I Love Italy!! My fondness for this country deepens each time I visit. Maybe I did walk this land in another life, who knows? It sure feels like home every time I return. I’ve been traveling to Italy for fifteen years now and somehow the experience is always unique. My heart still skips a beat whenever I stand in front of the colosseum or wander the ancient forum in Rome. Read more About Me
Timeless Italy Travels is all about Italy, which means you! It is inspired and fueled by a passion to get the good news out about the wonderful options available to those who dream to take that trip to bella Italia, whether it is their first time or tenth. This website is geared to showcase your … Read more Work with Me
I wrote this post nearly four years ago but thought it interesting enough to share again…
While driving through Tuscany I couldn’t help but pull off the road to snap a shot of this old abandoned church. It was small, but very ornate. As I surveyed the facade, I wondered how many abandoned churches there were in Italy. As the stronghold of the Catholic Church, it’s not surprising that Italy has thousands of churches. I read recently that it is estimated at about 26,000, but I’m unsure about the reliability of the source.
As a result of Italy’s crippled economy combined with hard times experienced by the Catholic church and a general decrease in attendance, thousands of churches are deconsecrated and sold to private buyers who then turn them into night clubs, theaters, banks and even a car repair shop.
Below is an article about a family who bought an abandoned church and converted it into their own home ~ Article from The New York Times magazine
Local photographer Andrea Di Martino photographed 70 former churches. Following is a list of a few of them ~
1. Madonna della Neve church in Como ~ this church was deconsecrated in the 1950’s, sold and turned into a successful auto repair shop by the new owners.
2. St. Philomena Church ~ located in the port town of Ugento, this church is now used for court hearings.
3. Santa Lucia church in Montescaglioso ~ now occupied by sports fans. The walls are decorated with football posters and there is a Ping-Pong table in the former church.
4. Church in Salerno ~ Built in 1,000 AD, it is now the museum of a local medical school.
5. Santa Sabina church ~ completed in 1063, it has operated as a bank for the last 40 years.
6. Milan’s former Church of Santa Teresa ~ 1694, now a multi-level library.
7. Church in Viareggio ~ deconsecrated in 1977, is now a pizza place called ‘La Chiesina,’ (the church).
When a church is deconsecrated it is usually due to structural danger or because the attendance has drastically declined. These former churches sell fairly easily because of their solid condition, high ceilings and usually located in the center of town.
The Mass is Ended, an award-winning photographic work by Andrea Di Martino, displays deconsecrated churches in their new roles. Click to take a look.
When I dream of Italy, I see myself wandering along the shimmering Bay of Naples. A mountainous backdrop rises up to meet a baby blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. I inhale the salty sea smell mingled with driting aromas from restaurants passed along the way. A gentle breeze tugs at my hair as I watch several white boats skim the water’s surface, leaving a bubbling trail behind them. An old castle fortress stands high on a hilltop, its many levels adding dimension to the landscape.
My life has been blessed with the good fortune to travel to Italy several times, and I am passionate about every region. Italy never ceases to fascinate me and each time I visit, I feel myself pulled deeper into its history, culture, exotic beauty and genuine people. A return visit is always on my mind.
Although the south of Italy is poorer than the north, to me it is the real Italy. It is true that transportation by train or bus can be slower and sometimes undependable, but to really see Italy and experience the culture it is essential to leave oneself a bit vulnerable. Who knows what kind of adventures await you at a bus stop when the bus shows up late? A slow train provides the opportunity to meet the locals and strike up a conversation.
It is the people who I have encountered along the way in the south that have put heart and soul into my experience in Italy. This young woman and her son ran a tiny restaurant next to my hotel in Naples. The hotel manager personally walked me over to her and introduced us. She wined and dined us with delicious home-made food and charged only a couple of euros. Of course we couldn’t allow it, but she staunchly refused to take any more. After the meal, she took out a laptop and brought up her Facebook photos. We had a wonderful evening even though it wasn’t easy to communicate as her English and my Italian skills were challenged.
While spending time just north of Naples, I spoke with the educational director (above) aboard the glass-bottom boat Cymba, which takes people out onto the shallow waters of the bay in Baia to see the underground ruins of the palatial palaces and statues of the rich and wealthy of the first centuries. When I arrived and found no excursion was leaving for the day due to murky water conditions, she brought me aboard and spent an hour educating me on the ancient luxury resort of Baia.
After I spent a morning walking through the wonder and grandeur of Naples, I stop for lunch at Pizzeria Da Michele. I shared a table with a young couple, who are both attorneys in Naples. They encouraged me to order Margherita pizza with extra cheese. I never imagined pizza could be so delicious. As you can see by our plates, not much was left. They were delightful to meet and spend time with. Now, when I order pizza, I usually ask for extra cheese!
Three brothers who own De Paola Cameos in San Martino, a neighborhood in Naples, invited me in to see their art. Warm and talkative, they graciously let me observe them hard at work bent over lovely pieces of mother-of-pearl while they carved them into delicate cameos. Of course, they lured me in with intentions of selling a cameo, but I did enjoy a slice of culture that deepened my understanding of life in the south.
I love the ‘passeggiata’, which means ‘walk’, on the waterfront in Naples during the early evening hours. The passeggiata is typical of most towns and cities in Italy. Families, friends, lovers, kids, all kinds of people from every walk of life enjoy strolling together as they intermingle with the crowd. It is warm, friendly and full of life. It signifies the shifting down from the hustle of the day and the beginning of a slower pace before mealtime, which is typically after 7:30pm.
Where else can you stumble upon a Sunday crowd of locals and take part in rooting for the teams playing water polo? The splashing and fast action is thrilling, and I am welcomed into the group. We all pack together tightly and cheer on the players.
The shops and street markets are abundant and colorful
Crazy street markets sell everything you can imagine….at the most amazing bargain prices. I bring my bag and fill it up with fruits and vegetables. I love learning the ropes of bargaining.
Morning street below my hotel balcony in Naples
I’d love to return to southern Italy and the culture I have come to understand more and to love. This time I’m excited to push further south and discover the ancient regions of Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia and forgotten Molise. They, too, have stories to tell, ones that go back to the early beginnings, developing a unique culture over time. Genuine, authentic travel among real people doing what they have done for centuries; simply live.
I love to spend time observing artwork in Italy, from ancient frescos and sculptures up through the Renaissance masters. One of my very favorites is in the Tuscan town of Siena. On the main piazza named the Campo, stands the medieval Palazzo Pubblico, the old town hall. Inside is the Sala della Pace (Hall of Peace) also known as the Sala dei Nove (Salon of Nine or Council Room). Painted on the walls are several different fresco scenes by famous artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti: Allegory of Good Government, Allegory of Bad Government, Effects of Bad Government in the City, Effects of Good Government in the City and Effects of Good Government in the Country. I’ve found these frescoes accurate and timeless in their deptiction of daily life under wise and virtuous rulership as opposed to a self-centered, corrupt, and tyrannical government. Read more →
The picturesque Tuscan town of 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 →
We arrived at Country Hotel Bosco Ciancio inside Sicily’s Etna Park, passing 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 →
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. Read more →
One of my very favorite places in Rome is the Pantheon with the small Piazza della Rotunda just to the south of it. Every trip to Rome is not complete without a visit to this glorious first century monument. There are several outdoor restaurants that line the piazza and offer good food with great views. But the trattoria I love the most is Armando Al Pantheon which is just a stone’s throw from the Pantheon itself. Although it lacks outdoor dining, the small one room trattoria is as homey and comfortable as one could imagine.
I descended 60 feet below Rome’s surface into a mysterious past I knew little about…
The ancient Basilica of San Clemente, named after Rome’s third pope, hardly drew my attention as I passed by on my walk from the Colosseum. I soon discovered that I had approached the basilica from the side by mistake, missing the grand entrance fronted by a small courtyard with palm trees.
I had previously read about the basilica’s three levels of fascinating history, one church on top of another. The present 12th-century basilica was erected on the site of a previous church which had been buried for centuries underneath the level of the city streets.
It’s been a couple of years since I returned from an amazing experience at Lisa Ravà’s panoramic agriturismo, Il Poderaccio. The beauty of the Sienese countryside was beyond words, a place where I could spend much of my time soaking up the gently rolling hills and neighboring farms. During my stay, Lisa 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!
Grey afternoon skies hung low over the countryside surrounding Padua, about a 40-minute drive west of Venice. I had just driven ten kilometers southwest of town to arrive at my destination, the Abbazia Di Praglia, a Benedictine community of monks. Nestled at the feet of the Euganean hills, along an ancient road leading to the neighboring town of Este, my arrival at the Abbey appeared as if I had just stepped back in time. Read more →
My steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee begins to awaken me as I gaze out the window of my living room in Oregon. Sunlight brightens a blue morning sky and spills down over the valley, bringing life to the tall evergreens and farms that dot the rolling landscape. I can see the coastal mountains at the end of the horizon, standing like guardians over the great Pacific Ocean beyond.
My thoughts gather around another Easter several years ago when I happened to be in Greece while Easter was being celebrated in Italy. Afterward, I took a ferry-boat to Italy. A few days later Easter was being celebrated in Greece! So I can honestly say that I ‘missed’ Easter that year. Read my post Our ‘Passed-Over’ Easter.
Today I am happy to anticipate an Easter celebration with family at home while I plan for my next exciting adventure to Italy. I think about all of you, scattered around different parts of the world. I am thankful for each one of you. I hope that your Easter day is, was or will be a time of renewal, a time to be grateful, and a time to enjoy those around you. No matter where you are, it is a day to be cherished.
The sun-splashed lungomare d’Ortigia is a sensual delight. Recently, I had made the drive to Ortigia from my lodging at Hotel Bosco Ciancio on the slopes of Mt. Etna to meet with my tour guide, Marco Sanzaro. 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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 is 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…
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 feelstrongly 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 →