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Posts Tagged ‘Private Italy Tours Ltd’

A fascinating new documentary about the Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence, an orphanage established in the 15th Century, will be premiered in Florence on May 17, 2019.

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Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (white facade) and the Ospedale degli Innocenti

Read an article about the orphans of the Renaissance, and this unique institution, on our blog.

Ospedale degli Innocenti.

Director Davide Batistella will be present at the premier of this latest documentary.

Trailer: The Innocents of Florence

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Innocenti

From the Advancing Women Artist’s announcement:

“In this 90’ minute feature-length documentary film, Battistella explores the themes of art, motherhood, Florentine humanism and how a progressive-thinking Renaissance society created one of the first Children’s hospitals in the world. He tells this story through the restoration of a painting that was created as the banner for the Innocenti Institute in 1446.”

In addition to learning more about the fascinating story of the Innocenti, I also invite readers to review the incredible work that is being conducted by the AWA, based in Florence.

This dedicated group of passionate art experts, along with those who love the work of female Renaissance painters, is leading the way for the restoration of work by female artists of that period, while ensuring the correct attribution of their work. If you are interested in supporting the work of this important organization, here is a link with more information.

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The work of restoration never ends

 

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View from Room 220 La Perla

As I write this article, I am sitting in a small hotel in the village of Vocogno di Craveggia (VB) in the Valle Vigezzo of northern Italy. Located a mere two hours by train from the intensive noise and traffic of Milano, you will find peace, quite, tranquility and rest in this lovely area of Italia. Frequented by Italian and Swiss travelers, this particular valley has been overlooked by all but knowledgeable international visitors for centuries.

The Vigezzo river valley meanders through the Lapontine Alps in Italy, bordering the Swiss Canton of Ticino on its northern perimiter.   It is known, among other things,  for its annual celebration of the chimney-sweepers, “spazzacamini” in Italian. Each September, the village fills with those who come to honor this special and much honored traditional work.

Spazzacamini Santa Maria Maggiore

A Time Honored Tradition – Chimney Sweeps – A Spazzacamino during the Annual Celebrations

The buildings here are mostly stone and stucco. Granite and slate roofs top barns and homes and the sense of this place is as much Switzerland as it is Italy.

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Town Square, Santa Maria Maggiore

The Hotel La Perla occupies a marvelous site above the village. Mattei, the owner, or his son Francesco, offer to pick you up (and return you at the conclusion of your visit) in Santa Maria Maggiore. The hotel is located some distance, uphill, from the station so this is a much appreciated service. Without a car, you should plan to walk; special requests for pick-up and drop off can be made with the owners.

The three-star hotel La Perla offers very simple, clean, uncluttered rooms. If you ask for a mountain/valley view you will not be disappointed. Some rooms on the second and third floors offer terraces and stunning vistas of the valley and villages below. Don’t expect fancy; expect clean, friendly and well-managed accommodation.

Sunday Morning sunrise Vocogno di Craveggia

The View from Room 220, Hotel La Perla

The restaurant in the hotel offers memorable meals. Dinner last evening was a Caprese salad, followed by some baked potato gnocchi prepared with a special regional cheese. The sliced local beef was beautifully prepared with some patate fritte to accompany the secondo. Francesco, the son of the owners, is the chef. His capabilities are more than evident in a flavorful and well-prepared “cena” (dinner). The restaurant also offers a good selection of local and regional wines. The views from the dining room are spectacular, as well.

Your days here can be filled with rented electric bicycles, hikes in the foothills of the alps, easy strolls through the valley villages. Not unlike the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast of Italy, the chain of small towns are linked by the “Centovalli Vigezzina“, known locally as the Centovalli train. You can purchase tickets to/from various villages and walk back or just enjoy time in each one, returning to Santa Maria Maggiore at the end of an easy day. (Click on the map for easier reading).

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Be sure to plan a few days in this region of Italy. Hotels are not plentiful, so reservations are strongly recommended. Most accommodations are three-star with a few four-star available.

If your time in Italy is limited, you might enjoy the full day excursion  known as the Lago Maggiore Express. Our blog article provides details and information.

IF YOU GO:

Trenitalia offers regular service from all over Italy to Milano Centrale and from there on to Domodossola, the last large city before entering Switzerland. Those coming from Brig, in Switzerland, will find trains available on either the Italiarail or Swiss Bundesbahn web sites.

From Domodossola, you can purchase tickets for the Centovalli train (though online purchases in advance are recommend, as this will guarantee you seats especially during the busiest months of August, September, Christmas Holiday, January and February).

Valle Vigezzo Tourist Information

Train Information, Valle Vigezzo

Hotel La Perla

28852 Vocogno di Craveggia (VB)

Via Belitrandi, 2/A

Tel: 0324 98 071

Fax: 0324 98 88 98

 

 

 

 

 

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On a recent visit with our Annual Art Tour in Tuscany, we stopped in to Bistro Olivieri, a recently opened restaurant in the village of San Gimignano.

The establishment’s tag line, Cucina Toscana Contemporanea, Contemporary Tuscan Kitchen, is reflected in the varied and fairly priced menu.

We all agreed that the exceptional modern Italian interior design was a perfect contrast to the textured ancient stone towers and streets of the village.

Daily specials are written on the glass wall that separates the kitchen area from the dining room; a stylish and easy to reference list.

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There is an exceptional wine list which is updated to keep pace with the ever changing and flavorful menu offerings.

Highly recommended. Web site is on Facebook. Make reservations, though walk-ins are welcomed. During high season, May – September, this place will be busy.

Olivieri Bistrot

Via S. Matteo, 55

53037 San Gimignano (SI) Italy

Tel: +39.0577.94.07.90

Hours: 

Friday 10AM–12AM
Saturday 10AM–12AM
Sunday 10AM–12AM
Monday 10AM–12AM
Tuesday 10AM–12AM
Wednesday 10AM–12AM
Thursday 10AM–12AM

 

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Isola San Giulio View. Church bell tower on the left.

 

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Graffiti at Isola San Giulio, Lago Orta

Admittedly, unashamedly, Lago Orta in the lake region of Italy is one of my  favorite haunts. Isola San Giulio, located in the shadow of Madonna del Sasso high above the lake and just off shore of the village of Orto San Giulio, is a treasure.

It is not only the Way of Silence and the Way of Meditation which wend their way through the narrow lanes of the island that make this such a unique and memorable place; it is also the secrets of monks inside the Basilica di San Giulio which add intrigue and even some humor to the quiet meditative interior of the church.

Study the graffiti etched in to the frescoes on columns in the church and surprises await. Amidst the clutter of too many modern scars are Latin notes made by monks in centuries past.

“The weather is cold today.”
“Brother Paul is asleep.”
“I am bored.”
“The weather is cold today.”

It is as if the monks, bored, cold, jealous or otherwise distracted took advantage of early morning or evening services in the dark, shadowed corners of the basilica to add a note of discontent or criticism; no worries that the surface used were 15th or early 16th Century frescoes by artists of their day.

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Graffiti scarred frescoes – Basilica di San Giulio

When you next visit the lake region, please take some time to visit this intriguing island in one of the least known lakes in Italy.

IF YOU GO:

Isola San Giulio: Information about the lake area, hours for various visits and other helpful details.

Navigazione Lago d’Orta: Timetables and information about ferry schedules on Lake Orta.

 

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Easter in Rome is one of the busiest times of the year.

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Interior, St. Peter’s Basilica

Keep in mind that if you are planning to be in Italy, in general, around Easter, that this is a very important holiday. Almost every museum, event venue and archaeological site is closed Good Friday through Easter Monday. The holiday weeks preceding and following the Easter weekend also are a challenge for tourism due to changing hours at those locations as well.

Here, for your use and reference, is a list of events currently planned in the city

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy (Holy) Thursday Mass 09:30AM St. Peter’s Basilica (Smaller crowd with better chance of closer proximity to the Pope) (Tickets Required)

Second Papal Mass of the day:  5:30pm, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Basilica of Saint John Lateran

Friday, April 14, 2017:

Good Friday procession from Colosseum to Palatine Hill

Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica 5:00PM (Tickets Required)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica (Tickets Required)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square with the Pope – 10:15AM (Tickets Required)

“Urbi et Orbi” Blessing at 12:00PM Noon in St. Peter’s Square (No Tickets Required)

Vatican Web Site Calendar and other information.

Audience or Mass with the Pope: Information

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Crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Easter Celebration

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Looking for a less expensive way to travel between major European cities?

A relatively new bus service, FlixBus, is receiving very positive response as a safe and comfortable alternative to train or rental car options while in Europe.

The company, FlixBus, was founded in 2013 in Germany following deregulation of German transit restrictions. Various countries across Europe have been added to their routes, including Italy which was added to the network in 2015.

The buses are exceptionally clean and offer:

  • Extra leg room for all seats
  • Restroom facilities aboard
  • Seat belts at each and every seat
  • Internet service throughout your trip at no additional cost
  • Power plugs at each seat to ensure you do not run out of battery time
  • Snacks and refreshments available
  • Large amount of luggage space; large pieces of luggage go in the compartments below the seating and there is space for small hand luggage above each seat or, on double deck buses, under the seat in front of you
  • Clean buses with confidence on the timetable for planning and transit

So, if ease of travel, no hassle with loading luggage on and off trains in crowded stations and comfortable safe travel appeal to you, please consider FlixBus.

Web: FlixBus

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Some of the Flixbus Fleet

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Upper deck seating on two-level buses

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Seating Main Level Flixbus

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If you are planning on a trip to Italy, this is the season to read up on numerous great books about the culture, history and la vita Italiano.

Florence:

stones-of-florenceThe reference I most strongly recommend is Christopher Hibbert’s definitive The House of Medici-Its Rise and Fall. Hibbert deftly guides the reader through the intricacies of everything from the Medici family tree, political intrigue and ‘the end of the line’ in easy to read prose. Truly a must for those who plan on spending time in bella Firenze.

Inferno: Dan Brown’s most recent book, this one does describe various parts of the city in very vivid detail.

The Stones of Florence: Mary McCarthy’s landmark 1956 book is still a wonderful read to get a great perspective on the city, its sites and history.

Heading south – Naples or Sicily

Elena Ferrante, The Neapolitan Quartet. In this day and age, no one beats Elena’s the-ancient-shoreability to capture Neapolitan life so vividly and in such lucid style.

The Ancient Shore. Shirley Hazzard’s lifelong love with Naples comes through in a unique framework of the ancients who established colonies here in the era’s past. A very good read with an unusual perspective.

Sicily, 3o00 Years of Human History: Sandra Benjamin’s ability to translate the complex story of Sicily’s tumultuous existence, from the indigenous cultures of the Sicanians and others through multiple occupations by other nations brings the island’s complex story to life. A great read if you are planning time on Sicily.

Venice in your plans?

paradise-of-citiesParadise of Cities: Venice in the Nineteenth Century. John Norwich’s remarkable book shares observations about the city as it began to attract visitors on the “Grand Tour”. My love of this book is that the author shares what Venice was and what it was destined to be, well in advance of the tourist hoards that arrive today. A very interesting perspective on the City in the Sea.

If Venice Dies: Salvatore Settis’s searing look at the terrible effects of cruise ships and tourists crowds descending on the city. Even if you are a cruise passenger, this book deserves your attention to a city in peril. I highly recommend. The book was released in Italian and an English translation by Andre Naffis-Sahely has brought the book to a whole new audience.

There are hundreds more. This will get you started!

Join us in Italy on one of our small group excursions across Italy. Four itineraries.  Your own villa. Daily multi-lingual tour lead and support. Relax. Unwind. Come home again to Italy.

 

 

 

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