Subscribe to isango! RSS feed
World’s leading site for travel experiences - Tours, Activities, Shows, Excursions and more
Find amazing experiences Book before you go. Local rates. Handpicked suppliers Find out more >>
Home Blog Support Why isango!
call us +44 (0) 870 049 2331
We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Things to do in Rome’

Five Fantastic Food Destinations

0

At isango! we believe there are two essential yardsticks to measure your experiences when travelling.  One is seeing the sights and the other is sampling the food.  Here we give you a taste of what foods to look out for at five popular destinations.

Flavours of New York City
New York City has been and continues to be the gateway for people coming to the United States.  So you will find every ethnic and world cuisine available.  New York also prides itself on inventing many dishes and foods.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowder

Taking a foodie tour of NYC is a delight for the taste buds.  Hot dogs and New York style pizzas in the East Village; a Manhattan clam chowder; Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches; savoury French quiche, and Mexican yucca are just some delights in store for you.  You could also try out a knish appetiser or some Greek spinach pie to go with a succulent lamb souvlaki.   Then there is a sinful choice of chocolates to top off your meal.

Lyon, Gastronomy and Beaujolais
Lyon’s ancient fame lay in its silk weaving industry.  That has however changed.  Over the centuries it has become known as the capital of French gastronomy and its renowned cuisine.  The city and municipality has a deliciously bewildering array of traditional Lyonnais restaurants, called bouchons, serving local dishes such as salade Lyonnais; marrons glacés; coussin de Lyon, sausages, duck pâte and roast pork, and local wines.

Marrons Glacés

Marrons Glaces

The Lyon bakeries, fromageries patisseries and chocolatiers continue to make their wines, breads, cheeses and chocolates the way have for centuries.  In addition to its gastronomic delights, the Lyon area is at the heart of Beaujolais wine region.

Tapas In Barcelona
Barcelona offers a variety of pleasures but none as staggering as tapas!  Choosing or even listing them is a near impossible task.  Salmon sashimi with cream cheese; honey and soy, or cod; passata and black olive pâté; fried fish and seafood, patatas bravas; Galician octopus and ensaladilla rusa; croquetas made with ham, fish, chicken or spinach are just some choices.

Tapas

Tapas Barcelona

Whether you are strolling down La Rambla or feasting your eyes on the fruit, vegetables, fish, cheese or meats of La Boqueria (Barcelona’s food market), you will never be far from a tapas bar.  So feel free to wade into one of them and pick out your choice.  Don’t forget to wash it down with some cava, wine or draught beer.

Bangkok & Food
The two are synonymous and no one needs coaxing to dig in to a plate of Pad Thai (or phat Thai).  Take a walk down any street in Bangkok and you will be constantly reminded of food.  The innumerable fragrances waft out at you from myriad street stalls and restaurants.

Yong Tau Foo

yong tau foo

Thai street food is the safest and tastiest in the world and probably the most reasonably priced too.  Whether it be juicy pieces of grilled pork on a stick or a fiery bowl of ‘Tom Yum’ soup or Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup) or good yong tau foo and pork stew with green chilli dip, you will find it really difficult to pass it up or stop eating.  Thai food is among the most appetising and popular cuisines in the world and it is an exciting experience to take a cooking class and learn how to make some!

When In Rome – Eat
That’s right!  Food in Rome is just as fascinating as the Colosseum, the churches and the Vatican museums.  Roman cuisine is some of the most delicious in Italy.  It is based on seasonal ingredients, plenty of fresh vegetables, meat and cheeses.  All put together in a simple way.  Lamb roasted with herbs and spices is a very important part of the cuisine so is pizza, of course.  In Rome they have three different ways of making pizza but a Roman characteristic is that it is thin with no lip to the crust.

Pizza

rome pizza

The Testaccio is the best place to find the original and traditional Roman food.  Another great place is the Rione Monti area, a stone’s throw away from the Colosseum, where you will find a range of authentic Italian delicacies in local family run shops and pizzerias.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Italy This Summer

2

Summers might be a perfect time to sit and plan that vacation which is long overdue. While you are still thinking about where to head for that perfect holiday, why not give Italy a try? After all, there are few countries in the world that offer the kind of variety and diversity that Italy does, with its ancient history, majestic mountains, sumptuous cuisine and glittering coastlines.
Still undecided?  Let us help and give you 5 reasons on why Italy will be your best pick this summer.

 Venice Gondola Rides

Venice Hero Image
A Gondola ride is a must when in Venice. Take in the views and transcend to another era as you lie back on cushions and feel the rhythm and movement of intricate waterways. With a partner, nothing can be as romantic as cuddling up in the boat as it passes through the old Venetian towns. If you go solo, then all you would need is a nice, romantic novel.

Florence
If the heat is too overbearing, get indoors. With Brunelleschi’s masterpiece at the centre, a number of museums and monuments dominate the city. For art lovers, no European city can come close to Florence. Admire the vast art collection of Uffizi gallery or plan a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia, renowned for being the home of the famous statue of David by Michelangelo.

Florence, Accademia Galary

You can also simply stand at the centre of the churches of San Lorenzo, Santo Spirito and the Cappella dei Pazzi, and feast your eyes by looking at the intricate frescoes painted by the Renaissance artists.
You will surely feel the chill in the heat, when you gaze at the vivid works of art.

For people who like to explore under the sun, head to the Cinque Terre, the five small ancient coastal villages, and see some of Italy’s finest scenery.

Pompeii

Pompeii Day
The recent movie Pompeii featuring Kit Harrington and Kiefer Sutherland brought the wrath of Mount Vesuvius live on screen. It took just one day – 24 August, 79 AD, for it to get buried for the next seventeen centuries, under the volcanic ashes of the fierce Mount Vesuvius. Visit the ruins and get a glimpse of the life led by the people of Pompeii before they were swallowed by the lava of Mount Vesuvius.

So, pick your sunglasses, an umbrella and explore the lost city. It is indeed a fulfilling summer retreat.

Rome

rome colosseum
One can be in loss of words while talking about this great city. Italy’s capital city is so vibrant that even if you spend months here, you will get the feeling that there is a nook or corner of the city which still remains unexplored. Its existence since time immemorial makes it unique and offers a diverse culture, a mélange of culinary wonders and a range of historical edifices like the mighty Colosseum, Vatican structures, Romanesque churches et al.

Tuscany

Tuscany
Leave the bustle of the city and escape to the glorious Tuscan countryside. Its quaint hill towns and lush vineyards, make it a popular summer destination. Also, it is in this season that you could be lucky enough to witness a series of local festivals, which are being celebrated through the ages.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Native New Yorker – When in Italy

0

 

Native New Yorker – When in Italy

 

rome

Before my fall break started I had an elaborate plan to go to Italy alone, since none of my friends had planned to go. Then a thought passed through my head: “All my photos are going to be selfies!” Not that there is anything wrong with a good old selfie, but what is Rome without a classic (full-body) shot at Trevi Fountain. Luckily, my friend Jen decided that she would join me on my 4 city escapade. She was going to meet me at Roma Termini Monday morning. The only thing I had to do was to endure a 16-hour train ride.
 

When I was waiting for my train in Paris everything seemed great. Things quickly went downhill when I couldn’t find my compartment. After getting off the train, running back to where I began and almost missing the train I was able to find where I’d be spending the next 16 hours. I was in a 6-berth cabin but had no clue how all 6 of us were supposed to sleep that night.
 

Lesson 1:  When riding a train for more than 4 hours bring lots of entertainment. Even though I handled the train like a champ, at least every three hours I wished I would have done things the easy way and flown into Rome. You can read the same Cosmopolitan magazine only a number of times before going crazy. Every time I woke up I hoped it was the next day and I'd be in Rome but found that only about 45 minutes had passed since I’d dozed off. Bring a book or tablet/laptop full of films and music to pass the time.

Lesson 2: Don’t freak out when someone comes to collect your passport. One of the train operators came by to pick up everyone’s passport and at first I politely refused to let her take mine. At this moment everyone in my cabin knew I was American. There is something unsettling about not having my passport near me. After going back and forth for a few minutes, the operator convinced me that I would get it back before the train stopped in Rome.

Lesson 3: If you are on the top bunk that is where you’ll stay for the rest of the night. Since it was a 6 person cabin, the top beds were already pulled down and the middle ones had to be situated before everyone could sleep. Being clueless I let everyone else situate the beds and quietly climbed to the top. To my surprise when I wanted to get down someone had moved the ladder, so I had to jump off hoping I wouldn’t break any bones when landing.

Luckily I was able to get comfortable eventually and sleep until we stopped at Roma Termini. It was only a miracle that my friend Jen and I found each other in the crowd. Our Roman adventure was ready to begin.

What We Did In Rome

We had no clue what we wanted to do in Italy besides eat and then eat some more, see the Vatican, and then eat again. The first day we had our taste of real Italian pizza, which was everything I had dreamed of and more. After satisfying our stomachs we took a walk to Trevi Fountain; the site gets super crowded during the day and everyone wants to pose for a snap in front of it. Most people don’t stay for too long making room for other sightseers, so get your tourist photo taken and move on.

colosseum

Next stop on our Roman holiday was of course the Colosseum. If you want an amazing photo by the ancient structure, it’s best to climb up the hill behind it. This way solo travelers can take a proper selfie with the Colosseum and the Rome skyline behind. Unfortunately there was some construction work going on and we were not able to appreciate the architecture in all its glory, but what we did see blew us away. Even though I didn’t go into the Colosseum, watching the sunset over Rome in that very spot was more than enough.

Tour Colosseum and Ancient Rome with Isango! 

After taking in all that ancient beauty Jen and I were ready to eat again and I don’t believe I can eat pasta again without thinking about Italy. Traditional Italian pasta is so rich you can practically taste the love that has gone into making it. For dessert, even though we were full to the point of our pants nearly ripping, we had our first taste of gelato. I had double rich chocolate and before that day I don’t think what I’ve been eating in America is chocolate. I may have been full from dinner but I refused not to eat every bit of that gelato. It was a perfect way to end day one in Roma.

sistine

Day two and we were off to the Vatican. I had been advised beforehand to get there early because it would take at least an hour to get in. Surprisingly, it only took us 30 minutes. The best time to go is during the week in the afternoon. I was happy to find there was a student discount available, which made my visit all the more enjoyable. As you make your way through the museum which leads to the Sistine Chapel you can feel the anticipation of the masses, and it's contagious even if you haven't dreamt of seeing the site for years like I had. Once inside, I found myself in awe of the place: seeing the colorful, mesmerizing frescos covering the walls and the ceiling is a memory I will never forget.

Skip the Lines at the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel 

St. Peter’s Basilica was on the agenda next. If you happen to visit on a Wednesday, you have the chance to attend the Wednesday General Audience held in St. Peter’s Square and see the pope. During winter the audience is held in the Paul VI Hall just left to the square.

With the sun still out we made our way to an area called Trastevere. At first it doesn’t seem like much is going on, but if you venture into the side streets you will find hidden gems. From shops, cafes and people selling handmade jewelry it is a beautiful area to get lost in. After a nice stroll we decided to return to Trevi Fountain to witness it in all its glory. It’s one thing to see Trevi Fountain during the day, but at night it is simply magical. The fountain is all lit up, the crowd is calm and dozens of people are making wishes and throwing coins into the fountain. This was the perfect moment to make a wish at the fountain. Legends say if you tell someone your wish it won’t come true, so I’ll keep mine a secret. 

See all that The Eternal City has to offer with Isango!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Touring the Sistine Chapel in Rome

0

The Sistine Chapel is probably the single most impressive, influential and famous art-filled room in the whole world.  Intended to be the private chapel of a pope, the whole world now comes to worship at this altar of artistic creativity.  It also serves as the election room of new popes.

Sistine ChapelThe building and the painting of the Sistine Chapel was completed in three major phases.  The first was the building and wall painting phase.  Commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV (of the della Rovere family) it took about eight years (1475 to 1483) to complete.  It was consecrated and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August 1483.  The architect was Baccio Pontelli and the construction was supervised by Giovannino de'Dolci.

In 1481, while the chapel was still being constructed, Pope Sixtus IV brought in several great Florentine artists to paint the walls.  They were Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, Pinturicchio and Bartolomeo della Gatta.  They took only eleven months to complete their commission.

The walls are divided into three horizontal sections.  The uppermost comprises of pilasters that support the vault.  The middle section (or order) tells two stories from the bible.  The left wall relates the life of Moses while the right wall tells the life of Christ.  At ceremonial occasions the lowest portions of the side walls are covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515-19 at Brussels.

There are six windows on the long walls.  Between each window is a niche with painted images of the first popes – Peter to Marcellus – who were all martyred.  A beautiful and delicately carved marble screen, with an inset wooden door, divides the presbytery from the nave.  The screen is the work of three sculptors – Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno and Giovanni Dalmata.  The screen used to divide the chapel into two equal parts but was moved making the presbytery much larger.  The floor is a marble mosaic beautiful in workmanship and design.

The second phase saw the introduction of Michelangelo.  In 1508 Pope Julius II (a ‘nephew’ of Sixtus IV) wanted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel repainted.  The ceiling was originally frescoed by Piero Matteo d'Amelia with a star-spangled sky in 1481.

He had originally called upon Raphael (a passionate enemy of Michelangelo) to take up the project but he refused.  Instead he suggested Michelangelo’s name in an attempt to discredit him knowing Michelangelo was a sculptor and not a painter.  Raphael created one of art history’s greatest gaffes.

Michelangelo worked on the ceiling from 1508 to 1512.  What he created has become a beacon of art throughout the world.  He demonstrated control and understanding of detail, proportion, colour, texture, form and an unmatched originality that has illuminated the world – let alone art.  He brought perfection to reality.  The Sistine Chapel is a display of one man’s incredible creative genius.

The pope wanted paintings of the 12 Apostles.  Michelangelo dismissed the idea as a “poor thing”.  Thank heavens for his courage and ‘artistic licence and integrity’ or we would not have the most amazing works in the history of Western art.  Instead what Michelangelo painted were stories from the Book of Genesis – from the Creation to the story of Noah.

This phase of Michelangelo’s work included the incomparable and stunningly daring fresco, the Creation of Adam.  Michelangelo’s portrayal of God as a muscular figure with long white hair and big white beard is the one many of us, today, picture him to be.  In earlier works God was represented only as a hand reaching down through the clouds.

The near touching of God and Adam’s hands is one of the most replicated, parodied and iconic images of the world.  It also goes against the common perception of God breathing life into Adam.  Michelangelo also shows Adam with a ‘navel.’  Other departures are the serpent in Eden depicted with a woman’s head; the forbidden fruit is a fig and not the commonly accepted ‘apple.’

To paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo built his own platform, extending over half the chapel area.  It allowed him to stand upright (Sorry! He did not paint it on his back).  However, it denied him the possibility of viewing his work from the floor.  Despite that he painted huge scale figures from a distance of only a few inches.

Twenty-eight years later Michelangelo was back.  This time it was Pope Clement VII who commissioned him.  Shortly after Pope Clement died and was succeed by Pope Paul III who pushed the artist to quickly finish the fresco.  In this phase Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the altar wall – the largest fresco of the century.  He started work in 1535 and finished it in 1541.

Winding staircase in the Sistine ChapelEven if Michelangelo had not created what he did in the Sistine Chapel, it would still be a room filled with an extraordinary collection of masterpieces.  From this single room emanates more creativity, beauty and inspiration (artistic and religious) than any other collection of art anywhere.

Despite its amazing fame there is nothing outstanding about the Sistine Chapel’s architectural features.  Its dimensions are based on that of the Temple of Solomon as detailed in the Old Testament.  It is 40.93 metres long, 13.41 metres wide and 20.70 metres high.  The roof is barrel-vaulted.  The exterior is a remarkably bare brick-walled edifice with no ostentatious embellishments, sculptures or carvings.  There is no grand entrance door.  Entrance to the Sistine Chapel can only be made from within the Papal Palace.

Visitors today are blessed because what they view is the restored and cleaned frescos, which took about 30 (1965 to 1994) years to accomplish.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Fascinating Facts about the Colosseum (Rome)

1

The Colosseum
Iconic!  Magnificent!  The Symbol of Rome!  The Greatest Roman Architectural Work!

These and many more adjectives and praises have been poured upon the glorious ruins of stone and cement that sit in the heart of modern Rome. It is one of the most visited monuments in the world. Any and every movie that features the city has to have a shot of the Colosseum in it!

Here are some interesting facts about the Colosseum that you may or may not know.

•    It stands just east of the Roman Forum

•    It was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people

•    It was built on the site of Nero’s Golden Palace. An enormous complex that Nero had built for himself after a great fire ripped through Rome in A.D. 64

•    Nero also built a statue of himself – the Colossus. This gigantic statue gave the building its current name.

•    It took only about 8 years to build; a relatively quick time period for such a grand project

•    Officially opened in A.D. 80 by Vespasian's son Titus

•    Was officially known as the Flavian Amphitheatre

•    The opening ceremony went on for 100 days with games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights

•    During the course of the inauguration some 9,000 wild animals were killed.

•    What stands today is only a third of the original structure

•    It measures about 620 by 513 feet (190 by 155 meters) and is a freestanding stone and concrete structure.  It stands more than 48 meters (159 ft) in height

•    The great amphitheatre covers 6 acres

•    It was clad in marble

•    There were 160 larger-than-life statues in the arches on the upper floors

•    The Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world

•    Unlike previous and other amphitheatres it was not dug into hillsides for support

•    It has four stories – above ground – with 80 arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns

•    The columns on each storey are different in style.  The lowest were the simple Doric columns. Above them were columns of the Ionic form and topped by the intricate and beautiful Corinthian style

•    The Arch of Constantine was built in A.D. 315 near the main entrance

•    At its peak usage the Colosseum could seat more than 50,000 people – must have been quite a squeeze!

•    The upper story contained seating for lower classes and women

•    The lowest story was preserved for prominent citizens.

•    Below ground were rooms with mechanical devices and cages containing wild animals. The cages could be hoisted, enabling the animals to appear in the middle of the arena

•    The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). It had a two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.

•    The Colosseum was covered with a giant sail known as the velarium. This protected the spectators from the sun and rain. It was attached to large poles on top of the Colosseum and anchored to the ground by large ropes.

•    The events featured gladiatorial combats, hunts, wild animal fights

•    There were over 20 different types of Gladiators

•    There were also larger and dramatic mock naval engagements for which the arena was flooded with water

•    Most of the combatants were men (though there were some female gladiators). Gladiators were generally slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war

•    From its early history, the Colosseum has suffered damage from natural causes such as lightning and earthquakes

•    It has been plundered for its materials that was used in numerous buildings including St Peter’s Cathedral, Cathedral of St John Lateran, the Pallazo Venezia and fortifications along the River Tiber

•    About 2/3 of the original Colosseum has gone.  Its original marble facing, the statues decorating the arches and the lavish decoration of the interior have either disappeared of adorn other buildings in and around Rome

•    Restoration started in the latter part of the 19th century and still continues today

•    Before the overgrowth of vegetation was cleared away in 1871 over 400 species of plants grew on the ruins

•    Was in regular use for over 400 years

•    42 Roman Emperors witnessed the events at the Colosseum

•    An estimated 700,000 have people died in the various sports at the arena

•    There isn’t much evidence to support the claims that early Christian martyrs met their fate in the Colosseum
 

Photo Credit: jimmyharris

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Traveller Tip: The Forum in Rome

0

rome-august-2011-154I went to Rome last week and The Forum was so amazing – was just like actually being in Ancient Rome.  There is an amazing view as you enter through Arch of Titus – it just leaves you standing in awe.  Although the buildings are ruins,  the site is so much more than a few bricks on the ground: it fees like you can actually see where the Roman’s lived.  It is astonishing how all this has survived. It feels like the ancient Romans just left it one day:  you almost expect to see a Roman walking through, just going about their day!  It is great just to sit and imagine what it was like. There is not much written information, so to visit with (an audio) guide is good: they will tell you the stories as you wonder around. – Victoria Badger

Discover the Forum in Rome for yourself and skip the queues by booking a tour in Rome ahead.

Victoria receives an isango! gift-voucher for her tip – For a chance to receive a voucher, send us your Travel Tip at competition@isango.com with Travel Tip in the subject line.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

isango! Customer review: Vatican Walking Tour

0

This tour is the best way to see the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s. Our wonderful tour guide, Francesca, was a wealth of knowledge and her passion bought Rome’s history to life. If you are lucky enough to get Francesca as your tour guide you are in for a fantastic experience.

Janine, Australia

Janine booked: Vatican Walking Tour

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Customer review: Ancient Rome Walking Tour

0

This was the 1st of our European organised tours and what a high standard we started with! Francesca, our tour guide, was exceptional. Her knowledge and per trail of past events bought everything to life. It was a fabulous tour and we highly recommend it

Janine, Australia

Janine booked: Ancient Rome Walking Tour

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Rome Sightseeing, any way you want it!

0

colosseum_rome_5932_10

As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Known for its expansive roads, ancient edifices, and religious importance, Rome is a metropolis of history and wonder waiting to be discovered. Because there is an endless array of things to do in Rome and a charming surprise down every cobblestoned street, making sure you see it all on your own is quite a difficult task. Rome sightseeing is best done by bus, boat, bicycle, or vespa, as such vehicles enable you to see and experience Rome’s gems in all their glory, without wasting too much time. continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Walking Cities Part 4: Rome

0

If you’ve missed the introduction to this series, click here. For part 2, click here. For part 3, click here.

Colosseum - David Paul Ohmer

Colosseum - David Paul Ohmer

The Times calls Rome a destination that “revolves around activities not passivities”, which makes it the perfect destination for one intent on perambulation. “The Italian spirit makes dining round-table, rough n tumble sport, hugging and kissing in the piazza, all as natural as laughing”, essentially, if you’re going to go to Rome, embrace it, the Italian way. continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS