Sirmione (Italy): a photo-diary

Sirmione, Italy
the Scaliger Castle in Sirmione

Sirmione is a charming little Italian town on the Lake Garda. When it’s not overrun with day-trippers it offers tranquility and spa treatments at its many hotels. The symbol of Sirmione is the Scaliger castle (13th ct). You can climb its tower to get a nice view of the Lake Garda and the entire town. Once you cross the castle’s drawbridge you enter historical Sirmione. Another noteworthy attraction is the Grottoes of Catullus, the remains of a Roman private house, the largest such uncovered in the northern Italy. This villa is mentioned in the poems of the first famous resident of Sirmione who lived there in 1st century BC (the Roman poet  Gaius Valerius Catullus). There are several interesting small churches too. But the town’s claim to fame are its thermal springs. Many famous writers visited Sirmione such as Alfred Tennyson, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. I shouldn’t forget to mention the famous Italian writers Giosuè Carducci and Antonio Fogazzaro who wrote about Sirmione as well as the notorious Gabriele D’Annunzio who found the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume (Rijeka, Croatia) with himself as the Fascist leader. English writer Naomi Jacob made Sirmione her home. One of the best opera singers of all times had a villa here too: Maria Callas.

Scaliger Castle, Sirmione
Scaliger Castle

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A lost church and the Botanical Garden in Florence

Botanical Garden, Florence

What do you do when you’ve already been to a place several times and you’ve got some time to kill? Recently I found myself again in Florence because of work and I had no idea what to do with a couple of hours of free time. I had lunch and absolutely no plans for my free afternoon. So I just kept walking when I left the restaurant. I wasn’t really walking in the unknown direction because I have actually walked down that street previously but after a couple of turns I saw something new in the distance. A grey tower. I came closer and saw that it was the oldest Anglican church in Florence. How funny that I manage to find English things wherever I go. 🙂

But I didn’t remember the name of the church and when I tried to find it on Google for the purpose of this post I couldn’t. There wasn’t such church on the map and when I googled Anglican church in Florence the search engine gave me a different result. After quite a bit of the research I found my mystery church.  It is the Holy Trinity church which was acquired by the Waldesians in 1967. It was the first Anglican church in Florence built in the first half of the nineteenth century by Domenico Giraldi. Only fifty years later the English expat community of Florence decided to rebuilt the church in an English perpendicular style to designs by George Frederick Bodley. There are statues of St John the Baptist, King David, St Alban, St Augustine, St Stephen, St George, St Andrew and St Patrick on the grey church tower. The main English church today is St Mark’s English Church.

After admiring the marble statues of the saints on the church tower I crossed the street and saw a park and thought that I might sit there for a while and enjoy the sunshine. But this park wasn’t actually an ordinary park; it was the Botanical garden of Florence and so I decided to visit it. The entry cost me only 3 euros. I walked around the botanical garden, sat and soaked up the sun and then explored some more. In the end I decided to take some photos with my phone and maybe write a few words about it for my travel blog :).

Botanical Garden in Florence

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porticos in Bologna

What’s your favourite Italian city?

Bologna
Bologna

Falling in love is a mysterious process over which we do not have any control. Whether you fall in love with a person, an animal, a book or a city it’s very difficult to explain what was it that attracted you in the first place. My faithful readers know how crazy I am about London but can you guess what’s my favourite Italian city?

I have been fortunate enough to have travelled widely around Italy. I got lost in Venice. I got annoyed by tourists in Florence. I ate chocolate in Turin. I wandered around Milan. I was surprised by Naples. I admired the Pantheon in Rome. And I’ve visited many many other Italian cities and villages. But there’s only one where I can imagine myself living. Only one that stole my heart all those years ago. That city is BOLOGNA. The city famous for its gastronomy and the red roofs and the oldest university in Europe (1088) and the leftist politics.

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Ferarri ISN’T made in Ferrara

It might come to you as a surprise but luxurious Ferrari cars have nothing to do with the town of Ferrara. Ferrari cars are actually made in another Italian town: Maranello. Unlike some other cities (Florence I’m talking about you!), Ferrara is still a peaceful town undisturbed by hordes of tourists. There’s a lunch break for a lot of shops and bars and restaurants which means that if you want to buy something, at let’s say 2 pm, tough luck, the shop will be closed! Italians need their lunch (and afternoon nap!) more than your money.

Where is Ferrara? It’s in the region Emilia-Romagna, some 50 km from Bologna. It’s also 150 km from Florence and 111 km from Venice, if you’re contemplating a day trip. Ferrara is famous for its Renaissance town planning which has earned it a place on UNESCO World Heritage List.

What can you see in Ferrara?

Castello Estense: This red brick castle dates from the 14th century and it was once an opulent residence of the noble Este family. It’s right in the center of Ferrara and you can walk freely into it, but if you want to explore its rooms you have to pay an entrance fee. The tourist office, as well as public toilets, are in the castle’s courtyard.

Ferrara

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Easter at home or away?

Easter eggs and Easter chocolate bunnies and spring and cakes and family gatherings are a part of my Easter memories. But I have also travelled during Easter weekend in the past years and have experienced slightly different Easter celebrations.I still fondly remember Easter I spent in England in April 2010. I had Easter lunch in one of the most picturesque English village-Lavenham.  Before the lunch we walked around the tiny but very medieval looking village and took photos of quaint half-timbered wobbly houses.  Then we had our superb Easter lunch at the Swan and enjoyed the piano music. The whole experience was so lovely and so British!:)

Lavenham, England
Lavenham

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Bella Toscana

I’ve been very lucky to have visited Tuscany many, many times. I’ve explored thoroughly Florence and Siena. I’ve walked around Lucca and marvelled at the Leaning Tower in Pisa. I’ve tasted the most delicious olive-oil and wine; ate a lot of excellent pizza and pasta dishes and had numerous ice-creams 🙂 I saw Tuscany’s countryside too and visited hilltop towns Montepulciano and Montalcino and San Gimignano. I spent a couple of lovely hours in Pienza and soaked my tired travelling feet in the thermal water of Bagno Vignoni. This region is truly as beautiful as in the paintings.

Let me take you on a photo tour of one of the most beautiful regions in the world:

Montepulciano

Montalcino
Montalcino

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