One Year in Italy: 12 Months of Memories

Time Flies!
“Time Flies! Stop lying around and write something, will ya?” (Photo of a detail from the facade of Santa Maria dell’ Orazione e delle Morte on the Via Giulia, Rome)

Living in a new place, especially for an extended period of time, fills me with a sense of duty that I have to write everything down, commit every moment to memory, take a photo every day if not every hour. But eventually, that initial motivation turns to dread and an overwhelming feeling that I should be more mindful of my surroundings rather than living behind a lens or a computer screen.

The latter reason is why I have not written as much as I should have over this past year in Italy. Plus, I’ve just done so much in these 12 months! I’ve traveled all over Rome and its region Lazio, from the beaches to the lakes to hill towns in between, and have visited six other regions (with a goal of getting to all 20 before my time here comes to and end). Over the past year, I have also taken more than 7,000 photos — so much for not living behind a lens!

Despite that photo stat, I have been paying attention with my other senses: smelling the roasting chestnuts in winter, the jasmine bushes in spring, and the cool, damp aroma of underground spaces; listening to the rumble of trams, the clinking of cups and saucers, the fleeting bits of Italian conversations overheard in the markets and shops; and tasting the foods of each season. Touch has been more elusive, as Italy is full of things you want to touch but cannot — smooth marbles and mosaics and frescoes, tufts of moss growing out of crevices high on a Roman wall.

Of course, readers visit this blog to see Italy as much as learn about it. So, I wanted to share 12 photos over this past year, one for each month, to mark my transition from year one to year two. These are simple photos — most taken with an iPhone 5 — but they are special reminders for me. Read below for details.

Continue reading One Year in Italy: 12 Months of Memories

Beautiful Places in Italy for a Photo Op

Let’s face it. Just about every spot in Italy is a lovely place to take a photograph. But there are some spots that are truly special, places that make friends and family go “Wow!” when they see the photos on Facebook or in the picture frame on the mantle piece. Far beyond the hokey photographs of “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or posing with modern-day gladiators in Rome, here are some lovely places to record some memories.

The Faraglioni Rocks, Capri
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I have to admit that I got the idea for this post from looking at my friend Laura’s photo on her Ciao Amalfi blog. Take a look at her blog and her profile pic and you’ll see exactly why I picked this location as one of Italy’s most beautiful places for a photo op. The Faraglioni Rocks are a group of three mini rock islands that have been known since Roman times. I Faraglioni, which are named Stella,  Faraglione di Mezzo, and Faraglione di Fuori (Scopolo), are some of the most photographed features in southern Italy and you can even get up-close photographs of the rocks on a boat tour around the Bay of Naples. Faraglione di Mezzo even has a natural arch in it, which is a thrill to go through.

From San Miniato al Monte, Florence

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The typical place that tourists go to take photos of Florence – with the giant Duomo dome in the background – is Piazzale Michelangelo, a hill high above the city that is accessible by motor coach and has a huge parking lot buzzing with postcard vendors and “professional” photographers. Don’t get me wrong – this is a lovely place for a photo op. But even better is in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is only about a five minute walk from Piazzale Michelangelo. San Miniato itself is a beautiful, medieval, green-and-white-marble church with spectacular interior mosaics where you’ll sometimes hear Gregorian chanting. If you enjoy getting out an about rather than hopping on board a motorized tour, you can hike a small path from the Lungarno along the city walls up to San Miniato. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the views are so much more rewarding once you make it to the top.

Atop the Duomo, Milan

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You can scale the heights of the Duomo in Florence, the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome, and go up into the domes and attics of countless churches and bell towers in Italy. But none of these locations give you the kind of fabulous backdrop that you get from the top of the Duomo in Milan. The gorgeous Gothic church in the heart of Milan is a great photographic subject in itself and you can certainly capture some lovely pics of the whole cathedral while standing in the vast Piazza del Duomo. But take a trip to the Duomo’s roof and it’s as if you’re walking atop an intricately decorated wedding cake. A trip to the top also affords you nearer views of the church’s spires, statues, and gargoyles as well as a panorama of the Alps (on a clear day)

Rome – the Bocca della Verità

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When you’re in Rome, there is pressure to get that perfect shot with either the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Indeed, you should get those shots – for the Colosseum go up to Colle Oppio Park for a good angle and for St. Peter’s, the perch of the Pincio Park above Piazza del Popolo can’t be beat. But I like to suggest two classic places for a Roman photo op.

The first is the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth), an ancient manhole cover that is located in the entryway of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin around the corner from the Campidoglio. You may remember this landmark if you’ve seen the film Roman Holiday which starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The legend is that if you place your hand inside the mouth of the god/monster depicted on the cover that your hand will be chopped off if you haven’t been telling the truth. A photo in front of the Mouth of Truth is a fun diversion. And if it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, then it’s good enough for you.

Rome – The Tomb of Cecilia Metella

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Another great locale to have your photo snapped is among the ruins along the Appia Antica. In the days of the Grand Tour it was de rigueur to have your portrait painted among the remnants of antiquity. One of the most evocative portraits of this kind is of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in Rome in the late 18C. The artist Johann Tischbein painted Goethe in the Countryside with the distinctive tomb of Cecilia Metella in the background. This is still a major monument in the Appia Antica park, and you can still enjoy a nice hike to the tomb on the weekend when the thru-ways are closed to traffic. While you won’t get the completely uncluttered panorama that Goethe enjoyed when he sat for his portrait, you will have a unique shot for the mantle. Kudos if you can also strike the same leggy pose!

Portofino Bay

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The pastel houses of Portofino, a fishing village turned wealthy tourist haven in the region of Liguria so lovely that developers in Orlando, Florida, had to replicate it, make for a romantic backdrop for an Italy travel memory. Ideally, you want to get a photo of yourself in front of Portofino’s colorful port while on board a yacht. But if you can’t make that happen, there are a couple of options. One overlook is from the grounds of Castello Brown, a fortress located high above the bay. This ancient castle (some hypothesize that its foundations have been there since Roman times), however, is typically rented out for private events like weddings and conferences. It’s also a little high up for my liking. Another even better place to go to get a shot of the picturesque bay is to the church of San Giorgio, located on the Salita San Giorgio. Of course, there are also plenty of hotels located along this street where you can pay to see that bay view from your window every morning.

So these are just a handful of some of my favorite Italy photo locations. Where else would you suggest? Please comment below or find me on Twitter @italofileblog.

Photos © giorgiopix, rvega, Italian Notebook, Roman Holiday trailer, onlinekunst.de, buteijn

The Top 25 Hotels in Italy

Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli: One of Italys 25 Best
Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli: One of Italy's 25 Best

While it’s true that the travel industry is taking a hit in light of the world financial crisis, there are still plenty of people making trips to Italy. And, with the dollar improving against the euro (at least for the time being), some Americans are looking to do Italy in style.

Luckily, thanks to USA Today/Forbes Traveler, there’s now a list of Italy’s 25 best hotels. Compiled by Forbes, this is a grouping of the most luxurious and elegant lodgings “ranging from urban grande dames to breathtaking coastal villas.” Forbes Traveler has also created a nifty little slide show to showcase each of the 25.

We’ve certainly mentioned some of these hotels in The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy and/or on this site. But here are the links if you want to check them out yourself:

Italy’s 25 Best Hotels According to Forbes Traveler

Rome
Hotel de Russie
Hotel Eden
Hotel Hassler Roma
Portrait Suites
St. Regis Grand Hotel

Florence
Hotel Lungarno
Hotel Savoy
Villa La Massa
Villa San Michele

Tuscany
Il Pellicano Hotel (Porto Ercole)
Relais Il Falconiere (Cortona)

Milan
Bulgari Hotel Milano
Four Seasons Hotel Milan

Venice
Bauer Hotel
Luna Hotel Baglioni

Capri
Capri Palace Hotel and Spa (Anacapri)
Grand Hotel Quisisana

Lake Garda
Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli (Gargnano)

Amalfi Coast
Hotel Caruso (Ravello)
Hotel Santa Caterina (Amalfi)
Il San Pietro (Positano)
Le Sireneuse (Positano)
Palazzo Sasso (Ravello)

Cinque Terre
Hotel Splendido (Portofino)

Lake Como
Villa d’Este (Cernobbio)

Italy Article Round-Up

In case you missed these recent articles on travel to Italy…

New York Times
Sicily, Through the Eyes of the Leopard

The Washington Post
See Naples…And Eat

Sydney Morning Herald
Ready for Super-Bol (A Search for the Best Ragu in Bologna)

Los Angeles Times
Exploring Sun-Splashed Venice’s City Squares

The Guardian (UK)
Instant Weekend…Turin

The Boston Globe
Eat Them All, Pray For More, Love the Neopolitan Pie
Ancient Capri Still Casts Its Powerful Spell

Seattle Times (Rick Steves’ Europe)
For Italy In the Extreme, Go to Naples

The Independent (UK)
See Italy – From the Wheel of a Ferrari
Lyrical Charm in Capri

The Vancouver Sun
How To Enjoy Rome With the Kids

The Financial Times
Do You Need Another Reason to Visit Florence?

The Complete Guide to the Bay of Naples

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Now that Naples seems to have a handle on its garbage problem, it is hoping that tourists start to make their way back to Italy’s “city by the bay.” Right on time is a service article from the U.K.’s Independent. The Complete Guide to the Bay of Naples gives the lowdown on getting there, visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum, and taking tours of Vesuvius, the Campi Flegrei “sulphurous sites,” and nearby destinations like Sorrento and Capri. As the article is geared towards the British traveler, some of the suggestions, such as for hotels, are a little on the pricey side for American tourists. But there is a lot of information here for someone who’s considering exploring one of Italy’s most evocative cities.

Not even 5 minutes since we wrote the above…Want even more about Naples? You may also enjoy 48 Hours in Naples. This recent piece from the same newspaper has great tips for the “independent” traveler, including city walks and dining suggestions.

Photo: Wikitravel Naples

New Hotel in Capri

According to Elle magazine (and several other luxury travel watchers), there’s a new hotel in Capri. The first hotel built on the isle in years, the J.K. Place Capri overlooks the Marina Grande and has 20 rooms with a view of the sea and harbor (and two rooms that do not have a sea view). Rates run from €330-900. J.K. Place opens March 30, 2007.

Photo from J.K. Place Capri