Secret Italy – City Breaks On the Road Less Travelled

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You probably already know the top five cities of Italy: Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice and Naples. But if you’re looking for a different side of Italy, city breaks in the less visited areas may be just the ticket.

Ranging in size, these places offer a great glimpse into authentic Italian life, perhaps unlike the hurried pace and bustling crowds you’ll find in Rome, Florence or Milan. Here are five other places to consider visiting in Italy – city breaks on the road less travelled!

Turin

Also known as Torino, the home of the Fiat automobile plant and the Shroud of Turin is an interesting yet often overlooked area in Italy. City breaks in the Piedmont region can be wonderfully relaxing here, nestled between the foothills of the Alps and the Po River. It’s an excellent base to stay in between exploring the nearby hills and vineyards.

With its Baroque architecture (extending to its elegant bars and cafes), arcaded shopping promenades and smaller museums of Italy, Turin offers a relaxed ambience. You can wander around Piazza Castello and Palazzo Reale, which feature lovely fountains and are ringed by grand buildings. Then, take a walk through Il Quadrilatero – a maze of meandering back streets with wonderful markets and charming churches. You’ll also want to visit the Borgo Mediovale, a recreation of a medieval village by the river, complete with a castle.

Perugia

Umbria is one of the country’s more overlooked areas, often overshadowed by its more popular neighbour, Tuscany. But if you’re looking for an interesting place to relax without forgoing sophistication in Italy, city breaks in Perugia – Umbria’s largest city, located almost at the very centre of the country – are ideal.

A lively walled medieval hill city with historic buildings, busy squares, and modern shops, Perugia is home to a university as well as an Italian language centre catering to foreigners. From here you can also explore other Umbrian attractions such as Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio.

Brescia

For many visitors, the Lombardy region usually means Milan, but if you’re looking for something a little quieter, you may want to go east to the small city of Brescia – often overlooked in the excitement over the country’s fashion centre. Located between Lakes Garda and Iseo, Brescia is the gateway to the Valcamonica – a UNESCO site with the largest collection of prehistoric rock art in Europe. This is also the place where the annual Mille Miglia car race begins and ends. Places to see in Brescia include the castle, Roman ruins, Renaissance squares, and a medieval city centre named Piazza della Vittoria – where the famous car race starts.

Padua

Also overshadowed by a more popular neighbour, Padua is a wonderful place to spend a more laidback holiday. This small walled city located between Verona and Venice boasts Europe’s first Botanical Gardens – the Orto Botanico – and is also the home of many frescoes by Giotto.

Lecce

Because of its wealth of Baroque monuments, Lecce is often called the Florence of the south. For those visiting southern Puglia, making Lecce your base offers the advantage of a mild climate, accommodations that is inexpensive compared to other cities, and a -charmingly compact city centre.

There’s definitely more to see than the top four big cities in Italy; the less-visited areas will definitely give you a more complete view of the country in all its beauty.

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A Trip To Historic City Athens

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If we speak of the oldest city with documented history and available evidence of their work, we will probably find no one older than the Greek civilization. There are numerous stories about the various aspects of the country. The capital of the country, Athens, happens to be one of the most glorious cities in the world. It has been established such that it was worshiped by men and Gods alike. It can be said that modern civilization took birth in Greece and Athens played an important part in it.

Athens has been the place of birth of some of the finest minds in the history of mankind. It is actually the birthplace of democracy and sowed the seed of the civilization that we see today. The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most notable structures that has passed through the generations of human beings and still reminds us of the glory and ascension of Athens and Greece. It was proposed as one of the seven modern wonders of earth as well.

A trip to Athens or Greece is nothing less than a trip to the pages of history. The ancient architectures are still present, many of them partially demolished, but still bearing the message from the past. The major construction, such as the Parthenon, which happens to be one of the iconic constructions of Athens, speaks of the rich history and culture of the city. The most interesting part about visiting Greece is that there is no specific attraction within the country. When you are in Athens, you will be able expecting various archaeological and historical museums which will speak about the history of the place and also about the various aspects of their art, culture and lifestyle. What really sets Athens apart from the rest of the world is that, even though there are museums and various other places to visit within the city, the city as a whole is living museums in itself. Numerous constructions and various designs can be found all across the city. They have their own story to tell and add to the pages of history of Athens. Make sure you plan your trip long enough to soak up all of it, or as much as it is possible.

Athens has played an important role not in the medieval times; the city has contribution to the modern world as well. One of the most remarkable of all contributions is the Olympic Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in the year 1896. Let us not forget the fact that the English that we speak and the alphabets that we write have major contribution from Greece. It is in fact the Greek alphabets that are in use in English in the modern times. Even the word “alphabet” is combination of the words “alpha” and “beta”, the first two Greek letters. It simply shows ho greatly the Greek civilization influenced the development of the western civilization, art and culture.

While planning a trip to Athens, remember that not all that seems old happens to be old in this city. The medieval style and the contemporary designs were very much in use till much later in time. Even when the new city of Athens was built, the contemporary architectural style was followed.

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Athens – Church of Agioi Theodoroi

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Crossing Odos Dragatsaniou, in the end stands the attractive medieval church of Agioi Theodoroi (St. Theodore), built on the site of a church founded in the ninth century, but in its present form dating from between 1050 and 1075. This small cruciform church with its high narrow dome, multiple roofs that lend it an air of rhythmic grace, narrow mullioned windows and decorated central door surmounted by arches, is a precious gem of eleventh century Byzantine architecture.

The earliest form of Byzantine churches was that of the basilica, a long rectangle divided by two or four ranges of columns into three or five naves. Later, during the 11th and 12th centuries, the plan changed to that of a Greek cross within a square, dominated by a dome constructed in brick and often combined with one or more subsidiary domes. The exterior walls consist of square-cut stone with thin brick surrounds and are enriched by bands of decoration, carving and the use of color. Few of these churches were large. Apart from St. Theodore, typical examples are the churches of Kapnikarea and St. Eleutherios.

The glory of the Byzantine church lies not so much in the architecture as to the ethereal beauty of its mosaics or frescoes. From the center of the principal dome Christ looks down upon the faithful and below Him are the Apostles. The Virgin appears in the half dome, while around the sanctuary are symbolic figures and emblems connected with the Eucharist. On the West wall opposite the chancel is the Last Judgement. Colored marble and similar material in the lower walls add to the resplendent beauty of the interior.

The liturgy of the Greek Orthodox Church requires separation of the altar from the laity. The altar is placed in a chancel screened from the congregation by the iconostasis, i.e. the screen dividing the sanctuary from the church proper. This is adorned with pictures of Christ, the Virgin, and Saints, and generally has three doors, the curtains of which are lowered while Mass is being celebrated. The chancel is flanked by the Prothesis, where the bread and wine for the Eucharist are prepared, and by the Diakonikon, or vestry.

In St. Theodore one can also notice the influence of the East on Byzantine art, which was prominent in the period from the mid-9th to mid-11th centuries, when Byzantine artists used a variety of Oriental motifs in their designs. It is probable that the design of pseudo-kufic characters (the script perfected during the 7th century by calligraphers in the city of Kafa, in present-day Iraq) that decorate the terracotta panel below the windows of the facade was inspired by the work of Arab craftsmen.

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