Juliet’s Balcony in Verona – One of Verona’s Top Attractions

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

One of Verona’s top attractions is Juliet’s balcony, made famous due to the fact that Verona is the setting for Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The marble balcony at Juliet’s house or Casa di Giulietta in Verona is very romantic and attracts so many visitors every day that I was hard pressed to take a photograph of the balcony without someone peering out over it.

Juliet's Balcony Verona, ItalyActually this house was not really Juliet’s house but instead a 14th century medieval building that has been restored.  Supposedly the Capuleti family lived here in the 14th century, and later the building which was named “Il Cappello,”was used as a pharmacy and then an inn.  The city of Verona bought the building in the early 1900's and the balcony was added in 1936 to attract tourism. In reality Shakespeare’s fictional character Juliet obviously never lived here but the story lives on and visitors flock here by the thousands, especially after the 2010 film, Letters to Juliet.

Juliet statue Verona, ItalyThere is a tour of the “house” which is basically a museum for a cost of six euros but I opted to skip it. The balcony and courtyard with the famous bronze statue of Juliet draws the crowds as each person waits his turn to stroke Juliet’s left breast. There is a tradition that says this is supposedly going to bring the person good luck. I skipped that too and lucked out to get a photo of the statue alone, between people eager to touch her.

One of the gift shops within the courtyard is aptly named Romeo Giulietta and has a nice selection of reasonably priced merchandise with the Romeo Giulietta logo. What caught my eye even more was the other shop which opens into the courtyard also, but this shop features personalized embroidered apparel.  As I entered a friendly Italian man asked my name and then promptly embroidered it with a special embroidery capable sewing machine onto a card and gave it to me at no cost.

Candace's apron Verona, ItalyThis really is a great marketing strategy, since I liked it so much and was intrigued enough that I spent quite a bit of time browsing around in the shop and actually purchased an embroidered apron as a gift. The young girl at the sewing machine was only too happy to embroider a name of my choosing on the apron which already had the phrase la Regina della Cucina, which translated means the Queen of the Kitchen. There does not seem to be any sign of an economic recession here in this crowded tourist attraction in Verona.  Always crowded Juliet’s Balcony is one of the top attractions in Verona and so close to the beautiful Piazza delle Erbe that you have to see it.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Monte Solaro – Highest Point on Capri

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Capri is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and its natural beauty of rock and panorama views are the primary reason.  The two towns of Capri and Anacapri make up this beautiful island, and each is town is beautiful in and of itself. Both have views that are amazing and yet the very best vistas on Capri are from the highest point on the island, Monte Solaro.

View from Monte Solaro, Capri, ItalyAt 1932 feet above sea level, reached either by walking or by taking the more convenient chairlift, Monte Solaro features stunning 360 degree panorama views of Capri and the Bay of Naples.

Known also as the Monte Solaro Seggiovia, the Monte Solaro chairlift station is located near Piazza Vittorio on via Caposcuro in Anacapri, near the center of town. For the modest price of ten euros roundtrip, I had the thrill of my vacation during the peaceful quiet 12 minute ascent to the peak, and afterwards the 12 minute descent back to Anacapri.

View from Anacapri Capri, ItalyThe views along the way are almost indescribable and the tranquility I felt was like none other. Although this two kilometer diagonal ride rises to over a third of a mile from sea level, the ground below is never that far away, so my original fear was washed away immediately.

There are 156 seats capable of holding one person each, with a single non-locking metal rod which fits across once you are seated. It is similar to a ski lift except that it is only one person to a seat.

The Monte Solaro chairlift was originally built by engineer Francesco Uliscia in 1952 and later modernized in 1998.

At the peak, there are multiple layers of terraces where I was able to wander around at my leisure and soak in the view, take photos to my heart’s content and enjoy a snack before the return trip down. It is nice not to be rushed since this is nature at its very best and why not enjoy it to its fullest?

The snack Bar at the peak is called “La Canzone del Cielo” and was originally built in the 1950’s and had a swimming pool and a solarium, as well as a restaurant and bar. Today only the bar remains with an outdoor seating area to enjoy a glass of wine, some gelato or a panini. Conveniently there are also restrooms located here.

This was by far the best part of visiting Capri for me and although there are many other attractions here, I recommend that you don’t miss Monte Solaro.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Corniglia – Highest Village in the Cinque Terre

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Corniglia is the smallest of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, and is the only village that is not situated on the seashore. Having a population of just over 200, Corniglia boasts the highest altitude in the Cinque Terre, sitting 100 meters above seas level, providing stunning panorama views from this vantage point.

Corniglia  Cinque Terre, ItalyCorniglia is only accessible by walking 382 brick steps from the train stop, or taking a small bus from the same location. The hiking trail above has been closed die to mudslides.

One of the more popular spots to eat or have a drink is Er Posu Café, located at the bus stop on via Fieschi and at the entrance to the town of Corniglia. It is very casual and has great cappuccino and lemon cake. The prices are reasonable, and I noticed it was still open in the afternoon, unlike some other establishments in Italy.

Er Posu Café Corniglia street and shops, Cinque Terre, Italy (3)There are no big attractions or museums to see in Corniglia. Its attraction is its laid back atmosphere and quiet picturesque streets with a few shops. I tried to buy something in one of the shops but I needed change and the shop owner didn’t have it. It is not like in the U.S. or another larger town where the person might go next door or to the bank. Instead I just couldn’t buy the item. That’s how it is – simple.

Corniglia street and shops, Cinque Terre, ItalyThere is a 14th century church here, the Church of San Pietro, which very much resembles the church in Manarola. It has a beautiful rose window above the door, and the window is interestingly made from marble from nearby Carrara. In the center of the window is a sculpture of a deer which is a symbol for Corniglia.

Corniglia is the kind of place where you can sit on a bench and watch people and enjoy it. There is no agenda here and no rush. Even the bus does not necessarily run on time, and it only runs when a train stops at the station, which is not as often as it does in the other towns of the Cinque Terre.

Although Corniglia sits up high, there are two small beaches which are considered to be Corniglia’s beaches. Neither is easy to reach and the one which receives the most attention is Guvano Beach because it is a nude beach, mostly frequented by locals. Clothing is optional so if you want to go you can also wear a swimsuit. To reach these beaches requires going through a tunnel and paying a fee to someone who opens a door at the end, all a little bit adventurous, to say the least.

I am glad I came to Corniglia though even if it was just for a short visit. It is just another example of a beautiful spot on Italy’s Ligurian coast.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Manarola in the Cinque Terre

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Manarola is one of the five villages in the Cinque Terre and one of the quietest, although it has a swimming area which attracts plenty of tourists especially during the summer months. Originally a fishing village like many of the coastal Cinque Terre towns, Manarola is also known for its locally produced white wines, Costa de Campu and Costa da Posa.

Terraced hillsides in Manarola Cinque Terre, ItalyI was there recently and it is easy to see why wines are produced there, since the hillsides surrounding the village of Manarola consist of many terraced vineyards. Looking at these it made me wonder how the people manage to work on these steep hillsides. The answer is narrow planks of wood or dirt paths which run alongside each terrace. I saw some of the locals tending their land as I was walking from the upper portion of Manarola to the lower end or centro storico.

Manarola - Cinque Terre ItalyManarola is beautiful and has the typical characteristic narrow steps and walkways like the other steep villages in the Cinque Terre. Manarola is the second village and the one at the end of the famous Via dell’Amore walk from Riomaggiore. From Manarola there is a hiking trail to the next village of Corniglia, but it has been closed for more than two years now due to a landslide.

Entrance to via dell'Amore - Cinque Terre ItalyManarola does have a train station and it is easy to reach Corniglia that way; however once there I had to either take a small bus to the hilltop town of Corniglia, which sits 100 meters above the sea. The other option is walking up the 382 steps, and then of course back down when it would be time to leave. No thank you.

Nativity scene in Manarola Cinque Terre, ItalyWandering around Manarola is enjoyable as there are a few shops with locally produced products such as ceramic and food items. The small family run restaurants are usually named after their owners and there are only two hotels in this small village.

Shop in Manarola - Cinque Terre ItalyOne of the oldest structures here is the 14th century   Baroque church, the Church of St Lawrence, from which I was able to enjoy a wonderful panorama view downward. I was not in Manarola during the winter months, but since 1997 there had been a tradition of the placement of an illuminated Nativity scene on the hillsides. In the town I did see what maybe was a part of that high on the walls.

The local people here are very friendly to tourists, despite the fact that we are traipsing through their lives and neighborhoods on a daily basis. The Cinque Terre is a beautiful part of Italy and Manarola is not to be missed.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Follow Margie on her blog at margieinitaly.wordpress.com


Cinque Terre Hike – Via dell’Amore

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

The beautiful Cinque Terre on northern Italy’s Ligurian coast draws hikers from all around as there are several walks connecting all the five villages on trails high above the sea. Many of these trails have been closed due to the devastating flooding and mudslides from October 25, 2011 but a couple  of the paths are open and the easiest of these is the Via dell’Amore from Riomaggiore to Manarola.Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre Italy

This two kilometer walk is more of a stroll than a hike and the seaside promenade is not that far above the sea. It only takes twenty to thirty minutes depending on how long you want to stop and enjoy the beauty of the rugged coastline and shoot some beautiful photos.  Along the walkway are benches made of stone and they make great spots for romantic photos.Views from Via dell'Amore Cinque Terre Italy

Even though the Via dell’Amore translates to Lover’s Walk, there are families and people of all ages and situations walking here.  Anyone can do this walk and it does not require hiking boots or walking sticks like I have seen on the serious hikers who are here to do the more strenuous trails.

What is so interesting and eye-catching here are the hundreds of locks all along the Via dell’Amore with initials of lovers who have placed them along walls, netting, screening, railings, posts  and anywhere they can find a place to affix these locks of love.

Locks on Via dell'A,ore in the Cinque Terre Italy Via dell'Amore Locks Cinque Terre Italy

While walking along this gorgeous stretch of the Cinque Terre I felt very happy and it seemed that was a shared feeling among the others walking along, based on their expressions. How can anyone be in a place as beautiful as this and not feel happy?

Street in Manarola - Cinque Terre ItalyRiomaggiore is the most southern of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre and Manarola is the smallest of the villages. Both of these villages are fun to walk around, browse in the shops and take in the scenery and the views.

Riomaggiore has the characteristically steep walls and the way around is by steep narrow staircases. The stone houses are painted ion pastel shades, mostly of pink and yellow and there are local ordinances governing the color scheme.

Manarola has a beach area that is more or less a swimming hole, and in the summer it is a popular spot for swimming and tanning. Manarola is one of the quieter villages of the Cinque Terre and also has the typical narrow sloped walkways and little shops and restaurants interspersed throughout.

By taking a walk on the Via dell’Amore you can also enjoy these two Cinque Terre villages at a leisurely pace. There is nowhere else quite like this part of Italy.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Capri – Amalfi Coast Island Destination

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

The small island of Capri is a must-see destination if you are traveling to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.  Some of the most expensive real estate in Italy, Capri has long been known as the luxury vacation destination for the rich and famous, because of its sheer natural beauty, shopping and tranquility.

Marina Piccolo on Capri, ItalyI have been fortunate enough to take a day trip to Capri on two different occasions, and to say that it did not disappoint is an understatement. Capri is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Its location on Italy's Amalfi Coast makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy,  attracting over two million visitors in 2011 Capri has become a popular stop for travelers on Med Cruises.

Most people hear about the Blue Grotto and want to make sure they see it, and truly it is one of the most amazing things to see on Capri. The island of Capri consists of two towns, Capri and Anacapri, both of which offer something for everyone. Here are a few of the other top attractions on the island.

Faraglioni rocks at Capri, ItalyBoat tour around Capri

This is one of the best ways to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the island and the surrounding Faraglioni giant rocks that seem to emerge out of the ocean from nowhere. In addition to the Blue Grotto, you will pass the Green Grotto, the White Grotto, and the Red Grotto and be able to enjoy Capri away from the tourist crowds ashore. These excursions can be booked from Marina Grande, the main port of Capri.

View from Anacapri Capri, ItalyTaxi tour on Capri

For 20 euros I had a wonderful tour of Capri and experienced a drive along the Mamma Mia road to the higher town of Anacapri. These taxi drivers and tour guides live in Capri and know the island well. I visited places that I would not have known on my own to see so I highly recommend this option. There was plenty of free time built in to shop and browse at my leisure.

Monte Solaro

Do not miss the opportunity to ride the chairlift to Monte Solaro for ten euros roundtrip. The station is easily located in Anacapri near the center of town and this was definitely the highlight of my visit to Capri. The panorama views from the highest point on Capri are unmatched in beauty and the sense of tranquility from that vantage point was wonderful.

Church of San Michele in Anacapri

This early 18th century church is one of the best examples of Neapolitan architecture and the floor of majolica tiles is truly a work of art. There is a nominal entrance fee which is totally worth it and a must-see when in Anacapri.

Blue Grotto, Capri, ItalyBlue Grotto

This is definitely the most famous and also the most touristy places on the island. This cave entered by small rowboat appears blue in color as the light refracts on the water. Entrance to the Blue Grotto is always iffy depending on weather so it is a good idea to have a back-up plan.

Marina Piccolo

This is the other port on Capri, on the opposite side of the island from Marina Grande. The smaller ferries from towns on the Amalfi Coast arrive here and the green color of the water along with a small rocky beach is like a postcard. This small fishing community has restaurants and bars and a lovely outdoor terrace for the perfect glass of wine.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Off the Beaten Track in Rome – Cinecittà Movie Studios

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

If you have time in Rome and want to do something a little off the beaten track, why not visit Cinecittà Movie Studios?  Sprawled over 99 acres, Cinecittà translated means “Cinema City” and is affectionately known as “Hollywood on the Tiber.” Cinecittà Movie Studios are the largest film studios in Europe and they do feature tours for visitors.

Cinecittà Movie Studios Rome ItalyAbout Cinecittà Movie Studios and Location

 Located just 5.6 miles southeast of the historic district in Rome, Cinecittà Movie Studios is conveniently located to hotels and apartments in Rome, the studios can be reached by taking the Metro A line to the Cinecittà station. It is the only movie studio in the world where it is literally a one-stop movie production and includes   pre-production, production and post-production all in one place. Today there are over 300 dressing rooms, 21 make-up areas plus administrative offices here. Two large tents and 22 sound stages are here along with an outdoor 7000 square meter tank which allows for filming of ocean scenes.


Since 1937 3000 films have been shot in these studios and of these 83 have received Oscar nominations and 48 have been Academy Award winners. These include: Ben Hur, Cleopatra, La Dolce Vita, The English Patient, The Passion, Roman Holiday, The Pink Panther, The Agony and the Ecstasy and others.

Some of the more accomplished producers and directors have made films at Cinecittà Studios and perhaps Federico Fellini can claim title to the most films here. Other famous directors and producers who have filmed here are Martin Scorsese with Gangs of New York and Francis Ford Coppola, who says that "I really feel at home here in Cinecittà." Franco Zeffirelli directed Romeo and Juliet here and Cinecittà Studios has been home to Roberto Rossellini and Mel Gibson among many others.

 Cinecittà Today

This busy studio produces both national and international films today. Besides that videos, commercials, and television productions are shot here plus some photo shoots. Cinecittà Studios is a very busy place. Currently in production is another version of Romeo and Juliet featuring Paul Giamatti.

As a way to provide incentives to filmmakers to shoot in Italy, Italian tax credits are available, as they are in other major movie cities such as New York City.

Studio Tours

At Via Tuscolana, 1055, Cinecittà Studios has tours which are open to the public. Its “Cinecittà Shows Off” has recently become a permanent exhibition where you can tour the back lots of movie sets of ancient Rome in an interactive fun tour. You will see costumes used in Fellini’s movies as well as dresses worn by Sophia Loren and Cameron Diaz in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

All aspects of moviemaking are explored as you tour rooms which focus on set designs, directing and sound and all the other aspects of film production. Tours are from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm daily except Tuesdays with slightly shortened hours on the weekends. Ticket prices range from 11 Euros to visit the exhibition to 20 Euros for a guided tour of outdoor sets and a look behind the scenes. Reduced prices are available for seniors and children.

Cinecittà Studios is a excellent way to spend the day when staying for extended stays in Rome apartments and hotels and one is looking for something different.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Ravello, Italy – Off the Beaten Path on the Amalfi Coast

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Ravello, Italy is one of the smaller towns, less touristy towns on the Amalfi Coast perched high above the Gulf of Salerno and the towns of Amalfi and Maiori. On a driving tour along the Amalfi coast a wonderful English speaking guide named Stefano suggested going to Ravello and it was totally worthwhile.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast, ItalyWith a population of 2500 Ravello is suspended almost 1200 feet above sea level and from this vantage point I was treated to some of the most picturesque views of the coast.  It is beautiful town to wander around the tiny alleys and discover hidden doorways and small churches. It is a place where you can just enjoy the atmosphere of tranquility.

Much quieter than its neighboring tourist towns of Positano and Amalfi, Ravello has become a favorite destination for artists, writers and musicians. It has the distinction to having been home to Richard Wagner, M.C.Escher, Gore Vidal, Virginia Woolf, Sara Teasdale, Ibsen and Giovanni Boccaccio.

Wagner Summer Festival

Ravello is the place where the famous composer Richard Wagner found his inspiration in the late 19 th   century.  In fact each year between April and October the Wagner Summer Festival takes place at Villa Rufolo here in Ravello.

This has become a tradition since it began almost 60 years ago. Initially the music festival predominantly featured the works of Wagner, but today it offers music from a variety of classical composers as well as chamber and jazz selections.

Villa Rufolo Ravello, ItalyVilla Rufolo

Situated right next to the Cathedral in the main square is Villa Rufolo, a 13th   century building which today is a small museum with awesome gardens. Its main tower, Torre Maggiore, rises almost 100 feet high into the sky creating a wonderful opportunity for photographers like me. Its castle-like look is very appealing even though the luxury of what once inside is only a memory today.

Villa Cimbrone Ravello, ItalyVilla Cimbrone

This    historic building dates back to the 11th century although Villa Cimbrone was completely remodeled in the 20th century and is a hotel today with magnificent gardens that are open to the public.

A landmark of Ravello, Villa Cimbrone was made famous when the movie star Greta Garbo stayed here.

Rooms here are not cheap.  The lowest priced room is a single room in the off season priced at 320 euros, and a frescoed ceiling suite with a balcony and sea view suite can run 1200 euros a night in high season.

Many weddings are booked here because the views are unmatched. Probably what Villa Cimbrone is best known for is its “Belvedere of Infinity.” This is an outdoor terrace which is lined with Roman busts sculpted from marble. From the terrace the views of the coastline below and the Tyrrhenian Sea are incomparable.

Cathedral in Ravello, ItalyCathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Pantaleone  was built in 1087 and originally dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. One of its most interesting features is its 13th century bell tower along with its bronze doors made up of 54 rectangular panels depicting the life of Christ. The Cathedral is the heart of Ravello and can’t be missed in Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo was totally restored as recently as 1973.

La Vecchia Cantina

One of my favorite meals on the Amalfi Coast was in Ravello at La Vecchia Cantina.  This family run Ravello restaurant served excellent meals at reasonable prices. One of the specialties was pasta with marinara sauce and pumpkin, which was delicious according to one of my tablemates. I had pasta arrabbiato and a salad of tomatoes and arugula called “rocket,” which was heavenly.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Pompeii, Italy– Day Trip on the Amalfi Coast

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

As a UNESCO Word Heritage site, Pompeii is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing two and a half million visitors a year. Pompeii is considered to be one of the world’s best archeological sites because it is so well preserved.

Pompeii , ItalyPompeii was originally damaged after an earthquake in A.D 62, and then after the devastating eruption of Mt Vesuvius in A.D 79, this ancient city was buried beneath 13-20 feet of lava and ash. It was not until 1749, almost 16 centuries later, that Pompeii was accidentally uncovered and excavated. Ongoing excavations and restorations continue today.

Pompeii ruins, ItalyLocated at the Bay of Naples in southwestern Italy, Pompeii is only 17 miles south of Naples.  A few years ago I went on a day trip from Sorrento which including a drive along the beautiful Amalfi coastline and a stop in Pompeii.

Ruins of Pompeii, ItalyArranged through the wonderful family operated tour company, Pleasantravel.com  the experience was the highlight of my trip. The very knowledgeable English-speaking guide Stefano, along with the friendly and able driver Antonio, provided a fantastic personalized tour of the Amalfi Coast.

Pompeii Bakery, ItalyUsually I like to wander around in Italy on my own with no set agenda, but visiting Pompeii is an exception.  Pompeii is definitely one of those places where I highly recommend a tour guide.  Stefano explained that Italy has strict rules governing the official tour guides who are credentialed and have to be paid separately.

The two hour tour of Pompeii with Hector, who claims to be the “best” of the tour guides, was totally worth it, as he has been doing these guided walks through Pompeii for over 15 years. There is much to see and it was only enhanced by Hector’s explanations of what I was seeing. The weather left something to be desired as it poured most of the time I was there, but it still was an amazing experience.

What is so incredible about Pompeii is that it provides a clear picture of Roman life. There are homes, markets, villas, baths and even a 2-story brothel complete with frescoes depicting various activities. Almost 20,000 people lived here prior to it being buried.  The mosaics and intact pottery items are so awesome when you realize that these things date back almost 2000 years.

Pompeii Pottery, ItalyRecent collapses of some of the structures in Pompeii have brought to the forefront the need for ongoing restoration to this archeological site. Only one archeologist works full-time on this project but it was recently announced that the Italian government and the European Commission have agreed to fund 105 million euros to the Great Pompeii Project for the next four years. The funding will allow for more archeologists to work at the site and also for the important restoration to be achieved.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Follow Margie on her blog at margieinitaly.wordpress.com


Courmayeur – Highest Commune in Italy

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Courmayeur is a small Italian town in northern Italy at the foothills of Mont Blanc. A popular ski resort this alpine village near the Swiss and French borders is also a favorite of hikers and mountain climbers especially in the summer months.

Valley Courmayeur ItalyI had never heard of Courmayeur, not being a skier or a hiker, but my Italian friend Angela suggested it as a place to visit, a little off the beaten path.  With a population of less than 3000, Courmayeur in the summer is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The homes and buildings do not look like the rest of Italy but instead resemble French chalets. Even the roof style is different with heavy slate roofs to accommodate the severe winters here.  Many of the little shops as well as the hotels have French names here.

Houses of Courmayeur, ItalyActually Courmayeur reminds me of the popular American ski resorts of Aspen and Vail during the off season. Many of the shops were closed and there were few people here since June is not really the tourist season. The locals are very friendly and the restaurants are not crowded.

Courmayeur is one of the few towns in Italy that does not have a train station, so it is not that easy to reach without a car. Bus service from Aosta and Chamonix in nearby France is the main mode of transportation in and out of Courmayeur.

Clock tower in Courmayeur, ItalyOne of the landmarks here is the Church of Saint Pantaleon in the center of the town on via Roma. Its Romanesque style bell tower with the characteristic clock makes for a nice photo opportunity.  Via Roma is also the main drag in town and where most of the shops are located. Many of these shops as you would expect carry ski and mountain clothing and gear.

I would have liked to have taken the funivia ride or Mont Blanc cable car but it was not open during my visit here.  The season for this is from December through May.  I understand that the views from the air are spectacular. Maybe next time.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

 Follow Margie on her blog at margieinitaly.wordpress.com


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