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Explore the vibrant art and culture of Italy. Visit enchanting works of art and immerse yourself in its thousand year old history

From the archaeological ruins of Rome and Pompeii, or the picturesque villages of Tuscany, Italy is a land rich in art and culture. Immerse yourself in Italian historical sites and its many UNESCO sites, for a cultural journey discovering the homeland of some of the most important painters, sculptors and architects who have left an incredible mark on history.
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Itinerary
Imperia, Oneglia and Porto Maurizio. One city or three? Many

Imperia, Oneglia and Porto Maurizio. One city or three? Many

The variety of Imperia's features brings to mind the different fields of action of its 20th century celebrities, such as the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry Giulio Natta (the house where the "father of plastic" was born is at 7 Via Petrarca), the avant-garde composer Luciano Berio, or indeed Italo Calvino, who was a young fighter here in the hinterland before becoming a writer translated into over fifty languages. But the diversity of facets begins with Imperia itself, or rather the two cities that constitute it. Before the name of the Impero stream was taken as a pretext to form a single municipality in 1923, the geography separated Porto Maurizio, the provincial capital since 1860, from Oneglia, which no longer has a cathedral of its own but still calls its own main church the "Duomo". The urban layouts are also different: Porto Maurizio climbs among the churches, narrow streets and loggias of its Parasio, a scenic promontory on the Ligurian Sea, while Oneglia – about three kilometres further east – is on the whole modern, with the excellent exceptions of the "Duomo" and the maritime tone of Calata Cuneo. The two "Imperie" are both ancient (Byzantine Porto Maurizio, Roman Oneglia), but experienced separate histories. In fact, they even opposed each other between the 16th and 18th centuries, when Porto Maurizio was part of the Republic of Genoa while Oneglia was the main port of Savoy's Piedmont. Today, the unification is sanctioned, right in the middle, by a marina that is scheduled to be expanded and an important Naval Museum. The production of olive oil has united the territory for a long time. The route can be done almost entirely on foot. To get closer, however, to the unmissable Santuario di Nostra Signora delle Grazie ("Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace") inland, you will need to use local buses or a car.
Villages
Trivento

Trivento

You'll find a more modern side of Trivento on the flat, thin strip running along the sides of the main road, ending at the top above the river Trigno with the hill, on which the historic centre is built in a fan shape around the Cathedral. Tradition has it that the church was founded in the early days of Christianity on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Diana. More certainly 17th-century is the bell tower, and both a fourth- or fifth-century baptistery and the crypt dedicated to St. Castus are notable inside. The latter is divided by columns and pillars into seven small naves, beneath which are preserved wooden statues, tombstones, frescoes and a 12th century lunette with sculptural reliefs depicting the Trinity. Also worth seeing in this almost small town are the 18th-century chapel and the bishops' hall with portraits of prelates in the Bishop's Palaceand the former 16th-century Church of the Holy Trinity set up as Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art: Here, liturgical vestments and sacred furnishings between the 16th and 19th centuries from the area are displayed, including a 17th-century reliquary with the Holy Thorn. In historical terms, before becoming the Roman municipality of Terventum the place had been a stronghold repeatedly ravaged during the Samnite wars, only to rise to the rank of diocese in early Christian Italy in the fourth century. In terms of nature, however, Trivento is home to the Park of the Cenozoic Morge of Molisewhich unites a number of municipalities in Molise for the purpose of collective promotion.
Villages
Ferentino

Ferentino

Standing upon a hill in the Sacco valley, Ferentino is thought to have been built by the Volsci people and later conquered by the Ernici, who erected the mighty wall around the highest part of the historic centre. The walls were built between the 7th and 6th centuries BC and have a series of twelve gates through which you reach an elevated scenic area. A dominant feature of the acropolis is the Romanesque cathedral, built in the 10th century and rebuilt seven centuries later. Inside the church there are striking decorations, such as the medieval Cosmatesque floor and other contemporary architectural elements dating from the same period. The apses of the cathedral, the bell tower and a part of the bishop's palace are all built on the foundations of an ancient temple. In Roman times, the city flourished and it was also a favourite holiday destination for the aristocracy, hence the many elegant villas and homes. The town still attracts tourists today, because of the thermal baths located near the centre. Ferentino's period of greatest splendour, however, was the Middle Ages, when the town was the seat of the papal legate. It remained the chief town of southern Lazio until the mid-16th century. The Romanesque church of Santa Maria Maggiore, built in the Cistercian Gothic style in the mid-12th century, is worthy of note. The sober façade features a large, central rose window, while inside it has a nave and two aisles in the Gothic style.
Villages
Serra San Quirico

Serra San Quirico

Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club The village of Serra San Quirico strikes those who look at it from afar both for its curious shape, reminiscent of a galley set in the rock, and for the naturalistic context by which it is surrounded, being within the Gola della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Park. It is a pleasure to discover the area with trails and paths, and for those who love nature and outdoor activities, an unmissable place is Mount Murano, a reference point for mountain bikers, trekkers, equestrians and climbers. The well-preserved and typical historical centre is rich in places and monuments of cultural and historical interest. These range from the striking Copertelle, covered walkways above the walls, to the ancient Cassero Tower, passing by the churches of San Filippo Neri, San Quirico and Giulitta and San Francesco. Concealed by a severe and simple façade, the church of Santa Luciais a Baroque jewel inside. It is part of a larger museum complex that includes the Marche Regional Historical Cartography Library, theErmanno Casoli Prize 1998-2007 Museum of Contemporary Art and the Natural History Museum of the Territory. In the surrounding area, theRomanesque-Gothic Abbey of Sant'Elena (about 7 km away) and the hamlet of Domo, with a charming historic centre and the church of San Paterniano, are worth a visit. In terms of food and wine, the local excellences are Verdicchio DOC wine, 'calcione', a typical cake with cheese, sugar and eggs, extra virgin olive oil, cheeses and cold cuts.
Villages
Barberino Tavarnelle

Barberino Tavarnelle

Along the Via Cassia, which runs along the Chianti, from Florence towards the south, since 2019 there has been a new toponym, Barberino Tavarnelle, born from the administrative union of the municipality of Barberino Val d 'Elsa with the municipality of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. At the junction of the valleys that give their names to these two localities, a number of places rich in history and tradition are revealed, nestled between the olive groves and vineyards typical of this bucolic part of Tuscany. The oldest nucleus of Barberino Val d 'Elsa arose after the Florentines destroyed the settlement of Semifonte in 1202, remembered by the chapel of S. Michele Arcangelo in the countryside around the town. The Gigliati citizens, named after the flower symbol of the city of Florence, occupied the land surrounding Semifonte and forbade its reconstruction. Indeed, many of the materials of the ruins of Semifonte were reused to complete the compact urban fabric of Barberino Val d 'Elsa, closed between the Florentine gate to the north and the Senese gate to the south. The town of Tavarnelle val di Pesa, on the other hand, preserves some gems of ancient architecture in its immediate surroundings, such as the Castle of Poppiano, at the centre of a well-known Chianti agricultural estate, and the monastery of Badia a Passignano. At the southern end of the Barberino Tavarnelle area, the monumental complex of the Pieve di S. Appiano stands out. Thanks to its cultural and scenic offerings, Barberino Tavarnelle is part of the Italian Touring Club's Orange Flags initiative, which brings together hundreds of small inland villages scattered throughout the peninsula, united by an excellent tourist accommodation system.
Cultural cities
Piacenza

Piacenza

Piacenza, welcoming and sumptuous; Emilian, but not to excess The end of the ancient Via Emilia and geographical epicentre of the Po Valley, the city of Piacenza stands on the right-hand bank of the river Po and is - due to its position on the north-western border of the region - the least Emilian of the provincial capitals of Emilia Romagna. A compulsory stop for travellers Halfway between the Apennines and the plains, nestled between valleys and waterways, Piacenza built its fortunes on its vocation as a place of passage: Leonardo da Vinci, who made an unsuccessful bid to design the bronze doors of its cathedral, was among the first to appreciate its crucial territorial role, describing it in the Codex Atlanticus as “Terra di Passo” (land of passage), a compulsory stop for anyone on their way to Milan. An innate nature that still explains the city's irreducible vocation for welcome and hospitality. Amid arcades and secret gardens, by bicycle The etymology of the Latin name, placentia, which alludes to the capacity to please, is a successful compendium of the city's soul: pleasant, elegant and full of discreetly guarded treasures. Because of its relaxed pace and compact size, it is an ideal place to visit on foot or by bicycle, roaming through arcades and churches, capturing the beauty of the hidden courtyards of stately palaces. The horses of the Farnese family So, are you ready to begin? The ideal tour of Piacenza, amidst art and history, has to start at the popular Piazza Cavalli, the city's epicentre. It is so called because of the presence of the infamous pair of equestrian monuments honouring Ranuccio and Alessandro Farnese, father and son, once Dukes and Lords of Parma and Piacenza. Carved in the 17th century in the Baroque style by the Tuscan sculptor Francesco Mochi, they stand directly in front of the beautiful Town Hall in terracotta and white marble, known as “il Gotico”, which is said to have hosted Petrarch: they are the emblem of the town. If you hear people say “i noss cavaj”, our horses, this is what they are referring to. The ducal tour The “Farnese” tour leads to the historic Palazzo Farnese, now home to the Civic Museums, in whose picture gallery one can admire, among other works, a Tondo of the Virgin and Child by Botticelli. The archaeological wing, meanwhile, preserves the famous Fegato di Piacenza, or Piacenza Liver, a bronze model of a sheep's liver with Etruscan inscriptions, used by haruspices as a guide for prophecies. The tour is wrapped up with a visit to the Farnese Walls that encircled the historical centre in the 16th century. The Duomo, combining Romanesque and Gothic The real attraction of the city, however, is its Duomo, or Cathedral: dedicated to Saint Mary of the Assumption and Saint Justina, it brings together the original architecture, an admirable example of Emilian Romanesque, with Gothic elements of a later restructuring, and houses a dome frescoed by Guercino. But there are several other medieval churches in Piacenza worth discovering, starting from St Anthony, the city's patron saint, a compulsory stop for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, to St Savino, of early Christian origin, with mosaic floors, passing through St Mary of Campagna, with its dome frescoed by Pordenone. Here, it is said, Pope Urban II announced his intention to order the First Crusade to the Holy Land. A walk around the muntä di rat A visit to Piacenza's museums, meanwhile, has to include the Alberoni Gallery, which houses Antonello da Messina's Ecce Homo, and the Ricci Oddi Modern Art Gallery, with its works from the 19th and 20th centuries. Iconic places in the city to visit, before leaving, include the Municipal Theatre, whose façade was redesigned by Alessandro Sanquirico based on inspiration from La Scala in Milan, and the steps that connect Via Mazzini to Via San Bartolomeo, which everyone here calls the muntä di rat. This is because during the flooding of the Po, legend has it that rats used it to escape the water. Amidst hills and medieval villages: in search of food & wine delights and Bellocchio's film sets Other wonders are in store for you in the surrounding countryside, among the renowned valleys of the Piacenza hills: Val Trebbia, Val Nure, Val Tidone and Val d'Arda, to name the best known, with their scenic itineraries and food and wine delights. Not forgetting the medieval villages and castles: Castell'Arquato, Grazzano Visconti, Gropparello, Rivalta, to name but a few. For film buffs we recommend a trip to Bobbio, a delightful village in the Trebbia Valley and the setting for many films by Marco Bellocchio, who founded his Film School and a Festival dedicated to the Seventh Art here. For those who love outdoor sports, we suggest trying their hand, on foot or by bicycle, at a few stops along the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage route that led from northern Europe to Rome and from there to the Holy Land.
Museums and monuments
Fortezza di Sarzanello

Fortezza di Sarzanello

The Fortress of Sarzanello: the favourite castle of Lorenzo the Magnificent Lorenzo de’ Medici, known as the “magnificent” prince, decided to acquire and develop the imposing Fortress of Sarzanello, which from its position on the hills dominates the Val di Magra. Its medieval towers and ramparts are still clearly visible from the historical dwellings in the valley and from the villages situated on the slopes leading up to the peaks of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine range of mountains, however the old drawbridge was destroyed. In any case this will not prevent you from visiting the castle, which is built on two triangular fortifications connected by a bridge and surrounded by a moat. At the core of the military fortress To reach the fortress we may choose between two carriage roads and a pedestrian walkway known as the Montata di Sarzanello, and all of these routes are immersed in an unspoiled natural environment. If you were to seek our advice we would have no doubt: the walkway will let you enjoy a breathtaking panorama and it’s well worth the effort of walking up the steep path. Once you reach your destination, you should dispel any reverential fear that this gigantic building with its sharp angular structures may instil within you, perhaps reflecting on the fact that the formerly austere building today hosts sumptuous private events and romantic wedding ceremonies. Between the 15th and 16th centuries Lorenzo the Magnificent became aware of the strategic importance of this territory, which had always represented a central issue in various political and military disputes. He was not the first nor the only person to comprehend its relevance. At the end of the 10th century a fortress with a military tower had already been positioned here, and if you carefully observe the structure you will note the ever-present signs of adaptations that have occurred over time. The Sarzanello Fortress... A few details not everyone is aware of You may happen to hear that the castle you are visiting is really called the Castruccio fortress, however the military leader Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli from Lucca lived at the manor only for about ten years, between 1317 and 1328. When Sarzana and Sarzanello fell under the control of the Medici, the Lords of Florence, at the end of the 15th century, it was this noble family that dedicated a lot of time and resources to reinforcing the structures built to defend the city, and this work obviously included the Sarzanello Fortress. Find out more... If you are thinking of arranging a visit to the fortress or if you are even planning a wedding at this location, which would require serious reflection and organisation, we have some good news for you: the weather is mild during all seasons of the year.
Theatre
Aycardi Theatre

Aycardi Theatre

Aycardi Theatre, a small 19th-century jewel in the heart of the Borgo A sober façade painted in mock architectural style on the curved front of Aycardi Square in Finalborgo conceals the Aycardi Theatre, the oldest preserved 19th-century theatre in Liguria. It is a small jewel, an expression of the flourishing social and cultural life that animated the Borgo in the 19th century. The theatre was built in the midst of the Napoleonic and Jacobean era thanks to a private initiative supported by local citizens between 1804 and 1806. It was built inside the Oratory of the Scolopi Fathers attached to the Istituto delle Pious Schools (Institute of the Pious Schools), erected in 1759 on the bequest of Giovanni Andrea Aycardi and suppressed in 1798 by the anticlerical laws of the Ligurian Republic. The theatre underwent a first restoration in 1818-1819, supported by a public subscription, after a fire had destroyed the interior furnishings. It was handed over to the Finalborgo Town Hall in 1832, although the main families of the Borgo retained ownership of the boxes, and its activities continued regularly until 1850, hosting theatre companies, operas and musical concerts organised by the Philharmonic Society. After a last performance of Rigoletto in 1886, a period of crisis led to a temporary halt in opera performances. In 1936, the theatre underwent further restoration work, to which we owe the repainting of the balustrades of the boxes, with garlands and medallions recalling glories and monuments of Finale, as well as reminders of the Fascist era. After a fleeting resumption of the Philharmonic's activities in the period following the end of the Second World War and its use for galas and film screenings, the theatre was permanently closed in 1965 for security reasons. The small space, designed to hold about 250 spectators, consists of an elliptical stalls cut off by the proscenium, according to a model characteristic of 18th-century theatres. The stalls are surrounded by two superimposed tiers of boxes divided by masonry pillars and an upper gallery with wooden columns. The curtain is surmounted by a richly crowned coat of arms of the Borgo Community. The soffit of the ceiling is covered by a large painted canvas decorated with medallions and floral motifs. The theatre has recently undergone restoration and renovation for a forthcoming reopening to the public.
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