Archive for ‘Europe’

Procida: Beauty and love in the Bay of Naples

The island of Procida doesn’t get much play outside Europe. The way it’s overshadowed by Capri 10 miles to the south, Capri might as well be Australia. But Procida (pronounced PRO-chee-duh) holds its own with Italians who see Capri as I do: an Italian theme park with better wine. Procida doesn’t have Capri’s vistas — and Capri’s do meet the hype — but it does have an Italian soul. It’s why I took my girlfriend, the lovely and talented Marina Pascucci, to Procida for our two-year anniversary.
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In Bruges: Medieval fairy tales do come true in one of the sparkling pearls of Northern Europe

After all, who can not love Bruges? Let’s see, you combine the best beer in the world with the best chocolate in the world, put them in the middle of a town that looks like a backdrop for medieval fairy tales and you have Bruges. If you don’t like chocolate or beer or scenery right out of an oil painting, you’re obviously an alien from another planet who can’t read Roman letters and aren’t reading this anyway. So, dear reader, this is a love letter to one of my new favorite cities in the world. After 100 countries, dozens of capitals and hundreds of cities, towns, villages and truck stops, Bruges climbed near the top of the rankings.
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Rome’s birthday brings back fond — and not so fond — memories of my days in gladiator school

I stand in a sandy pit surrounded by torches in front of three dozen tourists hoping a stiff breeze doesn’t fly under my tunic. It’s way too short, and I weigh the embarrassment of revealing my brand of underwear to strangers against taking a Latin oath from a chunky tie salesman wearing animal skins.

It’s graduation day at Rome’s La Scuola dei Gladiatori (The Gladiator School), and I have just demonstrated how to take a sword and skewer, fillet and behead an opponent in six simple strokes. Two months of training had culminated in this ritual, surfacing in Rome after a 2,000-year absence. Somehow I don’t think when Spartacus took this oath, he was worried about bending over.
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Favignana: “No. 13 Clearest Water in the World” tantalizes sun worshippers off Sicily’s west coast

Yes, there it was, No. 13 on The Weather Channel’s 2016 list: Favignana, more specifically, Cala Azzurra beach. I’d never heard of Favignana, either. It’s a small island off the west coast of Sicily sporting a name it took me a month to remember. My girlfriend, Marina Pascucci, is an ace photographer whose whole profession is based on clarity. She’d been to Favignana (pronounced fa-vin-YAH-nah) before and wanted to take me to another special place for my birthday.
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Ten wild things I didn’t know about Michelangelo

The advancements Michelangelo took art during the Renaissance stood out like the Sistine Chapel when compared with what came before and after him. It’s one of the many things I learned about Michelangelo during Luca’s five-hour Vatican tour. It was part of my new part-time gig: blogging for Through Eternity, one of the top tour companies in Rome. He told me so many things about history’s greatest sculptor that you won’t find in guidebooks or even “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” Michelangelo’s biography I devoured in my youth. Here are 10 things I learned that I will never forget:

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Myths of the gladiators: Through Eternity tours sets the record straight

I learned a lot about gladiators from books, particularly Daniel Mannix’s excellent 1958 tome, “The Way of the Gladiator.” However, I learned even more from Through Eternity’s Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill tour. Over five hours, it started with tours of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. At the final stop at the Colosseum, tour guide Gracelyn Monaco blew away a lot of myths people have about the famed gladiators. Forget what you saw in the movie “Gladiator.” It was accurate but didn’t tell the whole story.

It wasn’t nearly as violent as the real thing.
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On the road in Serie D: 4th Division Trastevere flying high in Italy’s soccer lowlands

His 35-year-old face is weathered, in kind of a rugged Italian sort of way. He has a perpetual scruffy beard. Lines are forming around eyes that have seen too many patchy soccer fields, tiny towns and lonely roads.
Stefano Tajarol has the look of Serie D.
This is the bottom branch of Italy’s soccer tree, hanging just above the rubble of amateurism. Serie D has 162 teams spread from rural Sicily to the foothills of the Italian Alps. Francavilla. Ghivizzano. Darfo Boario. They are towns you’ll never see in a guide book. They’re all trying to climb atop one of nine divisions for promotion to Lega Pro, Italy’s third division where there are higher salaries, historic stadiums and — gasp! — television.
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