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Italy: Venice, Florence, Rome

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Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy
I had been skeptical of the Venetian gondola ride, thinking it too touristy and overpriced. Last summer, however, I discovered what is so special about this Venetian tradition. A gondola ride provides a unique view of Venice from the quiet...
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Piazza degli Zingari, 4, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
A 10-minute walk from the Forum, Gelateria Fatamorgana sells Maria Spagnuolo’s edible works of art. Each flavor is made from all natural ingredients, without chemical additives or artificial flavors, and many are lactose free. Spagnuolo’s...
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Piazza della Minerva, 42, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Just behind the Pantheon hides the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, a gem in its own right. The only Gothic church in Rome's center, it's a breath of fresh air from over-the-top Baroque opulence. Plus, it has gorgeous frescoes by Filippo Lippi...
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Via Caio Cestio, 6, 00153 Roma RM, Italy
One of our family favorite activities on a Sunday afternoon in Rome is a wander in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Testaccio. We particularly love it in winter. I know, it is more picturesque and colorful in the spring and early summer, but even on...
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Piazzale Napoleone I, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
Encompassing early 200 acres of rolling parkland, Villa Borghese is Rome's verdant heart and everyone's favorite place for an afternoon walk. The vast gardens are criss-crossed with picturesque paths, where visitors can meander past ancient...
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Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy
There are so many major sights to see in Rome that it is easy to get caught up in hurrying from tourist option A to Z! We hurried along with the best of them, but the favorite part of our time in the city was walking the neighborhoods in the...
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The Ponte dell'Accademia is one of four bridges that span the Grand Canal, and will get you quickly from San Marco to the labyrinthine Dorsoduro neighborhood. Originally built in 1854 out of steel, the current wooden bridge was built in the 1930s...
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Piazza San Marco, 1, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
The Ponte dei Sospiri was given its English name by part-time Venice resident Lord Byron, who wrote in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage: "I stood in Venice on a Bridge of Sighs, a palace and a prison on each hand." Byron's travelogue nails it: When you...
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Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy
Near the base of the landmark Rialto Bridge, the historic Rialto Market is well worth a wander. Seek it out in the early morning when it provides an authentic local experience (and awesome social-media ops), with fishmongers hawking their fresh...
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Piazza San Marco, 328, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy
The Basilica San Marco is Venice's crown jewel. Situated at the eastern end of Piazza San Marco, the cathedral was built around 1078 on the site of an earlier house of worship. It is famously the home of the remains of the apostle Mark, which were...
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Dorsoduro, 701-704, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
There's plenty of art in Venice, from the churches to the Scuoli to the Accademia. But when you just can't look at another Caravaggio, and even Titian hair doesn't move you any more, refresh yourself with a visit to Peggy's house. The renowned...
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Piazza San Marco, 1, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
This pink-marble waterfront edifice in Piazza San Marco dates back to the 14th century, when it was the residence and seat of government for the doges (rulers) of Venice. Today the ornate Byzantine- and Moorish-influenced Gothic Palazzo Ducale is...
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The Gallerie dell'Accademia is the place to see Venice through the eyes of centuries of famous Venetians. The museum has a huge collection of paintings from the Byzantine and Gothic eras through the Renaissance and into the 18th century (including...
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Piazza San Marco, 52, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
Few people know about the Museo Correr and yet it is in plain sight within San Marco square. For those looking for quality time within a museum dedicated to the history of Venice - from ships flags, to visiting Popes, books, maps and old coins (to...
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Via del Caravita, 8a, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
While a lot of people would go see the Sistine Chapel when visiting Rome, fewer travelers venture out to this grand church at the Piazza di San Ignacio near the Pantheon, which features an almost equally beautiful painted ceiling done by Andrea...
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Viale della Marina, 40-42, 00122 Lido di Ostia RM, Italy
According to legend, Rome’s first orange tree—St. Dominic’s gift to the pope—was planted in Giardino degli Aranci (Garden of the Oranges) in the 13th century. The secluded park provides a panoramic view of the city, from...
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Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice, 44, 00153 Roma RM, Italy
Arrive at this classic Roman pizzeria before 8pm or be prepared to queue for its scrocchiarella (crispy thin crust) Roman style pizza. Start with a few fritti (fried starters) and a plate of beans, the traditional starters to Roman pizza meals....
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Via dei Santi Quattro, 24, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
This busy pizzeria in the Celio, the neighborhood adjacent to the Colosseum, is decked out in kitschy Roman decor. The dining room resembles a piazza of sorts, surrounded by old school storefronts anchored to the walls. Six nights a week, Li Rioni...
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Piazza Santo Spirito, 8, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
This Santo Spirito classic has two main selling points: Daniele, the barrista, who makes one of the best cappuccinos this side of the river, and the comfortable back room, where you can sit down without having to pay extra. There’s also a...
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Via dei Magazzini, 15r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Florence can be bitterly cold in winter when the northerly wind whistles down from the Alps, setting your teeth chattering and turning your lips blue. A woolly hat can make all the difference, and Cinzia’s shop near the Ponte Vecchio has a great...
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Via delle Porte Sante, 34, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Sitting on a hill just south of the Arno with fabulous views over the city to the hills beyond, this is one of Florence’s most beautiful churches. San Miniato was built in 1015 and has an intricately patterned green-and-white marble façade with a...
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Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Foodies (and those simply interested in local color and a good meal) should head to San Lorenzo and its covered Mercato Centrale. Florence’s main market for edibles is housed in a 19th-century glass-and-iron building. On the...
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Piazza di San Lorenzo, 8, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Hidden away behind the stalls in the San Lorenzo market, Da Sergio turns out wholesome, unpretentious food to locals and tourists. Last time I was here I ordered tortelli di patate (potato-stuffed ravioli) with meat sauce and deep-fried calamari...
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Via dei Neri, 37/r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy
If you can't stand the thought of another plate of ribollita (and it happens to the best of us), this contemporary dim sum restaurant is a good place to come for a cheap lunch: 12 euros will buy you two courses plus unlimited tea and water. The...
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Piazza San Felice, 8r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Rosticcerias normally just offer cooked food-to-go, but this one is also has a basic restaurant space at the back, so you can choose what looks good from the hot food counter and grab a table at the back. The spit-roast chicken with roast potatoes...
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Watching the sun set from one of the bridges that span the Arno in Florence seems to be a popular ritual with both tourists and Florentines. But it's the Ponte San Trinita that seems the bridge that attracts most.
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Piazza S. Lorenzo, 50050 Limite Sull'Arno FI, Italy
Over ten years ago, I took my first trip to Florence. I bought 2 leather jackets there, one of which I still wear regularly today. The other one is in great shape but slightly out of style. So on this recent trip 10+ years later, I was bound and...
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Via Maggio, 47, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
This shop is delightfully curious. The displays mix paper art like collages and laser cut-outs with collections—cameras, desk chairs, or both. There's a wall display of antique Penguin books arranged in a grid to show their stark black and white...
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Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy

I saw this exquisite chalk drawing of Leonardo da Vinci's Lady With An Ermine on the ground in one of the main plazas in Firenze. It started drizzling and I just had to take this photo before the rain washed it away!

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Piazza Santo Spirito, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Florence’s most lively square is dominated by the blank, unfinished facade of Brunelleschi’s last church. Lined with trees and centered around a pretty fountain, the piazza plays host to a small daily market (where local ladies do their shopping)...
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50125, Sdrucciolo de' Pitti, 13/red, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
In Florence's Oltrarno neighborhood, an area known for its craftsmanship, this modern store stands out. Run by a couple, the store is full of fabric and paper goods. There are books covered in silk screen designs, and elegant prints on bags made...
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Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Located on the first floor of the bustling central market, Nerbone’s food stall has been serving up steaming plates of warming nourishment to hungry market workers since 1872 and is a great place to find local color and rock-bottom prices. The...
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Piazza del Campidoglio, 1, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Capitoline Museums house a collection of ancient sculptures in a pair of buildings designed by Michelangelo in the mid-16th century. The architecture on its own is stunning, but add to that brilliant frescoes and museum halls decked out with...
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Piazza Navona, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Even with Segway tours rolling through and street performers loudly competing for audiences, the 15th-century Piazza Navona somehow retains a shred of grace and elegance in modern Rome. Calm Renaissance palazzi face the piazza’s centerpiece,...
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Via di San Gregorio, 30, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Palatine Hill was home to an early Roman settlement and had major significance for the city's history. Legend states that Romulus founded Rome on that hill in 753 B.C.E., and Romans even maintained a cult site sacred to the founding father for...
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Piazza della Rotonda, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
This 1st-century wonder will take your breath away. Not only is it one of the city's most ancient sites, it's been in continuous use for centuries. Originally built as a private temple, today it is a Catholic church and the resting place of...
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00186 Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy
The Roman Forum is where ancient Rome began. The sprawling archaeological park gives us just a hint of what the Roman Empire once was—a dominant and diverse society. The Forum itself was the political, social, religious, and commercial focal...
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Sestiere di S. Marco, 2603, 30124 Venezia VE, Italy
Venice's Museo della Musica in the Church of San Maurizi is an homage to the Italian art of making string instruments. The small exhibition highlights Venice's golden age of string instrument making. Visitors experience the sounds of instruments...
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Via della Vite, 102, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Anglo American Book Co. is my best source for English-language books in Rome. They have an amazing inventory of beautiful books on the city. 39/06-679-5222. By Pepi Marchetti Franchi, as told to Elizabeth Minchilli. This appeared in the...
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Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy
If there is one person responsible for the relatively recent improvement of Rome’s gelato culture, it is Claudio Torcè. He has trained some of Rome’s premier gelatai (Maria Spagnuolo of Fatamorgana and the Gori siblings, to name a few) and prides...
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Via Laurina, 10, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Take a break from shopping or strolling between the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo to try some of Rome (therefore the world's) best artisanal gelato made with all-natural ingredients. Many flavors are seasonal, but you will always find a...
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Via dei Chiavari, 37, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
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Via della Meloria, 43, 00136 Roma RM, Italy
Gabriele Bonci's famous pizza-by-the-slice joint serves some of the best pizza in town. The slow-leavened dough is made from organic stoneground flour, and toppings change throughout the day. Pizzarium also sells excellent bread and supplì (fried...
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Foro Traiano, 82, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
In spite of its reputation as a city of local, seasonal dining, these characteristics of Roman cuisine are actually under threat and in widespread decline. For this reason, the government has stepped in with the hopes of saving local farms and...
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When it comes to ice cream, there is still only one place in Rome. It has been the best since 1900. I love Giolitti not only for the great gelato, but also because it hasn’t changed since I was a little girl. 39/06-699-1243. By Pepi Marchetti...
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Vicolo delle Bollette, 13, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Here is one of Rome’s best restaurants: Al Moro is very traditional and is well known for the quality of its seasonal ingredients, including porcini mushrooms, wild strawberries, artichokes, and asparagus. 39/06-678-3495. By Pepi Marchetti...
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Via Borgognona, 11, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
I often take out-of-town guests here for lunch because it feels—and is—so authentic. Whenever I go in, I have ‘my’ table, as do all the other Roman regulars. One of the restaurant’s specialties is the Francovich soup, which is a delicious Tuscan...
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Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, 2, 00187 Roma RM, Italy
Ciampini has all the required three Ps (that's a thing, right?): People-watching, prime piazza location, and perfect cappuccini to make it the most coveted caffè bar in Rome. From 8 a.m. to after dark, Rome's best-dressed flock to Piazza...
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Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2804, 30121 Cannaregio, Venezia VE, Italy
Since 1930, the Marchi family has been importing rich, dark coffee beans from all over the world and roasting them in their quaint coffee shop in Venice's Cannaregio neighborhood. You can come in to shop for kilos of their black gold, which they...
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Sestiere Dorsoduro, 2963, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
The earliest records of this coffeehouse's existence state that it opened sometime in the early 19th century. In the 20th century, the place hummed with the presence of painters, writers, and artists of every persuasion. Today, like most of Venice...
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Dorsoduro, 853A, 30123 Venezia VE, Italy
Bars like Gino's in the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice are the kind of Italian institutions that I hope never go away. It's what you might call an Italian sports bar, with daily newspapers hanging about and a loyal local following that can be...
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Fondamenta Nani, 992, 30123 Dorsoduro, Venezia VE, Italy
If you are in Venice, you will surely get familiar with local spritz (a fizzy, refreshing aperitif) and cicchetti, or small snacks. If you want to have a local experience, be sure to stop by Cantine del Vino Già Schiavi while walking around La...
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Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA, USA
In Los Angeles, the cliché is that people drive one block to get a soda. But there are lots of staircases hidden in the hills of L.A. In Silver Lake, I like a two-and-a-half mile loop of stairs known as the Music Box. Parts remind me of...
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Ko Phi Phi Don, Ao Nang, Mueang Krabi District, Krabi, Thailand
For about $13 you can jump on a long-tail boat leaving from the main beach of Phi Phi Don and spend the afternoon island hopping. There are multiple tour companies, most offering a visit to Monkey Island, Viking Caves, Pileh Bay, and Maya Island...
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San Pedro, Belize
Belize by far as the most amazingly crystal clear blue water and breathtaking aquatic life in the most swim-able stretch of ocean I have ever encountered. Home to the second largest barrier reef in the world, it is no wonder that scuba divers and...
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Ambergris Caye, Belize
Rent a golf cart in San Pedro, grab a towel, and head off on a day of adventure. Locals will likely send you to the island's "Secret Beach" when asked where to head for a quiet day on some pristine sand. Bring a map and $10 Belizean ($5 U.S.) to...
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Financial District, New York, NY, USA
Governor's Island in the East River, just 1 km from Manhattan, is an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Catch the free ferry from downtown near Battery Park and enjoy gorgeous views of the city, car-free bike roads, picnics and...
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The trees look as if they have plotted a slow attack to take over the road. Vines hang down trying to slyly block my way and hinder my vision. The road isn’t straight nor does it have any defined shoulders or boundaries. The asphalt is laid around...
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California, USA
Elk Meadow Cabins offers a peaceful immersion within Redwood National Park, complete with near-daily sightings of local Roosevelt elk throughout the meadowy grounds. Guests have direct access to park trails that lead to the world's tallest trees,...