Chasing Bianca Capello in Florence
From her portrait on walls of the Uffizi gallery, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany stared out at me, begging to be reconsidered. Reviled in her time as a spy, witch, and even murderess, Bianca Capello’s life spans the middle years of the 16th century, swelling with every romantic element imaginable: doomed love, treachery, alchemy and poison. The reckless daughter of Venetian aristocracy who became first mistress, then wife to the dour Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici, Capello made few friends in her adopted city and died under mysterious circumstances in 1587, just a day after her husband. But while she may not have left a sterling legacy, she left her mark on Florence, and her presence can still be felt today. Retracing her footsteps provides a fascinating glimpse into an often-overlooked period in Florentine history. Read more here.
LEAPING OFF THE PAGE: 10 LITERARY LOCATIONS TO VISIT WITH KIDS
“There ain’t nothing that is so interesting to look at as a place that a book talked about,” says Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer Abroad. Bad grammar aside, Tom’s remark captures what’s great about literary travel. A good author breathes life into a place and the characters who live there, inspiring readers to see it for themselves.
Kids are perhaps the most devoted readers of all—when they love a book, they really love it—so a chance to connect with a favorite author and the places he or she wrote about can make a lasting impression. These 10 literary locations—from the house Tom’s fictional house was based on to a recreation of Sherlock Holmes’ office—introduce kids to the classics and may help them find new favorites. And even if you aren’t traveling with kids, these locales are sure to please any literary lover.
At Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, it’s easy to imagine that Louisa May Alcott and the sisters she made famous in Little Women have just stepped out to visit the cantankerous Aunt March or charming neighbor boy Laurie. Most of the furniture in the house actually belonged to the Alcotts, including Louisa May’s writing desk. Check the web site for events with costumed interpreters. For a bigger picture of Alcott’s life and times, you can also visit the home of neighbor Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, just a short drive away. Read more here.
An Insider's Guide to Hot Springs, NC
On any given summer weekend in Hot Springs, North Carolina, pack-laden hikers and paddlers in wetsuits can be seen traversing the sidewalks of this tiny, no-traffic-light Appalachian Trail town, population 575. Acoustic music drifts from the open doors of taverns and the occasional train whistle echoes through the valley.
Surrounded by Pisgah National Forest, Hot Springs is only about 25 miles (40 minutes) from Asheville, but it feels a world away. Adrenaline may be pumping on the Class III rapids of the French Broad River which runs through the center of town, but on the main drag, Bridge Street, the pace is nothing but slow Southern town, with a certain mountain charm that has to be experienced to be understood.
And it's no surprise that people have been experiencing this place for over a century. The mineral springs, for which the town is named, first brought tourists here in the 1880's, but it's the Appalachian Trail, which literally runs down the main street here, that has given Hot Springs a reputation as an outdoor destination. Read more here.