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Things to Do in Italy - page 4

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Arezzo Piazza Grande
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5 Tours and Activities

The oldest square in the Tuscan city of Arezzo has the appropriate name of Piazza Grande. Dating back to the Medieval era, the piazza was once the site of the city's main market. Today, it plays host to the monthly antiques market that is one of the largest in Italy. It's also where the annual Joust of the Saracen is held.

Notable buildings surrounding the Piazza Grande include the 14th-century Fraternita dei Laici palazzo, a loggia designed by Giogio Vasari, a 13th-century Episcopal Palace, and part of the 13th-century Romanesque Apse of Santa Maria della Pieve.

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Paper Museum (Museo della Carta)
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For centuries, Amalfi was one of the most important producers of paper in Europe, and water-powered paper mills lined the river running through the center of town. See how these ingenious mills worked and learn about the history and production of Amalfi’s prestigious paper at the Paper Museum, located in a fully functioning historic mill.

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Parmesan Cheese Museum (Museo del Parmigiano Reggiano)
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Parmesan cheese, officially known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, has been handcrafted in a specific area between the northern provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia for centuries. Learn about the history and production of this famously sharp aged cheese, one of the pillars of Italian cuisine, at this small museum just outside of Parma.

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Trullo Sovrano
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The only trullo built on two levels in the UNESCO-listed village of Alberobello, the Trullo Sovrano is one of the most striking examples of the unique stone dwellings with conical roofs. Learn what it might have been like to live in one as you explore the re-created period living area, kitchen, and bedroom inside.

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Archaeological Park of Paestum (Parco Archeologico di Paestum)
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From Rome’s Coliseum to the mighty city of Pompeii, Italy might be most famous for its Roman ruins, but the Archaeological Park of Paestum (Parco Archeologico di Paestum) dates back even earlier. The ancient Greek city of Poseidonia was founded in 600 B.C. and conquered by the Romans in 273 B.C., when it became Paestum, and the impressively preserved ruins offer a unique glimpse into Italy’s Greco-Roman roots.

The most memorable remains of Paestum are a trio of remarkably preserved Greek Temples – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Athena – while additional highlights include part of a Roman Forum and amphitheater, and the Heroon tomb. There’s also an archaeological museum on-site displaying a sizable collection of sculptures, paintings and artifacts, most notably the famous fresco from the 'Tomb of the Diver'.

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Brolio Castle (Castello di Brolio)
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Perched high above Chianti wine country, Brolio Castle (Castello di Brolio) is one of the most impressive defensive castles that once guarded Gaiole in Chianti, a sleepy hilltown with an important medieval past. The castle has been owned since the 12th century by the Ricasoli family, which has a long and prestigious history of winemaking.

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Montecassino Abbey (Abbazia di Montecassino)
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The Abbey of Montecassino is one of the most famous abbeys on earth, due in part to its rich history of destruction and recovery. This incredible mountain monastery was founded by Saint Benedict in 529 and served as a reminder to locals and travelers alike of the power or prayer.

Today, thousands of religious pilgrims make their way to Motecassino Abbey, where they take part in holy services, wander the cloisters and absorb the beauty of the abbey’s golden mosaics. A museum on the grounds showcases paintings, manuscripts and historic texts, as well as the story of the abbey told through images.

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Prato della Valle
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The largest public square in Italy is in the city of Padua, although Prato della Valle is much more of an oval than a proper square. The huge space of more than 96,800 square feet (9,000 square meters) has an island in the middle that's surrounded by a canal that has rows of statues on either side. This was once a swampy area, but in the late 18th century, a drainage system was installed and the piazza took on its present look.

There are 78 statues in the Prato della Valle set in two rings, including one dedicated to the man whose idea it was to drain the swamp and build the piazza. There are bridges over the canal so people can walk to the island – Isola Memmia. It's often the site of local festivals.

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Scicli
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One of Sicily’s prettiest baroque cities (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site besides), Scicli is rich in elegant architecture, religious landmarks, and charming restaurants and cafés. The city’s hilltop San Matteo Church is its most recognizable monument, and other popular attractions range from its grand town hall to pretty palazzi.

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Pienza
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57 Tours and Activities

UNESCO-listed Pienza was little more than a sleepy hamlet until the reign of Pope Pius II in the first half of the fifteenth century. Pienza, then called Corsignano, was the pope’s home town, and he enlisted the help of architect Bernardo Rossellino to transform the village into an ideal Renaissance town. The reconstruction began in 1459 and only lasted four years, but the result has put Pienza on the radar of many a traveler to Tuscany.

The town’s historic center offers excellent examples of Renaissance architecture, particularly the cathedral, Palazzo Piccolomimi and Palazzo Borgia, all flanking charming Piazza Pio II. While it’s easy to breeze through the tiny town — it only takes five minutes to walk from one side to the other — it’s also an inviting place to savor a local specialty, sheep’s milk pecorino cheese with a bit of honey drizzled over the top.

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More Things to Do in Italy

Fontana Maggiore

Fontana Maggiore

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The 13th-century Fontana Maggiore is undoubtedly the main attraction in Piazza IV Novembre and not only because of its size. The huge area was built in the late 1270s and sits in a prominent location between Perugia's cathedral and the Palazzo dei Priori. It was sculpted by a father-son team from pink and white marble. They depicted scenes from the Old Testament, legends about the founding of Perugia, as well as symbols of the city.

The construction of the fountain was part of a host of city-wide renovations marking Perugia's becoming autonomous, which is why many of the symbols on the fountain promote civic pride. The piazza itself is named for the day World War I ended in Italy.

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Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)

Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)

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Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco) is a medieval fortress built by the Visconti dynasty that became home to Milan’s ruling Sforza family in 1450. Stark and domineering, the historic brick castle has massive round battlements, an imposing tower overlooking the central courtyard and surrounding Parco Sempione gardens, and defensive walls designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Today the castle houses a number of world-class museums and galleries.

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Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

Ferrari Museum (Museo Ferrari)

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The most evocative name in Italian sports cars is Ferrari, and this dedicated museum in Maranello, Italy, focuses on the auto manufacturer’s history and production. It features 25 cars, including road cars and prototypes, a section devoted to the historic Formula 1 racing team, and fascinating automotive artifacts and memorabilia.

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National Museum of the Automobile (Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile)

National Museum of the Automobile (Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile)

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Turin is headquarters to Fiat and Alfa Romeo, so it's only fitting that the city is home to the National Museum of the Automobile (Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile), as well. With one of the largest collections of cars on display in Europe, this museum is a mecca for antique car enthusiasts as well as those interested in prototypes for cars of the future.

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Piazza delle Erbe

Piazza delle Erbe

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Piazza delle Erbe is the beating heart of Mantua’s elegant Renaissance historic center. It is also home to three of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed city’s most famous monuments: the 13th-century civic hall, Palazzo della Ragione; Bartolomeo Manfredi’s 15th-century clock tower; and the 11th-century Rotonda di San Lorenzo, the city’s oldest church.

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Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani)

Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani)

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This stunning example of 12 and 13th century religious architecture is one of the most-prized landmarks in all of Messina. That’s because a 1908 earthquake leveled much of the city but let this prestigious structure untouched. Today, Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani) is used as a church for the nearby University, but travelers can still visit the place and take in much of its original splendor.

From the western entrance, travelers will find three ancient doors that decorate a remarkably well-preserved façade. Once inside, they’ll be greeted by towering Corinthian columns in yellow, white and red stone. An iconic statue of Don Juan of Austria—with his foot standing atop the head of Ali Bassa, an Ottoman leader—is located towards the rear of the church.

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Piazza de Ferrari

Piazza de Ferrari

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Piazza de Ferrari is the expansive main square in Genoa, separating the historic district from the modern city center. Its large fountain is the square’s centerpiece and a central meeting point for tourists and locals alike. The piazza is named for Raffaele de Ferrari, who donated a lot of money to help expand Genoa’s port in the 1800s.

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Piazza delle Erbe

Piazza delle Erbe

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Translating to Square of Herbs, Verona's Piazza delle Erbe is the city's central square and host to the local market. It has been the center of political and economic life in Verona for centuries. It was also once the site of a Roman forum. The 272-foot Tower Lamberti, the tallest tower in Verona, stands in the piazza topped by an octagon-shaped structure that holds the 1464 Rengo and Marangona bells. Palazzo Commune, Verona's town hall building, is also located here. It was built in the Middle Ages, but renovations in the 19th century added a neoclassical facade.

Also located in Piazza delle Erbe is Torre Gardello, which was built in 1370 but not finished until 1626. Palazzo Mafei is a Baroque building on top of which are sculptures of the gods Jupiter, Venus, Apollo, Hercules and Minerva. The most popular attraction in the square is the 14th-century Madonna Verona Fountain, also known as the Virgin of Verona.

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Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)

Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)

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The Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina), part of Rome’s Vatican Museums, was decorated by art masters Sandro Botticelli and Pinturicchio in the 15th century before being completed with Michelangelo’s stunning 16th-century ceilings frescoes and monumental “The Last Judgement,” which covers the apse wall. The fresco-covered ceiling is the artist’s greatest work and one of the most important masterpieces in history, while the Sistine Chapel serves as a glorious homage to Renaissance art and one of the most visited sights in all of Italy.

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Trulli of Alberobello World Heritage Site (Trulli di Alberobello)

Trulli of Alberobello World Heritage Site (Trulli di Alberobello)

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Feel like you’ve been dropped into a gnome village with a visit to Alberobello, one of the most unique towns in Italy and home to over 1,000 roundtrulli, fairy-tale-like whitewashed cottages topped with conical roofs. The trulli of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a top destination in Puglia’s Itria Valley and a must for photographers.

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Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta)

Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta)

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William Shakespeare put Verona on the map for the English-speaking world, setting his tale of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet in this northern Italian city. The Bard’s timeless story has inspired a steady flow of romantics to visit Juliet’s House, or Casa di Giulietta, as Verona’s 13th-century palazzo of the Dal Cappello family is now known. Though Romeo and Juliet were almost certainly figments of Shakespeare’s imagination and the famous balcony where Juliet is said to have gazed down at Romeo was added centuries after the love story was written, the romance of Juliet’s House transcends fact or fiction.

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Lake Garda (Lago di Garda)

Lake Garda (Lago di Garda)

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Italy’s Amalfi Coast may be the capital of la dolce vita, but Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) has its own brand of effortless elegance that has attracted celebrities and artists for centuries. Ringed by steep alpine foothills, tiny spa towns, and vineyards, the lake offers a heady mix of languid leisure and cosmopolitan flair.

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Piazza Castello

Piazza Castello

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To stroll through Turin’s Piazza Castello is to walk through the city’s history, as this vast square is home to sumptuous buildings like the Savoy Royal Palace and Palazzo Madama, the first seat of the Italian parliament. Lined with elegant porticoes, shops, and cafés, the square is a highlight of this vibrant city.

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Piazza & Fontana Pretoria

Piazza & Fontana Pretoria

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Palermo’s most famous piazza, the Piazza Pretoria, is just a few steps from the busy Quattro Canti - but a world away in terms of the kind of piazza experience it delivers.

The centerpiece of the Piazza Pretoria is the fountain, known as the Fontana Pretoria. It’s huge, designed in the 1550s by a sculptor from Florence named Camilliani. The fountain was originally commissioned for a private villa in Tuscany, but was gifted to the city of Palermo in 1574. City officials had razed several homes to make way for a grand fountain, meant to show off Palermo’s impressive city plumbing, but locals weren’t quite prepared for the fountain’s decorations when it was unveiled.

There are 16 figures on the Fontana Pretoria, all of which are entirely or partially nude, that circle the fountain. There is no side from which you can simply enjoy the water itself without seeing a nude statue - which many Palermitans in the late 16th century found scandalous. There are two churches facing the Piazza Pretoria - Santa Caterina and San Giuseppe dei Teatini - which may have added to the perceived inappropriate nature of the fountain’s decor.

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