Ask Gene

From time to time I am asked questions about my travel (you can check out where I’ve been by clicking here).  Where I’ve stayed, what to see, etc.  After answering the same questions many times, I decided it warranted a page dedicated to “Asking Gene“, so here goes.  Please use this forum to ask a question or just review the answers I have given to others.  Simply click on “Contact Me” below and I will try to answer you quickly and post your question and answer here for everyone.  Enjoy!

Traveling to CHINA…

  • Q.  Gene, thanks for letting me know about the site and for the posted travel tips. I look forward to my next site visit. Any specific tips on on travel in China? …Bill B.


A:  Yes, Bill, I do have a couple of suggestions when visiting China. I have only visited Northern China, around Beijing. You must, of course, travel north of the city and visit the Great Wall. Other points of interest in Beijing are the Temple of Heaven, the Pearl Market (for a shopping experience), and the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Directly behind the Forbidden City is a park called Jingshan Park. It was built for the emperors as a meditation garden. It’s quite beautiful and every morning the locals meet there to exercise. They welcome visitors to join them. Try it! (ha)

If you have time, travel West to the city of Xian (pronounced she “ahn) that’s the home of the “clay soldiers”. Very impressive!

Don’t forget to obtain a “visa”!

Traveling to ROME…

  • Q:  I am planning a trip to Rome this spring and I am wanting a “side” trip to someplace “off the beaten path”, any suggestions? … Martha

A:  Martha, there are Todiso many answers to that question I hardly know where to begin…Well, one side trip I will never forget was to Todi, a little hamlet 85 miles North and East of Rome, about an hour and 40 minutes if you are driving.

There are almost hourly trains from Rome to Terni where you can change for a train to Todi. There is a Sulga bus from Rome to Todi, but only once a day I think.

Todi is a town and comune (municipality) of the Umbria province of Perugia in central Italy. It is perched on a tall two-crested hill overlooking the east bank of the river Tiber, commanding distant views in every direction. Todi is a three walled village, the “newest” wall was built in medieval times, the next is Roman, and the oldest is Etruscan!

According to the legend, said to have been recorded around 1330 BC by a mythological Quirinus Colonus, Todi was built by Hercules, who here killed Cacus, and gave the city the name of Eclis.

Historical Todi was founded by the ancient Italic people of the UmbTodi Mapri, in the 8th-7th century BC, with the name of Tutere. The name means “border”, being the city located on the frontier with the Etruscan dominions. It probably was still under the latter’s influence when it was conquered by the Romans in 217 BC. According to Silius Italicus, it had a double line of walls that stopped Hannibal himself after his victory at the Trasimeno. In most Latin texts, the name of the town took the form Tuder.

Christianity spread to Todi very early, through the efforts of St. Terentianus. Bishop St. Fortunatus became the patron saint of the city for his heroic defense of it during the Gothic siege. In Lombard times, Todi was part of the Duchy of Spoleto.

In 1244 the new quarters, housing mainly the new artisan classes, were enclosed in a new circle of walls. In 1290 the city had 40,000 inhabitants. Communal autonomy was lost in 1367 when the city was annexed to the Papal States: the local overlordship shifted among various families (the Tomacelli, the , Malatesta, and others). Although reduced to half of its former population, Todi lived a brief period of Francesco Sforza splendour under bishop Angelo Cesi, who rebuilt several edifices or added new ones, like the Cesia Fountain that still bears his name.

In July 1849 Todi received Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was fleeing after the failed democratic attempt of the Republic of Rome.

Todi is the birthplace of the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi, who is buried in a special crypt in the church of S. FortunatoGene Todi.

The above description is from Wikipedia and I put it here to show the believed age of Todi, over 3,000 years old! This area did not receive any bomb damage during WWII, and retains much of it’s original charm.

The center of Todi is the Piazza del Popolo, (the people’s plaza), one of the most thoroughly medieval outdoor spaces in Italy, often used for filming period movies. Church and State are both represented by atmospheric buildings of the late Middle Ages: the former by the Duomo of pink stone overlooking the square from the top of its impressive staircase; the latter by the Palazzo del Popolo, the decoratively battlemented Palazzo del Capitano and the Palazzo dei Priori with its bronze eagle.

I hope this helps.

Traveling to VENICE…

  • Q.  I have a trip to Venice planned for next sprint and I don’t have a lot of time to spend there.  Do you have any places that I should definitely put on my list? …Mike R.

A.  Mike,  Venice is one of my favorite cities, a truly “magic”, romantic, “sensual
city with lots of things to see and enjoy.

Some must seein Venice are:

2000Italy 005


The Basilica of San Marco with its beautiful mosaics and moorish architecture; go to the back and pay a small fee and enter the Treasury and/or the Palad’Oro where you begin to get an idea of the incredible
riches that the Republic of Venice piled up in the old days, you may also want to climb up inside the Basilica – pay a small entrance fee – and go and see the original four bronze horse, the ones on the facade of the cathedral are replicas, which date back to Roman times and are
beautiful; here you can also walk out on the terrace of the Basilica and enjoy the view; another option, across from the Basilica, is to take the elevator to the top of the “
” (bell tower) for beautiful views from the highest point in Venice.Campanile Venice


The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace – the Doge was the highest authority in Venice for many centuries – rent a cassette player with the proper tapes to help you along or take a guided tour if available). This is your most important “must see” because inside here you can appreciate the whole history of this city; you will enjoy paintings (some huge) by Tiziano
(Titian), Tintoretto and others; you will also get to see a museum of interesting varied things including ancient armors, lances, guns, and even a “chastity belt”!


You will also visit the dungeon (where among other unfortunate people
Giacomo Casanova was imprisoned – he however made a daring escape from here) and walk inside the “bridge of sighs
“.  This bridge was named because it was the last sight of the outside world prisoners would see when going to prison.Bridge of Sighs Venice





The Rialto bridge and surrounding area, goldsmiths and fashionable shops as well as a lively market.

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The Accademia for art lovers.

The church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari for some of the best paintings by Tiziano Vecellio (Titian) and by the Bellini brothers, Tintoretto, and others.

The Scuola di San Rocco for an extensive collection of the largest and
Tintoretto painting.

The island of Murano where you see how glass is blown and worked (in the Middle Ages this “art” was kept very secret, in fact those workers who would leave Venice and divulged those secrets were hunted down and often killed by emissaries sent by the “Serenissima” (the very serene... ), one of the nicknames (but almost official) of the Republic of Venice.


2000Italy 016While you are in the piazza San Marco area you may want to sit down in the piazza at one of the cafes to rest, have a drink and enjoy watching the world go by. If you do, keep in mind that anything at these establishments costs $10 or more; on the other hand they provide musical entertainment and don’t bother you too much for seconds. The
most famous cafe here is the
(mentioned in many novels and movies, the one on your right as you stand in front of the Basilica, facing it) .


One of the best restaurants in Venice is the Fiaschetteria Toscana- (Cannaregio 5719, Salizzada San G. Grisostomo. You get there walking from San Marco towards Ferrovia (the train station area, literally the “railway”) in 10/15 minutes.


You may want to rub elbows with kings, presidents and celebrities and experience the famous Harry’s Bar.Harry's Bar Venice, Italy 2002 This bar/restaurant is located in a modest, unassuming building near San Marco (1323 Calle Vallaresso and was established in 1931. The founder, Giuseppe Cipriani, was already a legend then as a gifted mixer of cocktails and sympathetic listener.  Right from the start, Harrys Bar became the place to be and to be seen and it catered almost exclusively to celebrities, princes and dukes,
eccentric artists, and very powerful politicians. Ernest Hemingway  patronized Harry’s Bar a lot (really a lot!). He even wrote (while hunting ducks) a novel “Across the River and Into the Trees” while staying in Venetian lagoon at an inn, on the island of Torcello, owned by the
same family (the Ciprianii that owns Harrys Bar). Even today you may meet some big names of the sport world, show business or heads of state. The average cost here is not low. The restaurant is on the second floor with a great view of the lagoon by the Grand Canal. Try the famous Bellini cocktail (excellent) which is made with special peach juice and Prosecco (the local sparkling wine similar to Champagne). The food is excellent and the portions are big; the cocktails are great and there is a good wine selection. Of course, you can always
enter just the bar downstairs and have your drinks there.


Another excelent restaurant is close by is call La Colomba. (1665 Piscina di Frezzeria, San Marco) Best “fegato alla Veneziana” and excellent fish.

Above all, you must take a Gondola through the canals!  It will make you “fall in love with Venice”

Venice, Italy 2002







If you have a question just fill-in the form below (don’t worry, I don’t sell  email addresses) and click “Submit” below the message box.


John 3:16

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