Civita di Bagnoregio: The perfect complement to a Rome visit

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Perched precariously on a small plateau an hour’s drive north of Rome, Civita offers a peaceful counter point to the frenzy of a visit to Rome. Traffic-free Civita can only be reached by a pedestrian bridge from the town of Bagnoregio. Once a thriving medieval town, Civita has been reduced by time and erosion to a mere remnant of its past. With a peaceful town square, a small church, a couple restaurants and great views in all directions, it is the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon with a glass of wine and a plate of freshly made bruschetta. A tiny museum displays a vintage olive press but the main sight in Civita is the town itself.

Lying between Rome and Florence, this area is often overlooked by visitors to central Italy but there are plenty of reasons to spend a few nights here. Hotel Romantica Pucci http://www.hotelromanticapucci.it in Bagnoregio makes a great base for exploring the region. Orvieto, with its cliff-side setting and a magnificent cathedral that features an ornate façade and amazing frescos by Lucca Signorelli, is only a 30-minute drive to the north. It is said that Michelangelo went to Orvieto to study the frescos before painting the Sistine ceiling. Hilltop towns such as Montefiascone, Sorano and Pitigliano, http://www.pitigliano-toscana.com, are all worth a visit. Each offers a thriving small town in a spectacular setting. Visitors interested in history will appreciate the area to the southwest of Bagnoregio. The Etruscan civilization flourished in the area as the Roman civilization was growing to the south. Eventually the Romans conquered the Etruscans but artifacts of the Etruscans remain, particularly in the tombs such as those found at Tarquinia http://goitaly.about.com/od/northernlazio/p/tarquina.htm.

Southeast of Bagnoregio is the small town of Bomarzo. The town itself is rather plain but it is the gateway to the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters) http://www.bomarzo.net/index_en.html. This estate features a series of massive sixteenth century sculptures, some carved out of the natural bedrock, situated in a park-like setting. The sculptures are impressive and the park is a great spot for a picnic.

A car is necessary to get the best out a visit to the area. Bagnoregio is an easy drive from the Rome airport. Another option is to take one of the frequent regional trains from Rome to Orvieto and rent a car there. Either way, a few days spent in the area around Bagnoregio make an excellent beginning or end to a Roman holiday.

Korcula, Croatia: A glimpse into medieval Europe

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Korcula is set on a small peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea from the island also named Korcula. Old Town, the historic town center, offers a peek into the small towns of medieval Europe. The best way to experience Korcula is to spend at least two nights in Old Town.

Many local residents rent private rooms or small apartments that offer an inexpensive stay. The rooms and apartments often come with typical hotel amenities. Information about Korcula, including recommendations on accommodations and activities can be found at http://www.korculainfo.com/. In 2011, many rooms with double beds and private bathrooms were available for about 60 U.S. dollars.

According to local history, Marco Polo wandered the town of Korcula as a 13th century youth and little has changed since then. Many of the streets and much of the architecture would be familiar to Marco if he were in Korcula today. Step into one of the smallest cathedrals in Europe or climb the remnants of the town wall for a view over the town. Visit the town museum to get a feel for Korcula’s history.

Tour groups from local cruise ships occasionally crowd the streets during the day so take advantage of the quiet evenings for a leisurely stroll along the Adriatic seawall and a relaxed dinner in a local restaurant. Seafood is often featured but grilled meats are common. The cevapcici, a mixture of ground meats cooked on skewers and served with a spicy pepper relish, is a tasty local dish. Many Croatians speak English so the language barrier is relatively easy to overcome.

Korcula may be out of the way but it is easy to reach. Discount airlines such as EasyJet regularly serve Croatia from major European cities. Local bus and ferry companies offer regular service directly to Korcula from Split and Dubrovnik. To take a break from the crowds of big city Europe, consider a few nights for the small town experience that Korcula offers.