Saturday, May 24, 2014


View from our hotel balcony Cervia
From Torgiano, we made our way over to the northern coastal area of Italy.  The entire east coast of Italy runs along the Adriatic sea and Italians flock to the countless beach resorts in July and August, but things were pretty quiet when we were there in May. 

Infinity pool at Villa del Mare Hotel Cervia
Painted boats in Cesenatico

Our first stop was Cervia, once famous as a salt producing city but presently better known for its beaches and spas.   Like most Italian seaside towns, the paved pathway along the beach goes on for miles and we took advantage of it by foot and bicycle.  We stayed at a beautiful, modern hotel with an infinity pool on the roof and a wide balcony overlooking the sea.  Just a few miles south of Cervia is Cesenatico founded in 1302 and known for historic fishing boats with brightly painted hulls displayed in the canal that runs through the town.  
Grado's wide beaches
Marina in the center of Grado
Ancient ruins and mosaic tiles in Grado

Proceeding up the coast, we stopped in Sottomarina for a few days. It is part of the municipality of Chioggia, a group of small islands at the southern entrance to the Lagoon of Venice. The area's economy is based on fishing except in Sottomarina where they depend on seafront tourism.  It is very old and I cannot recommend it but Grado, our next stop, is a charming island that was once more important than Venice.  It is east of Venice,  almost to the border of Slovenia, has a lovely historic center, several pedestrian only areas and beautiful beaches and sports facilities. 

Next we head into Croatia.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Main square and Duomo in Pienza 

Balcony circling Pienza

Pienza shop
Our room in Pienza 
1459, it was the dream of Pope Pius II to turn his birthplace into the perfect Renaissance city, so we have him to thank for the beautiful medieval town of Pienza. Quaint shops and restaurants line the pedestrian only streets. Pienza overlooks the scenic Val D’Orcia and is also famous for pecorino cheese.     

We enjoyed another Luxury Link Hotel here, one that had been converted from a convent.  Our room included the convent’s altar. 

St. Francis
Present day follower of St. Francis

Another beautiful but much bigger medieval town is Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis, one of the best known and most beloved of all Catholic saints.  He is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and the inspiration for the name of the present pope.  People of all faiths revere The Prayer of St. Francis: 

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Medieval castle overlooking Assisi

Basilica of St. Francesco

Near Perugia is the little town of Torgiano.  We would not have happened upon it if not been for another good Luxury Link offer. Our hotel, the 5 star Le Tre Vaselle, and most of the wineries in the area are owned by the Lungarotti family, the closest thing Umbria has to a ruling family nowadays. The town is famous for olive oil and wine and our stay included visits to the respective museums, the wine museum being the most famous in all of Europe. The medieval wine press, olive press and book binding machine were engineering marvels in their day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


We had a great apartment in Forte dei Marmi
During our travels last year, we heard of a town called Forte dei Marmi and decided to spend 4 days there this year.  Are we glad we did!  Situated on the northern Tuscany coast, Forte dei Marmi has long attracted the rich and famous (Giorgio Armani and Andrea Bochelli have villas there) and has all the fine restaurants and upscale shops (Gucci and Prada) that go with a chic, seaside town.  
A quiet, rainy Monday morning in FDM

In the center of the village are the remains of a fortress that was built in 1788 of marble from nearby quarries.  Hence the name Forte dei Marmi meaning Fort of the Marbles.  We had a lovely apartment with a patio and so enjoyed biking through the town and past the many beach clubs and restaurants that line the sandy beach. 
UNA Hotel

Our apartment at UNA
After booking our stay in Forte dei Marmi, I saw an offer from Luxury Link for 2 nights at UNA Hotel in Lido di Camaiore. Even though it was just down the road a bit, we signed on because it sounded so nice – and it was.  

Unfortunately, this has been a very rainy spring here in Italy but UNA has a wonderful indoor pool and spa. 
Indoor pool and spa at UNA
Wall surrounding Castiglione del Lago's old town
 Our voucher included a fabulous breakfast, massage and dining credit.  And since the hotel was not full, they upgraded us to a one bedroom apartment!

We then headed south to Lake Trasimena, the fourth largest lake in Italy.  Situated on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, it is the result of a shallow sea that covered this part of Italy 3 million years ago. We stayed in Castiglione del Lago which at one time was an island in the lake.  The center piece of the city is a medieval town atop the hill overlooking the lake.  

Nearby is the city of Cortona, made famous by the book Under The Tuscan Sun.  Sitting high on a hill, it offers beautiful views over the valley with Lake Trasimeno in the distance.  The Etruscan walls surrounding the city are 3,000 years old.