Things to Do in Matera
By: Liz Flynn
Located in Basilicata in southern Italy, Matera is the city of the province also called Matera. It was also formerly the capital of Basilicata. The city lies in a canyon in the Gravina. If you are visiting this UNESCO listed site, you will find a wide range of things to see and do during your stay.
Ancient Town- Sassi of Matera
To truly appreciate the history and culture of Matera, you should spend time in the Ancient Town. This section of the city has structures, homes, tunnels, gardens and terraces, all of which are carved out of stone in the caves of the Gravina Valley. There are examples of structures from the medieval era to the modern day.
Anyone interested in history, culture, religion and architecture should visit the rupestrian churches in the city. These date back to the Middle Ages and were dug into the rock of the Gravina and Murgia where the Benedictine and Byzantine monks had settled.
There are three main natural areas of Matera to visit; Colle Timmari, the Regional Reserve San Giuliano, and the Park of Murgia. At each of these, you can delight in your surroundings and enjoy the unusual flora and fauna. These settings are home to a wide range of wildlife and they are fantastic spots for birdwatching.
The cathedral in Matera is dedicated to the Madonna della Bruna and Sant’Eustachio. It was constructed originally in the 13th-century over the remains of a Benedictine monastery. The exterior of the cathedral is Romanesque and one of the most interesting features is a stunning rose window. Within the cathedral is the famous stone crib, created by Altobello Persio in 1534.
The Crypt of the Original Sin of Matera
Just outside of Matera you will find the wall of the Gravina di Picciano. It is here that the Crypt of the Original Sin is located. This is a church within a cave with frescoed ceilings and walls. It is decorated with examples of medieval paintings.
Musma Museum of Matera
The Museum features pottery, sculptures, medals, drawings, prints, jewelry, and books. Located on the Palazzo Pomeraci, the museum boasts work from artists such as Ortega, Hare, Manzu, Milani, Cascella and many others.
Things to Do in Livorno
By: Liz Flynn
On the western coast of Tuscany by the Ligurian Sea lies Livorno, the capital of the province of the same name. This port city is a fascinating place to visit and you will find plenty of attractions and activities to keep you entertained during your stay.
Livorno’s port is one of the largest in the Mediterranean and has played an important role in this city. It is now used as a harbor for boats carrying tourists to various locations in the Tuscan Archipelago, Sardinia, and Corsica.
The Old Fortress
Built between 1521 and 1534, Fortezza Vecchia is one of the most notable structures in Livorno. The most prominent feature of the fortress is the round tower, called the Mastio di Matilde. You can climb to the top of this tower if you take a tour of the fortress and this allows you to enjoy spectacular views of the city and across the Mediterranean Sea. The fortress was built by Antonio da Sangallo and is located at the north end of the port.
Nuovo Venezia, or New Venice, is an area of Livorno that is based on the building techniques of Venice. The canals were once moats for the fortresses and architects planned a new section of the city that incorporated these important waterways.
This is the promenade that runs alongside the waterway. Not only is this a beautiful place to walk, there are also many tourist attractions along this stretch of the city, including the Municipal Aquarium. The promenade is paved in an interesting chequered design.
Via Grande is the main street of Livorno. As you walk along this street, you can take in the different architectural styles of historical buildings and admire many interesting statues. It is also a good place to go if you fancy a little retail therapy or want a spot of lunch in one of the many cafes and bistros located in this part of the city.
This stunning stretch of coastline has panoramic views across the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the best place to head if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and take in the beautiful surroundings. Along Viale Italia, you will find parks and pretty beaches.
The central market is a hive of activity that is open every morning except Sunday. It is contained within a 19th-century building and boasts over 200 shops and stalls so it is a great place to pick up some gifts or mementos of your stay. The food hall at the market is a fantastic place to grab a bite to eat and you can try the local delicacies and traditional dishes.
Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori
A group of Tuscan painters formed the Macchiaili in the 19th-century. Their aim was to focus on their impressionist styles rather than paint within academic restrictions. The Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori is a museum that exhibits the work of these artists. It is located within the Villa Mimbelli.
As a coastal city, Livorno is well known for the quality of its fish and seafood. The majority of the restaurants in the area feature meals containing locally caught seafood and fish and you should try some of these during your stay.
Fun Things to Do in Trieste
By: Liz Flynn
Located in northeast Italy, Trieste is the capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. As this region is situated between the border of Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, the influence of Austria, Slovenia and Hungary are evident throughout the city. Here are some things to see and do during a visit to Trieste.
Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia
In the older part of the city, you will find Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia and this is the largest square in Trieste. There are many buildings of historical and architectural interest at the square and fantastic views over the harbour.
At the harbor, you will find the old port, a new port, wide boulevards and four piers. The harbour is lined with shops and cafes, so it is a great place to go for a walk, a spot of retail therapy and a bite to eat.
The Roman Theater is at the base of the San Giusto hill and was built by the Romans in the first century AD. It is now in ruins and no longer used but it is still an interesting site to visit.
Although the Grande Canale was once used for ships, it is now filled with smaller boats. It is surrounded by some beautiful buildings, including the Neoclassical San Antonio church and the San Spiridione Serbian Orthodox church. The canal is particularly spectacular at night when the street lights illuminate the water.
Castello di San Giusto
At the top of the San Giusto hill is the Castello di San Giusto. It was built as a fortress by the Habsburgs between the 15th and 17th centuries. Not only is this a historically interesting structure to visit, it also provides panoramic views over the city and the surrounding area.
The Museums of Trieste
There are three museums you should try to visit while you are in Trieste. Museo Civico Revoltella is a modern art museum that features over 800 sculptures and a thousand paintings. Museo Civico di Storia Naturale is a natural history museum, the highlight of which is a 3.6-meter fossil of a hadrosaurus found locally. Museo del Mare is a sea-themed museum featuring ship models and exhibits that tell the history of the port of Trieste.
Cattedrale di San Giusto
In the 14th century, a 6th-century church and an 11th-century church were combined to create the cathedral. Roman stonework was also added to this new building and you can see these on the campanile and doorway. A cannon left by Napoleon was used to cast the cathedral’s bell.
Things to Do in Catania
By: Liz Flynn
Located on the east coast of Sicily, Catania is an ancient port city. While it is most famous for Mount Etna, there are many other things to see and do in this beautiful coastal location. Here are some things you should consider including in your vacation.
1. Mount Etna
As the natural landmark is the most famous point in Catania, you should definitely include a visit to Mount Etna in your trip. You can either take a train ride around its flanks or venture up this active volcano on foot, although you will not reach the summit as it is too dangerous. Another option is to ski down the slopes of Mount Etna if you enjoy outdoor activities.
2. Teatro Bellini
Catania was the birthplace of the famous Italian composer, Vincenzo Bellini. It is after this talented man that the Teatro Bellini is named. This theatre is the perfect place to enjoy one of Bellini’s famous operas.
3. Piazza Duomo
At the heart of the city, you will find Piazza Duomo. Here you can enjoy spectacular views across the surrounding area. You can also admire the Fontana dell’Elefante, which is an elephant fountain carved out of black lava that is used as the symbol of the city. The piazza is lined by stunning Baroque buildings that were designed by Vaccarini.
4. Visit Baroque Churches
Baroque is the most significant style and period of architecture in Catania and this is apparent when you visit the many churches. Two of the most interesting to visit are the Collegiata Chapel and San Nicolo l’Arena. The former is a small and beautiful chapel while the latter is the largest church in Italy and, in the 1970s, was used as a refuse lorry depot.
5. Castello Ursino
Built in 1239 from lava stone, this castle was intended as a defensive fortification for Catania. Originally, the castle was right next to the harbour. Originally, the castle stood right next to the harbour. However, the coastline was pushed eastwards following a flow of lava from Mount Etna in 1669.
6. Eat Local Cuisine
Most restaurants in the area serve traditional Sicilian cuisine, so there are fantastic opportunities to try some of the local dishes. Due to the coastal location, fish and seafood dishes feature highly on most menus and these are something you should definitely try during your stay. You should also give arancini a try as these rice balls are delicious.
Here's Why You Have To Visit San Remo
By: Aleksandra Udovenko
San Remo is the glamorous highlight of Italy’s Riviera. This sun-washed Mediterranean resort lies on the western coast of Liguria, Northern Italy and is known colloquially as the City of Flowers for the stunning blooms that fill the old-town during the summer months. With a population of 57,000, San Remo (or Sanremo) has drawn comparisons with Monte Carlo for its grandeur, gardens and climate. Here are 5 reasons why you should visit this magical city.
The weather in Italy very rarely disappoints, particularly in San Remo. The climate in western Liguria is mild throughout the year, even during the winter season. San Remo is situated on a gulf in the Ligurian Sea, and is surrounded by hills that are rich with sub-tropical flora and vegetation, all of which have helped to make the town one of the best regions for a friendly climate in Europe. In addition to enjoying the mild and pleasant heat, San Remo’s clear seawater and exquisite beaches are an attraction to local species of wildlife meaning that visitors can experience the beauty of seeing animals in their natural habitat.
The Cycle Race
The world’s longest amateur cycling event takes place during the city – the 298km Granfondo Milan – San Remo, which follows the same route as the professional one-day cycle race, the Spring Classic. Starting at the outskirts of Milan the route crosses the Lombardy and Piedmont Plains, through the Turchino and arriving at Genoa before ascending the Cipressa and the Poggio of San Remo.
The World-Renowned Music Festival
Every year San Remo stages a week-long music festival that legend has it is the inspiration behind the Eurovision Song Contest. The Festival della Canzone Italiana di Sanremo is Italy’s most popular song contest and award ceremony, and consists of a competition between new, unreleased songs. First established in 1950, the Festival of the Italian Song of San Remo has become one of the most significant events in Italian culture, drawing audiences throughout the country via televised and internet broadcasts. Tickets can be purchased to attend each day of the competition, and during the week the city is full of the buzz and atmosphere of an exciting cultural event making it the ideal time to visit.
The Art Nouveau Casino
The Casino Municipale di Sanremo is a stunning example of the Belle Epoque, being one of the signature designs of the renowned Parisian architect, Eugene Ferret. Originally intended to be a theatre, the building was converted in 1928 into a licensed casino, its two floors now filled with slot machines and its main hall transformed into an elegant salon with a formal dress coat at sunset. As well as a building rich in history, the casino is an important part of the city’s modern culture. Each year the annual Italian Music Festival takes place in the hall, and the casino has played host to a number of high-profile European poker events like the PokerStars Italian Tour (now renamed as the European Poker Tour). Once you’ve had your fill of the glamour and splendour inside, the casino is just as enticing outside with its palm tree-lined promenade and stunning views of the marina and the sunset.
The Historical Old Town
San Remo has attracted the most regal of Europe’s exiles since the mid 1800’s; Russia’s Tsar Nicola and Austria’s Empress Elisabeth were known to enjoy the balmy and serene atmosphere of its Old Town. Overlooking the sea, the entire length of the town can be walked, whilst never losing the aquatic views, finishing up at the centuries-old seaport and the newly created Portosole marina. There are many architectural highlights along the way including the Villa Ormond and the Villa Zirio. Walk a little bit further along the Riviera and you’ll find the refuge and final home of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel and the original domed Russian Orthodox Church.
Things to Do in Cagliari, Sardinia
By: Liz Flynn
Located on Sardinia’s south coast by the Mediterranean Sea, Cagliari is the capital city and one of the most popular tourist spots on the island. There are plenty of things to see and do if you choose to visit this city in Sardinia.
1. Bastione San Remy
This bastion was built to defend the Castello quarter of Cagliari. Now, it is a great place to visit if you are interested in history and architecture. Another reason to visit is to enjoy the sweeping views across the city and the Marina.
The Marina quarter of the city is where a lot of the action takes place. It is here that you will find a range of shops, cafes and bars. There is also the City Hall, the Maritime Station and the Piazza della Costituzione.
3. Torre dell’Elefante
During the invasion of Sardinia by Spain, the Elephant Tower was built as part of the fortifications to defend Castello from invasion. On the lower side of the tower is the carving of an elephant, thus it was given the name of Torre dell’Elefante. Nobody is entirely sure why an elephant was chosen for the subject of the carving but the locals have many theories.
4. Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Archaeology Museum is located inside the Torre San Pancrazio, a watch tower that was built in 1305. There are Roman, Greek and Punic collections to view and it is a fantastic place to learn a wealth of information about Sardinia. It gives a true insight into the lives of people who have lived on the island over the last 3,000 years.
5. Il Castello
Il Castello is the old town area of Cagliari. It consists of narrow streets, arched passageways and many flights of stairs. Landmarks in this quarter include the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Piazza del Palazzo, the Palazzo Arcivescovile, and the Palazzo Reggio.
6. Cagliari Cathedral
The cathedral is a mismatch of architectural styles due to various additions and renovations over the years. The original façade was Romanesque but this was replaced by Baroque decoration in 1722. This was replaced by imitation Romanesque two centuries later. Some parts of the cathedral have unrestored walls from the 13th-century. Inside, there are many features to admire, including the elaborate ceilings, carved Roman tombs and two halves of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral.
7. Roman Amphitheater
Set in a curve in the hillside is the Roman Amphitheater and it is considered the city’s most important remain. It is still used for concerts and performances and there are guided tours at other times.
8. Cittadella dei Musei
This is a collection of museums, so there is something to suit all preferences. These include an Anatomical Waxes Collection, the National Art Gallery and a museum devoted to Thai art. You will find the Cittadella dei Musei at Piazza Arsenale.
Things to See and Do Around Lake Como
By: Liz Flynn
Lake Como is one of the most beautiful spots in Italy and it is there that the rich and famous head for their vacation. While most people enjoy spending time at the lakeside and trying the various water-based activities available, there are plenty of other things to see and do in this area.
Not only is this a service that allows you to visit the various towns and villages beside the lake, it is also a fantastic activity itself as you can enjoy the scenery while taking a relaxing boat ride. When visiting one of the local attractions, opt for the taxi-boat as your means of transport as it will add to the day’s experience.
Duomo di Como
Admissions to this cathedral are free so it is a budget-friendly attraction to include in your vacation itinerary. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the Lombardy region of Italy, both inside and out.
Villa del Balbianello
Located on the west bank of Lake Como is the Villa del Balbianello. The estate includes a 16th-century building and gorgeous gardens. It is reached by either a short hike or a boat trip across the lake.
Basilica of Sant’Abbondio
Dating back to the 5th century, this is one of the oldest churches in the region. The structure has been added to frequently over the years, so there are sections of the church that represent the architecture of different historical periods. The inside of the church boasts outstanding frescoes from the 14th century.
Museum Moto Guzzi
Although this museum is about engines of all varieties, it is particularly interesting to those who are passionate about motorcycles. This is another free activity so it is great for those with a limited budget.
Jungle Raider Park
For some family fun that is suitable for all ages, a day at Jungle Raider Park is an activity that will suit all the family. There are two of these parks close to Lake Como; one at Civenna and the other in Margno. The parks are divided into sections according to difficulty and there are activities for all levels of ability. Activities include bungee jumps, rope walks and zip wires.
Forte di Fuentes
This is one of the most historically significant structures in the area as it is one of just a few remains from the Spanish dominion. It is located near Colico on the northern part of the lake. This is one of the best places to visit to learn about local history and culture.
Things to Do in Little Italy, New York City
By: Liz Flynn
Little Italy is an area of New York where many Italians settled during the periods of mass immigration. The Italians stayed together to create their own communities and continue their cultural beliefs and traditions. Even though this is only a small area of New York City, there is plenty to see and do if you are staying in Little Italy or somewhere in the surrounding area.
Eat, Eat, Eat!
For such a small area of New York City, there are a staggering number of places to eat in Little Italy. Obviously, Italian food features highly in the restaurants, bars, cafes and bistros in this area. However, this is not your only choice of cuisine as there is a wide range of place to choose from to suit all budgets and tastes.
Shop Until You Drop
Another great way to spend your time in Little Italy is shopping. There is a cast range of shops, from well-known brands to little boutiques. In fact, it is a shopper’s paradise.
The Museum of Chinese in America
It seems a rather strange place to locate The Museum of Chinese in America, especially when Chinatown is the next neighborhood. However, Little Italy is home to this interesting museum nonetheless. This is a chance to learn about the history of people with Chinese heritage in the United States.
The Italian American Museum
It makes more sense that the Italian American Museum is located in Little Italy. Here, you can find out about the history of Italians in America. The museum has a variety of interesting exhibitions, including photographs, films and memorabilia.
Color Me Mine
This attraction is a chance to unleash your creative side. Visitors to Color Me Mine can choose a ceramic ad then create their own designs on the piece. This is a great memento of your trip to New York City.
New York Urban Adventures
If this is the first time you have visited the area, then taking a tour with a guide is an excellent idea. They can point out all the landmarks and provide interesting information about the area. For example, one of the tours available will teach you about all the different immigrant groups in the area and how they have contributed to New York culture. Also during the tour, you will have the opportunity to sample food from a variety of different establishment.