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Immerse yourself in the beauty of rolling hills and picturesque villages. Italy is home to some of the most idyllic villages in the world, which also offer a closer look into the country’s rich history. 

Put the authentic experience of visiting the medieval streets of Siena or the characteristic Cinque Terre to the top of your list. Live the true Italian experience. 

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Art & Culture

Aragonese Castle of Ortona

The Aragonese Castle of Ortona: a manor house overlooking the sea Its spectacular location overlooking the sea gives it much of its charm. The Aragonese Castle of Ortona, in the province of Chieti, softly overlooks the shores of the Adriatic Sea, facing the long Costa dei Trabocchi, with its imposing architecture. An unmissable journey through 15th-century history linked to the Aragonese domination of the Abruzzo region. Restored after a period of decay The marvellous fortress, as we know it today, dates back to the period between 1450 and 1470, when it was transformed from earlier mediaeval buildings. It was supposed to protect Ortona from the Aragonese assault, but failed. The quadrangular shape in full Renaissance style was chosen by Alfonso of Aragon, who wanted to rebuild the fortress overhanging the sea and make it more strategic in order to protect the town's harbour. Ortona passed into the hands of Margaret of Austria in 1582, who bought it for 54,000 ducats to convert it into a modern, economically flourishing town. Building innovation concentrated on the built-up area, leaving the Aragonese stronghold almost intact. The village was run by local administrations that took little interest in the castle's fate, condemning it to a long period of decay. Further damage to its structure occurred in the 20th century: it was hit by bombing in 1943 and by a landslide in 1946. Today it has regained its splendour thanks to careful restoration work undertaken in the 2000s. A history enlivened by a dark legend It is impossible to tell the story of Ortona's Aragonese Castle without mentioning the so-called “Legend of the Return”. The story goes that a rich merchant was received at the king's court, met his beautiful daughter, and fell madly in love with her. The king did not wish to give his daughter's hand in marriage to a sea dog. He therefore promised the merchant to grant him permission to marry his daughter only if he brought him something unique and remarkable as a gift. Several months passed and there was no sign of the merchant. The princess could not rest until the stormy sea, moved by compassion, led her back to her beloved at the bottom of the sea. In the morning, fruits that had never been seen before appeared on the beach in Ortona. Green and round, they were called monkey brains or Osage oranges. They were an extraordinary gift for the king. Still today, near the castle, fishermen swear they can hear the wails of the princess on stormy nights. During the Second World War, Ortona was renamed by Winston Churchill as the Stalingrad of Italy: crossed by the Gustav Line, the fortification that divided the peninsula in two, with the Nazi-Fascists to the north and the Anglo-Americans to the south, it was attacked and bombed for about six months. Antique furnishings, museums and evocative routes A visit to the Aragonese manor of Ortona holds its own charm: in one of its towers you can visit a small but delightful museum with period pictures and furnishings that belonged to the noble families who lived there over the centuries. Cyclists and hiking enthusiasts can enjoy a convenient route that leads from the castle to the cycle path along the Ortona coastline.
Nature
Cinque Terre National Park

Cinque Terre National Park

Liguria, Cinque Terre National Park: amid paths and the sea It is one of the smallest in Italy as well as the most densely populated: the Cinque Terre National Park, with its atypical landscape, strongly altered by man, has become a World Heritage Site. The true identifying trait of the Cinque Terre offering its visitors a network of footpaths dotted with scenic routes that they cannot help but fall in love with. The network of trails For centuries, the Cinque Terre paths were the only form of connection between one village and another. We are talking about a network of 120 kilometres, which today allows you to cross the length and breadth of the entire territory, offering you various routes. You can choose, among many, the Terraced Vineyards Itinerary, running from Riomaggiore to Corniglia, but only if you are an experienced hiker, because it is over 8 kilometres long and with 73 metres of altitude difference. You will walk along cultivated gardens, up to the ridge of the Costa Corniolo: from here you will admire the Montenero Point to the east and the Gulf of the Cinque Terre to the west. Then, with the ancient steps, partly in stone and partly carved into the rock, you descend towards Manarola, with its scenic views. You will also be fascinated by the Ancient Settlements Route, connecting Riomaggiore to Fossola. An even longer, 11-kilometre path runs between dry stone walls, flanked by the Rio Major stream, among alders and black elder trees. For the more romantically inclined, we recommend the Via dell'Amore, an entirely paved walkway overlooking the sea, which allows you to reach the village of Manarola in no time from Riomaggiore, offering enchanting views. And again, the Sanctuary and Church Itineraries, like the one that starts from the village of Monterosso and heads towards the Sanctuary of N.S. di Soviore, alternating steps and long stretches of dirt road, through houses, Mediterranean scrub and dense woods of holm oaks and chestnut trees. Or the path to the Sanctuary of Reggio, which winds along the valleys between Monterosso and Vernazza between 500 and 350 metres above sea level. Do not miss the Monterosso Literary Park, dedicated to Eugenio Montale, to experience first-hand the emotions that the Ligurian poet was able to express in his verses, in an embrace between sea and land. The Marine Protected Area The wonderful offer of the Cinque Terre National Park continues with the routes offered in the Protected Marine Area. Routes for swimming, such as the 700-metre-long swimming route in the Cinque Terre MPA, starting in Vernazza, continuing along the coast, bordered by small buoys to prevent recreational boating. The same stretch of coastline is suitable for snorkelling and kayak excursions, enhancing an extremely scenic stretch of sea, among starfish, lobsters and barracuda. Diving also for the disabled, for a barrier-free sea experience, such as the one at Punta Corone in Monterosso. The route is marked by a summit supported by pegs and is striking for its seagrass meadows. The Cetacean Sanctuary The waters that bathe the five jewel-like villages, nestled between the sea and the hills, are particularly important from a biological point of view and so rich in nutrients that they can be compared to those in the Atlantic. The perfect way to end your stay in the Cinque Terre National Park is to visit the Cetacean Sanctuary. In this area, in fine weather, you can witness a magical spectacle of whales, dolphins and sperm whales finding an ideal habitat for food and reproduction in the Ligurian Sea.
Art & Culture
Arcades of the church San Pietro, Porto Venere - Liguria

Portovenere

Porto Venere, in the park where nature is poetry The name of a goddess is fitting: Porto Venere rises from the waters in a splendid position at the southern end of the peninsula in the Gulf of Poets. For lovers of the sea, this is a true paradise, among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Porto Venere Regional Natural Park includes the ancient village, the Protected Marine Area to protect the purity of the waters, and the three nearby islands: Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. The joys of the sea Regular ferries departing from Porto Venere land on the island in front of Palmaria, a splendid marine oasis. You could be content with just a panoramic sea tour, admiring the other two islets in the archipelago, Tino and Tinetto, but it is worth stopping on Palmaria to enjoy an amazing day at sea. The beaches here are among the most beautiful in Liguria. Once on Palmaria, the ferry stops at Cala Pozzale and Cala Fornace, beaches that cannot be reached in any other way. In the first, the tongue of pebbles and small rocks is framed by pine and myrtle trees and the water is emerald, as it is also in the second, a bay with a cliff behind it. Larger is the Spiaggia del Secco, on the tip of the same name, equipped to provide every comfort. For divers, the wonder continues in the seabed, a diverse world of sheer cliffs that continue into the depths and submerged caves. Seahorses, starfish and the Poseidonia prairie of aquatic plants are just some of the surprises you will encounter while diving. And all it takes is a simple mask to get lost among the fish. By boat, you can visit the Blue Grotto, so called because the reflections of light paint a palette in all shades of blue. If you wish to explore the interior of the island, you can set off along the well-maintained paths organised in loops for a total walking time of about 3.5 hours, with dry stretches alternating with patches of Mediterranean scrub. Nature and architecture, allies in a magical setting Porto Venere boasts a prestigious history, dating back to the 6th century BC, in Roman times. Here, nature meets architecture, because among the alleys and houses with their typical pastel colours are ancient testimonies of the many peoples who have passed through this strategic military and commercial port. At St Peter's Church you will appreciate the two buildings, one more recent in Gothic style, the other Romanesque, and you will be amazed by the location. The complex is perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, the Promontorio delle Bocche: a place surrounded by an atmosphere of spirituality enhanced by its natural setting. Look out from the loggia outside for a view of the coastline framed by the arches. The Sanctuary of the Madonna Bianca, in the old town, is an imposing Romanesque masterpiece, and after visiting it, go up again to the highest point of Porto Venere with the Doria Castle, the fortification that watches over the sea. An inspiring place: Byron's Cave Without moving too far from the old town, Porto Venere offers small beaches to cool off with a dip. The place not to be missed, however, is Byron's Grotto, near St Peter's Church, so named because the British poet found inspiration for his writing there. You can get there on foot via a footpath or by private boat. Jump in equipped with a mask and let yourself be captivated by this deep cavern carved out of an impressive cliff. Also observe the cave walls, rich in fascinating concretions. In the evening, shopping and the pleasures of the table A walk through the village is also an invitation to go shopping. You will be attracted by the hand-painted silks and shawls of ancient tradition, the precious “mezzari” once used by local women to cover their heads and now reinvented in fashion. Also interesting are the vibrantly coloured majolica tiles on sale in the many ateliers. Then choose a restaurant, either with an intimate and romantic atmosphere in the old town or in movida style on the promenade characterised by the Palazzata: the row of tower-houses built on several floors clinging to each other against the rock. When ordering, remember that Porto Venere is famous for its mussels, oysters, sea bass and sea bream, plus a species of shellfish named after the place. The mussels of Porto Venere, similar to mussels, are delicious fried or as a condiment for a dish of spaghetti.
Art & Culture

Castello del Piagnaro

Pontremoli and the Mystery of the Stele Statues Pontremoli, an ancient stop along the Via Francigena, has always stood out as a junction of the major communication and trade routes of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, guarded by the Piagnaro castle. Today the town preserves and enhances the treasures of its rich heritage, including the mysterious Stele Statues, the figures carved in sandstone between the fourth and first millennium before Christ. The bridge-city between Tuscany and the Po Valley Pontremoli, located at the confluence of the river Verde and the Magra, in the province of Massa Carrara, owes its name (from pons tremulus, literally “trembling bridge”) to the presence of a wooden bridge and ropes that must not have been very stable. It was mentioned, as a stop along the Via Francigena, by Sigeric, Bishop of Canterbury, in his travel diary on his return from Rome in 990. In 1200 it was a free municipality, and then came under several seigniories until it was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1650. Between 1849 and 1859 it was part of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza as the seat of the Lunigiana parmense. Its historical centre boasts some notable Baroque palaces (Dosi Magnavacca and Pavesi, both of which are privately owned but can be visited by appointment), the cathedral and the Oratory of Nostra Donna, evidence of its golden age, the Pontremolese Baroque. The annexation to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1650 signified an authentic rebirth for this area, which once again became a trade crossroads between Tuscany and the Po Valley, as it had been in the Middle Ages. The castle of Piagnaro The town of Pontremoli is distinguished by the massive, austere bulk of the Piagnaro castle (11th century), whose towers dominate and control the stretch of the Via Francigena that joins Tuscany from the Cisa pass and related trade. Its name derives from piagne, the term used to indicate the sandstone slabs used to clad the building. Piagnaro has a thousand-year history of sieges, destructions, reconstructions and alterations to the defence structures, until it was turned into a dwelling in the early 20th century. After a period of abandonment, in the last 30 years it has undergone a restoration campaign and now houses the Ambrosi Museum of Lunigiana Stele Statues, as well as being a welcoming point for pilgrims travelling along the Via Francigena. The Mystery of the Lunigiana Stele Statues The Stele Statues are stylised human figures carved out of sandstone, dated between the fourth and first millennium BC, between the Copper and Iron Ages, whose significance is still a mystery to archaeologists. The statues have been found in Lunigiana since 1827, and are now an identity symbol of the valley. About forty of them are exhibited in the museum, half of all known statues. It is unknown what those figures emerging from the stone represent; whether they are heroes, warriors or gods. The Stele have been catalogued into 3 groups, more or less archaic, with sculptural characteristics that become more and more defined over time. The museum visit can continue ideally in some of the places where the Stele were found, such as the Filetto forest (11 were found in a chestnut wood) and the archaeological area of Sorano and Filattiera, villages surrounded by enchanting woodland. The Bancarella Prize Since 1952, the town of Pontremoli has organised the Bancarella Prize in mid-July, the only Italian literary prize run exclusively by booksellers. It is an important cultural event for the publishing world, and is linked to the original work of the Pontremoli itinerant booksellers, a unique situation in Italy. Since the end of the 19th century, when bookshops only existed in large cities, families of itinerant booksellers would set out from Pontremoli, crossing the Apennines towards the northern regions to sell, town by town, all kinds of books, setting up their stalls wherever they happened to arrive. Some of these itinerant activities developed over time into permanent bookshops, still managed by the descendants of Pontremolian booksellers.
Nature
Positano - Costiera Amalfitana, Campania

Positano

A holiday in Positano, enjoying the enchantment of the Amalfi Coast Positano stands to the west of the fascinating natural terrace on the Tyrrhenian Sea that is the Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, the typical Mediterranean landscape of southern Italy reigns supreme, with white houses sloping down towards the sea and splendid beaches, alleys offering all the simple pleasures of life: the leisurely pace, refined boutiques, cafés and restaurants, and places that are custodians of history. Discovering the beaches The Marina Grande beach is Positano's most famous beach. It is 400 metres of sandy shore set in the inlet, where you may find yourself face to face with passing VIPs. The view and the facilities available encourage lounging, but once you have left your sunbed, it is worth heading to the pier to sail to the Li Galli Archipelago: three small islands in a marine reserve surrounded by crystal-clear waters, that legend has it are populated by mermaids. You can get there by dinghy or small boat. An intimate cove embraces Fornillo Beach, made of pebbles and gravel; it's reachable on foot and a snorkelling paradise because of its magnificent seabed. Continuing on foot, you can spend some quiet time on the Spiaggia di Laurito (Laurito Beach), where the cliffs are sheer, and nature is untouched. The jagged coastline of the Gulf of Positano is full of ravines on the turquoise sea. Climb aboard a gozzo, the traditional boats, and ask to be taken to discover little beaches in secret coves, including La Porta, San Pietro Laurito and Arienzo. Many hotels also offer stretches of private beaches. A divine trek A hike in the Monti Lattari, immersed in nature. The Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods), was for many years the only link between the towns on the Amalfi Coast, before the main road was built. As you walk along, the Coast opens up to you from above and the view sweeps as far as Capri on clear days. You pass through forests of holm oaks and quench your thirst at the numerous springs; you will find vertiginous caves and precipices, the remains of cave villages, and the limestone spire Il Pistillo.   You arrive at the village of Nocelle, where you can freshen up before resuming your trek. For the more experienced and adventurous, a branch of the Sentiero degli Dei leads via an almost endless flight of steps to Cala Arienzo, usually reached by sea with little effort. A holiday resort dear to the Romans Roman aristocrats came to Positano and built extraordinary holiday residences here. There is much evidence of their fondness for this place, blessed with an enchanting landscape and a mild climate all year round, with the sea breeze alleviating the summer heat. Find artefacts of the ancient holidaymakers at the Roman Archaeological Museum - MAR, which houses a part of a 1st century AD villa, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius and brought to the surface after years of archaeological excavations. Positano Style Positano is a vertical village, perched on a rock overlooking the sea. Wander through the village's many stairways and alleyways, and don't miss a visit to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, a stone's throw from Marina Grande Beach. Once a Benedictine monastery, later abandoned and renovated over the centuries, today it offers the architectural spectacle of a pale stone façade and a yellow, green and blue majolica dome. Inside, look out for the precious Byzantine icon. Majolica has a long tradition in Positano, and in the village ateliers you can shop for ceramic objects, from plates to trinkets. There are many boutiques selling elegant clothes if you want to follow the “Positano style”: soft, fluttering dresses, kaftans, light colours, shirts and trousers in linen and lightweight fabrics, and the ubiquitous swimwear for him and for her. Over the centuries, Positano has seen a flourishing tradition of weaving, now reinterpreted in a contemporary, holiday mood. The style is completed with flip-flop shoes, also customised by the craftsmen. After the sea, the delights of the village Positano is also luxury and high society, and the whole area offers plenty of clubs, restaurants and bars. For evening entertainment, you can choose whether to stay up high in the venues clinging to the rock, in favour of the view, or in the beach clubs, where an aperitif at sunset is also a pleasant experience. Take a seat on the terrace of a restaurant. Some good choices are mussel soup or a lemon-scented seafood salad, linguine with scampi and fried fish. Among the cheeses of the Monti Lattari, fior di latte, the same cheese that you will find on pizza, is the most popular. And if your gastronomic interests do not end there, find out how to join a themed tour: olive oil tours among the olive groves, and wine cellars amidst the vineyards.
Nature
Villa Cimbrone, Ravello - Costiera Amalfitana, Campania

Ravello

Ravello, a terrace on the Amalfi Coast Perched on a hill over 350 metres above sea level, the municipality of Ravello is one of 16 on the Amalfi Coast, all within the province of Salerno. There is a unique panoramic view from this magnificent natural balcony, ideally positioned to admire one of the most magnificent coastlines in the world from above. The air is healthy and infused with the scents of the Mediterranean maquis, while the ancient villas embraced by flowering gardens testify to the love that noble souls had for the place. Ready for an itinerary that will sweep you off your feet? An ancient and dreamlike residence Villa Rufolo overlooks Piazza Vescovado, the heart of Ravello. It was commissioned in mediaeval times by the family whose name the residence carries, as a sign of luxury and power. Between declines and resurrections over the centuries, the villa has now returned to its original splendour, praised by the likes of Boccaccio, who dedicated verses to it, and Wagner. So much beauty will captivate you too, starting with the building that is a mixture of styles: Arab, Sicilian and Norman. Go past the entrance tower and be sure to climb to the top of the Torre Maggiore, where an open view of the entire Gulf of Salerno awaits you. Enter the rooms and then take some time to admire the wonderful garden spread over several levels. Cypresses and lime trees lead you to the Moorish cloister, where the colour of the flowers caresses your soul and envelops you in a romantic ambience: oleanders, hydrangeas, little mock orange flowers, among shrubs of fragrant rosemary and hawthorn. In July, the villa hosts the Ravello Festival series of musical events. On the Terrace of Infinity In Ravello they call it the Terrace of Infinity, the viewpoint of Villa Cimbrone. It's an elegant balcony decorated with eighteenth-century marble busts. You overlook the coast, lost in the blue of sky and sea broken only by the yellow of the lemon groves. The villa is an exclusive five-star hotel, but the gardens are open to the public. Breathe in the scent of wisteria, linger along paths lined with statues and small temples, pause in the Rose Garden and take an extended break in the Tea Room, with its Moorish-style gazebo decorated with Roman columns and sculptures. The name of Villa Cimbrone is also linked to Greta Garbo, who fled here in the spring of 1938 to live out her brief love affair with conductor Leopold Stokowski away from the spotlight. Look out for the plaque commemorating the starlet's stay here. Experiences in the village Start from Piazza del Vescovado, the centre of Ravello's historic village, a cluster of narrow streets and colourful houses clinging to the rock and surrounded by greenery. Here stands the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta and San Pantaleone, with its bronze portal decorated with 80 figurative tiles and the lavish chapel devoted to the town's patron saint. It is fascinating to visit the ceramic workshops, to buy beautiful objects but also to chat with the craftsmen: they will be able to tell you a lot about their handicraft skills, a precious tradition handed down through generations. If the subject intrigues you, visit the Coral Museum, a small, colourful world created by collector Giorgio Filocamo. Pack your swimsuit Although located on high ground, Ravello also has its own outlet to the sea. Here on the Amalfi Coast, the must-have garment to carry with you at all times is your swimsuit, because wherever you go you will come across enchanting bays and secret coves. The beach in Ravello is located in the hamlet of Castiglione and can be reached both by sea and by land via the state road and down a flight of a couple of hundred steps. From below you can see the noble palaces of Castiglione, and on the other side the silhouette of the village of Atrani with its central church. All the rest is crystal clear sea and cliffs, which cast their shadow over the bay in the afternoon. A visit in the early morning hours is therefore recommended if you are looking for sunshine.
Nature
Cetara, Costiera Amalfitana - Salerno, Campania

Cetara

Cetara: experience the evocative atmosphere of a seafront village The spectacle of the Marina with the lampara boats leaving in the late evening, a quiet beach bordered by the old defence tower, pastel-coloured houses and churches clinging to the hillside. On the Amalfi Coast, Cetara preserves intact the most authentic dimension of a fishing village. The perfect destination for beach lovers, who will also find it on their palate: the renowned local speciality is in fact the Colatura di Alici (translated as Anchovy Syrup) the result of a long tradition. Beaches in a row right in the village The Spiaggia della Marina beach is right here in the village, protected by the Vicereale Tower, an Angevin bastion of defence. It has a sandy and a pebbly part and is surrounded by small pink and yellow houses, as well as small café and restaurant for a pleasant stopover. Facing south-east, the beach is always sun-drenched, perfect for an off-season dive on mild autumn and spring days. At the pebble beach Spiaggia del Porto, special currents make the water crystal clear. Climb aboard a gozzo (local boat type) to visit the Spiaggia della Collata, with access only by sea, a small sheltered bay shrouded in the scents of Mediterranean vegetation; then continue, still by boat, to the tiny Spiaggia degli Innamorati, reserved to a few chosen ones. Still sailing, but this time towards the east coast, you can reach the Spiaggia della Campana (Bell Beach) with a view of two stacks. For those looking for comfort, on the Lannio Beach and the Old Tuoro Beach you can sit on soft sand. Corso Garibaldi: the central street of the village After a long day on the beach it is worth heading towards Corso Garibaldi, the central street of Cetara where the main historical monuments parade, including the Church of San Pietro Apostolo with its dome decorated with a polychromatic majolica covering. The promenade is all the more enchanting at sunset, when the sun dips into the water on the horizon: it is the right time for an aperitif in one of the many bars with outdoor tables from which to admire the spectacle of colours at dusk. Or simply rest on one of the terraces overlooking the sea, because even the dozens of benches are works of fine craftsmanship: they are made by master ceramists, with compositions depicting scenes of life and fishing. Corso Garibaldi is also the ideal place for shopping from boutiques to ceramics ateliers to gastronomic specialities. The famous Colatura di Alici di Cetara The sea is rich in fish in Cetara and the name of town itself derives from Cetaria, meaning 'tuna fishery'. Today, boats go out to the deep waters of the Mediterranean for bluefin tuna, while the tradition of fishing for anchovies is still flourishing. The procedure for a good Colatura di Alici has very ancient roots, traceable back to the time of the Romans who made a similar product called Garum. The Cistercian monks from Amalfi then enhanced the technique: the fish are salted and after curing, the liquid is filtered, a craft method that is still used today. Colatura di Alici has an intense flavour, which you can enjoy by ordering a spaghetti or linguine in the village restaurants. Divine in their simplicity, with no need for seasoning other than a sprinkling of parsley and a good extra virgin olive oil. Trekking among the lemon groves Cetara is a strategic hub for treks of various difficulties in the hills. A one-hour walk along a beautiful path through olive groves, vineyards and lemon orchards on terraces leads to Punta Fuenti. On the contrary, for the braver ones, it takes almost 7 hours to walk the paths from Abbazia di Cava to Iaconti: you will find yourself on a ridge of Mount Falerio before heading into lush forests. If you are looking for an excursion out of town, move to nearby Maiori: this is where the Via dei Limoni (Lemon Path) starts, the ancient road that in 9 kilometres connects Maiori to Minori, both delightful villages. Farmers used to pass through here and even today, during the harvesting period between spring and summer, you can see them at work and intent on transporting citrus fruits by mule. The cultivation of lemons on the Amalfi Coast is a true art.
Art & Culture
Palazzo Ducale di Urbino

Palazzo Ducale di Urbino

The Ducal Palace in Urbino: one of the most beautiful works of the Renaissance Refinement in detail, love of culture, architectural perfection: in the Ducal Palace of Urbino, nothing is left to chance. This symbolic work of the Renaissance was commissioned by Federico di Montefeltro, patron, humanist, skilful leader and lord of the Duchy from 1444 to 1482. The desire to reaffirm his military might and the desire to emphasise the elegance of his court went hand in hand. The result is a huge, imposing, geometrically perfect building, studied in every aspect. The work of the great masters There are not many writings or documents on the Ducal Palace of Urbino that follow and narrate its construction phases. What is certain is that first-class craftsmen participated in the construction of the building, starting with the three architects: the Florentine Maso di Bartolomeo, the Dalmatian Luciano Laurana and the Sienese Francesco Di Giorgio Martini. In the heart of the Palace Today, the Ducal Palace, located in the centre of Urbino, houses the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche and the Museo Archeologico Lapidario. It also hosts musical and artistic events of various kinds. The structure consists of an older core, known as the flat of Jole, commissioned by Frederick's father, Count Guidantonio. This was the starting point for the expansion and decoration of what had originally been the simple residence of the Montefeltro family. A tour of the halls Inside the Ducal Palace, there is the extraordinary National Gallery: covering the first and second floors and a picture gallery of the highest level, with works by Piero della Francesca (the Flagellation and the Madonna of Senigallia) and Raphael (Portrait of a Gentlewoman known as La Muta and the Saint Catherine of Alexandria). The historical period of the works ranges from the 15th to the 18th century. In addition to paintings and sculptures, there is an important collection of ceramics, coins, drawings and furniture. On the ground floor is the Archaeological Museum. An ancient dwelling with modern features It can also be very interesting to visit the dungeons, kitchens and services of the palace, which at the time was astonishingly modern. Also impressive are the inlaid private study, the library of illuminated manuscripts and the small chapel of Forgiveness, attributed to Bramante, not forgetting the flats and the Salone delle Feste and the Cortile d'Onore. An architectural project in grand style, attracting visitors from all over the world. It is flanked by Urbino Cathedral and the Sanzio Theatre. The whole town is worth a visit.
Art & Culture

Lanuvio

Lanuvio: ancient walls and good wines On the last foothills of the Alban Hills, near Rome and in a dominant position on a plateau sloping down to the Latium coast, lies Lanuvio, a small medieval village enclosed by a beautiful city wall that dates back in places to the 5th century BC. Its narrow streets paved with cobblestones leading to squares adorned with Baroque fountains and façades of palaces incorporating Roman remains, on display in the civic museum, are intriguing. What to see in Lanuvio Lanuvio and its territory are like an open-air museum A timeline beginning in the 5th century BC with the construction of the megalithic walls made of local stone, some sections of which remain. The Sanctuary of Juno Sospita (in Latin, propitious), a divinity of Roman mythology of whom we have news from Cicero's writings, can be visited in the park adjoining Villa Sforza Cesarini and dates to the same period. In the centre is Palazzo Colonna, unfinished, although it is the birthplace of Marcantonio Colonna, one of the architects of the victory at the Battle of Lepanto (1571): a marble sarcophagus from the Roman era (3rd-4th century AD) is placed on the main façade. Also worth a visit is the 14th-century Rocca, where the Enoteca del Consorzio dei vini Colli Lanuvini is located, the best place to taste the area's wine production: later, you can visit a small museum of rural traditions and climb the watchtower, symbol of the town, from where the view is breathtaking. There is also a small civic museum in the old town centre, with a pre-Roman section recounting the ancient origins of the village and a Roman section with a fresco from the Augustan period with a Dionysian theme and other artefacts from the sanctuary of Juno Sospita, whose archaeological excavations dating back to the early 20th century are also on display. Two works by Carlo Fontana, a pupil of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, can be seen in the village: the Fontana degli Scogli (1675) and the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, of Byzantine origin but rebuilt in Baroque style. Along the walls is the foundation of a temple dedicated to Hercules from the 2nd century BC, while from the belvedere terrace, you can see the Pontine Islands on a clear day. Find out more: www.comune.lanuvio.rm.it
Point of interest

Genzano

Genzano, the town of the Infiorata, strawberries and bread The town of Genzano lies on the crater of Lake Nemi, on the Appian Way, in the dense woods of the Castelli Romani area. It is the city of the Infiorata, a large carpet of fresh flowers for the religious festival of Corpus Christi, but also of delicious PGI bread and strawberries. A favourite destination for many Roman out-of-town trips, a charming and scenic place to relax amidst greenery and history. What to see in Genzano A walk through the village of Genzano is a continuous discovery of panoramic views of Lake Nemi and the countryside sloping into the crater. In the historical centre, the bulk of the 18th century Palazzo Cesarini Sforza, the barons of Genzano, stands out. On display on the piano nobile, the Hager-Sportelli collection, a hundred or so works of art from the 17th and 18th centuries that belonged to Hellmut Hager, one of the greatest scholars of Baroque architects Carlo Fontana, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Filippo Juvarra. On the mezzanine floor, the permanent exhibition Symposium, at the table between myth and culture displays artefacts related to wine culture with a nucleus of works recovered by the Guardia di Finanza as part of operations to combat illegal trafficking in antique works. There is also a section in the palace dedicated to archaeological finds from the Antonine villa (1st century AD) where two Roman emperors, Antoninus Pius and Commodus, were born. The exhibition is the result of an ongoing excavation campaign carried out in cooperation with an American university and during the summer months, archaeologists are always at work. Also worth a visit is the church of Santa Maria della Cima, with its monastery, the remains of the medieval walls and the Infiorata museum, which recounts the most deeply rooted tradition in Genzano, between history and collective memory. The Infiorata of Genzano, Heritage of Italy Every year, for the feast of Corpus Christi (the second Sunday after Pentecost, usually in June), the centre of Genzano is covered with a 2,000-square-metre carpet of fresh flower petals divided into 14 squares made up of more than 400,000 carnations of every colour. The Infiorata di Genzano, recognised by the Ministry of Tourism as 'Heritage of Italy' is one of the most spectacular events of its kind, renewed annually since 1778. A festival that is not just tourist marketing, but a sense of belonging and identity for the locals. Moreover, its preparation lasts a whole year: during the winter, sketches are designed and prepared. In April, how many and which flowers will be needed is estimated. In May the work site is set up and in June, on the Thursday before Corpus Christi Sunday, the stripping activity (separating the petals from the corollas) begins. The petals are divided by colour and kept in cool caves under the town hall. In addition to carnation petals, the following: broom, sausa, fennel, pine seed, chrysanthemum, pine bark, vine black, maize, rice, sage, chilli, wheat, soya, pine nut husks, oregano, coffee black, bran are also used. The laying of the petals and creation of the floral images takes place between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. In the following months, an inventory is made of the materials that can be stored and preparations are made for the next edition. The highlight of the festival is on Sunday afternoon with the procession on the Via Infiorata and continues on Monday with processions and bands until the village children come running down the steps of the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and finally unravel the flower paintings. What to eat in Genzano: PGI homemade bread The local gastronomic speciality is Pane casereccio di Genzano, the first in Italy to be awarded the PGI mark made from wheat flour, water, natural yeast and salt. The dough is left to rise for about an hour: cut into rolls and loaves, it rests in wooden boxes with hemp cloths and is dusted with bran, then baked in a wood-fired or electric oven. The crust is crispy, the inside is soft and spongy: thanks to the natural yeast, so-called mother yeast or sourdough, it keeps for days. The bakers of Genzano are united in a consortium that monitors compliance with production specifications and ensures survival of the wood-fired ovens. The bread is sold in loaves of 0.5 to 2.5 kg. Find out more: www.comune.genzanodiroma.roma.it
Art & Culture

Ariccia

Ariccia, the model baroque town with designs by Bernini Along the Appian Way, in the heart of Ariccia, is one of Italy's most beautiful squares, Piazza di Corte. It is the result of the genius of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was sent here by Pope Alexander VII, of the Chigi family, to redesign the entire village, including the park. The piazza, adorned by two fountains, is overlooked by Palazzo Chigi and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, two absolute masterpieces of the Baroque. After so much art, why not take a break in a fraschetta, the typical tavern where you can enjoy Porchetta IGP and sample the wine of the Castelli Romani. In the palace where The Leopard was filmed While Ariccia's origins are uncertain, surely predating the foundation of Rome, its rebirth has a precise date: 1661. In that year, the fiefdom on the Appian Way was bought by the Chigi family, who entrusted the architect and artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini with its renovation. Bernini was given free rein to redesign the village, which became a kind of model Baroque town. Bernini's project revolves around the scenic Piazza di Corte, overlooked by Palazzo Chigi, a 17th-century remake of an old mediaeval castle. The exterior is rather austere, in the style of French castles, while the interior is a riot of Baroque decorations and furnishings that have survived intact. It was in these sumptuous rooms that director Luchino Visconti shot some scenes of the film The Leopard, and like him, other directors have used the rooms for historical films. Today it can be visited like a museum: in some of the rooms is the Roman Baroque Picture Gallery, with 300 important works by artists such as Salvator Rosa, Luca Giordano, Mattia Preti, Giacinto Brandi, Guido Reni, Giovan Battista Gaulli known as Baciccio, and many others. Opposite the palace, Bernini built the church of Santa Maria Assunta, a Baroque church par excellence. It has a circular ground plan, is preceded by a portico with three arches and has a majestic dome (the work of Bernini's pupil Antonio Raggi), whose proportions recall those of the Pantheon. The Piazza di Corte is also overlooked by the Locanda Martorelli, a building that in Ariccia's golden age, that of the Grand Tour, was popular with painters such as Turner and Corot and literary figures such as Stendhal. Today it is a venue for exhibitions and cultural events. In the sacred forest of Ariccia The 28-hectare park that opens up on the side of Palazzo Chigi was created in the 16th century on the remains of the sacred forest of the Romans dedicated to Diana, which ran on the left side of the Appian Way from Rome to Lake Nemi.   Here too we see the hand of Bernini, who foresaw the romantic garden by designing works such as the Snow Grotto and the Mascherone fountains. The green area, now owned by the municipality, is part of the Castelli Romani Regional Park. What to eat in Ariccia Ariccia is the capital of porchetta, a typical central Italian street food. It is a whole pig, boned and baked for several hours, seasoned with various spices, cut into thin slices and eaten in a sandwich. Many places claim its ownership, Ariccia being among the most credited. Porchetta is eaten here in the fraschette, typical taverns of the Castelli Romani, an area renowned for the quality of its wines thanks to its mineral-rich volcanic soils. The name derives from the custom of the innkeepers to display fraschettas (branches) at the entrance to signal the availability of new wine. The menus always include spaghetti alla carbonara, all'amatriciana or cacio e pepe. Be wary of overly elegant establishments: the original fraschette are rather spartan places in which to end an outing. For more information: www.palazzochigiariccia.it
Art & Culture

Albano Laziale

Albano Laziale, an unexpected pearl of the Castelli Romani Albano Laziale was constructed on the remains of a Roman imperial villa commissioned by Domitian and built around an army camp. The convenient connection to Rome, thanks to the Via Appia, makes the town easily accessible. The beauty of the landscape makes it worth a trip. In addition, Albano preserves extraordinary vestiges of its past. Roman vestiges in Albano Laziale There is no historic building in Albano Laziale that does not have its roots in the civilisation of the ancient Romans. The Porta Praetoria was the entrance to the camp of the Roman legion: incorporated into other buildings, it re-appeared after the bombings of the Second World War in 1944. The 6th-century Church of St Peter was built on the remains of a large hall of the Cellomaio thermal baths, and the building houses several Roman remains such as the marble fragments in the portal and Romanesque bell tower, and the Roman sarcophagus used as an altar. Fragments of the mosaic floor of the baths can be seen in the sacristy. Leaving the church, on the right, you can see the remains of the thermal baths, which have survived to the present day in a well-preserved condition. The baths house the Second Parthian Legion Museum, which, with the tools of experimental archaeology, reconstructs the equipment of the legionnaires and documents their daily life. The most extraordinary legacy of the ancient Romans in Albano is the so-called Cisternone, built in the highest part of the town; it's a huge cistern, partly excavated in the rock, where the water distributed to the camp was channelled. It still functions today, and is used for irrigation purposes. Also worth seeing is the Severian amphitheatre, which is elliptical in shape, and could seat up to 16,000 spectators, with the tiers of seats partly dug out of the rock and partly built of masonry. The Catacombs of San Senatore preserve frescoes from the Middle Ages. To visit most of the archaeological sites, visitors must go to the Albano Roman Civic Museum, housed in the 19th-century Villa Ferrajoli. The Romanesque church of Santa Maria della Rotonda was also erected on the nymphaeum of Domitian's imperial villa: with a round layout, it has the same proportions as the Pantheon in Rome. Also worth a visit is the cathedral of San Pancrazio, which dates back to the time of Constantine, but which has been redesigned in Baroque style. Lake Albano Lake Albano is of volcanic origin and has an unusual elliptical shape, which can be explained by the complex history of its formation, due to various eruptive occurrences. The lake has an artificial outlet, the work of the ancient Romans. Note the remains of the Villaggio delle Macine (Millstone Village), which dates back to the Bronze Age, a millennium and a half before Christ; it is a rare example of a village on stilts. Today it can be visited along the beautiful path through the woods. It is 11 kilometres along the entire circumnavigation of the lake, all on level ground, which can be covered on foot or by mountain bike. On the lake, you can enjoy water sports (canoeing) and pedalo rides, and then enjoy refreshments in the many restaurants on its shores. If you are fascinated by the lake, take the Via dei Laghi (state road 217), which deviates from the Via Appia Antica at Ciampino to reach Velletri, skirting Lake Albano on the Marino side and the nearby Lake Nemi.