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Padua

Just a few miles west of Venice, extraordinary Padua was one of the locales in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Its beautiful streets hold numerous attractions, including a 13th-century university, what’s thought to be the oldest Italian clock (the 1344 clock tower at Palazzo del Capitano) and various other art-filled, eye-pleasing buildings. If you’ve lost anything, then you’re in the right city: St. Anthony, the saint of lost things, is also the patron saint of Padua. Every 13 June, the saint’s feast day, thousands of pilgrims flock to the 13th-century Basilica di Sant’Antonio to pray for the recovery of whatever they have lost. The grand basilica is noted for its Byzantine influences and eight domes. On the square outside the church, admire Donatello’s equestrian statue of the statesman Gattemelata (the Honeyed Cat). But many art lovers make the trip to Padua just to visit the Scrovegni Chapel with Giotto’s stunning, gemlike frescoes, the most complete medieval fresco series still intact. Padua is best seen as a half-day trip from Venice. 20 mi/30 km west of Venice.

Ferrara

Many of the streets in the walled, picture-perfect city of Ferrara are lined with elegant palaces. Unfortunately, what are perhaps the most beautiful parts of the city – the courtyards and gardens hidden within the palaces – aren’t generally accessible. In the center of town, you can explore a few rooms in the striking Castello Estense, once the home of the Este dynasty, which ruled the city from the 13th to the 16th century. The castle’s moat is intact, water and all, which is somewhat unusual.
You can also visit its prison, where in 1425, Duke Nicolo d’Este had his young second wife and his son beheaded because he found out they were lovers (the story inspired the Browning poem “My Last Duchess”). Nearby is the Duomo, which has a gorgeous and very intricate facade. Our favorite of Ferrara’s several museums is the Pinacoteca Nazionale (with paintings by the Ferrara School of artists). It’s housed in the Palazzo dei Diamanti (Palace of Diamonds), which gets its name from the 12,500 pieces of diamond-shaped marble that make up its facade. Make sure to do as the locals do and take a walk on the stunning ramparts surrounding the city – there are walking paths and even parks with trees up there. 70 mi/112 km southwest of Venice.

Cinque Terre

In northwestern Italy, there resides the region of Liguria, with its famously known city of Genoa. Also hosted in this region is the area of the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, or five lands, was named for the five quaint villages, which have been intricately carved into the cliff-sided hills that rise boldly from the coastal seas below. Italy’s Cinque Terre holds an artistic enticement due to the breathtaking beauty of hills and rugged cliffs overhanging the glistening aqua seas below. Living amongst this spectacular panoramic view, five villages have been designed and orchestrated within the natural landscape cradle. Tourists, to Italy, will be intrigued by the houses, paths of navigation, and scenery making up this natural beauty, which uniqueness has been kept intact by adherence to nautical and agricultural traditions. The chain of villages consists of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Rio Maggiore.

Cinque Terre…

Verona

About midway between Milan and Venice lies Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s plays Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentleman of Verona. As it should be, Verona is one of the most romantic cities in the world. It’s not merely that you’re reminded everywhere of the Shakespeare connection. (The Capulet house, with Juliet’s famed balcony, is a big tourist attraction, though its authenticity is dubious.) It’s not just its gorgeous setting, surrounded by mountains and the River Adige. And neither is it just because of its magnificent Roman ruins and its mellow medieval and Renaissance buildings. Put all these things together, and you get a town that has an incredible amount to recommend it. The city is full of music, and its piazzas and streets are particularly lively during the annual summer opera festival, held during July and August in the Roman Arena. Opera lovers should make this a high priority (but reserve early, a year in advance, if possible). During one visit, we attended a performance of Tosca at the arena one night and a performance of the ballet Romeo and Juliet the next night at the smaller – but equally atmospheric – Roman amphitheater. Verona is 100 mi/164 km east of Milan and 74 mi/120 km west of Venice.

Turin

Italians say that Turin (Torino), the major city of the western Alps and home of automaker Fiat, seems more French than Italian. Its wide boulevards in a grid pattern and its 19th-century architecture do bear more resemblance to Paris than Florence. A stroll about the city center provides architectural enthusiasts examples of Renaissance, baroque, turn-of-the-century and modern buildings. The Museo Egizio, located in the Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze, has one of the finest collections of Egyptian antiquities in the world. Also of note are the Royal Armory (excellent ancient art), the 15th-century Duomo di San Giovanni (home of the Shroud of Turin, which is only on display a few times a decade), the Palatine Gate (built by Emperor Augustus), the Valentino Castle and the Galleria Sabauda (works by Italian and northern European painters). You could also tour one of the car factories or, even better, the great Car Museum. The city has enough of interest to justify a one-night stay, but no more. 80 mi/120 km southwest of Milan.

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