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, “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:
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.

And animated tours with actors re creating the scenes in the paintings, available in Italian.

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 blog

Italian contacts are like beads on a necklace ………………

 My Italian beads

These are NOT the beautiful beads you find in Venice!

Many people collect beads as a reminder of a place they visited, a special event or something they are fond of.

I think of the wonderful Italians I meet in Italy or follow on line as my beads of Italy.   
Many of my contacts in Italy have become friends.   Americans make ‘friends’ quickly and often consider everyone they meet more than once a friend.   Not all Italians feel the same way.

I may never have an opportunity to meet some of the established Italian bloggers but I can be inspired by their description of towns and hidden parts of the cities they live in.  Over the years I will add new ‘beads’ as I meet new ‘friends’ on my trips Home to Italy.

This list changes as I meet more and more wonderful Italian artists, business owners and my favorite group:   anyone over 70.
Everyone has a story to tell if you will only listen.

One of the saddest changes I notices on a trip a few years ago, was how everyone was glued ot a cell phone.   No longer will locals chat at the bus stop or while waiting in line at the mercato.   I miss that even when I only understood some of the conversation.

However, I do follow several Italy savv posts that always tell me about small towns and cities I may have never heard of.   Most first timers or even after 15+ trips I usually do the big 3 or 2 of the 3:  Rome, Florence and Venice.  There are always places to discover, revisit and now friends to see on each trip Home To Italy.

the bloggers I read  I may have never met in person, but feel they are my Italian ‘friends’

Ada in Venice welcomed me to her home
for an interview

May Jane Cowan,

Michelle Fabio at Bleeding Espresso ,

Anne Riband in Assisi

My new friend Tina who worked with DND in Naples showed me parts of her city I would never have found, ie the three sisters who continue their fathers umbella company.

And  Browsing Rome are only a few of the many as I consider them in country posting what I look for
The Italian Notebook, sends me short snipts of Italian life every week.   I keep connected with many of the practices/places I have lived with all my life but now know the origin.

A hidden village or town, I thought how it will take me years to see all the wonders that is Italy…. I may not see them all but the towns I visit and the people I meet become a bead on my bracelet. 

Each town leaves an impression or memory on my mind, a bead on my Italian bracelet.    I may meet a local vendor in the market or talk with a shop keeper who may leave a lasting memory.    The woman I met at the bus stop on the Amalfi coast who helped me find the next train station when the bus NEVER showed up.   The artist in Spello.   Her shop/studio is on the left as you climb the hill, who spent a half hour chatting with me in my terrible Italian.

The head nun at the convent hotel I stayed in, in Spoleto, or the elderly member of the order who spent a long time asking about what I was doing on my laptop, ALL IN ITALIAN!. My Spoleto bead.

Each visit is another bead on my bracelet.  One that lets me remember the incredible events of each visit:   Nonna Vata and making pasta, Mama Gilio who greeted me with a handshake and when I left with the kiss of an amici, the taste of the BEST tortellini ever in Bologna, meeting Ada in Venice

Recently I added a Tina bead.  Tina showed me Naples as a native, inside treasures I could never find on my own:   meeting a famous artist, the last family run glove manufacturer, stooping at hidden spots with a history NOT in tour books.

                                 my new friend Tina

And some beads have changed my life:     Yle with helped me propel my blog in 2012 with guest posts.   You can see many posts on my blog about Yltours.  But Yle introduced me to Mamma Anne and shared lunch with me.  Not the typical day a tourist finds in Italy.

Monica who offers cooking lessons and wonderful tours and cooking classes in Venice.   Others:  Santa Anna Sorento Lingue language school in Sorrento, Sheila in Florence offers fast paced photo walks, Kelly in Rome:  painting and sketching tours .   My list is endless….. This is why I go home to Italy every time i can.

I look forward to ADDING beads every year.

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…/10AXDyay0S6O_2jX0CJ0w94VKNd…/view

Contact Sketching Rome Tours:                                                        
FB  Sketching Rome Tours
Twitter:  @SketchRomeTours
Online reservations at:

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?, 1., 2. Sicilian Puppet Theatre-Opera dei Pupi/Italy, 3.

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

References offers an extensive list of the different types of puppets from around the world.
Sicilian Puppet Theatre-Opera dei Pupi/Italy 

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: