I felt like I had just stepped into the Hobbit’s Shire when I arrived in the small whitewashed village of Alberobello. Little people scampering in and out of the tiny cone-roofed houses with hairy feet didn’t appear, however. Instead, the village streets were packed with big people like myself, exploring the rows of cone-roofed trulli that proved to be anything from gift shops to restaurants. Bizarre and quirky? By all means, yes.
Surrounded by ancient vineyards, medieval castles, and white-sand beaches, Alberobello sits at the top of the heel that makes the boot of Italy. Not far from the Adriatic coast, it is understandably a magnetic tourist attraction.
The Trulli are actually limestone dwellings that are mortarless, using prehistoric building techniques. The pyramidal, domed or conical roofs are built up of corbelled (stone slabs that progressively overlap each other) limestone slabs. Specific to the Itria Valley in Puglia, they have appeared here since the mid 14th century.
But why the unique construction? One big reason was the need for a dwelling that could be easily dismantled before inspectors arrived to enforce paying higher taxes on the property. However, the golden age for the trulli began in the 19th century due to wine production. Today, fewer are used as a permanent dwelling and many are being converted into Bed & Breakfasts and shops.
Let’s take a peek inside of one…
Most of the traditional trulli include one room under the conical roof with added living space in arched alcoves with curtains hung in front. However, many of the trulli converted into B&B’s are embellished and more expansive. They usually have an open fireplace with a chimney stack, but they are difficult to heat because of the conical roof. The thick walls keep them cold in the winter. The lack of windows and tall conical roof give it a cave-like feel.
As I walked through this trullo, which didn’t take but a few minutes, I was charmed. The light-colored brickwork helped to brighten a room that otherwise would have been much more like a cave. Although it was small, I could definitely cozy up here for a short stay. Everything I need is literally at my fingertips, and when I step outside the doorway, I’m greeted by bright sunshine that reminds me of Dorothy’s Oz.
Bed partially nestled into an alcove
If you would like more information regarding a trullo stay, I suggest you check out Trulli é Puglia. To be clear, I have not personally had any experience with them as I went on a group tour and did not spend the night in one, but I feel that this is authentic as it is locally operated.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Christmas in Tuscany
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
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
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.
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.
The classic country architecture of the old stone buildings, some covered with flowering Bougainville, dates back to the 13th century. Read more
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…
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!
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
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.
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 songs. We 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
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
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
When I had my first visit to Rome, I bought a little book from a vendor called “Rome Past & Present.” It has photos of each ruin in the Roman Forum as it looks today, but instantly transforms into its glorious former self of Imperial Rome when you turn a plastic page over it which fills in all the missing pieces. Roman architecture and colors were truly impressive.
Triumphal arches have always attracted me as representing a historical impact by a particular emperor that unfolds a story of intrigue.
Augustus decreed that only emperors could be granted triumphs. They were usually erected over roads where you were forced to pass underneath and be reminded of the emperor’s victory. What was originally intended to be a personal monument became propaganda, intended as an announcement and a way to promote the present ruler and the laws of the state.
There were actually 5 arches in the Roman Forum but only 3 survive today.
The Arch of Titus ~ Arco di Tito, was built in 82 AD by emperor Domitian just after the passing of his older brother Titus. It is the oldest surviving arch in Rome and commemorates Titus’ victories, which includes the 70 AD siege of Jerusalem. It is situated in the NW end of the forum on the Via Sacra, the ancient road that runs through the forum, at its highest point.
On top of the arch, an inscription translates into “The Senate and People of Rome, to Divus Titus, son of Divus Vespasian, Vespasian Augustus.” The word divus refers to one who has died. A relief panel on one side shows the victory triumphal procession with soldiers carrying the spoils taken from the Jerusalem temple. Some of the items include the seven-branched candelabra, or menorah, silver trumpets, and what could be the Ark of the Covenant.
The Arch of Titus was used as the inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The Arch of Septimus Severus ~ Arco di Settimio Severo stands in the northwest section of the forum. It was built in 203 AD to commemorate the Parthian (ancient Iraq & Iran) victories by Septimus Severus (who was emperor from 193 until 211) and his two sons, Caracalla and Geta. Interesting to note is that after Severus’ death, Rome was ruled by both of his sons. But not for long, as Caracalla had his brother Geta assassinated so he could have full power. Every mention of Geta was erased from the triumphal arch as well as all public buildings in an effort to eliminate all evidence of his existence.
The inscription across the top translates into a whole lot of names ..“To the emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus Parthicus Arabicus Parthicus Adiabenicus, son of Marcus, father of his country, pontifex maximus, in the eleventh year of his tribunician power, in the eleventh year of his rule, consul thrice, and proconsul, and to the emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Pius Felix, son of Lucius, in the sixth year of his tribunician power, consul, and proconsul (fathers of their country, the best and bravest emperors), on account of the restored republic and the rule of the Roman people spread by their outstanding virtues at home and abroad, the Senate and the People of Rome (sc. dedicate this monument)”
The Arch of Constantine ~ Arco di Costantino, stands between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. It was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in the year 312 AD. It is the largest Roman triumphal arch and consists of three arches. As the last of existing triumphal arches in Rome, it is the only one that reused major reliefs from various imperial monuments in Rome of the second century.
The inscription at the top of the arch translates “To the emperor Flavius Constantine the Great pious and fortunate, the Senate and People of Rome because by divine inspiration and his own greatness of spirit with his army on both the tyrant and all his faction at once in rightful battle he avenged the State dedicated this arch as a mark of triumph.”
The last two triumphal arches that reside in the Roman Forum are the Arch of Augustus and the Arch of Tiberius. There is now very little left of them, but we do know that the Arch of Augustus can be seen on Augustan coins. It consisted of three arches and was used as a model for the Arch of Septimus Severus.
The Arch of Tiberius was constructed in 16 AD in the Roman Forum, but very little is know about it except for a relief on the Arch of Constantine. It appears very much like the Arch of Titus with only a single arch plus the addition of a Corinthian column on each side.
Below is a city map of the Roman Forum with the 3 remaining arches. Beginning with the Arch of Constantine just below the Colosseum, let your eyes follow up to the left along the Via Sacra and you will see the Arch of Titus and beyond that the Arch of Septimus Severus.
To wander under these magnificent arches is mind-blowing. They are huge, built to last, and decorated lavishly. Even almost 2,000 years later we are all still reminded of these famous emperors who lived to conquer and build not only a monument but also a name for themselves that would not soon be forgotten.