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27 August 2011

Exploring the Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy

The remains of a street in Pompeii.  All photos in this feature are property of Jessica Spiegel. Please do not use without permission. All rights reserved.  
Jessica Spiegel shares her visits to Pompeii and Herculaneum with her evocative images of what remains of these two lost cities. Plus, she offers helpful tips on exploring these fascinating ruins on your own. I hope you enjoy this feature and please share your thoughts.

21 August 2011

Discovering the Tastes of Tuscany – A Delectable Culinary Tour to Fiesole

The gardens at the Villa di Maiano with Florence in the background.
When most of us start to plan our travels to Italy, we start dreaming about visits to historic sites, magnificent architecture, exquisite sculptures and magnificent collections of art, however, there is one more reason to visit Italy that we should put right at the top of our lists – the food! That’s right, those inescapable gastronomic delights that most of us don’t think about until tantalizing aromas envelop us as we make our ways through the streets. Well, it’s time for a little planning. Picture this – hanging out on a Tuscan hillside sipping savory wines, indulging in Tuscan dishes that send your taste buds reeling in delight, and touring a magnificent Renaissance villa – all while you enjoy one of the most stunning views of the Florentine skyline! Well, when I read the description of this half-day guided tour from Florence, I knew this was exactly the way I wanted to spend one of my mornings during my visit – art, architecture and food – it doesn’t get any better! Won’t you join me on this tour and allow me to introduce you to the tastes of Tuscany!

14 August 2011

Postcards from Venice, Italy - A Journey Through Mystery and Wonder

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica in the Background. You must sit and people watch at one of these cafes in the square. Don't be fooled into dining here though, mediocre food and steep prices.
The allure of Venice seduces visitors and I admit it, me, with its old-world charm, scenic vistas, spectacular architecture and a culture unlike any place I have seen! Once a mighty empire that controlled major trading routes between Europe and the East, Venice prevails today as a major tourist destination, on which it relies heavily for its sustenance. Standing testament to the power and wealth once enjoyed by Venice, are magnificent basilicas, palaces and squares or campi decorated with some of the finest paintings, frescos and sculptures in the world. From Byzantine and Gothic to Renaissance and Baroque, these awe-inspiring edifices remain standing after 500 years and are uniquely Venetian! If you’re planning a visit to Italy, make sure you include the “city of love” on your itinerary. Simply put, there’s no place in the world like Venice!

13 August 2011

Bernini’s Rome and His Influence on the Eternal City!

Aerial View of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican Shows Bernini's Grand Design.
You can hardly visit Rome today without nodding to Italy’s greatest artist of the Baroque period – Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Renowned for his exceptional talents as painter, architect and most notably, sculptor, Bernini’s influence can be felt throughout Rome’s most notable landmarks not to mention countless museums. From canvas and stone to chapels and piazzas, his talent knew no bounds. Fortunately for me, I was able to see some of Bernini's most significant contributions during my Angels and Demons tour, and added a few of my own. During your next visit, be sure to take a long look around and I’d wager that Bernini’s creative genius played a big part. For now, come along on this journey through Rome – through the Vatican, Piazza Navona, Santa Maria della Vittoria and Villa Borghese to name a few, to experience up close and personal, Bernini’s greatest masterpieces plus one particularly controversial sculpture that shows he was a rebel “with” a cause. To provide close-up details, I had to borrow a few images, properly attributed of course.