140 Chapters
Medium 9781628873184


Stephen Brewer FrommerMedia ePub

Gondolas ply the Grand Canal near Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

I taly is so vast and treasure-filled that it’s hard to resist the temptation to pack in too much in too short a time. It’s a dauntingly diverse and complex destination, and you can’t even skim the surface in 1 or 2 weeks—so relax and don’t try. If you’re a first-time visitor with little touring time on your hands, we suggest you go just for the classic cities: Rome, Florence, and Venice could be packed into 1 very busy week, better yet in 2.

How can you accomplish that? Well, Italy ranks with Germany, Austria, and France in offering mainland Europe’s best-maintained highways (called autostrade). You’ll pay a toll to drive on them (p. 770), but it’s much quicker to use them than to trust your limited time to the array of minor roads, which can be much slower going.

The country also boasts one of the most efficient high-speed rail networks in the Western world. Rome, Bologna, and Milan are the key hubs of this 21st-century transportation empire—for example, from Rome’s Termini station, Florence can be reached in only 95 minutes. If you’re city-hopping between Rome, Florence, and Venice, you need never rent a car, as key routes are served by comfortable, quick trains. You’ll only require a rental car for rural detours.

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Medium 9781628871128

7 Central & Eastern Tuscany

Stephen Brewer FrommerMedia ePub


Central & Eastern Tuscany

The Tuscan lands that flank either side of Italy’s big central valley, the Valdichiana, are first and foremost places of distinctive landscapes. Silvery olive groves sweep up and down hillsides, large swaths of otherwise barren-looking countryside are ablaze with sunflowers and punctuated with pointy cypresses, and vineyards produce two of the world’s favorite red wines, Rosso di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. This part of the world, from Arezzo in the north to Montepulciano and a string of nearby towns in the south, welcomes you with an everyday beauty and unsophisticated, easy charm that leaves no doubt you are in a place apart.

You’ll experience the region’s warm hospitality in sun-drenched hill towns that are almost eponymous with everything that’s good about Italy, from friendly little restaurants serving homemade pasta, to bright, warm-stoned piazzas that are the centers of town life, to masterpieces tucked away in dusty little museums. An overnight stay in any of the towns below introduces you to some memorable experiences of real, everyday Tuscan life, and a visit to any or all of them will fill as many pleasant days as you can spare.

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Medium 9781628871340

2 The Best of Florence

Stephen Brewer FrommerMedia ePub

View of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Florence in One Day

Florence in a day? “Impossibile,” a Florentine might tell you before throwing up her hands in despair and striding away, convinced you are mad. But 1 day in Florence is better than none—provided you rise with the roosters and move with discipline and stamina, to make the most of it. This “greatest hits” itinerary begins with the highlights of the Uffizi, the most rewarding and time-consuming stop. After lunch in the Centro Storico, you’ll take in the city’s majestic ecclesiastical complex, including the Duomo and Baptistery. Round out the day with a trek to Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia, followed by an aperitivo on the city’s lively Left Bank and a stroll across the Ponte Vecchio as night falls. START: Bus C1 to the Uffizi.

Uffizi Gallery.

Uffizi. This is one of the world’s great museums, and its single best repository of Renaissance art. In room after room, you’ll confront masterpiece after masterpiece—including Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation (with an angel that could be Mona Lisa’s brother), Michelangelo’s Holy Family, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Giotto’s Ognissanti Madonna, and more. In old Florentine, uffizi means offices, and that’s what Vasari deigned this building to be in 1550. But it’s come a long way, bambino. These Uffizi will dazzle you. (Serious art devotees may want to spend an entire day here.) 3 hr. See p 24.

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Medium 9781628871920


Stephen Brewer FrommerMedia ePub


The islands: Capri, Ischia & Procida

Just about the only thing these three islands floating in the Bay of Naples have in common is their proximity to one another. While travelers might rightfully lump the three together as idyllic Mediterranean getaways lapped by warm turquoise waters, each has a character so much its own that it can be hard to believe how easy it is to float from one to the other. It’s hard to try to sum up these fabled islands in a few words, but Capri has long been a glamorous getaway, still as popular with tabloid celebrities and day-trader zillionaires as it was with Roman emperors and 1950s movie stars. Ischia is all about laid-back relaxation, on long beaches, in hot springs, and in the pools of dozens of quirkily charming thermal bathing establishments. Procida is just plain pretty, so picturesque that it’s hard to remember the real world is just a short hop away.

It’s easy to reach any one of the islands on a day trip, but here’s some advice you’d be wise to listen to: Don’t. You will want to spend some time on any of them. Do so and each will soon become your own. On Capri, the sound of birdsong in the morning and the cliff-side views of the Faraglioni, the three rock formations rising out of the sea, are pleasures that far outweigh the island’s sophistication and really can make you think you’re in heaven. On Ischia, sitting back in one of the island’s hundreds of thermal pools, many of them surrounded by umbrella pines and luxuriant foliage, might easily make you into a sybarite. On Procida, leave time to lounge on one of the spectacular lava beaches and wander through the labyrinth of lanes that spread across the tiny island.

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Medium 9781628872804


Stephen Keeling FrommerMedia ePub


Day Trips from Rome

By Melanie Renzulli

If you only have 3 days or so, you will probably want to spend them in Rome itself. But if you are here for a week—or on your second visit to Rome—head out of the city to see some of the ruins, old towns, and ancient villas that lie beyond, for a true all-around Roman experience.

Ostia Antica

24km (15 miles) SW of Rome

The ruins of Rome’s ancient port are a must-see for anyone who can’t make it to Pompeii. It’s an easier daytrip than Pompeii, on a similar theme: the chance to wander around the preserved ruins of an ancient Roman settlement that has been barely touched since its abandonment.

Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber, was the port of Rome, serving as the gateway for riches from the far corners of the Empire. Founded in the 4th century b.c., it became a major port and naval base under two later emperors, Claudius and Trajan. A prosperous city developed, full of temples, baths, theaters, and patrician homes.

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