Off the Beaten Strada: Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites

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For opera fanatics seeing a performance at La Scala is the experience of a lifetime.

Check the official website below to see what is showing during your visit. Ticket prices vary depending on seating and show but should be booked far in advance. The La Scala Museum is also well worth a visit and provides a wealth of mementos from the opera house dedicated to the nation's beloved composers and performers. These include Rossini, Puccini and Toscanini. Two halls are devoted to Verdi alone, and contain memorabilia such as the spinet on which he learned to play, hand-written scores and the baton given to him after the momentous reception of his best-loved work, Aida.

There are also exhibitions featuring some of the elaborate costumes worn in the theatre over the years, and mementoes from the plays and performances. The museum is a delight for those familiar with the composers and their operas, but probably a bit dull for the uninitiated; however, if there aren't rehearsals on visitors are permitted to go into one of the boxes and see the theatre and this is thrilling for all lovers of the arts.

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Located next to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, in the former monastery's refectory, is Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting The Last Supper Cenacolo Vinciano and although the church is an attraction in its own right it is this iconic painting that draws so many admirers. The fresco depicts the moment of Christ's revelation of the betrayal. Judas hovers to the right of the painting, with his hand placed protectively on the bag of silver. Scaffolding covers the bottom of the painting an ongoing restoration project , leaving the rest in full view.

Controversy has erupted over the removal of layers of corrective over-painting completed in the 18th and 19th-centuries. The painting has endured more than hot debate, however, as it managed to escape the bombing during WWII that destroyed the roof of the refectory. There are other notable art works and frescoes at Santa Maria delle Grazie and the architecture is amazing - make sure you explore the church as well as see The Last Supper. You have to book in advance to see the painting and can do so online.

The gargantuan Sforzesco Castle, built in the 15th Century, is one of Milan's foremost monuments. It was restored after being bombed in The vast interior, which is broken here and there by smaller courtyards, contains three museums, the most notable of which is the Museum of Historic Art Museo d'Arte Antica del Castello Sforzesco. Within its collection of sculptures is the famous Pieta Rondanini, Michelangelo's final work.

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The two other museums within the Castle's ramparts are the Museum of Applied Arts and the Archaeological Museum and there are lots of unusual little exhibitions showcasing musical instruments, Egyptian art and other unexpected things. There is also a quaint little furniture museum.

The castle is vast and to explore it properly you will need a few hours. It is conveniently located in the centre of Milan and the relatively cheap admission cost and amount of material to see encourages repeat visits. The castle grounds are big and lovely for a stroll; you can enter them free of charge so it is a good place to come for some fresh air. Castles never cease to captivate the imagination and this ancient fortress is rather unexpected in Milan, making it an exciting attraction.

This remarkable museum is a popular tourist attraction and a fitting tribute to one of the world's greatest minds. Within the Leonardo Gallery of the museum is a collection of da Vinci's ingenious designs, detailing everything from plans for war machines to architectural visions.

Applied physics is the focus of another room, in keeping with the museum's tribute to the history of science, and there are departments for energy, communication and transport as well. The museum is very well-organised and maintained, with a lot of interactive exhibits and scientific experiments to actively participate in.

Activities are scheduled daily in the interactive science labs and the admission cost covers all these activities. Children will be enthralled and should learn a lot in this exciting and stimulating environment, experimenting with food, electricity and much more in carefully supervised activities. Adults will also enjoy the museum, particularly the section on da Vinci which is intriguing. There is a bar and a canteen at the museum, as well as a shop for souvenirs.

If you are at all interested in science, or Leonardo da Vinci, or if you are travelling to Milan with kids, be sure to include a stop at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology in your Milanese travel itinerary. Of all the many architecturally beautiful and fascinating places of worship in Palermo, the most renowned is the 12th-century cathedral in the suburb of Monreale, high on the mountain slope, about five miles 8km from the city centre. This dazzling cathedral is a mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles, a blend of medieval Christian and Muslim architecture.

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The magnificent mosaics that cover 68, square feet 6, sq m of the cathedral's dome and all of the walls on the interior are unsurpassed and people travel from far and wide to study and admire them. The adjacent Benedictine abbey features a cloister with carved stone columns, many inlaid with mosaics depicting scenes from Sicily's Norman history.

For a small fee you can buy a schematic of the mosaics from the stall at the main entrance, which explains the biblical and historical scenes depicted; having this guide, or doing some research before arriving, is advised because there is so much of interest going on in the intricate and extensive mosaics - some visitors even make a point of bringing binoculars to examine them properly. Entrance to the breathtaking cathedral is free, but there are small admission charges for the Treasury, Cloisters and Terraces, all of which are well worth exploring.

The subterranean catacombs that contain the mummified remains of about 8, ancient inhabitants of Palermo may be macabre, but are fascinating to visit. The Capuchin friars began mummifying and embalming the bodies of the city's nobles back in , and the tradition continued for centuries with the last body a seven-year-old girl named Rosalia being embalmed in After embalming, the corpses were hung along the walls of the catacombs dressed in their best, which they still wear proudly, like the military officer in an 18th-century uniform complete with tricorn hat.

The bodies are arranged according to profession, sex and age, with separate sections for virgins, children and lawyers, among other things. The tunnels are spooky and the experience can be quite emotional; the catacombs are cool and dimly lit and the atmosphere is one of respect and care for the ancestors, but although fascinating, this attraction will be disturbing for some. It is very interesting to learn about how the monks embalmed the bodies and the reasons why everything is so well-preserved, and the outfits are authentic reflections of local history.

Photography is not allowed at all and visitors should treat the place with respect, keeping noise to a minimum. The excessive opulence of the Baroque period is nowhere better demonstrated than in the magnificent Palazzo Mirto, one of the few aristocratic homes of Palermo that is open to the public, offering visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle of Sicily's noble 19th-century families.

The palace was the residence of the Lanza Filangeri family, whose last heir left the estate to the Ministry of Cultural Assets in Most of the princely rooms and salons are furnished with original items that once belonged to the family. Apart from the luxurious rooms and many antiques visitors can see the old stables and wagons used by the family. Unfortunately, all the signs and information given are in Italian, and as a result some personal research into what you are seeing may be necessary for enthusiasts, but the real joy of this attraction is the feeling that you are wandering around somebody's home and the lack of information won't bother many visitors.

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There are guided tours available. The feeling of visiting a home is amplified by the fact that the palace is not thronged by tourists, many of whom don't know it exists. Opening hours seem to be irregular, with some recent visitors complaining as much, so it is best to check whether it is open in advance. Photography is not allowed. An underwater city and a landscape of petrified black lava are the characteristics of the unusual little island of Ustica in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just a short ferry ride of 36 miles 57km from Palermo.

The ancient volcanic island was once inhabited by the Phoenicians and often fell prey to pirate raids during the Middle Ages; there is evidence of many shipwrecks off the island and the Greeks believed it was inhabited by sirens that lured ships to their doom on the rocks. Ustica has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era and notable archaeological remains have been uncovered. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans all left their mark on the landscape.

In the 20th century Ustica became a penal colony but in tourists officially replaced prisoners. Today, the island is a designated national marine park and its crystal-clear waters and undersea treasures, particularly the submerged ancient city of Osteodes, attract divers from all over the world. The snorkelling is also brilliant, as the waters around the island teem with marine life. Ustica is a delightful excursion which can occupy visitors happily for one to two days, but unless you are an avid diver, you won't need more time than that to explore the island.

The site was originally a Phoenician village that was expanded by the Greeks who conquered it in BC.

By BC it had fallen to the Romans, who rebuilt much of the original town. No complete structures remain and the ruins consist mainly of floors and the lower portions of walls and columns. Portions of mosaics and paintings are still visible and really exciting to stumble upon.

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An impressive view of the Gulf of Palermo can be had from the hilltop above Solunto, and there is a small archaeological museum at the site, although most of the artefacts from Solunto are in Palermo's Regional Archaeological Museum. The ruins are picturesque and interesting and they are beautifully situated.

Solunto usually doesn't get a lot of coverage in guide books which means that this breathtaking site can often be explored in relative solitude. It can get hot on the slopes so it is best to avoid the heat of midday, and be sure to bring comfortable shoes as you will need to do some walking if you want to see everything. Even without the exciting archaeological remains, the area would be wonderful for a hike, and worth visiting for the views alone.

The Ponte Nuova New Bridge connects the mainland city of Syracuse to the island of Ortygia, where most of the area's worthy sights are located. The island was fortified by Greek colonists and the remains of the Temple of Apollo can still be visited in the Piazza Pancali: this is the oldest Greek temple in Sicily, built in the Doric style around BC. The cathedral in the nearby Piazza Duomo is uniquely made up of the original walls of a 5th-century BC Greek temple known as the Athenaion, and near the sea, reached along Via Capodieci, is the mythical Spring of Arethusa.

There are medieval relics on the island too, including Maniaces Castle, dating from the 11th century. Apart from the many historic sights, the island of Ortygia also offers numerous boutiques and craft shops, and restaurants and cafes galore. The winding streets are charming and there are treasures to be found around many corners. Walking is the best way to get around on Ortygia as the narrow, winding streets can be difficult to navigate by car and parking is often scarce. Several hours are required to explore the island fully.

Be sure to bring along the camera as the island is delightfully picturesque. The second largest city in Sicily, Catania sits in the shadow of Europe's highest volcano, Mount Etna, on the east of Sicily between Syracuse and Taormina. Somewhat ugly, decayed and crime-ridden today, it was once called the 'city of black and white' because of the use of white marble and black lava to construct its elegant buildings, many of which have since fallen into ruins or been destroyed by war, earthquakes and lava flows. Despite its unattractive aspects, Catania is an ancient city, founded in BC, and boasts some interesting historical relics. There are two Roman amphitheatres, one reminiscent of Rome's Colosseum, and a 13th-century fortress, Ursino Castle, which is now a museum.

The city's cathedral contains some royal tombs and was built in the 11th century. The city is also a great transport hub and has an active nightlife.


Visitors will find plenty to do in Catania and the city certainly has attractions but it suffers by comparison to some of the other Italian cities.