Tag Archives: Italy

Italy: Montemagno mountains and animals

During our vacation in Montemagno, Italy, we decided to take photos of most of the animals around our house or in the air.

Haukka

We saw and heard many birds in the forest behind the vacation house. Two hawks flew above our house, high up in the air. A better zoom would be needed to photograph objects this far, but fortunately I got a few quite nice photos of these amazing hawks with our medium level camera.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 🙂

Haukka_2

One morning we had a surpise at the pool. We were wondering why the water was so still. My husband decided to check the filters. And there we found our surprise!

Sammakko löytyy

A frog. A huge frog. This one was fortunately alive. The frog we found some years ago at the pool by the house in Ardea, was a dead frog.

My husband got this frog somehow to trust him and the frog was saved from drowning.

Sammakko pelastetaan

After a few swimming lessons, the frog sat calmly on the broom, and was carried to a safer place.

Sammakko matkalla kotiin

There was a door from the kitchen to the backyard, where we sat most of the evenings, enjoying some shadow after the hot, sunny weather during the day.

Usually, when I opened the door, I saw a lizard, a funny little lizard.

Sisilisko_2

Sometimes the lizard and some of its friends run quickly inside the house. It was impossible to find them. But that did not matter. The next morning the lizards were outside again, warming their bodies in the sun.

Sisilisko

Our peculiar white rabbit, which we named “Osku”, lived around the house. He sure was funny. He was always happy to see us and made some small jumps and tricks around us.

Sometimes he just focused watching something we did not see. This could go on for five minutes at a time. Osku sure is a funny rabbit 🙂

Osku keskittyy

Not all animals and creatures are neat. Check out this one. It was huge and not a bit nice to have around.  I ran away but my husband took the camera and got some great photos.

Mikä lienee_2

One night, during sunset, a beautiful black cat came around the corner of the house. Its eyes look quite amazing in this photo.

Musta kissa

One of our best photos might be this one, which my husband took. The spider was less than half an inch, if even that. Quite a spider, don’t you think?

Hämähäkki

What are your best photos of animals and small creatures?

 

 

 

Italy: Historical Lucca

We decided to visit Pisa, Italy, and rented a small house in Montemagno. This small village lies up on the hills, just 10 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea.

Montemagno house and the view towards the Med

Our small rental house was so close to the sky, sometimes I felt I could touch the sky.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 😉

Haukka taivaalla

Houses on the mountains

The weather was mostly awesome: sunny and warm. After enjoying a few days by the pool, we decided to drive to Lucca.

Swimming pool in Montemagno
Lucca is a city in Tuscany, situated on the river Serchio. It is famous among other things for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.

Lucca_2

Lucca was founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony in 180 BC.

If you arrive early in the morning, you can find a parking slot within the city walls. Otherwise you have to leave your car outside the walls.

Lucca_3

The atmosphere within the walls is old, beautiful and fascinating. You see small allies, old buildings, beautiful churches and neat cafeterias.

Lucca_5

After the early morning hours, the tourist invade the city. If you like peaceful hours, come early. If you like crowds, come later 🙂

I love special small shops. This one was my favorite “Gastronomia prodotti tipici”

My favourite store in Lucca

I bought veggies, capers, cheese and wine… and in the book store closeby I found a few great books. We read a lot. Everyday. Small shopping is great shopping.

When the tourist rush started, around noon, we headed back towards our home in Montemagno. But first I had to take a few more photos and climbed up on the city walls. It was such a  beautiful view, towards all directions.

Lucca_1

Driving away from Lucca we enjoyed the countryside. And I must say, Italy is a very beautiful country. Toscana looks like this:

matkalla Luccaan

This is Italy_2

Toscana countryside_photographed from the car

I can warmly recommend Pisa, Lucca and the countryside.  Fly to Pisa, book a hotel room in Pisa or rent a house in the mountains. You will love it.

The Med_Viareggio and the mountains

Italy: Arriving at Pisa

We have travelled to a few Italian cities in the past years. We have visited for example Rome, Ardea, Anzio, Sabaudia, Syracuse, Floridia and Trevignano Romano.

In my early years, I visited Milan, La Spezia and Venice with my aunt and her Italian husband.

venice_shopping

There is so much to see and enjoy in Italy!

This time we decided to visit the area around Pisa. Finnair offers direct flights in the summer, which we appreciate.

The flight was an early one. We started with breakfast at the splendid Finnair lounge.

Finnair lounge breakfast before Pisa flight_2

In less than three hours we arrived at Pisa International Airport. Weather in Finland had been quite cold for the past weeks (11 C) so the sunny and warm weather in Pisa made us extremely happy.

Arriving at Pisa

We just had to take some pictures of the Finnair plane before walking to the arrival area to pick up our luggage.

Arriving at Pisa_2

As always in the past years, we had made a car reservation to Maggiore. As always the service was very nice and the car as well. We got an upgrade to an Alfa Romeo Giulietta. We love to drive an Italian Alfa Romeo along the Italian roads.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta from Maggiore

We like to travel to places where not many tourist have been. This time we found a secret hideaway on the top of the mountains at Montemagno.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 😉

On our way to Montemagno_JH

The view from the yard was amazing. A small valley was followed by some high mountains and behind them lay the amazing Mediterranean Sea.

Montemagno front yard view

First photo of our backyard at Montemagno

To our surprise we had a white rabbit as a “pet”. We named it Osku. Osku followed us everywhere we walked in the front and the back yard. The rabbit was a lot of fun.

Osku_our rabbit at Montemagno

More news, photos and stories from Montemagno, Lucca and Pisa will come soon.

Italy: Madonna delle lacrime, Museo archeologico and the Italian food

SANTUARIO MADONNA DELLE LACRIME DI SIRACUSA

“The Basilika and Shrine of Our Lady of Tears” situates close to the archeological museum on Viale Teocrito. It was built in 1950s. The style of the church is futuristic and looks like a tear. The story of this church is amazing:

From 29 August to 1 September 1953, a plaster plaque of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, placed over the headboard of the bed of a young couple, Angelo Iannuso and Antonina Giusto, at 11 Via degli Orti St., shed human tears.

Many saw, touched, gathered and tasted the salt of the tears.

On Sunday, 30 August an amateur film maker of Syracuse, Nicola Guarino, was able to capture the event on film, making this one of the very few miraculous happenings with such documentation.

On 1 September, at 11:00 a.m., a Commission of doctors and analysts went to the Iannuso home sent by the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Syracuse. They withdrew a sample of the liquid that flowed from the eyes. The microscopic analysis verified: “They are human tears.” After the scientific analysis, on the fourth day of the lachrymation, the weeping ceased.

With a height of 74 meters (242 feet) Madonna delle Lacrime is the highest building in Syracuse.

Kyynelehtivän madonnan kirkko_1

MUSEO ARCEOLOGICO SIRACUSA

The archeological museum in Syracuse is worth a visit. Its address is Viale Teocrito, 66. There are three buildings. You will enter via a nice park filled with plam trees.

Ile archeological museum

The first part of the museum houses the most ancient finds from the Palaeolithic to the historical age.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 😉

Museo archeologico di Siracusa

The second part is devoted to the Greek settlements, and most of the material originates from Megara Hyblaea and Syracuse. The collection of Greek vases, mainly from Attica, found in the necropolis of Syracuse is particularly rich.

The third area is devoted to the Syracusan outpost of Eloro and to the Syracuse’s subcolonies of Akrai, Kasmenai and Kamarina. 

LA CUCINA ITALIANA

If you enjoy delicious food you will love Sicily.  There is so much to choose from. Fish, vegetables, fruit, pasta, meat, pizza, ice cream, pastries etc.

Cozze gratinate are gratinated clams. Delicious. Carpaccio di spada is swordfish marinated in oil and lemon. A great recipe can be found here. Grilled swordfish is also worth tasting. Arancini are fried rice balls with meat or mushrooms and mozzarella cheese.

And don’t forget the fabulous Italian ham – prosciutto. There are many different kinds of prosciutto and I recommend to taste them all.

prosciutto di parma

Pasta con le sarde sounds strange but tastes so good. It is a pasta dish with a sauce made of fennel, raisins and anchovies. Be brave and try it. Also sun-dried tomatoes are extremely tasty. If you add them to any dish, you make a great choice.

Of course one has to eat some pizza in Italy. Our favourite one is Pizza Diavola, which is made of spicy pepperoni, delicious tomato sauce and rich mozzarella cheese. We usually ask for some mushroom flakes on top. Mind-blowing.

pizza diavola_2

Italy: Trevignano Romano and Bracciano

A HOUSE BY THE LAKE

A few years ago we thought about renting a house in Cyprus. Or in Malta. But the flight choices from Helsinki were not the best possible. No direct flights to Malta anymore.  Cyprus had some interesting houses for rent, but at the end we could not find one within our budget, and fulfilling our wish list. So we turned to fabulous Italy – again. Great choice!

This time we chose to visit an area north of Rome, as we had so far visited areas south of Rome.

Italy is full of great people, the language is beautiful and interesting to learn, the food and wine culture is fabulous and the scenery is awesome, wherever you go.

As earlier, we found it hard to find a house with air conditioning. The summers in Italy are hot. I was about to give up, trying to find a nice house 1 hour north from Rome, with AC. Then I got a reply to one of my queries. A man in Trevignano Romano said his family has a vacation house for rent. The owner promised that the house reflected our wish list.  He promised there is ACin the house.

So we made a deal. We chose a house by a lake, instead of the Mediterranean sea, as always before. And what a view we had from the house down to lake Bracciano.

ps. to enlarge the photos, click on them 🙂

view from the T R house

While you wait to travel, read travel blogs and books of the country and the area, which you will visit. Check out the web pages of the city you will stay in. Then you know in advance of events during your vacation, find tips on great restaurants and museums, etc.

Trevignano_view from the house 2


TREVIGNANO ROMANO

This was the second time we chose a house, by chance,  in a city where the Italian themselves like to stay during the weekend and the holidays. 3500 – 5000 people live in Trevignano Romano.  It depends on who you ask. Many come there just for the weekend. Those who live there, work in Rome or are working from home.

The beautiful Trevignano Romano is situated by Lago di Bracciano, lake Bracciano, less than 50 kilometers north from Rome.

The highway A12 takes you from the international Fiumicino airport to Cerveteri, where you turn inland. From Cerveteri it took maybe 15 minutes to Bracciano, a small town by the lake Bracciano.

Cerveteri Bracciano map


BRACCIANO

The old town of Bracciano is small but very beautiful. On Piazza Mazzini you find the old castle Castello Orsini-Odescalchi.

bracciano castle wedding

You can rent the castle nowadays. One couple who did this was Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when they were looking for a fabulous place for their wedding.

Tom and Katie wedding

From Bracciano we moved on along the SP4a towards Trevignano Romano. On both sides of the road a thick green forest surrounded the road. Every now and then we saw a glimpse of the lake. We also saw some amazing houses right by the lake. I wonder how much they cost. Our vacation house was close to the lake, but not 10 meters from it, like these houses.

T R beach houses

In ten minutes we arrived in Trevignano Romano. I must say I have seldom seen anything so beautiful.

Trevignano Romano

In the middle of the main street we turned left. The street got smaller and smaller. It was fascinating to see such old roads, with houses so close you could almost touch them through the car window.

Trevignano town 1

Putting on the first gear our small Alfa Romeo made it to the top of the hill. The view from Monticello hill was unbelievable and breathtaking.

T R view from the house to the lake

view of the b lake

Even though we check and recheck certain things, Italians tend to surprise us every now and then.

The very polite house owner showed us around the house and the garden. Everything looked great and perfect.

Trev house_JH outside

The house was bigger than we thought and needed, but it is hard to find small houses.

The garden was huge and had trees, bushes and plants everywhere.

T R house backyard flowers

The swimming pool was located a the south corner of the garden. It was a great spot. On your east side you have the amazing Parco Naturale Regionale di Bracciano and on your south side you can see all the way to Rome on a sunny day. The house had a small terrace and a bigger one. The view from the bigger terrace was just beautiful.

T R view from the upper terrace

When we asked about the AC,  the owner looked a bit sly. When I reminded him of the importance of AC to us, he started to talk about global warming etc. He also said it would not be too hot, so we would not need AC. We said we do need it. The temperature was already surprisingly high, around 34° C. Early June this is hot, even in Italy.

Finally the owner said there was an AC in the house. But, it was in the dining room. It had not been used for years. He said he would go and get the remote control and check if the AC works. When he came back and turned on the AC, a terrible noise filled the house.

As our Italian house renter did not know what to do, and as my husband is quite smart with technical apparel, my husband said he can have a look. And smart as he is, he repaired the AC with the things available. The AC started working, without smoke and noise,  but at the lowest level. We were surprised that the owner had not checked and fixed the AC, as it is mentioned in the ad and as we had especially asked for it. We also had to pay extra for the AC.

It got so hot the next week that the house owner drove north with his family as it was too hot for them in Trevignano! And still he said no AC is needed in the house … This was hilarious. 😉

But the house was nice, the garden was huge, we had a swimming pool (2 meters from the natural park) and the location was fabulous. So we had a terrific 2 weeks in Trevignano Romano.

pool next to the natural park in T R

Italy: Etna, Catania and Syracuse

HELSINKI – ROME – CATANIA

In 2004 my husband and I decided to enjoy an adventure. We wanted to see something interesting in Europe, not too far from Finland and where it would be around 20 C (68 F) during the day. We chose to make a trip to Sicily, Italy.

We decided to visit the area around Syracuse and the small towns further south. Most people visit Palermo and the beaches north of Catania (Taormina and Naxos) – later in the summer time.

Unfortunately there were no direct flights to Sicily, so we had to fly to Rome, then take a connecting flight to Catania.

What an experience it is to see the Rome International Airport for the first time!

We had only 1 hour between our flights. I give you a hint – reserve at least 2 hours between connecting flights. Your day will be less stressful.

fiumicino airport

MOUNT ETNA

The flight from Rome to Catania, an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, was short. The view from the plane was awesome. The Mediterranean Sea is for sure one of the most beautiful seas, especially when the sun makes the water glitter.

When I saw Mount Etna, the active stratovolcano of Sicily, I found my disposable camera (back then that was normal…) and took some pictures. It was an amazing moment.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.

Etna lentokoneesta katsottuna

CATANIA

We did not visit Catania this time. It is the second largest city in Sicily. If you like a hectic lifestyle and chaotic traffic, visit Catania. The nightlife is well known and you will find plenty of bars to choose from.

The city is known for its seismic history, having been destroyed by a catastrophic earthquake in 1169, another in 1693, and several volcanic eruptions from the neighbouring Mount Etna volcano.

Catania city and Etna
SYRACUSE

It is about 70 kilometers from Catania to Syracuse. We had chosen Hotel Helios. Helios was OK but not as great as advertised. Back in 2004 our budget was small, otherwise I would have chosen another hotel.

Hotel H and me

If you visit Syracuse you might want to stay at Mercure Siracusa Prometeo or at Jolly Hotel Aretusa. These are in the center of the city. Best choice might though be to book a room at Grand Hotel Ortigia, which is in the old town (called Isola Ortigia). Also Hotel Roma is a great choice.

In Syracuse, population 125.000, the cultural history is mixed with Italian city life. But just a short drive away you can enjoy the small and beautiful beaches, rocky shores and the fabulous countryside.

Pachino Sicily_2

PIAZZA ARCHIMEDE

An evening in the old town of Syracuse (called Ortigia) will fill you with great memories. Just before sunset we took a taxi to the old town and searched for Trattoria Archimede, which our hotel clerk had recommended. We had asked where do the Italians eat dinner. Sicilia in Tavola is another great restaurant offering great traditional food.

We arrived a bit early. Italians eat later, after 8 pm. We are hungry before 7 pm. We decided to hang out at Piazza Archimede for an hour. Great decision. The piazza is beautiful. And quite old. It was opened in 1878.

Piazza Archimede Syracuse

While sipping a cold drink at the terrace of a nice bar,  Banco di Sicilia and the other old buidings around you whisper stories of ancient Sicilian times and lifestyle.

I can warmly recommend to visit Sicily. There is so much to see as well as to taste!