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What Italy Attractions Do You Need to Book in Advance?

roman colosseum picture, exterior

Most of Italy's attractions and museums can be visited without advance reservations but some require reservations and some you'll want to book in advance to avoid the long lines. Here's how to buy tickets ahead for these top sights.

What to See in Italy's Top Cities
Italy Travel Spotlight10

Painting Vacation in Italy

Monday April 14, 2014

art-studio.jpgTaking cooking classes in Italy is very popular but how about taking a painting class in the country known for its great art? You can learn to paint on your Italian vacation at La Goccia Bed and Art Studio, in a small hill town in the countryside south of Bologna. Courses, from 2 to 6 days, are designed for 1 or 2 people and include accommodation in a comfortable bedroom in the studio, breakfast, and use of the kitchen. Irma, the instructor, is offering a 10% discount for classes in June or September - see details or sign up at Italian Decor Art Classes.

More Classes: Learn to Cook in Italy

Italian Decor Art photo by James Martin

The Seaside Town of Giovinazzo in Puglia

Wednesday April 9, 2014

giovinazzo puglia photoGiovinazzo, just north of Bari on the coast of southern Italy's Puglia region, is a great place to experience local life. Giovinazzo has a a small medieval center, a large and lively main square ringed with cafes with a park in the center, and a fishing port where you can watch the fishermen bring in their daily catch. There are several good restaurants where you can eat fresh fish and local specialties. The town is on the rail line and it's easy to visit Bari, Trani, and other seaside towns by train. If you have a car, you can explore inland towns too.

You can live like a local by staying in a vacation apartment such as the Duchess Sea House, on the top floor of the historic Palazzo Ducale, overlooking the Cathedral and sea. Giovinazzo is best visited in spring or fall but especially avoid August, when the town sees big crowds. For more information and photos, see A Look at Giovinazzo.

Photo of Giovinazzo Cathedral from terrace of Duchess Sea House by Martha Bakerjian

Where to Stay in San Gimignano, Tuscany

Monday April 7, 2014

We've just returned from a blogger tour with My Tuscan Experience to San Gimignano, one of Tuscany's most popular hill towns. San Gimignano is known for its 14 surviving medieval towers (there were once many more) that dominate its skyline. Because tourists often visit the town on a tour or as a day trip, it's really much nicer to spend the night to enjoy the peaceful evenings or early mornings when it's not so crowded.

san-gimignano-1.jpgWe were hosted in two nice 3-star hotels, both with excellent restaurants. Hotel Bel Soggiorno, in a renovated 13th century building, is on the main street right inside the town walls and has fantastic views of the countryside (shown in the photo) from the dining room and many of its 21 rooms, some of which have a balcony or terrace. Hotel Sovestro is 2 kilometers from town and has swimming pools, free parking, and all rooms come with a balcony or terrace. From Hotel Sovestro it took us less than half an hour to walk to town on a dirt road and there were good views of San Gimignano along the way. Both hotels are comfortable, family-run places and I would be happy to return to either.

San Gimignano also makes a good base for visiting nearby places in Tuscany including Siena and Monteriggioni, the Chianti wine region, and Volterra.

View from Hotel Bel Soggiorno by Martha Bakerjian

Easter Traditions and Events in Umbria

Sunday April 6, 2014

pasqua-058.jpgCentral Italy's Umbria region is a good place to experience traditional events and foods, and that's especially true of holidays like Easter. Events for Easter week take place mainly on Good Friday, with processions or Stations of the Cross, and Easter Sunday, which mainly centers around food. The day after Easter, Pasquetta, is also a holiday in Italy and it's often celebrated by getting away from the cities into the countryside and since Umbria has many parks and natural areas, it has many popular places for the holiday.

Read about top places to go for processions, what to eat on Easter, and where to go for Pasquetta in Umbria Easter Traditions and Events.

More: Easter Week in Italy

Torta di Pasqua photo from Rebecca Winke, used by permission

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