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Set off on an unforgettable winter holiday in Italy. Let yourself feel inspired taking in the traditional scents and flavours of the Christmas season

Whether you opt for snow capped mountains or the charm of the cities all dressed up for the season, winter in Italy will keep you tantalised. Plan your snow week, spending time snowboarding or skiing in the Alps. Pass by Bolzano enjoying its winter markets, or go to Rome to see the huge Christmas tree in Piazza San Pietro. Don’t miss out on whitnesing the prowess of the stormy seas which will invigorate your soul and clear your mind. Winter destinations in Italy are incomparable, enjoy every moment.

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Art & Culture

Palazzo Vecchio

The museum on the history of Florence Palazzo della Signoria, or Palazzo Vecchio, with its 94-meter-high medieval tower, is the symbol of the political, cultural and artistic life of Florence. Resting over an ancient Roman theater still visible underground, it has always been the city’s center of power, first hosting Cosimo I De' Medici who expanded the Palace with the help of artists such as Vasari and Buontalenti. When Florence was the Capital of Italy, the Palace became the seat of the Government, and still holds this function as the location of the city hall. Inside it hosts the museum that exhibits the history of the city. On the first floor, you can find the “Salone del Cinquecento”, one of the largest and most representative halls of the Palace. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti were commissioned to paint two glorious episodes of the military history of Florence, respectively, the Battle of Anghiari (1440) and the Battle of Cascina (1364), but neither of the two artists completed the work. The current appearance of the room is by Giorgio Vasari. The coffered ceiling, decorated with 42 cassettes, depicts important episodes in the history of Florence, including the foundation of the city in Roman times and the expansion of the walls in medieval times. At the center, Cosimo I stands as the lord of the city and lands annexed to the duchy, surrounded by the insignia of the twenty-one Arts, or guilds, and by cherubs bearing the emblems of his house. In the Salone, there are extraordinary masterpieces such as Michelangelo's Genius of Victory. In the Mezzanine, you can admire typical furnishings of ancient stately homes and works of art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. On the second floor, there are additional monumental rooms such as Sala delle Carte Geografiche [Geographical maps] and globe, Sala dei Gigli where the original of Donatello's Judith is located and paintings by Bronzino, in the Chapel of Duchess Eleonora. In the basement of the palace, it is possible to follow an archaeological route through the excavations of the Roman Theater.
Relax & Wellness

Arta Terme

Arta Terme, the pearl of Carnia, combining wellness, alpine itineraries and archaic cults A small Friulian town in the province of Udine, 442 metres above sea level, 10 kilometres from the Austrian border and 20 from the Slovenian border: there are many reasons to visit Arta Terme. The town, nestled in the Valle del But that connects Tolmezzo to Austria via the Passo di Monte Croce Carnico pass, has been renowned for its waters since Roman times. The sulphurous water gushes from the Fonte Pudia spring, which has been providing cures and wellbeing for centuries, and has also made Arta a popular spa resort, the perfect place to rejuvenate the body and spirit, and the ideal starting point for walks and hikes among the malghe (shepherd's huts) and mountain huts. The Arta Thermal Baths and its portentous waters, loved by Carducci Enclosed in a green basin, the Arta Thermal Baths are located within a complex, the Water Palace, formed by two connected buildings. The first, dating back to the 1960s and designed by architect Gino Valle, features an oriental-style roof; the second is more recently built. Its rooms invite you to relax among the saunas and Turkish baths or to recharge your batteries under the sensory showers and along the Kneipp path. Surrounding it is a beautiful park where you can enjoy mini-golf, tennis, or freshen up in the swimming pool with hydromassage. A word of advice: don't be put off by the intense sulphurous odour of the waters flowing from Fonte Pudia, whose name originates from the Latin participle putens and alludes to its not particularly pleasant odour, because it is precisely because of the wealth of minerals in its waters that the Arta Thermal Baths are able to offer highly specialised treatment and rehabilitation courses for various ailments, especially those of the airways. In fact, for centuries their medicinal properties have attracted tourists and patients to the Carnic locality: among the most famous personalities is Giosuè Carducci, who dedicated one of his poems, Il comune rustico (The Rustic Municipality), to Arta. Excursions amid history and spectacular views Piano d'Arta, a few kilometres from Arta Terme, is an excellent starting point for a series of walks that will allow you to better discover the area. If you enjoy trekking, the first destination you should tackle is without a doubt Mount Zoncolan, one of Friuli Venezia Giulia's best-known mountain settings, home to a well-known ski resort in winter and criss-crossed in summer by panoramic itineraries, amidst flower-filled pastures, woods and malghe (shepherd's huts). You should not miss, in the vicinity of Arta Terme, the town of Zuglio, the ancient Iulium Carnicum, a flourishing economic and trade centre in Roman times, founded between 58 and 40 B.C., which became a colony in the 1st century A.D.. Close to its Archaeological Museum, you will be able to admire the remains of the Roman forum and artefacts found during archaeological excavations. On the road back to Arta, also worth a visit for its architectural merit is the parish church of San Pietro near Zuglio, a Gothic church built on the site of an earlier Romanesque parish church, the windows of which still survive. Inside, the church preserves a wooden altar by Domenico da Tolmezzo, a masterpiece of Renaissance art, as well as a Baroque organ, and two canvases painted between the 16th and 18th centuries, portraying the conversion of St. Peter and the handing over of the keys to the Saint. Discovering ancient Carnic traditions It is precisely in this parish church that every year, to mark the feast of the Ascension, the so-called Kissing of the Crosses takes place. This is one of the most cherished sacred festivities, dating back to a very ancient cult, probably of mediaeval origin: following a series of paths through the woods, the faithful carry in procession to the parish church of San Pietro the precious astylar crosses, crucifixes for procession placed on a pole, which are stored throughout the year in the churches of the nearby valleys. And if you pass through Arta Terme during the Christmas festivities, as well as visiting the Christmas market, you will be able to experience an ancient Carnic tradition that is celebrated every year, from 26 December until the Epiphany: that of the Stele di Nadal, a procession of believers led by the Three Wise Men who, singing songs and holding a wooden star decorated with coloured paper bows and a lamp in the centre, go from house to house to herald the birth of the Saviour. And at the table, cjarsòns, a dish that is a symbol of Carnic tradition You cannot leave without being enticed by the delights of Friuli's gastronomic tradition. In the local shops you can buy honey, plum and pear distillates, cheeses and, above all, the typical cjarsòns, one of Carnia's signature dishes: handmade agnolotti stuffed with officinal herbs and spices, usually topped with melted butter and smoked ricotta. There is a festival is dedicated to cjarsòns, which is held every year on the first Sunday in August in Arta Terme, in the locality of Val Rivalpo.
Art & Culture

Miramare Castle

Nature and history in the Miramare Castle Park Right outside Trieste you can enter the oasis of the Miramare Castle park, and spend pleasant hours surrounded by vegetation. It is an unmissable stop, just six kilometres from the capital of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It is no coincidence that it is the most visited castle in the entire North East. What is particularly attractive is the park, which overlooks the sea from above, creating a meeting of green and deep blue. An out-of-town excursion where nature plunges into history. Love at first sight It was Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, who fell madly in love with the spectacular location, commissioning the entire Miramare Castle complex in the mid-1800s. The park and historic residence stand on the promontory of Grignano, a rocky spur overlooking the bay, like a lookout. In Maximilian's time, it was a karstic territory, completely parched, but the Archduke was not daunted by the difficult task of transforming a barren heath into a lush garden. From 1856 onwards, he started the building work on the mansion and the complex task of reclaiming the land to make it suitable for planting. Maximilian moved into the newly completed residence in 1860. He lived here for a long time with his wife Carlotta, Princess of Belgium, choosing the name Miramare, from Spanish mira el mar, “look at the sea”. Another noblewoman was strongly fascinated by this place: his sister-in-law Elisabeth of Bavaria, the famous Princess Sissi, who was a frequent guest. English gardens and exotic species: the green area Twenty-two hectares of parkland surround Miramare Castle. Maximilian of Austria expressed his preference for non-European plants, supplied by nurserymen in Lombardy-Venetia, while soil was brought from the regions of Styria and Carinthia. When the nobleman found himself in Mexico, where he died in 1867, he personally sent some species to enrich the parterre. Besides the engineer Carl Junker, two personalities later took care of the botanical aspect: court gardeners Josef Laube and later Artur Jelinek, who also managed to plant exotic species, despite the adverse climate of Trieste, where night frosts and bora wind are not uncommon. Today, the park has two distinct zones. The first, to the east, is a grove of trees and delightful ponds, paths and gazebos, in the romantic style of English gardens. The second faces south-west, better protected from the wind; it houses an Italian-style garden and several flower beds, including the daffodil garden, which blooms exuberantly in spring. The Residence Open to the public like the entire park, Miramare Castle can be visited inside. On the ground floor are the private flats of the princes, on the upper floor the state rooms. The sumptuous Throne Room is currently used as a hall for concerts and exhibitions. The residence is furnished with furniture, precious objects, paintings and canvases. Set apart from the main building, the Stables, once used to house horses and carriages, were restored in 2018 and one wing now houses BIOdiversitario Marino (BioMa), the Immersive Museum of the Protected Marine Area of Miramare. A café is available to visitors, as well as a bookshop. Atmosphere Already on arrival, passing through Porta Bora and along Viale Miramare leading to the Castle, you breathe in a nostalgic atmosphere of times gone by. It is worth taking a slow walk along the winding paths and under the pergolas to the greenhouses with their original iron structures. Moving around the park, there are many encounters: Orante, a bronze male statue, then a copy of Venus of Capua and Apollino, an adolescent version of the god. The fountains provide coolness on hot days, as do the ponds and the larger Swan Lake. In the square with the cannons donated by Leopold I, King of the Belgians, you can breathe in all the power of the Austro-Hapsburg Empire, while in the halls of the castle, you can almost see the young Princess Sissi twirling at a ballroom party. The library has a thick scent of history. And under the oleanders, near the Serre Antiche, one's thoughts turn to the court gardener Anton Jelinek, because they were just recently planted following a precise wish of his that emerged in old correspondence. He did not succeed because the temperatures were too cold, but here they are today, in his honour.
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