Peak at Marina di Portofino

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The small, elegant harbor of Portofino in Liguria has long been a haven for the rich and famous. Sapphire colored waters rimmed by pastel-painted buildings makes this fishing village and holiday resort magnetic. Known during the early Roman era as Portus Dolphini, attributed to the many dolphins on the coast during that time, Portofino has been a sought-after playground for centuries. Steven Spielberg, Chris Martin, Rihanna, Kate Moss, and Russian billionaire Andry Melnichenko, among others, have often been spotted relaxing on their yachts or enjoying the small town ambiance. Read more

Rome’s Pantheon…Did You Know?

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Michelangelo described the famous Pantheon in Rome perfectly after seeing it for the first time in the early 1500’s when he said it was “an angelic and not a human design.” The architecture is mind-blowing and incredibly devised. Built by Emperor Hadrian in 120 AD, it is the best preserved ancient Roman monument as well as a testament to the ingenuity of the early Romans and their fascinating knowledge of mathematics, balance, and measures. Read more

What Does ‘La Dolce Vita’ Mean To You?

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La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, is a term I’ve grown to love because it embraces all that life should be. Ordinary everyday life is meant to be lived only a moment at a time, savored and cherished with a grateful attitude. For me, time spent with my family and friends over good food and conversation is the very best way to feel fully engaged in the moment. But La Dolce Vita means more than that. Read more

What is My Favorite Place in Italy? Let Me Tell You…

As a travel writer who specializes in Italy, I often get asked the question, “what is your favorite place in Italy?” Honestly, that is a very hard question to answer. Italy has 20 regions of unique and wonderful beauty. Each is so different from the other. It is impossible for me to say that just one place is my dream destination.

So what I decided to do is include some of my favorite photos of the places that I love in Italy. Read more

Buon San Valentino ~ Happy Valentine’s Day

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Ciao, I Miei Amori ~

It’s February already, and thoughts of love are circulating through my mind. Red hearts, candy kisses, chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting, and romantic cards seem to pop out at me everywhere I go. I love Valentine’s Day because, as a typical woman, I love romance. What could be more heart-pounding than to imagine yourself as Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday,’ zipping around Rome on a Vespa behind Gregory Peck? Or embracing over a laugh at the Mouth of Truth? Then again, there’s the movie ‘Three Coins in the Fountain,’ about three young secretaries from America who meet in Rome and toss their coins in the Trevi Fountain, wishing for a return trip to Rome. Romance is in the air as each one is pursued by a handsome suitor.

William Shakespeare put the city of Verona on the map with his tragic love tale Read more

Discover the Beating Heart of Tuscany with KM Zero Tours

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I had the sneaking suspicion we were in the wrong parking lot. We had just arrived in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a small town in Tuscany, to meet with Arianna and Alessio from KM Zero Tours. We were a few minutes late so I was alarmed when I didn’t see them. I texted Arianna and, sure enough, it was the wrong parking lot. She sweetly assured me that she and Alessio would be right over as they were very close. Before long, a van pulled up beside us and out hoped Arianna, all smiles and hugs. After a warm greeting, she instructed us to follow them to a nearby restaurant by the name of A Casa Mia.

We entered the small country trattoria with a table waiting for us. Read more

Explore the Sunsplashed Island of Ortigia in Sicily

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The sun-splashed lungomare d’Ortigia was a sensual delight on a gentle afternoon this last October. I had made the drive from Hotel Bosco Ciancio on the slopes of Mt. Etna, which had been my lodging for the past few nights, to meet with Marco Sanzaro, a local tour guide. My goal was to discover the wonders of the island of Ortigia, the historical heart of the ancient Greek city of Syracuse on Sicily’s eastern shore.

As I walked the footpath that followed the waterfront, I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant green waters of the Ionian sea Read more

Seeking Adventure on Sicily’s Mt. Etna? Make Country Hotel Bosco Ciancio Your Perfect Stay

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We arrived at Country Hotel Bosco Ciancio down a long and wooded driveway, the kind that makes you hold your breath because you know something special is waiting on the other end. What we saw gave us that ‘fairytale cottage in the forest’ feel as the driveway opened up into Read more

What Are Your Travel Plans for 2018?

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A New Year is like a much-needed breath of fresh air. I get to feeling almost giddy with the possibilities that play through my mind. I think about areas where I want to improve myself, expand my horizons, learn to think outside the box of my everyday existence and firm up my travel plans. I feel empowered to steer my life course fueled by those important decisions that I make on a daily basis.

My travel plans get easily out of control as I write down everything I want to see and do. However, when I’m done, I scale it back one piece at a time until I’m looking at what is most significant and important. Then I begin to put my plans into motion.

What are your travel plans for 2018? Are you like me and have an endless list of places to explore? It’s time to hone in on your list and make a plan to expand your world with meaningful travel this year. If you are unable to get out, don’t let that stop you. Plan your travels and find ways to explore via your armchair.  Read more

Genoa’s Elegant Doria Tursi Palazzo

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I love the old innovative and aesthetically pleasing architecture that I so often find in Italy. The colors, balance and breathtaking arches and frescos are a world away from my own and tend to leave me spellbound.

While walking down Via Garibaldi in Genoa recently, a stately street of ancient palatial palaces in the historical center, I came upon the Doria Tursi Palace Read more

Presepe, the Italian Christmas Nativity

 

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A host of angels spiraled downward from the heavens to land on the little hilltop grove that contained Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Below, mirroring the angels, rose a long line of villagers and nobles waiting to pay homage to the holy family. I was inside the Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Naples, observing the extensive Cuciniello Presepe… Read more

Buon Natale, Have a Very Merry Christmas!

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There is an old saying in Italy, ‘Natale con la tua famiglia, Pasqua con chi vuoi,’ which means ‘Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want.’ Christmas is considered such a special and sacred event that it is traditional to enjoy meals and spend time with your family.

In the hill towns of Tuscany, the streets are decorated with Christmas lights and Nativity Scenes. The window displays are sparkling and dazzling, bursting with color that Read more

Residence Le Santucce, From Rubble to Elegance

 

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Fires and bombs nearly destroyed the medieval Convent of the Santucce nuns…

As I gazed up in awe, I couldn’t help but wonder how many intriguing lives and captivating legends were contained within these massive walls. The carefully restored 13th-century convent rose high above us toward the cloudless blue sky. Residence Le Santucce was a stately presence among the surrounding Tuscan hills in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino Read more

Hear the Church Bells of Rapallo in Liguria

A month ago my husband and I were in the seaside town of Rapallo. We enjoyed a late afternoon stroll through the cool October streets when the bells of the church began to ring. The melody was charming. We stopped on the sidewalk to listen as the townspeople continue on their way. They knew the serenade of the bells. But for us, it was enchanting.

Enjoy this short ringing of the bells video taken with my iPhone.

 

Il Poderaccio, a Tuscan Agriturismo with a View

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The panoramic views of the Tuscan hills drenched in golden sunlight greeted us as we passed through the iron gate and down the long driveway of La Fattoria Il Poderaccio. Horses, long-legged and sleek, grazed in the pasture as two young foals frolicked nearby. One of the farm dogs greeted us with friendly eyes and wagging tail. We parked our car and inhaled the views once more before we met Lisa Ravà, our host.

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The classic country architecture of the old stone buildings, some covered with flowering Bougainville, dates back to the 13th century. Read more

A Magical Autumn Supper at a Working Farm in Tuscany…Il Poderaccio

What transforms a simple social event into a cherished memory?

Let me begin…

Everything served that evening was delicious, but the authenticity that happened in a small Tuscan kitchen was what I will remember the most. The conversation went on for hours, each one sharing their own story. I cherished every moment….we could be in a fancy downtown restaurant but I far preferred this experience. I left that evening feeling richer and more enlightened than I could have imagined I would be. I find it’s the small touches… the simple yet delicious home-made dinner prepared with love, the smiles and laughter over good wine, and the embraces as we head for home. It’s an experience with down-home Italians, doing what they normally do. It was an honor to be a part of their lives, if only for a few hours…

Feeding the Horses at Il Poderaccio Agriturismo in Siena…video

I just got back from an amazing 2-week trip to Italy. Part of that time I had the pleasure of staying at Lisa Ravà’s panoramic agriturismo, Il Poderaccio. She invited me to meet with her early in the morning to feed the horses (all 15 of them). I came, but she did all the work while I chatted and observed.

You will not believe the beauty of this early Tuscan morning…..take a look!

 

Meet Sandra Giusti, Arezzo’s Gracious Ambassador

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Arezzo greeted us with blue sky and sunshine on a recent October afternoon as we pulled into the parking lot next to the medieval wall that still encircled the town. Across the street, I saw a tall, elegant young woman with long dark hair who I guessed was Sandra Giusti, our tour guide. Her company, Arezzo Guide, was born from her great passion and love for her hometown and surrounding villages. We had corresponded previously only by email up until now so this was our first meeting. I was excited to meet her and discover what made Arezzo one of the most popular places in Tuscany to experience. Read more

‘Italy Once More’ Brings New Friendships, Hotels, and Adventures

 

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Photo was taken from Taormina, Sicily

Once more, I am filled to capacity with the most amazing experiences gathered in these last two weeks during my trip to Italy. Is it still bella Italia after all this time? Oh yes, in more ways than I could ever have imagined. This trip introduced me to a deeper understanding of the different amenities of both the north and south. Each is quite different from the other. But all together, they blend into a country that is richly diverse, resulting in a culture thousands of years in the making. People who, for the most part, are warm and hospitable, who care deeply for their land, and who live out their daily lives with dignity.

I’ve had the good fortune to stay at three different accommodations, each one quite distinct from the other. In comparison, they proved to be equally delightful. The proprietors who operate/own them are as wonderful as the amenities they have to offer. I am excited to share each one with you and plan to introduce them over the next few months. I feel strongly that each one deserves its own spotlight.

I hope that you will check back and discover what I have… that there are beauty, warmth, and possibilities beyond your expectations. Come and meet the people who offer an authentic Italian experience. Find out what makes their hotels, agriturismos, and accommodations so unique. I am inspired to share each one with you.

A Visit to the Villa of San Michele on the Island of Capri

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The island of Capri is alluring and capable of enchanting anyone who comes for a visit. One look at the rugged cliff walls and rock formations will convince you that Homer’s sirens do exist and still sing their seductive songsWe learn from Homer’s mythical book, “The Odyssey,” that it was brave Odysseus himself who ordered his crew to stop their ears with wax as they passed. He had himself tied to a mast with strict orders that no one release him regardless of how much he begged. As a result, they were able to escape the siren’s wail and shipwreck on the calamitous rocks.

High above the sea stands the Villa of San Michele in Anacapri. A long and winding road leads upward into the clouds where you will find the white villa, magical and unique in its ancient setting. Read more

Bringing Italy Home in a Sketchbook

 

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Trullo house sketch from Kerry’s trip in 2010

One of the biggest joys of writing for my blog is meeting others who love to share their stories and experiences in Italy. It provides me with a unique perspective that is truly a joy to read and enlarges my world of knowledge. I am always delighted to hear from my readers and continue to learn so much from them.

Recently, I received a comment from an English gentleman named Kerry Harris. He mentioned how much he enjoyed his visit to Alberobello, Puglia, to see and sketch the Trulli houses. He offered to email me some of his sketches, and as you probably guessed, I jumped at the chance to see them. Read more

What to Do on a Rainy Day in Italy

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We’ve mostly all been there….we wake up in a cozy hotel room with thoughts of getting dressed and meeting the day in an Italian city or village when we are met at the door with a gray drizzle. People outside rush about under umbrellas or towards the nearest overhang to stay dry. Passing cars splash through puddles already beginning to form.  You begin to feel a dampness creep up on you. This was not the kind of day you had envisioned, and your heart begins to sink. Read more

Castel Sant’Angelo: A Turbulent Tale of Angels and Demons

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Dan Brown’s book, “Angels and Demons” flashed through my mind as I crossed the Ponte Sant’Angelo one morning in Rome. Ten Baroque statues of angels line the bridge, each bearing a symbol of the suffering and death of Christ. Designed by Bernini in the early 18th century, they look down demurely at passersby from their travertine marble perches. They feel like a silent presence, outwardly still but internally watchful.

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Angel on the Ponte Sant’Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo awaits at the end of the bridge. Reminding me of a cross between a king’s crown and a wedding cake, it stands majestically among the monuments of Rome. Packed with history, it has been here for 2,000 years. Emperor Hadrian had this huge cylinder, built in 139 AD, as a mausoleum for himself and his family. However, for nearly 100 years after Hadrian’s death, it continued as the burial grounds for succeeding emperors as well, ending with Caracalla 217 AD.

Over the past 2,000 years, Castel Sant’Angelo has been more than a funerary monument. It was used as a fortified outpost, a notorious prison complete with a torture chamber, a palace for the popes embellished with Renaissance art, the keep of the Vatican treasury and finally a museum.

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Model of Hadrian’s Mausoleum

What I discovered as I toured the fortress, now the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo, fascinated me. At the time of Hadrian, the mausoleum was topped by a garden of Cypress trees and crowned by a golden quadriga, a huge statue of him riding a chariot. It was the tallest building in Rome.

In ancient Rome, tombs were not allowed inside the city limits. This pertained to the emperors as well, even though they were looked upon as gods. So Hadrian chose a commanding position just outside the city walls and across the river. Even today, it holds a stately presence among the many monuments of Rome.

It helps to get a bit organized so I’ve included a brief overview of the 6 levels of Castel Sant’Angelo:

Level 1- Begins the winding Roman construction ramp, the Courtyard of the Shooting and the Chapel of the Condemned.

Level 2- Hall of Urns, former prisons, and storerooms

Level 3- Military displays, papal apartments, the courtyard of the angel (Cortile dell’Angel), which houses the former archangel, Hall of Justice

Level 4- Exquisitely decorated papal apartment with sumptuous frescoes by artists of the school of Raphael (Luca Signorelli, Carlo Crivelli), archaeological gallery, historic Armory.

Level 5- Treasury, Library

Level 6- The Angel Terrace providing amazing views of Rome, especially the Vatican and St. Peters Basilica

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A look at Castel Sant’Angelo and the Passetto di Borgo ( the pope’s secret escape). Drawing by Ludovico Bisi, from “Short visit to Castel Sant’Angelo.” Photo courtesy of National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo.

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Upon entering, an old cobbled road winds around the base. This fortress has a lot of stairs. One leads down to the original Roman floor and follows the route of Hadrian’s funeral procession. There is a bridge that crosses the room where the ashes of the emperors were kept. The urns and ashes were scattered by Visigoth looters during a sacking of Rome in 410.

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Inside the Treasury

The Sala del Tesoro is the treasury where the Vatican wealth was kept locked up in a huge chest. The rooms are ornately decorated with rich frescoes and marble.

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The former angel used to crown the top is now kept in a courtyard, called Cortile dell’Angelo

The Passetto di Borgo is intriguing in itself and historically fascinating. You have probably heard of an elevated fortified corridor commissioned in 1277 AD by Pope Nicholas III leading from Vatican City to the Castel Sant’Angelo (thanks to Dan Brown). The passage served as an escape route to the Castle for popes during times of war and sackings.

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The ‘Passetto di Borgo’ runs along the top from the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo. All three photos courtesy of National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
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Inside the pope’s passageway
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Yellow line indicating the route of the passageway from Castel Sant’Angelo to Vatican City

Enjoy a gallery of photos from my day spent inside this massive fortress. It would take a book to explain everything. One of several things that impressed me was the circular walkways leading up and down within. Wide and tall, they were lit with the golden light from wall lamps. Effectively mysterious…

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The Angel Terrace offers dazzling views of Rome from several directions. The wind was gusty so walking from one end to the other for a view was slightly challenging.

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Angel’s Terrace

It’s from here you can get up close to the majestic Archangel Michael, who stands on the very top. As I gazed up into his face, I had no doubt that he means business.

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So what’s the deal about the angel Michael? As the story goes, in the year 590, the Archangel Michael appeared above the mausoleum to Pope Gregory. The angel sheathed his sword, and the pope took it as a sign that the plague was ended. It soon became a fortified palace renamed the castle of the holy angel.

Close beside the Archangel Michael is a large bell, called the Bell of Mercy. Beginning in the mid-1700’s it was wrung to inform the people of capital executions of the prisoners while a prison.

As the grand finale, enjoy some views of Rome taken from the Angel’s Terrace 

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St. Peters Basilica
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Zoomed in on Rome! Can you figure out some of the monuments?

**Resources used are from the National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo**

Assisi’s Stormy Farewell

EUROPE04 015The Feast of St. Francis was just ending the day I arrive in Assisi. Candlelight processions and merrymaking brought many pilgrims from far and near to take part in the celebration of their most beloved saint. Francis’ basilica flowed with heavenly music as choirs and orchestras let lose their poetic melodies. Souvenir booths lined the streets selling mementos while costumed revelers stroll the piazza in medieval attire. The Feast of St. Francis commemorated the saint’s transition from this life to the afterlife. It is Assisi’s biggest day of the year. Read more

A Colorful Evening in Trastevere, Rome

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Located on the west bank of the Tiber River and south of Vatican City, Trastevere has a spirited medieval old-town feel. Greenwich Village in New York came to mind as I slowly made my way through the tightly winding streets. Quaint, comfortable, charming, incredible nightlife….Trastevere is all of these and more. Read more

Swim with Lord Byron in the Bay of Poets

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San Lorenzo Church near the Bay of Poets

“I’m glad I am a woman who once danced naked in the Mediterranean Sea at midnight.”                                                     -Mercedes McCambridge

Did you know that English poet Lord Byron swam across the bay of Portovenere to visit his fellow English muse, Shelley, who was residing in the village of San Terenzo? Hence comes the name of the cove, The Bay of Poets. Byron’s Grotto, called Grotta Arpaia, now collapsed, bears a plaque honoring Byron’s courage and strength in tackling the often tempestuous waters. Byron’s Grotto is located at the end of a promontory in Portovenere, below the 13th century Church of San Pietro. Ironically, it was in the bay that Shelley died when his boat overturned in a storm.

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Lord Byron – Original artist unknown, photo from en.wikipedia

 

Dante and Petrarch were dazzled by the natural beauty of the gulf as well. The Bay of Poets and Byron’s Grotto highlight the shimmering Mediterranean beauty stretched out to the horizon from Portovenere, located just below Cinque Terre and on the promontory tip from La Spezia. A longtime playground for celebrities and the notably wealthy, Portovenere has no lack of boating excursions, unique archaeological sites, neighborhoods of pastel-hued houses that tower above narrow winding streets, and swimming in Lord Byron’s Bay. The best beaches are at San Terenzo, now famous with beachside bathers and swimmers.

From the old district of town, you can walk the length of the road and onto a path which meanders down to the Church of San Pietro. From there a foot-path takes you down to the rocky edge of the bay. Swimming is a popular sport in the Bay of Poets, but the rocks underneath water can be sharp so some caution is advised.

The Byron Cup swimming challenge has traditionally been held in August, commemorating Lord Byron’s legendary swim across the Bay of Poets in 1822. A large number of swimmers register to swim the 7.5 km between Portovenere and Lerici.

Byron had many water escapades during his lifetime. A sportsman at heart, he was born with a club foot, which only inspired him to be more proficient in the water. He was the first person to swim across the Hellespont in 1810, known as the Dardanelles, the stretch of water that separates Europe from Asia. Later, after a night of revelry in the Lido, he swam across the Venice lagoon and down the entire length of the Grand Canal in three and three-quarters hours. Daring, dashing and bold, he proved himself unhindered by his physical lameness.

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Grotto Arpaia or Lord Byron’s Grotto

The Church of San Pietro stands majestically on the cliff overlooking the sea just above Byron’s Grotto. Fashioned in Gothic style with external markings of black and white stripes, it was built over a 5th century Palaeo-Christian church. The Church of San Pietro offers stunning views of the Cinque Terre coastline and has become a desirable place for weddings.

When next you arrive in Portovenere, saunter on down to Byron’s Bay and poke a foot in the water for the old poet. Chances are you will be compelled to slide on into the comforting warmth of the blue-green Mediterranean Sea.

For more information on The Bay of Poets and Portovenere, please click on the link below.

*The Bay of Poets maps, photos and tourist information