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Cappella Palatina, Palermo

02 Palermo’s Cappella Palantina

I’ve visited dozens of wonderful churches in my life, some vaste and grand like St. Peter’s in Rome, or Westminister Abbey in London, others smaller and with a more intimate feel.  As a rule, I’m partially to smaller chapels and churches, and there are two at the top of my list of favorites.  The most beautiful church I’ve ever been in, and because of the nature of it also the most beautiful painting of the Renaissance, is the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.  Seeing the Sistine Chapel for the first time actually made me gasp in awe — a travel first for me!  But another smaller church that caught my eye and amazed me with its beauty is the Palatine …

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An Introductory Perspective of Sicily

01 Palermo

Travel guru Rick Steves likes to say (and I’m paraphrasing) that Italy either gets better or worse as you head south from Rome, depending on what you like.  If you like a quieter people, trains running almost on time, etc. head north towards Milan.  If you enjoy a lively chaotic experience, perhaps a little rough around the edges, then head to the bottom of the boot.  Sicily, the three cornered island just a few miles from the mainland is about as far south as you can go.  It’s part of Italy, but really has its own unique history and heritage.

I’d wanted to go to Sicily to meet its people, enjoy its food, and experience its antiquities and heritage.  I knew …

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A Day in Fiumicino, Italy

22 FCO February 2015.  Tiber River

Many people travel through the small city of Fiumicino, but few people stop to visit.  Rome’s main airport, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino (FCO) is situated a few kilometers from downtown Fiumicino.  It’s about a half hour cab ride to historic Rome and about a half hour on the Leonardo Express train from FCO to Rome’s main terminal.

Fiumicino offers a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the big city life you’ll find in Rome or Milan.  A small fishing village built on one of the branches of the Tiber River as it flows into the sea, fishing is still an important part of it’s economy.

We enjoyed watching the fishing boats return to harbor from the Tyrrhenian Sea, followed …

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Mercato di Ballaro, Palermo, Sicily

05 Palermo Mercato di Ballaro

There are four big street markets in Palermo, one in each of the 4 historic quarters of the city.  We had chance to visit two of these during our visit to Sicily and the Mercato di Ballaro was the one we liked most.

While I’d read about the market in my trip preparation, we stumbled on it by accident as we were heading back to our hotel from a visit to the Capella Palatina.  The market winds down a small street for a number of blocks, with wall-to-wall vendors on both sides of the road.  The market caters to the workers and families who live in the area; while it runs all day, it’s busiest in the morning, slows …

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“Pic of the Week”, April 17, 2015: Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome

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During a recent (and all too short) visit to Rome, my wife and I spent a day strolling the Baroque section of town.  Just as the sun was setting, we found ourselves along the historic and beautiful Tiber River.  In the distance, silhouetted by the setting sun, was the dome of St. Peter’s basilica  Near us was Castel Sant’Angelo.

Castel Sant’Angelo is a castle-like building that houses the remains of Emperor Hadrian, he of Hadrian’s Wall fame (which still stands in Britain).   Castel Sant’Angelo was built around 140 AD and over the years has served as a place of refuge and a military fortress.  Baroque statues of angels holding elements of the Passion of Christ line its approach.  It …

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“Pic of the Week”, January 17, 2014. The “back streets” of Venice, Italy

2014 002 Jan 10a

As much as possible I like to take some time on my travels to explore the less-touristed regions of the popular cities I visit.  In some cities you need to be very aware of your own personal safety when leaving major areas, so be cautious in doing so.  In other cities, like Venice, it’s very easy to explore on your own.  Being an island, you can wander at will and even if you’re lost, it won’t take you but a few minutes to get somewhere that will be familiar to you.

While we think of Venice as an island, it really is an amalgamation of hundreds of smaller islands into a larger island community, with lots of canals and bridges connecting …

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La Dolce Vita (Part 7) Padova (Padua)

La Dolce Vita 7) Padova (Padua)

There are several good day trips one can make from Venice, one of the easiest being to the fun small city of Padova (which we Anglophiles often call Padua).  The city is an easy half hour train ride from Venice, with trains leaving around every half hour, so advanced reservations really aren’t needed.

For centuries Padova lived under Venetian rule although several hundred years ago it became an independent city.  The town is well know for its historic University, in existence since the 13th century (and highlighting such faculty as Galileo, Copernicus and Dante).  So Padova has many of the enjoyable features of visiting any smaller college city.  It also features two unique and worthwhile churches and a historic core that’s …

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La Dolce Vita (Part 6) Murano and Burano

La Dolce Vita 6) Murano and Burano

Venice is just one “island community” (actually it’s an amalgamation of 100 smaller islands) in the shallow brackish waters of the Laguna Veneta.  There are several other island communities in this large (>200 square mile) lagoon that can be comfortably visited in an enjoyable day trip from Venice all easily accessible by vaporetto.   Settlers fled to these islands when the barbarians invaded Italy over 1500 years ago because the islands were safe from these marauders and sheltered from the strong winds and waves of the Adriatic Sea.

Murano Fire Watch Tower

1) MURANO

Murano is best known for its glass factories and the wondrous assortment of beautiful glass products they generate.  The island itself was initially developed in the 13th century …

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