Greetings from Italy!

Casalinga Cooking
Italian Fashion


Many people pass through the spotless city of Bologna on their way elsewhere, which is a shame – we think it merits a stop of at least a day. Sometimes called “Bologna the fat,” this city is a great place to indulge yourself: Many consider it to be the gastronomic capital of Italy. Local specialties include tagliatelle, the Bolognese meat sauce called ragu and handmade tortellini. And, yes, the bologna in the sandwiches of your youth was a descendant of a local delicacy, mortadella. Perhaps because of the university, Bologna is a convivial city and has much to offer in the way of nightlife. We particularly like the wine bars called cantine. Most have simple wooden tables, occasional live music, light snacks and fine wine lists. Some of the oldest cantine in Italy are to be found in Bologna, some dating to the 13th century. 65 mi/105 km north of Florence.


Assisi is a well-preserved medieval town that’s, after the Vatican, Italy’s second most-popular religious-pilgrimage destination. Located high on a hilltop, it has an air of mystical serenity in keeping with its history. Assisi was the home of St. Francis (the founder of the Franciscan order of friars), and the churches and crypt that bear his name draw a steady stream of pilgrims and sightseers every year. Although the town was rocked by an earthquake in 1997, much of the damage has been repaired. One of the most severely damaged buildings, however, was the treasured Basilica of San Francesco, known for its vivid frescoes by Giotto that depict the life of the saint. The upper basilica has recently reopened and, though restoration continues, many of the beloved frescoes can be admired again. The lower basilica and St. Francis’ tomb are also open to the public. 108 mi/174 km north of Rome.


The churches and their works of art are what keep this Tuscan hill town on the map: the Basilica San Francesco with Piero della Francesca’s magnificent fresco cycle, The Legend of the True Cross, painted in the 1400s; the Church of San Domenico and Cimabue’s 13th-century Crucifixion; and the Romanesque Pieve di Santa Maria with its bell tower – an emblem for the city – that has 40 windows. Arezzo also has several fine museums, among them the Museo Archeologico (located in an old monastery), the home of architect and artist Vasari and the Medieval and Modern Art Museum. Tired of refined culture? Attend the fun antique fair in Piazza Grande, held the first Sunday of the month. For a less commercialized version of Siena’s Palio horse race, attend the Giostra di Saraceno, a medieval-style tournament fought by lancers on horseback (the first Sunday in September). The giant Medici fortress overlooking town – Fortezza Medicea – is open for tours. 52 mi/85 km southeast of Florence.

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