Verona – a weekend in the city of lovers

In this article our guest writer, Francesco Visconti, takes us to Verona for the weekend to find the true Italian heart of the city beyond the story of Rome and Juliet.

Everybody in the world knows Verona as the set for Shakespeare’s romance Romeo & Juliet and lovers go there as pilgrims just to see the famous Juliet’s balcony. But for an Italian who loves to travel and tries to discover the real soul of place, like me, it’s easy to perceive that this city is much more and that its romantic atmosphere came before Juliet’s balcony. A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in Verona, with my girlfriend, of course. I had already been here when I was 12 with my family, but only this time I could understand the specialty of Verona, if compared to many other Italian destinations, that foreigners visiting the town for just one day may not see.

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

Corso Porta Nuova in Verona, Italy

We arrived at the train station on Friday afternoon just after lunch. The beginning of the autumn is the perfect time to visit Verona, with less tourists but still good weather and gorgeous colours all around. At this time of the day, when nobody’s in the streets, you can really enjoy the peaceful atmosphere on Corso Porta Nuova, the big boulevard that goes from the monumental door of the 16th century Porta Nuova to the centre. At the end of the boulevard we passed under the two arches that give access to Piazza Brà and it was like a jump in history. We left at our back the modern town to get in the old Roman town of Verona, whose symbol is the Arena, the second most known amphitheatre of the Roman age after the Coliseum. The Arena is less tall but larger than its brother in Rome, perfectly preserved and with an incredible acoustic that makes it perfect for concerts and music festivals!

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

Until 10 years ago the Arena was home of the most popular music festival in Italy, the Festivalbar and the first time I visited Verona it was just during the days of the event. So I couldn’t visit it and now I was just too excited to see it from the inside, to walk on the sand and climb the steps until the top to have a look at the rooftops of the surrounding square. In the Coliseum you can hardly touch anything, while in the Arena you are free to go all around the amphitheatre and, instead of thousands tourists struggling for taking a good picture, here we were almost alone and could make fly our imagination to the era of gladiators.

The Arena in Verona, Italy

The Arena in Verona, Italy

As you can suppose, we spent a good part of the afternoon in Piazza Brà and when we came out of the Arena it was already “Spritz time”. The Spritz is a typical drink from Verona and the Veneto region in general that people drink more or less at the same time when English drink tea.

In search of a nice bar, we passed from the Roman to the medieval era, walking through the pedestrian streets inside the walls of the old town. What really hit me is that almost all the area is pedestrian, something that I haven’t seen in any other Italian city and that really made me enjoy the walk. We finally found streets full of people going for shopping, for an ice-cream or chilling at the bars with their Spritz.

Juliet's balcony in Verona Photo: Jeroen Van Luin on Flickr

Juliet’s balcony in Verona

After our random tour of Friday night, we planned our Saturday to visit the rest of the city. Our first stop was Juliet’s house and balcony. We tried to go relatively early in the morning, but no matter what’s the time, half of the tourists in town are always pointing to that hypnotic balcony or to the statue of naked Juliet below it. We contributed to the ceremony for a while and then followed the tour into the more enjoyable Piazza delle Erbe. This place has always been the heart of Verona: it is the oldest square of the town and lies upon the ruins of the Forum of the Roman town, it’s been setting for the market and today is the heart of nightlife, full of bars and restaurants.

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

The Lamberti Tower in Verona, Italy

And it’s also an incredible collection of monuments and buildings of different eras: the house of the municipality, the Lamberti tower, the painted Mazzanti houses, the fountain with the statue of the holy Mary, the “Tribuna” and the column with the Lyon of St. Mark, symbol of the power of the old Republic of Venice, which ruled upon Verona in the 15th century. All these attractions are amazingly put together, without clashing each other, like in a colourful painting and at first sight, attracted by its elegance, you don’t even realize its wealth in culture and history.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

We took a while to breathe and continued the tour. We just had to make 20 meters at the back of the House of Municipality to get to another amazing square: Piazza dei Signori, with at its centre the statue of Dante Alighieri. The imposing statue made the Veronese people give the square the name of Piazza Dante. It’s another square built in medieval times and surrounded by monumental buildings. The very curious thing is that each of them is linked to the next through arches. In a corner of the square there’s maybe the most particular monument of Verona: the “Arche Scaligere”, monumental tombs in the open air topped by arches in gothic style. They were considered the most honourable burial for the illustrious lords of the Scaligeri family, who ruled the city in the 14th century.

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

Piazza dei Signori in Verona, Italy

After a quick glance at the cathedral and the basilica of St Zeno, in the late afternoon, a bit outside the centre, we visited Castelvecchio, literally the old castle. We went there at this time to enjoy then a walk at sunset through the charming Scaligeri bridge, that crosses the river from the castle and then continuing along the river Adige until the Pietra bridge, the only bridge built in Roman times remaining nowadays. If you want to do something romantic in Verona, visit this side of the town under the night-lights!

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

Pietra bridge in Verona, Italy

We dedicated the Sunday to shopping and to try typical food from Veneto region. A foreigner wouldn’t appreciate the difference and everything that sounds like Italian food would taste delicious. But for an Italian that eats pasta everyday it was necessary to find a “trattoria” with typical Veronese cuisine!

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Many thanks for this article to Francesco Visconti, a 26 years old Italian travel blogger and startupper, author of GaddersBlog and creator of the travel platform Gadders that helps foreign travellers discover the best places in Italy. He’s a full-time traveller, having been living abroad in different countries for 4 years, now living in Spain. He loves to know in depth a place and a country and, when home begins getting boring, starts looking for new destinations that stimulate his senses. Follow his Twitter feed and Pinterest or visit him on Google+.

Photo Credits: Photos by Francesco Visconti except Juliet’s Balcony by Jeroen Van Luin

For more Italian adventures

Cycling with Wine and apples – on the Wine Road in South Tyrol
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Three nights to fall in love with the city of Verona

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Törggellen time in South Tyrol – a feast of autumn

In this article our guest author, Lee McIntyre, shares some of the foods of South Tyrol she came to love while living in Bozen/Bolzano, Italy and invites us to experience the Törggellen festival, a mouth-watering celebration of autumn.

Bozen/Bolzano is a beautiful medieval town nestled at the foot of the Dolomite mountains, a town with a subtle blend of Italian style and Tyrolean tradition. But the thousands of visitors who use the town as a base to explore the surrounding natural wonders of the South Tyrol also know that there are a number of Tyrolean food specialties that shouldn’t be missed!

Bolzano 2

One way to taste many of those foods all at once is to head to the South Tyrol in the autumn to have a traditional Tyrolean Törggellen feast. I think of the Törggellen meals as sort of “harvest” celebrations, although I’m not sure that’s really quite an accurate description. Unlike the Thanksgiving holidays in North America and elsewhere, where everyone celebrates the harvest on the same day, there is no one day for a Törggellen. Rather, restaurants offer these meals throughout the autumn months.

A Törggellen meal begins with a typical Tyrolean first course of a starchy item: for example, you might start with Schlutzkrapfen/mezzelune, little squares of pasta that look like very thin ravioli, often filled with “something green” (a mix of spinach, onion and herbs, traditionally), pumpkin, or squash. This dish is topped with melted butter and Parmesan cheese.

A plate of Schlutzkrapfen/Mezzelune Photo: Lee McIntyre

A plate of Schlutzkrapfen/Mezzelune to start the Törggellen meal

Or you might choose instead some Knödel/canederli, which are big bread-based dumplings. These are made with bits of bread-for-stuffing (like you’d use to stuff a goose or turkey), which is then mixed with pieces of cheese, small chunks of Tyrolean cured bacon (Speck), and/or bits of spinach. This bread mixture is then shaped into balls or ovals and boiled in water. Like the Schlutzkrapfen, Knödel are often served in a melted butter sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese (my favorite!), although another typical presentation is serving them in a soup.

South Tyrolean Knödel/canederli Photo: Lee McIntyre

South Tyrolean Knödel/canederli to eat at the Törggellen meal

After the first course, the Törggellen feast becomes all about the meat. Specifically all about pork. I once had a hard time identifying all the kinds of pork products that were presented on a Törggellen platter, there were so many different varieties presented, including ham, roast pork, and many varieties of pork sausages. Pork dishes in the South Tyrol always appear alongside a bowl of some of the tastiest horseradish I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. It’s not sour and adds just a bit of a kick when combined with a bit of roast pork, or a slice of salami.

 Pork features heavily in the Törggellen feast in South Tyrol Photo: Lee McIntyre

Pork features heavily in the Törggellen feast in South Tyrol

But the most different for me of all the pork offerings is the dark red Blutwurst sausage. In English, the literal translation of that is “blood sausage”, which doesn’t sound that appetizing, and it’s not something I ever ran across in the U.S. At a Törggellen it is served whole and hot on the central pork platter; you slice off a bit of it to transfer to your plate. It’s not as solid as the other sausages and it sort of falls apart and spills out of the casing when you cut into it. Lots of spices, including cloves, gives it a really distinctive taste. Very flavorful, very different … and very good, but definitely an acquired taste at first.

Blood Sausage served at a Törggellen feast Photo: Lee McIntyre

Blood Sausage served at a Törggellen feast in South Tyrol

There are usually no vegetable side dishes offered at a Törgellen, apart from the piping hot sauerkraut, which has little pieces of pork mixed in, in keeping with the overall pork-theme of the meal. At the Törgellen feasts I went to, the bowl of sauerkraut on the table was constantly replenished – an all-you-can eat offering at the meal.

Fresh Sauerkraut, served hot at a Törggellen feast in South Tyrol Photo: Lee McIntyre

Fresh Sauerkraut, served hot at a Törggellen feast in South Tyrol

Of course, in some ways, even all of that food serves as merely a preamble to autumn-specific food that comes at the end of the meal: a huge pile of roasted chestnuts accompanied by glasses of the “new wine” that has just been bottled. Your fingers become quite sooty as you peel the still-warm blackened chestnuts, revealing the plump, cooked nut in side. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the slightly sweet and every-so-slightly fizzy new wine.

Roasted chestnuts end the Törggellen feast in South Tyrol Photo: Lee McIntyre

Roasted chestnuts end the Törggellen feast in South Tyrol

Although the chestnuts accompanied by new wine are available only in autumn, all of the other standard Törggellen specialties can all be found in restaurants year-round. So any time of year is perfect for a visit to sample the sumptuous flavors of the South Tyrol.

Read more about the food and wine of South Tyrol

Cycling with wine and apples – on the wine road in South Tyrol
Traditional South Tyrol food and wine with a gastronomic twist

To plan your visit to South Tyrol

For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website

LeeAbout our guest writer: Lee McIntyre is an American photographer, teacher and author who has lived, traveled and taken photos all over the world. Prior to moving to Tübingen, Germany in 2011, she spent three years in Bozen/Bolzano, Italy trying to master the ins and outs of life in a new language in the South Tyrol. Lee chronicles some of her adventures in her lighthearted memoir, “Life on a Gelato Diet: Everyday Expeditions with an American in Bolzano”, available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon worldwide, and for all eBook readers from LeanPub. Lee has also created a line of tote bags featuring some of her most popular photos from Bolzano. Available in a variety of sizes and designs from shop.clfoto.net, these bags are perfect for everyone’s everyday expeditions, anywhere in the world. Find out more about Lee’s current projects on her website at www.clfoto.net.

Photos: copyright Lee McIntyre except first photo by Heather Cowper

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

From gladiator training to chocolate – a trip to Rome with the kids

In this article our guest writer Angelina Van Kemenade shares with us some of the places in Rome that her kids love to visit from a vintage chocolate factory to gladiator training at the Colisseum.

Rome is definitely one of my family’s favorite holiday destinations, offering a wide selection of sightseeing spots and activities that are surely captivating to both adults and kids.

Spending a holiday with the whole family is one of our favorite bonding activities. Just like me and my husband Patrick, our kids love Rome, not only because of the famous Gladiator movie and the Hercules cartoon television show but also because of the unique splendor and the joy that the city offers. With this article I am going to share with you some of the highlights of Rome that I considered among my kids’ favorites. I am pretty sure that your kids and even you as parents will love these marvelous places in Rome.

Angelina and husband Patrick enjoy lunch in Rome

Angelina and husband Patrick enjoy lunch in Rome

Said Vintage Chocolate Factory

Because my kids are huge fans of chocolate, they love touring one of the most famous old chocolate factories in the world. Most people, regardless of their age and gender, love chocolate, so I am quite sure that both you and your kids will enjoy visiting the Said Vintage Chocolate Factory. This very interesting place in Rome was founded by Aldo De Mauro around 1923 and was once one of the factories in Rome that produced high quality and world-class chocolate.

The factory’s popularity boomed until it was damaged by extensive bombing during the Second World War. These days, Said Vintage Chocolate Factory no longer functions like a typical factory, but rather an impressive chocolate museum. The museum still houses the vintage machinery used in producing chocolate in the past, some of which is still magnificently functioning. Even though the company has ceased its normal chocolate production operation, you can still buy an authentic chocolate recipe or savor that scrumptious old-fashioned chocolate taste from the gift shop at the old factory. Watch the video here.

Chocolates at the Said factory in Rome Photo: Nancy White on Flickr

Chocolates at the Said factory in Rome

Rainbow Magic Land

The Rainbow Magic Land is one of the most loved family theme parks in Rome, covering an area of about 16 thousand square meters. What we like most about this theme park is that it is very accessible and can easily be reached from Rome through taking the train and then the shuttle bus. It is located in Valmontone just about 49 kilometers away from the historic center of Rome.

We have visited Rainbow Magic Land more than once but we still feel excited at the thought of visiting the theme park again. With the 35 main attractions and the 10 various shows that the park offers, you will surely look forward for another wonderful experience at the Rainbow Magic Land. Among the most popular shows at the park are stunt shows, the interactive Bombo show, aquatic ballet, various theatre performances and the Winx fairies show. The colorful and ever spectacular firework display also adds to the reasons we love visiting this family centered theme park.

Rainbow Magic Land near Rome

Rainbow Magic Land near Rome – a great family day out

 Giardino Zoologico di Roma

The Giardino Zoologico di Roma, also popularly known for the title Bioparco, is one among the kid-pleaser zoological gardens that you can find in Rome. The animals are trained to interact and be used to humans and are provided with a particular space in the garden where they are given the freedom to live and to move around. More to that, Bioparco also provides a safe shelter for various kinds of endangered species and also a nonviolent home for animals that were once victims of abuse and trafficking.

Helping out with the animals at Bioparco in Rome Photo: Bioparco.it

Helping out with the animals at Bioparco in Rome

The Gladiator School and the Colosseum

What is a holiday trip to Rome with kids without a visit to the famous landmark of the Colosseum, known as the most gigantic ancient structure that was ever built during the Roman Empire era. This amphitheater was capable of accommodating up to 50,000 spectators at a time during ancient times. It was a famous site for entertainment and political gatherings in Rome and was also once used as the stage for gladiator fights.

Inside the Colosseum in Rome Photo: Romesightseeing.net

Inside the Colosseum in Rome

Speaking of gladiator fights, my kids love participating in a simulation gladiator activity and because of this, we do not skip visiting the Gladiator School every time we come to visit. In the Gladiator School, both adults and kids are given the opportunity to play as a real gladiator and activity usually commences with one to two hours of basic training. In the training participants are taught about the basic and pro swordsmanship and fighting techniques that the ancient gladiators had to learn. After the short training is over, there is an activity where participants are given the chance to fight as a real gladiator, to wear an authentic Roman fighter suit and to use a blunted sword.

Angelina profile photoMany thanks for this article to Angelina Van Kemenade, a 29 year old mother of two, and the owner of romesightseeing.net, a website that shares ideas and valuable information about the famous sightseeing sites and main attractions in Rome. Angelina loves to travel together with her husband Patrick and their kids to their favorite holiday destinations of Rome and Paris.

For more things to see in Rome:

The Rome of childhood memories
The Pantheon – in Rome
Street entertainment in Piazza Navona – in Rome

Photos by Angelina except Said Chocolate Factory by Nancy White, Rainbow Magic Land by Wikimedia Commons, helping out with the animals by Bioparco.it

This article by is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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