The Bits of Pisa that Most Tourists Miss

Pisa is full of tourists, but most of them seem to be clustered in one spot. In front of the Leaning Tower, capturing a selfie or photographing their friends as they pretend to prop up the tower. But, as we discovered during a recent autumn visit, there is much more...

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A Peaceful Interlude at Pisa’s Botanic Gardens

Even at the end of October Pisa is hot and packed with tourists. But the Botanic Gardens were cool and shady, and we had the place to ourselves. A Garden of Simples I’d been wanting to visit these gardens for years. Founded in 1543 as a ‘Garden of Simples’, or...

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Walking the Walls of Lucca

I’ve spent a lot of time walking round old city walls this year. York, Londonderry and now Lucca, a small Tuscan town just a half hour train ride from Pisa. All interesting in their different ways, but the walls of Lucca (celebrating their 500th anniversary this year)...

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Tivoli’s Historic Villas

Nestling in the Tiburtine hills, around 30 km from Rome, since classical times Tivoli has been a favoured summer retreat for people wishing to escape the heat of the city. Many villas were built by prominent Roman citizens including the Emperor Hadrian and the poet...

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Byzantine Mosaics of Ravenna

Ravenna in northern Italy played a crucial part in western civilisation during the 5th and 6th centuries, first as the capital of the Western Roman Empire (from 402 until the fall of the empire in 476) and then as a centre of the Ostrogoth empire under King Theodoric....

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Searching for Romeo in Verona

As everyone knows, Romeo and Juliet lived in Verona. Or did they? In fact, the evidence is slim, but this does not deter the Veronese, whose city is home to a thriving "Juliet industry".It was common for writers in 16th century England to set their tales in Italy, and...

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A Visit to Capri

We hadn't been planning to visit Capri, but there was a boat preparing to go, so we thought, why not? I'd only ever thought of the island as a vast rock rising up from the Bay of Naples but, I reasoned, there must be something of interest to have attracted so many...

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Why I was Wrong About Naples

In all the years I’ve been going to Italy, I’ve always refused to go to Naples. "See Naples and die," they say, and I’d taken it to heart, being sure that it was a hotbed of crime and corruption, with filthy streets, and that there was nothing to see anyway. I...

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