It all started when...
Here are some amazing choices for your free-day in Italy:
Our region has an amazing selections of flea markets
Flea Market Summer Schedule:
Please note: if a workshop lands on a flea market date, we will most likely be visiting the flea market. Check your workshop schedule to be sure.
(Piazza Grande, first weekend of the month). The crème de la crème of flea markets, this one almost resembles an outdoor furniture museum. Worth a visit just to gawk, but don't worry, you can also find smaller items that will fit into your suitcase. While you're there, pop into the nearby church of San Francesco to see Piero della Francesca's magnificent frescoes.
(Teatro Tenda/Lungarno Aldo Moro, October 21-22). Every guide book will tell you about the famed Straw Market, but this annual gathering offers Florentines a chance to sell some of their families' old stuff. You know, that 16th-century oil you found in the attic, or the 18th-century chairs that don't match the new dining room table.
(Piazza San Giusto and surrounding, third Saturday and Sunday of every month). Specializes in furniture, from sturdy peasant fare to elegant pieces made by the French artisans who followed the Bonapartes here in the 19th century; but look for antique ceramics, handmade lace and beaten tin implements.
(Piazza Marconi, Wednesdays) Mostly clothes. Great market for cashmere lovers.
(Piazza del Comune, Saturday before Easter, September 8 and Christmas Day). Specializing in antique books and linens. Step around the corner and visit the Duomo while you're at it, and roam around the center of this lovely little town.
Porto Santo Stefano
(April 15-17, July 28-29, August 25-26). An interesting feature of this seaside market is the chance to find furniture and equipment salvaged from sailing boats and cruise ships.
(Palazzo Casali, third weekend of every month). You'll probably hear as much English as Italian in this wonderful hilltown, capital of a region nicknamed Chiantishire.
(Via Cigliegiale, every Wednesday and Saturday). A bustling market that winds through dozens of streets surrounding the glorious square. Amongst the antiques you'll also find modern kitchen utensils, scrumptious local cheeses and salamis, cheap Chinese blouses and the magnificent architecture of this wrongly overlooked Tuscan jewel.
La Spezia Piazza Cavour - The first Sunday of the month except in July and August. Info: 0187 745631
Sarzana Piazza Matteotti - The forth Saturday and Sunday of the month except in August. info: 0187 614312
Pisa- historic center the second weekend of the month
Every week! Forte dei Marmi Held in the city center from 8:30am-1:30pm Wed. and Sun. The market is known for offering steep bargains, especially on reproductions of expensive clothing. Held in a large park, it;s best to arrive early for the best parking.
Option 1: Explore Lucca
There is a small train from Aulla to Lucca which takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours.
Keep in mind we will be in Lucca on Saturday for the Antiques Fair if it's the 3 weekend of the month.
The first train from Aulla Lunigiana to Lucca departs at 06:23. The last train from Aulla Lunigiana to Lucca departs at 22:33. Trains that depart in the early morning hours or very late evening may be sleeper services. Alternatively, some popular routes may run throughout the night at a reduced frequency. There may also be less services on weekends and holidays; use the journey planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.
Where to eat in Lucca:
ANTICO CAFFE DELLA MURA, £££
Piazzale Vittorio Emanuele 2, Lucca (00 39 583 47962). Go because it is so beautiful, but also visit for the typical Lucchese cooking including a soup made with farro (sweet wheat or speck in English, the world’s oldest grain and a Lucca staple), perfumed risottos, rocket salads, guinea fowl, rabbit and wild boar. Closed Tuesdays.
Via della Cervia, 3, 55100 Lucca LU, Italy (+39 0583 55881) call for reservations
A classic establishment, lovely authentic fare, great service, one of my go toos
RISTORANTE GIGLIO, £££
Piazza del Giglio 2, Lucca (00 39 0583 495 058). This is a classic restaurant by the theater serving pasta. It is closed Tuesday evenings and Wednesdays all day.
What to see:
Going at a smart clip, you could "do" the tourist sites of Lucca in a day:
The Duomo San Martino, which houses among its treasures the Volto Santo, a wooden crucifix said to have been carved by Nicodemus and to have floated across the Mediterranean from the Holy Land (commemorated by a night-time procession in mid-September), Jacopo della Quercia's Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, and Tintoretto's Last Supper.
Also see the riotous church of San Michele with its 19th-century add-ons, the small museum at the 'casa natale di Giacomo Puccini', best known of the 11 celebrated composers who Lucca claims as its own, the oval anfiteatro on the site of a Roman arena, the baroque gardens of Palazzo Pfanner (don't pay to go in, just peer down from the walls) and the Palazzo Guinigi with a tree sprouting from its tower.
Hire a bike from the tourist office, and you can a ride leisurely around the 4km of walls that surround Lucca within an hour.
Option 2: Explore Parma
Train is 1.23 minutes
Where to eat:
Trattoria Sorelle Picchi
Strada Luigi Carlo Farini, 27/A 43100 Parma (PR)
tel. +39 0521 18 55 966
Via Conservatorio 1 - 43121 Parma
tel. +39 0521/234426
Strada Garibaldi 42
Phone number +39 0521 235606
What to See:
Teatro Farnese came to life as a rich man’s plaything, but it is highly significant in theatrical and architectural history since it is the prototype of the contemporary playhouse. It has a rectangular stage designed to house props for special effects and scenery that creates a perspective, with side wings and a proscenium arch at the front. The auditorium is made of wood with rows of seating. The walls are peppered with recesses housing ornamental pillars, arches, carvings and stucco statuary.
Parma was bombed heavily during World War II, causing many of the theatre’s fragile statues to collapse. The building was refurbished in the 1950s and any wooden replacements were left plain to distinguish them from the original wooden features, which are heavily decorated. What remains is delightful, as both a heritage site and a testament to the wealth of one of Italy’s most influential noble families and their capacity to innovate.
Teatro Farnese is open from 8.30am to 2pm Tuesday to Sunday. Admission costs €2. The theatre is not used to stage concerts or plays on a regular basis, but during the summer is used for one-off shows and exhibitions.
Where: Teatro Farnese, Piazzale della Pilotta 15, Parma, Emilia Romagna
How about a little balsamic vinegar to go with your olive oil?
A short drive from Parma:
A secret place, only known to a few, this castle where balsamic is femented, year after year this black nectar becomes more flavorful. Acetaia/Vinegar houses originated from noble families in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena. 700 barrels , and bins from the eighteenth century contain precious liquids of syrupy the dark of the nectar. Timber-colored woods reveal forms that in the past belonged to ancient crafts. In every barrel subtle flavors, in the old rustic warehouses where hundreds of bottles are set to rest. Visit and find out how balsamic vinegar is made. This is a great place to see on your way to Parma. Set an appointment early in the morning and then head to Parma to explore for the day. The perfect foodie destination. If you would like us to set and appointment for you just email: email@example.com
Read about my personal experience at Borgo Del Balsamico on my blog.
Option 3 : Explore Portovenere
About 45 minutes drive from La Fortezza, check train schedules from Aulla train station. Explore the Bay of Poets, the view of this beautiful seaside town is breathtaking. Check out this wonderful blog post by my friend Georgette, her blog is a super resource for Italy in general. http://girlinflorence.com/2016/05/31/36-hours-portovenere/
What to do:
Stoll to the The Gothic Church of St. Peter and The Doria Castle with the walls around the historic center. The Grotta dell'Arpaia (now collapsed), known as Byron's Grotto, from which the English poet Byron swam across the gulf of La Spezia to San Terenzo to visit Shelley in Lerici, in 1822.
Where to eat:
Take a boat to the classic Italian restaurant Locanda Lorena
Option 4: Explore Santa Margherita
Basilica of St. Margaret of Antiochia, built from 1658 on the remains of a 13th-century church.
Abbazia della Cervara, a historically relevant abbey on the road to Portofino.
Villa Durazzo complex, including two patrician villas, a 16th-century castle and 17th-century park.
What to do in Portofino:
Statue of Christ of the Abyss, placed underwater on 29 August 1954 in the inlet at a depth of 17 metres (56 ft). This statue was placed to protect fishermen and scuba divers and in memory of Dario Gonzatti. Sculpted by Guido Galletti, it represents Christ in the act of blessing while looking up towards the sky with open arms in sign of peace.
Castello Brown (16th century).
Church of St. Martin (Divo Martino, 12th century).
Church of St. George, housing some saints' relics.
Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, in Gothic style.
Or just sit in the Piazza enjoy aperitivo and watch the yachts dock in the tiny marina.
Option 5: Explore Sarzana
Sarzana is about a 30 minute drive from La Fortezza, it's a hip little town, with great shops and wonderful places to eat. I highly recommend it as a day trip. Go in the morning wander and have lunch, or head in for an aperitivo and have dinner at one of the many groovy restaurants on the main drag.
What to do:
Castle of Sarzana: located on the hill of Sarzanello, at the site of fortress from as early as emperor Otto I. The castle was rebuilt or enlarged by the condottiero Castruccio Castracani, and later became the residence of the bishops of Luni.
Pieve of Sant'Andrea: 10th-11th century parish church, and rebuilt in 1579, and has 16th-century portal. It houses 14th-15th century marble statuary, a Vocation of Saints by Domenico Fiasella, and a dodecagonal baptismal font.
San Francesco: documented from 1238 and, according to tradition, founded by St Francis himself. It houses the funerary monument (1328) of Castruccio Castracani's son, by Giovanni di Balduccio; the tomb of bishop Bernabò Malaspina; and a frescoed lunette attributed to Priamo della Quercia.
Where to eat in Sarzana:
Option 6: Explore Genova
What to do:
Notable to the city are the Palazzi dei Rolli, included in UNESCO World Heritage Site; among the most important palaces are the Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Podestà o di Nicolosio Lomellino, Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Angelo Giovanni Spinola, Palazzo Pietro Spinola di San Luca, and Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria.
Genoa's historic center is articulated in a maze of squares and narrow caruggi (typical Genoese alleys). It joins a medieval dimension with following 16th century and Baroque interventions (the ancient Via Aurea, now Via Garibaldi).
Bel Air gone Baroque. Today Via Garibaldi is a street full of banks and law firms and, more accessibly, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Bianco. The two museums are awash with paintings by Veronese and Van Dyck, and acres of gilded furniture, mirrors and porcelain, the swag of its day, constituting a vivid snapshot of the Genovese aesthetic: showy and understated, luxe and frugal, public and (more typically) private. Make sure to visit one of my favorite home furnishing stores in a Palazzo Via Garabaldi 12
Near Via Garibaldi, through the public elevator Castelletto Levante, one can reach one of the most scenic places in the city, Belvedere Castelletto. The centre of Genoa is connected to its upper part by ancient paths caught between tall palaces, called creuze. Walking along these small paths yoneou can reach magnificent places like the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Loreto. Very beautiful is the upper ring road so-called Circonvallazione a Monte that includes Corso Firenze, Corso Paganini, Corso Magenta, Via Solferino, and Corso Armellini.
San Lorenzo cathedral has a splendid portal and the dome designed by Galeazzo Alessi. Inside is found the treasure of the Cathedral where among other objects there is also what is said to be the Holy Chalice.
The symbols of the city are the Lanterna (the lighthouse) (117 metres (384 feet) high), old and standing lighthouse visible in the distance from the sea (beyond 30 kilometres (19 miles)), and the monumental fountain of Piazza De Ferrari, recently restored, out-and-out core of the city's life. Near Piazza De Ferrari and Teatro Carlo Felice is the Mazzini Gallery, a typical nineteenth-century structure with many elegant shops and coffee bars.
Another tourist destination is the ancient seaside district of Boccadasse (which means "the mouth of the donkey"), with its multicolour boats, set as a seal to Corso Italia, the promenade which runs along the Lido d'Albaro, and known for its ice-creams. After Boccadasse you can continue along the sea up to Sturla.
Just out of the city centre, but still part of the 33 km (21 mi) of coast included in the municipality's territory, are Nervi, natural doorway to the Ligurian East Riviera, and Pegli, the point of access to the West Riviera. Nervi offers many attractions: the promenade overlooking the sea called Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi; parks covered with lush tropical vegetation; numerous villas and palaces open to the public that now house museums (like GAM-Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Raccolte Frugone Museum, Museo Giannettino Luxoro and Wolfsoniana). (see also Parchi di Nervi)
The new Genoa based its rebirth upon the restoration of the green areas of the immediate inland parts, among them the Parco naturale regionale del Beigua, and upon the construction of facilities such as the Aquarium of Genoa in the Old Harbour - the biggest in Italy and one of the major in Europe - and its Marina (the tourist small port which holds hundreds of pleasure boats). All of these are inside the restored Expo Area, arranged in occasion of the Columbian Celebrations of 1992.
The regained pride gave back to the city the consciousness of being capable of looking to the future without forgetting its past. The resumption of several flourishing hand-crafting activities, far-back absent from the caruggi of the old town, is a direct evidence of it. The restoration of many of Genoa's churches and palaces in the 1980s and the 1990s contributed to the city's rebirth. A notable example the Renaissance, Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, sitting on the top of the hill of Carignano and visible from almost every part of the city. The total restoration of Doge's Palace - once venue of dogi and senators and nowadays location of cultural events - and of the Old Harbour and the rebuilding of Teatro Carlo Felice, destroyed by the Second World War bombings that only spared the neoclassic pronao of the architect Carlo Barabino, were two more points of strength for the realisation of a new Genoa.
The ancient port zone nearby the Mandraccio opening, in Porta Siberia, was enriched by Genoese architect Renzo Piano with a large sphere made of metal and glass, installed in the port's waters, not far from the Aquarium of Genoa, and unveiled in 2001 in occasion of the G8 Summit held in Genoa. The sphere (called by the citizens "Piano's bubble" or "The Ball"), after hosting an exposition of fens from Genoa's Botanical Gardens, currently houses the reconstruction of a tropical environment, with several plants, little animals and butterflies. Piano also designed the subway stations and, in the hills area, the construction - in collaboration with UNESCO - of Punta Nave, base of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
Nearby the Old Harbour is the so-called "Matitone", a skyscraper in shape of a pencil, that lays side by side with the group of the WTC towers, core of the San Benigno development, today base of part of the Municipality's administration and of several companies.
Where to eat:
Trattoria da Maria very authentic Genovese, super authentic great for lunch.
Bar Berto- Aperitivo
Option 7 : Take a Hike or a Dip
The loveliest routes are in the parks of the Lunigiana area. From the Apuan Alps to the Tosco-Emilian Apennines, you can explore breath-taking scenery. For mountain lovers, there is a whole range of sport and nature to enjoy.
https://www.sigeric.it/ this site has a variety of tours to join, or you can arrange a private tour in the Lunigiana, anything from touring a villa, to hiking biking or cave hiking.
Option 8: Hot Soak at Equi Terme
Equi Terme is located in Lunigiana, under the province of Massa Carrara.
The town is situated close to one of the most majestic peaks of the Apuan Alps, the so called "Pizzo d'Uccello". Equi Terme has an ancient history - dated back Roman times check out the Apuan hot springs at a thermal pool.
Option 9: Visit nearby beaches
Forte dei Marmi
Off the coast of Tuscany sits a picturesque town where white mountains cascade over the landscape. Composed of the highest quality marble, these behemoths have attracted artists to Italy’s Pietrasanta for years. In fact, many of Michelangelo’s masterpieces were sculpted out of this very marble in the 15th century. Today, over 40 marble studios still exist within the city, with artisans leaving their own unique mark on the cherished marble. Join us as we explore the beauty of the City of Marble.
Option 10: GoTruffle Hunting
Great for a group or on your own explore the forest hunting for truffles with a certified truffle guide and his trusty truffle dog. This trip is extraordinary and ends with a lovely 3 course lunch at the most beautiful nearby agritourismo Podere Conti. To book this adventure email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Option 11: Carrara and sample the local delicacy LARDO
Option 12: Try a Side Car Tour in the Tuscan Countryside
Option 13: Try Water Trekking in a Canyon in Pontremoli
Water trekking in the Stretti di Giaredo, natural protected area of exceptional beauty, walking along the high walls of its canyon, swimming in clear water and admiring millennial multi-coloured rocks.
The Stretti di Giaredo are a spectacular canyon along the river Gordana in Lunigiana, Northern Tuscany.
The straits are part of a SIC, Site of Natural Interest for the European Community, thanks to its geology and naturalistic features.
The excursion starts from the small village of Cavezzana Gordana. We reach the entrance of the canyon walking along paths and in the riverbed for apporx. 20 minutes. We will explore the straits walking in and out the water and swimming through small pristine pools, immersed in the nature and surrounded by its multi-colored rock walls. Check out bike tours as well https://www.sigeric.it/pedala-gusta-nel-parco-nazionale-delle-cinque-terre/?lang=e
Option 14: Explore Florence
What can I say about Florence? It’s one of the most beautiful walking cities in the world. I think sending you to my favorite blog about Florence would be the best tack to take here: Girl in Florence, Georgette, answers all of your questions and has the most up to date information, and follow her on Instagram, her ig stories are not to be missed as she walks the city everyday sometimes with her beagle Ginger. Georgette has so many great recommendations her blog is our best resource. Here are a few of my own.
Take a Tour: I highly recommend a tour with:
Alexandra Lawrence *TIP book early or you will miss out, she gets booked up quickly.
Where to eat in Florence:
My friend Betty Soldi has the 2 most exquisite boutique hotels in Florence, definitely stay here:
Where to stay in Florence: