Italy: A Seduction of the Senses

The love affair between the American traveler and Italy has long been one of the most satisfying relationships in history. Young or old, alone or in groups, budget-conscious or luxury-seeking, every traveler can stimulate their senses each time they visit.

Let Italy seduce you. Surrender to all that it has to offer and bask in the afterglow that you will feel each time you think of it.

Venice: Pittsburgh’s Sister City

The temperature builds with Venice. Unlike any other city, Venice was built entirely on water by men who defied the strength of the sea to create a Renaissance masterpiece. To experience the Venetian way of life, you may travel on the vaporetti (water buses) or the traghetti (gondola ferries), through the campi (squares), along the calli (narrow streets) and, inevitably, over one of its more than 400 bridges. In fact, native Pittsburghers will feel right at home in Venice, since Pittsburgh is second only to Venice in the total number of bridges it contains.

Venice (or ‘Venezia’ in Italian) is built on 117 small islands connected by bridges, and a simple journey on the vaporetto provides a glance back into her grand history. The vaporetto is the best way to see Venice. On the 45-minute excursion from the Piazzale Roma (near Venice’s main train station, Santa Lucia) to San Marco, you will pass four bridges, six churches and over fifty palazzi. Every twist and turn of the Grand Canal presents a fresh view of this city that has for centuries attracted writers and artists.

The Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is the very heart of Venice. Sunlit angels announce your entrance into the square with their stone trumpets, alongside towering twin columns. One column holds a winged lion—an emblem of St. Mark—and the other St. Theodore (the city’s first patron) and his dragon. At the end of the piazza, you will find the Basilica di San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica—basilicasanmarco.it). This magnificent 11th century Byzantine church layered with fairytale cupolas and marble lacework houses the tomb of Saint Mark. Inside the Basilica, intricate mosaic tiles sparkle and tell the silent stories how of “East meets West.”

Next door to the Basilica, a visit inside the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace—museiciviciveneziani.it) is a must-see. During Medieval and Renaissance times Venice was a leading city through European commerce. The Doge (Duke) of Venice was an extremely powerful figure and was the main leader of the city; therefore it is no surprise that such a glorious palace housed the Doge. The intrigue of the Venetian Republic is captured in the museum and in the numerous rooms of this Palace. Arching high above the water is an enclosed
marble Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) which was so named from the sighs of those being led from the palace to the dungeons as they beheld their last view of the outside world.

For the best view of Venice, visit the famous bell tower (Campanile di San Marco). At more than 325 feet high, the view from the top on a clear day includes parts of the mainland as far as the Alps, but oddly enough, none of the canals that wind throughout the city.


Hilton – Molino Stucky
Guidecca, 819
30133 Venezia, Italy

Ruzzini Palace
Castello, 5866
30123 Venezia, Italy

Bars & Clubs

LGBT folks tend to leave the island for gay nightlife, making overnights to Mestre, Venice’s mainland half, or nearby Padova to party.

I Due Girasoli
Salizada San Stae 1908 (Santa Croce)
Venezia, Italy

Porto de Mar (Glitter Disco)
Via delle Macchine (Marghera)
Mestre, Venezia, Italy


Ai Rusteghi
Corte del Tentor 5513
Venezia, Italy

Osteria Antico Giardinetto
Calle dei Morti 2253 (Santa Croce)
30135 Venezia, Italy

Florence: A Renaissance City

Florence continues the sensory stimulation. World-famous mostly for its art and stunning architecture, Florence has been one of the most visited cities in Europe for centuries. Shop ‘til you drop for leather jackets and shoes in the many open-air markets. The jewelry found on and around the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and in all the engaging shops is known around the world. The Ponte Vecchio is the only ancient Florentine bridge undamaged by the Nazis.

Italy’s art capital is also the birthplace of Dante, Machiavelli, Botticelli and Michelangelo, and Florence attracts millions of tourists each year. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1982, there is not a gay traveler in the world who isn’t seduced by this city.

Most sights are found on the north shore of the Arno River:

Start early here and pre-purchase your ticket to skip the line to see the world’s favorite model of manhood: Michelangelo’s David.

The Uffizi Galleries house the world’s finest collection of Renaissance Art including Michelangelo’s only completed easel painting. See works by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Goya. The Uffizi has more than 45 rooms so try to pick and choose…maybe a visit to Botticelli’s collection that includes the Birth of Venus.

This architectural wonder by Brunelleschi is a highlight of Florence. Climb the steps to the top of this famous dome. After the day crowds depart, the piazzas of Florence are much more pleasant. Visit the Piazza dell Signoria, found right in the center of the historic district which houses the Town Hall along with Piazza di Santa Croce. The Ponte Vecchio has more atmosphere at night without all the jewelry stores and may be the perfect end of a romantic walk along the river.


Grand Hotel
Piazza Ognissanti 1
50123 Firenze, Italy

Hotel Degli Orafi
Lungarno Archibusieri, 4
50121 Firenze, Italy

Bars & Clubs

Piccolo Cafe
via Borgo Santa Croce 23/r
50122 Firenze, Italy

Crisco Club
Via Sant’ Egidio 43r
50121 Firenze, Italy


Enoteca Pinchiorri
Via Ghibellina 87
50122 Firenze, Italy

Taverna del Bronzino
Via delle Ruote 25/r
50129 Firenze, Italy

Rome: The Eternal City

Talk about sexual tension…Rome is a controversial place for the LGBT community. Remember your gay fantasies when you watched those movies with Roman soldiers and gladiators? Rome does not have the colorful gay life as other capitals in Europe, but the Eternal City does offer an endless amount of enjoyment, in other ways.

Vatican City is not only the smallest country in the world, but also the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. St. Peter’s Basilica, which sits atop the tomb of its namesake and a maze of catacombs, houses some of the most famous artistic treasures such as Raphael’s Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

Once a temple, now a church, the Pantheon’s 2000 year history began in 125 AD when Hadrian built and dedicated it to the classical gods (Pan—means all; Theos—means god). It is now officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres and houses the tombs of Raphael, Vittorio Emmanuel and Umberto. Truly a marvel of architecture, the Pantheon was the inspiration for Brunelleschi’s cupola in Florence.

The world famous Trevi Fountain—or Fontana di Trevi—is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. Tradition and legend states that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you are ensured a repeat visit to Rome. Recently renovated, it now sparkles as bright as the water it holds.

As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, and it will take a few of those in order to see all of its treasures.


River Palace
Via Flaminia, 33,
00196 Roma, Italy

Artemide Hotel
Via Nazionale, 22
00184 Roma, Italy

Bars & Clubs

Coming Out & My Bar
Via Di San Giovanni in Laterno 8, 12
00184 Roma, Italy

Via in Selci 69
00184 Roma, Italy


Spirito Divino
Via dei Genovesi 31 a/b
00153 Trastevere, Roma, Italy

Ai Tre Scalini – Bottiglieria dal 1895
Via Panisperna 251
00184 Roma, Italy

Amalfi: The Italian Riviera

We’re close to the climax with the Amalfi Coast. This magical and spectacular coastline is one of the best in the world and is included in UNSECO’s World Heritage Sites list. Many Italians have known for years that Amalfi is “the place” to enjoy on their vacation and remains the ultimate romantic getaway.

Located south of Naples, Italy, Amalfi screams charm and glamour.

Quaint resorts are hidden away on the dazzling, jagged cliffs as the coastal road is famous for its hairpin turns, bending as it passes olive and lemon trees and tiny villages which give glorious glimpses of the blue sea.

Most towns are built at a very steep angle and are accessible by stairways and alleys. The views are undeniably breathtaking, and away from the coastal road and the tourist spots, you can still discover the peace that charmed earlier visitors. My days shuffling around Sorrento, Pompeii, the Island of Capri and Postiano resurrected that feeling of pure relaxation and serenity.


The main town gives its name to the Sorrento Peninsula. Sorrento’s charming cobblestone streets are alive with colorful flowers and a lively cultural scene. You will fall in love with this town! The seafront promenade to the action filled Piazza Tasso leads up to this coastline’s charm. One can enjoy a drink on many of its terraces or shop on the Corso Italia.

The view from Sorrento from the south to the north includes the city of Naples, the island of Ischia and Vesuvius. Sorrento’s harbor is used for ferry departures to Capri, Naples and Ischia. During the spring, summer and fall, the harbor is filled with boats and large cruise liners that tender guests onto the mainland for day trips.


The most famous island off the coast of Sorrento is Capri. This island is well accustomed to catering and hosting many tourists. The complete island offers such a bountiful selection of boat trips, boutiques, bars and restaurants.

The two main boat rides will take you to the highlights of Capri. They are the boat rides to the Faraglioni, which is the famous three-rock formation sculpted by the wind and sea. Drive your boat right through the center rock. I could not believe the color of the dark rich blue sea. What a treat!

And of course Capri’s most famous attraction is The Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra). Once entering this cave by boat, light enters and a beautiful dazzling effect is seen on the water and on the roof of the cave illuminating brilliant blue color.

After the boat rides, take a ride up from the Marine Grande on the funicular railway or take the Chairlift Monte Solaro (from Anicapri) to the highest part of the island for a marvelous view and vista of the complete island of Capri. You will not be disappointed!


A trip to Amalfi must include this most famous hillside town! Positano is pure beauty and has such an exclusive atmosphere. Chic and trendy, stylish and modern, Positano has it all. This is an authentic Italian family resort with sunbathers eating gelato and pizza. As part of the coastline’s appeal, fashionable little boutiques and ceramic shops dot the mini alleyways from the coastal road down to the beach.


About an hour’s drive from Sorrento sits Pompeii, Italy’s most famous ruins. In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius blew its top, spewing tons of molten ash engulfing the surrounding area. It all lasted only 19 hours. However, most people were not killed by the ash but by the firestorm of poisonous vapors. They died instantly of thermal shock from the 900-degree cloud and not from slow suffocation as scientists long assumed.

Pompeii laid buried for almost 1700 years under 9 feet of volcanic ash. When excavated, scientists found Pompeii’s amphitheatre along with most of the roads and buildings. Built in 70BC, and thus surviving the eruption of Vesuvius, Pompeii’s amphitheatre is the oldest intact (and most complete) pre-Colosseum style amphitheatre in the Roman world. The amphitheatre was central to life in Pompeii. In contrast to later amphitheatres, Pompeii’s was very simple. The Pompeii amphitheatre is still used today for modern music performances!

Walking around the preserved ruins, you can see how the “wealthy people” enriched their homes. Homes had courtyards and an abundance of modern conveniences like pumps for running water and home designs that included cavity walls with spaces so that hot air could heat the house.


Antique Mura
Via Fuorimura, 7
80067 Sorrento, Italy

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
Piazza Tasso, 34
80067 Sorrento, Italy



La Pigna Restaurant
Via Lo Palazzo, 30
80073 Island of Capri, Italy


Tavern Allegra
via della Pietà, 30
80067 Sorrento, Italy

Italy truly makes your senses come alive! Sweep your gaze over the most recognizable landmarks in the world, listen to the thunderous silence of the Vatican, breathe in the mixture of sea air and history, caress your taste buds with flavors of vine-ripened grapes and lemons, and stroke the wares of local marketplace vendors.

We hope it was good for you, too!

For travel recommendations, please contact me at RSicilio@TRIPSandCRUISES.com
www.TRIPSandCRUISES.com or 800-411-8747.

Rick Sicilio is the owner of Travel and Tours in Pittsburgh. He is an avid, worldwide traveler and has visited 68 countries to date. For over 21 years, Rick and his staff have been assisting clients to embrace their wanderlust and travel the world.