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Favorite Place #3 – Italy


Italy is a must when traveling to Europe.  Most people want to visit Italy for its culture, history, and of course, the wine and food!  I am no different than most people.  Some of the best food dishes that I have ever had were in Italy, and it is the one place where I will actually drink wine.  I have been lucky enough to have traveled to Italy on several occasions, even one time when I was in Switzerland we were so close to the border that it felt like we were in Italy.  It truly is an amazing country to visit and these are the places that I enjoyed the most.



Top 5 Favorite Places in Italy


#5   Pompeii – This ancient civilization, that is unearthed more and more each year, is absolutely breath-taking.  Going through people’s homes and seeing how they lived, the interlacing of the city streets, shops, and actual relics that have been unearthed gives one an understanding of how people lived at that time, and it is so well preserved.  Now each time I have visited, we have taken a 3 to 4 hour tour just of Pompeii.  If you really want to see all of Pompeii, you really have to give yourself a good 8 hours or more.  Most tours take you to the known sites, but Pompeii is quite large and you may want to find a tour that will take you to the lesser known areas. 


#4   Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo – When I heard that our cruise ship was stopping in Sicily, all I could think of was the Godfather movies and the opera house, which we did see and go inside.  But there was something else that I really wanted to see, Rosalia Lombardo.  Who is this person?  She is an extremely well-preserved two-year girl who died in 1920.  It is unknown why she is so well-preserved, but she is prominently displayed in her own section of the Capuchin Catacombs.  Catacombs aren’t for everyone as they are a reminder that life is short, but I had seen several shows on this particular one in Palermo, so I booked us a tour.  I was pleasantly surprised that most of the Catacomb was not underground and plenty of natural light was coming in.  The paths were clearly defined and the layout of the bones was very well-preserved.  Once we reached Rosalia and saw her in the small glass casket, it seemed surreal and one of the most mysterious things that I have ever seen. 


#3   Sorrento city center – Sorrento is usually a stop when traveling the Almafi coast.  It is a beautiful town on top of some cliffs that really give you some amazing views of the sea.  The town center is filled with small alleys leading you to amazing store fronts, and seems to be decorated with the most amazing flower displays.  There are three things that are a must when you go to Sorrento.  First you must consider purchasing some wood art.  This is where the artists use wood to make various scenes of Sorrento and is beautiful and quite unique.  Anything with lemons!  Limoncello is hugely popular in Sorrento and a good place to purchase some really amazing versions of it.  They also have various candies with lemon, which are amazing and not too sour.  Gelato!  When in Italy, gelato is a must!  This is one of the foods that I must try in every Italian city I visit, and Sorrento didn’t disappoint with their gelato.  There is one store right down from the main square that resides in a building right in the middle of two streets.  You can enter from either street and the walls are filled with famous people who have stopped into their store, and when we tried their gelato, I can see why! 


#2   The Forum – Rome is a city that has so many amazing historical sites that you won’t be able to see them all in one visit.  We decided to do a private 10-hour tour of Rome to see most of the well-known sites including the Forum.  All I really wanted to see was the Colessum but the first thing we did that day to beat the summer sun, was walk around the Forum.  Immediately I was impressed by the Arch of Titus which is the original arch that the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France is modeled after.  We walked around this ancient Roman civilization for 3 hours seeing mostly city buildings and some homes.  The most impressive part of the forum was when we reached Circus Maximus, where they used to race the chariots.  Looking at this massive site and picturing chariots racing around while people cheered on their favorites, was very impressive to me.  We did visit the Colessum, but I was unimpressed at the size after seeing Circus Maximus. 


#1 The Island of Venice –    My first European experience was Venice and from the moment I stepped onto the taxi boat, I fell in love.  As we circled the island you can see the beautiful colorful structures and you are amazed that a city can thrive right in the middle of the water.  Once on the island, there are alleyways following canals, more bridges than I have ever crossed in my life, and around each turn you have the opportunity to take an award winning picture.  As we love our private tours, we opted for one through Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square and Basilica.  Our private tour of the palace allowed us to go into rooms that aren’t seen by the general public and in the old days were the private rooms of the Doge’s.  Crossing through the Bridge of Sighs was eerie and surreal but I have to say one of the most memorable moments of my life.  When on the island of Venice, one must purchase a masquerade mask.  They are pretty much sold in every store on the island, but the ones you are looking for are made of Paper Mache and not porcelain.  There are a select few artisans on the island who still make them out of paper mache so you will have to ask around where the closet on to your hotel is located.


I only briefly talked about the food in Italy, but if you have been there you already know that eating anywhere in Italy is a culinary experience.  Portions are large, and the wine seems to flow like water.  My husband and I always like to find out where the locals eat and eat with them at night.  Eating dinner in Italy means that you will be eating dinner at 10pm, but it is worth the wait.  Every dinner is as least a five course meal including an appetizer, salad, pasta, entrée, and dessert, usually in this order.  Yes, pasta is a course and not the main meal.  You have to also realize that dinner is enjoyed slowly over 2 to 3 hours so there is plenty of time to digest each course.  Like they say, when in Rome, eat like the Romans!



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When in Rome…

If you ever find yourself in Rome, I highly recommend seeing the Roman Forum

One of my favorite tours in Italy was that of the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy.  It is a sprawling mass of ruins, that once was the center of Pictures by: M. Yohannanancient Rome, with temples, courts, markets, and government buildings in full swing until the 4th century AD.  While it may appear that all that remains today are an array of ancient columns and arches, the forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy.  Daily excavations occur unearthing new structures and buildings.  Many people will skip this part of Rome and head directly to the iconic Colosseum.  But I personally, love walking between and around ancient Rome.   If you aren’t interested in seeing the forum, you can still get a great view of the Eternal City from the overlooking Palatine and Capitoline hills.

The Basics about the Roman Forum:

Many tours through the forum will last around three to four hours especially if you combine a tour through the forum culminating with a tour of the Colosseum.  I personally loved our tour guide, Flavia, and I still use her today for all my clients who go to Rome.  She is a wealth of knowledge about the forum and the Colosseum, while enjoying a private tour.  She even showed us the expansive ruins at Circus Maximus.

Picture by: M. Yohannan

What is the best time to visit and what to know:

Most tour options include hotel pickup and drop-off.  If you would opt for a private tour with Flavia, then she would come to your hotel.We would make sure that all your admissions to the various sites are included, so that you can enjoy the skip-the-line entry.  On some days this will save you an hour or so in line.  I would recommend the Roman Forum to any visitor whether you are in Rome for multiple days or just one day.  It is a must see VERY ancient part of Rome. 


Picture by: M. Yohannan

Picture by: Mary Yohannan

Some “Know Before You Go” from

How To Get to the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is located in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum in the southeastern end of Rome’s historical center. You can get there by metro and bus from most central hotels. The closest metro stop is Colosseo.

When to Get There
As the Roman Forum shares an admission ticket with the Colosseum, it stays consistently busy throughout the day and often has long lines. Choose a walking tour with priority access to jump the queue and maximize your time.

Discovering the Roman Forum Ruins
Inside the archaeological area, stick to the Forum’s main thoroughfare, Via Sacra, to pass by important ruins such as the Julia Curia and the house of the Vestal Virgins. Some of the forum’s most impressive ruins include the white marble arch of Settimio Severo, the first-century Arch of Titus, and the remains of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. If you can’t get enough of ancient Rome, there’s plenty more history just outside the city with day trips available to Pompeii and the Appian Way.

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Picture by: M. Yohannan

Picture by: Mary Yohannan