A late October wander around some of the quiet villages that hug the edges of Italy’s Lake Como provides a major contrast to the main tourist centres. As the air increasingly hints of winter, during weekdays it’s possible to walk for hours while rarely sighting another person. Local buses seem to travel at times unconnected with their published timetables, matching the random hours of restaurants and alimentari. More reliable ferries provide economical travel around the lake, offering the chance to hop off and explore.
Last year’s visit was enhanced by the generosity of friends who lent their village house for a relaxing week, complete with its expansive views of the lake and mountains. Most of the time a wildfire burned on high, causing a smoky haze. Locals attributed this rare fire event to the changing climate.
Urbino is a small hilltown in Italy’s Marche region whose historic centre is listed by UNESCO. This beautiful and relaxing mediaeval town is notable for its buildings, streetscapes, and cultural richness, all enlivened by a large student population from the University of Urbino, which was established in 1506.
The town rewards strollers with views of fine buildings, cobbled streets and lanes, glimpses of the nearby hilly countryside, and that all-important find of the next venue for sampling delicious local food and wine.
The surrounding countryside is very picturesque, here including Chiesa di San Bernadino (Church of Saint Bernard), the burial site of a number of the Dukes of Urbino, including its most famous ruler, Duke Federico da Montefaltro.
Urbino became famous during the Renaissance, particularly during Duke Federico’s rule (1444-1482) when his interests and efforts led to a cultural and artistic flowering, and a restructuring of the town on the principles that it be beautiful, efficient and comfortable.
If only modern town planning could achieve such a fine result.
Italy’s leaning tower of Pisa is one of the most celebrated engineering failures in the world, the lean resulting from inadequate foundations.
Construction of the tower began in 1173 and finished 199 years later. As a specialist in slow home renovations, I find that construction time reassuring.
The building’s purpose is to serve as a bell tower for the neighbouring cathedral, although these days its main function is to provide visitors with a ticketed climb. Would it be so popular without the lean?