Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Authentic Amalfi Coast: Traditional Ceramics from Vietri sul Mare

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most popular destinations in Italy, and it’s easy to see why. With its dramatic coastline, colorful fishing villages, crystalline turquoise waters, and hidden sea coves and grottoes, this stretch of coast south of Naples is simply stunning. That said, after more than half a century of intensive tourism—the masses began rolling in after the post-war Jackie O/Brigitte Bardot jet set put this area on the map—it can sometimes feel as if the local culture of this historic coastline is buried under layers of grand hotels, luxury yachts, and chic cocktail bars from Positano to the island of Capri.

Travel slightly further afield, however, and it’s easy to discover the more authentic side of the Amalfi Coast, including its stellar cuisine, scenic donkey paths-cum-hiking trails, and, of course, traditional artisan crafts. Among the most storied of these artisan crafts is ceramica di Vietri, or hand-painted ceramics from Vietri sul Mare.

Vietri sul Mare(Photo by Elicus via Flickr)

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Rome on Two Wheels: Vespa Tour

Along with the Colosseum and Leaning Tower, nothing is more iconic of Italy than the Vespa. This timeless scooter was created in 1946 by the Piaggio company to meet the demand for a modern, affordable mode of transportation for the country's rapidly urbanizing post-war population. Since then, the Vespa has remained one of the most beloved vehicles of convenience in Italy, from retirees puttering to the market in banged up originals to urban hipsters buzzing about town in spotless faux-vintage models.

Nowhere is this more true than Rome. Due to the city's heavy traffic, limited parking, and—let's face it—theft problem, many Romans eschew a car and opt for a smaller and less expensive scooter to get to work, school, or simply out and about. Though there are certainly higher-end, full-optional scooters that almost edge into motorcycle territory, by far the scooter of choice is the plucky Vespa, and nothing delights more than spotting a candy-colored Vespa parked jauntily in a narrow Roman backstreet or against the backdrop of one of the city's most famous sights.

rome-vespa-tour-cr-ciutravel
(Photo by CIU Travel via Flickr)

If the Vespa is the Roman vehicle of choice, it follows that the ideal way to explore the Eternal City like a native is on the back of one of these classic “wasps”. We did just that on a recent tour that combined the fun novelty of zipping through the streets of Italy's capital on two wheels with the undeniable pleasure of some of the city's best street food. If you'd like to do the same, here are some of the basics: Read More…

The Sestieri of Venice: A Neighborhood Guide

The “Floating City” of Venice is famously made up of dozens of small islands crisscrossed by picturesque canals, but these islands are part of a larger patchwork of historic neighborhoods, or “sestieri”, each with a distinct character, charming “campo” square, and treasured, yet often little-known, church or monument. Luckily, aside from the outlying islands, most of Venice is conveniently compact, and its easy to strike out beyond the over-crowded A-list areas and explore the quieter and more pleasant backstreets—or back “calle”, in La Serenissima.

DSC03268 _Snapseed(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

There are six sestieri on Venice's main islands (or seven, depending upon how you count), though the lion's share of visitors only take the time to see one or two. After taking in the Doge's Palace and the Rialto bridge, stroll a bit further afield in almost any direction and you can discover a completely different side of Venice, a world away from the teeming crowds and questionable souvenir shops concentrated around Piazza San Marco.

Venezia - canal(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Here is an overview of Venice's main historic neighborhoods:

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Italy's Versailles: the Reggia di Caserta

It is said that when Charles VII of Naples first set eyes on the scale model of the magnificent royal palace he had commissioned his architect Luigi Vanvitelli to construct for him outside Naples in 1752, the Bourbon king was filled with such emotion that he feared his heart would be torn from his breast.

king-queen-lion-reggia-di-caserta-cr-ciutravel(Photo by CIUTravel via Flickr)

Though your heart is probably safe, your breath is sure to be taken away by the splendor and opulence of the finished Royal Palace of Caserta (or Reggia di Caserta), a triumph of late Italian Baroque architecture that is stunning both for its massive size and ornate style. The largest royal residence in the world, the palace is often compared to that of Versailles in France—with which it shares a number of stylistic and organizational features—and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited monuments in southern Italy.

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Accommodations in Italy: Some Basic Rules of Thumb

There is an endless variety of accommodations in Italy, from rural farm holidays to cosmopolitan designer hotels. Which you choose depends on a number of factors, including your budget, travel style, preference for amenities or independence, group size, and even where in the country you'll be visiting.

Grand Hotel Tremezzo(Grand Hotel Tremezzo - Lago di Como)

Here are a few general rules to keep in mind when deciding on accommodations:

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