Making Sense of Verona’s Walls and Fortifications

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love old walls. I’ve explored walled cities like Girona and Lucca, and I’ve walked the whole 84 miles of England’s Hadrian’s Wall. So I was intrigued to discover that Verona’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site rested...

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Mantua, Renaissance Home of the Gonzagas

Coming into Mantua from the north, the first thing you notice is the three artificial lakes that surround the city. Today they are a pleasure ground, with boat trips, lakeside walks and picnic areas. But they were originally constructed for a quite different purpose:...

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Brescia: An Underrated Tourist Destination

According to my guidebook, Brescia is “disappointing”. But we wanted a day out from Verona, and Brescia was an easy trip by train. So, not knowing quite what to expect, we went anyway, and we were not at all disappointed. We found Roman remains, a UNESCO World...

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The Presepi of Italy: Traditional Christmas Cribs

If you are in Italy at this time of year you will find presepi (nativity scenes) everywhere. Every church or public space will have its own intricately decorated Christmas crib. And in private homes families will be busy building their own cribs, as common in Italy as...

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The Church of the Dead: Purgatorio Ad Arco in Naples

You might not expect a grinning bronze skull to be the first thing that greets you as you approach a church. But look more closely at the façade of Purgatorio ad Arco, in the historic centre of Naples, and you will see dozens of stone skulls, and a few crossbones as...

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Villa Valmanara ai Nani and the Legend of the Dwarves

High on the slopes of Monte Berico, just outside Vicenza, stands the 17th century Villa Valmanara ai Nani. The first thing you will notice when you approach the villa is the stone dwarves (nani) lined up on the walls outside. And of course there is a legend associated...

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