Posts Tagged 'San Gimignano'

Day Trips Around Florence, Italy

Studying abroad in Florence? Lucky You! Honestly, there’s no real need to venture outside the city. If you do feel adventurous, however, you will find several beautiful towns an hour bus or train ride away. A few come to mind: Fiesole, Siena, and Lucca. Of course, you can also visit the tower of Pisa or the Torture Museum in San Gimignano.

Fiesole

Built into the hills above Florence, Fiesole is a great escape from the summer heat and offers beautiful views overlooking Florence. Feel like walking around? Fiesole has an archeology park with a Roman amphitheater and Roman, Etruscan, and Longabard ruins.

A Real Taste of Italy

A Real Taste of Italy

A great day trip includes a wine tasting-bike tour. Tuscany Bike Tours offers daily trips from March to November. The day starts with a shuttle pick-up near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The tour includes a castle visit, a bike ride through Tuscany, wine tasting, oil tasting, and a grand lunch feast with pastas and a little more wine. It’s hard to tell what’s more inviting, the scenery or the Tuscan cuisine.

Siena

This medieval hill town is one of the most popular in Tuscany. During the summer Siena’s large fan-shaped Piazza del Campo turns into a track for the famous Il Palio horse race. Siena is also home to a beautiful cathedral, pedestrian streets with shops, and the second highest medieval bell tower in Italy (it’s a good 505 step hike to the top).  The top of the tower offers amazing views of the city.  Piazza del Duomo is another beautiful square and home to Siena’s Duomo. Siena’s art museum, Pinacoteca Nazionale, also houses some of Italy’s greatest paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries.

Lucca

Lucca is Well Known for Puccini and Pinocchio

Lucca is Known for Puccini and Pinocchio

Lucca remains one of the best-preserved Italian walled cities. The wall itself has walking and bike paths and gardens, which surround the historic city center. A climb to the top of Guinigi Tower provides fabulous views of the city.  Lucca is less touristy than most cities and has several “pedestrian only” streets. For history geeks, Lucca was the birthplace of the famous Italian operatic composer, Giacomo Puccini. His music often fills the air in the town’s main square. If you like art, visit the city’s Duomo, which houses paintings by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto, Zuccari and Fra’ Bartolomeo, as well as Iacopo della Quercia’s most famous work, the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto.

Lucca is also a great place to find Italian pottery and ceramics (great gifts to bring home)!

If you need help planning your dream trip to Italy, check out Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section. You’ll find information on housing, cell phones, funding, and insurance.  The more you accomplish before you leave, the better your trip will be!

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Travelers Flock to Unusual Attractions While Abroad

What are your summer plans? Here at GulliverGo, we encourage people to study or travel abroad. But we’re also interested in those day trips, secret getaways, and places you visit when you’re on break. For some, the Palace of Versailles, wine tasting in Tuscany, or hiking in the Alps, spark interest. Apparently, for others, torture museums, cemeteries, and suicide forests rank high on the list. Whether you’re visiting Italy, France, or Japan, you’re bound to discover a few morbid tourist attractions.

Don't Get Stuck in San Gimignano's Torture Museum

Don't Get Stuck in San Gimignano's Torture Museum

If you study abroad in Italy, you’re bound to end up in Tuscany. Check out the historic Duomo and Campanile in Florence and of course, watch the sunset on the fleuve (river) Arno. Take a bus and go wine tasting in nearby Fiesole- and see the house that served as the setting for the 1985 film, “A Room with a View.” I did all this during my time in Tuscany, but one of the more memorable day trips was a bus ride to the walled, medieval town of San Gimignano. Surrounded by century’s old towers, the town’s most fascinating attraction is its Museo della Tortura e di Criminologia Medievale (Museum of Torture and Medieval Crime). Ok, the historic architecture, Wine museum, and 9th century Fonti Medievali (Medieval Fountains) are pretty neat, but how often do you get to see the inside of a torture chamber? Located within a real dungeon, the Torture Museum showcases more than 100 grisly and gory ways to die, including thumbscrews, chastity belts and lots of creepy masks. You can even pick up your own set of brass knuckles at the gift shop on your way out… I did.

If you find yourself in say, Paris, France on October 31st, you won’t be dressing up as your favorite monster – they don’t celebrate Halloween. Instead, the first day of November, the “Day of the Dead,” is a national holiday. What better place to honor the dead, than visiting a cemetery. Paris doesn’t offer just any run-of-the-mill cemetery- this one attracts all the famous people. A recent article by the Vancouver Sun, recommends a day trip to Père-Lachaise cemetery as a highlight of Paris. You’ll easily spend hours visiting the graves of Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein, Frederik Chopin, Balzac and Oscar Wilde. It’s hard to miss the most popular grave site, that of singer Jim Morrison. In contrast to most of Paris, cemeteries are perfect for the low budget traveler… they’re usually free!

Leave Oscar Wilde a Message from Beyond the Grave

Leave Oscar Wilde a Message from Beyond the Grave

Asia also has its fair share of creepy places to visit. While Germany boasts its Black Forest, Japan is known for its “Haunted Forest” (Aokigahara Forest) at the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan’s tallest mountain. The forest, commonly referred to as the Sea of Trees, sits on volcanic rock and has several rocky caverns, which get covered in ice during the winter. Two of the caves within the forest are popular tourist attractions known as the Wind Cave and Ice Cave. Why is the forest “haunted?” Well, it’s infamous for its famed suicides and “ghosts” that apparently roam the woods. It may be haunted, but Aokigahara offers some of the most beautiful scenic views and its dense forest and rugged inaccessibility attract plenty of adventure seekers.

These are just some of the unusual places that attract droves of visitors. There are plenty more popular places to visit and oftentimes the adventure is finding them.


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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!