Historical Travel in Italy

Historical Travel in Italy, what inspires you? 

Do you love to travel? What inspires you? I’ve always adored historical travel and the multi layered fabric of society woven from years of civilization. The journey through countries and cultures is colorful and sometimes confronting, but never dull. With common threads of human emotion we learn so much. Since elementary school, history has remained my friend with infinite stories to tell.

Historical Travel Italy

Michelangelo’s David – The accuracy of the anatomy is staggering. All carved from a single block of previously discarded marble.

Historical Travel Italy

See the realism, the veins in his hands, the fingernails. Perfection!

The Hands of David

As travelers many of us are fascinated by the past. It takes us to places where humans have lived, worked, loved and worshipped. Gazing at Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of David in Florence, we can feel the 29-year old artist kneeling right at our feet. We can imagine the final chiseling touches, rendering such stunning realism. Our eyes feel deceived that at any moment David will step down and realize his own nakedness.

You might find yourself wondering who was David? How did Michelangelo feel when it was all finished?  Was he sad or glad? Or was he driven by perfection and dissatisfied? We can only guess. It’s like reading a book with an open ending. You wonder, what happened next? The story plays on your mind and the characters keep walking beside you. Experiencing history through travel does this too. It gives us pause to stop, think and imagine. It challenges us, sparking our curiosity and firing up our emotions.

The 45 Friars

There is a monastery in Sicily where your imagination can be left at the door. This place is not marked from the outside. There is no evidence of what lies behind the aged wooden door. As you enter the quiet Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo and you will be greeted by a hooded monk. He tells you in whispering tones, “no photos, rispetti pi favuri”. In Sicilian this means, no photo’s respect please. I soon understand why. This is the final resting place of 8000 mummified bodies. You won’t need a camera as this is a place you will never forget.

The bodies date from 1500 to the late nineteenth century.  What started out in 1534 as a simple catacomb for Capuchin friars, soon became overcrowded. The corpses were exhumed in 1597 to be moved to a larger cemetery. With the removal of each body what they found could only be explained (at that time) as an act of God. 45 friars had been naturally mummified and their faces were still recognizable. Instead of reburying the remains they were proudly displayed as relics of Gods handiwork and propped up along the walls of the catacomb. As news of this miracle spread the catacombs were expanded. Wealthy citizens of Palermo wanted to go on eternal display and were happy to pay the church for this service. The dressed mummies were arranged by profession, sex and social status.

Eternalized in Death

When you walk along the odorless corridors it’s unforgettably macabre. It’s not for children or the sensitive. Many people see a ghoulish Halloween display; like the backlot of a horror movie. I saw something different. Apart from the original 45 friars, these people wanted to be eternalized in death. They wanted it so badly they were prepared to pay. A Mother was able to visit her deceased child. A husband could see see his wife and show her the baby she lost her life delivering. This community believed that mummification would give their loved one’s future comfort and status. To see the dusty husks of human life collected over hundreds of years provides a historical record of the Palermo community. Each one with its own untold story. Mummification is the ultimate act of control over death. This place is fascinating, tucked away in a little corner of Palermo in Sicily you would never know it was there.

A life no different

These surprise discoveries are why I love to travel and it’s why historical travel is so fascinating to me and many others. In Italy historical travel is so multi-layered you literally trip over the past wherever you go. Travel broadens our sense of respect for humanity and it teaches us empathy. By stepping back in time you will be reminded that your life is not so different from those of our forebearers. Our emotions and basic drives are just the same, just cloaked in the robes of a different generation.

Inspired by stories of historical travel in Italy? Come with us on a historical adventure to Italy and Sicily.

We have small group escorted and independent tours that visit Florence where you can see Michelangelo’s magnificent David. See them here: 




We work with an incredible Sicilian based company that offers authentic Sicilian experiences on this historically rich island off the Italian coast. Read more here:


Michelangelo’s David

The original statue of David can be viewed at the Academia Gallery in Florence. Check their website listed below for opening hours which are normally 8.15am to 6.50pm. They also have two late nights during the week, Tuesday and Thursday until 9.30pm. These are often quieter and less crowded. Opening hours are subject to change so check before you go. The gallery is closed Mondays so plan your visit to Florence accordingly.

Galleria dell’Accademia

60, Via Ricasoli, 58, 50122, Firenze

+39 055 294 883


Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo

Palermo is the start and end point of most of our Sicilian tours. None of the tours visit the Capuchin Catacombs as it’s not for everyone. However, if you wish to see this extraordinary historical documentation of Palermo residents, and learn more about the monastery here are the details. When visiting please go with respect in your heart. If you choose to go to the website, use viewing discretion especially when children are present.

Catacombe dei Cappuccini

Piazza Cappucini, 1, 90129 Palermo

+39 091 652 7389



Italy’s Overlooked Treasures – Siena

Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala – fresco depicting the care of the sick

Discover Siena with Italy Travel Tours offering a number of guided and independent tours that include the romantic hill towns of Tuscany.

When we think of visiting the treasures of Italy, many have never heard of the Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala. It sits in the Piazza del Campo, across from the front steps of Siena’s famous green and white marbled Duomo.

Originally founded as a hostel for pilgrims in the 9th century it continued to be a place of refuge for the sick, poor, orphaned and needy until 1995 when it was transformed into a museum. It is known as one of the oldest hospitals in Europe.

Step inside and you find yourself in the Sala del Pellegrinaio or Pilgrim’s Hall. A former hospital ward with its towering walls dominated by a cycle of frescoes. It’s a beautiful example of 14th century medieval architecture.  As your eyes adjust to the light you will see each ancient fresco depicts everyday life as it was in the hospital. Sienese artists including Domenico di Bartolo realistically depict the care and treatment of the sick. The imaginative traveler can smell the metallic odor of blood and hear the hungry cries of the orphaned infant. Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala is a must see when visiting Siena.

Siena is a Tuscan town of many treasures. Discover Siena with ItalyTravelTours offering a number of guided and independent tours that include the romantic hill towns of Tuscany.


Palermo – Cultural Capital 2019

Palermo Sicily Norman castlePalermo, the capital of Sicily won the title of Italy’s Cultural capital for 2019

In addition to the famed World Heritage sites of Syracuse, Pantalica Necropolis, Mt Etna, the Baroque town of Noto, the volcanic Aolinean islands and Greek Temples of Agrigento,  in 2015 several of Palermo and around Palermo sites joined the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Plazzo della Zisa and other exclusive Norman buildings have always been the city’s unique architectural treasures and well deserve a prominent record on this prestigious heritage list. The golden Byzantine-style mosaics of the Norman cathedrals of Monreale, Palermo and charming Cefalu can be paralleled to only a few churches in the world.  

As part of the 2018 festivities the famed Teatro Massimo known for its fastidious audience scheduled extra performances for the period with well known large scale operatic performances like Verdi’s Nabucco and Puccini’s Turando among others.

A visit to unique multifaceted Sicily should be on everyone’s bucket list from beach lovers to nature buffs, lovers of antiquities and history and appreciators of culinary adventures.

In addition to being a cultural capital, Palermo will also host Manifesta 12, the European Biennical of Contemporary art drawing extra visitors to this intriguing city. The best time to tour around Sicily is in the winter and spring months to avoid the heat and crowds. We offer several tours in Sicily as well as Sicily-Malta combination tours.

Verdi Festival 2017 Parma

The Festival Verdi 2017 in Parma will take place from 28 Sept  to Parma Cathedral22  Oct  and will host great conductors and directors, young talents and famous soloists. The main events of the program will include 5  operas: Jerusalem , Falstaff and Messa da Requiem at Teatro Regio di Parma, together with elegant and prestigious concerts. The unique and magnificent  Teatro Farnese will host the production of Stiffelio In Busseto at Teatro Giuseppe Verdi La Traviata. For the first time there  will be the opportunity to combine even 4 operas in the same week.


This year we will be also able to  know  in advance the assignment of tickets. Our opera tours include can include important music experience:  visit of the back stage of the Teatro Regio, meeting with the artists, meeting with the Club of 27 , music organ promenades, opportunity to play the first organ played by Giuseppe Verdi , private concerts in historical venues,  as well as excursions to the famous Verdi sites and residences at nearby towns. Please consult the website for further details at http://www.allegroholidays.com

Christmas Ideas Italy

Italian Christmas seasonchristmas-in-rome

Christmas season has now become a popular time to travel. And what about you? Are you having trouble deciding where to go? If you are looking for the best place to take a break during the Christmas time, you can find here a list of popular destinations in Italy. Some of Italy’s cities go all out for the holidays, including New Year’s Eve dinners, events, concerts and much more.

Go in Naples if you are looking for Christmas vacation ideas

Naples is one of the most popular spots for Christmas travel in Italy. There are many events and traditional entertainment planned for Christmas Eve or Day there. This city boasts many holiday traditions. As a case in point, Italian-American tradition is on display, which is called the “feast of the seven fishes”. To be more precise, people celebrate Christmas Eve with seafood seven ways. Apart from that, you can find Naples most important Christmas Market in the traditional sense. Shop along Via San Gregorio Armeno to find unique gifts and to experience the Neapolitan Christmas Eve dinner. In addition to having superb shopping, visitors can  watch spectacular fireworks displays. It will probably be the best Christmas vacations you will ever experience.

Try to do a day trip to Rome

Rome at Christmas is a blast with its festivities. Admire 100 nativity scenes on display throughout the city. Get into the church for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Vatican. You can watch Pope lives that will get your heart racing, as going at  St. Peter’s Basilica. In the event you’re a fan of things decrepit, you can take the opportunity to shop, where you will find intricately painted tree ornaments. Just go in Piazza Navona for a Christmas market. Rome also offers great food, wine and breathtaking scenery. On the other hand, you can watch street performances. However, transportation during Christmas day in Rome can be tricky, so you could hire a car, just click here. It would also be the best way to discover all the events happening during the season.

Don’t miss out Venice, a true one-stop Christmas destination

Are you taking off on a holiday this Christmas? Head to Venice, which is one of the best resorts in Italy for Christmas holidays. With its narrow canals and ancient palaces, there are part of the history of Venice. There are many Christmas inspired markets where people can sell unique works of art.
On top of all that, this city offers plenty of delightful Christmas concerts. For example, you can attend a classical concert at Teatro La Fenice. But no Christmas in this city would be complete without uncovering the tallest glass Christmas tree in the world, resides in Murano.


Why not make any trip to Tuscany?

Tuscany has something for everyone! All the mesmerizing historic countryside villas and palaces makes it onto every best destinations. You can visit its medieval village in order to enjoy the magical atmosphere of the city. There are lots and lots of music. Tuscany also displays colored lights that illuminate the nights. And you can enjoy events, festivals and delicious food. If you are thinking about renting a hotel or a villa to stay, it is recommended to book it in advance. Moreover, staying in a beautiful villa or hotel would be authentic. By this way, you can spend a unique and unforgettable day during that big day.

Hottest Destination in South Italy


Ostuni South ItlayOur newest South Italy tour destination this year is the less frequently visited south, the regions of Basilicata and Pulia.

We offer these tours with Rome or Sorrento departures for those interested in less trendy and crowded destinations, having already visited the most sought  after Italian regions of Amalfi Coast and Tuscany.

One of the highlights of this tour is Matera with its houses carved in the tufa rock that resemble Cappadocian underground cities. The style of architecture is actually originated from ancient Anatolia and initially imported to Italy by Byzantine monks.

The region has vast fields and palm groves neighboring snow-white towns like Noto or Lecce where you can easily feel getting lost in the maze of side alleys hiding little churches off main squares. Lecce is the Baroque capital of Italy with white washed buildings dating back to the end of the XVI century and the first half of the XVII century with the church of S.Oronzo, the Basilica of Santa Croce, the Celestini Palace being some of the most attractive sites of the city.

An other highlight of the tour is the village of Alberobello with its unique cone-shaped dwellings, a UNESCO World Heritage site or the Greek fishing village of Gallipoli (Kallipolis) on the shores of the Ionian sea at the “heel of  the Italian Boot”, in the region of Pulia.

A quiz……..how well do you know Cinque Terre?

Another light-hearted quiz in our summer series. Answers at the bottom of the page but NO CHEATING!

The Cinque Terre villages are : Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and….?
a) Veneto al Mare
b) Riomaggiore
c) Pescatore Vila
d) Dimenticarsi

In the Cinque Terre, houses are painted in many colours. Why?
a) To make the neighbours jealous
b) To identify individual houses from the sea
c) To encourage foreign tourists
d) In poor years, there was only one paint colour available each year

In October 25, 2011, how many were killed in the famous floods?
a) Nobody
b) 9
c) 90
d) 900
e) Two dogs, sixty rats, seven cats, a three-legged mule and a budgerigar

The villages grew under the military and political supremacy of?
a) Amalfi
b) Genoa
c) Sorrento
d) Little Italy

The ‘Sentiero Azzurro’ is?
a) A brand of beer
b) A dirty old man
c) A footpath
d) A statue of St Mark

Monterosso has a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union for what?
a) Pecorino cheese
b) Goat’s milk butter
c) Anchovies
d) Razor clams
e) Tripe casserole

Grappa, a local liqueur, is made from?
a) Lark’s vomit
b) Lemon juice
c) A footpath
d) Worms that inhabit the wormwood bark
e) The ‘rubbish’ left after grape pressing

Cinque Terre is, from Turin?
a) North
b) South
c) East
d) West

“Miele di Corniglia,” is?
a) An ice-cream
b) A cake
c) A make of washing machine
d) A pastry cornet stuffed with anchovy cream

Pesto — a local sauce, is made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pecorino cheese and?
a) Tomato
b) Pine nuts
c) Rodents
d) Squash flowers

Possibly the prettiest group of villages in Europe, Cinque Terre needs to be on your ‘bucket list’. Have a look at: https://www.italytraveltours.biz/tuscany-and-cinque-terre-from-rome
Answers: Riomaggiore/ To identify individual houses from the sea/9/Genoa/ A footpath/Anchovies/ The ‘rubbish’ left after grape pressing/south and east/Honey ice-cream/Pine nuts

Italian architecture…… a new photo quiz

Some are easy, some a little more difficult but how many of the following well known Italian travel destinations can you identify? A clue is given with each picture. Answers at the bottom of the page but NO CHEATING!

Originally the Flavian Amphitheatre, capable of seating 50,000 spectators.

The oldest important building in the world with its original roof intact, albeit with a large hole!

Once the home of some rather ‘dodgy’ dukes……

Italy travel quiz…. palazzi e castelli

Another in our series of lighthearted travel quizzes.

How well do you know Italy? Here are ten well known Italian palaces or castles. Can you identify them? A clue is given with each and the answers are at the bottom of the page.


Some ‘dodgy’ dukes lived here?


The Pope has an underground escape tunnel to this one?


Decorated by da Vinci, now a series of museums, the original owners never shopped in the local Prada or Armani?


….with a Spanish name and situated on a pretty island?

castello scal

Goethe was arrested here, on Lake Garda, for ‘suspicious-sketching’…….?

cast ovo

The name of comes from a legend that Virgil put a magical egg into the castle’s foundations?

Het Palazzo Vecchio vanaf de buitenkant.

The symbol of the power of Florence?


The ‘wedding cake’, loved by tourists, hated by Romans!


Built for the Bourbons, the largest palace in Europe built in the 18th century?


It’s so well known, it stars on the reverse of the Italian one euro coin?


Castles and palaces in Italy?  Book an unlimited return ticket to see them all…… However if you want to see the best and you haven’t got years to spare, have a look at https://www.italytraveltours.biz./ for the very best choice and price on Italian tours and vacations.



Doge’s Palaces, Venice/Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome/Sforzesco Castle, Milan/Castello Aragonese, Ischia/Castello Scaligero, Sirmione/Castel dell’Ovo, Naples/doges/Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome/Royal Palace of Caserta/Castel del Monte, Puglia,


Is Pasta Good for You?

Is Pasta REALLY GOOD FOR YOU?Pasta cooking classes tour

Staples of Italian cuisine, pasta dishes are favored by most of us due to their comforting and mind calming effect, their affordability and the variety of innovative ways to prepare them fast.

Most health and weight conscious people however, try to stay away from pastas due to their high glycemic index and gluten content with increasing number of people developing some kind of recognizable gluten sensitivity nowadays.

Surprisingly however, according to some of the latest research, pasta diet is actually good for you.

The IRCCS (Istituo Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed) analyzed more than 23 thousand people from different Italian regions. Their result established, (though hard to believe), that eating pasta on the regular basis is actually good for you. Men and women alike who enjoyed pasta as part of a regular Mediterranean diet with fresh vegetables like tomatoes and onions, legumes, seafood, and olive oil, had a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference, and lower waist-to-hip ratio.

According to the research team: “Our analysis of data from two different Mediterranean populations supports that pasta intake is negatively associated with both indexes of obesity status and prevalence of overweight and obesity.”

So with that in mind you might be interested in learning the secrets of Italian cooking on customized cooking tours offered year round in Sicily or other parts of Italy.