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Monday, June 30, 2008


According to, Emilia-Romagna is a region of Italy that was once known as “the breadbasket of the Roman Empire.” With a rich history of fine cuisine, it is responsible for many of the culinary treats people take advantage of worldwide, including Parmesan cheese and prosciutto di Parma.

The city of Bologna is not only the capital of Emilia-Romagna; it is also known as one of the culinary capitals of Italy. It is called by many names: “Bologna la Grassa” (Bologna the Fat) because of its gastronomic specialties, “Bologna the Learned” because it is home to the oldest university in Europe (founded in 1088), and “Bologna the Red” because of the rust colored roofs on the city’s buildings. A great place to begin exploration of Bologna is at Le Due Torre, or the
city’s two leaning towers, found in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. Constructed in the 12th century, these towers were originally built as family status symbols. Today, they serve as a symbol of Bologna, and should a person be willing to climb the nearly 500 steps of the Torre degli Asinelli (the taller of the two towers), a breathtaking view of the city and beyond is rewarded.

The city of Modena is also an important area of culinary art, though other industries take precedence. In modern times, the auto (Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc.) and ceramic industries are held in Modena’s highest regard. Culture is also an incredibly important aspect of daily life, and the people of the city are undoubtedly proud to boast that it was the home of Luciano Pavarotti.

For more information about tourism in Emilia-Romagna, a great site to visit is

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Italy’s region of Veneto is a land of history and amazing architecture, set against the backdrop of the Dolomite Mountains. The cities in Veneto are well known for their charm and romantic settings. The city of Treviso is very charming. It is sometimes referred to as Città Dipinta, “Painted City.” This is because, at one point, it was popular for Treviso’s wealthy inhabitants to have the outside of their homes frescoed, some with simple designs and others with intricate representations of mythological scenes. Many of these buildings can be seen near the Piazza Duomo. Treviso goes by another name, too: Città d’acqua, “City of Water.” The city is known for the intricate canal system that cuts through and surrounds it. WWII bombings destroyed many of the Treviso’s historic landmarks and treasured buildings. The war did not, however, destroy the city’s charm.
Venice (Venezia) is another city in Veneto where water plays a major role in everyday life. Actually located in a lagoon, the city of Venice is made up of 118 masses of land, all separated by canals. Most places in Venice can be visited on foot, though it might be more fun for a tourist to explore the city by means of the vaporetto (waterbus) or a romantic gondola ride. There are numerous churches and museums in the city that are worth visiting, but none as spectacular as the Basilica di San Marco, built in 829. A fascinating display of Byzantine and Romanesque architecture, the exterior of the building is characterized by its five enormous domes. The interior walls and ceilings of this 8,000 square meter area are lined with gilded mosaics, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, that depict images from both the New and Old Testament. Within the church hides the remains of St. Mark himself. Appropriately enough, the floor plan of the basilica is actually in the shape of a Greek cross.

It is interesting to note that also within Veneto is the town of Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which continues to be a popular place for couples looking for a romantic location to visit. For more information on Treviso, Venice, and other worthwhile places in Veneto, visit

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Consistent with many other Italian regions, Piemonte (Piedmont) sports a diverse landscape; the Po, Italy’s largest river, cuts across the plains that span out from a collection of hills and the peaks of the Italian Alps. The Piedmontese are a people of both tradition and innovation. In a region where the car, textile, engineering, and other industries provide for constant contact with international markets, the people have created a happy balance between old ways and renovation. Turin, Piemonte’s capital, is one place where modernization is undeniable. It is the home of the Fiat auto manufacturing company, which has boosted the city’s economy and turned it into a wealthier area. Aside from Fiat, Turin is also home to another very different attraction: the burial shroud that is believed to have belonged to Jesus. The shroud is housed every jubilee year in the Cappella della Santa Sindone, a chapel in the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, and is otherwise held in the Museo della Sindone where it is rarely on display. Still, when it is exhibited, hoards of faithful believers flock to the site to view it.

As noted, tradition is also very important to the Piedmontese and is an incredibly present aspect in the lives of those in the Piemonte province of Asti. Though Asti’s impressive wine industry and scattered traditional festivals make for good reasons to visit any time of year, possibly the best time to visit is autumn. Around the third Sunday each September, Asti holds its annual Palio di Asti, a medieval horse race that celebrates an eight-century old victory of a battle against their rival town, Alba. The people of Asti spend months preparing; there are medieval, traditional costumes to be sewn for the riders to wear, banners need to be embroidered with the town crest and a depiction of Asti’s patron saint to be hung in the streets, intricate flags must be created for the flag-wavers, and massive feasts have to be organized. Palio de Asti is a fantastic celebration that, if at all possible, should not be missed on a visit to Piemonte.
Photo by Vittorio Ubertone.

For more information about Asti, a great website to visit is Note: this website is in Italian. For a rough English translation, go to In the search bar, type in ‘atasti’ and the second listed site should have an option to the right of it that says ‘translate this site.’ Click on ‘translate this site’ and the entire website will automatically be translated into English.

For more information on Piemonte itself, please visit

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Bordering the Adriatic Sea and speckled with the peaks of the Apennine mountains is Italy’s southern region of Abruzzo. Due to its geography, the region is particularly remote and offers an ideal place to explore Italy’s wilderness.

Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo (the National Park of Abruzzo), with its headquarters in the province of L’Aquila, is a perfect spot to experience Abruzzo’s natural wonders. It acts as a habitat for a variety of animals, including, according to, some once endangered species like the Apennine lynx and the Marsican bear. Several tree species compose the forests that grow over most of the park and house these creatures. The fact that there is only a single paved road cutting through Parco Nazionale’s 150,000 acres adds to its sense of seclusion. To really experience the park, a person should either hike at least one of the roughly 150 walking trails—information about them can be found at any of the seven visitor centers available—or bike along any of the countless unpaved roads.

Away from the mountains and wilderness, Abruzzo’s other shining feature is undoubtedly its coastline. With nearly 130 kilometers of beaches spotted with resorts, Abruzzo has long been a popular place for both Italians and foreign travelers to spend their summer vacation time.

For more information about Abruzzo, visit


The largest island in the Mediterranean, the Italian region of Sicily (Sicilia) has successfully meshed together aspects of several Mediterranean cultures (Greek and Roman, Arab and Norman, Spanish, French, and Italian) to form its own unique identity. Aside from its eclectic culture, Sicily boasts many frozen impressions of times past, as well as Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, standing 3,323 meters tall.

Situated in southeast Sicily, Siracusa (Syracuse) is a place where history is extremely visible. Once a powerful Greek and then Roman city, temples and theaters from ancient times still stand to remind Siracusans of their past. The Tempio di Apollo (Temple of Apollo) is one site that truly reflects Siracusa’s complicated history. The temple was built in the 6th century BC on Siracusa’s island of Ortygia and stands as the oldest Doric peripteral temple in the world, according to Originally, the temple is said to have been built to honor Apollo, though Cicero wrote that it was in dedication to Artemis. Before long, the temple was converted
into a Byzantine church, then into a Muslim mosque, and then back into a church

No matter where you are in Sicily, there is one distinctive feature of the region that cannot be avoided: the food. Sicilian cuisine is treasured worldwide. Due to its numerous outside influences, the cuisine is an interesting mix of fish, homegrown foods, Italian pastas, and foreign ingredients.