Some exciting new things are happening in Italy in 2014. From a new museum opening to a helpful app, consider adding any or all of these to your Italy travel plans.
> If you’ve been to Venice in the summer months, you’ll often get a funky smell wafting from some of the stagnant smaller canals. Well, now there is something to counteract that a bit. A new museum dedicated to the art and history of perfume, located in the 17th century Palazzo Mocenigo.
> In Fontanellato, a small town near Parma, after eight years in the making, the world’s largest labyrinth is set to open to the public this year. The maze, which is modeled after two Roman mosaics, is made with bamboo hedges and takes up a mere 17 acres on Franco Maria Ricci’s estate.
> The easiest way to skip the lines at the Colosseum is to hire a private guide or take a tour. Now you can use your smartphone to book tickets and avoid the lines. Signs with QR codes are being posted near the monument – just scan them with any bar code scanner app and then process your tickets with a credit card. Tickets are €13 (which includes a one euro service fee).
> About 7,000 LED lights will illuminate the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel beginning in mid-February to help mark the 450th anniversary of Michelangelo’s death. Just don’t go busting out your best version of “You Light Up My Life” unless you want a stern Silenzio! from the guards.
> As of March 1st, Pope Francis is opening up the Castel Gondolfo and the beautiful Barberini Gardens to the public. Located about 10 miles from Rome, it’s a great spot to visit when you when to get out of the city for a day. The gardens will be open Monday – Saturday.
> If you’re a nature lover wanting something to do a bit outside the city center, try the Via Francigena. This famous and historic pilgrimage route passes through England, France, Switzerland and Italy. The 14 km stretch located in the Riserva dell’Insugherata and Monte Mario, is not only a green space with water and forests, but offers tombs and two villas as well.
> Beginning December 14th, there will be a new high-speed train that runs from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport directly to Venice, making it easier and faster than ever to get there.
> A lot is happening at the Roman Forum this year. Much of it is to commemorate Augustus’ (Rome’s first emporer) death. Here is a list of reopenings after restoration work:
- Santa Maria Antiqua, a church within the Roman Forum. Located at the bottom of Palentine Hill, the 12th century church, which has an important collection of artwork, will start accepting visitors this spring.
- The Vicus Jugarius, one of Rome’s oldest streets, located along Capitoline Hill between Basilica Julia and Temple of Saturn.
- Baths of Diocletian, the largest thermal bath complex in the city extends over 32 acres. It also features the largest open-air swimming pool in Rome. It’s located near the Termini train station on Viminal Hill.
- Villa of Livia, the home of Augustus’s wife, is located on the outskirts of Rome in Prima Porta. The villa features frescoes, geometric mosaics, an internal garden, thermal baths and replicated laurel grove.
> Speaking of Michelangelo, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence added a new room on the second-floor dedicated to the artist. The beautifully restored room contains works including the famous ‘Tondo Doni’ and the statue of ‘Sleeping Ariadne’, which it’s believed he once admired. They have also added two new ‘Green Rooms’ which contain 39 works of Roman copies of Greek marbles.
> After 27 years, one of the greatest collection of Renaissance tapestries has returned to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The tapestries represent biblical stories and the History of Joseph.
> Don’t be surprised if you see scaffolding surrounding Florence’s Baptistery. This year, work will start on restoring the eight sides of the facade and is expected to be completed by the summer 2015.
> After a visitor damaged a few statues last September and restoration of Palazzina del Cavaliere, the Porcelain Museum at the Boboli Gardens has reopened.
> A new branch of the Italian food emporium Eataly has opened in Florence on the Via Martelli. If you’re thinking of a visit, don’t forget to read these tips for how to visit.
> All aboard the Nature Train In Tuscany. After a 20 year hiatus, the steam train that runs thru the Val d’Orcia and Amiata Valley has been put back into service. It’s a perfect way to explore beautiful landscapes, Tuscan villages, churches and food festivals, the slow way.
> Palermo just opened an open-air museum called Ecomuseo Mare Memoria Viva, The Museum of the Living Sea. It’s dedicated to the area’s relationship with the sea. More information n the project is available on the website.
If you’re planning to travel to Italy this year, click here to see how I can help.