Andora - The story of Andalora and Stefanello

Andora is a pretty town located in the westernmost part of the Riviera delle Palme on the administrative border with the province of Imperia. Situated exactly between the inlets of Capo Mele (to the east) and Capo Mimosa (to the west), at the mouth of the Merula stream that runs through it, it is famous for its vast sandy beaches. These are in fact considered among the most beautiful in western Liguria and extend for almost 2 km in length.

A romantic legend is linked to the birth of the town of Andora. It is said, in fact, that a beautiful girl named Andalora (meaning 'golden heath') once inhabited these lands. This maiden loved deeply and was equally loved by the young Stefanello. Unfortunately, fate was adverse to them and one day the ruthless Saracen Al Kadir arrived and kidnapped Andalora to marry her, tying her to the mast of his ship.

Stefanello then immediately ran to her aid, secretly freeing her, but in his escape he was mortally wounded. It is then said that before he died, Andalora clung to him and the two lovers both threw themselves into the sea, dying in the waves. The Saracen Al Kadir was deeply moved by such a tragic scene. Not only did he immediately convert to Christianity, but he decided to name those places after the two lovers. Thus Andalora became Andora and Stefanello became Stellanello (the neighbouring municipality): two villages united forever.

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Grotta Gigante

Sgonico - The Giant Cave

The Giant Cave is a karst cave, explored in 1840 and opened in 1908. Formed at least ten million years ago, it is located on the plateau of Karst. It is located a few kilometers from the city of Trieste and the border with Slovenia (Monrupino pass).

Its main characteristic is to be the tourist cave containing the largest natural hall in the world. The hall is a single chamber about 114 meters high, 280 meters long and 76.3 meters wide. Firmly present in the Guinness Book of Records since 1995.

Its hidden immensity gives those who visit it an exciting and unique underground experience. A specialized guide accompanies visitors for about an hour along an 850-meter route. From the visitors' center a natural entrance leads to the first gallery. From here the descent is divided into ramps made safe by solid railings and non-slip cover.
After five hundred steps you reach the "Great Cave", which opens at a depth of 80 meters. The deepest point reached by the tourist route is 101.10 meters below the entrance. The path enters among thousands of limestone formations, while the guide introduces the visitor to the knowledge of the underground world. Here the secrets of the formation of karst cavities and their evolution are revealed. But the characteristics of the main speleothemes are also illustrated: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, etc.

The visit continues in the "Hall of the Altar", a smaller environment from which you can see the entrance to the "Secret Cave". This is a side branch that develops along a series of vertical shafts until it reaches a depth of 252 meters.

The ascent begins by taking the "Carlo Finocchiaro" path, a panoramic staircase that offers a spectacular view of the entire cavity. It continues, then, through an artificial tunnel dug into the rock. The tunnel leads visitors to the Belvedere, an evocative terrace inside the cave. From this point you can look out 95 meters over the Great Cave.

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Villa del Priorato di Malta

Villa of the Priory of Malta - The keyhole

The Villa of the Priory of Malta is a complex of buildings with a garden located in Rome, on the Aventine. The place, historical seat of the Grand Priory of Rome of the Knights of Malta, now the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, throughout the Middle Ages has been an important strategic point overlooking the Tiber emporium and already in the tenth century was occupied by a fortified Benedictine monastery. It then passed to the Templars and, after their suppression in 1312, to the Knights Hospitallers who established their priory.

The entrance to the priory was renovated in 1765 by the architect and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi. The result, the only architectural work of the author, was the extraordinary eighteenth-century square, an original example in Rome of Rococo urban setting, decorated with war trophies that allude to the exploits of the Knights of Malta and with the coats of arms of the Rezzonico, on which opens the entrance portal to the villa.

This square is known to the Romans, however, especially for the keyhole of the front door. In fact, if you approach the keyhole of the main door, you can see a wonderful shot of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. This is probably the most famous and suggestive Roman view of the building, framed by the hedges of the Priory gardens. A breathtaking view that leaves you stunned for its beauty.

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Riomaggiore - The way of love

In the railway station of Riomaggiore there is the beginning of the path 592-1 (SVA2), which is known to most people as "way of love".

The way of love, which connects Manarola to Riomaggiore, is one of the most famous paths in Italy. This path was initially baptized Strada Nuova and this would have remained its name if it had not been for a curious circumstance. The journalist and writer Paolo Monelli, walking along the path, noticed on the door of a disused warehouse an inscription written in whitewash: "way of love". It was probably the work of a young man in love who used to meet his lover here. Monelli told the story on the pages of the Corriere della Sera and since then that became the official name of the street.

Along the path it is possible to admire the zoned sandstones of Riomaggiore with their folded, knee and hinge layers, the imprints of load and current and the signs of marine erosion. The exotic vegetation consisting of agaves, pittosporum, prickly pears and South African Hottentots has adapted well to the brackish climate. And it has found a safe home here. At the same time, the sea fennel, the sea dauco, the violacea, the rue and the rare Brassica robertiana (relative of the more common cabbage) vegetate among the cliffs more exposed to the winds, while upstream the Mediterranean maquis covers the rocks with the arboreal euphorbia, the lentisk and the Aleppo pine. All along the way, the flight of seagulls and bald eagles usually accompanies the walks of young couples in love, making them unforgettable.

Unfortunately, today the Way of Love is not viable due to a collapse that occurred in 2012, which has "paused" this wonder. The restoration works should take twenty-eight months and the path will reopen in 2023.
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Grotte di Frasassi

Frasassi Caves - The Abyss Ancona

The Frasassi Caves, inside the Marche Apennines, are underground karst caves located in the territory of the town of Genga, in the province of Ancona. The complex is one of the most grandiose and fascinating underground routes in the world.

An uncontaminated environment, hidden and beautiful, made of suggestive spaces and rich of extraordinary concretions. A complete underground ecosystem, in which it is still possible to observe the formation of concretions, the drops that dig and build their own architecture and in which life has continued undisturbed for millions of years.
Cyclopean dimensions and transparent concretions similar to crystal arabesques that are reflected in fairy-tale lakes. This is, in short, the magic of the Frasassi Caves. Their overall length has been estimated at 30 km. The largest environment, the Abisso Ancona, has a volume of about 1,000,000 cubic meters, with a height of 240 meters. So vast that it could host inside, as the guides remember, even the Duomo of Milan.

Among the most famous stalactites and stalagmites we remember: the "Giants", the "Camel" and the "Dromedary", the "Ursa", the "Madonnina", the "Spada di Damocle" (the biggest stalactite, 7.40 m high and 150 cm in diameter). But there are also the "Little Niagara Falls", the "Slice of Bacon" (light pink in color) and the "Slice of Lard" (completely white, due to calcite). Or the enormous 15-meter stalagmite that stands at the center of the Obelisk Hall.

The fantastic world of the Caves also fascinates with the spectacle of the Organ Pipes in the Canyon, with the magical scenery of the Candles that are reflected in a lake of very clear water. And then many, many Halls that are offered to the eye along the suggestive path.
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Fonte dell'Acqua Acetosa

Acqua Acetosa Fountain - The Prince and the Marchioness

The city of Rome, as is well known, has always been synonymous with romance. As a result, there are countless love stories, more or less known, linked to its streets, its squares, its unforgettable corners. Some have had a happy ending, while others unfortunately do not. Nevertheless, they have left an indelible trace of their intensity. It is a trace that by making a little effort you can still manage to find.

Therefore, today we are going to tell you one of these stories, set near the Fountain of Acqua Acetosa. The area where the Acqua Acetosa Fountain is located was in fact the scene of the romantic love story.

This love story was between Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and the beautiful marquise Marianna Florenzi. Here the two young people met secretly for months, looking for a place where they could hide from prying eyes and malicious tongues. It is said that the prince, madly in love with Rome and the young girl, did everything in his power to further sweeten the park. It even seems that he decided to donate several benches, to allow anyone who visited it, to find comfort.

Unfortunately, the romance between the prince and the marquise ended quickly. According to the tradition, it is said that it ended for reasons of state. But the most informed claim that a tender friendship survived between the two in the years that followed. It is said that they both cherished a sweet memory of those days forever.

However, the traces of this love have not disappeared completely. For instance, there is an engraving in German, visible under one of the benches on the outer wall. This recalls: "Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria, had these seats and trees put here".

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