A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about towns

Mid-size towns pack a king-size punch

Ferrara, Gubbio, Modena, Padova, Parma, Ravenna, Vicenza

semi-overcast 16 °C

One of the reasons for choosing to base ourselves in Bologna was its status as a key transport hub in Northern Italy. Milan, Venice, and Florence are all less than 90 minutes away, but what we had severely underestimated was the allure and charm of the smaller towns that we have been exploring over the last few months. Our favourites are listed below :

FERRARA (Emilia-Romagna) pop 134,000

Famous for the almost completely intact city walls (13th century), and Castello Estense, both built courtesy of the d'Este family who ruled for 300 years. Ferrara is a terrific town to cycle around, and sample the local delicacy of cappellaci di zucca - a hat-shaped pasta pouch filled with pumpkin and herbs, and basted with sage & butter.

to paraphrase Lance; in Ferrara, it's all about the bike

to paraphrase Lance; in Ferrara, it's all about the bike

two hands for beginners ... Nonna handling her machine with aplomb

two hands for beginners ... Nonna handling her machine with aplomb

Castello Estense - the moat was extra wide to ward off heavily taxed citizens!

Castello Estense - the moat was extra wide to ward off heavily taxed citizens!

GUBBIO (Umbria) pop 33,000

A bit off the tourist beaten path in Umbria, we enjoyed a delightful two days in this attractive town perched on the slopes of Monte Ingino. We were fortunate enough to run into the annual tartufo (truffle) festival whilst visiting, staged right beside the impressive Palazzo dei Consoli. The undoubted highlight however was a return ride on the very quaint Funivia Colle Eletto - a caged contraption that shuttles you up and down the monte.

murky weather can't conceal the beauty of this Umbrian gem

murky weather can't conceal the beauty of this Umbrian gem

Nat on the Funivia ... fearless as always!

Nat on the Funivia ... fearless as always!

MODENA (Emilia-Romagna) pop 179,000

Birthplace of Pavarotti; home of 'aceto balsamico di Modena' (world's best vinegar to you and I); Ferrari motor cars manufactured just up the road in Maranello; maker of Lambrusco (lightly sparkling red wine) - there is plenty to like about this under-the-radar town thirty minutes from Bologna. Throw in a significant cathedral, attractive piazzas, and "some of the best restaurants no one's ever heard of" as Lonely Planet cleverly put it, and a trip is mandatory for those living in the area.

Piazza Mazzini - an attractive green space so often lacking in Italian towns

Piazza Mazzini - an attractive green space so often lacking in Italian towns

Torre Ghirlandina stands at an impressive 87 metres

Torre Ghirlandina stands at an impressive 87 metres

not-so-long and winding roads always worth a look in Modena

not-so-long and winding roads always worth a look in Modena

PADOVA (Veneto) pop 213,000

A lively university town (uni was established 1222) - it can be just as fun sitting down for an aperitivo with the studenti as it is viewing the sites. You will be richly rewarded however by a visit to the stunning Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, and a wander through the world's oldest botanic gardens still in their original location - Orto Botanico. Another favourite of ours is the unusually designed Gothic Palazzo della Ragione from the 13th century, which divides the attractive Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta ... no prizes for guessing what was sold here over the centuries!

insalata days in Piazza delle Erbe

insalata days in Piazza delle Erbe

Gabi braves the elements to showcase the eye-catching Palazzo della Ragione

Gabi braves the elements to showcase the eye-catching Palazzo della Ragione

Orto Botanico ... Lisa at her photographic best above and below

Orto Botanico ... Lisa at her photographic best above and below

Pv_ob2.jpg

PARMA (Emilia Romagna) pop 177,000

A prosperous and attractive town, you need at least a couple of days to fully appreciate all that the home of the famous parmesan cheese and parma ham has to offer. When you have had your fill of the delicious local cuisine - Trattoria Corrieri served us well - there are myriad significant buildings to visit, and a beautiful park (Parco Ducale) to walk off the excesses of a lengthy lunch. Of the buildings, the gorgeous Battistero, and the substantial Palazzo della Pilotta (which houses Teatro Farnese and the Galleria Nazionale) captivated us the most.

kids hamming it up at the famous Salumeria Garibaldi

kids hamming it up at the famous Salumeria Garibaldi

ceiling of the stunning octagonal shaped Battistero ... construction started in 1196 but took another 110 years due to pink marble shortages

ceiling of the stunning octagonal shaped Battistero ... construction started in 1196 but took another 110 years due to pink marble shortages

Parco Ducale ... these nifty machines were called mosquitoes, and could certainly zip along

Parco Ducale ... these nifty machines were called mosquitoes, and could certainly zip along

Castello di Torrechiara - 20 minutes out of Parma and well worth a visit

Castello di Torrechiara - 20 minutes out of Parma and well worth a visit

RAVENNA (Emilia Romagna) pop 153,000

Deservedly famous for its' Byzantine mosaics, Ravenna also serves as a stopping off point to the Adriatic in summer. It is a very peaceful town to visit, and presents the Unesco listed treasures without too much fuss.

Basilica di San Vitale - looking up - very hard to capture the brilliance on film

Basilica di San Vitale - looking up - very hard to capture the brilliance on film

Basilica di San Vitale - floor mosaics - pretty divine

Basilica di San Vitale - floor mosaics - pretty divine

another bit of traveller's good fortune; running into the bread festival of all things!

another bit of traveller's good fortune; running into the bread festival of all things!

too many churches Dad ...

too many churches Dad ...

VICENZA (Veneto) pop 115,000

The adopted home of Andrea Palladio, one of the most influential figures in Western architecture. Vicenza showcases many of his amazing buildings, now Unesco listed ... Lonely Planet describes his style as a marriage of "sophistication and rustic simplicity, reverent classicism and bold innovation". Lisa and Rosemary were especially taken by Teatro Olimpico, built in the late 1500's, and the oldest and first enclosed theatre in the world. It also showcases the 'trompe l'oeil' (deceive the eye) onstage scenery, which gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon.

Piazza dei Signori ... Palladio's genius on display

Piazza dei Signori ... Palladio's genius on display

Teatro Olimpico - Rosemary's looks misleading as she gave this masterpiece top marks

Teatro Olimpico - Rosemary's looks misleading as she gave this masterpiece top marks

Teatro Olimpico - the beautiful deception ...

Teatro Olimpico - the beautiful deception ...

beauty of the town not restricted to man-made structures

beauty of the town not restricted to man-made structures

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Posted by happellfamily12 13:18 Archived in Italy Tagged towns Comments (1)

Le Marche

HOT, HOT, HOT

sunny 36 °C

It is easy to imagine Le Marche as Tuscany may have been 20 years ago. Beautiful coastline (albeit with less than bella architecture) melds into very attractive rolling countryside with gorgeous hilltop towns, which finally gives way to dramatic mountain ranges which have sensibly been declared national parks. The two decade gap indicates the blessed lack of tourist traffic through the region, although we may have been spoilt due to the furnace-like conditions which prevailed during our stay.

typical landscape shot which shows the farmhouse right of centre

typical landscape shot which shows the farmhouse right of centre

Our accommodation came courtesy of a Sydney family that have painstakingly renovated a large farmhouse in the central region of Le Marche - www.la-serenita.com. Perfectly situated high on the hillside looking towards Tolentino, the property instantly has a calming effect on all inhabitants (very aptly named), and we enjoyed two relaxing weeks here swimming, reading, cooking, and exploring the region.

our digs - especially attractive late afternoon

our digs - especially attractive late afternoon

Lisa with her standard morning rev-up

Lisa with her standard morning rev-up

homemade pasta - despite this glum look, I think the cooks were happy!

homemade pasta - despite this glum look, I think the cooks were happy!

"what if we do leave the EC, and go back to the lira ...?"

"what if we do leave the EC, and go back to the lira ...?"

godsend during the heatwave

godsend during the heatwave

The highlights of exploring the region were many, and included :

San Ginesio festival week, including their palio

not a great pic, but the equine and human skills on show were impressive

not a great pic, but the equine and human skills on show were impressive

just part of the colourful parade

just part of the colourful parade

parade over, but the party is just beginning

parade over, but the party is just beginning

Swimming on the Conero Peninsula (Sirolo) with the dramatic limestone cliffs

gives the Amalfi coast a run for its money ...

gives the Amalfi coast a run for its money ...

when in Italy it is important to do as the locals do and flout the law!

when in Italy it is important to do as the locals do and flout the law!

muscles cleaning the mussels

muscles cleaning the mussels

Day trip to lovely Ascoli Piceno further south near the Abruzzo border

paunch in the Piazza Del Popolo

paunch in the Piazza Del Popolo

temperature nudged 40 degrees this day, so any relief welcome

temperature nudged 40 degrees this day, so any relief welcome

Ascoli Piceno was beautiful inside and outside the centro

Ascoli Piceno was beautiful inside and outside the centro

Visit to neighbouring Caldarola for a tour of the castle (Castello Pallotta) followed by aperitivi

15th century drawbridge

15th century drawbridge

usually very good buddies

usually very good buddies

little known German beer but it mattered not ...

little known German beer but it mattered not ...

Stunning drive up into the Sibylline Mountains National Park, followed by a swim in Lago Di Fiastra

not quite end of the holiday season so still fairly busy

not quite end of the holiday season so still fairly busy

welcome relief after the long drive ...

welcome relief after the long drive ...

Posted by happellfamily12 15:13 Archived in Italy Tagged towns countryside weather swimming pool hot hilltop Comments (1)

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