Itailan Stories is bringing you chats with artisans in Italy A great way to pracitice your Italian!

Meet several Italian artisans though the efforts of Italian Stories.  

You may want to practice your Italian at the same time!

From tomorrow 18 April until 24 April we will be live instagram on the profile of Italian Stories, entering the laboratories of 7 amazing artisans who will tell you the secrets, peculiarity and difficulties but above all the beauty of their I work.   instagram.com/italianstories

Rome offers Surprises: You just have to search

Basilica di Santa Prassede, Rome
a photo review of a glittering interior

Via di Santa Prassede, 9

I spend my weeks Home to Italy, walking the side streets, neighborhoods, cemeteries and markets
I discover in each part of the city I explore.   Often a small, plain entrance can offer an amazing surprise and on this day I was not disappointed.

Walking away from the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore on Via Merulana take the short parallel street Via di Santa. The side entrance (photo above) is easy to miss.  

Since many Italian churches welcome visitors during the hours they are open I followed a few locals  and visitors inside expecting the usual rows of seats and dark alcoves along the sides.

Greeted by the gleam of thousands of mosaic pieces you crane your neck to try to see everything.
There is no tour guide at the entrance but you can purchase on the honor system, a brief brochure within the church.

Ceiling of the Saint Zeno chapel

The Interior reminded me of the mosaic work in Santa Maria Trastevere, Rome.  Impossible to estimate the number of tiles used even in one picture but in an entire ceiling it may be many thousands.  The stunning pictorials and patterns instead of frescoes or oil paintings is a startling change from the other churches in the city.

Sadly I arrived shortly before the church closed for lunch!   
On my next trip to Rome I shall return with more of the church history and information on each of the stunning mosaic scenes.   You may find that the art is captivating, the clarity of the figures change as you walk closer.  
For more details see the following from Wikipedia:

A church near this site was present since the fifth century, but the church in its current place and general layout was commissioned by Pope Hadrian I around the year 780 to house the relics (bones) of Saint Praxedes (Italian: S. Prassede) and Saint Pudentiana (Italian: S. Pudenziana), the daughters of Saint Pudens, traditionally St. Peter‘s first Christian convert in Rome.” 
photo from Wikapedia 
“The church was built atop of the remains of a 4th-century ancient Roman Thermae, privately owned by the family of Pudentiana, and called Terme di Novato.     The two female saints were murdered for providing Christian burial for early martyrs in defiance of Roman law. The basilica was enlarged and decorated by Pope Paschal I in c. 822.
Pope Paschal, who reigned 817-824, was at the forefront of the Carolingian Renaissance started and advocated by the emperor Charlemagne. They desired to get back to the foundations of Christianity theologically and artistically. Paschal, thus, began two, linked, ambitious programs: the recovery of martyrs’ bones from the catacombs of Rome and an almost unprecedented church building campaign. Paschal dug up numerous skeletons and transplanted them to this church. The Titulus S. Praxedis was established by Pope Evaristus, around 112.
The inscriptions found in Santa Prassede, a valuable source illustrating the history of the church, have been collected and published by Vincenzo Forcella.
The church contains the oratory of San Zenone.
The church provided the inspiration for Robert Browning‘s poem “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church.”

Pugatory: a small museum to the Souls in Purgatory

Burned images, one of the exhibits of contact with souls in purgatory

Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

   A new addition to on my list of experiences that tourists may never visit

Located in the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio a small Roman church just past the Castel Sant’ Angelo is a one room ‘museum’ to the Souls in Purgatory.

A small mention in Where Traveler magazine peaked my interest to visit this museum that is off the beaten path 
in Rome.

Visiting a museum devoted to physical evidence of possible contact with the souls who ‘await entry into heaven, offered a

glimpse into the world beyond the end of this life and a little of the supernatural.

Exterior church photo from Wikipedia

You may walk past Chiesa del Sacro Curore del Suffagio if you are not looking carefully.    Standing across the street you can appreciate the lovely exterior.


The interior is small and during my visit, very quiet and not well lit.     The room housing the artifacts is off the right aisle and towards the alter.   Although there was an employee at a desk in this area, no information was offered.  Details for this post is attributed to online sources.



The ‘museum’ is a small, narrow room with photos or original examples of contact with souls in purgatory.  The
burn mark photos online are clearer without the glare from a flash.

burn finger prints      
   

“Let us pray for the souls in purgatory”, a remembered part of general prayers during mass.  Prayers from those still on earth are designed to hasten the assent to heaven for souls atoning for sins.  “Apparently purgatory is not mentioned in the bible although All Soul’s day is celebrated each year on November 2nd.”  Dating from the 11th century, the concept of a holding area for souls prior to going to heaven, was perhaps an encouragement to live a good life so you would go directly to heaven.  

Photo credit: Margaret Galitzin      F

The tangible exhibits of ‘messages from beyond the grave’ allows your imagination to explore the possibility of the life beyond…..
 
Who started the collection:                 

French priest Fr. Victor Jouet is credited with his mission to find physical proof of the existence of purgatory and to establish this ‘purgatorial museum’ in 1917.  more information.                                                

The small number of exhibits are an assortment of ‘burned’ prayer books, a table top, clothing and other items that might substantiate the belief that souls are attempting to contact loved ones. click

There is a detailed description of 10 exhibits in an article titled Holy Souls, no author listed.  Find photos and descriptions here.   https://purgatorysouls.blogspot.com/p/romes-purgatory-museum.html

Several of the more striking descriptions are 7a (photo at top of this page) ascribed to be the hand print of the deceased Fr Panzini left on November 1, 1731 on the table used by Mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi.
Exhibit 9 claims to be the finger  prints of Joseph Schitz (deceased) after touching the prayer book of his brother George on December 21, 1838.  

Purgatory may be a mystery of faith.   Where is it located?  How long must we remain there?
Or is this purgatory and we are judged on how we live our lives?

Museum is free but donations are welcome.  

Venice: roof top views

Exploring Italian cities, villages and fortified towns    
Walking the lanes and streets of charming Italian villages or the larger avenues of major Italian cities, I can experience Italian lifestyle from ground level.  To appreciate the scope of the city and the surrounding countryside you must climb.    

While Italian towns usually have a major church, some include a bell tower, other towns may have the remains of a fortress with surviving watch towers that offer a panoramic view from above the roof tops.   

Ground views of a city are charming.

Climbing a tower can afford a 360 degree view that is often obscured when exploring from ground level where the streets may wind around natural contours.

Tourists may recognize the leaning tower in Pisa, Giotto’s tower in Florence, the roof of Saint Peters‘ in Rome, Milan’s cathedral roof top and St Mark’s Campanile in Venice. 

Lines form early to visit the Campanile in St. Marks square

To avoid the line to enter the Venice Campanile, there are other options that are open to the public and offer a ‘view’.

View of the Grand Canal you don’t see from the water

A View of the Grand Canal for Free:
The roof top view overlooking the grand canal from the top of the former post office near the Rialto bridge,  Fondaco Dei Tedeschi, (DFS) is one option.  Centrally located and free (as of my visit in 2018) you reach the roof via an elevator!

View from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal  

I must have passed this multi storied building many times without realizing it had been transformed into a unique shopping experience.

On-line historic data dates the building from 1228 and rebuilt in the 1500’s after a fire.   The four story building surrounds an inner courtyard, which now has a glass ceiling.  An original fireplace and a well can be found on the first floor.  

Striking interior with open view of all 4 floors


The DFS store brochure and where-venice.com added more details on the buildings’ past.  Over the centuries the building was a palace, warehouse and later a market.   The ground floor water access would have given the building easy access to the merchants who traded here.  Higher floors were apartments for merchant families..
Later the building was used as a post office.




The four story building surrounds an inner courtyard which now has a glass ceiling.  Be sure to look UP!

The store is filled with wonderful high end fashion items, cosmetics and gift ideas.   Enticing displays along the wide corridors on each floor only suggest what additional items are found in the rooms  of designer fashions beyond.    Black suited sales staff are close by to assist all shoppers.  

All of the sales staff I met spoke English and were helpful and attentive even if you do not make a purchase.    You must ask for an English version of the free brochure, available at the information desk.  

The large, open space on the first floor originally was a courtyard with access to the canal via the large arched doorways.


Today the first floor offers a restaurant with table service as well as the amazing view up to the top floor.     There is a small coffee/cake location on one side of the atrium.  Tables surrounding the restaurant are filled with unique and colorful gift items or souvenirs. 


But I was here to visit the roof top deck.  
The elevators at the back of the store take you up to the 4th floor. 
Visits to the terrace are free but are limited to 15 minutes.   The number of visitors for each time slot are controlled and guests must reserve a time online or at the computer stations on the 4th floor.  Bring your confirmation with you on your phone or a printed copy.

You wait for your assigned time to visit the roof here in the events space.

There was a large group waiting in the events area prior to being allowed on the terrace.  The line moved quickly to climb up to the terrace.   After a few minutes there were breaks in the crowd taking selfies, so others could finally enjoy the novel view.  

There is a 360 view of the roof tops in the city and with the use of a telephoto lens or later photo enlarging, you can see details of many of the other buildings in the city.


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If your trip does not allow enough time to book a terrace visit, there are some hotels, palaces and museums that can also offer great views as well as a peek into what life was like hundreds of years ago.   Let me know what your favorites are.

Although there are many towers listed for Venice, not all of them allow visitors.  Check online to be sure they currently 
allow visitors and what the entrance fee may be:

Scala del Bovolo, stairway to heaven, is off Campo Manin.    Winding your way to the top of the building exposes more and more of the city until you have a view of rooftops and churches as well as St. Mark’s Campanile.   This is an easy climb, one of my favorite experiences.


My view from the top









The tower of San Giorgio Maggiore offers a view towards San Marco and the waterfront of Venice.  You will find fewer tourists on this island and an excellent way to avoid the line at San Marco.
This is an active bell tower, you may wish to time your climb accordingly.   

The view from near St. Marks, across to the church



The island of Torcellohas a tower in the small central square.  
Reid’s Italy* has a good description of this tiny island.  Always check online for current times the tower may be open.

Major bridges crossing the Grand Canal can offer a view without the climb.   The top of the Accademia bridge and the Rialto bridge are popular photo stops,  but often the crowds do not let you linger very long.  The newer (2008) Ponte della Constituzione or Ponte di Calatrava a Venezia linking Piazza Roma and the Ponte degli Scalze in front of the train station.  The latter is the first opportunity for tourists to experience the sweeping view of the canal after arriving by train.

So much to see. Only a few days in Venice is never enough time.


Most data is found on Wikipedia and not guaranteed by this site, be sure to check times and prices for any site mentioned here.

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For international visitors, please send comments translated to English.

Why I can NOT move to Italy……….

Of Course I love Italy, visiting any small town, village or city via train routes.

Returning Home to Italy 2 or 3 times a year confirms with each visit, that I must spend time in Italy. 


So why can’t I just pack up and move home?   I did this for my first 3 month ‘sabbatical’ in 2008 to test if I could live in a city where I had no contacts, not speaking more than  basic Italian (equivalent to a 3 yr old) and no plan to be a tourist, just to live in Sorrento and try to be Italian.









Because I would never leave……………….
How can one country have so many interesting, unique and even sometimes strange places to explore?  Festivals to attend.  Century old traditions to learn about.

Living in Italy I might NEVER travel to any other country.       And there is so much to see in the world.  

The best part of each morning!

So for the next year I shall try to see beyond Europe.  I will return to Asia.  This time it will not be a business trip.   It shall be a trip to try to see some local life:  meeting a geisha in Japan, taking a mini walk about in Australia, learning to make noodles in China and learning where saris are made in India.  

A common view as you walk a cobbled street

After traveling the world will I finally move to Italy?    Who knows but I will always go Home to Italy.

Although I appreciate your comments, promotional links will not be posted.  For international visitors, please send comments translated to English.

Venice: What do gondoliers wear on their feet?

What do gondoliers wear on their feet?   

 
When you think of Venice, the first thought may be the iconic gondola ride along the grand canal or on one of the quiet canals traversing the many islands that make up this city.   .  

You can enjoy watching the approximate 400  glossy black gondolas silently passing from the top of a bridge and on occasionally hear the echo of a gondolier serenade.
       

Gondoliers dress in the official ‘uniform’ of navy or red striped shirts, dark pants and often the iconic straw boater, according to Venice Insider.  An official clothing store at the foot of the Rialto bridge, Emillio Ceccato,   is where you can purchase authentic items.   When a number of gondoliers are clustered together, sight site is photo worthy!


You can usually find a group of gondoliers at one of the ‘gondola stations’ throughout Venice, waiting for the next passenger.  



Gondola Slippers:
On an earlier visit to Venice, Elizabeth Rainer, one of the three contributors to ‘My Pretty Venice’ a guide to finding Venice artisans and experiences (ISBN-10: 8873017746), introduced me to several of the artisans/shops included in the guide.  One of our stops was near the Rialto Bridge, S. Polo, # 60, to learn about the shoes sometimes called gondolier slippers or le furlane.                                                

My guide today, Elizabeth Rainer,
 a Venice expert




 .

S. Polo, 60   Rialto, Venice





                  
                                                                                                  





When you enter this compact store, you are assailed by the riot of color from the floor to almost ceiling, cubicles holding furlane in linen, velvet and some novelty fabrics.  


Furlane in many colors and styles



Finding limited information about le furlane on line, some of the history is described on the web site for Piede a Terre.   The following is from parts of their web site:   

‘As a result of the poverty and lack of employment just after WW II, the area of Friuli, north of Venice, began recycling old bicycle tires and jute sacks formerly used for seeds and grains.    The tire soles were waterproof and hard wearing.   The shoes evolved as other fabrics from old clothes and even rags were used for the uppers.’   

The simple slipper has expanded to wonderful fashion footwear

‘Hand made by women in the area, they were perhaps the first recycled products!    The rubber soles proved long wearing, good for a sometimes wet surface and could protect the finish of a gondola, which is a very expensive boat.’ 

It is not difficult to imagine women sitting in their homes homes producing slippers and using the proceeds from the sale of this simple product to supplement the family’s income. 

Today you can find the slippers in several styles and many fabrics or bring your own fabric to have a pair custom made.   On this return trip to Venice I wanted to experience a pair of furlane.    I passed on a store off the main tourist route, selling a lovely selection because they were not made in Italy.     

Once I revisited Piede a Terre the problem was making a choice:  first the style, then the fabric and finally the color.    Furlane are made for men and children as well, so you might find all your gifts in one location.

A velvet slipper
Do gondoliers still use furlane?   

My search resulted in shoe-less, sneakers or trainers as you may call them and dress shoes, but I did not find any furlane.   Have you seen a gondolier wearing furlane? 

This gondolier chose to work in socks!


During my online search, I did find many things about  gondolas and gondoliers.  
Continue to read.
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Gondolashave been plying the waters around Venice for centuries.   After the introduction of the faster, motorized vaporetto, the need to use a gondola to travel the canals was reduced.   There may still be some privately owned gondolas (Peggy Guggenheim enjoyed a private boat and must have had her own boatman) but you find most of the 400 + remaining gondolas offering the unique experience to visitors. 

If you are brave enough to cross the grand canal standing up in a Traghetto with several other passengers, your experience may be somewhat different.    Not on my list of travel experiences.

A traghetto crossing the grand canal.   Credit:  bing.com images


To maintain and repair the working gondolas in Venice, there are a few remaining squeri (boat yards).   New gondolas are built by hand and can take approximately 2 months to construct, involving 8 different types of wood and assembling over 200 pieces! (see Veniceinsider.com)     

Perhaps the best know boat yard is the squero di San Trovaso, not far from St Marks square.   

                                      https://youtu.be/pmgKUKvdiqI

You can view the squero from across the canal.   If you are there at the right time you  may see a boat returning to the water after a repair.  click here  


How to obtain a license as a gondolier,  a short overview, far more information and details are available online.

The career of gondolier is usually handed down from father to son over the years.
First, a candidate must pass tests for rowing and swimming before continuing to the formal gondoliere school, a course lasting up to 18 months.   Gondoliers must know the history and geography of Venice as well as speak sufficient English.  

Exams must be passed before a student advances to a substitute gondolier assigned up to a year as a traghetti di parada, the cross canal passenger boats.  

Gondoliers had been a male only profession until 2010 when Giorgia Boscolo, the daughter of a gondolier,  passed the exam.   Again Venice Insider was my source for this information but several other articles have been published.    Chiara Curto has also been authorized to use a sandolo:  smaller and flatter than a Venetian row boat.

When you visit Venice try to notice the unique design of the asymmetrical gondola and how the gondolier stands to one side.   With practiced strokes the boatman can maneuver the 35+ foot long gondola around corners, around other boats and close to a stairway to embark passengers.  


A close up look at other gondolas:

A boat serves as a perfect neighborhood fruit and vegetable stall.   The locals stop by daily.

Perhaps the best known book store in Venice is Liberia Acqua Alta where a gondola is the center piece.

There is so much more on the history of Venetian gondolas so be sure to do an online search to learn more.

Although I appreciate your comments, promotional links will not be posted.    

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All photos unless otherwise credited are the property of Home to Italy

Italy: Tivoli Villa d’Este in the rain

Traveling does not always have sunny days…………….

Often your schedule may not be that flexible or allow you to ‘go another day’.  You may plan a museum day if the forecast is rain 
unless it is the only day you can visit the famous garden in Tivoli Italy.


My day to see Tivoli, after 5 years of saying ‘I need to go there’, was  during a heavy rain storm in Rome.

It is an easy train ride from either Termini train station or Triburtina and takes approximately an hour.  No other passengers clutching tour books or maps, just a few day shoppers and lots of students.

From the train station to the town center


Signage to the villa is sparse.  After you exit the train station take the bridge across the river and head uphill.    Having no map and not finding the tourist office, I used google maps and as usual was taken on a wild ride.   However, I did see some charming parts of the town that will have me returning for another visit when it is not raining!   

Trento Square, 5, Tivoli




The ticket office  hall leads you to the courtyard.  On the opposite side you will find a small room to store bags/coats etc while you hike the garden.   The friendly woman behind the counter did not ask for any fee as I took the key from the locker I had put my back pack in.


She reminded me the closing time had changed since this was the first week of daylight savings and we had a chat about reading.   Since I speak very limited Italian it was very kind of her to spend any time chatting but she enthusiastically told me how much she enjoyed the author she was reading.     The small joys of interacting with Italians.

There was limited daylight left so I opted to spend my time exploring the gardens and left the massive villa for another day.
You must go to the ground floor (basement) to access the garden.
There are several verandas and patios off the villa that offer a view of the treetops and some of the water art.   


Photos of some interior rooms are at the end of this post

With no directions on which exit to use I took the elevator to a lower floor where I found a door that led to the stone terrace and more flights of stairs to lower parts of the garden.   

There are fountains everywhere!  There is rushing water playing music whenever you near a fountain.   The gardens go on but I may have only seen a small portion after a few hours.    Navigating the slippery steps and landscaped inclines became an effort after a few hours in the downpour.    The sound of all the rushing water battled with the many fountains and waterfalls.   

The hundred fountains stretched across the front of the villa.

The Hundred Fountains




Great descriptions of the garden features and the villa’s history can be found at Wikipedia.  





                   There were only a few other visitors in the gardens.


                                   Fountains and water falls competed with the downpour.



                 A few photos from the empty interior rooms. 


On my next trip I shall search for a ‘tour book’ that will describe the interior rooms and the garden in more detail.

Although I appreciate your comments, promotional links will not be posted.    

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For international visitors, please send comments translated to English.

Rome: taking the Green Tube instead of the bus


Not a bus, Not a train:   the Green metal tubes that can take you around Rome without a tourist in sight………………..TRAMS

You can find the older green trans outside the Termini station

   Rome:  This trip Home to Italy found me at a WWII Nazi interrogation center, Mussolini’s rented home during the war and my first visit to a catacomb.   There were still many traditional as well as unique places in Rome I had not visited. 

After my great experience with Prontopia in Venice and Florence I requested a local to help me to explore the city by tram.

Porta Maggiore

Painting by expat artist Kelly Medford 

There are a number of options for traveling from one part of Rome to another: metro, the extensive bus system, taxis and walking (for me up to 5 miles).  

Available in most major cities, the Hop on Hop off bus can take you near most of the major sites.  I avoid the bus unless I know the number of stops to my destination or find a bus that terminates at my destination.   Too difficult from a crowded bus to see the street signs to prepare to exit a crowded bus calling out permesso!


But the green metal trams that you find outside the Termini, train station, have been a mystery and on this trip I planned a tram adventure.    “The history of trams in Rome dates from 1877 with horse drawn trams.  Electric trams followed and by 1905 there were 17 tram lines.”1    The same Wikipedia article lists details of the numbered tram routes to identify the start and end of the route.

Bess, my Prontopia local in Rome, be sure to request Bess



Requesting to meet a local:
What a fortunate match to have Bess available for my booking.  A long time resident of Rome, Bess is an expat who can answer any of your questions and quickly understand how to best assist you with your visit to Rome.     

Since it was already dark when Bess met me at my hotel (you pre-arrange where to meet your local) we decided to walk/talk and have an apperotivo so I could spread out my well worn paper map and ask about the tram routes that would show me parts of Rome that tourists might never find.

Bess quickly gave me the web site and app (there is always an app) for the tram routes.    What the web site would not offer was information from a local on which tram would take me to a local market, a neighborhood that tourists don’t explore and an alternatives for traveling around Rome.


I always bring a paper map after Google maps took 2 hrs to send me to the wrong location and then the battery died

The next day with a copy of the tram route map I started my adventure with the route from termini to Borghese Gardens and at the Vatican.    Since it was not rush hour I had a seat for the entire trip.  Tip:  sit on the right side of the tram to be able to read the tram stop signs so you can track your route.   Warning, this is a slow ride but totally enjoyable.



The metal cars clank on rails embedded in the pavement with metal antenna  tethered to the electric wires overhead.  
As pedestrians run in front of a tram trying to avoid waiting for them to disgorge passengers and take on more, the warning bell sounds reminding me of a kiddie ride at an amusement park.

A tram travels more slowly than the bus and allows you to view the street scenes you pass that are not listed in a tour book.  In the older tram I felt as if I were in perhaps the 1950’s.   You have a glimpse from your window of life in Rome and if you have the inclination you can hop off and explore.   I used a multi day transportation ticket that was good for trams, buses and the metro.   Another piece of information Bess shared with me.

My second day ‘traming’ was not as successful.   I traveled to one of the markets Bess suggested and planned on continuing toTrastevere.   Not paying enough attention I took the tram in the wrong direction.   Not a disaster since you can disembark and take the correct tram.   I also took the tram to the biggest cemetery in Rome, Cimitera del Verano.  FYI returning to Termini required a change of trams just as the commuters started to fill the cars.  But a trip to the cemetery is well worth the effort and you can walk from the Termini as well.  The tram drivers are totally separated from the passengers so there is no opportunity to ask for assistance.  Ticket validation machines are inside each car.

Other tram options:
I saw online there may be companies offering evening tram tours that include dinner and one that offers Jazz as well!  tramdinnerjaz.com and https://www.tourinrome.com/rome-tour-in-tram/  I do not represent either company and can not confirm tours are still available.


I must thank Prontopia for inviting me to use their services for Rome.   I shall return to explore other parts Italy with them soon.


1. Wickipedia, Trams in Rome

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"If you want to know a city book a local with Prontopia"*

Venice   Rome   Florence


If you are visiting for the first time,  an independent traveler or returning often, Prontopia can simplify your travel 


 Use Prontopia to book a local to help eliminate some of the stress of travel

Arriving in a new city where you do not speak the language and signs may not always include a translation, can be exhilarating as well as a challenge.   Navigating transportation from the airport or the train station can add to travel-stress at the start of your trip.

Daily life in Italy always makes me smile



  • Now, thanks to Prontopiamuch of the worry can be eliminated by booking a local via a simple mobile app.  Find help on demand when arriving in Venice, Florence or Rome
  •  to become oriented to the city
  • reach your hotel
  • understand the public transportation systems  
  • meet a scheduled tour or 
  • find the best route to a must-see sight, Prontopiacan help.


Read more about Prontopia at http://www.facebook.com/prontopia



Prontopia is similar to the ‘uber’ concept but designed for walkers and those using public transportation, particularly in areas with pedestrian only zones.  


If you have a busy schedule and limited time to see as much as possible in each city, Prontopia can save you time and offer great tips of where to find the best restaurants, places not to miss as well as assisting guests with special interest that may not be covered in a tour book:  gardens, ‘secret’ museums or even vintage shopping.


Until I read about the benefits of booking a localwith Prontopia, I thought I could easily manage on my own and had no need for a guide.   After all I had lived in Italy short term and now return 2 or 3 times a year, I feel like a local in a few cities.    

Prontopia is far more than a meet and greetprogram.   The concept of locals interested in meeting travelers from other countries and sharing their knowledge and love of their city, would offer an opportunity  to ask questions and have an experience that I could not replicate on my own.   At the end of my meeting, I had made 2 new friends, found a tea shop and a great restaurant!


Venice is a city I get lost in every time I visit.    Finding a map of Venice with ‘street’ names, identifies the location of churches, points of interest, museums etc is not always easy. 

Even with the best map, navigating Venice’s more than 100 islands, 400 bridges and 170 canals 1 that often do not have signs, is a challenge.     A veteran of many trips to Venice, my paper map continues to help me with the never-ending turns and twists that are the charm of Venice.   Sometimes a route may literally end at a stone wall.   You back track and try a different turn and can be rewarded with a vignette of daily life in the city: a soccer game, laundry day, the daily sweeping and washing of the front step or an animated chat with a neighbor.    All this is what makes me love Italia!


Venice, Italy is an amazing city to experience and one of the ‘big three’ stops for most tourists.     From your first view of the Grand Canal on the steps of the Santa Lucia train station to the tranquil garden setting in the Castello sestieri (neighborhood),  Venice is an immersions of sites, sounds, smells and tastes that calls me back every trip Home to Italy.


Early visitors to St Mark’s square are only a fraction of the huge groups that will fill the square later in the day.

Testing the limits of my skill with an app, I booked a local in Venice to meet me at the train station and go with me to my hotel.         Meeting at the busy train station was a small challenge since there were hundreds of people milling around or waiting for a vaporetto.  Describing myself as short and wearing all black did not distinguish me from half of the large crowd.    We quickly located each other as two people  talking with each other only a few feet apart!   You immediately like Eloisa.  Her bright smile and energy are genuine.  And we did not have to rely on my limited Italian, since you can book a local who speaks English.   

    


Quickly we decided that walking to my hotel would be quicker and more comfortable than the boat.   Crossing fewer bridges and taking back passageways we arrived at the Fondamenta Zattere where the wide, level esplanade offers cafes facing over the water to the Guidecca.    This quiet area, away from the crowds that can make Venice seem like a theme park, is often filled with only locals going to the post office or the supermarket that are located here.   You may be tempted to just sit in one of the cafés and not see another museum or stand in line at another tourist spot for an hour.   
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During our walk I peppered Eloisa with questions on where to find solo-friendly cafes, the boats to some remote islands in the lagoon and the shop selling fashions created by inmates at the local prison.         She quickly gave me suggestions and answers.    One of her suggestions was an interesting restaurant frequented by students, that would be near my hotel.  The restaurant was closed that day, so we continued to nearby Campo San Barnabapassing a Tea shop that I would visit later in the day.   In the Campo we found many outdoor cafes, other restaurants and the book store where an event was planned that evening.  
Stopping in one of the cafes, with a map of the entire lagoon spread between us, Eloisa helped me identify the islands I might reach by public boats.  Some of the more remote islands required private transportation and would have to be put off until the next visit. 
Eloisa identified neighborhoods that were not well known to tourists and suggested walking routes to visit the Jewish Ghetto and the area beyond the Public Gardens.   So much to see in only a few days.    However, the few hours with Eloise saved me from wasting time visiting the constantly busy tourist office to request the information she shared.   Without her help I am not sure I would have accomplished half of my goals for this trip.   During the transportation strike later during my visit I should have booked a local to find alternative transportation to the Lido. 
The time spent with Prontoipia was so enjoyable it is hard not to instantly consider the locals you meet as friends!   Far more than a guide service, I decided to book a Prontopia local when I stopped in Rome, later in the month!
If you want to know about a city you are told to ask a local!    Even better book a local with Prontopia.

I have to disclose that my app skills were greatly lacking to make my first appointment.   Thanks to Ilaria Nardone, Italy Marketing & Recruitment manager for Prontopia the app was linked to my credit card and I received a one on one tutorial on how to book a local. 

 Ilaria was available any time I ran into a problem (which was often) and assured my bookings were placed correctly.

I want to thank Shannon Kenny for inviting me to try the Prontopia app during my trip Home to Italy.  The opinions in the post are my own.

* a quote I am searching for the author 
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CEO and founder Shannon Kenny, launched Prontopia in April of 2017 with the help of engineer Davis Brimer.   Shannon had divided her time between California and Italy throughout her professional career as a historian and social entrepreneur since 1997.  The business plan for Prontopia includes the mission:   Prontopia is a public Benefit Corporation committed to cultivating human rights awareness through global connectedness and human understanding.  We believe that together, we are better.  Through purposeful grassroots action, we help travelers, locals, and communities arrive to a better place without delay.
Next:  Prontopia local Bess helps me ride the green, metal tube  

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Great news for travelers arriving /leaving from Rome

Great news if you fly to or from Rome, Italy

I almost missed this news since I have been traveling for months but if you go Home to Italy via Rome you can now take a direct train to the airport from a few cities without a stop/change in Rome!

What is more exciting to me is the news that you can take this route from with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.  For me it means no more train changes with luggage!

I found this post on Conde Nast Traveler.   To find details I did the typical G search for Frecciarossa and found the following:

Article is from The Local IT      I can not wait until they have a direct train to Milan’s airport!   No more changing trains in the city….

From next month, travellers will be able to take one of Italy’s high-speed trains directly to and from Rome airport without going into the city centre.

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Starting on December 18th, Frecciarossa fast trains will connect the capital’s main Fiumicino airport with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.
While the cities are already linked by rail, running the high-speed line via the airport will save inbound travellers a trip across town to either Termini or Tiburtina station on the other side of Rome.
There are plans to introduce similar services to and from Milan’s Malpensa airport from 2019, said the director of the Italian state railway company, Gianfranco Battisti, as he unveiled proposals on Tuesday for a “great integrated transport network” between Italy’s airports, train stations and ports.

From next month, travellers will be able to take one of Italy’s high-speed trains directly to and from Rome airport without going into the city centre.

Starting on December 18th, Frecciarossa fast trains will connect the capital’s main Fiumicino airport with Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, Genoa and Venice.
While the cities are already linked by rail, running the high-speed line via the airport will save inbound travellers a trip across town to either Termini or Tiburtina station on the other side of Rome.
There are plans to introduce similar services to and from Milan’s Malpensa airport from 2019, said the director of the Italian state railway company, Gianfranco Battisti, as he unveiled proposals on Tuesday for a “great integrated transport network” between Italy’s airports, train stations and ports.”