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Everything You Need for an Unforgettable–and Affordable–Trip!
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Everything You Need for an Unforgettable–and Affordable–Trip!
by Reid Bramblett & Lynn A. Levine
Two authors. One country. A myriad of experiences. Deciding what to see and do in Italy is not easy-especially if you're on a budget. Here, we've put our heads together and come up with the best of what this diverse country has to offer.
1 The Best Travel Experiences for Free (or Almost)
Enjoying Rome's Best Nighttime Panorama: After a leisurely 3-hour dinner at a tiny trattoria in Rome's working-class neighborhood of Trastevere, stroll the cobblestone alleyways, then climb the Gianicolo hill for a moonlit panorama of the Eternal City. See chapter 3.
Listening to the Vespers in San Miniato (Florence): This is one of the few places left in Italy where Gregorian chant is still sung. Here, in one of Florence's oldest churches, late-afternoon vespers transport you back to the lost centuries of the hilltop Romanesque church's 11th-century origins. See chapter 4.
Biking Through the Town and on the Walls of Ferrara: For spectacular views, bike on the wide paths along Ferrara's medieval walls, which encircle the city with an aerie of greenery. Many hotels offer guests free use of bicycles. See chapter 6.
Taking a Vaporetto Ride on the Grand Canal (Venice): For a fraction of the cost of a gondola ride, the nos. 1 and 82 vaporetti (motor launches) ply the Grand Canal, past hundreds of Gothic and Byzantine palazzi (palaces) redolent of the days when Venice was a powerful and wealthy maritime republic. Angle for a seat on the open-air deck up front. See chapter 7.
Cruising Lake Como (Lake District): Board a lake steamer for the pleasant trip from Bellagio to other picturesque small villages on the section of the lake known as the Centro Lago. To the north, the lake is backed by snowcapped Alps, while the shorelines are lush with verdant gardens. As the steamer heads from one port to another, ocher- and pastel-colored villages will beckon you to disembark and explore their ancient streets and piazze (squares)-a good reason to purchase a day pass. See chapter 9.
Climbing the Flanks of the Matterhorn in the Valle d'Aosta: An excellent trail leads from Cervina-Breuil up the flank of this impressive mountain. A moderately strenuous uphill trek of 90 minutes will get you to the breathtaking Lac du Goillet. From there, it's another 90 minutes to the Colle Superiore delle Cime Bianche, a plateau with heart-stopping views. See chapter 10.
Walking in the Cinque Terre (Italian Riviera): While away your time in the Cinque Terre by strolling from one lovely village to another along the Mediterranean on trails with views that'll take your breath away. See chapter 11.
Exploring the Land of the Trulli (Apulia): The Valle d'Itria is a lush, surreal landscape carpeted with vineyards and speckled with one of Europe's oddest forms of vernacular architecture: trulli, pointy whitewashed houses constructed without mortar and roofed by a cone of dark stones stacked in concentric circles. The capital of the region is Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage town made up of more than 1,000 trulli-you can even spend the night in one. See chapter 12.
Driving the Magnificent Amalfi Coast: The 48km (30-mile) ride down the Amalfi Drive is one of the most awe-inspiring, character-building, and hair-raising experiences on record. This two-lane road clings to cliffs sometimes hundreds of feet high, twisting and plunging past verdant gorges, tiny fishing villages, posh resort towns, and sparkling isolated beaches washed by bright azure waters. SITA buses make the winding and wonderful journey from Sorrento to Amalfi for a mere 2[euro]($2.30). Don't forget to bring Dramamine. See chapter 12.
Sailing the Amalfi Coast Through the Eyes of Anthony Minghella (Ischia): In the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ischia's Castello Aragonese, the rock at Sant'Angelo, and the magnificent waters served as a backdrop for the unspoiled Italian coastal experience of a bygone era. For 15[euro] ($17) per person, the island's cooperative water taxi will take you on a tour that circles this stunning island. When you're done, a dip in a thermal pool awaits. See chapter 12.
Taking a Sunset Picnic to the Valley of the Temples (Agrigento, Sicily): The setting is humbling, the view is inspiring, and, when you're propped up against an ancient column, the experience is unparalleled. The setting sun bathes the temples in a mystical warm glow; then, in succession, floodlights illuminate the valley's temples. See chapter 13.
2 The Best Small Towns
Lucca (Tuscany): Protected from the new millennium by its remarkable swath of Renaissance ramparts (said to be among the best preserved in Europe), Lucca evokes the charm of an elegant small town. Within these historic parameters, local matrons tool around on bicycles (everyone does-Lucca is like a quaint hill town without the hill), young mothers with strollers walk the ramparts' promenade beneath the shade of centuries-old plane trees, and exuberant examples of Pisan-Romanesque architecture draw visitors to the Duomo and San Michele in Foro. Hometown boy Puccini would have no problem recognizing the city he always held close to his music-filled heart. See chapter 5.
Gubbio (Umbria): This proud, austere, no-nonsense mountain town has only recently figured on the maps of the intrepid off-the-beaten-path trekkers. Blessedly hard to get to, Gubbio has slumbered through the centuries and today offers one of the country's best-preserved scenarios of medieval architecture and ambience. Because Gubbio is built into the side of the forest-clad Monte Igino, a funicular up to the Basilica of its beloved patron, St. Ubaldo, provides a stunning panorama and a chance to consider the centuries-old serenity of the time-locked outpost that poet Gabriele D'Annunzio called the "City of Silence." See chapter 5.
Bressanone (Brixen) (South Tyrol): It's hard to believe that this quaint town was the center of a large ecclesiastical principality for almost 800 years. It is rich in history and natural beauty, and you can explore vineyards, mountains, and impressive museums and monuments, as well as amble past the town's pastel-colored houses on narrow cobblestone streets. See chapter 8.
Bellagio (Lake District): The prettiest of all the towns in Italy's lake country, Bellagio was peaceful enough for Franz Liszt to use as a retreat-and because it hasn't been inundated with throngs of tourists, it could work for you, too. See chapter 9.
Ravello (Campania): The Amalfi Coast could be described as a parody of itself, particularly in August, but only 4.8km (3 miles) up into the hills is a lush retreat worlds away from the tourist crush below. Perched at the lip of the verdant Valley of the Dragon, the quiet beauty and sculpted gardens of Ravello provide the perfect venue for public concerts throughout the year, tempting newcomers to explore the scenery that inspired Wagner's Parsifal. See chapter 12.
Ostuni (Salento, Apulia): It's easy for the uninformed to bypass this enchanting little town on the way through to the "major" stops in Apulia. So be informed: Ostuni is so much more than a day at the beach-an afternoon spent walking through the whitewashed medieval alleyways of the "White City" makes for serious poetry. See chapter 12.
Erice (Sicily): Sitting on a cliff top that soars well above the cloud line, Erice is a medieval town that frequently meets thick tufts of fog that engulf the cobbled streets in a mysterious and romantic mist. This sacred city was established as a religious center in honor of the Earth goddess centuries before the Greeks and later the Romans showed up and renamed her Venus. See chapter 13.
3 The Best Cathedrals Basilica di San Pietro (Rome): A monument not only to Christendom but also to the Renaissance and baroque eras, this cathedral was designed by Bramante, decorated by Bernini, and crowned with a dome by Michelangelo. Within its walls are some of the world's most renowned treasures: St. Peter, by Arnolfo di Cambio; and Michelangelo's haunting Pieta, a masterpiece representation in marble of Christ in the arms of Mary at the deposition, carved when the artist was only 19 years old. If that's not humbling, then a glimpse of the pope will be. See chapter 3.
Pantheon (Rome): This consecrated church is more like a cathedral to architecture, with its perfect hemispheric dome and flawless proportions. Expertly engineered by Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D., the Pantheon survived the test of time, until Pope Urban VIII had the bronze tiles of the portico melted down to make the baldacchino for St. Peter's and 80 cannons. Today you can pay your respects to genius, as well as to Raphael, whose tomb resides within. See chapter 3.
Duomo (Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore; Florence): The red-tiled dome of Florence's magnificent Duomo has dominated the skyline for 5 centuries. In its day, it was the largest unsupported dome in the world, dwarfing the structures of ancient Greece and Rome. In true Renaissance style, it was and still is considered a major architectural feat and was the high point of architect Filippo Brunelleschi's illustrious career. In 1996, an extensive and elaborate 15-year restoration was finally completed on the colorful 16th-century frescoes covering the inside of the cupola and depicting the world's largest painting of the Last Judgment. See chapter 4.
Duomo (Siena, Tuscany): Begun in 1196, this black-and-white marble-striped cathedral sits atop Siena's highest hill and is one of the most beautiful and ambitious Gothic churches in Italy. Its exterior's extravagant zebra-striped marble bands borrowed from Pisan-Lucchese architecture continue indoors. Masterpieces here include a priceless pavement of masterful mosaics; 56 etched and inlaid marble panels created by more than 40 artisans (now uncovered for public viewing in late summer and early fall); the octagonal pulpit, carved by master Tuscan sculptor Nicola Pisano; and the lavish Libreria Piccolomini, frescoed by Pinturicchio in the late 15th century with the life of the Siena-born Pope Pius II, quintessential Renaissance man and humanist, and still housed with that pope's important illuminated manuscript collection. See chapter 5.
Duomo (Orvieto, Umbria): Begun in 1290 and with a bold, beautiful, and intricately ornamented facade that stands out among Italy's Gothic masterpieces, Orvieto's Duomo is also known for one of the greatest fresco cycles of the Renaissance in its Chapel of San Brizio. The cycle, begun by Fra Angelico and completed by Luca Signorelli, depicts in vivid detail the Last Judgment, one that was said to have influenced Michelangelo in his own interpretation for the Sistine Chapel. See chapter 5.
Basilica di San Marco (Venice): Surely the most exotic and Eastern of the Western world's Christian churches, the onion-domed and mosaic-covered San Marco took much of its inspiration from ancient Constantinople's Hagia Sophia. Somewhere inside the mysterious candlelit cavern of the 1,000-year-old church, which began as the private chapel of the governing doges, are the remains of St. Mark, revered patron saint of Venice's ancient maritime republic. His "mascot," the winged lion, is linked to the city as closely as the "quadriga," the four ancient magnificent chariot horses that decorate the open loggia of St. Mark's Basilica overlooking one of the world's great squares. See chapter 7.
Duomo (Milan, Lombardy): It took 5 centuries to build this magnificent Gothic cathedral-the fourth-largest church in the world. It's marked by 135 marble spires, a stunning triangular facade, and some 3,400 statues flanking the massive but airy, almost fanciful exterior. The interior, lit by brilliant stained-glass windows, is more serene. Lord Tennyson rapturously wrote about the view of the Alps from the roof. See chapter 9.
Cattedrale di Monreale (Sicily): Nothing short of jaw-dropping, this awesome church stands as a testament to the craftsmanship of imported Greek artisans from Byzantium, who carpeted the interior with 28,900 sq. m (311,077 sq. ft.) of glittering mosaics. In the cathedral's serene cloisters, you can while away the hours contemplating the hundreds of one-of-a kind twisted and inlaid minicolumns. If you see anything in Sicily, make it Monreale. See chapter 13.
4 The Best Museums
Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums; Rome); Centuries of collections and "indulgences" had to come to something: one of the wealthiest collections of art and historic artifacts in the world. The Vatican Museum's origins are humble, beginning in 1503 with Pope Julius II della Rovere's placement of a statue of Apollo in the courtyard of the Belvedere Palace and culminating in a showpiece of 12 galleries and papal apartments filled with a veritable catalog of civilization. There's everything from the Raphael Rooms, with their School of Athens fresco, to Michelangelo's incomparable Sistine Chapel, with its fingers-almost-touching depiction of God Creating Adam. In between, you'll find that statue of Apollo, plus a surfeit of Greek and Roman statues, medieval tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, ancient Egyptian and Chinese art, Etruscan artifacts, and a painting gallery covering everyone from Giotto and Leonardo to Caravaggio's Deposition and Raphael's final work, the magnificent Transfiguration. See chapter 3.
Galleria Borghese (Rome): Never has such a small space packed such an amazing punch: Reopened in 2002 after a 14-year restoration, the Galleria Borghese elicits an audible "wow" at every step. The Pinacoteca is a shrine to Renaissance painting, with works by Andrea del Sarto, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, Fra Bartolomeo, and Lorenzo di Credi. Raphael makes an entrance with his Deposition, and Botticelli is represented by his Madonna col Bambino e San Giovannino, while Caravaggio's works simply provide a tease for his tour de force in the Sculpture Gallery. Here, along with some of Caravaggio's most poignant works, is a collection of marble masterpieces by Gianlorenzo Bernini, including the Rape of Persephone, Apollo and Daphne, and the lifelike Pauline Bonaparte as Venus. See chapter 3.
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia (Rome): This is the single greatest museum devoted to the ancient, pre-Roman Etruscan culture. These guys left behind painted vases and beautiful funerary art, including a terra-cotta sarcophagus lid bearing life-size-and remarkably lifelike-full-body portraits of a husband and wife, smiling enigmatically and wearing their finest togas, sitting back to enjoy one final, eternal feast together. See chapter 3.
Museo Nazionale Romano (Rome): After languishing behind the closed doors of the Baths of Diocletian for years, the most extensive and comprehensive collections of Roman art anywhere in the world are finally open to public viewing, housed in four of the city's top museums: Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, the Aula Ottagona, and the restored Baths of Diocletian. This reorganization of exhibitions allows you to appreciate not only an astounding collection of sculpture, mosaics, coinage, jewelry, and never-before-seen frescoes, but also the glorious spaces, ancient and modern, in which they reside. See chapter 3.
Excerpted from Frommer's Italy from $90 a Day by Reid Bramblett Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|List of Maps||vii|
|What's New in Italy||1|
|1||The Best of Italy from $90 a Day||7|
|1||The Best Travel Experiences for Free (or Almost)||7|
|2||The Best Small Towns||8|
|3||The Best Cathedrals||9|
|4||The Best Museums||11|
|5||The Best Ancient Ruins||13|
|6||The Best Wine-Tasting Experiences||15|
|7||The Best Hotel Deals||15|
|8||The Best Affordable Hideaways by the Sea||17|
|9||The Best Affordable Restaurants||18|
|10||The Best Cafes||20|
|2||Planning an Affordable Trip to Italy||22|
|1||Fifty Money-Saving Tips||22|
|2||The Regions in Brief||28|
|4||Entry Requirements & Customs||32|
|The Euro, the U.S. Dollar & the U.K. Pound||37|
|6||When to Go||38|
|Italy Calendar of Events||40|
|8||Health & Safety||47|
|9||Specialized Travel Resources||48|
|10||Planning Your Trip Online||53|
|Frommers.com: The Complete Travel Resource||54|
|Online Traveler's Toolbox||56|
|12||Packages for the Independent Traveler||63|
|13||Escorted General-Interest Tours||64|
|16||Tips on Accommodations, Villa Rentals & Farm Stays||72|
|17||Tips on Dining||76|
|Getting Your VAT Refund||77|
|Fast Facts: Italy||78|
|3||Rome: The Eternal City||84|
|Neighborhoods in Brief||89|
|Fast Facts: Rome||94|
|3||Accommodations You Can Afford||98|
|4||Great Deals on Dining||110|
|The Best Gelaterie & Cafes||126|
|5||Sights to See||127|
|Attending a Papal Audience||131|
|7||Rome After Dark||173|
|8||Side Trips: Ostia Antica & Tivoli||178|
|4||Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance||180|
|Neighborhoods in Brief||184|
|Fast Facts: Florence||188|
|3||Accommodations You Can Afford||191|
|4||Great Deals on Dining||202|
|Taking a Gelato Break||205|
|A Moveable Feast||208|
|5||Sights to See||211|
|Cheap Thrills: What to See & Do in Florence for Free (or Almost)||222|
|7||Florence After Dark||236|
|5||Tuscany & Umbria||241|
|1||Pisa & Its Tipping Tower||241|
|A Taste of Tuscany & Umbria||244|
|2||Lucca & Its Renaissance Walls||251|
|3||San Gimignano & Its Medieval Towers||258|
|4||The Chianti Road||264|
|5||Siena & the Palio delle Contrade||270|
|The Palio delle Contrade||277|
|6||Perugia: Capital of Umbria||287|
|7||Assisi & the Basilica di San Francesco||295|
|Umbria's Quake Damage||298|
|9||Spoleto & the Spoleto Festival||311|
|6||Bologna & Emilia-Romagna||323|
|1||Bologna: Home of Europe's Oldest University||323|
|Fast Facts: Bologna||326|
|A Moveable Feast||336|
|2||Ferrara: Where the Estes Ruled||337|
|3||Ravenna & Its Amazing Mosaics||345|
|Living Off the Fat of the Land||355|
|7||Venice: La Serenissima||357|
|Neighborhoods in Brief||362|
|Cruising the Canals||365|
|Venetian Dialect: What Would Dante Say?||367|
|Fast Facts: Venice||368|
|3||Accommodations You Can Afford||370|
|4||Great Deals on Dining||384|
|5||Sights to See||392|
|Carnevale a Venezia||405|
|7||Venice After Dark||412|
|8||Exploring Venice's Islands||415|
|8||The Veneto & South Tyrol||418|
|1||Padua & Giotto's Fabulous Frescoes||419|
|A Taste of the Veneto||422|
|2||Vicenza: City of Palladio||433|
|3||Verona: Home to Juliet & Her Romeo||439|
|Will the Fat Lady Sing?||441|
|Views & Gardens||449|
|A Taste of South Tyrol||463|
|Hitting the Slopes||466|
|9||Milan, Lombardy & the Lakes||474|
|1||Milan: More Than The Last Supper||474|
|Fast Facts: Milan||480|
|'Til the Fat Lady Sings Again: The Restoration of La Scala||487|
|3||Mantua: A Gem of Lombardy||507|
|4||Lake Garda: Largest of the Italian Lakes||512|
|6||Lake Maggiore & the Borromean Islands||526|
|10||Piemonte & the Valle d'Aosta||531|
|1||Turin & the Mysterious Shroud||531|
|A Taste of Piemonte & the Valle d'Aosta||532|
|Fast Facts: Turin||535|
|2||The Piemonte Wine Country||545|
|Horses & Donkeys||546|
|3||Aosta & the Valle d'Aosta||554|
|Into the Great Outdoors||557|
|Across Mont Blanc by Cable Car||561|
|11||Liguria & the Italian Riviera||563|
|1||Genoa: Sophistication & Squalor||563|
|Fast Food, Genoa Style||577|
|2||The Riviera di Ponente||578|
|3||The Riviera Levante: Camogli, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino||583|
|4||The Cinque Terre||590|
|12||Southern Italy: Campania & Apulia||599|
|1||Naples: See It & Die||601|
|Fast Facts: Naples||606|
|2||Herculaneum: A Prelude to Pompeii||618|
|3||Pompeii & Its Amazing Ruins||620|
|4||The Isle of Capri||626|
|5||The Emerald Isle of Ischia||638|
|Cruising Down the Amalfi Coast||642|
|6||Sorrento: Hear the Sirens Call||644|
|7||Positano: A Posh Resort||650|
|8||Amalfi: A Modest Seaside Village||655|
|9||Ravello: A Retreat for Celebrities||659|
|10||Paestum & Its Greek Temples||662|
|11||The Gargano Peninsula & Tremiti Islands||665|
|13||Alberobello & the Land of the Trulli||673|
|Ferries to Greece||676|
|15||Lecce: The Florence of the Baroque||678|
|Men of Honor||684|
|1||Passing Through Messina||685|
|3||Palermo: Sicily's Capital||689|
|Fast Facts: Palermo||693|
|Street Markets-The Best Free Sightseeing in Town||699|
|5||Selinunte & Its Temple Ruins||709|
|6||Agrigento & the Valley of the Temples||712|
|8||Mount Etna: The Forge of Vulcan||725|