Category Archives: Italy

A look at Verona and an unexpected welcome

A short train ride from Milano on the way to Venezia

Verona is a city in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy. The city is conveniently located on the train route from Milano to Venezia. Our flight arrived in Malpensa early in the morning and we learned of a train workers strike the next day. In order to make the most of our time we hopped on the train to Verona. The city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first thing that will catch your attention is the Roman Arena right in the center of town. The Arena is used for operas and concerts. Luck was on our side that first night. After dinner we went for a stroll thru the city and suddenly found ourselves cheering along as the Mille Miglia race was passing thru town that night. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera at the time so I could not take good photos. I can’t think of a better welcome than this. I knew we were going to have a great trip. Here are some images captured in the city.

Desde entonces, nunca salgo a caminar sin la cámara

Verona es una ciudad en la región del Veneto del norte de Italia. Es un destino turístico muy visitado en el norte de Italia. La ciudad se encuentra en medio de la ruta de tren de Milano a Venezia. Nuestro vuelo llegaba a Malpensa muy temprano y me enteré de que había huelga de ferrocarriles al próximo día. Decidimos tomar el proximo tren a Verona para aprovechar nuestro tiempo. La ciudad ha sido nombrada Patrimonio Universal de la Humanidad por UNESCO. Lo primero que les atraerá es la Arena Romana que se encuentra en el mismo centro. La Arena es utilizada para operas y conciertos. La suerte estaba con nosotros esa primera noche. Luego de cenar, salimos a caminar y de repente nos encontramos en medio de una muchedumbre de espectadores. Resulta que la famosa carrera Mille Miglia pasaba por la ciudad esa noche. Desafortunadamente, no llevaba mi cámara así que no pude tomar fotos muy buenas. Verona nos recibía con esta maravillosa sorpresa y de seguro que sería un gran viaje. Aquí les dejo mas imágenes de Verona.

verona arena italia italy veneto

The Verona Arena is right in the center of the city

verona italy italia mille miglia veneto

The Mille Miglia was passing thru town during our first night there

verona italy italia veneto shakespeare romeo and juliet

The world would not be the same without Verona walls

pone scaligiero verona italy italia veneto

The Ponte Scaligero or Ponte di Castel Vecchio crosses the Adige river

verona italy italia veneto pasta window

This window was full of pasta

verona piaggio italy italia veneto moped scooter vespa

Zip thru the narrow streets in Italian style

verona italy italia enoteca oreste dal zovo

Molto vino e liquori at Enoteca Oreste Dal Zovo

The luxury resort town of Portofino in the Italian Riviera

Located in the Riviera di Levante

We dropped into Portofino as we were working our way back to Milano after traveling thru Northern Italy. We were coming from the South after our stay in Cinque Terre. A short train ride would take us to the city of Santa Margherita Ligure. From there, a 15 minute bus ride would take us down a very narrow road to the town of Portofino. This region of Liguria is also known as the Italian Riviera, or Ligurian Riviera. The Riviera is the narrow coastal strip that extends from the border with France to the Eastern end of the Gulf of La Spezia which is close to the border with Tuscany. Here is a link to the Portofino Google map.

Portofino used to be a fishing village but by 1950 tourism had replaced fishing as the main industry. These days the charm of this old fishing port and the beauty of its landscape, has made it a popular destination for tourists. The harbor is usually full of luxury yachts with their crews preparing them for the next sailing. The waterfront also has a continuous ring of restaurants and cafés. I would advice staying in Santa Margherita Ligure and taking the bus to Portofino. Portofino is beautiful but small and it can be seen in a day. Santa Margherita has more things to see. The fisherman in me loved the fish market along the waterfront in Santa Margherita. Even though I do not speak Italian, I was able to communicate with them when I asked them about some fish species. I think this is how all fishermen are. Our passion for the sea is clear and any language barriers are easy to overcome. Here are some images of Portofino Bay. I was surprised to still find working fishing boats in a harbor that is surrounded by luxurious yachts.

Portofino esta situado en la Riviera di Levante

Al final de nuestra vuelta por el Norte de Italia salimos de Cinque Terre y tomamos un tren rumbo al Norte con destino a Santa Margherita Ligure. Un bus de unos 15 minutos por un estrechísimo camino nos llevaría a Portofino. Esta región de Liguria se conoce como la Riviera Italiana o Riviera de Liguria. La Riviera Italiana es el estrecho costanero que se extiende al Noroeste de Italia desde la frontera con Francia hasta el Golfo de La Spezia en el Sureste casi al borde con la region de Toscana. Aquí tienen un enlace al Portofino Google map.

Portofino era una villa de pescadores pero ya para el 1950, el turismo era la principal actividad económica de la región. Hoy en día el viejo puerto y su bello paisaje han convertido esta bahía en un destino turístico. La bahía de Portofino esta llena de yates lujosos con sus tripulaciones preparándolos para nuevas aventuras. El paseo marítimo esta rodeado de restaurantes y cafés. Les recomiendo alojarse en Santa Margherita Ligure y tomar el bus a Portofino. Portofino es precioso pero chico y se puede ver todo en un día. Santa Margherita tiene mas cosas que ver. No dejen de pasar por el mercado de pescado en el paseo marítimo de Santa Margherita. Siempre me gusta hablar con otros pescadores. Aunque no parlo Italiano nos pudimos comunicar cuando les preguntaba sobre ciertas especies de peces. Creo que así somos todos los pescadores. Aquí tienen unas imágenes de Portofino. Me sorprendió ver lanchas pesqueras tradicionales en medio de tantos yates de lujo.

portofino harbor marina santa margherita ligure

The Bay looking East towards Santa Margherita Ligure.

portofino genoese boat

Traditional Genoese boat moored in the harbor.

portofino traditional boats harbor

Traditional boats in the harbor.

old mooring ring portofino harbor

Old mooring ring rusting away in the harbor.

portofino traditional fishing boat

A real working fishing boat surrounded by luxury yachts.

Venice, Italy – La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia

A few tips to make your visit to Venice more enjoyable

The Republic of Venice relied on its economic and trading power to achieve great status from the late 7th century until the end of the 18th century. Often referred to as La Serenissima, it was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice. These days, I would not exactly call it Serene. The problem is that lots of tourists will pack the streets and place incredible demands on restaurants and services. A little planning will make your visit to this busy destination more enjoyable. Leave the stress behind with a few tips.

Many visitors stay in the mainland and arrive only for day trips. Walking around Venice at night is something special. Stay in the city so you can explore Piazza San Marco and the bridges at night. The Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia has lockers. Take advantage of this and plan to leave behind anything that you will not need for your stay in Venice. This will lighten your load so you can move around easily. I always carry my camera equipment in a backpack so even after leaving stuff in the lockers, I was still pulling my rolling luggage. If that is the case, you will be better off spending the money to take a water taxi that will drop you off very near your hotel if not right at your hotel’s waterfront door. I did not take the right vaporetto or I missed my stop and ended one stop away from my intended destination. I was forced to push my way thru the crowds and up stairs with my rolling luggage in order to arrive at my hotel. This would have been a lot easier with just a backpack.

Obtaining a good map and keeping track of the available light is essential so that you are able to plan a few days of good photo opportunities. I will never forget my first impression when I arrived and walked out of the Santa Lucia train station. It was late afternoon and the sunlight was behind making all those buildings across the Grand Canal glow in red and gold. I regret not taking that shot. I was carrying my luggage and my priority was to find the right vaporetto to transfer into my hotel. I was not about to take out my camera and tripod and set up for a shot in such a busy spot. I should have returned to this location during a late afternoon while I was staying in Venice but I never did. I guess that I must return to this beautiful city. Here are some images captured during my visit a few years ago.

San Giorgio Maggiore Piazza San Marco Venice Venezia

View of San Giorgio Maggiore from the Piazza San Marco

San Giorgio Maggiore is an island located east and south of Piazza San Marco out in the bay. Photograph it early in the morning before the thousands of tourists arrive at Piazza San Marco for the day. San Giorgio Maggiore also has a convenient vaporetto stop right in front of the church. If you want to escape from the crowds, you may want to explore this small island and church which appear to be less crowded. For more information on water transportation check the Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano website at ACTV. Not only can you obtain information about services and routes but the website also warns users of upcoming strikes. Always plan your train and public transportation around these strikes. Also consider a visit to the island of Murano or Burano – make it a day trip out there. The glass factories always offer free demonstrations.

Small garden off the Grand Canal in Venice.

Not much room for a garden in Venice.

These beautiful apartments next to the Grand Canal enjoy an attached garden which is a rare find in Venice. Barely seen in the image above, the palazzo in the background around the curve in the canal, is the Ca’ Rezzonico. It is one of the finest museums in Venice.

Gondola adornments add to the cost of building these boats.

Elegant details of a gondola add to the cost of finishing these boats.

Many different woods are used to build the boats. Stylish ornaments also contribute to the expense of building a gondola. The ornament on the front of the boat is called the Ferro.

Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti

A beautiful Palazzo houses the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti

The Institute holds many lectures and exhibitions. I am always looking for a good photography exhibition.

Busy bridge at Campo San Moise

View of Ponte San Moise – can you count the number of photographers on the bridge?

Campo San Moise is not far from Piazza San Marco. A gondola station is located in the canal between two hotels. This gondola station was one of the busiest ones I saw.

Grand Canal from the the Rialto Bridge

View of the Grand Canal from the the Rialto Bridge. Another busy crossing with Gondola, Vaporetto, and water taxis converging in one point.

Brunello di Montalcino – wine in the Tuscany region

Italy’s most famous wine

If you find yourself visiting Siena in Italy, I would highly recommend that you take a tour of the Brunello di Montalcino wine region. Montalcino is a medieval town in Tuscany situated 42 kilometers South of Siena. The town sits high on a hill with incredible views of the valleys around it.

The region grows Sangiovese Grosso grapes and produces one of the finest red wines in the world. As part of your tour you may visit a couple of wineries. The visits include wine tasting and sampling of local cured meats and cheeses. Some of the wineries are big enough that you may arrive at the same time as other tours but they can accommodate quite a few people. After a little wine, the conversation with fellow travelers will flow easier. Our tour left out of Siena and took longer than the planned time. The group enjoyed wine drinking so much that our tour leader could not get us to move quickly. We finished the tour with a quick stop at the Abbey of Sant Antimo to listen to Gregorian chants of the monks.


El Brunello es uno de los vinos mas famosos de Italia

Si pasan por Siena en la región Toscana de Italia, les recomiendo una excursión a la región del vino Brunello di Montalcino. Montalcino es un pueblo medieval en Toscana. Esta situado 42 km al Sur de Siena. Como muchos pueblos medievales, este también se encuentra situado en una parte alta sobre unas montes. Las vistas de los valles y montes alrededor son grandiosas. Si tienen tiempo, hay senderos para caminar. No dejen de ver el pueblo con sus torres desde afuera ya que la vista les transportará a otra época.

La región cultiva la uva Sangiovese Grosso y produce uno de los vinos mas finos del mundo. La excursión les llevará a un par de bodegas. Por supuesto, probarán vinos y comerán mucho Prosciutto y Formaggio. Algunas de las bodegas son grandes acomodan varios grupos a la vez. Cuando lleguen a la segunda bodega, y luego de tomar mas vino, conocerán muchos amigos. Nuestro tour tomó mas tiempo de lo planificado pues le fue un poco dificil al lider acorralar a todos a la hora de irnos. La última parada fue una visita a la Abadía de San Antimo donde se escuchaban los cánticos Gregorianos de los monjes.


Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Map of the Consorzio del Vino South of Siena


Brunello di Montalcino - old bottles in the cellar

Brunello di Montalcino – old bottles in the cellar


Tuscan courtyard azienda agricola piombaia montalcino

Tuscan courtyard at Azienda Agricola Piombaia


Gatto Nero

Piombaia Gatto Nero and Grappa

Vinoteca in Montalcino

Vinoteca in Montalcino

Bianco di Abbadia

Bianco di Abbadia – white wine is also produced in the region

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