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Places I've lived: Italy

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53037 San Gimignano, Province of Siena, Italy
Piazzas are where Italians go to watch and be watched, due to their aesthetic ideal of "fare bella figure." This translates literally into "make beautiful figure," but really just means they feel the need to make a good impression. Families...
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piazza del campo 3/4, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
In the great rivalry between Florence and Siena, even passionate Florentines will likely concede that when it comes to sweets, Siena has the edge. Many of the signature desserts have their roots in the town’s ancient monasteries and...
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Piazza della Repubblica, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
The Piazza Della Repubblica was the place to be in Florence in the evenings. Tourists and locals alike dined at the restaurants lining the square, student groups gathered, families enjoyed the Carousel, and gypsies and other migrants tried to sell...
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Via Santa Margherita, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
"Loda di Dio vera," Dante called Beatrice in the Divine Comedy: "True glory of God." Dante Alighieri wrote about Beatrice Portinari as his divine inspiration; if you have ever felt inspired to write to Beatrice, the Chiesa di Dante is for you. One...
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Piazza Santo Spirito, 9, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Once home to the Medici princes, Palazzo Pitti is now our portal to Renaissance Florence. It is divided into six sections and, after three visits, I still cannot choose a favorite. The left wing is comprised of the Royal Apartments—a section that...
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Borgo degli Albizi, 11r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
If you love gelato and chocolate, no place will romance you quite like Vestri. Before you know what's inside, you'll be drawn in by the antique and elegant exterior and by the shiny packages peeking out. Inside, the small shop's allure consists of...
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Piazza di Santa Croce, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
I studied abroad in Italy and, since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, my friends and I dove right into Christmas as soon as November came around. I listened to my professor sing in a choir for a Christmas concert, attended the magical tree...
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Via Campo di Marte, 134, 06124 Perugia PG, Italy
Perugia, home to Perugina chocolates like Baci (chocolate "kisses" with hazelnut bits that come in starry wrappers with love sayings in several languages), is also home to Eurochocolate, Europe's largest chocolate festival. For nine days every...
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Piazza S. Croce, 16, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
The Franciscan Basilica di Santa Croce, with its striped green-and-white marble facade, dates from about 1294. Inside are the tombs of many celebrated early Florentines, including Dante, Michelangelo and Machiavelli. Among the many art treasures...
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Via Guido da Polenta, 6, 48121 Ravenna RA, Italy
In the Divina Commedia (originally just Commedia), Dante wrote a prophesy of his exile—an exile that had already occurred. In 1301, Dante went to Rome to see the pope as part of a delegation of the political group the White Guelphs. While he was...
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Viale Miramare, 34151 Trieste TS, Italy
The starkly whitewashed Castello di Miramare perches on the tip of a promontory just north of Trieste, its wedding-cake façade glistening against sea and sky. The castle was built for Archduke Maximilian (brother of the Hapsburg emperor Franz...
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Giudecca, 810, 30133 Venezia VE, Italy
In Venice, it's hard to get a moment alone with a loved one or even with the city herself. The crowds of tourists reaching over your shoulder to snap shaky photos of the aged Rialto can become a nuisance as you try to realize the historical...
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Via della Giudecca, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy
Stumbling across a place and people whilst on your travels is one of the major drawcards that keep the travel bug alive. This was one such moment. Walking the old streets of Ortigia, we came across Laborotorio Pupi, run by the Vaccaro-Maurceri...
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33010 Venzone UD, Italy
Every October, the Festa della Zucca takes place in Venzone, a tiny, medieval-walled town in northeastern Italy. Although pumpkins may be the most familiar squash, gourds of all shapes, colors, and sizes are featured in this festival of food, art,...
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06038 Spello PG, Italy
The Spellani claim that their olive oil is the best in the world. The hills that surround the town are the perfect elevation, and perhaps their trees are just charmed, but one thing is for sure—the people of Spello sure love their olive oil. They...
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55047 Malbacco LU, Italy
Halfway between tourist hot spots Cinque Terre and Pisa, Malbacco's freshwater ponds are Tuscany's best-kept secret. Shaded by towering pines and refreshed by cool mountain stream waters, this series of ponds is a welcome respite from the hottest...
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Via Civita, 28, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
I cannot recommend this hotel experience enough. Matera, the former cave-dweller's town, is really brought to life through this "Albergo Diffuso", literally "diffused lodgings", a series of original cave-dwellings that have been abandoned and now...
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06031 Bevagna, Province of Perugia, Italy
Wander the cobblestone streets of this medieval Italian city and tour the workshops of traditional craftspeople like paper-makers, candle-makers and weavers. Hand-dipped candles, as well as artisan-quality paper and fabrics make great gifts and...
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Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy
Food in Italy is still largely about seasonality, and never more so than in late fall when the new olive oil (‘olio nuovo’) begins to arrive in the shops. Take a drive into the Tuscan countryside anytime between late October and December and you...
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55100 Lucca, Province of Lucca, Italy
If you happen to find yourself in Lucca on the third weekend of the month, you can’t fail to miss Tuscany’s second biggest antique market, a favorite with both vendors and visitors thanks to its setting among the town’s lovely old piazzas and...
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Loc. Calzaiolo, Via del Masso 14, 50026 San Casciano in Val di Pesa FI, Italy
One of the most memorable (and unusual) ways to see Chianti is from the basket of a hot-air balloon. To catch the best weather conditions, flights take off just after dawn and last from 45 to 90 minutes, during which you will glide silently over...
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Via Lando di Duccio, 5, 53040 Montefollonico SI, Italy
I stumbled upon 13 Gobbi quite by accident and, like so many other meals in Italy, left completely elated by the serendipity of it all. But, unlike some other Italian meals I've enjoyed in my travels, I left leaving a piece of my heart in the...
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The Milan Cathedral, or Duomo, occupies a site that’s been holy since the time of the Romans, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century when the finishing touches were finally placed on this massive building. The Duomo is the fifth largest...
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56028 San Miniato PI, Italy
Some say that in 1954, in the woods of the Medieval town of San Miniato, someone found a 5.5 pound tartufo bianco (white truffle)—the largest truffle ever found. Regardless of whether or not this is true, the little Tuscan town set between the...
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Viale Te, 13, 46100 Mantova MN, Italy
Mantova may sound familiar. It's where Romeo was exiled from fair Verona in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It may not sound like an obvious choice as an artistic hidden gem, but when Shakespeare wrote his play Mantua was a swamp land. The Palazzo...
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Il Campo, 21, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
Fonte Gaia was named joyous because the fountain was met with joy upon its construction, and it continues to bring joy. Its water is not only gorgeous, but also thirst-quenching to locals and tourists alike who stoop down to drink from the sides...
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Via delle Porte Sante, 34, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
The 4th century church of San Miniato al Monte is named after San Miniato, the first Christian martyr in Florence, and its location atop a monte, or hill. Most tourists in Florence trek up the steps to Piazzale Michelangelo for a gorgeous view,...
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Piazza Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
You will likely see Bronzino's famous portrait of Eleonora (or Eleanor) de Toledo, in the Uffizi, during your visit to Florence. The Spanish noblewoman who became the duchess of Florence in 1539 when she married Cosimo I de' Medici was unusual for...
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Piazza della Santissima Annunziata, 9b, 50121 Firenze FI, Italy
If you are sick of the terribly long lines for some of Florence's top destinations the Archaeological Museum is a great alternative. The museum is being expanded and renovated but both old and new exhibits are compelling. The collection is good,...
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Borgo degli Albizi, 68/r, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
The Maestri di Fabbrica, or the Manufacturing Masters, store in Florence seeks to bring back quality artisanal crafts the way they used to be made. The store, located in an old Florentine house adorned with frescoes. boasts five sections: body...
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One day when my boyfriend and I spent hours bent over picking garlic flowers in the sun while WWOOFing (volunteering at an organic farm in exchange for room and board), the heat got the best of us and we begged the family to take us swimming. We...
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Via Zamboni, 33, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
The Museo di Palazzo Poggi, aka The Ulisse Aldrovandi Museum, is a museum of oddities collected by Ulisse Aldrovandi during the 16th C for his greatest aspiration, to assemble an encyclopedia of all living organisms upon the planet. The objects...
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Via S. Petronio Vecchio, 15, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy
I feel lucky for the Bologna rain that led me to hide under one of the city's many porticoes and run across Lestofante. This little bar is full of color, charm, warmth, and food that is true. The young owners, Nicola and Giulia, use seasonal...
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Via S. Pietro, 29, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
Active from the 13th to 15th centuries and considered an influence on the pre-Renaissance movement, the Sienese School of painting is identifiable by its themes—always religious, and usually with a focus on Biblical miracles—and its signature...
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Portichetti Fontanelle, 3, 37100 Verona VR, Italy
Up near the Teatro Romano and Castel San Pietro (great view of Verona!), my boyfriend and I found La Fontanina, "the little fountain." Now, I love fountains more than most people—but not as much as I love this restaurant. And the fact that it's...
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Piazzale Castel S. Pietro, 37129 Verona VR, Italy
After having a glorious dinner, my boyfriend and I walked up to Castel San Pietro. The beautiful fortress, built in 1398 and once used for military purposes due to the convenience it provided in controlling the city, provides a stunning view of...
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Piazza del Duomo, 8, 53100 Siena SI, Italy
During my visit to the Cathedral of Siena, I learned that in 1339, a project began to expand the church, but the Black Death and some structural defects led to its suspension. The remains of the development are called the New Cathedral and include...
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Piazza Erbe, 10, 37121 Verona VR, Italy
The 12th century Lamberti Tower in Piazza delle Erbe rises 84 meters over Verona. It, like all other towers at the time, used to flaunt the wealth of the family it was built for. When I climbed it (relaxedly, in an elevator), it flaunted the...
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Via Cengia, 67, 37029 Cengia VR, Italy
Twenty minutes from the center of Verona lies its mountainous wine region, Valpolicella. Valpolicella is known for its Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Valpolicella Ripasso, and, above all, its Amarone. Amarone is a ruby wine, typically of full,...
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50014 Fiesole FI, Italy
Twice I've made day trips to Fiesole, the little hilly town five miles from Florence. Five years ago, I went with my Nonna (literally "grandmother," but really the name I call my host mom from my semester in Italy) and my roommate/best friend. One...
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Viale Alberto Bolla, 9, 37029 San Pietro In Cariano VR, Italy
Twenty minutes from the center of Verona lies its mountainous wine region, Valpolicella, "Valley of the Many Cellars." It's known, above all, for its Amarone. Amarone is a ruby wine, typically of full, velvety mouthfeel, that uses three times as...
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Via Fontana, 14, 37029 San Pietro In Cariano VR, Italy
Twenty minutes from the center of Verona lies its mountainous wine region, Valpolicella, "Valley of the Many Cellars." It's known, above all, for its Amarone. Amarone is a ruby wine, typically of full, velvety mouthfeel, that uses three times as...
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Via Stazione Vecchia, 472, 37015 Sant'Ambrogio di Valpolicella VR, Italy
Twenty minutes from the center of Verona lies its mountainous wine region, Valpolicella, "Valley of the Many Cellars." It's known, above all, for its Amarone. Amarone is a ruby wine, typically of full, velvety mouthfeel, that uses three times as...
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Lungotevere Castello, 50, 00193 Roma RM, Italy
Originally constructed as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in the middle of the 2nd century, the striking circular monument has had many functions over the centuries. Climb to the top and be rewarded with a breathtaking view over Rome. See if you...
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Via della Rocca, 06081 Assisi PG, Italy
For a view of the Medieval town of Assisi (birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi), hike up to Rocca Maggiore. The old castle, which dates back to 1174 or earlier. You can go inside and climb the tower to the top, but if you're on short on time...
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Two years ago, I read "La sombra del viento," a Spanish novel about a boy whose dad owns what he calls the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It's a place where books from closed stores or libraries come to rest until they find someone who loves them to...