Select Page

Enjoy Lago di Bracciano’s Calm Presence

To best enjoy Bracciano lake (Lago di Bracciano, in Italian), visit the lakeside town of Trevignano Romano, just 1 hour North of Rome, Italy.

I love my walks along the recently upgraded and beautifully refined waterside at Trevignano, where gigantic pine trees filter the sun above your head as you stroll along. Under the trees are park-like patches with flower beds and benches, alongside the path of beautiful pavers keeping you right along the water’s edge.

The views of Lago di Bracciano are expansive and unobstructed. It is a calm lake where, more often than not, the other side disappears, being shrouded in a mist just above the water surface. Making you more aware of the swans which swim together right in front of you.

It is that sense of calm and softness of color which transport me back to the Boardwalk in West Vancouver, Canada, where I went in prior years. There, the view of the water is of an ocean instead of a lake the size of a volcanic crater. But it does not matter, as both waters are equally misty and shine with the same amazing color scheme of blues and harmonious calm hues. They ooze tranquility.

Bracciano Lake

And there, where the serenity and the beauty of the lake captures you, often, rainbows or cloud-rays remind you of the omnipresence of the Divine.

What a miracle place we live in.

Orvieto, Italy

Orvieto in Umbria is one of those Italian dream cities. It’s located on a large volcanic flat, high up in the air. City walls on the edge of the flat hold together a maze of small old city streets.

Orvieto’s ancient Etruscan origins are everywhere, mostly underground, and subtly on the surface. In contrast, its magnificent Roman Catholic Duomo cathedral, built in the 14th century, is its most visible treasure.



The cathedral’s golden façade gleams in the sun, year-round, and adds tremendous splendor to an otherwise already darling central city square. 

Other Treasures in Orvieto

Veer off this central square and be enthralled with other unique specialties offered by Orvieto: nationally-celebrated eateries featuring Umbrian delicatessen; and Ceramic shops filled with colorful ornaments, kitchen and table ware.


How to Do Florence in 48 Hours

By Katy Hyslop

You have just arrived in the Renaissance capital of the art world with a couple of days to spare, so where do you go and what highlights can you see in such a short time? This is the guide for you to get the maximum out of a short stay in Florence.


Now is probably a good time to familiarise yourself with the central city, if it’s late summer it will be beginning to cool down and hopefully the crush of the tourist crowds will be starting to diminish. The centre of Florence is easy to walk around as the streets are narrow and most are closed to traffic.

Starting off around the main station there is the Piazza Santa Maria Novella with the church that gives the train station its name. Opposite the church there is the Piazza Nazionale and a road which leads down to the Piazza del Mercato Centrale. Here there are a few market stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs and other items. The 2 famous buildings to see here are the Cappelle Medici and the San Lorenzo e Biblioteca Laurenziana.

You will see the Duomo before you reach the piazza it resides in as you walk down Via Borgo San Lorenzo. The squat building in front of the cathedral is the Baptistery, built on the foundations of a Roman temple. The golden doors facing the cathedral are replicas of an original set made by Lorenzo Ghiberti and regarded by Michelangelo as the “doors to paradise”. But the sight most visitors are bowled over by is Brunelleschi’s dome, the cap on the already impressive Chiesa Santa Maria del Fiori. Standing guard beside it is the campanile, or bell tower built by Giotto.

The view from the top of the Duomo is incredible on a clear day and well worth the trek to the top. Entry to the church itself is free but there is a charge to make the climb. You can also climb the bell tower but run the risk of the bells going off at some point and there is no lift if you need assistance to get back down.

Many of the original works that were used to decorate the exteriors and interiors of the baptistery, church and campanile are house inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, behind the cathedral, the museum rooms that catalogue the history of the buildings. There are many pieces by Michelangelo, including his Pieta that he partially destroyed, which was finished later by a student. The original baptistery doors are housed here along with Duomo plans from Brunelleschi, statues and bas relief’s by Donatello and others.

Walking down Via Roma you will reach Piazza della Repubblica, the edges are taken up with expensive hotels and even more expensive cafes. There are some stalls selling various touristy type things, including more belts, wallets and handbags. Keep walking down Via Calimara until you reach the loggia that houses more market stalls. Here you can test your skills at spotting a fake leather item although you don’t want to make this too obvious. Better still you can drop a coin from the mouth of ‘il Porcolino’, the bronze statue of a boar, and make a wish.

Looking straight ahead you will see what resembles a crowded street rising up at the end of Via Porta Santa Maria. This is actually a bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, the ‘Old Bridge’, which was the only one spared by the Nazis in WWII. The original shops were butchers, dropping their leftovers into the Arno below. The stench got up the Medici’s noses in the 16thC so much that Grand Duke Ferdinando I ordered them to move out and the more aesthetically pleasing goldsmiths to move in. This is also one of 3 bridges in the world to house shops.

Make your way back to the northern end of the bridge where there is a covered colonnade heading left alongside the river. This was built as a secret passageway for the Medici’s as they walked above the populace between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. At the far end of the walkway you can look back to see the rear of the shops as they overhang the river below.

Behind you is also the entrance to the Piazza Degli Uffizi, a three sided piazza filled with statues and busts of famous artists from over the centuries, and of course home to the world famous Uffizi Gallery. The collection inside is second only to that of the one held at the Vatican in terms of artistic significance. Giotto, Fra Angelico, Lippi, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo… the list goes on. The gallery is closed on Mondays and needs at least half a day to get around, as well as to be booked in advance if you wish to view it in summer. The piazza is commonly filled during the summer with outdoor exhibitions, street artists and performers, mainly to entertain the long meandering line of tourists queuing up to get in.

Carry on through the narrow piazza away from the river until you reach Piazza Signoria. This wide open space is most recognisable by the statue of David, a copy put there in 1873 as the original had to moved inside the Accademia to protect it from the elements. Underneath the loggia is a collection of other famous statues including The Rape of the Sabines, Hercules and the Centaur Nessus, by Giambologna and Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus.

The main space is overlooked by the rather imposing statue of ‘Il Nettuno’, the watery figure of Neptune standing at the opposite end of Palazzo Vecchio. Close by is the mounted figure of Cosimo I Medici and the bronze plaque that marks the spot where the priest Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in 1498. For the super sleuths there is a another sculpture to look out for. On the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio is the carved outline of a mans face. One legend tells that Michelangelo, in a fit of pique, was proving to Donatello he was able to sculpt great works of art, even with his hands behind his back.

Inside Palazzo Vecchio the entrance shows ornate ceilings and wall decoration for this building was once the seat of Florentine government during the 13th and 14th Centuries. For a fee you can view the opulent apartments upstairs that were occupied by Medicis and other notables as well as reach the battlements for another view out over the city.

The remainder of the evening can be best spent wandering the narrow streets and enjoying a meal from one of the many restaurants and trattorias. Later on there is the night life as many bars and clubs open up after 10pm and carry on until very early in the morning.

Florence is a tourist magnet all year round so an early start is essential if you don’t wish to spend countless hours queuing. A surefire way to avoid this is to part with a little extra cash in the busy summer months and pre book your tickets online or over the phone. You then pick them up at a designated time from the ticket office with your booking number. This way you can easily get to see the Uffizi and possibly another museum in the same day. To do this simply log onto or or book through your hotel.

The Uffizi opens at 8.15am, closing at 7pm, with the artworks divided between a series of rooms all featuring a certain artistic style or period. The gallery is not restricted to just greats of the Italian renaissance but the collection also includes works by German and Flemish artists. To appreciate much of the work you would need to devote at least several hours to get round.

Either as an afternoon escape or a morning alternative there is also the Galleria Dell’Accademia, most famous for its prize possession, Michelangelo’s David, the original sculpture that stood in Piazza della Signoria. The 5m tall statue was carved from a single slab of marble which some tales relate as having a fault line running through it. Michelangelo was said to have found it at abandoned at the rear of the artisan school and decided he would use it to create a symbol of Florentine spirit.

The Accademia also has other well known statues, paintings and carvings by many artists on display, well worth an hour or two looking around.

For a plesant way to round off the day there is a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo from the southern river bank, where you will find yet another copy of Michelangelo’s David, a bronze version overlooking the city. A great place to watch the city change colour at sunset and sometimes there are public events held in the piazza during the summer.

If there is still enough energy left to view one more church Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte is worth the extra effort. Situated in the parklands up behind Piazzale Michelangelo the exterior is one of the best examples of Tuscan Romanesque architecture while the interior is home to some extraordinary 13-15th C frescoes.

Depending on your time table you may have time for another set of museums or just a gentle stroll in the park. Head up to the Pitti Palace, another Brunelleschi creation for a wealthy banker that was eventually taken up by the Medici family. Inside are a series of museum rooms all dedicated to various items such silver, porcelain and renaissance clothing as well as more modern artworks from the 18th and 20th Centuries.

When the art intake has finally reached its limit there is respite in the shape of the Boboli gardens to the rear of the palace. Designed in the mid 16th C it contains typical grottoes and garden follies of the renaissance aristocracy. A chance to leave the narrow streets and tourist crowds for a while.

Your time in Florence is at an end but you may still have a chance to do a bit of that last minute shopping before bidding farewell to all the masters.

About the Author

Katy Hyslop has spent the past 6 years travelling, tour guiding and generally hanging around the European tourism industry. She is now based in Italy and in charge of keeping the crew under control at Plus. If you want to know more on what to see or where to stay in Florence click here.

From The Renaissance To The Riviera – A Historic Stroll Through Rimini Italy 2

Continuation of article by Michael O’Connor

It’s, perhaps, not surprising that Farina’s bather was an Irish woman, as sea-bathing became intensely popular in the British Isles during the 18th Century.

Italy Rimini City Gate - photo by Aschwin Prein

As early as 1707 physicians like William Buchan were advocating sea-bathing for health reasons, believing in curative properties of sea water. In 1750 the famous Dr Richard Russell published his treatise Glandular Diseases, or a Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the Affections of the Glands, advocating both bathing in, and the drinking of seawater. Seaside resorts sprang up around the english coast as the practice of taking the waters became a fashion craze. A year before Elisabeth Kenny’s visit to Rimini, for example, the nervous King George III famously went to the seaside resort of Weymouth, on the advice of his doctors. It was also during the late 18th century that both the bathing costume and the bathing machine (a roofed and walled wooden cart, allowing women to arrive in the water without offending Victorian notions of decency) were designed.

This is not to suggest, though, that Rimini at the end of the 18th Century was a Mecca for Italian bathers. Far from it, as Farina points out, the city was not particularly famous either for its beaches or bathing facilities at this time. Kenny’s visit to Rimini was more down to convenience, travelling as she was to nearby Cesena.

Rimini’s fame as a seaside town started closer to the end of the 19th century, with the opening of the famous Kursaal (cure room in German), a giant neo-classical structure designed by Gaetano Urbani that cost the City over One million lire to build. It was inaugurated in 1873, and became, along with later the Grand Hotel (built in 1908), a potent symbol of a new type of tourism that would revive the city’s economy – as in truth, since the days of Sigismondo Malatesta, Rimini had been in a steady decline.

Between the latter 19th Century and the first half of the Twentieth Century, Rimini started transforming itself into the ideal tourist resort. A perfect place to spend the hot months of the Italian summer (before air conditioning made staying in hot & humid cities like Bologna practicable). The second world war, though, would change the nature of Rimini’s tourism. By the winter of 1944 Allied Troops had been bogged down in their advance, and occupying German troops established the infamous Gothic line just south of Rimini (dotted around the hills of Rimini are allied war cemeteries, testament to the fierce fighting that took place to liberate the town). Rimini with its port and railway was strategically bombed heavily by the allies, destroying much of the historic town during the final months of the Italian campaign. In April 1945 Italian partisans rebelled against the German occupying troops, paving the way for the final allied advance northwards, and Rimini entered into a new era.

In 1948, the town’s first left-wing council took a dramatic step and ordered the demolition of the Kursaal structure – a symbolic break with the bourgeouis past of Rimini’s tourism, and a move much lamented nowadays where one must look at grainy black and white photos to get a glimpse of the famous building. Whether the Kursaal would have fitted into post-war Rimini’s seafront is debatable, though, as Rimini rebuilt itself both in terms of its buildings and image. The 1950s and 60s saw the Italian economic miracle take place, with booming production from the factories of the North, and the rise in demand for good-value holidays. Rimini, perhaps more than any other Italian resort town, rose to the challenge.

At the same time that Federico Fellini, Rimini’s most famous modern son, was recreating the city of his youth in films like the Oscar winning Amarcord, the actual city was building up a tourist infrastructure that would bring families to the riviera, lured by well kept beaches (the seafront was divided up and licenced out to beach operators charged with keeping the beach clean and pristine, in return for the right to charge for beach loungers and umbrellas), affordable accomodation, and some of the best food in Italy. Over a period of 30 years Rimini established itself as the place to holiday for Italians. It’s been estimated that over half of the Italian population has visited Rimini at least once (La Repubblica -21st March 2007).

Ironically though, were Sigismondo Malatesta to stroll around the Riviera today, he’d find the stirrings of a gravitational pull back towards his own buildings, and the historic city centre. There’s a renewed interest both amongst tourists and experts in Malatesta’s Rimini – a high profile conference was held, for example, last year in Los Angeles. At the same time the wealth of events and festivals held each summer, ranging from street theatre and wine tasting, through to open air cinema and fashion shows, have introduced many to the charms of the old town of Rimini.

What makes Rimini a good holiday destination (easily reachable by direct flights from around Europe), is that one doesn’t have to choose between the classic beach holiday or culture. In Rimini they exist side by side, separated by a few kilometres. You can sun yourself during the day, perhaps lunching on a plate of fresh fish and piadina (the delicious local flat bread), while in the evening taking in a classical concert in the Renaissance castle, followed by a dinner of wild boar and a glass of Sangiovese wine.

Describing Rimini, rock star and film-director Luciano Ligabue (who set his remarkable film Da Zero a Dieci in Rimini) remarked that this riviera town ‘is like the blues. It has everything in it’. It’s hard to disagree.

About the Author

Michael O’Connor, a freelance writer, has been visiting Rimini for over ten years. He is a contributor to, an english language resource site for visitors to Rimini and the Adriatic Riviera.

From the Renaissance to the Riviera – a Historic Stroll Through Rimini, Italy 1

By Michael O’Connor

Who knows what Sigismondo Malatesta, the famous 15th Century Lord of Rimini (and original ‘renaissance man’, as described by American poet Ezra Pound), would make of his city were he to return today.


Apart from the obvious differences between the renaissance city (many significant parts of which remain, for example Malatesta’s castle) and that of the 21st – i.e the presence of skyscrapers, electrically powered street lights, and the ever present motor vehicle – one thing would perhaps strike him above all, the move to the seaside.

In Malatesta’s time Rimini and its defences were decidedly inland, running around what is considered the centro storico today. Malatesta, on coming to power, embarked on a huge building programme, which included the famous Tempio Malatesta – the first, and one of the finest examples of neo-classical architecture in Europe – and his huge, and at the time thoroughly modern fortress, the rocca malatesta. His city, though, was built primarily on top of the existing city’s site – that is to say on the site of the Roman city of Ariminum, founded in approximately 286 B.C. Existing roman monuments, including the famous Ponte di Tiberio and Arco d’Augusto(which remain impressive monuments today) were incorporated into his city, all of which – even given the retreat of the sea over the centuries, were inland from the beach.

Strolling around today’s city, Malatesta would find, at least during the summer months, a gravitational pull towards the expansive sandy beaches that would probably puzzle him. In his day the notion of lying on the beach for the day, with an occasional swim to cool off, would have seemed particularly strange, if not downright dangerous. The beach was a place for brigandry and smuggling, away from the protection of the city’s defences. Let’s not forget, as well, that in Malatesta’s time cities like Rimini were often at war with neighbouring city states. Throughout his lifetime Malatesta was in continuous conflict with powers like his neighbour Federico da Montefeltro, Lord of Urbino, or indeed the Pope (Pius II, for example, excommunicated Sigismondo in 1460 declaring him a heretic). Sunbathing and sea bathing would not, perhaps, have been high on the average citizens’s priorities at the time.

So when did Rimini start to change, to become a town that is, for Italians (and increasingly tourists from around the world), synonymous with sun, sea, and sand? Professor Feruccio Farina, of the University of Urbino, in his fascinating study of the history of seabathing in Rimini – Una costa lunga due secoli (Panozzo Editore) – gives us a portrait of one of the first foreign tourist bathers to dip her toes into Rimini’s gentle waves. Her name was Elisabeth Kenny, and she was the young Irish wife of a Roman noble. She’s recorded as having visited Rimini in August of 1790 (over 300 years after the death of our Sigismondo), and stayed for over two weeks to benefit from the sea waves and air.

Click for part 2 of the article.