Rick Steves' Travel Blog

I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

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Cameron Hewitt (my wonderful co-author and fellow guidebook researcher) is just settling into his spring research trip and starting with the Cinque Terre. The pirates of the Cinque Terre survive in its many hotels and restaurants. They chew up and spit out guidebook researchers to the degree that many of my gang opt out of this highly competitive little bit of paradise. But Cameron’s there to make sure everyone who’s in my guidebook deserves their listing…and I’m pulling for him!

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By the way, if you enjoy Cameron’s take on Europe, be sure to “like” his Facebook page — he’ll be blown from Italy’s Cinque Terre and Dolomites, to Salzburg, and the Austrian Alps before meeting up with me and our TV crew in Bulgaria and Romania. Don’t miss out on Cameron’s keen insights.

 

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In Florence, the Church of San Lorenzo is a great example of how Renaissance architecture is poetry — stony, mathematical, and timeless poetry. You’ll need to turn up the volume to better hear my guide, Alessandra, riff in a stream of consciousness manner about the mathematical underpinnings of all this beauty. And even though I don’t really get it, I’m happy to simply enjoy it and accept the fact that this visual harmony is not accidental, but logical. Next time you’re in a Renaissance church, enjoy the math.


This is Day 24 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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You can just bumble through Europe and have fun. But if you make a point to know what’s going on and where, you’ll bring home more memories. And there is certainly a lot going on. Within a few steps of my Florence hotel, I enjoyed a wonderful market. Then, on the same square that evening, the cutest little girls choir I’ve ever tapped my toes to sang with more musical horsepower than I’ve ever heard.

By the way, I’m almost a month into my spring trip, and so far I’ve only been in Europe’s “struggling” countries — Portugal, Spain, and Italy — far from the booming countries of the north. Consider these images (and my posts of the past few weeks) and then consider the Americans who are staying home because they think things are “unstable” over here. In a capitalist society — in the USA or Europe — people never feel as rich as they think they should be…and commercial media reminds us of that day after day. But as long as you feel the sun, sip the wine, and see the good in people, life sure seems sweet. In four decades of travel in Europe, I can’t recall a better vibe.


This is Day 23 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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It’s funny to me how travelers are disinclined to walk just 5 minutes away from the tourist zone to find a restaurant filled with locals (not tourists) that offers double the joy, taste, and memories. (At Antica Trattoria da Tito in Florence you pay about $10 per plate, and I splurged about $40 for a corposo bottle of Brunello di Montalcino — from the Altesino Winery, which we filmed last week.)  When researching, I spend my days working on sight listings and my evenings sussing out the restaurant scene for my guidebook. And at the end of the evening, my treat: I eat at my favorite place. But before I sit down, I always take a moment to walk through the restaurant just to feel the vibe, assess the clientele, and look at the food being served. During my little spin here, I bumped into Bobo, the chef and owner. He took the words right out of my mouth: “Good energy!” Tip: To dine in a high-energy place like this, come early for more sanity…late for less sanity.


This is Day 22 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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Orvieto Cathedral’s Chapel of San Brizio is one of the most jaw-dropping pieces of art you’ll see in Italy. Painted by Luca Signorelli (who inspired Michelangelo), it’s a twisted and vivid look at the psyche of the late 1400s. It’s so fun to be updating my guidebook to Italy with a good local guide (David Tordi helped me in Orvieto). I slipped in a busy day of research in Orvieto after saying good-bye to our film crew in Assisi and before reporting for guidebook duty in Florence. And I’m glad I did. I love Orvieto.

 


This is Day 21 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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While it gets plenty of tourists, Orvieto (two hours north of Rome) is a town whose historic and artistic importance is underappreciated. Orvieto was a thriving Etruscan city centuries before Christ. The Romans had it under siege for two years before defeating it. Since Romans didn’t need to bother with hill-town defenses, the city lay in ruins for 700 years until Rome fell. Due to the chaos that came with the power vacuum left by the fall of Rome (rampaging barbarians chasing the meek out of the valleys), hill towns were once again in vogue. So medieval Orvieto was born on the ruins of the Etruscan city that once capped its hilltop. Today, the entire bluff is honeycombed with Etruscan caves and exploring them is fascinating. Here’s a quick look at a very old and very deep well — one of many such 2,500-year-old sights in Orvieto.

 


This is Day 20 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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A fun stop in Orvieto, just two blocks from the cathedral, is Giuseppe Rosella’s Il Mago di Oz (Wizard of Oz) shop. Like eccentric artisans all over Europe, he has a one-track mind and enjoys the challenge of getting visitors into it. With a little touch and a wave of the hand, anyone can turn on and off his trippy little wonderland. Readers of my guidebooks are sure to connect with such characters wherever they travel. Why? Because I like them.

 


This is Day 19 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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From time to time, we share a random video clip to fuel your travel dreams. Join us today as we stroll along Vienna’s traffic-free streets and grab a quick herring sandwich for lunch.

Watch my complete TV episode about Vienna for free on our website.

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This morning, before Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis was open to the public, we met Friar Daniel, who took us inside to be all alone with some of the greatest art of the late 13th century. It’s tough to distill the history and theology of St. Francis into a TV show — so while we filmed the walls, Friar Daniel thoughtfully reviewed my narration in the script. We clarified some points that confuse many American travelers: Franciscans are friars. To call St. Francis a monk is technically wrong. Monks are committed to a life of solitude (it’s just them and God) in a monastery. The word “friar” comes from the Latin word for “brother” — their calling is to be with the people as brothers. And they stay in a convent. Convents are not just for women, and monasteries are not just for men. Like the words “convene” and “monologue,” whose roots they share, they are all about if you are social or solitary. I got my script fine-tuned with our wonderful Franciscan friar’s help. And as I do every time I enjoy the guidance of Franciscan friars, I left inspired by their gentle and loving approach to life. In a hyphenated word…they are Christ-like.


This is Day 18 of my 100 Days in Europe series. As I research my guidebooks and make new TV shows, I’m reporting on my experiences and lessons learned in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, and beyond. Find more at blog.ricksteves.com.

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I love to get someone else’s take — a fresh take — on one of my favorite places — especially when it’s by Cameron Hewitt (my wonderful co-author and fellow guidebook researcher). Cameron’s just settling into his spring research trip and starting with the Cinque Terre. You’ll find his first dispatch on his blog now.

By the way, if you enjoy Cameron’s take on Europe, be sure to “like” his Facebook page — he’ll be blown from Italy’s Cinque Terre and Dolomites, to Salzburg and the Austrian Alps before meeting up with me and our TV crew in Bulgaria and Romania. Don’t miss out on Cameron’s keen insights.

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