Europe is steeped in history, many times violent and bloody. What with ancient wars and feudes, palace intrigues, and domestic abuses it’s no wonder that many of its ancient castles are said to be haunted. In fact it would be even more amazing if there were no haunted castles in Europe.
Every Halloween I like to share with you haunted places around the world. Some of them I’ve been to, others are still on my bucket list. I’ve shared my experiences in Tombstone’s Bird Cage Theater and have written about haunted hotels and other haunted places around the country. But haunted places are definitely not exclusive to the United States, every country around the globe has its own spooky places that have stories of hauntings attached to them. This Halloween I’d like to share 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe.
So buckle your seat belts as we fly across the Atlantic and have a quick peek at 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe. Believe me there are so many haunted places on that continent it’s hard to pick just 6!
The Tower of London
It doesn’t take much imagination to decide that London has many haunted places, specially on chilly nights when the fog swirls thick around you as you walk down the narrow streets of the city. After all London was home to Jack the Ripper one of history’s first recorded serial killers. The streets of Whitechapel were known to be his hunting grounds.
Sure the pubs around Whitechapel are said to be haunted, remember many of them have been there since well before Jack the Ripper began his murderous spree. But since we’re talking castles lets start with the Tower of London. It’s not exactly a castle, it’s actually a prison. A 900+ year old prison that housed some of histories most famous nobility, many of whom are now said to be haunting the place.
With its long history of torture, murder, and executions it’s no wonder this castle like building is haunted by a long litany of specters. Arguably the most famous haunt is Anne Boleyn the unfortunate second wife of Henry VIII. Her only crime was her inability to produce a male heir to the throne and her fickle husband grew tired of her and divorced her. The king then charged the poor woman with treason and had her beheaded 1536. Her headless ghost is said to roam the tower’s corridors.
Other famous ghosts include the two princes who were deemed illegitimate by Parliament and imprisoned in the tower. It is believed they were murdered, actually smothered, by their uncle the Duke of Gloucester. Today it’s said they’ve been spotted in the tower holding hands and looking afraid.
Believed to be the castle in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, Bran Castle in the Romanian town of Bran is said to be haunted by a variety of its previous occupants.
It is said the Stoker never actually visited this 13th. century stone castle , but used pictures of it as his model for the home of his famous vampire Count Dracula.
But somehow fact and fiction mingled to form the basis of legends about this picturesque castle. Legend has it that some of Bran’s citizens are actually strigoi, people whose souls leave their bodies at night to terrorize the village. This definitely encourages the areas vampire lore. Who knows perhaps rumors of these legends reached Stoker’s ears in Ireland and encouraged him to write his classic novel.
Leap Castle (pronounced Lep) in Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland is notoriously the most haunted castle in Ireland if not the world. This ancient castle has been featured in several TV shows about the paranormal including Ghost Hunters and TV’s Most Haunted.
It’s not surprising that the world’s most haunted castle would be located in Ireland, a land that’s steeped in legends and mystery. And it’s not at all surprising that Leap Castle is haunted given its bloody history and ambiguous origins.
It’s unclear exactly when the castle was constructed, some say 12th. century and others 15th. But whatever the year of it’s construction was one thing everyone seems to agree on is the site on which it was built. Leap Castle is build over a site that was previously occupied by druids who used it for initiation ceremonies. It was originally named Leim Ui Bhanain meaning Leap of the O’Bannons.
As the legend goes the O’Bannons were an affluent clan from County Tipperary. Two O’Bannon brothers vying to become chieftain is said to have entered into a contest where they would leap off the rock where the castle was to be built. The brother who survived would be chief and be responsible for building the castle. Thus began the castles bloody history and hauntings.
However O’Bannons did not control the castle for long, the castle was seized by the O’Carroll clan, a ruthless and greedy bunch who left a legacy of carnage within the castle walls. The years of O’Carroll reign over the castle are said to be cruel and bloody. Many of their victims are said to haunt the castle including the lady in red.
The lady is said to be seen wandering the castle dressed in a fluttering red gown carrying a sharp blade. The lady is said to have been imprisoned and repeatedly raped by the O’Carrolls. She became pregnant and her child was murdered by the same men. Overwhelmed by the murder of her baby it is said that she used the blade that she now carries to end her tormented life.
And then there’s the Bloody Chapel. At one point the O’Carroll chieftain died without a clear heir. Of course this resulted in a fight between his sons Thaddeus and Teighe. Thaddeus was a priest and is said to have been in the middle of a mass when his brother rushed in and slaughtered him. His ghost is said to wander in and around the chapel.
There are many more bloody tales about this castle as it seems that the O’Carrolls were a bloodthirsty and sadistic clan. It’s really no wonder that their many victims haunt this castle.
Perched atop a hill overlooking Scotland’s most haunted city of Edinburgh sits Scotland’s most haunted castle. Edinburgh Castle has seen its share of violent deaths. With over 900 years of history behind it the castle has been the scene of surprise attacks, executions, and even a brief capture by the English.
It should come as no surprise that Edinburgh Castle is said to be haunted, it would be more surprising if it wasn’t.
The castle is home to a variety of specters including the ghost Lady Janet Douglas of Glamis who was imprisoned for witchcraft and burned at the stake. Then there’s the unseen drummer who many have claimed to hear but never seen. The castle dungeons were filled with notorious thugs and cutthroats many are said to be heard moaning and groaning down there.
Moosham Castle also known as Witches Castle is a 13th. century castle in Unternberg, Austria. It was the location for the bloodiest and most gruesome witch trials in Europe.
In the 17th. century the archbishop of Unternberg tried, tortured, and executed thousands of women here. The women were accused of witchcraft. Here those women were beaten, tortured, hanged, and some even drawn and quartered (their bodies tied to horses and were torn apart when the horses ran in different directions.) It’s no wonder the place is haunted by those tortured souls who are said to roam the halls in search of justice to this day.
Another ghost said to linger in this castle is Anton the resident caretaker during the witch trials. He roamed the halls then guarding his prisoners and is said to roam the halls still.
Yes there really is a Frankenstein Castle, its ruins are located in Darmstadt, Germany. And yes this is the castle and the legend immortalized by Mary Shelly in her classic novel Frankenstein.
The original castle that sits atop a hill overlooking the town dates back to 948 B. C. Obviously it underwent many additions and renovations since it was originally constructed.
In the 1600’s the sole remaining member of the original Frankenstein family died instantly in a chariot accident. He was on his way to see his one true love, Anne Marie. Clearly he never saw her and as legend has it she stayed in the castle waiting for him until she eventually died of a broken heart. Today it is said that both Knight Frankenstein and Anne Marie are wandering around the darkened castle searching for each other. Now this is not the basis for Shelly’s novel, that one’s about monsters and body parts. So how did that come about?
After the original Frankenstein family died out a man named Konrad Dipple von Frankenstein moved into the castle. He was an alchemist and grave robber. As the story goes he was experimenting with human and animal body parts and the blood of virgins, he was trying to resurrect the dead. His greatest creation was his monster made of body parts and reanimated in his laboratory in the castle. The town folk were afraid and stormed the castle whilst the alchemist was locked in his lab. He supposedly drank one of his potions and thus ended up committing suicide. However his monstrous creation escaped and roams the forest to this day in search of virgins whose blood he needs to stay alive.
The brothers Grimm actually recounted this tale to Mary Shelly’s stepmother. Mary Shelly later visited the castle and used the story as her basis for her world famous novel Frankenstein.
Well there you have it, 6 of the most haunted castles in Europe. Visit them this Halloween or any time of year, if you dare!
Ready to plan your ghost chasing adventure in Europe? Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan! We specialize in helping families plan memorable vacations around the globe. Call me at 808-372-7734 and we’ll start planning your adventure today!
England’s Tower of London is said to be one of the most famous haunted places in the world; not surprising given it’s bloody history. The Tower counts among it’s prisoners Anne Boleyn, Henry the VIII’s second wife, and Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for just over a week.
Both ladies were subsequently executed on the Tower’s grounds.
England boasts many more haunted places from castles and churches to parks and cemeteries. But haunted places aren’t limited to England, or for that matter Europe. Just about every continent, country, city, and town has at least a ghost story or two which is inevitably linked to a specific location.
America is no different, from coast to coast and from north to south our country has hundreds if not thousands of reportedly haunted places. Some, like the Queen Mary in California, are world famous, others local legends famous only to the town’s inhabitants and serious ghost hunters.
In the fall, specially closer to Halloween, many of us like to experience a little thrill and go on a ghost tour or drive by places that look spooky. There’s definitely no lack of haunted places in each state. Here’s a list of haunted places, one from each state, some famous, others not so. Perhaps one or two of them will be close enough for you to visit this year.
The Sweetwater Mansion in Florence, Alabama has seen plenty of history.
Construction began in 1828, it was here that Union and Confederate officers stayed during their respective occupation of the city during the Civil War. It is said that many of its former residents reside here still. Children’s laughter is said to be heard and items that mysteriously move.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Scary Mary is said to have checked into the Golden North Hotel in Skagway, Alaska during the Gold Rush and has never checked out.
Filled with hopes for a bright future she came to Alaska as the fiancee of prospector Klondike Ike. Mary locked herself in the couple’s hotel room to await her beloved who went off in search of gold, he never returned.
When concerned hotelkeepers finally gained entrance to her room they found her dead, dressed in the wedding gown she was to wear on her wedding day.
Today guests have been spooked by a pale ghostly figure looking out the window still awaiting her lover’s return or by a figure standing over their bed checking to see who’s in it.
There is no shortage of haunted places in the state of Arizona, but one of the most famous is the town of Jerome, a quaint community in northern Arizona. All sorts of specters are said to haunt many of the town’s historic buildings. The most haunted is thought to be the vintage Jerome Grand Hotel.
It opened as the United Verde Hospital in 1927. Miners from the nearby copper mine were treated here for serious injuries many of which proved fatal; insane people were also treated here for their mental illness. The hospital closed in 1950 and re-opened as the hotel in the late 1990s.
Today ghost enthusiaists, including my cousin and his family, book rooms here hoping to catch a phantom nurse or hear a scream or two during their stay. My cousin and his family have stayed here twice and have never had a paranormal experience, but the town has many nice shops and restaurants making it a nice place to spend the weekend.
I can’t talk about Arizona ghost towns without mentioning the town of Tombstone. During my last visit the lady at the fudge shop told me the whole town is filled with spirits. She claimed their their presence could be felt as you wander the towns streets and buildings. I’m not sure about the streets, but whenever we’re in town we usually stop for drinks at the Crystal Palace Saloon, and I hate going to the restrooms located in the back of the building. Walking down the hallway to the restrooms always gives me the creeps and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Haunted or imagination?
I’m never quite sure. We did the Bird Cage Theater ghost tour, it was fun, but we didn’t really have a ghostly experience.
Driving along Arkansas 365 just south of Little Rock can turn into a paranormal experience.
Motorists driving this road on dark rainy nights have claimed to have encountered a young girl on the roadside. They give her a lift, she tells them where she must go, but when they get to the destination the girl has vanished.
I think just about every town has a similar story, here in Hawaii it’s said that Madame Pele, the volcano goddess, has been seen asking for rides along many of our roads.[spacer height=”-20px”]
California has many haunted places including Alcatraz in San Francisco and the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, but I would never had thought of Disneyland as a haunted place.
It is said that the “Happiest Place on Earth” is truly haunted. The Space Mountain Ride and the women’s employee locker room is said to be haunted by a man who died on the ride in the 1970s and The Christmas Shop on Main Street, Tom Sawyer’s Island, and Tomorrowland all house a spook or two.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is hands down the most famous haunted hotel in the Rockies. This sprawling luxury hotel that opened in 1909 is a favorite with dignitaries and ghost hunters.
This hotel inspired author Stephen King to write his bestselling book “The Shining”. Today there are many stories of paranormal activity, particularly in room 217.
Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut is said to be the most haunted spot in the state and possibly the most haunted cemetery in the country.
The famed “White Lady” is said to wander this 400 year old cemetery.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Photo courtesy of Haunted Houses.com
Fort Delaware sits on Pea Patch Island just off Delaware City.
Built in 1848 and decommissioned in 1943 this fort was never attacked. It did house has many as 16,000 prisoners at one time.
Reached only by ferry today Fort Delaware is part of the Delaware Park System. No one lives there anymore, just the ghosts of past inhabitants.
The park services offers ghost hunting tours on the island. Click here for more info![spacer height=”-20px”]
This particular bend of the St. John’s River in Seminole County, Florida with a cluster of cypress trees, is known as Round Cypress Head.
Many have said they have witnessed paranormal activities in this dark dank area of cypress woods. It is said that the woods is home to demons and/or witches. Folks are warned to not venture there for fear of being eaten by these monsters. Locals claim that fishermen have gone missing in this river and many claim the woods are most definitely haunted.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The quaint southern city of Savannah is arguably the most haunted city in Georgia.
Known for its southern charm and hospitality along with its antebellum architecture many of it’s historic buildings and spaces are said to host a specter or two.
Madison Square was the site of a Revolutionary Battle and British soldiers were buried there. Shadowy figures are said to be lingering in the park.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Steeped in legends and lore from ancient Hawaiian days to missionary days and beyond the 50th. State has its own host of haunted places.
Night Marchers are said to walk the land at night and Madame Pele the volcano goddess can be frightening or almost playful.
The islands are filled with many haunted places including schools, bridges, libraries, drive-in movie lots, and hotels.
The luxurious Hilton Hawaiian Village is said to be one such place. Folks have reportedly seen the Lady in Red wandering the halls or even the beach. It’s said she could have been a guest who tragically died at the hotel or Madame Pele herself.
The Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise is supposedly the most haunted prison in the state.
Constructed in 1870 and added to over the years this prison has seen more than its fair share of violence. It is said the hauntings began soon after the riots that started to erupt within the prison walls in 1935.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The Nellie Dunton Home in Belvidere, Illinois is said to be haunted by this broken hearted woman who lived here before the Civil War.
Folks claim to see her in the house and around the neighborhood.[spacer height=”-20px”]
French Lick Springs Hotel is a historic resort in the town of French Lick, Indiana.
Among the paranormal activities here it is said that its former owner lingers in the service elevator.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Originally known as Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts when it was founded in 1858, Iowa State University (it was renamed in 1959) is known for its agriculture, engineering, and science programs.
It is also home to the ghost of Frederika Shattuck who was said to haunt the theater named after her for her contributions to the theater department. Shattuck Theater was torn down hence this other worldly being has moved to the Fisher Theater on campus.
The Hutchinson Public Library in Hutchinson, Kansas is said to be haunted by its former librarian named Ida Day.
Locals say she wanders the building sometimes sorting or looking thru books.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Over 63,000 people including patients, doctors, and nurses died there. The death toll in this building is comparable to a battle field, it’s no wonder it is said to be haunted.[spacer height=”-20px”]
From haunted bayous to voodoo queens, Louisiana is host to many ghosts, and goblins, and other things that go bump in the night.
The historic city of New Orleans is home to the blues and filled with many quaint shops and restaurants, it’s also steeped in mystery. Walking down the streets of the French Quarter on a foggy night can be very creepy. I know we were creeped out one dark and foggy February night as we walked down Decatur Street.
But did you know that it was in this state where the infamous duo Bonnie and Clyde met their end?
This lone stone in Gibsland, Louisiana marks the ambush site. Legend has it that on nights when the moon is full you can still hear the gunfire.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Ellis Pond, also known as Roxbury Pond in serene East Andover, Maine is said to be haunted.
Visitors walking along the shores have reported hearing or feeling a presence.[spacer height=”-20px”]
There are hundreds of haunted places in the small state of Maryland, but the Antietam Battlefield is possibly the most haunted.
Over 23,000 souls lost their lives here making it the site of America’s bloodiest single day battle.
It’s no wonder those poor souls still wander the field and battle sounds can reportedly still be heard[spacer height=”-20px”]
Site of one of the most infamous double ax murders in American History, the Lizzie Borden House in Falls River, Massachusetts is now a Bed and Breakfast.
I would be surprised if it wasn’t haunted. It is reported that guests have seen apparitions in the house.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Famed pilot Amelia Earhart was a guest at The Landmark Inn, located in Marquette, Michigan before she mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
They say that she sometimes shows up in room 502.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Staff and diners claim this St. Paul, Minnesota restaurant is haunted by the building’s former owner and his mistress who committed suicide here in 1892.
Back then it was the home to Joseph Forepaugh, today it is Forepaugh’s Restaurant.[spacer height=”-20px”]
He supposedly robbed and murdered guests who stayed at his inn. He was caught and hanged on this bridge.
It was the home of President Truman, and of course it is said to be haunted by the President himself.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The scene of the historic battle known commonly as Custer’s Last Stand the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana is home to many spirits.
Apparitions and Native American war cries have been reported here.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Brother Sebastian’s, a restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska is said to be haunted by Bill Walden, a regular patron who passed away but still frequents the joint.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The Riviera is one of the oldest casinos on the Las Vegas strip in Nevada.
Many mob-related murders took place here and staff reports strange happenings in the hotel, specially on the 9th. floor. [spacer height=”-20px”]
Built in 1926 at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire this college dorm called Huntress Hall is said to be haunted by its namesake Harriet Hunter.[spacer height=”-20px”]
One fateful evening, May 6, 1937, the airship Hindenburg caught fire and crashed killing 36people.
Today it is said that screams can still be heard at the crash site in Lakehurst, New Jersey.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in New Mexico is an eerie place.
It’s haunting beauty and great stone work is a testament to past ages. Folks claim to have the eerie feeling of being followed while visiting this park.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Built in 1884 the Dakota is one of the most sought out residences in New York City.
This landmark building built in gothic style architecture was where the horror movie “Rosemarie’s Baby” was filmed. But it’s most known as the building where former Beatle John Lennon lived and was shot and killed on December 8, 1980.
It is said that the famous musician sometimes appears to the building’s residents, although he is not this building’s most famous ghost. That honor belongs to the two children dressed in late 19th. century style who have been seen since the 1960’s. It’s not sure who the children are, but it is assumed that they were once residents of the building, more likely around the time it was constructed.
Built in 1924 Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is said to be haunted by no fewer than 20 ghosts.
The most famous one is that of Dr. William Jacocks. He lived in room 256. He pulls pranks and locks guests out of his former room, even after it was renovated in 1990. The room was partitioned to become part of 4 other rooms and electronic locks were installed to prevent such pranks. No go, he still manages to jam the new locks.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Apple Creek Country Club in Bismarck, North Dakota is reportedly haunted by a former chef.[spacer height=”-20px”]
It’s seen its share of tragedies and historic events of the town. Folks claim that at times the building shakes as if a train is passing by.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Guests at the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City, Okalhoma claim to hear infant cries and female voices during their stay.
It is thought it’s the ghost of a former maid who killed herself and her illegitimate child by jumping out of one of the windows of the hotel.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Built by Universal Studios in 1927 the Bagdad Theater in Portland, Oregon housed both vaudeville type shows and moving pictures, today it’s a cinema and pub, it also is home to 2 haunts.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Straight out of history books is Valley Forge.
Every American knows or should know about the hardships the Continental army suffered here during the Revolution.
Today it’s a National Historical Park in Pennsylvania. Visitors claim to have seen men dressed in period army dress.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Though Belcourt Castle in Newport, Rhode Island is not really haunted, some of the furnishings and decor is reportedly so.
The objects here have a haunted history including chairs and a suit of armor.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Holley House or the Hotel Aiken in Aiken, South Carolina was built in 1878.
It is reportedly haunted specially on the second floor.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The 1880 Train in Hill City, South Dakota was the first locomotive steam engine brought to the area.
Today the Highliner Eatery is located within the train. Employees report seeing a spectral in a brown suit.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennesee is more famously known as the Grand Ole Opry House because it was the site for the show, was built in 1892.
It is reportedly haunted by none other than Hank Williams, Sr. whose voice has been heard within singing his songs.[spacer height=”-20px”]
I’m sure just about everyone’s heard of the Alamo located in San Antonio, Texas.
Many American folk heroes including James Bowie and Davy Crockett died here defending the Alamo against the forces of General Santa Ana during the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. During that battle over 2000 lives were lost. It’s not a stretch to hear reports of restless spirits wandering here.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Reports claim that the Mormon Militia massacred a group of settlers at this site in Central, Utah in 1857. Today visitors to the Mountain Meadows Massacre Site report hearing screams in the wind.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Legend has it that Glastenbury Mountain in Shaftsbury, Vermont is believed to be cursed by Native Americans, they used it as a burial ground.
There have been several unsolved disappearances on the hiking trails. All the trails stop partway up the mountain as if forbidding hikers to continue.[spacer height=”-20px”]
The beloved home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, located outside of Charlotteville, Virginia is said to be haunted by the famous former owner himself.[spacer height=”-20px”]
This inn located in Tacoma, Washington is where Stephen King’s movie “Red Rose” was shot. It’s called the Thornewood Castle Inn and guests and staff have reported seeing strange apparitions and lights.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Many apparitions including a marching army have been reported here.
Built in the 1800s and rumored to have been owned by Al Capone the Maribel Hotel in Maribel, Wisconsin burned down in the 1920s.
It’s rumored that it’s haunted.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Big Horn, Wyoming is said to be at least 12,000 years old.
It’s not known who built it. Legend has it that if you fast within the circle for 4 days ancient spirits will come to you.[spacer height=”-20px”]
Although it’s not a state this post wouldn’t be complete without a haunted place in Washington D.C.
Our Nation’s Capital is not lacking for haunted places, many of them famous, or more appropriately infamous.
At the top of the list would be Ford’s Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. It is said his footsteps can still be heard echoing up the back stairs to the President’s Box.[spacer height=”-20px”]
I’ve taken you thru the states from A-W and the District of Columbia. Each state has many more haunted places, let me know if you’ve visited any of them! Better yet contact me to book your haunted adventure at one of these spooky places!
Europe is famous for Market Day. It’s one of my favorite things about Europe! I love wandering thru open markets where ever they may be.
Like all the other European countries Italy has Market Day in just about every little town. In fact some towns like Vicenza have a schedule of Market Days where different vendors rotate through out the week. For instance Thursdays are usually a Market Day for food vendors to sell fresh fruits and veggies not to mention cheeses, deli meats, seafood, and more. These vendors set up in the smaller piazzas around town leaving the main piazza for vendors selling clothes, carpets, and other household goods. Tuesdays are usually a Market Day for clothing vendors who set up in the main square. Then every last Sunday of the month is strictly for antique vendors.
Other towns like Camisano and Bolzano have a Market Days where pretty much everything is sold including produce, prepared food, clothing, toys, and house hold goods. Venice has a fish market at the Rialto from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and Naples has one pretty much daily.
I love these markets! You’ll find fresh breads and pasties, seasonal fruits and veggies, rotisserie chicken, cheeses, and deli meats. In my opinion it’s a great place to buy a picnic lunch to take to the beach or park.
It’s hard to compile a list of all Market Days through out Italy, there are so many. Again it seems like every little town has one or two. Your best bet is to check out the local scene once you get to town. Or better yet serendipitously wander into one!
Of course if you find yourself in Italy in late October or early November to the first week of January you’ll find plenty of Christmas Markets, now those are super awesome! Hint hint there’s a big one in Verona!
Let me help you plan your Italian holiday! Call me at 808-372-7734, Savvy Nana Travel.
When I hear grape stomping and grape harvest this picture of Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball of the I Love Lucy show) always comes to mind. Of course I grew up watching re-runs of this famous 1950’s TV sitcom. I don’t recall the story line but I do remember Lucy stomping grapes in Italy and getting into a food fight with the Italian lady. Whatever it was probably one of the reasons Italy was on my bucket list.
Of course many of us don’t exactly travel to Italy to stomp grapes, but if you find yourself in Italy during the fall then you’re in for a treat! Fall is grape harvest time in Italy. Now I don’t have to tell you that Italy has a ton of vineyards and everyone one of them has a grape harvest or vendemmia every fall.
There are 20 Italian wine regions, basically every region in the country has vineyards and produce wine. Of course the most popular regions are Tuscany, Veneto, and Piedmont. Tuscany is where the Chianti Region is located, the Veneto is famous for its Valpolicella wines, and Piedmont known for its Barolo and Moscato d’Asti. The other regions have their own specialties including Lambruscos, Pinot Grigio, and sparkling wines that rival the best Champagnes of France. Whatever your wine preference I’m sure you’ll find a grape harvest to suit you.
Now when I say grape harvest I don’t just mean picking grapes off the vine and stomping them in a huge vat, you can of course do that if you want to. But grape harvest means grape festivals and festas! And that means wine tastings and pairings. Yup lots and lots of delicious food and wine!
Our family recently went to a grape harvest festival at the Fattoria dell’Eremo not far from Vicenza in north east Italy. But before I tell you about it let me first give you some general information about Italy’s grape harvest and festivals.
The vendemmia season is generally in the fall, but times vary depending on the region and the summer weather. When the summer is very hot the harvest season starts early, harvest season is later in the north part of the country. So harvest season is sometime as early as late August and lasts until early to mid November. But it’s safe to say that you’ll more than likely find a harvest festival somewhere between early September to mid October for sure.
Having said that let me tell you about our grape harvest adventure. First off be prepared, this is run on Italian time, meaning it turns into a day long affair starting around noon and ending sometime after sunset.
Before you go you must book in advance. The cost is €25 for adults who will drink wine, €15 for adults who will not drink wine (that’s your designated driver, trust me you will need one!), and €10 for children. The price includes beverages (4 glasses of wine if you paid for the wine ticket), food (antipasti, pasta, meat dish, dessert), music, and grape picking and stomping. There are also horses to ride for those who want to ride around the vineyard, there’s no extra charge for the ride.
You’re asked to bring your own scissors, a pair for everyone who wants to pick grapes. You don’t have to pick grapes if you don’t want to. You could just admire them or enjoy the views.
You put the grapes you picked into a crate which is the combined with the grapes everyone else picked.
When all the grapes have been piled into the big vats it’s grape stomping time. To keep it organized the kids are allowed to stomp the grapes first, followed by the ladies, then the men, then ladies and men.
Now mind you while all this is going on they’re bringing out food course by course. Large plates of antipasti that included a huge wheel of cheese you could help yourself to. Pizzas, pastas, and roast meats. Then there’s dessert! And of course the wine is flowing. If you need more wine other than the 4 glasses included in your ticket there’s a bar where you can buy wine by the bottle to enjoy during the harvest or to take home.
It’s a long day but definitely lots of fun for the entire family!
This vineyard also has a restaurant so if you can’t make the vendemmia or harvest you can always come for a wine tasting event. They do pizza and wine pairings all year long.
Another winery in the Vicenza area is Cantine Enomas Muraro in the little town of Longare. They don’t offer a grape harvest event but you’re always welcome to a DIY wine tasting.
If you bring a picnic lunch or dinner they have tables and benches outside where you can hang out and drink wine purchased from the winery store.
If you’re not sure which wine you like you can grab a wine glass and taste different wines for €1. You can pour your own wine to taste and buy from the taps. And while you’re there check out the huge wine vats!
Once you decide you can buy one of their pre-bottled wines starting at €3 a bottle. Or you can purchase a large plastic or glass bottle and fill it up yourself. By the way don’t toss the bottle you bought, you can bring it in next time for a refill!
One of the great things about Italy is the wine! Even if you’re not a big wine drinker trust me you’ll find it hard to resist a glass or two. In fact buying wine at a restaurant is much cheaper than buying a soda! Really!
Ready to book your autumn in Italy? Let me help you plan your great adventure! Contact me 808-372-7734, Savvy Nana Travel!
Italy is a great place for a family vacation. There is so much to see and do, and Italians love kids! That’s why the towns are filled with parks, amusement centers, and other venues that are very family friendly. Of course a trip to Italy would require visits to museums and churches, but when you’ve go kids you’ve got to add in some fun kid friendly activities.
What better way to add a bit of hands on fun than a children’s cooking class!aLast week my grandson Jett and I spent half a day at a children’s cooking class in Vicenza. The class is offered by these two lovely ladies, Monica and Silvia. It’s held at Silvia’s house in Rettorgole a small town in the province of Vicenza. The Province of Vicenza is located in north eastern Italy in the Veneto region, It’s just a 45 minute train ride from Venice and is home to some of the greatest examples of Palladio’s architecture.
Monica and Silvia offer cooking classes for children and adults. We attended the children’s cooking class along with 5 other children and their moms.
For the children’s cooking class Monica and Silvia planned several easy dishes including gnochetti, little rolled pasta balls similar to gnocchi but made with durham flour instead of potato. We also made bread balls stuffed with cheese and prosciutto, dough pinwheels stuffed with zucchini and prosciutto, and a delicious tartlet.
The ladies were very helpful and helped the children with the preparation of each dish. Actually in our case they were extra helpful and very vigilant. Jett is allergic to eggs and dairy so they provided him with egg and dairy free alternatives. Monica and Silvia were also very careful with the cooking utensils. They made sure that Jett’s utensils did not come in contact with the other children’s things to avoid cross contamination.
The children’s cooking class was about 4 hours long. After the children made the dishes Monica and Silvia cooked everything and served it all to us for lunch. It was a wonderful experience. In fact Jett and I had such a good time I’m looking forward to doing a cooking class with these ladies next time I’m in town.
Here are some of the highlights of our class.
Making the prosciutto and cheese stuffed bread balls. We used Vegan cheese for our bread balls as well as the pinwheels we also made.
We rolled out the dough for the pinwheels stuffed with zucchini and prosciutto.
Jett really enjoyed using the rolling pin! [spacer height=”-20px”]
Making gnochetti using the wooden mold. Jett was and expert at making this tiny rolled pasta. He caught on real quick and made the entire tray by himself!
Monica helping Jett roll out the cookie crust for the tartlet.
The kids all took turns slicing up fresh fruits to top the tartlets with. Jett of course managed to snack on a few berries.
Ready to reserve your Children’s Cooking Class with Monica and Silvia? Let Savvy Nana Travel help you plan your family’s Italian vacation!!
You might as well admit it. When you think Italy you probably don’t think of tall snow capped mountains, skiing, or other winter sports, right? Well you should. Italy has some fine winter resort towns complete with ski runs, awesome mountain views, clear mountain lakes, and fresh Alpine air. One of those towns is Bolzano, or Bozen in German.
Where you may ask is Bolzano. It’s the largest city in northern Italy’s province of Sudtirol or South Tryol. Now is that part of the Italian Alps or the Dolomites?
Ok, short geography lesson here. The Alps is one of the great mountain ranges of Europe. It stretches from Slovenia and Austria on the East all the way to France and Germany on the West. It passes thru Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Monaco along the way. Quite obviously the part the passes thru Italy is called the Italian Alps. Now the Dolomites are technically part of the Alps but this specific mountain range is on Italy’s Northeast corner just a 2 hour drive from Venice while the area commonly referred to as the Italian Alps are in Northwestern Italy closer to Milan, Turin, and Como.
Both areas have fine ski resorts although the Dolomites offer a larger variety of slopes where as the Alps are mostly intermediate slopes. But it’s said that although both ranges have awesome mountain views those in the Alps are more breathtaking. If you’re having a hard time deciding which part of the Italian Alps to visit, you should consider visiting both and deciding for yourself.
Summer or Winter? When should you visit? Well if you’re a skier and love winter sports then of course winter is the time to head for either mountain range. Both ranges offer a variety of winter activities. But if you’re like me and don’t ski nor do very well in cold weather then Spring, Summer, or Fall are the best times; unless you want to go to the winter market!
I’ve been to Bolzano in the Spring and Fall when the weather is perfect. Not cold and not hot. There are many things to do in and around Bolzano in the warmer weather. You can hike, ride horses, explore the mountain, visit the museums and churches, and hang out at the piazzas for some truly wonderful cuisine.
Bolzano is really the best gateway to the Dolomite resorts located in the Ritten Renon area. That’s the sunny plateau located above the city of Bolzano. From Soprabolzano or Oberbozen (quite literally upper Bolzano) you can explore little mountain towns and hike the mountain trails all the way to Rittner Horn or Corno del Renon.
In this article I will mostly talk about the city of Bolzano and a little bit about Soprabolzano. Those are the areas we hang out in. We don’t ski and don’t take very long mountain hikes. We’re more of the dinning and people watching sort.
Also known as Walther Platz, Piazza Walther is the largest square in Bolzano. It’s located about a 5 minute walk from the Bolzano train station. You can’t miss it, there’s this huge statue of poet Walther von der Vogelweide in the center.
The square is bordered by colorful hotels and you’ll find the Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral across the street.
There are also many cafes and restaurants in the square, it’s the perfect place to people watch! In the winter the Piazza is home to the largest Winter Market in the area that is visited by millions of tourists and locals. It is also home to the large flower market in the spring and summer.
We usually stop there from the train station. We love to sit at one of the cafes and order a cappucino to wash down some fresh apple strudel.
I love the mix of Italian and German cuisine in the area! One of their specialties are dumplings! Yummy!
Via Portici/ Via Museo
Behind Piazza Walther is the busy Via Portici. Stroll down here and you’ll feel like you’re strolling thru a Bavarian town lined with colorful Bavarian style buildings.
The streets are filled with outdoor vendors on warm weekends and lined with all sorts of shops year round. Whatever you’re looking for you’ll probably find it here.
Further along the street turns into Via Museo, this is where you’ll find one of the gems of Bolzano. Ötzi the Iceman.
Yes, this street leads to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. A museum that serves as the final home to the Copper Age Mummy called Ötzi.
Admission – €9 for adults, €6 kids or family pass €18 family pass for 2 adults and children under 16.
The 5,300 year old mummy was found quite by accident in the Schnalstal glacier in 1991. He was uniquely well-preserved along with his clothing and the implements he had with him. He turned into a media sensation and today is still revealing some of his ancient secrets as scientists from around the world study his cloths, tools, weapons, and body.
Yes, you can see him in a freezer built just for him. It keeps him preserved in the same conditions he was surrounded by when he was entombed in the glacier for 5000 plus years.
You can gaze at him thru a small port hole in the large freezer as much as you want, but pictures are forbidden.
But you are welcome to photograph this artist rendition of him. The face was fashioned using modern day technology after studying his skull. It’s a technique used by forensic anthropologists world wide.
You can see his clothing and tools displayed in sealed cases not far from his body.
There’s also a small inter active section where you can try on a replica of his clothing and braid twine.
The four floors of the museum are dedicated to everything Ötzi. Displays other than his body, clothing, weapons, and tools show the foods he ate and the results of tests and exams they have done to answer some of the questions about who he may have been, what he did, and how he died. It truly is the place to learn everything you want to learn about one of the world’s most famous mummies, who according to studies was more than likely murdered 5,300 years ago. There you go an unsolved prehistoric crime! Definitely worth a visit!
Walking Paths, Bridges, and Parks
The Talvera River runs right thru the heart of the city just a short walk from the Archeological Museum.
There are bridges that span the river at various points and walking paths and parks along the river’s edge on both sides.
It’s a great way to spend the day relaxing, walking, or biking. The parks have several recreation fields and playgrounds. The kids will love it! And don’t forget the views up the mountains! Awesome!
If you haven’t gotten enough of the markets head to the other side of the bridge. Here you’ll find vendors selling everything from carpets to clothing and purses. Further along it becomes a foodie’s delight!
You’ll find stalls selling ready to eat foods like rotisserie chickens. And lots of stalls selling veggies and fruits, sausages and speck, flowers, and cheeses, and even sweets. It’s a great place to pick up a picnic lunch to enjoy at the riverside.
Renon Cable Car & Soprabolzano (Oberbozen)
Not to be missed is a ride to Soprabolzano on the Renon Cable Car.
The station is located about a 5 minute walk from the main train station in a different direction than Piazza Walther. (Walk out of the station and head up the street on your right. You’ll run into a round building with cables behind it heading up the mountain. Buy your tickets in the building then up the escalator or elevator to the boarding platform. Tickets are €4 each way. Remember to validate your ticket before heading into the cable car.)
This cable car ride takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views of the city below as well as the mountains you’re heading towards.
The cable car takes you to Soprabolzano Here you will find resorts and restaurants as well environmentally friendly public transportation to take you to the Alpine villages scattered in the mountain.
The Railway Renon is a historic narrow gauge rail system that runs west to east from Maria Asunta to Collalbo with stops along the way. It stops both ways at Soprabolzano. Tickets cost €3.50 one way or €6 roundtrip. You can enjoy the mountain views along the route and stop at any of the stops where there are trailheads that lead to mountain hikes.
The railway uses a mix of restored cars and modern ones. The views along the way are worth the ride even if you never get off the train.
Soprabolzano is also the hub for the buses that will take you to all the villages of Renon. It’s an excellent way to get around.
Up on this high plateau and beyond you can enjoy winter and summer activities. Winter activities of course center on snow so sking, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and sledding are all very popular. In the summer you can swim, ride horses, hike, bike, and even go llama trekking. So there’s really something for just about everyone.
I prefer to have drinks and snacks at the balcony of one the hotels right by the cable car station. There you can relax, drink some local wine, enjoy the beautiful views, and watch the cable cars pass by.
Other Places of Interest include a beekeeping museum on Renon. A couple of castles in Bolzano, some churches in Bolzano and on Renon, a historical farm, and an art museum. If you like malls there’s one not far from Piazza Walther. If you get a Big Mac attack you can satisfy your craving at the McDonald’s on the side of Piazza Walther just across the street from the Cathedral.
If you have a car you can easily make the drive to Bolzano. It’s a 2 hour drive from Venice.
If you want to rely on public transportation it’s a bit trickier and longer. You can catch a train to Verona Porta Nuova from just about any major city, but the further away you start the longer the ride. At Verona Porta Nuova transfer to a regional train or a Frecciargento (fast train) for a direct ride to Bolzano. Regional trains cost $16 per person each way and takes 1 hour 40 minutes to get there. The fast train cost $36 per person each way for 2nd class and takes 1 hour and 27 minutes. Be sure you get off at Bolzano Bozen that’s the main train station. The other 2 stops will take you further away from the city center.
Where to Stay:
There are many hotels, B&Bs, and hostels in Bolzano to fit most any budget. You’ll also find budget to luxury accommodations in the villages of Renon.
The best way to get around Bolzano is by public transportation, specially if you plan on heading up to the villages of Renon. You can save money with a RittenCard which gives unlimited access to all public transportation in the area as well as free admission to area attractions including the Ötzi museum. RittenCard also gives access and discounts to many other activities and festivals on Renon.
The card is virtually free, it’s included in your room fee and is given to you at check-in. The card is good for 7 days and must be validated each time it’s used. If you’re staying longer than a week a new card will be issued to you before the first one expires. What a great deal!
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