"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.   

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 


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  


Although I appreciate your comments, promotional links will not be posted.  For international visitors, please send comments translated to English and include your email address to receive a response to any questions.

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.

”         “

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.”

Art in the Cemetery of the Holy Gate in Florence, Italy

With a zoom lens you can view the Duomo in Florence

Cemetery of the Holy Gate
Located next to the church San Miniato al Monte.

Italy is packed with art and the city of Florence, Italy is no exception.    Major museums display and protect some of the most famous paintings, tapestries and sculpture.  

Sculptures can be found outside of formal institutions.     You can view sculpture in a public piazza, as ornamentation to a building or even in private homes.

San Miniato al Monte

But do not miss the amazing sculpture in the local cemeteries.

The artists creating grave memorials do not restrict themselves to crosses as I discovered in the three cemeteries I recently visited. 

On this visit I climbed the hill to San Miniato al Monte to find the entrance to the Cemetery of the Holy gate to the left of the Church.  Check times and days open on line.


Don’t miss the crypt in the lower level.                                    The dome pictures are done in mosaics


Angels have always been my favorite.   The mystery of how wings are attached to the statue or more amazing, how they might be planned as part of the block of marble keeps me searching for  every angel in the cemetery.   When in Rome be sure to visit the English Cemetery too.

In addition to wings the artists have created drapery (robes and clothing) that appears soft as it folds around a figure.      Perhaps the most arresting features can be the facial expressions that convey such intense emotion.  Perhaps my favorite tomb in this cemetery, is in a more remote location and you come around the corner to find her weeping.

What is missing for most of the monument art is the name of the artist.   The family name is on most stones and usually the name of each interned but few stories about the occupants or the artist.

Perhaps one of the most discussed stories is that of Antonio and Maria.  You see the 5 foot figures as you enter the main part of the cemetery and the white stone glows.   What happened to these two young people?     Their stone says they passed within 2 months of each other.  Were they just married or were they brother and sister who their mother wished them to  be together.    This story needs to be researched and the on line information verified.  Whatever the background, I felt sad when visiting them.  

                A resting angel?   A guardian angel?    What is the cost for a private piece of art?

                           There are multi story crypts to accommodate more graves.

                            Some families build mausoleums that resemble miniature villas.

In the courtyard at the front of the church you will find a gift shop selling handcrafts.   There is a large display of small bottles of home remedies I expect the brothers make.   The directions are in Italian but there is a short summary for the use of each bottle.   Apparently they are well know for their ice cream.  The freezer was almost empty!   Make time to visit while you are exploring the property.    Note:  WC available at the left of the entrance to the cemetery.

Photos are often part of the monuments and fresh flowers are left on many of the graves.

Sunday was a day family members visited the cemetery in Sorrento.  It was a family day that could included a picnic.    

                     There are other more modern memorials with perhaps specific meanings.  Both of these                                             are very large stone pieces, larger than 6 feet high.

If you have found a tour guide in Florence who knows the history of this cemetery please share their contact information.

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

Italian stone angels, Rome

Italy is known for outstanding museums           where art treasures are on display

You can find incredible marble carvings in museums, public plazas and even private homes and courtyards.  But have you searched for other incredible carvings in the cemetery?

Entrance to the Rome English cemetery in Rome
A view of the Piramide from the cemetery. 
Only a few blocks from the metro station Piramide 

The English Cemetery or also known as the Protestant Cemetery, was my first stop to find marble angels.   

How does an artist make hard stone look alive, show stone like a folded piece of fabric and the depth of emotion in the facial expressions?   No other grave sculpture has had such a lasting impression on me as the The Angel of Grief, also know as the Weeping Angel.   

              You see this grave piece from across the cemetery.   

A number of well know expats are buried in the cemetery but many visitors may make the pilgrimage to see the Weeping Angel.  This massive sculpture by artist William Story  is a memorial for his wife.      

                                         The posture of the angel expresses abject sadness.

                       You do not need to see the face of this angel to feel the pain she is experiencing.

The grounds are very well kept with paths that allow you to walk past every headstone.  On a very hot day in Rome the cooler temperature and quiet was a welcome respite from the hectic pace of the city.

There is a welcome center near the entrance where friendly English speaking volunteers will sell you a simple map and give you directions and or background information on the graves you may be looking for. 

Continuing my search for stone angels I found several of interest but nothing compared with the Weeping Angel.
I have to question how some of the angel wings are attached.   Some of the ‘slimmer’ statues were carved from one piece of marble.   Angles with a wide wing span are ‘attached’.   On my next visit I will try to find an answer.   Did the artist use metal bars to attach the wings?

                      Just another example of the incredible detail the artist puts into a statue.

                                   A visitor may have left the flower for this sleeping lady

Possibly a raven . Makes me think of an Edgar Allen Poe story.  

  I must thank Steve at The Beehive in Rome for a post about the cemetery.     There are so many other great places to explore on every trip Home to Italy. 

Padua to visit the Scrovegni Chapel

Part of the massive fresco “The Last Judgment”

Most visitors race from Firenze to Venice without considering a stop at any of the wonderful cities that can easily be visited during this trip.  Travelers, unlike tourists, seek experiences that may not be on the top 10 list of a tourist guides.  Padua offers a number of experiences that should be added to your travel list even if you only spend a few hours in the city:   the city market, restaurants, cafes, churches and a pedestrian shopping street.   Padua also has a massive weekly market with products for locals not the tourist market!

Padua city center is a short walk from the train station.   The station was a wonderful surprise for a traveler.    It includes a full service tourist office, several restaurants and a grocery store in addition to the usual station services.

On a June trip Home to Italy I saw a post on author  Susan Van Allen‘s face book page mentioning the new hours/tours available at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.   Since I was staying only 40 minutes away, I booked a visit.

According to giottodibonone.com, “Italian artist Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence.   He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance.”    Years ago, as an exchange student in Firenze, our class often visited some of his original work when studying the Renaissance artists.

Enrico degli  Scrovegni, a banker in Padua in the 1300’s, built the chapel as part of the family palace complex.   Scrovegni commissioned Giotto to decorate the interior of the chapel.  The theme of fresco cycle is the life of the Virgin Mary.  

Taking photos from 5 feet off the ground do not do this amazing array of paintings any justice.  And visiting in the afternoon limits the natural light available.  note:  photos were allowed but NO flash
The colors are far more vibrant and the expressions on the faces in the paintings are very lifelike.

There was far too much to see and appreciate in this short time period.  

The chapel walls and ceiling are covered with frescoes created centuries ago, but are as alive with color as if they were in the 1300’s.


The chapel is one of the buildings in the large green park area.  It is set apart from the visitors center/gift shop and the exceptional museum that was included in my ticket.   Suggestion:  arrive early so you can check in, line up for a mandatory bag checking and review the many tour guides available for purchase.

In the gift shop you can rent an audio map with and interactive wand, 2 Euros on my recent visit.      An amazing feature that describes each of the paintings.    Be sure to review the descriptions before you enter the chapel, there will not be sufficient time while you are in the chapel to do more that gaze and perhaps take photos.

The chapel is separate from the main buildings, a short walk to the meeting point.  BE ON TIME.  If you miss your assigned ticket time you will not be admitted.    The doors lock to begin the mandatory ‘atmosphere stabilization’ process.    There are staff to answer questions but it was not clear what time to line up or where to find the start of the tour.

The waiting room that is air locked for 15 minutes before your visit

Each tour group waits in a comfortable room for 15 minutes prior to visiting the chapel.   The climate-controlled air locked vault is used to stabilize the temperature between the chapel and the exterior.   You do not feel any change in temperature or air pressure while you watch the video presentation.    The excellent video with English subtitles is very quick paced giving an overview of the paintings we would see in a few minutes.

My group was only 3 people but we found a large tour group in the chapel who had purchased an ‘extended visit’ of 40 minutes.   This was unfortunate because the tour guide was loud and the group reluctant to move away from the paintings so it can be more difficult to peacefully view this incredible site, depending on the group.

Art experts spend decades studying the work of Giotto so my 15 minutes was more of an attempt to see as much before the signal to leave was announced.   Wikipedia has a wonderful review of the panels giving me background for the photos I was able to capture.


Visiting the Scrovegni Chapel reminds me of a visit to the Sistine Chapel for the first time:  too much to see and absorb in a single visit.

On the lower portion of the side walls you find depictions of the ‘vices’ and ‘virtues’.   There is little color in these painting but the vivid message they offer is clear.  I particularly enjoyed the woman with the snake in her mouth:   envy



I did not allow enough time to visit the amazing museum that is also in this location.   It was almost empty and you could have viewed every item up close and without distraction.   The manager of the ticket office strongly suggested I at least see the wood cross attributed to Giotto so I race walked through the 2 floors to reach this room.

Equally striking were two carvings outside the exhibit, very arresting:

                                                                   Viewing some of the museum without any other visitors.

Additional information

Information on purchasing tickets is available on the online ticket system:  http://www.cappelladegliscrovegni.it/index.php/en/
Purchase your tickets in advance.  You can pick up the tickets in the  ticket office/entrance prior to your entry time.

The addition of evening tours offers a different way to view the chapel.  http://www.giottosottolestelle.it/index_EN.html#home

And animated tours with actors re creating the scenes in the paintings, available in Italian.  http://www.visiteanimate.it/visite/giotto-sotto-le-stelle

Even a guided tour is available, when booked in advance, according to the web site instructions.    Fees and restrictions on the web site.

Just saw this online.  I have heard locals in Venice talk for years about the problems with tourist and particularly the ones that come for the day or on a monster ship.   Now they have one solution, perhaps……

from Conde Nast Traveler

From April 28 to May 1, one of the biggest Italian holiday weekends of the year, tourists will be restricted from visiting popular landmarks like the Piazzale Roma and the Santiago Calatrava-designed Constitution Bridge. Unless you show a residential or commuter Venezia Unica pass at checkpoints, you’re not getting through.

Tourists heading to Rialto or Piazza San Marco will be required to follow alternative routes, and can no longer walk the Strada Nuova, Venice’s most famous boulevard. You and your car will be turned away at the lagoon if you don’t have a pre-reserved parking spot in the city, and even the ferries will be adjusted, dropping passengers off at Fondamente Nuove, on the city’s north side, rather than right in the middle of the action at Riva degli Schiavoni. Though these new policies and checkpoints are only in place for the weekend, Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro has also hinted that they could be periodically extended through the summer, Corriere della Sera, a Milanese newspaper, reports.
It’s all part of Venice’s self-preservation plan, to stave off the destructive effects of the 30 million tourists that visit each year. “We cannot prevent access to the city, and we do not want [to], but we must regulate the flow of tourists,” Brugnaro said Thursday. The new restrictions are part of the city’s “urgent measures to guarantee public safety, security and liveability,” according to the mayor, and are likely a result of the thousands of tourists who descended on the city for Easter, when wait times for vaporetto water buses between Canal Grande, Santa Chiara, and San Marco were more than an hour.

photos from Hometoitaly.com blog

Lonely Planet tells about second entrance for the Vatican Museum

GREAT, future second entrance to the 
Vatican Museum!

A post from Lonely Planet announces plans for a second entrance for the Vatican Museum.   If you have waited in line for this amazing experience, you will appreciate the future plans for a second entrance.

Read the LP article second entrance planned for vatican museum

Rome: Paint and Sketch in a Roman Park with artist Kelly Medford

Rome:  Art in the Park with Kelly Medford

Several years ago I spent 2 days following Kelly while she painted in Rome.   She was gracious to allow me to shadow her while she completed a project of painting a picture every day!  see post at  Rome Italy through the eyes of a talented American artist.

I had an opportunity to join one of Kelly’s sketching tours, Sketching in Rome tours while in Rome
to do several travel reviews.  Thinking this would be novel way to experience part of Rome I joined an enthusiastic group one very hot afternoon in the Villa Borghese gardens.

Kelly gathered the group and introduced herself and had each of us do the same.  This particular group was all women, all ages and everyone very accomplished professionals!   

As I found out later they were also surprising ‘artists’. 

Kelly has created a wonderful art package for each participant.   This is a compact pouch that has everything you need to sketch and paint:  paints, water brush, pencil, ink pen and book of paper.

The notebook has several types of paper suitable for sketching or water color paints.
One pad offers sketching paper, watercolor paper of different textures.

Our first mini lesson was how to close our eyes and draw
an item we had selected.   This was harder than it sounded….

Our group watching a demonstration 

Our lesson for water color painting …………….
If you have visited Rome before or perhaps just need an alternative to all the wonderful monuments, museums, churches, Sketching Rome Tours is a great afternoon alternative.   
As a solo traveler you will find a sketching Rome tours solo friendly and should find a friendly, social group.  
Each year Kelly offers wonderful painting adventures in locations out of Rome.  A perfect way to experience another city/country and expand your painting skills. 
Include this in your next trip Home to Italy.  
2018 schedule from Kelly’s web page:
Rome will be offering urban sketching workshops throughout 2018 with loads of different topics and teachers. I will be teaching capturing the light of Rome through watercolor in September. This is a great opportunity to get out and sketch the streets of Rome!
See the full program and join in

Contact Sketching Rome Tours:

FB  Sketching Rome Tours
Twitter:  @SketchRomeTours
Online reservations at:  http://www.sketchingrometours.com

Sicily: Opera dei Pupi: an Italian tradition you can still find

    Hundreds of eyes followed me as I explored the Museum di Pupi  (Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum) in Palermo Italy.

An army of soldiers away the next battle
In 2008 The Unesco intangible heritage list of cultural traditions in danger of extinction, included the Opera dei Pupi, Sicilian puppet theatre.  Always searching for anything in Italy not listed in a tour book, Italian puppets of Sicily were on my list of must sees on my first trip to Sicily.

There are several locations in Sicily where the ancient craft is practiced: telling well-known stories with hand made puppets.  

The Kind and Queen stand with their guards

The Antonio PasqualinoInternational Puppet Museum building at Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualino, 5, Palermo has been re-purposed to a wonderful open space where the history of puppetry from many countries is celebrated with video examples of performances and original puppets.

But the heart of this museum features Italian pupi!   And they are everywhere.    Sorted by categories, just waiting to be called on stage, are soldiers, knights, monks, working people, animals and a few creatures that could easily slip into a horror movie!     You are able to walk among the racks of figures dressed in historic clothing  and they seem to follow you with their large eyes and ready to reach out and touch you.  

As you pass by or under one of the many hanging racks the pupi sway and their wooden feet or hands make a clicking sound that may make you walk a little faster. 

There is a full sized theater in the museum where shows are performed for school children and visitors.  I had to take a look behind the scenes to understand how a few handlers could manage a full production.   The space is very small with narrow boards running behind the stage on several levels.  Try to plan a visit when there is a live show to appreciate this art of storytelling.  

On the main floor there are theater/puppet based items and books.  Unfortunately there was nothing in English on the history of puppets so of course I turned to the Internet.   There are a wide assortment of puppets.1

The history of Sicilian puppets is extensive.   Puppet performances in the open squares of towns and villages or near or in the local church, entertained and educated the locals.  

Sicilian puppets are string puppets that have a central rod and strings attached to a control bar.   Sicilian puppets vary in size, much larger than hand puppets.  They are handmade of wood, painted and dressed in the characters period clothing.   The swords and armor is fashioned from metal, embellished with crestsand designs.   Sicilian marionettes vary in size, in “Catania they are nearly twice the size of those used in Palermo” while Naples puppets are a meter tall.3

“A major component of the Opera dei Pupi is the sword fights, jousts and battles.”  “The skill of the performer is shown in the action of the puppet as well as the improvised dialogue for the repeated themes of each performance.” 2   

Puppet theatres were usually family run operations.   The skills of creating puppets and performing were handed down from one generation to another.   As other entertainment venues became popular, the number of puppet theaters diminished.  The Museo Internazionale delle Marionette works to preserve the long tradition of Sicilian pupi theater.  

There are several locations in Sicily that continue the historic practice of pupi: studios that create puppets, where collectors or travelers can find a hand crafted puppet to take home.   With advanced planning you can attend a traditional puppet show that recounts one of the historic stories with the famous characters:  Goffredo, Rinaldo and Orlando or Agricane.   A knowledge of the history of Sicily would be helpful when attending a performance. 
For centuries stories have been shared with the audience through the skills of Italian puppeteers.    Did you watch a performance at a local festa in your town?

www.facebook.com/museoantonio.pasqualino, 1.  https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppet, 2. Sicilian Puppet Theatre-Opera dei Pupi/Italy, 3.  Lifeinitaly.com/tourism/sicily/sicily-puppet-theatre.asp

Email: mimap@museomarionettepale 
Facebook:  Museo Internazale Delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino

  https://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Puppet offers an extensive list of the different types of puppets from around the world.
Sicilian Puppet Theatre-Opera dei Pupi/Italy 
3.  http://www.historicgermany.travel/buy-products/best-value-packages

Another opportunity to renovate a home in an Italian village

Ever dreamed of owning a home in a pretty Italian village? The news you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived.
You can now buy one for just over a dollar.
Ollolai, a destination in the mountain region of Barbagia on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, is selling hundreds of abandoned homes for just €1 ($1.2).
It’s not the first Italian town to try the gimmick, but it seems to be the first to live up to the promise. It’s also got the beauty and history needed to draw people in.
The real estate bonanza comes with a catch, though. The 200 stone-built dwellings up for grabs are in poor condition and buyers must commit to a refurbishment within three years — which will likely cost about $25,000. 
Behind the sell-off is a plan to rejuvenate a community at risk of becoming a ghost town. In the past half century, Ollolai’s population has shrunk from 2,250 to 1,300, with only a handful of babies born each year.
“We boast prehistoric origins,” says Efisio Arbau, Ollolai’s mayor. “My crusade is to rescue our unique traditions from falling into oblivion.
“Pride in our past is our strength. We’ve always been tough people and won’t allow our town to die.”
Read the full article here: