Rising from the crystal clear azure waters of il Golfo di Napoli, the island of Ischia has been a sough-after destination by visitors for centuries. Covered with lemon trees, vineyards and olive groves, Ischia is a beautiful, volcanic island that’s a haven for those seeking a beach holiday off the beaten track, but also for those interested in its vibrant, often violent, history dating back thousands of years. Here, glamorous hotels mix with more secluded accommodation dotted along its rugged coastline, all juxtaposed with healing hot springs, traditional residential neighbourhoods, religious street parades and zooming Vespas.
The history of Tarquinia is inextricably connected to the history of the Etruscans. It was here that one of the first settlements of their civilisation arose, made up of a gathering of small groups that clustered together into a complex social structure and formed a city-state. Although little is visible of the once-great wealth and extent of the ancient city, today Tarquinia is famous for its ancient Etruscan tombs in the widespread necropoli, or cemeteries. However, Tarquinia offers so much more. Surrounded by its imposing ancient walls, within the city there are numerous beautiful Romanesque-Gothic churches, a 13th century Palace, and a Baroque priory. Most surprising of all though are the numerous towers, very similar to those found in San Gimignano to its north.
Best known for being the place of Napoleon’s exile in 1814, Elba is the biggest island of the Tuscan archipelago and Italy’s third-largest island, after Sardinia and Sicily. It’s also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park. It has so much to offer: there are pretty beaches, good diving, charming towns, dramatic historic fortresses and great food. Lying less than 10 kms from the mainland, it’s easily accessed by a frequent and efficient ferry service from the mainland town of Piombino, as well as its own airport. Elba is a true natural paradise, with crystal clear turquoise waters, green landscapes and hills, plus beautiful flora and fauna, all surrounded by well-preserved coral reefs.
For those of us who have been to Rome numerous times and have seen all or most of the city’s major monuments and museums, it’s great to come across two lesser-known attractions. These two museums are complete opposites to each other: one being a small, very fine Renaissance villa set in a beautiful garden, while the other is Rome’s newest gallery of contemporary art and architecture, housed in a former automobile factory with a dramatic extension by the late Zaha Hadid, one of the 21st century’s most gifted architects.
Not to be missed on a visit to Puglia is a 13th century citadel, the magnificent Castel del Monte, about 70kms north of Matera. Strategically perched on a hilltop in the Murgia region at an altitude of 540m that can be seen from many kms away, it seems to dominate the entire Kingdom of Sicily, of which Puglia was a part at that time. Another site, that’s one of the country’s most historically important, is Cannae. Anyone who has ever heard of Hannibal will doubtless know that his Carthaginian forces defeated the Roman army on numerous occasions, and the battle at Cannae in 216 BCE during the Second Punic War, was the most significant of these. It’s regarded as one the bloodiest battles in Roman history—definitely something for those of us with an interest in ancient history.