5 Small Villas You Should See in Italy

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Where to go when you have had enough of the crowds and tourists of Italy.

Saturnia

This quiet little village is located almost exactly between Rome and Florence. Just a couple kilometers outside of the village is Cascate del Mulino, an all natural hot spring. Take in the believed healing powers of the spring while surrounded by Tuscan countryside and end the day with a traditional Tuscan meal in Saturnia. This spring is open year round and is free to the public.

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Murano

This forgotten piece of Venice is world famous for its magnificent glass work. It has all the beauty of Venice, but without quite as many tourists. This small island is only accessible by boat. This is easy enough for those already on the main island of Venice. It is a quick trip away on the vaporetto (water bus). And pet lovers… dogs ride free.

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Moneglia

A small sea level village wedged between high mountains. The city is protected from its large bay by a sea wall. There are numerous tunnels throughout the wall for easy access to the beach. The shocking contrast of mountains and beach not only makes the blue sea reflect a forest green, but one can hike in the mountains in the morning and lounge on the beach in the evening. An ideal location for those who wish to disappear for a while along the top of the Italian boot.

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Loreto

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. This pilgrimage sight is the believed home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religion preferences, Loreto will entrance you with its beautiful town center, unusual niche of Virgin Mary trinkets, and unique basilica.

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Aosta

This small alpine town has made its mark on the map with its surprisingly large daily market. Nestled in northern Italy, it is located close to the French/Swiss border making it a popular destination for Italy’s neighboring countries. Come here for cheap Italian fashion, Roman ruins, and fresh alpine air.

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A House within a Church

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. Intriguing enough for anyone who does not know its unique history. For those who do, it is a pilgrimage sight for those seeking the alleged home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religious preferences, Loreto will entrance you.IMG_8745

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Basillica della Santa Casa

In the town center, you will be met by countless stands and stores filled with Virgin Mary nicknacks in all shapes and sizes. Many have replicas of the beautiful black and gold statue of the Virgin Mary that resides within the Holy House of the Virgin Mary. This building is actually sheltered within the Basillica della Santa Casa.

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Inside the Holy House of the Virgin mary

Piazza della Madonna

The upper floor of the Apostolic Palace (next to the basilica) is where Loreto keeps its treasures. Large frescos taken from the alter of the basilica, ancient pottery from the Holy House apothecary, raphaelesque tapestries, and prototype Virgin Mary shrine statues. The fountains and statues outside of the basilica are also a sight to see. One of the most intriguing is the fountain centered in the Piazza della Madonna. Its detailed bronze dragons and violent mermen create a striking contrast against the white geometry of the piazza and elegant facade of the basilica.

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Sadly, Loreto is not very dog friendly. Dogs are not allowed within any of the historic buildings. All hotels close to the Basillica della Santa Casa do not accept large dogs. Although a select few will allow a small pet. I suggest pet owners seek accommodations in Ancona.

Exploring Fabulous Florence with a Big Dog

Florence’s true Italian name is Firenze. Nestled in beautiful tuscany, it is the home of the Renaissance.

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Dogs are loved and welcome in Italy. They are allowed inside most cafes and restaurants, but it is always polite to ask first.  Usually Zala received better service than I did, in one restaurant she even got her own dish of cheesy pasta.

This pizza man spent the evening tossing Zala ham.

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A popular place to visit in Florence is Palazzo Vecchio. It is located close to the Arno River. It is one of the more crowded areas of Florence partially because the Uffizi gallery is located here. The Uffizi gallery is known for its long waiting line and large collection of Renaissance paintings. The gallery opens at 8:15, and I suggest starting your day there. There is little to no line during the weekdays at opening time. Tickets are given with a designated time frame to enter and tour the museum. Here you can see many well known classics including those done by Leonardo, Botticelli, Raphael, and Caravaggio. After you’re done, take a stroll across Point Vecchio. It is a stone Medieval arch bridge with (mainly jewelry) shops clustered along the sides.

Now, what about Michelangelo’s statue of David?

There is a replica at Palazzo Vecchio. Be sure to get all your photos done here because no photos are allowed of the real one located at the Galleria dell’Accademia. This gallery is small compared to the Uffizi or Louvre but worth your time. Down the corridor leading to the statue of David, you will walk past Michelangelo’s unfinished commissions. They are known as the Unfinished Slaves. In these larger than life mixtures of rough and smooth, Michaelangelo’s unfinished figures are twisting and straining to get out of their marble confines. The gallery ticket is worth every penny just to see these marble prisoners.

The Duomo is an impressive sight to see, but it is also packed with tourists during the day. It is best to view the Duomo and the Baptistery in the morning or evening; you will want an up close view of the bronze doors of the Baptistery. Reading up on the history of these famous doors is well worth your time.  I do not advise anyone to order food or drinks near the Duomo or Palazzo Vecchio. You will be met with low quality for a high price.

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If you want to see more renaissance green and white architecture, go to Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. It is located by the train station. There are less tourists in this area. This is the only church I have come across that actually charges an entry fee.

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Dogs are not allowed inside Basilicas or Museums. I felt comfortable leaving Zala outside. I usually found her surrounded by dog loving Italians repeating “Ciao bella (Hello beautiful).”

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Around the corner from the Basilica is the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella. It is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. The interior is beautiful and well preserved with a fascinating history on its survival. The pharmacy now specializes in perfumes, creams, and soaps traditionally made and of very high quality. And as Dr. Lector said, ‘one of the best-smelling places on earth’. I was actually asked by the staff to bring my dog inside the pharmacy because ‘she looked sad’ outside. Feel free to bring your pup inside to explore the scents and wonders of the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.

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There are numerous cheap accommodations to be found in Florence. I use hostelworld.com to find most of my accommodations in Europe. Rule of thumb, hostels do not accept pets but hotels do. When a site does not state their pet policy or they only accept small pets, call and ask anyways. Many will make an exception for a large dog. You will get a better response (and sometimes price) if you start out in the speaker’s native language. Even if it is simply, “Ciao, parli inglese?(Hi, speak english?)” and “grazie(thank you)”. Zala and I stayed at Hotel Genzianella. It was cheap, clean, and it had free wifi. The staff is friendly, and they will automatically give you a map and share their local knowledge with you when you check into your room.

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And don’t forget to try a Tuscan Steak. Preferably with my favorite pasta, gnocchi (Italian potato pasta) and of course, paired with a good Italian red wine.

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Explore the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii with Your Dog

 Well preserved frescos, intact ancient building, and your dog can explore with you.

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Have more caution in the Southern region of Italy. There is more poverty in the south, and it is common knowledge among Italians that Naples is notorious for car theft. That does not mean you can’t have a fantastic time, just use caution.

Yes, your dog can accompany you inside the ancient ruins of Pompeii, but beware of the stray dogs roaming about.

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Stone pedestrian crossings, ancient wagon ruts, an ancient amphitheater, and the petrified remains of Pomeii’s inhabitants will keep you occupied for at least half the day so bring your good walking shoes and a bottle of water.

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There are a couple campgrounds, Zeus and Spartacus, directly across from the ruins at a reasonable price. Spartacus was the cheaper option for car camping. The showers had no hot water and the wifi was pay by the hour. Dogs were of course welcome.

Travel Italy with Your Dog

 Italy may be the best place in the world to travel with your dog.

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Italians and Dogs

The French like dogs. Italians love dogs. I have gone to restaurants where Zala has been given packages of dog treats, cheesy pasta, ham, chocolates (without my consent), and pizza. Walking down the street I was always being stopped by Italians petting and loving on my dog. After one month in Italy, my dog believed her name was ‘Ciao Bella!’ (Hello Beautiful!).

On the Train

Trains accept dogs just as easily as France. I personally have only taken the train from Chambery, France to Milan, Italy. This ticket is a flat rate of 30Euros for your pet. I believe this holds true for all train travel in Italy. My passport was checked crossing the border, but Zala’s was not. Don’t forget your dog muzzle.

Bus

Take your dog on the bus and do so confidently. I did it in cities throughout Italy including Venice, Bologna, and Rome. People will appreciate you following the rules by putting a muzzle on your dog before you get on. I was thanked numerous times for doing this courtesy. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs, especially large ones.

Metro

I never took my dog on the Metro. I expect their dog restrictions are lax. Check online before you try.

Hotels

Many hotels do not post if they accept dogs and some only allow small dogs. E-mail or call anyways. Most hotels will accept large dogs even if their website does not say so. Most do not charge a fee either.

Restaurants and Shops

Unless it is a meat deli or grocery store, assume your dog can come inside. I got told off numerous occasions because I tied my dog outside and the owner or employee demanded I bring my dog inside because she ‘looks sad’. Please view my posts on specific Italian cities where I talk in detail of all the strange places that accepted my dog.

Churches, Museums, Ancient Buildings

No; except the ruins of Pompeii. Dogs are allowed there. See my post and photos on Pompeii.