Posts Tagged ‘Historical Sites’

What to do, where to go in Milan?

Milan is the financial and fashion centre of Italy. It can’t compete with the historical sites of Rome or Florence, so it is often added to an itinerary on the second or third visit to Italy or as a stop on the way to Lake Como. I’m not sure why this happens. Milan is one of my favourite Italian cities to which I return year after year.

Here is my list of the top five places to visit.

1. The Duomo
Because of its position in the heart of Milan, the Duomo is usually the first stop when visiting the city. Don’t miss a walk on the roof, wandering among the spires and statues and taking in the breathtaking views.
You can read about the Duomo here.

The Duomo in Milan

The Duomo

2. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
This 18th century glass and iron covered gallery is home to many beautiful shops, restaurants and cafes. Look up to see the magnificent central dome. Look down to see the emblems on the mosaic floor representing the cities of Milan, Rome, Florence and Turin. If you want to return to Milan you are supposed to place your heel on the emblem of Turin -the bull- and rotate clockwise!

Galleria Vittoria Emanuele, Milan

Galleria Vittoria Emanuele

The Dome of the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele in Milan

The Dome of the Galleria

Gucci Cafe at the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele in Milan

Gucci Cafe at the Galleria

3. La Scala
It’s an easy walk from the Duomo, through the Galleria and on to La Scala, Milan’s famous opera house which opened in 1778. Here some of the world’s best singers and orchestras can be heard and famous ballets seen. If you cannot book tickets to one of the performances, a visit to the Museo Teatrale alla Scala ( Museum) also includes a visit to one of the boxes where you can look down on the stage. If the theatre is being used, you may not be able to go into the box, so check on the board outside or ask when you buy your tickets

Teatro alla Scala, Milan

Teatro alla Scala, Milan

Rows of private theatre boxes line the walls of La Scala, Milan

Rows of private theatre boxes line the walls of La Scala

Foyer off the boxes at La Scala, Milan

Foyer at La Scala

Poster advertising Romeo et Juliette at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan

Poster advertising Romeo et Juliette

4. The Last Supper
Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, “The Last Supper”, is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It covers a wall in the former dining hall of the monastery attached to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In order to reduce deterioration, admission is strictly limited to 25 people every fifteen minutes. Tickets are often sold out months in advance, so buy them online as soon as you know you are visiting Milan. I use Tickitaly

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie

Bramante's Dome on the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Mila

Bramante Dome

Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in Milan

Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper"

On you way back from here, stop at Peck’s in Via Spadari, to see Milan’s best food store

5. Visit the Golden Triangle
This is the name given to Milan’s famous shopping streets, Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga and those that run between them, Via San’t Andrea, Via Gesù, Via Borgospesso. Home to the country’s famous designer shops, you should come here to window shop even if buying is not for you.
There are also some wonderful shop interiors and window displays to be seen

Gucci on Via Montenapoleone, Milan

Gucci on Via Montenapoleone

Window at Prada in Milan

Window at Prada

Sergio Rossi window on Via Montenapoleone in Milan

Sergio Rossi window on Via Montenapoleone

Lanvin shop on Via della Spiga, Milan

Lanvin shop on Via della Spiga

Hungry! Near here is Paper Moon, a popular restaurant for pizza, salad or three courses in Via Bagutta.

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It’s time to leave Sicily!
The history, the contrasting landscapes, the people and the food have been amazing.
We’ve loved every minute of our trip.
Here are some of our memories.

Iconic Etna was erupting whilst we were in Sicily. Smoke plumes wafted over the sky for days

Mt Etna, Sicily

Donald, our trusty Fiat Doblo, took us everywhere!

Fiat Doblo in Scicli, Sicily

From stunning Siracusa, with it’s maze of alleyways……

Siracusa, Sicily

Where laundry fluttered in the breeze……

Drying denim in Siracusa, Sicily

To the fishing villages of the south……

Fishing boats, Sicily

Where the three wheeled Apè was constantly in use……

Apè in Mazzara, Sicily

From mountains villages, where rooftops created their own memory…….

Roof tops in Sicily

To the clear blue waters of San Vito lo Capo……

San Vito lo Capo, Sicily

Through fields of flowers……

Olive trees and poppies in Sicily

Dotted with stone walls……

Stone walls in Sicily

Past vineyards……

Grape vines in Sicily

Spotting wild fennel growing everywhere……

Wild fennel in Sicily

To the Nebrodi mountains to see the famous black pigs.

Black pigs of the Nebrodi Mountains in Sicily

We loved the markets with all the fabulous selection of fresh food and fish

Ballaro Market, Palermo

Tasty Pachino tomatoes
Pachino Tomatoes, Sicily

Blood Oranges

Blood oranges, Sicily

Choose your fish.


With raw ingredients of this quality, we ate at fabulous restaurants, from simple trattorias to Michelin starred restaurants.

Star treatment at La Madia in Licata

La Madia, Sicily

Simple, stunning seafood antipasti at Sakalleo in Scoglitti

Seafood antipasti at Sakalleo in Scoglitti

Sicily’s own pasta with sardines at Duomo in Ragusa.

Pasta wih sardines, fennel and pine nuts at Duomo in Ragusa

Stunningly tomato salad with pasta and mussels at La Conchiglietta in Marzamemi


Amazing antipasti selection at Zia Pina in Palermo


Zuppe di Mare at Per Bacco in Siracusa

Zuppe di mare at Per Bacco in Siracusa, Sicily

Pane cunzato at Da Alfredo in Lingua, Salina

Pane cunzato at Da Alfredo in Lingua, Salina

Local festivals were a highlight.
La Festa di Capperi in Pollara, Salina

La Festa di Capperi in Pollara, Salina

La Festa di San Giorgio in Modica

La Festa di San Giorgio in Modica

Meeting friendly locals who were always wanting to know where we were from, what we were doing and where we were going.


Beautiful Marino in Trapani

Marino the net repairer in Trapani, Sicily

Making cheese with Guilio in the Madonie Mountains

Making cheese with Guilio in tbe Madonie Mountains, Sicily

Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by history

Golden mosaics at Monreale Cathedral, Palantine Chapel in Palermo, Piazza Armerina and the Duomo in Cefalu

Mosaics in the Monreale Cathedral, Sicily

Modica- one of the many Baroque towns of South East Sicily

Modica, Sicily

Temple ruins at Segesta, Selinute and Agrigento

Temple at Agrigento, Sicily

Lets not forget the sweet treats

Granita ni Sciacca


Gelato con brioche in Palermo, Sicily

And the best- Cannolo

Cannolo at Mazzara in Palermo

Thankyou Sicily
We’ll be back!

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The Palatine Chapel in the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo is one site you should not miss.

When the first of the Norman rulers, Roger II came to power, he restored the palace, originally built in the 9th century for the Arab emirs, and built the Palantine Chapel.
Though it was finished in 1140, the decoration of the interior took a lot longer. The fabulous mosaics were finished at varying times. Over the years, and with successive rulers, the chapel has been restored and the mosaics renewed, the latest being the mosaics outside the chapel which are 19th century

Mosaics outside the entrance to the Palatine Chapel in Palermo

Mosaics outside the entrance

Closeup of mosaics outside the Palantine Chapel in Palermo

Closeup of the mosaics outside the entrance

Inside, fabulous mosaics, a painted honeycomb wooden roof and marble decoration on the lower walls show the mix of the Arab-Norman-Byzantine style of the 12th century

The large mosaic icons of the central apse and cupola (dome) both represent Christ the Pantocrator
In the main apse, Christ appears above the Virgin Mary with St Peter and St Paul in the side apses

View of the main apse and side apses in the Palantine Chapel, Palermo

View of the mosaics in the three apses

Christ the Pancrator icon in the main apse of the Palantine Chapel, Palermo

Christ the Pancrator icon in the main apse

Whilst in the cupola of the sanctuary, Christ appears with angels, archangels and prophets with the Apostles in the four corners

Christ the Pancrator icon in the cupola of the Palantine Chapel

Christ the Pancrator with Angels and Archangels in the cupola

The nave mosaics depict scenes from the lives of St Peter and St Paul as well as scenes from the Old Testament

Christ with St Peter and St Paul in the Palantine Chapel in Palermo

Christ with St Peter and St Paul

Mosaics in the nave of the Palantine Chapel in Palermo

Mosaics in the nave

In the nave stands a 12th-century, fifteen foot high, Paschal candelabra carved with figures, wild animals, and acanthus leaves.

Carved figures on the paschal candelabra in the Palantine Chapel in Palermo

Carved figures on the paschal candelabra

Painted ceiling in the Palantine Chapel in Palermo

Painted honeycomb ceiling

Today, the Palazzo dei Normanni is the seat of Sicily’s regional govenment

The Appartamenti Reali (Royal Apartments) are on the second floor. Even though the Palazzo was rebuilt in Spanish times, the Sala di Ruggerio (Roger’s Hall) remains covered with mosaics depicting hunting and animal scenes as it did in Roger’s day

The Sala di Ercole (Hall of Hercules), where the Sicilian Parliament now sits, is just as it was when used in the Middle Ages.

This floor is only open on Monday and Friday when Parliament does not meet.
Check the opening hours before you visit

On the walk back, you will pass the Cathedral of Palermo. As a result of additions, alterations and renovations over the years, this 12th century Duomo now incorporates many different architectural styles.

Cathedral of Palermo

Cathedral of Palermo

Another view of the Cathedral of Palermo

Another view of the Cathedral

Via Principe di  Belmonte is a pretty street, closed to traffic with flower vendors,bars and restaurants spilling into the centre. We were here for dinner at Gigi Mangia but as Caffe Spinnato was over the road, we stopped for a quick aperitivo

On a beautiful night, sitting outside was the place to be. The restaurant service was perfect and the food matched.

La Cassata di Pesce Spada at Gigi Mangia, Palermo

La Cassata di Pesce Spada

Fantasmagorica-pasta with sea urchin, mussels and prawns at Gigi Mangia in Palermo

Fantasmagorica-pasta with sea urchin, mussels and prawns. Delicious

Grilled Spigola with tomato and olives at Gigi Mangia in Palermo

Grilled Spigola with tomato and olives



Gigi Mangia
Via Principe di Belmonte, 104d
Tel: +39 091 587651
Gigi Mangia

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Hints are flying around the dinner table on how best to see the Valley of the Temples, Agrigento’s claim to fame.

The most important one, we are told, is to catch a taxi from the parking area to the other end of the park. An easy walk then leads you back to the car park, via the temples.
It will be the best 2E per person you spend that day! Look for the sign!


The Valle dei Templi archaeological park consists of 7 temples built between 510BC & 430BC.
The Temple of Hera, dating from 450BC is the first we see.


The Temple of Concordia is one of the best preserved Doric Temples in the Valley. It was converted into a church in the 6th century AD.



There are also early Christian ruins in the park. The Catacombs were cut out of rock to house the bodies of the Christians and the ruins of this network can be seen.


The Temple of Heracles dates from the 6th century. The eight columns were restored to their original position in 1922 thanks to the efforts of an Englisman, Mr William Hardcastle.


After crossing the road, we come to the ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Temple of Castor and Pollux which is being restored.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus would have been one of the largest built.
The five steps on which it was built are still standing. In between the columns would have been giant statues called Telamon. A replica of one of the Telamons, which was not in fragments, can be seen. The original is in the Archaeological Museum


Under the passway and we are back at the car park. Easy!!

The decision is made to drive home via the Scala dei Turchi, Italy’s white cliffs.
A detour on the road flusters the tom tom but all of a sudden they appear, standing out against the blue sea.


To climb the cliffs, take the steps beside the restaurant.


We arrive back at Mandranova just in time for aperitivo!

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Bikinis in the 3rd century. This we have to see!

Today we drive inland to see the Roman mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale just outside Piazza Armerina. From Modica it is about ninety minutes through orange and olive groves and open fields dotted with dry stone walls.

At Villa del Casale, tour buses congregate and we run the gauntlet of side show alley with it’s souvenir stalls, though we do stop to try the oranges being sold from the back of a van.


There is a lot of restoration taking place and unfortunately a large number of rooms are closed. We are amazed by the size of the site and the near perfect condition of the mosaics.

Mosaics cover the floor of every room of the late 3rd century villa.They have been covered by mud as a result of a flood in the 12th century and not discovered until the 19th century. The major discoveries were made between 1950 and 1960.

The dining room mosaics feature mythological creatures whilst those in the long passage way show hunting scenes.




The ‘ Hall of the Female Gymnasts in Bikinis’ is an amazing scene with ten gymnasts in different poses.




On the way home we stop at Caltagirone, the ceramic centre of Sicily.
Il Locandiere at Via Luigi Sturzo, 55 is mentioned in Italy’s Slow Food guide, Osterie d’Italia, as the place to go and it is perfect for lunch. Specializing in fish, the mussels are stunning. Why do they taste so sweet compared to those in Australia?

If you are there on a Monday when Il Locandiere is closed, try La Piazzette, just round the corner in Via Vespri 20.

We explore the town.

The stairway leading to Santa Maria del Monte has it’s 142 steps covered in majolica tiles.




Flowers decorate the steps to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy.

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Ragusa is one of the best known of the baroque towns of South Eastern Sicily.
It is divided into two communities- the old Ragusa Ibla and new Ragusa.

We want to explore old Ragusa, so head towards Piazza Duomo, the centre of Ibla.



The Duomo of San Giorgio stands at the top of a flight of stairs.

After icecreams at Gelato Divini, we continue down the main street, past the Circolo di Conversazione,a private club with a neoclassical interior and the Baroque Church of San Giuseppe (currently being restored) towards the Giardino Ibleo, the 19th century public gardens which are still beautifully kept.




We wander back through the town looking for the stairway that joins old and new Ragusa.

If we climb the 340 stairs, we will be late for the real reason for our visit, lunch at Ristorante Duomo, the Michelin starred restaurant of chef Cicciio Sultano.

We may need the stairs after lunch!!

A beautifully presented taster of raw swordfish with an orange and pistachio sauce is an indication of what is to come.


Layered languostine and smoked potato puree is topped with a deep fried snail. Sounds terrible but was great!


Entrees included Saffron Ravioli with ricotta and marjoram and topped with a small meatball of black pork.


Pasta with sea urchins and wild asparagus.


Pasta with sardines, sicilian style with tomatoes, pinenuts and currants.


A stunning red wine from the Gulfi Winery at nearby Chiaramonte Gulfi complemented the main courses.


Red Tuna with a sauce of broad beans and wild asparagus.


Sicilan Lamb with crunchy vegetables and cumin sauce


Yes, we had dessert. The lightest and tastiest cannoli disappeared before a photo could be taken!

Ristorante Duomo
Via Boccieri 31
Ragusa Ibla
Tel: +39 0932 651265

Another suggested restaurant in Ragusa is ‘Ai Lumi’. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to see if they lived up to their reputation as the best fish restaurant in the area.

Trattoria Ai Lumi
Corso XXV Aprile,16
Ragusa Ibla
Tel: +39 0932 621224

At Locanda Don Serafino, a small hotel of 10 rooms in historic Ragusa Ibla. It also has an excellent restaurant.


Locanda Don Serafino
Via Febbraio XV
Ragusa Ibla
Tel: +39 0932 220065
Locanda Don Serafino

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