The filigree façade of the Ca’ d’Oro at one of the best-known palazzi at Canal Grande, represents... Venetian ornamented Gothic art at its best. Baron Giorgio Franchetti left the palace together with its great art to the state of Italy in 1916. Besides paintings of the Venetian school of the 15th-17th centuries, the richly adorned and often originally preserved rooms of the palace also show statues, medals, ceramics and bronze works of the Renaissance era. Among the outstanding masterpieces are “St. Sebastian” by Mantegna as well as paintings by the Venetians Antonio Vivarini, Vittore Carpaccio, Tizian, Tintoretto and of the Flemish school, “Venetian Vedute” by Francesco Guardi. Tullio Lombardo’s enchanting “Young Couple” is one of the most important sculpture works at the turn of the 16th century. The partly preserved picture cycles at the outside walls of some Venetian palazzi, such as the Titian at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (1508), are indeed remarkable.more
A sleepy seaside resort back in the early 20th century, Rimini has become the largest tourist center... at the Adriatic by now: huge hotels, fancy discos, traffic-noised sidewalk cafés and pizza places attract tourists, and so do the sun, the sand and the sea. Besides all this highlife, the place also offers cultural sights, such as the Tempio Malatestiano. In the 15th century, Sigismondo Malatesta had the former church of the mendicant order converted into a prestigious burial place for himself. The famous architect Leon Battista Alberti conducted the renovation; Piero della Francesca was in charge of the interior among other things. The historic center is represented by the lively Piazza Cavour with cafés, restaurants, the Palazzo dell’Arengo (13th century), the Palazzo del Podestà (14th century) and the Palazzo Comunale (16th century). The Arco d’Augusto, the oldest triumphal arch of Italy built in the year 27 BC, and the Ponte di Tiberio (21 AD) with its five marble arches are among the contemporary witnesses of the Roman settlement. Children might be more enthusiastic about "Italia in Miniatura", a popular amusement park.more
That Ancona had to suffer severely during the two world wars and the earthquake in 1972 is reflected... by the cityscape, which is dominated by rather functional buildings. However, this does not mean anything; there are enough nice places in Ancona, e.g. the Piazza del Plebiscito, which is embraced by stylish house façades. There is a lot going on in the harbor, which was set up and extended by the Romans beginning in the 4th century. The walls that emperor Trajan had built can still be seen. Another sight, the marble Arch of Trajan (115 AD) at the entrance, reminds of him too. Above the harbor, the oldest part of the city rises with Anconas’s landmark and most beautiful church, Cattedrale di San Ciriaco, a Romanesque-Gothic building with a Byzantine-influenced interior. The Palazzo Ferretti from the 16th century harbors the national museum of the Marches, which gives an insight into the history of the region. The façade of Santa Maria della Piazza, which is partially covered with marble, is worth seeing as well. Some mosaic remains of a former church can be admired inside.more
Not far from Ancona, Loreto is located on a mountain upcountry at the Adriatic. Parts of the city walls... from the 16th century are still preserved. Famous as a pilgrimage city since 1503, it attracts the adorers of the Virgin Mary with its Black Madonna. Consequently, the partner cities of Loreto are called Fátina, Lourdes, Tschenstochau, Mariazell and Altötting. Santa Casa is the alleged birth house of Mary. According to the legend, it was angels who brought the house to this place. An impressive basilica adorned with frescos embraces the holy house. There is a chapel for almost each nation within the walls of the pilgrimage church, each designed by an artist of the respective country. Built in different styles between 1468 and 1587, the church's overall appearance is nevertheless harmonious. Although the Palazzo Apostolico with its arcades is overshadowed by the basilica, it harbors considerable treasures of art - among them works of the painter Lorenzo Lotto as well as ceramic vessels that had been used in the pharmacies of the 16th century.more
Great Renaissance art awaits the visitor in this pretty town, which dominates the hillside at a height... of 442 m (1450 ft), 10 km (6mi.) from the sea. Central meeting point is the Piazza Duomo. The facade of the cathedral with its magnificent rose window and the prototype of all Renaissance bell towers in Abruzzo serve as eye -atchers here. In the richly decorated interior, in the choir chapel, you find the most important Renaissance fresco cycle of the region. Andrea De Litio painted the scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary shortly after 1450. The church was built on the remains of a Roman bath – not unlike Palazzo Acquaviva at the end of the main part of Corso Adriano. The counts had it built in the 14th century on a Roman cistern.more
The picturesque castle of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis – or rather their Italian line Torre e Tasso... – seems to float high above the steep rocks. The sumptuous interior of the castle with valuable original furniture and antiques shows how the aristocrats used to live (and still live). The ocean view from the beautifully landscaped park is simply fantastic. Rainer Maria Rilke stayed here as Princess Marie's guest and found inspiration for the Duino Elegies. On "Sentiero Rilke", which was named after him, you can walk 2.5 km (1.5 mi.) along the coast from Duino to Sistiana. The tour takes about half an hour and offers beautiful views of the protected landscape.more
Venice in miniature – that is how the beautiful historic center of the town in the south of the Adriatic... lagoon presents itself. Lined with pergolas, the 24 m (79 ft) wide Corso del Popolo, where the most remarkable buildings are located, is both a lively promenade and the main axis of the Centro Storico. Coming from the mainland via Ponte Lungo, you encounter the beautiful gardens of Piazza Vescovile, with a palazzo of the same name, and a Baroque cathedral. Like branches of a tree the narrow side streets with their smaller houses and a more quiet atmosphere go off from the Corso. Fishing boats lie photogenically at Canale Vena, parallel to the Corso. Action, entertainment and beach life, hot nights and tourist facilities can be found in Chioggia's quarter Sottomarino, which is connected with the Old Town by a bridge with a length of 250 m (820 ft).more
The Valli di Comacchio, a huge lagoon area, reclaimed over many years, are located south of the vast... Po delta, which is under protection in a regional park. Comacchio still has the largest lagoon lake in Italy (15,000 ha). Eels, the most famous delicacy in town, are bred here and served in the trattorias of the pretty Old Town. Bridges lead to the thirteen picturesque islands with their colorful houses surrounded by a complex canal system. The strangest one of them is Trepponti, a baroque fortress protecting several canals. Off Comacchio, by the sea, you find the family-friendly resorts of the Lidi di Comacchio with their wide sandy beaches.more
Despite being a famous spa resort, the small town on a narrow tongue of land at the northeastern edge... of the Adriatic lagoons preserved its lovely charm. The levee facing the sea serves as the village's promenade, the picturesque fishing port is connected with the lagoon by a canal. In the car-free, graceful Old Town you can enjoy the friendly atmosphere in the numerous cafés. At a piazza amidst the winding alleys the main attractions are located: in its three-nave interior, the basilica Sant'Eufemia, built in the 6th century, surprises visitors with a beautiful 700 m² (2296 ft²) mosaic floor. Next door stands the even older octagonal baptistery and the basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie (also late antique).more
Saint Anthony, Giotto and the students: faith, art and the venerable university attract thousands of... visitors each year. The Gothic frescoes by Altichiero and the grave chapel of Saint Anthony are among the main attractions inside the impressive Basilika di Sant’Antonio from the 13th century. In front of the church the first post-antique equestrian statue of the mercenary leader Gattamelata by Donatello (1443-1446) is another highlight. In the Centro Storico, between the two marketplaces Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta, you find the mighty Palazzo della Ragione (now city hall) that was built starting from 1218. Art lovers are attracted by the Cappella degli Scrovegni, commissioned from Giotto by the banker Enrico Scrovegni in 1305. In 37 scenes his frescoes depict the life of Christ and Mary in joyful colors – Giotto at the height of his career.more
The republic with an area of only 61 km² (38 mi²) and just under 26,000 inhabitants rises like a mirage... 750 m (2461 ft) above the sea on Monte Titano. Each year 3 million tourists take a walk on the fine line between fake and real medieval settings, between genuine art and cheap kitsch, looking at the many shops with high-end electronics and jewelry in the narrow, quite picturesque streets. Guaita castle from the 13th century, located on the highest point of Monte Titano, and the towers Cesta and Montale serve as photo opportunities and offer a stunning view all the way to the coast. In front of the neo-Gothic Palazzo Pubblico (seat of government) you can witness the well-staged changing of the guards every thirty minutes past the hour. The small state of San Marino is redolent of Disneyland – but that, too, has its fans.more
The most beautiful part of the coast in the Marches, in midsummer stormed by beach vacationers, extends... below the 572 m (1877 ft) high Monte Conero. The whole area is a nature preserve offering magnificent views, hiking tours in extensive forests and great beach holidays. Portonovo in the north of Monte Conero is a modern resort with large pine groves. Sirolo is more exclusive, with a lovely charm and a gorgeous view from Piazza Belvedere. Numano also features beautiful views and looks at a long history dating back to the 7th century BC. Marcelli, with its long sandy beach, marks the end of the Riviera del Conero in the south.more
Small but nice: The Old Town of Termoli rests on a cliff above the sea, with the modern new town spreading... out at its feet. From the Belvedere at the entrance to the Centro Storico you overlook the long sandy beach Spiaggia di San Antonio, which – together with Spiaggia Rio Viva in the south – makes the city one of the most attractive seaside resorts in this section of the Adriatic coast. The square-shaped Castello, which was erected by emperor Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen around an older residential tower in 1247, guards the entrance to the Old Town.
Small, winding streets, low-rise houses with picturesque outside stairs full of potted plants, sleeping cats and gossiping housewives lead to Piazza Duomo. The cathedral in Romanesque-Pugliese style features a richly decorated portal as well as mosaics left from a previous building (visible from the crypt).more
Venice's largest and most magnificent canal is lined with dense rows of impressive palaces, churches,... apartment buildings and museums that form a unique ensemble of buildings from different architectural periods. The best way to get to know the Grand Canal is with a sightseeing tour on a Vaporetto.
The shining white Baroque gem that is the church of Santa Maria della Salute was built as thanks for the end of an outbreak of the plague. The interior is decorated by, amongst other things, a group of sculptures representing the church's construction, a ceiling fresco by Titian, and paintings by Tintoretto and Bellini. Venice's most famous bridge is the Ponte di Rialto, a mighty (now souvenir) shop-lined marble archway that has spanned the canal since the end of the 16th Century. In September 2008 the new, ultra-modern fourth bridge Ponte della Constituzone, locally known as Calatrava, was inaugurated. It links Santa Lucia station with the Piazzale Roma. A jewel of Gothic architecture along the Grand Canal is the Ca' d'Oro, an oriental-looking palazzo which now houses a collection of paintings.more
The three-winged Doge's Palace, built in its present form from the 14th to early 17th Century, was once... the centre of power in the Venetian republic and the duke's residence. The Porta della Carta, where petitioners presented their requests to members of the Great Council, is edged with allegorical figures and ornamentation. It is considered a masterpiece of Venetian Gothic architecture.
The Scala dei Giganti derives its name from the larger-than-life figures of Neptune and Mars who symbolise Venice's former power at sea and on land. The dukes of Venice were traditionally crowned on the top step. The rooms - some of which may be closed for renovation or special exhibits - are fascinating for their splendour and luxurious decorative detail, including frescoes and paintings by Veronese, Tintoretto and Titian.more
St. Mark's Basilica is considered a gem of medieval architecture. The domed cruciform church we see today... mostly dates back to the 13th Century, although it continued to be modified and ornamented until the 15th Century. The main façade features five mighty portals, blind arches decorated with mosaics and topped by gilt towers decorated with figures of the Evangelists, and late Gothic figured gables.
The highlights of the basilica's interior include the Pala d'Oro, a gilt high altar retable decorated with thousands of pearls and gemstones, and golden mosaics covering an area of 4,240 m² (45,639 sq ft). Also noteworthy is the Tesoro, or treasury, containing (amongst other things) gold and silver Byzantine icons and reliquaries, and the precious throne of the doge (1500), and the San Marco Museum (admission).more
Napoleon called the Piazza San Marco "the finest drawing room in Europe". And architectural unity of... the surrounding buildings does lend the plaza complex a majestic air. Aside from the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica, the former republic's administrative buildings are also striking: the arcade buildings of the 15th-Century Procuratie Vecchie to the north, the 16th-Century Procuratie Nuove to the south, and the Ala Napoleonica (now housing the city's civic museum) to the west.
Work began on the Campanile, the oldest structure on the square, in 912. The people of Venice were gobsmacked when the tower suddenly collapsed for no apparent reason in 1902. There is now a lift and from the viewing platform at the top, you get a breathtaking view of the city and the lagoon from a height of 98 m (320 ft). The terrace of the Torre dell'Orologio, a 15th-Century clock tower, also offers splendid views. The venerable Caffè Florian is a good place for a rest, and counts Goethe, Proust and Thomas Mann among its more noteworthy guests.more
The island of Torcello, an hour from Venice, is one of the most charming lagoon islands thanks to its... art history treasures. Once boasting a population of 80,000, it was an important trade centre in the 5th century and became a diocese with the construction of the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in the 7th century. The renovation in 1008 gave the oldest tourist attraction in the lagoon Venetian-Byzantine characteristics. The interior is decorated with wonderful mosaics in the style of Ravenna, including the Glorification of Christ and the Last Judgement. You should not miss the Santa Fosca baptistery, a round building from the year 1100 with tasteful columnar entrance hall, and the Museo di Torcello, which will fire your enthusiasm with its archaeological finds and artworks.
The smallest of the known lagoon islands, with only around 10,000 inhabitants today, is attractive thanks to its beautiful landscape, its isolation and peace and quiet with a unique flair far from tourism kitsch.more
The magnificent church of San Giorgio Maggiore rises up impressively on the island of the same name.... It was built by Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) in 1566 and forms part of a Benedictine monastery which is today owned by the Vittorio Cini Foundation and used as a centre for art and historical research. The pillars and triangular gable of the church façade bear the distinctive hallmarks of this, the greatest of the Renaissance architects, who sadly did not live to see the complex completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi in 1610.
The three-nave interior of the church is designed in the shape of a cross and enthrals visitors because of the numerous artworks by J. Bassano, G. Campagna and J. Tintoretto, whose world-famous late work "The Last Supper" can be admired on the right wall of the chancel. Campagna's 16th-Century bronze masterpiece on the high altar is no less famous. It depicts the four Evangelists supporting a globe on which the Almighty is enthroned. If you take the lift up to the Campanile, you'll get a fantastic view over the lagoon and Venice, and even as far as the Alps on clear days.more
An impressive equestrian monument erected in memory of Bartolomeo Colleoni, the condottiere (commander... of the mercenaries), scowls down at passers-by on the Campo, also dubbed the "Square of Marvels" due to its magnificent buildings. The Campo is dominated by the Scuola Grande di San Marco and the Gothic church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo, known as "San Zanipolo" in the Venetian dialect, built by Dominican friars from 1234 onwards. The lower part of the wide-shouldered brick façade looks incomplete, but the upper part appears harmonious. The central portal by Bartolomeo Bon is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic sculpture.
Huge columns divide the interior of the church into three naves, which are almost bursting at the seams with beautiful works of art, among them nine scenes from the life of San Vincenzo Ferreri by Giovanni Bellini and the ceiling painting "The Glory of St. Dominic" by Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. Exquisite marble tombs and incrustations, created by the Lombardo family of architects, form a large proportion of the precious decorations. Twenty-five doges alone rest in this church.more
The Palazzo Grassi is one of the largest and most beautiful palaces in Venice. Construction began in... the middle of the 18th century and it was finished in 1772. It is named after its owner, the Grassi family from Chioggia, which bought its way into Venetian royalty, something that was typical for the times. When the French billionaire François Pinault bought the palace for 29 million euros in 2005 and had it completely renovated by star architect Tadao Ando, Venice observed the process with a lot of interest. Opened with the exhibition "Where are we going?" in May 2006, Palazzo Grassi is a truly remarkable art temple, but one which is also very controversial in Venice. Works from Pinault's private collection, mainly avant-garde art, as well as alternating art exhibitions will make feelings run high in the future - and ensure a lot of visitors.more
This island north-east of Venice has made a name for itself above all due to glassblowing. Glass production... was moved from Venice to Murano in the 13th century to preserve the strongly kept secret of glass production well into the 17th century. In the 18th century, Bohemian manufacturers flourished and put an end to the Venetian monopoly. The Museo dell'Arte Vetrario in the Palazzo Giustinian (Fondamenta Giustinian 8, Tel. 041-739586, Thur-Tue 10 am-5 pm, in winter until 4 pm) provides a wide overview of glass production, an art which is centuries old.
It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that Murano experienced a lucrative revival with the onset of tourism. Cheap kitsch and tasteful glass craftsmanship have existed side by side since that time. Today, you can admire the craftsmanship of glassblowing in the numerous island workshops with sales rooms (Mon-Fri 10 am-5 pm). Glass beads, crystal glasses, mosaic tiles, jewellery, mirrors, lamps and figurines are amongst the most aesthetically pleasing and less exclusive products.more
Ravenna is the city of Byzantine mosaics. There is no other place in the world with more beautiful pictures... that are made of colorful glass and gold. The discovery of natural-gas resources made Ravenna a rich industrial city, which had an ugly side effect on the surrounding areas. The historic district of Ravenna, however, makes up for this with its annual summer festival, the cultural highlights of which cover the fields of theater, jazz and classic. The most famous mosaics adorn the walls of the San Vitale Church. Already Dante, the great poet who lived towards the end of the Middle Ages, described the unique luminance of the mosaic colors in “La Divina Commedia”. He spent the last two decades of his life in Ravenna after he had been banished from his hometown Florence for political reasons. Dante’s grave lies close to the San Francesco Basilica, where the poet’s requiem mass was held in 1321. An alternative to art can be found in the lively Mercato Coperto, a roofed market promising exquisite delicacies.more
In 1856, the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, who was shot in 1867 as the Emperor of Mexico, built a dream... castle with his wife Charlotte on a rock by the sea – it shines like a white pearl. In the luxurious rooms, which for the most part still have their original furnishings, you feel like being in a fairytale palace. And in the park, on an area of 22 ha, you walk amidst 2000 exotic plants, marvel at hummingbirds and butterflies in the Parco tropicale and enjoy the beautiful view of the coast – also a small paradise protected by the
WWF as a marine reserve. No wonder Miramare became the symbol of the Trieste Riviera and attracts multitudes of visitors.more
The small medieval town owes its fame to Giuseppe Balsamo di Palermo, in short Count Cagliostro, who... was locked up in the massive Forte di San Leo by Pope Pius VI. in 1795 and died there after four years, four months and five days. The imposing building, erected in the Middle Ages on the highest point of the
village (639 m or 2096 ft), was given its present appearance by all-round genius Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and is regarded as THE fortress of the Renaissance until today. However, San Leo does not only feature spectacular military architecture, but also an impressive Romanesque cathedral dating from the 12th century. The artworks of Romanesque sculptors can also be admired at the Pieve in the city center on the central Piazza Dante with the residence of the Counts of Montefeltro (now city hall), Palazzo Nardini and Palazzo Mediceo.more