Read more about the article Evora – Portugal
Evora - Portugal

Evora – Portugal

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Roman Liberalitas Julia

Our second objective for this weekend, the city of Evora after visiting the day before beautiful Elvas, the easternmost city along the border with Spain, and Badajoz right across the border, the first city in Spain. Now if we enjoyed a lot the experience and what we’ve visited the day before; here in Evora came as twice the surprise. Not only that both cities are off the beaten path of the minds of most of the tourists for what you get to enjoy these places to yourself; you get to see their nice people and traditions, inexpensive great food, history and art literally on every corner. Both cities are near each other, however very difference and oppose one to another. Elvas, a garrison frontier city with its immaculate network of fortresses, walls and bastions; Evora, home to some of the finest Roman monuments in the whole of Portugal, a monumental “museum city”. The only “minor” downside in our experience? well, quite an ugly grey and rainy day.

Its network of narrow streets, squares, palaces and buildings of many epoch and countless styles and the great level of preservation of the urban fabric all were a good reason why the UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage site. Moreover, since its foundation as a thriving city, to the many wars and posterior decline to then thrive again and so on, it is only recent its “rediscovery”, a city transforming and reinventing itself as an ever stronger tourist pole adding to the already long list of amazing cities to visit in Portugal.

Visiting every place and sight is straightforward because of a very compact urban core and overall reduced size. A day is well more than enough, giving you plenty of time to enjoy some coffee or beer time at any of the many bars and terraces, perhaps that delicious pastry and a great lunch all without any rush. Our time here was actually from the morning until late afternoon when we started to make our way back to Lisbon’s airport for our late departure back to London.

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Read more about the article Elvas – Portugal
Elvas - Portugal

Elvas – Portugal

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Frontier fortress of Portugal

Once again returning to beautiful Portugal, and for the many more trips to come hopefully in the near future. The plan for this weekend was something more off the beaten path than the usual big cities. Instead, two smaller towns yet full of history: Elvas, the easternmost city near the Guadiana River which is the natural border between Portugal and Spain, a city sometimes referred as “the fortress of Portugal” due to the large amount of fortresses and bastions; and the city of Evora, famous for being home to some of the finest and most complete Roman monuments in the country. Ans considering that less than 10 kilometres ahead of Elvas, already across in Spain is the city of Badajoz, we left the possibility, if time permitting, to come and visit, which… of course it did happened.

Reaching both cities was not an easy and direct task. Unfortunately the nearest airport is Lisbon, 230 kilometres west from Elvas, that’s a long drive to consider. However, this is all along the motorway that continues after Portugal towards Madrid. This translates is less than 2 hours from west to east which is acceptable. Evora is nearer to Lisbon, at around 180 km. The same you can do by driving, you can take the train as both cities lie along the major rail link between Lisbon and Madrid, so don’t worry if you do not drive, you can still perfectly do both cities in a weekend.

Because of the large amount of immaculate fortifications in the italienne trace (star fort) style, most of which still complete, the city was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO under the listing of: Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications. Such extensive fortifications were built from the 17th to the 19th centuries becoming the largest bulwarked dry ditch system in the world. There is of course much more than this, as the impressive 15th century 6 kilometres long aqueduct, its Gothic cathedral and the many remains and influences from the Moors in the city’s urban fabric. (more…)

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Read more about the article Brescia – Italy
Brescia - Italy

Brescia – Italy

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The Falcon of Italy

At only 54 km east from Bergamo (our base), and the very same distance to Verona; the city of Brescia is greatly located in the most populated area of Italy, also very near Milan and equidistant to the beautiful lakes of Iseo and Garda, right at the foothills of the Alps. For us this was one of the few important cities that was still pending for a visit, so in combination with Bergamo and Crespi d’Adda that we visited the day before, made another great weekend, and looking forward to just in a few more weeks time until the next trip to the north of Italy, flying to Verona to be the base for continue visiting the places we’ve not yet been of Vicenza, Mantua and Sabbioneta, all of which UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed.

It takes a short time if you drive from Bergamo to Brescia, otherwise it is only 1 hour by train, and even less on a bus, both of which options are quite frequent. There is also no need to have a very early wake up in order to start sightseeing the city because in a day you can enjoy everything without any rush. The medieval city centre is very compact where distances in between the sights are short, yet still, we are talking about a city where almost every building is a sight on its own; but that’s something repeated at almost any city in Italy. Brescia is often bypassed by tourist, so while you find hordes of tourists in Milan, Bergamo or Verona, here the city is much peaceful and quiet, although trends are quickly changing as the city is been “rediscovered” and transforming itself into a strong tourist pole.

Brescia’s fame is not due to its architecture and history (which is impressive nonetheless), instead is eclipsed by its strong and powerful industry and manufacture, something that is still as of today the core of its economy. In the other hand, some of the city’s monuments have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the wider listing: “Longobards in Italy, Places of Power”. The growth over the past 50 years have been such dramatically fast that a second city was built south of the historic one; this is commonly known as Brescia 2. Another interesting (and unique for now) fact, it is the smallest city in the world with a full metro system. (more…)

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Read more about the article Bergamo and Crespi dAdda – Italy
Bergamo - Italy

Bergamo and Crespi dAdda – Italy

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Città dei Mille: City of the Thousand

Returning to Italy is always great; literally everywhere you go in this country is like visiting a museum. So much history at every turn that overwhelms anyone, and always a new place to see never been before. In this case, we booked flights once more to Milan, but skipping it on this occasion as we’ve been few times, even though we are looking forward to return anyway; and head to Bergamo 40 km east from Milan, the second most visited city in the Lombardy region and the perfect base to also visit the nearby UNESCO listed former industrial planned city of Crespi d’Adda, and the historic city of Brescia farther east.

A weekend as usual is too short, otherwise at the same distance from Milan that is to Brescia, you could go to Cremona, birthplace town of the most famous luthier in history, Antonio Stradivari; and the city of Piacenza. That’s anyway good news for us, meaning finding another flight to any of the three airports of Milan in the near future, perhaps next year, will be well worth it and continue to discover more of this beautiful region in Italy.

Bergamo, although small, is good in size with plenty of sights for a full day visit. Any longer than this will not make sense, hence why most tourist have the same in mind, and continue to visit other cities in the region, or even head to the Alps to spend a day in the nature. No need really to mention anything about the Alps since you will see them right in front of you especially from the upper city of Bergamo, you are literally at the foothills and the views of the mountain range are magnificent. (more…)

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Read more about the article Skopje – Republic of North Macedonia
Skopje - Macedonia

Skopje – Republic of North Macedonia

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Roman Scupi

Another weekend and another two new countries never been before ahead of us with new great places to see. The Republic of North Macedonia, also known as the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, or under the acronym FYROM, was born in 1991 after the break of Yugoslavia, but of course its history can be traced back thousands of years to what was the Kingdom of Paeonia, inhabited by Thracian people that were a group of Indo-European tribe. Then the Greeks, the Romans, Slavic, Ottoman, Kingdom of Serbia and Yugoslavia; all left their part of history and culture in the region.

Skopje is the capital and largest city in the country. With over half million inhabitants it accounts for more than one quarter of the total country’s population. Despite being a medium size city, the old city center is very small and can be entirely visited in just a few hours. It is centred along what used to be the bazaar during the Ottoman rule, and it is in fact one of the largest outside Turkey nowadays. Across the river and linked by the Stone Bridge, which is the landmark of Skopje; is the new town which highlight is Macedonia Square. Farther beyond there is nothing to see from the tourist point of view. Just ugly commie blocks everywhere. It is for this reason that you can easily include any other city or place coupled with your visit to Skopje. In our case, this was Pristina, capital of Kosovo, just 80 kilometers to the north.

I must be honest in saying that I was not impressed at all with this city, and if at all, I think I was actually shocked for seeing those unnecessary and nonsense statues placed literally on every possible space, with many more yet to come. No wonder why Skopje is known as the city of sculptures, but to this extent it is extremely overloaded.


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