The Valley of the Temples found here – a cluster of five Doric structures built around 5th century BC, and a UNESCO World Heritage site – is one of the greatest collections of Greek architecture in the world. Hire a qualified guide to explain the history and architecture to be even more impressed by its splendor.
The pleasant bus ride to this ancient hilltop enclave offers charming views of Florence and the Arno Valley. Fiesole's most notable landmark is the 3,000-seat, 1st-century-BC Roman theater, home to the Estate Fiesolana performing festival. Fiesole has a semi-rural village feel to it, and is a favorite spot with Florentines seeking respite from the city heat on a sultry summer night.
Mosaics of Ravenna
The eight mosaic monuments in this quasi-port city on the Adriatic still glitter after 16 centuries. The Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna (their official title) are a UNESCO World Heritage site – a unique collection of mosaics and monuments from the 5th and 6th centuries that draw lovers of antiquity, art, and religion. Note: Not all eight monuments are within walking distance of each other.
If you don’t have time to visit Pompeii, why not visit the next best thing? The glorious ruins at Ostia Antica, just outside of Rome, are easily accessible by a local commuter train that will bring you to Portus, the ancient port of Rome, as well as a necropolis with 100 tombs excavated (and more to be uncovered).
Pompeii and Herculaneum
Preserved for centuries under volcanic ash, Pompeii is still being excavated by archeologists. What’s already been unearthed, however, is impressive enough: an entire Roman-era city complete with villas, basilicas, “fast-food” joints, and a brothel! Herculaneum, also buried under the lava of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., is a smaller site, but better preserved than Pompeii.
Taormina’s Greek Theater
This Greek amphitheater is the second largest in Italy but has the most spectacular setting, surrounded by the natural wonders of sea, sky, and Mt. Etna. As in ancient times, it is the site of concerts and special events during the summer season, but will take your breath away any time of year.
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On an open-seating flight, head for the back of the airplane. If the flight's not full, it'll likely be emptier back there.
Karen Dion Freelance Editor
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