Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Liberty: Italy’s Art Nouveau

Italy may be best known for its Renaissance and Baroque architecture, but the country’s creative vein didn’t end in the 1700s. During the decades straddling the 19th and 20th centuries, a new artistic movement swept through Europe and the US, which influenced everything from fashion and advertising to the decorative arts. Most significantly, the movement left its mark on the architecture of the time, and still today we can find its organic, botanical lines in facades and interiors across Italy.

Quartiere Coppedè(Photo by Sarah Nichols via Flickr)

In France, this movement was known as “Art Nouveau”, but in Italy it was originally called “Floreale”—soon changed to “Liberty” after the landmark Liberty & Co. shop in London. Breaking from the rigid geometry of the past, the Liberty style was informed by the more fluid lines found in nature (and helped along by new techniques to shape iron, glass, and cement) and became the hallmark of a new generation of upper and middle classes who were looking to build residences and commercial buildings that reflected their distance from the Continent’s historic aristocracy.
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Trip Inspiration: The Via Emilia

Of the many innovations that allowed Roman civilization to expand so quickly and flourish for so long, perhaps the most important was their expansive network of roads that crisscrossed the Italian peninsula and connected to places as far-flung as Britain and Mesopotamia. Covering about 250,000 miles at the height of the Roman Empire, these routes were often paved, linear, and major arteries for moving troops, diplomats, and goods quickly and safely between Rome and its provinces.

via emilia
(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

A number of Roman highways still exist today, and one of the oldest and the most important is the Via Emilia (sometimes called the Aemilian Way), which runs northwest from Rimini to Piacenza across the region of Emilia-Romagna and recently celebrated 2,200 years since its foundation. A road trip along the ancient Via Emilia takes you past some of the most interesting small cities in the region, as well as its gourmet and automotive heart. Here are the highlights:

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Sicily’s Alcantara Gorge

By far the most striking natural feature along Sicily’s Ionian coast is the towering volcanic peak of Mt. Etna Which spews ash and steam more or less continuously from its crater. The mountain and its roughly 570,000 years of activity have left an indelible impression on the surrounding landscape, beginning with the mountain slopes and valleys blanketed with rich volcanic soil that today produce excellent wines, Sicily’s most prestigious pistachios, blood oranges, and a number of other specialties.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_8b09(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

Another impressive consequence of Etna’s millennia of activity are the the Alcantara Gorges—or Gole dell’Alcantara in Italian—that sit at the foot of the mountain’s northern slope. This network of vertiginous gorges cutting through the volcanic rock were formed by the Alcantara River, which runs from the Nebrodi Mountains to the coast near Giardini Naxos. The rushing river waters follow the path of an ancient lava flow, carving dramatic open-air ravines and underground passages through the hardened lava stone along the way.

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The Artful Season: Exhibitions and Unveilings in Italy This Fall

With fewer crowds, lower temperatures, and some of the best foods of the year, the months from September to November are among our favorites for visiting Italy. That said, as the summer-like days of September wane and November approaches, the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable and can swing between clear skies and balmy temperatures and blustering winds and cold showers in minutes.

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Portrait of a Lady and her Daughter.png
By Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

This is the season in which you’ll want to have some indoor touring options up your sleeve so you can fill a few hours when the weather turns biting cold or uncomfortably wet. With luck, your autumn trip will be a mix of days temperate enough to enjoy meandering through the streets and sipping an espresso al fresco and the odd sudden shower driving you indoors to check out a museum or art gallery. For the latter case, here are some suggestions for art exhibits to check out across Italy this fall:
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A Papal Retreat: Castel Gandolfo

Rome is one of the world’s great cities: repository of stunning art and architecture; birthplace to iconic pasta dishes; and vibrant capital formed over almost three millennia of history. Despite its La Dolce Vita-tinged joie de vivre, the Eternal City can also be slightly overwhelming, with a relentless pace and urban bustle that is unsurprising for a metropolis of millions but not the relaxing atmosphere you may want on holiday.

Villa Barberini Pontifical Gardens, Castel Gandolfo(Photo by Sonse via Flickr)

If you find you need a break, there are a number of easy day trips that take you out of the city for a few hours of respite; one of the most delightful is Castel Gandolfo, where popes have retreated from the heat and politics of the capital during the summer months since the 17th century. Set just 14 miles (24 kilometers) outside the city limits, this sprawling estate is located deep in the hills of the Castelli Romani overlooking Lake Albano, an area known for its pretty towns, bucolic countryside, and respectable wines.
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