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The Literary Town of Recanati

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Recanati in Le Marche is a literary town of/for/by the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi. I say that not only because Leopardi was born here but also because he spent a majority part of his life writing poems inspired by the town. Even though Leopardi had a conflicting relationship with Recanati, one of his most famous poems L’Infinito” (The Infinite) was written from a solitary hill of his town where he used to walk to. Now, a famous vantage point, the hill is called “Hill of the Infinite” and has views that go as far as the Sibillini Mountains.

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Hill of the Infinte

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Piazza Leopardi

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Palazzo Communale

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Leopardi’s statue in the piazza

Giacomo Leopardi wrote many poems in his short lifetime of 38 years but there are a few that stand out. “A Silvia”, published in 1828, shows his sad and tumultuous life state as he describes a girl he is in love with. The girl lives opposite the piazza where Leopardi’s house is but he cannot win her as she is below his stature. Another popular poem “Il Sabato del Villaggio” (Saturday in the Village) describes the same piazza opposite his house and tells the tales of people who come and go.

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Silvia’s house (Was her name really Silvia?)

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Leopardi’s House a.k.a Palazzo Leopardi

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The piazza dividing the two places

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Leopardi’s Recanati

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The town evoked more sadness on a grey day

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If this corner could talk….

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and this one too..

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Chiesa di San Vito

Recanati is a fascinating town that evoked a sense of sadness in me. Even as I write I remember the feeling of walking through the streets and thinking of the story of Leopardi.

In 2014, the popular film “Il Giovane Favoloso” (Leopardi) captured the essence of the town and of the poet. Ever since then, the town has been revamped and the streets are decorated by the poems of Leopardi at every bend. It gives Recanati a real picture of being called a literary city.

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I found the Italian of that era extremely difficult. The translations online helped but I don’t know what is really correct.

Giacomo Leopardi: 1798-1837

Disclosure: There are “ affiliate links” on my blog. If you click on a picture, it will take you to Amazon.in. and if you purchase something through these links, I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks for supporting my blog and keep reading Italophilia! 🙂

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The Sleepy Little Town of Castelfidardo

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You know the Italian town that makes the best hand made Accordions?? It is Castelfidardo in Le Marche. I never knew about it until I went there this summer! However, Castelfidardo wasn’t really for me. It does not come in my “must see” sights of Le Marche and can easily be skipped.

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Probably the rare time when I saw someone in the centre

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There is an International Accordion Museum in Castelfidardo

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The view from the main piazza

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From my apartment

Accordions available for young and old on Amazon

The only good reason about going to Castelfidardo is its location- close to the sea and also other historic towns of Marche. Otherwise everything in this town is slow and practically closed. There is only one good Bar (usually not crowded) and a few odd shops selling goods such as the Accordion, books or quick service food.

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I don’t remember reading the name of this Torre (Tower)

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Vicolo

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The quaintest corner

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They were equally happy to get a picture clicked!

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Nothing is open and it was 7 p.m.

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There was a bookstore at the corner

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On a clear day, you can see the sea

However, there is one place not to be missed while visiting Castelfidardo and that is one of the oldest bread shops in Le Marche! Just at the entrance of the town, this Panetteria Pizzeria is owned by the lady in the picture below who has been making fresh bread for the town since years. Even after her husband’s passing recently, she makes sure the business goes on every day and starts her work at 4 a.m in the morning.

Fresh bread from the oven and a pizza rossa for me please!

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The owner of one of the oldest bread shops

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Be sure to visit and say hello to the lady!

Cooking at Fabrica del Gusto in Fabriano

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It was a usual day in medieval Fabriano for everyone but me because I was going for my first ever Italian cooking class! I wanted to learn something local and found the cooking school – Fabrica del Gusto to be perfect for my needs. 

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Fabrica del Gusto was a 5 minute drive from the city centre and I was welcomed by Silvia (one of the owners) at the door. To tell you all a little about the cooking school, it was started by Silvia and her business partner Donatella out of their passion for local products and their land.

The two ladies provide several creative workshops and cooking events for both individuals and groups alike. They even have workshops for kids! Fabrica del Gusto is an adorable corner in the heart of Fabriano and is filled with passion for all things local. It really is a very well thought space where I learnt to make “Ciambelline al Vino e Anice” which in simple words means cookies with wine and fennel.

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We made the Ciambelline quite slowly as we spoke about Le Marche and Silvia’s love for traveling and her curiosity about India. It was an afternoon of eating and relaxation with some cookies packed for my trip back home!

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Cookies dipped in red wine!! Isn’t that the ultimate foodgasm ever?? Do give it a try and if you are ever in Le Marche, take a cooking class with Fabrica del Gusto and say hello to Silvia for me! Donatella- I hope to meet you next time.

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I am linking my friend Rosemarie’s recipe for your use. To book a class with Fabrica del Gusto email them at info@fabricadelgusto.it or call at +39 3282234499.

Disclaimer: Silvia and Donatella were kind to offer me the cooking class for free but as always the opinions here are my own. Thank you for this connection, DiscoverMarche.

  

Medieval Fermo and it’s Historic Sites

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Fermo is a medieval town in the southern part of Le Marche. Situated on top of a hill with a view of the surrounding villages, Fermo gives a sense of tranquility better than any of the other towns in Marche.

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Piazza del Popolo

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Regional flags make it look like a medieval set

Practically devoid of tourists, Fermo has the most beautiful and linear piazza in all of Marche. The town is dotted with lovely boutiques and cafes, a gigantic town hall and a rich historic library.

Unfortunately I was able to see only one of the things above because Fermo was hit by an earthquake in August 2016 that left most of its treasures in ruins. The thought of it is heartbreaking and it was even sadder to see the state of things myself.

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A line of shops and coffee shops

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I regret not tasting the Chinotto drink made from the chinotto tree

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Just a usual day in the piazza

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My cappuccino with Ginseng

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Fermo’s piazza from a part of Biblioteca Civica

But Fermo does have a line of rich cultural sites.

The Biblioteca Civica Romolo Spezioli (closed due to the earthquake) is a popular public library with a Globe Room and manuscripts, documents and designs from the 17th century. There is also a modern library just next to it with computerized catalogues. The Biblioteca is known to be a treasure of the town and I have it on my list for next time.

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Biblioteca Civica Romolo Spezioli (Image Credits: ledonneincorriera.it)

Another important cultural site is the Palazzo dei Priori from the 13th century. The Palazzo was closed to the earthquake and so was it’s Civic Art gallery that is filled with Gothic artwork. Again, for next time!

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Palazzo dei Priori

Since these two were out of bounds, I went to the Teatro dell’Aquila-a spectacular site and one that surely should not to be missed in Fermo! Thankfully it was open and a local helped to get inside even though there was an International Violin Competition going on. The theatre was made in the 18th century and is known to be of prime importance for the cultural activities in Le Marche.

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Inside Teatro dell’Aquila

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There was a Violin competition going on

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This chandelier was ordered from Paris in 1830

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Imagine listening to an opera here

Hope you enjoyed a walk in the town. I thank DiscoverMarche and the Mayor of Fermo for making my short stay in the town so rich and inspiring. The Mayor was kind enough to gift me a frame of the Biblioteca Comunale. I will never forget Fermo! Grazie mille.

How to Reach:

You can reach Fermo from the Ancona airport or the Porto San Giorgio railway station. There are buses from the train station every 30 minutes to the centre of Fermo.

Vineyard Walk at Vigneti Santa Liberata

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If you ask me what is the most important part of Italy travel for me, it is first and foremost the people. I have been fortunate to meet and befriend many people over the past few years who have supported me for my love for all things Italian.

In Le Marche too, I met Giorgio Savini with his niece Martina Savini- two lovely souls who went an extra mile to show the best of their region. The Savinis run the Vigneti Santa Liberata near Fermo and their wines are made with great passion and care and it is evident the moment you talk to the two.

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Filled with great vigor and passion, it was a treat to walk in the vineyard and know that wine making has been their family business since 1934. I chatted with the pair to understand the method of making wine using high quality organic farming. The passion and love for their family and land was so heartwarming. I could see that they had really put their heart into it and Martina with whom I could instantly connect for the love of travel was a joy to speak to!

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We had a great walk in their vineyards followed by a wine tasting. I tried their Rosso Piceno DOC Le ReneRosso Piceno DOC Vigna Cacià and Marche Rosso IGT Dàidalos. My favorite was the DOC Vigna Cacia, it absolutely won my heart!

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Image credits: Santa Liberata

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If you are looking to taste some wines of Le Marche and have a splendid time in the region, I will suggest you to contact info@vinisantaliberata.it. They organize wine tastings and tours and are the best way to see something offbeat in and around Fermo. Even from Ancona it is well worth a day’s trip. I am so grateful to both Giorgio and Maria for showing their land. Grazie mille!! Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark Museum

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A windy morning in Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark museum with DiscoverMarche had me smitten. Not many know that the town of Fabriano in the region of Le Marche, Italy has been making paper since the 12th century.

Fabriano paper is easily available on Amazon

Can you imagine how it felt to walk through the doors where this UNESCO creative city has been inspiring companies and individuals alike since centuries?!

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From the middle ages

Fabriano’s old techniques to refine and process paper is famous across the world. The paper made in the town goes everywhere you can possibly imagine and my own country gets paper for its currency from here- a fact that I got to know only then.

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Benvenuti! Welcome!

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Since 1264 stayed with me

That is why Fabriano’s Paper and Watermark Museum is a hidden gem. There are guided tours available in Italian and English, a little souvenir shop with inexpensive handmade paper and a demonstration of the finest watermarks in relation to the modern currencies.

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Have a seat while you wait for your guide

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Ancient and modern

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and told us about the story of Fabriano as an ancient city. She was working in the museum since over 2 decades and was very fierce about her work. A fun conversationalist, she was also interested in the Indian culture and hoped to visit Delhi soon.

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First floor display

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Does this mean a binder??

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The second floor

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An art and paper exhibit

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Old equipment possibly from the 18th century

We were shown a live demonstration of the process of paper making with working machinery from the 18th century. She also told us about the hydraulic hammer which was invented in Europe. It fascinated me immensely and I wished I had more time to spend in the museum.

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Our guide showing us the process of paper making

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Paper is left to dry

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More equipment

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Watermarks are so fascinating!

During my visit there was also an ongoing International Festival of Watercolor Paintings with hundreds of paintings to see. There was a children’s group from one of the neighbouring schools that came to see the legacy left behind. All in all, it was a captivating visit that left me intrigued. If given a chance, would you visit this museum??

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A school tour to see process of paper making

Important Info:

-Booking your tickets in advance is recommended since English guides are not available every day.

-Fabriano’s train station is a short walk from the centre. If you are traveling from Rome, it takes about 3 hours to reach. From Ancona it is only an hour’s journey.

-A little research online made me realize how easily the paper from Fabriano is available. Check this link below to buy Fabriano paper.

PS: There are “ affiliate links” on my blog. This means that if you happen to subscribe or purchase something through these links, I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks for reading! 🙂

Ispirazione: Of Dreams, Miracles and Sketching Tours

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Today I want to introduce you all Kelly Medfort of Sketching Rome Tours! Kelly is an artist who takes Sketching Tours in Rome. The concept of these tours is exactly how it sounds. It is a unique way of slowing down and enjoying travels in the eternal city using watercolors. No prior experience is required!

Kelly’s story of living in Italy as an artist is very inspiring and am so glad to have met her this summer in Rome. Let’s know more about her….

How did Italy happen?? What made you think of choosing it??

Even though I am an artist I never thought or dreamt of moving to Italy to paint. I was studying in the U.S. and apprenticing to a painter and his wife who ever summer traveled to Italy to paint landscapes and stay with their friends in a castle on a hill in Tuscany, just outside the town of Anghiari. Since I was the apprentice they offered for me to join in for a month of landscape painting, of which I had little to no experience, I always painted still lives and such in the studio. Of course I said yes, what a magical opportunity it was and what I did not know is that it would change the entire course of my life!

Now, I did not speak one single word of Italian and that did not deter me, so off I went.

I stayed in a cheap hostel in Piazza Vittorio. At the end of our course and time painting together my painting teacher suggested that I apply to a small private atelier in Florence called the Florence Academy of Art. He personally knew the director and said he would give me a recommendation. When I got back to the US, I applied to the school only to hear back that there was a 1 ½ year waiting list. Time passed and one day just a week or so before Christmas I got a phone call, it was The Florence Academy. Apparently they had an opening, but I had to be there for class to start on January 2nd.

I said I would be there, having in reality no idea how I would get there. As a student I had no money to speak of, much less to fly, live and study in Florence, Italy. The next day I went to the study abroad office at my university and asked about any possible grants or scholarships. They told me that almost no one had applied to study abroad, so if I filled out the paperwork I could have a full year’s grant to study anywhere in the world. This included my airfare, tuition, living expenses, everything.

Nothing short of a miracle.

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Did you know any Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??

January 1st 2005 I moved to Italy and never looked back. I had started to take some Italian lessons, but still could by no means communicate with anyone about anything really, it was slightly disheartening, but I was not worried. After a year I still spoke very little Italian. I had to decide what to do, so I decided to stay in Italy and to paint. I wanted to see Italy, to meet real Italians, to learn more about the people, language, food, culture, everything I had missed out on during my intense year of study with people from everywhere but Italy. So I invented a (sort of) plan. My plan was to work as an artist’s model and to spend every other free moment painting. But this time I was going to take my easel outside and paint so that I could see Italy, interact with Italians. I realized that in Italy all of life and everything that happens is outdoors in the streets, the shops, markets and piazzas.

I moved to the countryside where absolutely no one spoke English and studied my conjugation book of Italian verbs like it was my new bible. I made a complete fool of myself more times than I could possibly count. Luckily Italians are kind and compassionate, each individual that I interacted with helped me to learn a little bit more each day by gently correcting and encouraging me to keep speaking with them in Italian.

When I moved back to the city of Florence I decided to take an actual Italian class and private lessons weekly. My Italian began to improve and I could have actual conversations about menial but important things like how I would like my coffee (a highly individualized affair in Italy). 

What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??

Over the years I have had many Italian roommates, a couple of Italian boyfriends, worked with and made mostly Italian friends. The best way I found to learn Italian is:

->By doing activities which give you a whole new set of vocabulary. For instance I took swimming lessons, joined the Rome urban sketchers group and went on guided tours in Italian or took any kind of classes if at all possible in Italian.

->I helped Italian friends translate documents into English so that I can learn more Italian.

->I went to networking mixers with Italians. Not only is it a great way to make new Italian friends, but also the way to keep expanding your vocabulary.

->Another amazing way to learn Italian is if you have a dog! Everyone else with a dog will talk to you and ask you first about your dog and then about you, that’s how I made a few friends who even invited me out for pizza.

What people don’t tell you, or what I never understood until I was here in Italy learning Italian, is that learning a language is not just learning how to string words together in the right order along with the correct verb conjugation, but in learning a language you have to learn so much more in order to know what people are talking about.

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What an inspiring story, Kelly! After hearing it, all I can say is that miracles do happen, never give up and keep following your dreams.

Follow Kelly on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

When Italo Calvino Taught Me About Fairy Tales

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I’m currently reading Italo Calvino’s “Fiabe per le bambine” and when I say I’m reading, I’m probably flipping through. Why?? Because it is a very tough read. At least for me, at least for now.

I have been ignoring my Italian practice since weeks and definitely feel the need to push myself. (Tips??) My main aim is to jot down new words and update my slow paced Italian dictionary every day.

Here are a few new words I loved from this well illustrated book:

Maga: sorceress

Finché: as long as

Barbarie: brutality or lack of civilization

Scaltro: shrewd

Ribaltare: tip or topple

Fermo: firm or steady

Saltare: Jump or leap

Scodella: bowl

Invidia: envy/jealousy

Provvista: supply

Rosicchiare: nibble

Also, what are you reading??

#BooksOnItaly: Contemporary and Travel

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Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson:

Believe it or not, even after many trips to Italy, I haven’t been to Naples. After reading this book (and the Elena Ferrante series) I realize how much the city has to offer. Only in Naples is an honest account of the author’s journey and how she embraces life in a new place. Having a strong connection to Italy like many Italophiles, Ms. Wilson describes her love life and Neopolitan mother in law in a cheeky and fun way that makes it a light beach read. She explains small acts of kindness that people do for her to make her settle in the new city and the glorious food she eats which genuinely made me fall in love with the story. The characters, mainly the mother-in-law, are also obvious choices. As in most memoirs, there are some things I didn’t relate to at all, so I’d just suggest to keep an open mind. Just let the city of Naples charm you with its people and forgot the author’s constant mention of her upper class status for a while.

Region: Campania

Venetian Blood by Christine Evelyn Volker: This was a recent find thanks to ItalyBookTours. It is very evident from the beginning that the author is fond of Venice and Italian culture as she has used the Italian language more than moderately in titles and sentences of the book. She explains Venice as a historic city close to her heart with a ton of cultural and architectural references. It is important to read the book at a leisurely pace because the book is unrushed. You have to wait almost at the end to know even a hint of the killer. Apart from that, the reader is really shown Venice through the author’s descriptions. Reading Venetian Blood was akin to experiencing the murder story in Venice myself as the author talks about how everyone knows everyone else in the city, how food is given paramount importance whether it is a bite of spezzatino or cicchetti or a glass of caffè or prosecco and how the church bells make you fall in love with the the dreamy city. Overall, a welcome change from the many romantic titles based in Venice. Personally, it should be read more for the cultural and historic aspects than the story. I really applaud the author for the effort and research gone into this book as she has made Venice seem more alive than ever.

Region: Veneto

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt: If you are looking to delve into history and read about Italy 100 years back, this is the book to pick. I took ages to finish it (seriously!!) and almost gave up in the middle but kept going for some reason. The writing isn’t easy, well.. because this book was written aeons ago. The author takes the reader back in time and tells everything possible on the Italian Renaissance in relation to Italian history, culture, art and science. He describes it by understanding the people and political hierarchy during those days. Although it might sound very historic and boring but once you pick the book, it is interesting especially if you are into art and culture. The only downside is that it is written for his fellows so Burckhardt makes a lot of generalizations in the copy that are not understandable.

Buy the book

Region: Italy

I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti: I am amazed by the different themes in Italian literature and this book speaks immensely of a coming of age theme. Not to give any spoilers, this novel is about the loss of childhood innocence. With beautiful descriptions of Southern Italy and it’s countryside, the narration of the story is done by a 9 year old child. This immediately encapsulated me even though the book is set in the year 1978. There are parts that are slow but the book is short and can be finished in two sittings. I love the simple style of writing and applaud the translator for doing such a great job. I hear this book was made into a popular movie too. Now excited to watch!

Region: Southern Italy

Let's try something new today, shall we?? Currently reading a few books 😜 but Italian literature never ceases to amaze me. It always stands out. . . I think authors from a particular culture/country have a similar style of expression. What do you think?? Obviously, one tends to notice that after reading a fair few from that group. In Italian literature there are varied themes but the style is easy to sense eventually. Whether it is story with the background of a city, analytical human tales of loneliness, historical connections, stories with the suffering of women, corruption of the government or simply the Italian mafia, they are definitely very culturally driven📚 . . While some authors are clear in their writing style to the readers, there are others who make it hard to comprehend in the first go (Italo Calvino for instance) Italian literature really takes you in a deep world of thinking🤔 On a side note, this is very interesting read😊

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Disclosure: There are “ affiliate links” on my blog. If you click on a picture, it will take you to Amazon.in. and if you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks for supporting my blog as always. Keep Reading!

More Charming Towns in Italy

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As if we needed more towns to fill our lengthy Italian list (we actually did, right??) here are some more:

Alba:

Alba is nestled in the region of Piemonte and is a perfect getaway from Turin/Milan. An elegant town full of small shops selling a wide variety of truffles and wine, Alba is picturesque. It is surrounded by vineyards and has a small historic centre walkable enough in 15 minutes. The colorful town is filled with many places too eat and although Alba is quite touristy, you will still find a spot for yourself to sit in and enjoy.

How to reach: Take a direct train from Turin’s Porta Susa station and spend the day in Alba. If you are traveling from Milan, spend the night in Alba as it is a little too hectic for a day trip.

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The colorful town of Alba

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Piazza Risorgimento

Fermo:

The whole of Le Marche is a dream and if you check the map of Italy, you will realize it boasts a pretty strong coastline. However, that does not mean Marche is devoid of pretty hilltop towns. Fermo is one such town with a gorgeous piazza and old world charm. The town was unfortunately hit by earthquake in 2016 so most of the cultural spaces are in restoration. But you can still take a walk or relax by an old Bar.

How to reach: A hired car is the best way to navigate in the region of Le Marche.

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Piazza del Popolo

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An empty Bar

Orta San Giulio:

When I say, Orta San Giulio, I am talking about narrow paths leading to views, cobbled streets filled with small stores, splendid lakeside and a medieval atmosphere. Orta San Giulio is a characteristic small town that I would happily settle in! It’s surroundings beseech me to write a poem. Orta has an indescribable atmosphere and is one of the few towns that I regret not staying in for the night.

How to reach: Although hiring a car is the best way to reach till the town of Orta, there is a train station at Orta Miasino that requires a train change at Novara. From Orta Miasino take a cab or walk if you are brave enoough.

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Piazza Motta

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Island of San Giulio

Numana:

Another charming little town in Marche is the beach town of Numana. It’s old historic side is colorful and has many vantage points for spectacular views of the Adriatic! Numana is a laid back beach town where you probably want to book a few nights. There are boutiques for your shopping needs and pretty alleyways to fill your growing wanderlust.

How to reach: A hired car is the best way to navigate in the region of Le Marche.

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Views of Adriatic

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I’d love more suggestions as always!