Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!
The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats. Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!
It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown. The views from both spots will not disappoint you!
Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier. This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.
Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up. We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.
Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town! The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.
Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza. Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.
Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo. We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.
If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido. This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.
This zoo is the largest metropolitan zoo in the US and one of the largest in the entire world. The Bronx River flows through the Zoo and it is a neighbor of the NY Botanical Gardens.
I can honestly say going on the Fourth of July in close to 100 degree heat was not the brightest idea but it was a friend’s birthday and on her bucket list and she was here from Arizona and – well….. you know what you must do for friends!!!
Be prepared however if you want to enter the Children’s Zoo that it is an extra fee. Also the concession stands throughout the park do not open until 11:30 but the park opens at 10:00 am so bring water if it is hot.
Within the Children’s Zoo you can see: Prairie Dogs, A Two-Toed Sloth (if it is out), Flamingos, Squirrel Monkeys, Porcupines, Tortoises, Skunks, Rabbits, Screamer Chicks, and Mini Nubian Goats
Did you know: Flamingoes tip their heads upside down to eat!
Did you know: Porcupines use their spiky quills to keep predators away.
Did you know: Tortoises can feel vibrations when people or animals walk by.
African Plains featuring: Tigers on our visit it was so hot the tigers were not moving, just panting in the heat trying to keep themselves cool like we were!
Himalayan Highlands: Snow Leopards were trying to stay cool in the shade. Do you sense a theme here! A 7 day heat wave in New York in not a common event.
Birds of Prey: Bald Eagles, Snowy Owls and King Vultures
Did you know: While all owls hunt at night, Snowy Owls also hunt during the day since they live near the Arctic Circle.
Madagascar: Red Ruffed Lemurs, Coquerel’s Sifaka, Ring-Tailed Lemurs
Did you know: Ring-tailed Lemurs raise their striped tails like flags to signal their location to other group members when traveling.
Did you know: the Collared Lemur uses its long tail for balance when leaping across branches
Did you know: The Red-ruffed Lemur is hunted by people on parts of Madagascar but is free from that threat in Masoala and Makira.
Père David’s Deer has Back-pointing antlers, a long head with small pointed ears found in China on the marshy grasslands.
Morikami celebrates the connection between Japan and South Florida. Little did I know that in the early 1900s, Japanese farmers arrived in southern Florida and formed an agricultural colony called Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. Most of those farmers returned to Japan but one of the remaining settlers George Sukeji Morikami donated his land to Palm Beach County as a park to preserve the memory of the Yamato Colony.
The garden consists of 16 acres of authentic Japanese gardens and art exhibits. There is even an authentic tea house and don’t miss Hotei, their resident god of happiness.
This remains the only museum dedicated to Japanese living culture and the gardens are among the finest outside of Japan. So let’s begin our walking tour:
As you exit the main building you are immediately in front of the Wisdom Ring (Chie no Wa) which is a replica of a 500 year old stone lantern, a symbol of Delray Beach’s sister city in Japan.
Next up cross the Memorial Bridge marking the entrance to the gardens and symbolizing the link between Japan and Florida.
Follow the path to the Shinden Garden which recreates the 9th – 12th century Heian Period that featured lakes and islands and emphasized informality always with an appreciation of nature and often meant to be viewed from the water.
The “Ancient Gate” (Kodai-mon) was inspired by the large mansions of samurai leaders from 1600 – 1868. Walking through this area of the garden you pass through a Bamboo Grove and the lovely sound of the bamboo stalks knocking against each other as the breeze blows. It was a lovely, musical sound and I am sorry I didn’t do a video for you to hear the clinking of the stalks.
The Paradise Garden or Buddhist heaven was meant for casual exploration.
I need one of these! The Shishi Odoshi or “Deer Chaser” is a swinging bamboo arm that collects water and then strikes a rock basin below and startles the animals who shouldn’t be there!!!!! I am definitely creating one of these in my garden!
The Karesansui, Late Rock Garden which means dry landscape consists of rocks not plants and features a bed of raked gravel.
Continue on through the Modern Romantic Garden as inspired by the late 19th – 20th century gardens with its very naturalistic setting which leads you to the Contemplation Pavilion. No real view to speak of from here but every twist and turn of the path through this garden affords some incredible views.
The South Gate is the exit from the historical gardens in contrast with the Ancient Gate.
Yamato Island is the site of the original Morikami Museum and the island represents a modern garden emphasizing the relationship between interior and exterior spaces. The Bonsai Collection of trees are housed here. A unique collection of Bonsai for sure!
The tour ends at the Morikami Falls a dramatic and powerful waterfall set among massive boulders signaling the end of your journey thru the garden or maybe you are ready to take another walk around so see what you might have missed the first time!!!
These six gardens are inspired by the famous gardens of Japan and encourage you to find peace in the environment and within one’s self. So if even just for a little while leave the outside world behind and just be one with nature. Visit a garden today!!!
First thing upon arriving, after we were challenged by the hordes of traffic for The International Motorcycle Show and Motor Bike Expo, we made our way to the river and the Museo di Castelvecchio. This 14th century fortified castle houses artifacts from the Middle Ages. There are seven towers and even a draw bridge!
The Ponte Scaligero runs from Castelvecchio castle across the river and is a very distinctive bridge landmark in Verona. The segmented arch bridge crossing the Adige River was the world’s largest span at the time of its construction in 1354. Along the river bank there are walking trails surrounding the city. The Scaligeri family ran Venice and the Veneto region in the 14th century much like the Medici’s ruled over Florence. The castle has ornate tombs and towering family statues on pillars. This so the people would “look up to them”. Verona was, after all, one of Italy’s great powers.
Views from the Ponte Scaligero towards the Basilica di San Zeno
From the Ponte Scaligero you can see to the Ponte della Vittoria (see Featured photo) which also spans the Adige River. There are equestrian statues on either end and the view from the bridge back to the Ponte Scaligero and the Castelvecchio especially at sunset was amazing. Since I got over there just before sunset I was too intent on the sunset over the Ponte Scaligero to capture the statues. Next time!
The Ponte Pietra, Verona’s oldest bridge is a Roman-era stone bridge and you definitely want to walk across and up the hill to see the sunset and the views from the Castel San Pietro. The bridge itself is very picturesque both day and night and affords some beautiful photo opportunities as you look up and down the river from the top of the bridge. Built in the 1st century B.C. it is the most ancient Roman monument in Verona.
Duomo Di Verona is the city’s cathedral and can easily be reached from the Ponte Pietra. It was constructed on the remains of two earlier churches that were destroyed in the earthquake of 1117. An absolutely beautiful church in the historic medieval center. The Basilica has striped brick and stone walls not unlike other churches I have seen throughout Italy.
Basilica di Santa Anastasia is the most important religious monument in the Gothic style in Verona. Funded by the Scaligeri family it was built around 1290.
Verona’s majestic Basilica Di San Zeno dates from the 12th century in Piazza San Zeno. The Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is a striking landmark especially when viewed from the across the river. This Romanesque church’s bronze doors have 48 carved panel Bible Scenes and beautiful frescoes inside from the 12th – 15th centuries.
Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli, is an ancient Roman Catholic church built in the early 12th century on a pre-exiting Roman cemetery. Located right near the Porta dei Borsari mentioned in the previous blog on the Corso Cavour. A striking Veronese Romanesque bell tower stands apart from the church.
Did you miss the last 2 blogs on Verona? Romeo, Romeo and Verona’s Bridges? Link to them to read more about this lovely city.
You know how the story goes…. those unforgettable words spoken by Juliet from that famous balcony supposedly in Verona- not really! Very touristy spot! I skipped Casa di Giulietta. There were however two real feuding families in Verona called the Capuleti’s and the Montecchi’s. Juliet never lived in the 1300’s Gothic style house so popular with tourists in Verona. Instead to show their love the tradition of putting a padlock on the wall was to show that couples were locked together. Well we know how that ancient story by Shakespeare ended. Okay enough about them!
In Northern Italy’s Veneto region, at the base of the alps, Verona was actually the setting for 3 of Shakespeare’s plays. It is one of the 7 Provincial Capitals of the Veneto region and the 2nd largest city in the region as well as the third largest in Northeast Italy where it winds around the Adige River. It was an ideal stop before heading over the Alps. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its urban structures and architecture.
First thing upon arriving we made our way to the river and Castelvecchio. This 14th century fortified castle houses artifacts from the Middle Ages. There are seven towers and even a draw bridge. It was an important military stronghold of the Scaligeri family. Today it houses a museum.
Verona’s Centro Storico, its medieval center was centered around the Piazza dell Erbe the oldest piazza in the city originally the town’s forum during Roman times. Today there are vendors selling a variety of goods, souvenirs, fruits and vegetables surrounded by restaurants, palazzos, and shops.
Standing tall in the Piazza is the Torre dei Lamberti with its octagonal bell tower and bronze doors depicting Biblical stories and old bells from the 15th century. Originally constructed in 1172 it is the tallest medieval tower in Verona and offers panoramic views of the city. Today the Piazza is the home to markets but back in the 15th century it was home to the vegetable market and the fountain that still stands at its center – Fontana Madonna.
Piazza dei Signoria, another city square has a statue of Dante Alighieri, Renaissance Palazzos as well as magnificent churches. It is lovely to just hang out in the these Piazza’s, visit with friends and of course drink an aperitivo! Of course, this is Grappa country! The longer it ages the smoother it gets. Who knew!
The Verona Arena is a 1st century Roman amphitheater and very well preserved and Verona’s most famous monument. It is the third largest Roman amphitheater after the Colosseum and the Arena of Capua. It is always amazing to me to walk the ancient streets in these cities where the Romans once walked and gladiators fought. Today the Arena is used for opera concerts. If you are lucky enough to find yourself there in summer plan to attend the Opera festival. The Arena is located in the largest square in the historic center in Piazza Bra. Another lovely spot to sit and enjoy the cafes, the company and the atmosphere. Just take it all in and don’t be in a hurry! Savor this opportunity.
Enter the city through the Porta Borsari- the ancient Roman gate that once marked the southern entrance into the city and was the main gate. Verona successfully marries the old and the new. You are at once transported back to Roman times while shopping at new high end boutiques.
The Roman Arena constructed in the 1st century of pink marble was the 8th largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire and actually predates the Coliseum in Rome.
Castel San Pietro, begun way back in 1851, sits high above the city. This was an Austrian military installation and was used to control the city during the Austrian occupation.
Teatro Romano is Verona’s most ancient structure built at the end of the 1st century B.C. It sits right below Castel San Pietro across the Ponte Pietra. Today it is used for events like the Shakespeare Festival.
Chiesa Di San Giorgio sits along the river and can be seen from the Castel San Pietro. The views from up there were amazing in every direction! There was quite a gathering waiting for sunset!
If you have time, try to visit the Palazzo Giardino Giusti (Palace and Garden) widely considered one of the finest examples of an Italian garden. This garden, a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping planted in 1580 combines manicured and natural cypresses and a parterre. Sadly, I did not have time to get over there. As a garden designer I would have loved to see this but there’re only so many hours in a day, right!
This is not a small city but I found it very walkable. I wish I had more time to explore, but more next time. Always a reason to return! Did you miss the other blogs on Verona?
Thank you again to my friend Kris Beal who happened to be in Verona about the same time as I was and she did manage to capture Juliet’s balcony when I couldn’t get there. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/krismbeal
Once a wealthy maritime power few regions of Italy are as gorgeous as the corner of Campania that is home to the hilly Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Coast. This is also the home of Naples, and the Islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. Smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean the sea is the most alluring blue green color and if that doesn’t win your heart the warmth of the sun and the people certainly will. From the Sorrento Coast to Salerno the views don’t disappoint. They take you to Mount Vesuvius across the bay of Naples and then across the sea to the Island of Capri. It is a world made up of stairs! Thousand and thousands of them so bring your most comfortable walking shoes. This is no time ladies for fancy high heels that will only get caught in the cobblestones!
Cultural highlights are everywhere from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the ancient history in Sorrento and Naples with sights and adventures that take you back to Roman times. The Amalfi coast is a UNESCO World Heritage site which hopefully will help preserve its charm and history. The landscape is dotted with alluring, charming towns and the most beautiful churches.
The food is “bellissima”! Make sure if you go to have the pizza! The pasta extruded using bronze dies creates a rough texture better supporting the sauce tastes nothing like ours here in the US and the mozzarella, gelato and limoncello are divinely delicious! The vine-ripened tomatoes beckon at every meal and the lemons and olives… well you get the idea! The hills are terraced with lemons, oranges, olives and grapes with Sorrento itself being known for its lemon production. They all thrive in this volcanic soil. Did someone say “Limoncello”! Be prepared for lots of seafood, desserts and more desserts!
All that walking though will let you eat and drink your way around. Did I mention the wine!!!!! Divine!!! Hang out and relax and enjoy the wine and the sunsets. Savor the slow pace and forget all those “To Do” lists, if even just for a little while.
What would a coastline be without the hidden coves and beaches that will try to lure you away from your intentions. These are not the beaches of the Caribbean however! First and foremost, you must plan to see the coast from the water, especially on Capri!
Of course, for those so inclined there are plenty of hiking adventures to be had. (coming in an upcoming post)
For those more adventurous, the cliff hugging Amalfi coast road, one of the world’s most beautiful scenic roads, with its 1,001 hairpin turns and breath taking views will test even the most accomplished driver. If you love roller-coasters then this is for you. Luckily there are taxis, private cars and buses that make travel easy and convenient because of course, you don’t want to miss the scenery because you had to concentrate on the road!
Sorrento is known as one of the world’s most charming and a old towns with it’s many cafes, shops and historic sites. (see upcoming blogs) Ravello is most famous for its extraordinary gardens and the Ravello Music Festival. Amalfi is the main coastal town and port. Positano is the jewel of the coastline with shops and houses cascading down the ravine to the sea. Don’t miss Capri or one of the other islands to the west of Sorrento in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Tourism is the major industry on this coast.
I am debating on the best way to tackle this blog so you don’t miss a second of my trips to the Amalfi coast so I think I will cover a few towns in separate blogs as there is too much to be said. Are you ready to continue on to Part 2 in this series? “Positano Bites Deep”
If you want to travel to Italy I can highly recommend a fabulous planner Ashley Turney of L’Esperta.
Lecce is located in the Puglia region in the heel of the boot in the Italian Peninsula where the Adriatic and Ionian seas are easily accessible. This city is over 2,000 years old and is one of the most important cities in Italy. Commonly known as “The Florence of the South” for its Baroque architecture. The town’s treasure is its architecture.
There are 3 Baroque style gates into the historical city center and 2 centers: the central square of Lecce the Piazza Sant’Oronzo where the ruins of the Amphitheatre stand and the Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral square). In the Piazza Sant’Oronzo is a statue of a bishop perched on a column. This column is one of 2 which originally marked the end of the Roman Appian Way. The other is in Brindisi. One gate, the Porta Napoli was built in 1548.
This city existed at the time of the Trojan War and was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C.
The Baroque buildings built by the 17th century architects rival those in Florence. So distinctive is Lecce’s architecture is has acquired its own name “Lecce Baroque”. It is now a casual university town with boutiques, restaurants and a strong tradition of Papier-mâchémaking.
As is common in Italy, the streets empty as the hottest part of the day passes and this was the case when we were in Lecce so of course if you can’t shop….the infamous gelato was enjoyed by everyone in our group! As evening approaches Italians get out and ‘stroll’ this is called “Passeggiata”. This ritual evening stroll can be experienced all over Italy. We found it on the Amalfi Coast, in Rome and now in Puglia. It is just a leisurely time to walk and chat with neighbors. See and be seen!
Some of the sights of Lecce:
Basilica di Santa Croce; Church of the Holy Cross begun in 1353 was completed in 1695 and features sculptures and a rose window (the church was under renovations so no great photos of the entire church). It is a Baroque church that is decorated on the facade with all manner of animals like sheep, cherubs and grotesque figures right out of Harry Potter and has a large rose window and Corinthian columns. Next door is the Government Palace which was a former convent.
Piazza del Duomo- Lecce Cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Lecce was originally built in 1144 and rebuilt later and finally restored by 1670. The Duomo Square features a 5 story Bell Tower.
Chiesa di San Matteo, a Baroque style Catholic church built in 1667 has 2 columns on its facade, one is decorated but the sculptor was killed before he could finish the work.
Chiesa di Santa Chiara 1429-1438 – A Baroque church with twisting columns and ornate statuary and a ceiling of classic Leccese Papier-mâché.
Chiesa di Sant’ Irene from 1591 has one of the largest altars in Lecce. From the 17th century it contains a pair of mirror Baroque altar pieces facing each other.
Church of San Giovanni Battista. There was a long traditional affinity with the Greek culture due to its proximity.
Limestone is one of the city’s main exports. it is very soft and workable and very suitable for sculptures.
Olive oil and wine production are prominent in this area as well as ceramic production.
The Roman Amphitheatre was built in the 2nd century and is located near the Sant’Oronzo Square. It once seated more than 25,000 people. It is half buried now as other buildings and monuments were built above it over the centuries. You can feel the history when you stand here.
I was fascinated with all the doors in this historic city and I will do a separate photo blog of those but check out some of the ornate building details.
I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without mentioning our guide Giuseppe who made our tour of Lecce extremely memorable! Thanks Giuseppe! I guarantee we will not forget you 🙂 or to the Bride and Groom whose wedding arrival we interrupted for pictures!
If you are considering a trip to Puglia I hope you have gotten a little taste of how fabulous this region can be. It is becoming a more and more popular travel destination. Where to stay? We stayed at the Borgo Egnazia Resort and Spa in Savelletri di Fasano right on the coast. Their slogan is NOWHERE ELSE and I can tell you I concur! Madonna left just before we arrived. Bummer! This is a great spot for visiting all the sights in Puglia like Alberobello, Lecce, and Martina Franca. I bought a case of Olive Oil! This resort does not require my endorsement. Follow the blog (up next week) to see some of the many pictures I took trying to capture the magnificence of this resort. Borgo Egnazia, Puglia
If you missed the beginning of this series head back to the beginning: Puglia – an Undiscovered Gem in Italy.
This is a true walk back in time but amazingly people inhabited these caves until the 1950’s. Before the Sassi (historical center) were abandoned this was one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
These natural caves dot the steep ravine and were first occupied back in the Paleolithic Age.
There were approximately 1,500 Sassi and they were expanded into living spaces as these peasant dwellings were occupied. Many of the caves had their ceilings extended to make a vaulted ceiling to expand the available living space so it was not so cramped. This was a typical Sassi that we were able to tour and is open to the public. The rooms were dug into the soft limestone. These were very poor people sadly.
To tour this ancient city is a fascinating experience. We walked down into an underground area where deep cisterns collected rain water for drinking. There were 8 deep interconnected cisterns throughout this ancient city. This 16th century cistern complex is right under the main town Piazza surrounded by historic buildings!
Check out the water lines!
Check out the water lines on the walls!
This is a popular city for shooting movies like the remake of Ben Hur starring Morgan Freeman which began shooting in early 2015 (below) and Passion of The Christ. It is one of the oldest living cities.
The Matera Cathedral. Magnificent!
Bread is this city’s symbol. It’s form and unique taste are symbolic of a tradition that is still strong today. The bread’s shape is reminiscent of the hills or a mountaintop range. Each family had a brand on their bread using a wooden stamp so they could recognize it in the shared ovens. It has a slightly salty taste with a crunchy crust. This traditional bread goes back to the Kingdom of Naples in the 15th and 16th centuries. The wheat which is grown in this area has a unique and distinct flavor and the preparation of the yeast uses fresh fruit!
Again, we had a wonderful guide who regaled us with all sorts of history and stories. Thanks Giovanni! Next up Lecce! Follow along as our journey continues!