The beauty of its 14th century Torre dell’Arengario, its glam shopping streets and its Gothic-style Duomo, featuring marvellous frescoes depicting the life of Queen Theodelinda, make the centre of Monza well worth a visit. However, Monza’s real jewel in the crown is its famous Villa Reale, a magnificent 18th century dwelling designed by Francesco Piermarini, the architect who also designed the La Scala Opera House in Milan. Strolling through its Italianate gardens or its regal rooms is a feast for the eyes. Its rich calendar of events both inside and outside the villa includes exhibitions. Don’t miss Italy’s annual Formula 1 Grand Prix held in September at the racetrack lying behind its park.
LA VENARIA REALE
Lying behind the eponymous historical town, renowned for its delectable Piedmont fare and its picturesque yearly ‘Palio’, the Reggia di Venaria Reale is a true masterpiece of Baroque architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally built as a hunting lodge for the Savoys, it is now a sought-after tourist destination where visitors can admire its rooms, often used to host top-level exhibitions. Other must-visit attractions include its gardens, accessible either on foot or aboard a small convenient train. The House of Diana, the Fountain of the Stag and the Royal Stables are just some of the marvels housed in the villa’s park which is a part of the imposing Parco della Mandria, an oasis of peace for protected animal species. Don’t miss the ‘Brueghel. Masterpieces of Flemish Art’ exhibition until 19 February 2017 at the Sale delle Arti.
‘A city shaped like a Palazzo’: this delightful description given by academic and diplomat Baldassarre Castiglioni perfectly renders the idea of the charms and treasures offered by Mantua. Small and well designed, the city is, first and foremost, an original mixture of history and art. Originally an Etruscan settlement, it achieved its full splendour in Medieval times and, in particular, during the reign of the Gonzaga family, the Dukes of Mantua who conquered the city in 1328 and ruled benevolently until 1707. Important monuments including Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo del Podesta, Palazzo della Ragione and the churches of San Lorenzo (the “Rotonda”) and Santa Maria del Gradaro also date back to this period. The city was named Italian Capital of Culture 2016.
The city’s major attractions, such as the awe-inspiring Basilica of St. Mark, in pure Venetian Byzantine style, the Campanile (the bell tower) and Palazzo Ducale, the Palace of the Doges, are all situated just nearby St. Mark’s Square.
Just a few steps from the square, well worth a visit are the historic Teatro della Fenice and, burdened with legend, the Bridge of Sighs, one of Venice’s most characteristic bridges together with the Ponte Rialto and Ponte delle Guglie. In terms of uniqueness, Venice tops all other cities with its canals – which can be navigated aboard one of the city’s famous gondolas – and its two islands which can be easily accessed by means of a vaporetto: Murano, where for centuries glassblowers have performed oral gymnastics turning out fantastic glass pieces, and Burano, with its characteristic coloured houses and lace.