Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rome Itinerary

Day One

I will arrive in Rome in the early afternoon and check into my hotel, the Residenza in Farnese.

This historical hotel is located in the historical heart of Rome, in walking distance of many important sites. It is close to the Piazza Farnese adn Campo de Fiori and the Piazza Navona. It used to be a monastery for the formation of new priests, and the rooms are preserved in their original layout. Seems like a great place to stay!

I'll spend my afternoon visiting the Pantheon

The Pantheon is probably the best preserved ancient building in the city. The Pantheon looks today just as it did 2,000 years ago. It will be like going back in time. The building has been in constant use, it will be fascinating to walk on the same marble floor people have been treading for 2,000 years.

I will eat dinner at the Enoteca Capranica, located near the Pantheon. This restaurant has a unique feature in that it derives from one of the cities oldest wine cellers. The ambiance of the restaurant is great, being located inside the Renaissance-era Palazzo Capranica. It's renowned cuisine features dishes spanning the culinary culture of the Mediterranean.

Day Two

I will wake up, eat breakfast at the hotel and catch the metro to the Roman Forum, in the heart of Ancient Rome. I will get there after 9:00 am when it opens and walk around it at leisure until it's time for lunch. The Roman Forum used to be at the heart of the ancient Roman social, political and economic world. It is where the Roman senate, as well as Republican government began. It will be something to be walking to roads that used to be so central to daily living in ancient Rome.

Also, while I'm in the vicinity I will spend the rest of the morning, before lunch exploring Palentine Hill, which is right near the Forum. Rome is the central hill of the seven hills which Rome was build on. It is also because there is a legend of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she wold in a cave here.

For lunch I will eat at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, which is nearby the Roman Forum. This is a family owned restaurant, going back four generations. It offers authentic Roman food in the heart of the ancient section of Rome, as well as the best wine there is to offer.

After my meal I will go to the Colosseum to spend my afternoon. It will be fascinating to explore this ancient marvel, and wonder at the often times brutal happenings that occurred within.

Also during the afternoon I will make my way over to the Arch of Constantine which is nearby the Colosseum which celebrates Emperor Constantine's victory over Massenzio.

I will conclude my evening by eating dinner at a restaurant called the Pizza Forum. It is locate right next to the Colosseum and features typically pizza and pasta. Food looks great!

I will then catch the metro back to my hotel and rest up after my first full day in Rome.

Day 3

In the morning after eating breakfast at my hotel I will head to Vatican City for the day. In the morning I will tour the Vatican Museums which house some of the the greatest art on earth. In the sixteen century Pope Julius II established this museum and it holds the vast collection of art and priceless items which the Holy See has accumulated through the centuries.

One notable feature of the Vatican museum is that it features the Sistine Chapel, with the famous paintings my Michelangelo and other artists. It will be my dream as a Catholic figurative artist to be able to see this treasure of Michelangelo's paintings depicting the human form imbued with theological significance.

Also attached to the Vatican Museums are the four Stanze di Raffaello, or "Raphael's rooms". They form a suite of reception rooms, the part of the papal apartments accessible to the public. They are famous for their frescoes by Raphael which along with the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, are the grand frescoes marking the high Renaissance in Rome.

The museum in addition to these features many other treasures, old and modern. Way more than can be taken in a single day let alone a morning, but there are more things to be seen!

After my exploration of the Vatican museums, I will eat lunch at Al Passetto Di Borgo Sas Di Fulvimari Ristorante.

This family managed restaurant has been in business since 1962 and is located just 200 meters from St. Peter's. It receives many priests, and locals in addition to tourists, even Pope Benedict has eaten there. If it's good enough for the pope then it's good enough for me! The restaurant offers genuine and simple typical Roman and Abruzzo meals.

After my meal I will head to St. Peter's Basilica. This is the largest church in all of Christendom and the primary church building of the Roman Catholic Church. It will be extraordinary connecting with my Catholic roots.

Touring the basilica will easily occupy me for the rest the afternoon and evening until it closes at seven pm. Mass is offered several times a day so I'll be sure to make it to one of the celebrations. While I'm in St. Peter's I will be sure to see Michelangelo's Pieta, along with the many other priceless works of art.

After my time spent at St. Peter's I will go for dinner at Bistrot 23. I have read some reviews raving about the amazing pizza this restaurant has to offer. It is right outside the walls of Vatican City, I believe this will be the perfect way to conclude the day's experience.

After dinner I will head back to my hotel and rest up for my final day.

Day 4

I will arise and after eating breakfast in the hotel I will make my way to the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the Trevi with your back facing it, right hand over left shoulder, you will be insured a return to Rome. The Trevi fountain is iconic and worth at least a brief visit.

I will then make to the Spanish Steps to spend the rest of the morning.

The Spanish Steps, or the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti in Italian, are the longest and widest staircase in Europe. They were built to connect the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See.

After my time spent at the Spanish Steps I will eat lunch at the nearby Ristorante Nino, which I've read from a review is a very fun experience and won't break the bank. Also I've read that the restaurant is charming and the food is high quality.

After my lunch I will check out of my hotel and make my way to my next destination.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tuscan Side Trip: Franco's Wine Tour

For my excursion I will take a wine tour with Franco Fadda. Franco Fadda was born and raised in Siena and knows Tuscany intimately...the land and the people. He grew up driving around visiting areas in Tuscany which tourists flock to today. This bilingual charmer loves to share his passion for Tuscan with others and will treat you like a friend he is showing off his beloved home to. Before he became a tour guide he was a farmer, working the very land to be toured.

Franco is very laid back and friendly. Reviewers say that after spending a day with him it was like they were saying ciao to a good friend! Franco will take good care of you and does the driving so you are free to enjoy the wine to your hearts content. Franco is a very safe driver reviewers say.

Franco is more than willing to come pick me up from from my hotel in Florence, he is also willing to pick you up in other nearby cities and towns such as Siena. I am taking the Chianti Region tour. He accepts tours from parties ranging from two to six, so I will need to bring a friend or two with me! He drives a comfortable air conditioned mini-van.

The Chianti region is famous for being the widest wine region in Tuscany, spanning between Siena and Florence. The region is famous not only for its wines but also for being the location of the longest war between two cities, from the beginning of the middle ages until 1555 when Siena lost to Florence. The fighting was over land.

The tour begins at 8:30 am while Franco driving us south of Siena along the white old roads, through many old and beautiful villages. Our first stop will be at a little winery where the owner will describe to us the process of making wine. Following will be information about the history of the region, including the Etruscan Tombs of the sixth century BC, which were hidden and recenly discovered in the middle to the forest. Very intersting!

After our first stop we will stop at a castle where they produce wine in larger quantities. This stop will involve a tour of the underground medieval wine cellers and tasting of extra virgin olive oil.

Afterwards we will have an authentic full course Chianti lunch, followed by a tour of a little known but charming village of Vertine. Vertine has a population of 45. Only a tour guide like Franco would be able to lead you to such a place!

Our last stop is in Radda where we will once again sample wine, olive oil and balsamic vinagarette. Franco will escort us back to our hotel and thus will end a wonderful time spent with him and the people of Chianti!

Franco offers other tours besides the Chianti tour, inluding options for non-wine tasting tours such as an extra virgin olive oil and truffle tour. All tours are organized together with Franco and customized to you personally. You can't go wrong with Franco!

Franco Fadda's Wine Tours

Friday, March 5, 2010

Florence Itinerary

Day 1

I will arrive in Florence and check into my hotel, Hotel Davanzati which is located in the historical center of the city near all major attractions. Also it is located only 200 meters from the central station. The staff is friendly and helpful, glad to assist in in giving advice regarding places to visit and travel. This hotel has all the modern comforts yet the structure is an ancient Florentine building, an excellent marriage of history and modernity. For more information on the hotel:

The first thing I will do once I'm settled in is explore my surroundings, namely the nearby Piazza della Signoria. The Piazza della Signoria is the heart of the historic center and boasts a free open air sculpture gallery. I will spend the eveing getting lost in exploring these sculptures, such as a replica of Michelangelo's David.

While at the Piazza I will visit the Palazzo Vecchio, a medieval building that is Florence's town hall. The Palzzo Vecchio is elaborately decorated.

As I get hungry I will go eat dinner. There are many places to eat in and near the Piazza, the first night I will eat at the Trattoria Ponte Vecchio. This restaurant is right in the piazza and serves typical Florentine food and wine.

After my dinner I will stroll the piazza a bit more before calling it a night and heading to my hotel.

Day 2

I will start my second day with breakfast at my hotel's cafateria then head out
After that I will make my way to Il Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Il Duomo is iconic of Florence and a must see. After perusing the inside and marveling at Brunelleschi's Dome which is a masterpiece of construction, I will go to Mass there. After Mass I will buy a ticket to climb it's 463 steps to the top. From there I will get a stunning view of the city such as this one.

After my time spent at Il Duomo, I will go get something to eat for lunch at the
Il Caminetto Di Alessandra Aiazzone & C. S.A.S. The food there doesn't look too heavy so it won't weigh me down as I continue on my day and appears to be of hight quality. It has authentic local food.

After lunch I will visit the Baptistery of John the Baptist, from the 11th century, which is one of Florence's oldest buildings. Its exterior is made of green and white marble and has three sets of amazing bronze doors though they are reproductions - the originals are in the Duomo Museum which I would have seen this morning when I was at Il Duomo. Michelangelo called the original doors "The Doors of Paradise" Inside there are beautiful mosaics and a marble pavement of the zodiac.

After my time at the Baptistry I will head to the Ristorante Gustavino wine bar Enoteca for dinner. This restaruant boasts fresh, authentic Tuscan cuisine and a well stocked cellar of over 800 different wines. If I'm lucky I may arrive on a wine tasting night!

After my eventful first full day in Florence I will call it a night and rest up for my next big day.

Day 3

After a good nights sleep and eating breakfast at the hotel I will vistit the Campinile or the Bell Tower located in the Piazza del Duomo. The first story, commonly called Giotto's Campinile, was designed by the famous artist Giotto who really ushered in Renaissance art. Clearly besides being and excellent painter he was an accomplished architect, a true Renaissance man! Since there is no life I will buy a ticket and climb the 414 stairs for great views of the Cathedral and its dome and the city of Florence and surroundings. Looks like I'm going to be getting lots of excercise climbing all these stairs!

After my adventure at the Bell Tower I will eat lunch at Osteria Dell ' Olio Srl.

Telling from the music that plays right when you open their webpage I can tell this is going to be a hoppin place! This restaurant is know for it's fusion of traditional tuscan food and innovation. The staff is very friendly and personable from what I have read. Should be in for a treat!

After lunch I will go check out Ponte Vecchio, Florence's famous bridge.

The original bridge probably dates back to Roman times and is the oldest bridge across the Arno river. It was reconstructed in 1345 after a flood, and changed from defensive to public. As a result of this change rows of shops were added to the bridge. In Renaissance Florence this bridge became the hotspot for buying and selling gold and other precious metals. I will spend my afternoon persuing the shops and perhaps people watching and sketching. After all that climbing stairs I need to give my feet a bit of a break.

For dinner I will eat at L'Osteria Di Giovanni Snc Di Latini Giovannicarolechiarac. Reviewers say that the service at this restaurante is superb. The owner and hosts are warm and generous one reviewer wrote. The same reviewer noted that this restaurant was recommended to them by an Italian friend. It's a good indication if the locals believe the food is good!

After dinner I will make my way back to my hotel and rest up for my final day in Florence.

Day Four

On my last day in Florence I will rise and after eating breakfast at the hotel will head out to the Galleria degli Uffizi. As an artist this is a must see because it is the world's most important collection of Renaissance art. It boasts work by artists such as Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael. The museum is crowded so I will be sure to have had bought tickets ahead of time to avoid long lines.

After my time at the Galleria delgi Uffizi I will eat lunch at the Ristorante Il Latini.

The man who established this restaurant in 1950 as a cheap place for locals to eat, though now it gets as many tourists as locals. Narcisso who is now in his mid-90s, still stops by to lend a hand, maybe I'll be able to see him! Again, it's a good sign when a restaurant is popular with the locals.

After lunch I will head to another great place to see art, the Galleria dell' Academia which houses important works of art from the 13th though 16th centuries inluding Michelangelo's David. Also this place has a great collection of musical instruments begun by the Medici family.

After seeing the replica the first day I at least get to see the real David!

Thus concludes my time in Florence. After I'm done with the Galleria dell' Academia I will head to my hotel and check out. Then I'll on my way to my next destination.