Vesuvius – Climbing the World’s Most Dangerous Volcano

Naples, Italy – Vesuvius is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes. You may know its infamy: the destroyer of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago. But did you know Vesuvius is one of the world’s easiest volcanoes to climb? If you visit Naples, you can’t miss Vesuvius. The volcano juts in the middle of the urban sprawl, as if the city first staked its claim on the land, and later the mountain decided to pop up. On its slanting slopes, houses and buildings cling, encroaching almost a third way…
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The Best Coffee in the World – Caffè Gambrinus

Naples, Italy – Neapolitans are quick to tell you they have the best coffee in the world. After all they’ve invented espresso, so they claim. But when I ask – “Where in Napoli is the best of the best coffee served?” – they can never agree. When Oscar Wilde (an Irish dramatist) and Guy de Maupassant (a French writer) visited Naples, they went straight to Caffè Gambrinus. So I follow their examples. The location couldn’t be more perfect, right at the heart of the city. Right there where the moped-buzzing Piazza Triese…
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What if Lawrence of Arabia Was Never to Be?

Rome, Italy – Have you heard of Lawrence of Arabia? You probably have. He’s world famous. T. E. Lawrence, a British military officer, had embedded himself in the Great Arab Revolt in 1916. He wrote a book about his experience, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which inspired the name Lawrence of Arabia, and propelled him into an international celebrity. His life had even inspired a movie, Lawrence of Arabia, now a classic, starring Peter O’Toole. That film won seven Academy Awards, including the Oscar for “Best Picture.” But what if all…
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Only in the Woods There Is Peace

Umbria, Italy – When you drive to Spoleto, you’d see rising above the medieval town a sacred mountain of Monteluco. Saint Francis of Assisi had meditated there for peace. On the ilex-covered slope, surrounded by the shadows of the trees, you’d find an old hermitage. But you won’t find any monks. The sanctuary is now an inn, schemed by an old dentist. My wife and I had sought refuge from our work in Napoli. After checking into Hermitage Inn of Eremo delle Grazie., we stood gazing from its terrace at the…
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Story’s Love Chiseled in Stone

Rome, Italy – I love the Eternal City. But after a few days, the stress of the big, ancient city oppresses my spirit. I need a break. So I seek solace in a shady, quiet place that smells of earth. Yes, it’s a cemetery. A cemetery for the Protestants in a Catholic city. “The atmosphere of this place strikes people,” Ms. Thursfield, the director of the cemetery, once told me. “I see people walking, just thinking, perhaps with the idea they are strangely alone in the center of the city.” There…
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