Footloose in Italy IV
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Italy IV" DVD
A comprehensive tour and walking travelogue in Central Italy. We're back by popular demand... and why should we resist? Runs 150 minutes!
THE JOURNEY FROM RIMINI TO ROME
Footloose in Italy IV
~ 3 chapters on one DVD
1. The Adriatic Coast ~ Rimini made a perfect base to explore this part of the coast. Long sandy beaches, plenty of entertainment, good restaurants and things to do. The town is one of the longest established seaside resorts in Italy and although famous for its bathing and conference facilities, there are a good number of historic medieval buildings in the Old Town to discover. Older still, there some amazing Roman arches and a 2000-year old bridge to see from the ancient town of "Ariminum".
You can catch a bus from outside Rimini's central railway station to the tiny mountain-top country of San Marino. About 20 kilometres inland from Rimini. Absolutely fascinating, this little republic has survived the last seventeen centuries intact, despite attacks by other city states, the Napoleonic wars, the unification of Italy and two world wars! You can see most of the attractions, duty free shops and the fortress towers all in a day trip. We made a short walking trail on the wooded footpaths between the three distincive fortress towers, taking in the spectacular views to be had, this probably took no more than an hour.
Although not a public visitor attraction, we call in to the Rimini Lambretta Centre, which is housed in a smart industrial unit a few kilometres out of town. We talk to Dean Orton, a Cornishman who co- founded this glitzy scooter restoration business over 20 years ago and developed it into what can only be described as a Mecca for Mods. The Lambretta brand was the choice of Italian scooter by the British mod generation, but the company folded in the early seventies making these classic and iconic machines a rarity. Debra is compelled to take a ride on the centre's prized showpiece!
After this, by contrast, we ride in a hire car with rather less passion, over the Apennine mountains into Tuscany.
2. Touring Tuscany ~ The natural start to a tour of the region has to be Florence, Italy's historic centre of renaissance art. You don't have to be an art lover to enjoy the main attractions: The Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens, The Ponte Vecchio over the river Arno; The Palazzo Vecchio and the Loggia on Piazza Signoria; and one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Italy, the Duomo of Florence. With its ornate bell tower and baptistry it makes a wonderful conclusion to a truly memorable walking tour of the old city centre. If you have the money left after you've seen the famous Uffizi and Accademia galleries, there is some serious shopping to be done, especially for leather goods.
Travelling west in the "passion wagon", we call in at the Field of Miracles to see one of Italy's most iconic attractions, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Coupled with the striking Duomo, Baptistry and Cemetery this free-to-enter green space is a major attraction for visitors from all over the globe. After major restoration and stabilisation some years ago, entry is now very limited to climb the tower. Tickets only go on sale 20 days before your expected visit, and often sell out online on the first day. Dave loses/wins the toss to climb the 296 steps.
Lucca isn't too far from Pisa, so you can easily visit it in the same day. The main attractions are a huge fortress-like city wall, that you can take a bike ride around; plus many fascinating medieval churches, winding streets, and the site of a Roman amphitheatre which was rebuilt in the middle ages as the town's biggest Piazza.
Lucca is a way-station on the ancient pilgrimage trail to Rome called the Via Francigena (more in the next column). We walk on this to San Gimignano and explore this preserved and picture-perfect hilltop town. Known as the "Medieval Manhattan" it contains 13 patrician towers left over from its prosperous past. Many Americans come to admire the "skyscrapers"as they tour the region.
The Val d'Orcia is probably the best-known landscape of Tuscany. The contours of this manicured, photogenic valley are best visited on a tour, and we hitch a ride in a vintage Fiat 500 to see Pienza, Montalcino and other exquisite locations, see YouTube Clip. Bagno Vignoni is also a great little spa village to drop into.
Arguably the best-preserved medieval walled town in Tuscany is Siena. Wonderful winding, narrow lanes and piazzas, many buildings constructed of the distinctive reddish-brown brick associated with the region. Opulent Palazzos and arches adorn the streets which all come to a focus at the town's exquisite saucer-shaped main square: Piazza del Campo. Paved entirely in brick it is surrounded by some of Italy's finest historic architecture, notably the Palazzo Publicco and its belltower. After wandering the streets you can end up at Siena's magnificent Duomo. Set in its own square there is a large museum complex opposite, in another historic building: Santa Maria Della Scala.
We reluctantly leave Tuscany and hit the road to Rome, stopping off at the amazing Tivoli Gardens.
3. Footloose in Rome ~
The Eternal City is often described as a fantastic open-air museum, and although noisy, crowded and chaotic, it still makes for a great holiday or city break.
If you time it right you can walk between the major sights in the city and we have two self-guided trails to follow (see in the next column). It's definitely worthwhile taking accomodation in the city centre to make the best of your time there. You can then stroll out to your heart's content... and if you stray too far, there are plentiful white taxis to get you back. There are buses of course, and a limited metro service too. Also we recommend booking a specialist guided tour in advance too, queuing for tickets in the summer can be long, hot and disappointing. A good number of attractions are free to enter, and walking past or just being there is almost enough in itself. Free highlights for us are: The Pantheon, viewing the Forum from the railings, entry to St Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican (there is a charge for the cupola), the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps and the Villa Borghese gardens above. You can buy tickets online in advance to enter top attractions like the amazing Colosseum Roman amphitheatre (which includes the Forum and Palatine hill Roman ruins), and the Vatican Museums to see the exquisite Sistine Chapel. We took a spirited food tasting tour in the Campo de'Fiori market see YouTube Clip.
If you are OK on your feet... read the next column!
See what it's like - watch a preview from our DVD - press the 4-arrows button if you want full screen playback
Our 4th visit to Italy has resulted in yet another feature length film. This wonderful country has been one of the longest-running holiday destinations in Europe! Our visit was in late May into June, when it was nice and warm, but not without crowds.
~ DVD RUNNING TIME 150minutes!
Rome Walking tours
If you only have a few days to visit Rome we have devised two simple walking tours. You can see on a map that most of the main attractions are not too far from each other, these are the bullet points:
1. The Ancient Monuments (up to 4km) ~
The 2000 year old Pantheon is a wonderful start to our suggested Ancient Rome trail, after a free look inside you head towards Largo di Torre Argentina which not only is an important site of Roman temples where Julius Caesar was killed, but also houses a cat sanctuary! Next is a walk along Via Del Plebiscito to the huge Piazza Venezia. Dominating the busy traffic-laden square is the Vittorio Emanuele II monument in white marble. Walk up the Capitoline Hill via the elegant Cordanata staircase into Campidoglio square which is surrounded by the oldest museums in Italy. From a viewpoint nearby you gan get a first look at the amazing Roman Forum, a huge expanse of arches, temples and ruined buildings. Walking down and along the Via dei Fori Imperiale you have extensive Roman remains on either side of you. Next is the Colosseum, the vast Roman amphitheatre. You can buy (preferably in advance) combined tickets to enter this amazing site, which also gains entry to the Forum and the Palatine Hill, perhaps the most important Ancient Roman site of all. Huge remains of basilicas and temples dominate the hill, which overlooks the city and the long oval parkland of the Circus Maximus below. This was once the principal stadium in Rome. Visiting this huge site you can even walk on the racetrack. You can finish your trail here, or continue into city parkland known as the Celio. Here you can find the massive bathing complex ruins known as the Baths of Caraculla, also a top venue for open air opera and concerts. On the eastern edge of the Celio are the Aurelian walls, dating from the 3rd century AD. Much of them are still intact with some impressive city gates to see. To end your Ancient Rome trail, walk up the Via dell' Amba Aradam to see Rome's magnificent Archbasilica: San Giovanni in Laterano.
2. Baroque Rome (up to 5km)
This trail acquaints you with the "newer" and flamboyant part of the City. To get a great elevated view of the Rome you can start at the Villa Borghese Gardens and enjoy the leafy avenues teashops and villas. From here walk down the steps to Piazza del Popolo, one of Rome's elegant city squares surrounded by a museum and churches. From here you make your way through a busy and exclusive shopping area between Via Corso and Via Babuino to arrive at Piazza di Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps. Its not too far to the next major baroque sight: cut through Via di Propaganda and other streets to arrive at the recently restored Trevi Fountain, which is often crowded beyond belief! After you have squeezed through to throw in your coins, make your way through streets full of souvenir shops: Via delle Muratte then Via di Pietra, past some enormous stone columns to arive at the amazing Pantheon once more. Quite close to here is Rome's showcase square, Piazza Navona with its incredibly ornate fountain. Moving towards the river Tiber, a good place to call in is Campo de'Fiori, which is probably the best open-air market in the city. You could join a food-tasting tour here. To extend your trail which ends at the Vatican, you could make an extra 2km detour through the Jewish quarter to the Bocca della Verita, housed in the entrance to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church. It's an intriguing ancient "lie detector" made of stone! Now you can walk along the river, past Tiber Island and up to the Ponte Sant'Angelo, the famous Roman bridge leading to the fortress of Sant'Angelo. Here you will get a glimpse of the magnificent Cathedral of St. Peter. It's just a short and straight walk along Via della Concilazione to arrive at your destination, the Vatican City.
Our Footloose Trail in Tuscany ~
The Walk to San Gimignano
on the Via Francigena (8km)
This is just a tiny part of an ancient pilgrimage route all the way from Canterbury, through France over the St. Bernard pass and on through Tuscany to reach the eternal City of Rome. To get the best view of our fascinating medieval destination we walked south to north. We parked our hire car at San Gimignano and took a taxi down to the little village of Campiglia on the SR68... raising a taxi at the end of our trail may have been difficult. The Francigena is fairly well waymarked, often with a metal plate of a little pilgrim. We joined the trail on a lane which leads off the SR68 at the bottom of the hill. A nice easy stroll for a couple of Kilometres led us to a junction and an alternative route. We turned left and crossed the first stream then uphill past a farm called Alano. Now it was an energetic climb but with rewarding views of the Italian countryside at the top. Down again but past lovely vineyards and over another stream, with handy boulders to cross! The scenery became more dramatic as we traversed the next valley and then a final ascent up a farm track to the village of Santa Lucia. Walking through the garden of a pocket-sized villa we arrive on the small road that leads to San Gimignano. From here we had a perfect view of this "Medieval Manhattan" with its stone towers looking just like skyscrapers... a welcome sight for pilgrims no doubt. A simple road walk past the hamlet of Monte Olivetto takes us right up to the gates of our destination for a welcome drink.
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Rome has two Airports, Fumicino is the main one, which is an Easyjet destination.
There is a fast train from Fumicino to the central railway station, which connects with the Metro taxis and buses.
Rimini does have an airport, but at the time of writing there were no flights from the UK. We chose a rather dull hire car to get around.
Climate ~ Rome
Climate ~ Rimini
Rimini Lambretta Centre
MyTours Fiat 500 trip
Walks of Italy - Rome food tour
We recommend hotel bookings by www.expedia.co.uk or booking.com
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