Archive for April, 2015

4 Medieval Towns in Italy For Game of Thrones Fans

Posted on April 27th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re a religious reader or watcher of George R.R. Martin’s series Game of Thrones, then you absolutely owe yourself a tour of Italy’s countryside. First of all, here you’ll find miles of rolling hillsides, lakes and mountains, vineyards and valleys that one can very easily imagine a medieval cavalry riding across. Even more importantly, Italy’s stormy history, filled with knights errant, decadent feudal societies, warring city-states, and political intrigue, could very well have inspired the fantastic world of Westeros. Even if Italy is a modern European nation now, its countryside is full of remnants of its epic past. Relive history by visiting these five fantastical towns off the beaten track.San-Gimignano-1

  1. San Gimignano. This small city in the hills of Siena in northern Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as “The City of Fine Towers,” due to its collection of Romanesque and Gothic churches. Once an intermediary city on a pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Rome, San Gimignano also has historical clout in being a hotspot in the now legendary clash between the rival Renaissance families, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines; it once even hosted a visit from Dante Alighieri. Today, it’s worth the visit for its arts and culture scene, as well as its impressive skyline of medieval tower.
  2. Costiera Amalfitana. A series of communes on the Mediterranean coast, the Amalfi coast dates back to Neolithic settlements. It went through a series of sieges and lootings until it declared independence and became a key port town with a monopoly on maritime trade in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its beaches, fjords, and grottoes (not to mention perfect climate) make this an ideal town to relax and enjoy the scenery, while centuries of Arabic influence make it fascinating in terms of architecture and culture.villa adriana
  3. Assisi. Another UNESCO heritage site built on a hill, Assisi has especial claim to fame by being the birthplace of the Franciscan order, after its patron saint, St. Francis. Following a series of invasions by barbarians, the city became home to a wide variety of stunning basilicas—the Basilica of San Francesco is decorated by Biblical and allegorical frescoes by Renaissance greats, such as Giotto and Pietro Lorenzetti.
  4. Tivoli. This classical city outside of Rome really has it all: a river, waterfalls, hills covered in lush, deciduous forest, plus castles and fortresses galore. Dating back to ancient times as city constructed to be the perfect classical Greek ideal, Tivoli was an important site of political conspiracies and feuds throughout the Renaissance. In modern times, it retains its fame for its lush gardens at Villa d’Este, and for its hauntingly beautiful works of sculpture and architectural ruins at Villa Adriana.

In fact, in light of Italy’s larger than life past, a lot of which has been preserved in less-visited cities like these, history is arguably more exciting than fiction. While there may not be dragons, White Walkers, or winters that last for centuries, a visit to the Italian countryside will fill your imagination with thoughts of jousts, tournaments, and epic battles. If you want to learn more about the country that inspired centuries of art, literature, and film, send us an inquiry or look into our various Italian language courses.

Italy’s Top 8 Beaches To Check Out This Summer

Posted on April 8th, 2015 by Anna in Uncategorized | No Comments »

s-1As the summer months approach, you’re probably looking for a holiday destination that’s affordable, has great food and drink, and has unforgettable beaches. Look no further than Italy—with 7,600 miles of Mediterranean coastline, Italy offers some of the world’s most spectacular beaches at prices that won’t break your budget. Whether you’re looking for surfing, sunbathing, partying, or family-friendly fun, here are some of our top picks for catching some sun and surf in Italy.

  1. Amalfi Coast. If you’re looking for picturesque Italian countryside complete with romantic cliffs and secluded beaches, the seaside town of Amalfi is your best bet. With many of the beaches accessible only by private resorts, this is the beach experience for those seeking luxury – not for budget travelers!
  2. The Italian Riviera. More accessible to the public is the Italian Riviera at Cinque Terre, where you will find plenty of beaches, restaurants, hotels, and hikes throughout the region’s idyllic traditional villages. While this is the quintessential Italian holiday experience, keep in mind it will be packed with tourists, especially in the summer months.
  3. Viareggio. While Tuscany is famous for its wine country, its gorgeous beaches are a little more hidden away from the spotlight. However, small coastal villages such as Castiglione della Pescaia and Maremma offer white sand beaches and azure waters, plus the some great spots for scuba diving and other activities, without all the hype.
  4. Sant’Andrea. For European history buffs, a visit to the famed isle of Elba, site of Napoleon’s exile, will offer plenty by way of tours and museums. For those looking more to relax, there are plenty of beaches for sunbathing, swimming, and diving. Plus, you can rent boats.
  5. Spiaggia Sabbie Nere. If you’re looking for something a little different from the typical tourist beach, head to Sicily’s island of Vulcano. There you’ll find dramatic, black sand created by the volcanic island as well as natural hot mud baths for pampering your skin.blacksand-300x200
  6. Reserve Naturale di Vendicari. For the lover of wildlife and breathtaking geographic formations, Sicily is also home of the Natural Reserve of Vendicari, that offers untouched beaches free for the exploration. Get a tan and take a dip, and then go bird-watching, as the reserve is the habitat for hundreds of species of waterfowl, such as herons, flamingoes, and pelicans.
  7. The Tremeti Islands. For the adventurer who longs to go further from the norm, take a hydrofoil boat to the Tremeti Islands in the Adriatic Sea. There you’ll find quite a different experience: natural beaches hemmed by limestone cliffs and a jungle of wild orange and fig trees. You’ll truly feel as if you’re in paradise.
  8. Venice. It may seem like an obvious choice, and while Venice is dirty and overrun by tourists, its romantic appeal is second to none. If you’d like to lounge on a golden sandbar minutes from the lavish hotels and piazzas frequented by such historic expatriates as Lord Byron and Henry James, the “Island of Gold” is ten minutes from the city center.

While you should certainly not limit your trip to Italy to the coastline, it is worth pointing out that here you’ll find some of the finest beaches in the world. And, of course, they come with the added bonus of fresh seafood. As you count down the days to summer, why don’t you put the last of the winter months to good use by taking a look at our Italian courses. Otherwise, send us an inquiry for more information.