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Geronimo Stilton was born in New Mouse City, Mouse Island. He’s the publisher of The Rodent’s Gazette, Mouse Island’s most famouse newspaper. In his spare time, Geronimo collects antique cheese rinds, but his true passion is writing stories. His books have been published in 50 languages, with 37 million copies sold in Italy, and more than 170 million copies sold worldwide! To discover all the adventures of Geronimo Stilton and his friends, visit

This special edition was created for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with the aim of bringing children from all over the world closer to the many artistic and cultural beauties of Italy, even the lesser-known ones. It is distributed through the network of Embassies, Consulates, and Italian Cultural Institutes.

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Dear rodent readers, fasten your seat belts and get ready: an incredible journey awaits! come along with us! It was a bright summer morning and I, Geronimo Stilton, was on the plane, ready for a quiet vacation with my family. But . . . it wasn’t just a vacation! It was the beginning of an incredible journey. Without telling me, my family had entered us into the Thousand Wonders competition—an amazing scavenger hunt across Italy! The hunt took us to cities, villages, and beautiful landscapes. Stop after stop, from Rome to Venice, from the Apennines to the Alps, my family and I visited some of the most unique places in the world! And if you, too, want to be surprised by a country where beauty, art, history, and nature are at home together, get ready to travel with us . . . Let the adventure begin!

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With our backpacks and boots, we reached fabumouse places . . . Visiting Italy on paw is a journey within a journey!

Our journey started and ended by plane, with a flight from Mouse Island to Rome (to start), and from Venice to Mouse Island (to return)!


I loved the van, which was smaller than a bus but more spacious than a car . . . I had some memorable naps on board!

When we traveled by bicycle, we discovered truly unique landscapes! Anyone who is less comfortable cycling can use a pedal-assist electric bike!

We drove hundreds of kilometers by car. We took turns driving—and also enjoyed getting rides from friends!



For the islands, it’s all about the ferry! We took ferries not only to Sicily and Sardinia, but also to Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore!

Long live the train, a super versatile vehicle! And Italy has it all, from high-speed rail to local lines to historic railways and mountain trains!


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Ready, Set, Go!

Text by Geronimo Stilton Editorial coordination by Patrizia Puricelli Editing by Benedetta Biasi Cover by Alessandro Muscillo Graphic Designer: Mauro De Toffol / theWorldofDOT Interior and interior jacket illustrations by Ivan Bigarella (design) and Christian Aliprandi (color) Artistic coordination by Roberta Bianchi Graphics by Marta Lorini

It was a cool summer morning, and the SUN was just beginning to rise. Squeak! It was sooooo early, but I was excited. I had just arrived at the New Mouse City International Airport, and I was about to leave on a fabumouse vacation. Destination: Italy!

Based on an original idea by Elisabetta Dami © 2020 - Mondadori Libri S.p.A., for PIEMME Original title: Mille Meraviglie. Viaggio alla scoperta dell’Italia International rights © Atlantyca S.p.A. Via Leopardi, 8 - 20123 Milan - Italy - contact: Special thanks to AnnMarie Anderson Translated by Emily Clement Interior composition by Kay Petronio Coordinated by Atlantyca S.p.A.

Special edition created for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – Directorate General for Cultural and Economic Promotion and Innovation (DGSP), in collaboration with the Italian National Commission for UNESCO. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per l’Educazione, la Scienza e la Cultura

Commissione Nazionale Italiana per l’UNESCO

Stilton is the name of a famous English cheese. It is a registered trademark of the Stilton Cheese Makers’ Association. For more information, go to No part of this book may be stored, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright holder.

Printer: ELCOGRAF S.p.A. - Verona

Ready, Set, Go!

Ready, Set, Go!

My sister Thea, my cousin Trap, my nephew Benjamin, and my niece Trappy were coming, too. Grandfather William was at the airport to say goodbye. Oops, I almost forgot to introduce myself. How . rude! My name is Stilton, I’m the editor of The Rodent’s Gazette, the most famouse newspaper on Mouse Island. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, my grandfather was squeaking loudly at me. “I was sure you’d be late! I came all the way here to check on you!” Then he looked at his watch, and his tone softened. “For once, you’re on time! Keep it up, okay? Make me proud !” “Sure, Grandfather!” I replied. “But what exactly do you want to be proud of me for? We’re just going on vacation.” “This is a very important trip!” he replied. “Don’t you get it?!” Honestly, I didn’t get it. Since when was my grandfather so interested in my vacation time? “Don’t worry, Grandfather!” I replied. “I promise I’ll do everything I can to make this trip absolutely fabumouse!”

Geronimo Stilton


He nodded. “You do that, Grandson! Good luck!” A short while later, I was relaxing on the airplane. I sat back and watched ITALY puffy white clouds float by MUST-SEE DESTINATIONS just outside my window. 1. ROME AND THE COLOSSEUM (LAZIO) “Ah, Italy,” I sighed 2. FLORENCE AND THE UFFIZI GALLERY happily. “It has everything! (TUSCANY) 3. VENICE AND THE PIAZZA SAN MARCO Museums and landmarks if (VENETO) 4. M ILAN AND THE MILAN CATHEDRAL you love culture; beautiful (LOMBARDY) natural wonders if you love 5. CINQUE TERRE (LIGURIA) 6. NAPLES (CAMPANIA) adventure; charming towns 7. POMPEII, CAPRI, AND SORRENTO (CAMPANIA) if you like to wander; and 8. AGRIGENTO AND THE VALLEY OF delicious cuisine for food THE TEMPLES (SICILY) 9. SALENTO (PUGLIA) lovers! I’ve made a list of 10. MATERA (BASILICATA) all the things we can’t miss while we’re there . . .” “But Uncle G,” Benjamin squeaked, “I’m not sure we’ll have time. If we want to win the COM PET I T I ON , we’ll be moving quickly from one place to another. And we won’t get to choose the stops along the way!”


Ready, Set, Go!

Ready, Set, Go!


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“Huh?” I replied, sitting straight up in my seat. “Competition? Stops? Benjamin, what are you talking about?!” Thea, Benjamin, Trappy, and Trap shared a look.

“Oh, Geronimo, you’re hopeless!” Trap sighed. “Did you really think Grandfather was just sending us on vacation? No way! We’re competing in the T H O U S A N D W O N D E R S , a fabumouse scavenger hunt to discover the marvels of Italy!” “A scavenger hunt?!” I squeaked. “That’s right!” Thea replied. “It will be an unforgettable experience! But for now, relax, little brother. We’ll learn more about the first stop once we get to Rome . . .”


When we got off the plane at the Rome airport, the first thing we saw was an enormouse sign that read:

WELCOME, STILTONS! The mouselet holding the sign greeted us and placed a rule book in my paws. Then she directed us to a shuttle bus that would take us to the B&B where we’d be staying. Holey cheese . . .

vent our ad

ure had just begun



The Adventure Begins! RUL ES

Region: Lazio Capital: Rome


1. The Thousand Wonders is an epic scavenger

hunt across Italy. We’ll tell you the region you must be in, but then each team will have to solve a riddle to get the name of the next location on their quest. Information and riddles will be sent via text message. e. 2. At each destination, the team must take a self ie and send it to the judges. 3. Judges will send a clue to the next destination only after they have accepted the photo from the previous location. 4. During the journey, each team must keep an online trav el blog so others can follow along and discover the wonder s of Italy! WH AT NOT TO DO WH AT TO DO Don’t skip a location! Learn facts and trivia about each Don’t forget to be courteous to all! place you visit! Don’t disrespect the environment! Try out some Italian words! Don’t get bored! Meet new friends! Taste the local cuisine! Have fun! GRA ND PRI ZE The team that creates the most fun, interesting, and fabumouse travel blog will win another trip to Italy!

We were settled in at our bed-and-breakfast in one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Rome! As I enjoyed the famousely gentle Roman breeze, or ponentino, from the terrace, I admired the view of the eternal


Rome was first referred to as the “eternal city” in a poem by Albius Tibullus, a Latin poet from the first century BCE. At that time, no one could have imagined that the city would still be there for another 2,000 years and beyond!

The Adventure Begins!



I felt my cell phone buzz, and the message we had been waiting for appeared on the screen. Cheese niblets, how exciting! I cleared my throat and read it aloud. “Hmm,” Trap muttered. “How can a keyhole contain a mousterpiece ?” “That doesn’t seem

possible,” Trappy agreed. “Well, it’s a riddle, and there must be a solution!” Thea said confidently. Benjamin nodded. “Come on, team,” he said. “We can do this!” As we focused on the strange clue, a squeaky voice called, “Trappola, amico mio! Come stai?”* “Claudiooo! ” Trap cried. “What a surprise! Where have you been hiding?!” My cousin Trap has spent a lot of time in Rome. In fact, he once took a cooking class on Roman

Claudio, a friendly, chatty rodent who happens to be a handymouse at the B&B. After introductions, Claudio said, “I’m so proud that the Stilton family is participating in the THOUSAND WONDERS competition! You can count on me and the Cheddarmobile to help you here in Lazio!” “CHEDDARMOBILE?!” we all squeaked. “What’s that?” Claudio laughed. “It’s the name of my cheddar cheese-colored shuttle bus!” Trap didn’t waste a moment: He read Claudio the riddle about the keyhole. Claudio broke into a grin. “I’ve got it!” he squeaked. “Come with me, friends!” We followed him to the yellow bus and climbed aboard.



THOUSAND Welcome to the ion, and tit pe WONDERS com the clue ’s re He ! good luck nation to your first desti TAKE A LOOK THROUGH THIS KEYHOLE. VIEWING A MOUSTERPIECE IS YOUR GOAL!

*Trap, my friend! How are you?

cuisine! That’s how he met

The Adventure Begins!


“Do you like Rome?” Claudio asked as he took cities the wheel. “It’s one of the most in the world. And it hides many mysteries and curiosities, as you’re about to find out!” He stopped the bus in an empty square. “We’re in luck! Usually there’s a long line, but the piazza is empty today!” “Piazza?” Benjamin asked. “It’s the Italian word for ‘square’,” Claudio replied. “Where are we, exactly?” I asked. “And what are we supposed to do here?” Claudio smiled. “We’re in front of the headquarters of the Gran Priorato di Roma dell’Ordine di Malta—the Knights of Malta of Rome. This is where you’ll find the keyhole!” A beautiful villa rose up before us, but it was surrounded by a huge WALL . I was confused . . . where was the keyhole?! A moment later, Trap let out an “Oooh!” Great Gouda! My cousin was peering through a keyhole in the locked gate! “Don’t be a cheesebrain, Geronimo!” he said. “Come look!”



I went up to the gate and peeked through the tiny opening. “Incredible! ” I squeaked. The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was framed perfectly in the keyhole!

St. Peter’s Basilica, designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti, among others, is one of the world’s largest churches. It covers about 23,000 square meters (or more than 245,000 square feet)! Its dome, affectionately called the “Cupolone” (Big Dome), is more than 133 meters (436 feet) tall!

The Adventure Begins!


When we turned around, Claudio saw the wonder on our snouts. “Not bad for your first stop, is it?!” he asked, grinning. We quickly snapped our selfie and texted it to the judges. I received this message in reply: My niece and nephew We were a little disappointed. ll Stil done, ton Te “That’s it?” Benjamin for ! Tha am t t asked sadly. you oday. ’s it S tom ee orro “Never fear,” Claudio w! announced. “Your visit to Rome continues—with me!” “Hooray!” squeaked Trappy. “Where are you taking us?” “To a restaurant?” Trap asked hopefully. But Claudio didn’t hear him. “Hmph, he probably already had a nice lunch! Who knows when he’ll want dinner?” Trap grumbled. “Where should we go first?” Claudio asked. “The Mouth of Truth? The Catacombs? There are so many choices!”


And so we hopped back aboard the Cheddarmobile and Claudio drove us through the city. “Look, those are the Aurelian Walls,” Claudio explained. “Part of them remain visible today, but they were originally over 18 kilometers (almost 12 miles) long! Emperor Aurelian built them

The Adventure Begins!


to defend the city from invading tribes. There are entrance and exit gates, too. Look, there’s St. Paul’s Gate over there!” Claudio squeaked and squeaked and squeaked. It was a true pleasure listening to him: He was an excellent cicerone. And to top it all off, as our day came to a close, Rome gave us the gift of a spectacular sunset! Finally, it was time for dinner. We had really worked up an appetite! After a typical Roman dinner of bucatini pasta, fried artichokes, and saltimbocca—a dish of veal, prosciutto, and sage—we went to bed tired but happy. The next day we woke to the sound of church bells and Claudio’s squeaky voice: “Wake up, friends! The competition awaits!” As we ate breakfast on the B&B’s terrace, we received a text message with our next riddle. I read the riddle aloud:

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman politician and orator living in the first century BCE. He was known for his oratories—speeches given to express his ideas. An orator is someone who knows how to speak in front of a crowd. Today, the term cicerone refers to someone who guides others on a visit to a city, landmark, or a museum.


“We have eyes that shed no tears. Look at us and face your fears!” Huh? I didn’t understand a cheese crumb of that clue! But Benjamin was busy typing away on his tablet. “Uncle G, look!” he exclaimed. “I think the answer might be this garden of stone monsters in Bomarzo!” We all gathered around him to look at the tablet:

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Sacro Bosco of Bomarzo The Sacro Bosco (Sacred Wood), also called Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters), is unlike any other place in the world. The unusual park was commissioned in the 16th century by Vicino Orsini, lord of those lands. The park features oversized stone sculptures of monsters, giants, and other frightening mythological creatures, some of which are built into the natural bedrock. Mysterious sayings are also carved into the sculptures, giving the garden an otherworldly feel.

A magical place!

The Adventure Begins!


“Great job, Benjamin!” Claudio cheered. “I never would have thought of that! The Park of the Monsters is a marvelmouse place—you can walk among dragons and MONSTERS made of stone. That must be your next stop. I’ll take you there!” We said farewell to the owners of the B&B and carried our bags onto the CHEDDARMOBILE to continue our journey. After a few hours, we reached Bomarzo and entered the Park of Monsters. “This place is FABUMOUSE !” Benjamin cried at the sight of a stone ogre. Trappy nodded, her snout pointed skyward as she gazed at the statues of two battling giants. I went inside a small structure that leaned to one side, and I emerged stumbling and swaying. Rancid ricotta, I had totally lost my balance inside that lopsided building! After we had explored the incredible garden, I realized someone was missing. “Where’s Trap?” I asked. “He’s not with you?” Thea asked. “No,” I replied. “I thought he was with you.”


Suddenly we heard a loud squeal: “HEEELLLPPP!” Holey cheese! It was my cousin’s voice, and it was coming from inside the mouth of a gigantic bearded stone monster! Yikes! I gathered my courage and ran toward the statue. “Yoohoo!” Trap called as he leaped out of the stone JAWS , giggling. “I got you, Geronimo! You’re as pale as mozzarella!”

*Thanks to you, Claudio! Your help was invaluable!

The Adventure Begins! I sighed. Same old Trap, pranking me as usual! “Hey everyone, we’re wasting time,” I reminded my family. “Let's take our selfie !” Trappy snapped a photo of all of us in front of the stone monster and quickly sent it to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. A moment later we received a new message. We had completed our stops in Lazio! “Hooray!” we cheered. I turned to our friend and guide. “Grazie a te, Claudio! Il tuo aiuto è b, Team Great jo u have o Y Stilton! d your stato prezioso !”* te comple io. Your Laz Claudio gave us a stops in op will t s t x e n in aples playful look. “Since you be in N ys! a d e e thr have a few days off, why don’t I take you to visit a few truly special places? What do you say?” My family and I shared a quick look, then Trap replied for us all. “Obviously, we say yes!” So we climbed aboard the Cheddarmobile once again. After about a half hour’s drive, Claudio stopped


Lazio at a small lookout point along the road and had us get out to admire the view . What we saw left us squeakless: The road continued along a very long, narrow B R I D G E that led to a village on top of a hill. “Did you know that the town up there only has about a dozen inhabitants?” Claudio said.

The Adventure Begins! “Really?” Thea replied in surprise. “So few?” Claudio nodded. “Unfortunately, a series of landslides have caused the town to slowly be abandoned.” “Well, what are we waiting for?” I said impatiently. “Let’s get back in the Cheddarmobile and go check it out!” “Oh, no, no, no, Geronimo!” Claudio replied. “We can’t drive. The bridge can only be crossed on paw.” My eyes widened. “ n paw?!” He nodded. “That’s right! But it’s only 300 meters—or almost 1,000 feet—long!” “But it’s uphill!” I groaned as I looked at the concrete bridge in front of us. But we had no other way to get there, so we started the climb. “Welcome to Civita di Bagnoregio,” Claudio said as we reached the tiny city at the top of the bridge. “It was founded by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago.” We spent a few hours exploring the village, walking among the picturesque stone houses. It felt as if the entire town had been suspended in time.



Lazio That evening, our JOURNEY paws were sore from THROUGH TIME all the walking we The Etruscans lived in Italy beginning in the 9th cenhad done. But Claudio tury BCE in an area that spanned Tuscany, Umhadn’t finished showing bria, and Lazio. They calus Lazio just yet! We led the area Etruria. Fun fact: Their writing went spent the next two days from right to left! roaming the region, taking in beautiful sights and eating some amazing meals. Before we knew it, it was time to say farewell to Claudio and continue with the THOUSAND WONDERS competition. Our next stop was the region Campania! During our train ride to Naples, Benjamin and Trappy looked up the places we’d visited online and put together a new blog post highlighting our travels.


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Necropolis of Cerveteri

Beautiful Viterbo

To conquer his fear, Uncle G needed a little push! Visiting the Etruscan Necropolis of Cerveteri is a fabumouse experience! A necropolis is a large cemetery of an ancient city. The one in Cerveteri is one of the most important necropolises in the Mediterran ean. The frescoes and objects found in the tombs tell us about the daily lives, myths, and ceremonies of the ancient Etruscans. Visiting feels as though you are truly traveling through time!

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME There are thousands of tom s in erveteri, which is organized like a real cit with streets, squares, and neighborhoods. Some tombs are carved like trenches cut in rock while others are shaped into tumuli, or burial mounds. Still others are shaped like ca ins or houses carved out of rock.

Viterbo is a beautiful medieval town in Lazio. Every year on the night of September 3, it holds a special parade called the Macchina di Santa Rosa, where more than 100 porters called facchini carry a glowing 30-meter (98-fo ot) tall tower through the dark streets. This procession honors the patron saint and protector of Viterbo, Saint Rose. The porters dress in white with red sashes around their waists.

The statue weighs about 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds)! Squeeeak!

Viterbo has the largest medieval city center in Europe!

Region: Campania Capital: Naples

My dear rodent readers, can you guess what we explored first when we got to Naples? It was the local desserts, of course! We were at a historic Neapolitan bakery and café enjoying some delicious sfogliatelle—shell-shaped pastries stuffed with a sweet ricotta cheese filling— when my phone buzzed with our next riddle! I read it aloud:

BZZ Z “You’ll reach this place by going down, BZ But you’ll think you’re on the shore, not in town!” Thea dashed to the cash register to pay for our desserts. “I hate to leave such a lovely café, but the competition awaits!” she said excitedly. The owner winked at my sister. “Miss, my


bakery may be lovely, but you are even more beautiful!” Thea SMILED and seized the opportunity to show him the riddle. “Lei che è così gentile, potrebbe aiutarci con questo indovinello?”* “Of course!” the rat replied. “Just go down to the metro—the underground train!” He pointed out the way, which went through the historic center of Naples. How strange! I would have thought we’d be heading toward the sea, not into the city. “Come on, Geronimo,” Trap called out as he scurried onto the escalator down to the metro. “Follow your charming cousin!” We all hurried after him. “Wow!” I heard Trap squeak. “Even the metro in this city is a mousterpiece !” In the twitch of a whisker, I knew what he meant. We were surrounded by blue MOSAICS


*Perhaps you could be so kind as to help us with this riddle?

A Very Special Scuba Dive


A Very Special Scuba Dive


that reflected the light like ocean waves. What a stunning sight! “Ah!” Thea squeaked. “This is the Toledo stop on the Naples metro. We’re underground, but it seems like we’re by the sea!” “Uncle G, can we go see the real sea after this?” Benjamin asked. “Great idea!” I said. “But first, let’s take a selfie to send to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges.” Right after I sent our photo, I received a message with the next riddle. I read it aloud:

The Toledo station is a true work of art and has received many awards for its originality. Among these is an award from the International Tunneling Association for its innovative use of underground space!

“For an ancient temple to catch your eye, Raise your snout and look to the sky!” “Where’s an ancient temple?” Trap asked. “Look up,” Thea said, pointing to a sign above us covered in images of columns, vases, and, yes, ancient temples! It was an ad for the Archaeological Park of Paestum! Benjamin tapped on his tablet. “Aunt Thea is right,” he said. “And we can take a train there.” A few hours later we found ourselves at an astonishing archeological site, among ancient temples under a sparkling blue sky. “Was all this really built more than two thousand years ago?” Trappy asked in awe. “Yes, and it’s very well preserved,” I replied, reading off a brochure. “When the ancient Greeks founded this city, they called it Poseidonia in honor of Poseidon, the god of the sea. Then the Romans changed the name to Paestum.” We snapped a selfie and sent it to the judges. They quickly sent this reply:


“Well done, Stiltons! Now you can relax. The scavenger hunt will continue in Calabria!” 29

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME At Paestum you can admire, among other wonders, three magnificent temples dedicated to the Greek gods. The oldest dates back to the 6th century BCE. The largest is from the 5th century BCE and is characterized by its golden color, which changes with the light throughout the day. And the third temple was built in the 6th century CE and was later used as a church.

Trap cried, “Oh, finalmente possiamo andare a mangiare ! Non so voi, ma io ho una fame felina!”* We stopped at a nearby pizzeria where we were greeted by the owner, Vincenzo. “I’ll make you some pizzas right away,” he told us, smiling. “They are my specialty!” Soon he brought us five piping hot pies. “Mmm!” Trappy squeaked in delight as she bit into a slice. “I’ve never had such tasty pizza!” “Do you know when pizza was first created?” Vincenzo asked Benjamin and Trappy as we ate. “Flat breads made with toppings developed long ago. The dough was made from simple ingredients like oil, water, salt, and flour. Then, according to legend, the chef Raffaele Esposito wanted to honor Queen Margherita of


*Oh, finally, we can go eat! I don’t know about you, but I’m as hungry as a cat!


A Very Special Scuba Dive


Savoia during a visit she made to Naples in 1889. So he prepared a flatbread pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil—the three colors of the Italian flag. This is the origin of the famouse Margherita pizza!” After our scrumptious meal, we returned to Naples by bus. On the way, Trappy suddenly cried, “Look at Mount Vesuvius!” she cried. In the golden light of sunset, the enormouse volcano left us squeakless. Benjamin peeked at his tablet. “Wow!” he said. “Did you know that it is almost 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) high and is still ACTIVE today?” “Rancid ricotta!” I gasped. “Did you say it’s still active?” It was beautiful, but I was happy to get away from that potential eruption! We slept well that night after our busy day. The next morning we headed to the Underwater Park of Baia. Thanks to a particular geological phenomenon, this former coastal area now lies 5 meters (16 feet) below the surface of the sea! Visitors can explore the area in a few different ways:

Scuba diving in a wetsuit with oxygen. I had no doubt about which method I preferred! As soon as we arrived, I dashed off to buy tickets for the boat ride. But my sister was faster than me: with a cat-like leap, she passed me in line. There were just three spots left on the boat, and Thea gave those tickets to Trap, Benjamin, and Trappy. Then she told me the two of us were taking a guided scuba dive. gulp!



JOURNEY THROUGH TIME The most famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius occurred in 79 CE, when ash, lava, and stones from the volcano covered the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum (today called Ercolano). Modern archeological digs have uncovered buildings, temples, streets, and houses that had remained buried for nearly 2,000 years.

Comfortably seated on a boat with glass windows on the bottom so they can admire the submerged ruins;


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Cheese and crackers! I was so scared, I turned as pale as mozzarella! But once I got up the nerve to put on my wetsuit and scuba tank, Thea and I set off to discover the submerged artifacts. I have to admit: It was a fabumouse experience! We saw perfectly preserved mosaics, incredible statues, and majestic columns—all underwater! It was a marvelmouse way to end our travels through Campania.

CIRA: Italian Aerospace Research Center Technology for the environment!

We spent our time in Campania walking, admiring breathtaking scenery, and visiting astonishing places. For example, the Italian Aerospace Research Center (CIRA) has its headquarters in the town of Capua, 40 kilometers (26 miles) north of Naples. CIRA conducts research related to space qualification for satellites, new systems to observe the Earth, and reducing the environmental impact of aircraft.

It’s on me today!

CAFFÈ SOSPESO One morning at a café, the barista explained a local tradition in Naples: when customers order an espresso (a strong black coffee), they often pay for the next customer's espresso as a surprise treat. This is called a caffè sospeso, or “suspended coffee.” Trap was so excited about this tradition that he paid for a caffè sospeso, too!

Region: Calabria Capital: Catanzaro

We knew we were headed to Cosenza in Calabria next. So we took the first available train from Naples and were soon on our way. Once we’d arrived, I received a text message with the next riddle. I read it aloud to the others:


“It’s a special place that you must next seek, Where pino loricato grow on the highest peaks!”

“Hmm,” Benjamin said. “Something that grows . . . the pino loricato must be a plant.” “It’s our best clue to follow,” Trappy agreed. “Search for it on your phone, Geronimo!” I quickly typed in the words pino loricato, and the first thing that popped up was the website for Pollino National Park. Thea looked over my shoulder. “Riddle solved!” she said. “The pino loricato is a type of pine tree that’s found in the


park—and it’s the symbol of the park. It grows high Pollino National Park is one up on mountains because of the largest parks in Italy, straddling the regions it adapts well to cold and of Basilicata and Calabria. dry environments that are Some of the rare plants and animals that can be difficult for other trees!” found in the park include “Nice work, Uncle G!” pino loricato, the Apennine (or Italian) wolf, the Benjamin squeaked. “Let’s eagle owl, and the raven. go!” We rented a car and headed straight for Pollino National Park. Once we had arrived, I sighed happily at the splendid view. “Ah, che paesaggi stupendi!”* We put on our boots and our backpacks and hiked up a trail to the Garden of the Gods, which sits at an elevation of more than 1,500 meters (5,000 feet)! Along the way, we passed beech trees until we finally came to the awe-inspiring pine trees, which clung to the side of the mountain. Many were almost a thousand years old! “What a magical place!” I murmured. We sent a selfie to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges that showed us amongst the pine trees. A reply came quickly. I read aloud:


*Ah, what a marvelous landscape!

A Natural Adventure!



“Good job, Team Stilton! The contest will continue in three days! Until then, enjoy wonderful Calabria!” “Hooray!” Trappy exclaimed. “Can we stay and explore the park, Uncle G?” Benjamin asked sweetly.




*Nearby, there’s a wood full of centuries-old beech trees!

Pollino National Park is home to the oldest known specimen of the pino loricato in Europe. The tree is called Italus, and it is 1,230 years old! It’s more than 10 meters (32 feet) tall and has a diameter of over one and a half meters (5 feet).

“Of course!” I replied. “What a FABUMOUSE idea!” I was in such a good mood that I started whistling. I was trying my best to imitate the song of a goldfinch that was sitting in the branches of a nearby tree. But Thea clapped her paws over her ears and winced, and Trappy and Benjamin shook their snouts in dismay. Meanwhile, Trap hid behind a group of tourists and pretended he didn’t know who I was! Soon, even flew off! the Cheese niblets, I had forgotten that the sounds of nature are meant to be heard, not DISTURBED ! I apologized to everyone around me, including the other tourists. One of them told us, “Qui nei dintorni potete trovare un bosco di faggi secolari!* Some of them are more than 500 years old.” “Really?” Trappy asked, her snout lighting up. “I’d love to see those ancient trees.” So the next day we returned to Pollino National

Calabria Park and explored the ancient woods of the Cozzo Ferriero Beech Forest. It’s located on the border of Calabria and Basilicata and is made up of about 70 hectares (170 acres) of monumental beech trees! Two days later, we received a message from the judges with our next riddle. Z


I read it to everyone:

“We carry our houses around on our backs, And lay eggs in the sand where they’re safe from attack!” “I know the answer!” Trappy squeaked. “This riddle is about the loggerhead sea turtle!” “Yes!” Thea agreed. “I read that loggerhead sea


turtles make their nests

When researchers spot a sea on the beaches along the turtle nest, they fence it off and Ionian Coast. If you think post a sign to protect it and prevent passersby from causing of Italy as shaped like a any damage. After a few months, boot , the Ionian Coast is they return to the site to check for hatchlings and to help the right at the toe!” newborn sea turtles reach the “Let’s go check it out!” sea. Fun fact: The temperature of the sea turtle nest determines Benjamin squeaked with whether the hatchlings will be excitement. So we headed male or female! for one of the nesting areas. When we arrived, we set up a stakeout where we waited and watched for the turtles. We waited for a long time, but we finally spotted a sea turtle coming up onto the sandy beach to lay its eggs . We were as excited as mice in a cheese shop! We stayed a respectful distance away to avoid disturbing the turtle. It was an amazing sight! Then we took a selfie from a safe distance and sent it to the judges right away. They quickly replied that our next stop would be the island of Sicily!


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Grotto of the Nymphs

The Mediterranean Monk Seal

While we were in Pollino baths, which can have healing National Park, we visited the properties. We Stiltons were exGrotto of the Nymphs, a nat- cited to try it! It’s a therapeutic ural thermal pool of minermud bath . . . al-rich water from the springs of Cerchiara. According to legend, this was where nymphs (mythological creatures that looked like beautiful young women) guarded the secret to their eternal beauty. The water reaches 30° C (86° F) and can be used for therapeutic mud

One of the rarest marine mammals in the world! A tourist we met at the Grotto of the Nymphs told us they had spotted a few Mediterranean monk seals along the Calabrian coast. These are one of the rarest marine mammals in the world, and today they are in danger of extinction. It is estimated that there are only a few hundred seals remaining. Did you know that an adult Mediterranean monk seal can weigh as much as 300 kilos (660 pounds) and grow almost 2.5 meters (8 feet) long? They can dive to a depth of 70 meters (230 feet) and hold their breath for 10 minutes! Seeing one is a truly exciting moment!

Region: Sicily Capital: Palermo

To get to the island of Sicily, we took a ferry from the coastal city of Reggio Calabria to Messina. We arrived feeling tired and thirsty, so we treated ourselves to some delicious almond milk while an orange blossom-scented breeze ruffled our whiskers. Ah, Sicily! What a beautiful place! BZZ Z Soon after our arrival my phone buzzed. Trappy BZ read the clue to our next stop aloud:

“I am more than 3,300 meters—or 10,000 feet—tall. When I’m angry, ash and stone rain down on all!” “I’ve got it!” Benjamin exclaimed. “It’s Mount Etna. We studied it in school. Mount Etna is the highest and most active volcano in Europe!” “Moldy mozzarella!” I squeaked nervously. “What do you mean by most active? I don’t like the sound of that . . .” Thea rolled her eyes. “Don’t be such a scaredymouse, G!” she scolded me. “Where’s your sense


of adventure? Come on: Be brave!” Soon, we were exploring the otherworldly surface of that incredible volcano in an all-terrain vehicle. The dark, rocky ground made it feel as though we were on the surface of the moon! And what incredible views! Squeak! We took a break for lunch and enjoyed some fabumouse arancini —delicious deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat, cheese, vegetables, ham or other. Then we sent our selfie to the judges and received our next riddle:

“In Neapolis, it was carved into the rock. It was a place where ancient Romans flocked!” “Hmm,” Trappy said. “Nothing comes to mind.” Just then, our waiter passed by our table. “Mi chiamo Manfredi, piacere di conoscervi!*”


*My name is Manfredi—it’s a pleasure to meet you!

On Top of a Volcano


On Top of a Volcano he said. “I couldn’t help overhearing you. You’re competing in the THOUSAND WONDERS scavenger hunt, right?” “Yes!” we all squeaked at once. “I thought so,” Manfredi replied. “The answer to your riddle is the Greek Theater of Syracuse! It can be found in the Archaeological Park of Neapolis. You need to head to Syracuse!” What a stroke of good luck! We thanked Manfredi, climbed into our electric rental car, and hit the road. On the way to Syracuse, we saw signs for the beautiful town of Taormina. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop, but we wanted to visit someday! Meanwhile, Thea flipped through her guide to Sicily. “Look! We’re passing close to the Necropolis Taormina is a beautiful hilltop town full of history and of Pantalica,” she said. culture. Its ancient theater “Thousands of burial is the second largest in Sicily, and from the city, you chambers were carved can see the coast of Calinto the rock there, abria, the peak of Mt. Etna, and the sparkling waters dating back to the 13th of the Ionian Sea. century BCE.”


The name Pantalica likely comes from the Arabic word “buntarigah,” which means “caves.”

“Burial chambers?” I squeaked, my whiskers trembling with fright. “Do you mean they’re tOmbs ?” Trap chuckled . “Come on, Geronimo, don’t be such a scaredy-mouse!” he said. “No one’s been buried there in years. Let’s make a stop!” Trap was right to insist: The Necropolis of ! After a Pantalica was an extraordinary quick visit we continued on to the Greek Theater of Syracuse.




Great gorgonzola, what an incredible feeling it was to sit on those ancient stone steps! The amphitheater was built in the fifth century BCE. Who knew how many spectators had sat right where I was sitting . . . and what they’d seen there?

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME The Greek Theatre of Syracuse was carved almost entirely out of rock. It was considered one of the most important theaters in the Mediterranean at the time it was built. Today it is one of the most well-preserved ancient theaters in the world.

And the magic of the theater continues on: every spring and summer, thousands of spectators watch productions of ancient Greek tragedies in the same place they were performed more than 2,000 years ago! Trappy, Benjamin, Thea, and Trap gathered around me as I snapped our selfie, which I sent to the judges. The reply gave us another few days of rest, so we booked rooms in the small town of Piazza Armerina. I told my family, “Voglio portarvi in un posto molto speciale:* the Rocca di Cerere Geopark!”

Near the geopark, you can also visit Pergusa Lake, the only natural lake in central Sicily. Other nearby attractions include the Floristella-Grottacalda mining park, a former sulphur mine; and Lombardy Castle, a medieval castle and the symbol of the city of Enna.

*I want to take you to a very special place:

On Top of a Volcano

On Top of a Volcano “The geopark covers more than 1,200 square kilometers (745 square miles), and we can visit interesting archeological, geological, natural, and prehistoric sites there,” I explained. After a short drive we arrived at Piazza Armerina and decided to explore the area. We made sure to stop at the fabumouse Villa Romana del Casale, a large, elaborate Roman palace that covers approximately 3,500 square meters (37,600 square feet). JOURNEY THROUGH TIME The Villa Romana del Casale is famous for its collection of perfectly preserved Roman mosaics depicting scenes from the daily lives of gods and heroes. These mosaics have remarkably remained intact in all their splendor despite being ancient: they date back to the third or fourth century CE!

Sicily The next morning, we started our day with a classic Sicilian breakfast of granita and brioche —a rich, buttery, puffy bread. By the time it was served, my food-loving cousin Trap had already eaten two arancini! “I didn’t want my sweet food to come before my salty!” he said. Squeaking of salt, we received our next clue:


Sicilian granita is a frozen treat that has a creamy and slightly grainy consistency. The most common flavors are lemon, almond, and mulberry. Along with a traditional brioche, it’s the perfect example of a Sicilian summer breakfast!

“Here among the windmills and salt pools, The landscape sparkles like a thousand jewels!”

Thea smiled. “Of course!” she said. “This one is easy: It must be Saline di Trapani—a landscape of salt pools set among retired windmills!” We got back in the car to drive across Sicily. As we neared our destination, the land was covered in prickly pear cactus, mulberry


On Top of a Volcano trees, and lemon trees as far as the eye could see. We reached the Riserva Naturale Orientata delle Saline di Trapani e Paceco, a nature reserve covered in shallow salt pools. There we met our guide, a friendly rodent named Salvatore. Thanks to him, we learned that even today salt is extracted

Sicily from these pools using ancient techniques. “Sea water goes into special basins where it slowly evaporates thanks to the wind and the heat of the sun,” Salvatore explained. “After a while, only its SALT is left in the basin, where you can see it ends up in piles that look like white mountains.” The salt sparkled in the Sicilian sunlight, but Salvatore urged us on. “Come, my friends!” he said eagerly. “This is one of the most important wetland areas in Sicily, and it’s also home to thousands of migratory birds. Let’s have a look!” How fabumouse! At the end of the day, we snapped a selfie and sent it to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. Their reply came quickly. We would have another short break before continuing on to our next destination: Basilicata!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!


Sicilian puppets

An example of Sicily’s Arab-Norma n architectu re!

Trappy arranged for us to see a traditional Sicilian puppet show, and it was fabumouse! Puppets are a special secular Sicilian tradition. Unlike other marionettes, these are constructed in a way that allows the puppeteers who control them to make extremely precise movements.

An outdoor work of art! We couldn’t leave Sicily without visiting Palermo! We were charmed by this city’s elegant streets, narrow alleyways, Baroque palaces, and colorful (and noisy!) markets. And we couldn’t miss out on Mondello beach, a beautiful spot 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) north of Palermo. There, white sand meets an azure blue sea. Finally, Trap absolutely had to try cassata, a traditional Sicilian dessert!

CASSATA The recipe for cassata (a sponge cake filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and chocolate chips) is very elaborate. This well-known cake is decorated with candied fruit and can be a real work of art, both for the eyes and the taste buds!


On our way to the salt pools, we visited Old Gibellina, a small town that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1968. The town was transformed by Alberto Burri, a contemporary artist, into a monumental public artwork!

Region: Basilicata Capital: Potenza

To get to Basilicata, which was back on mainland Italy, my fabumouse family and I took a combination of ferries and buses from Sicily. Before we knew it, we found ourselves in the world-famouse Sassi di Matera, two districts in the city of Matera known for their ancient cave dwellings. “What a marvelmouse place,” Thea said dreamily. “It’s like something out of a fairytale!” Below us, the rushing RIVER had formed a canyon that the city sat at the top of. As we admired the view, a friendly rodent approached us.

“Benvenuti! Mi chiamo Carmela . . . È la prima volta che visitate Matera?”* We stopped to talk to her and learned that her grandparents were born in a casagrotta. “Is that one of the ancient cave dwellings the city is famouse for?” Trappy asked. Carmela nodded. “Yes! Over the years we’ve modernized it and turned it into a comfortable bed-and-

*Welcome! My name is Carmela . . . Is this the first time you’ve visited Matera?

Save Yourself If You Can!


Save Yourself If You Can! breakfast. Would you like to be my guests?” “That would be fabumouse!” we agreed happily. Carmela led us to the B&B, where we stored our luggage. Just then, a new riddle arrived. r fo k o o L “We’re ahead of them!” uilt houses b e th into Trappy squeaked with delight. rock. y, “The answer is Matera, and In this cit ’t n o it w a we’re already here!” come as shock! We took a selfie in the B&B and sent it to the judges right away. Carmela pointed to Z BZ Z some black and white photos BZ on the wall. They showed a pair of older rodents and their livestock in a cave that had simple, wrought iron furnishings. “These are my grandparents,” she explained. “Up until seventy years ago, mice in this town lived like that. In fact, caves like this one carved into the mountainside have been inhabited for nine thousand years!” As we marveled at the history, Carmela offered us some chocolate-almond cookies called strazzate—a local specialty. Yum!


Basilicata “Toward the middle of the last century, those who lived in the Sassi, or cave homes, were moved to more modern houses and the caves were abandoned,” Carmela continued. “Starting in the late 1980s, the old homes were renovated and the city came back to life !” We explored the city’s streets and paths. (Was it just me, or did they always seem to lead uphill?!) We even saw some gorgeous JEWELS CARVED IN The area aroun TO THE ROCK cave churches. d tains 155 church Matera cones After all that walking, the rocky cliffs carved into .M churches are d any of these we slept well that night in ecorated with frescoes of sa cr that are centu ed images ries old!

Carmela’s B&B. The next morning, I awoke to the buzz of my cell phone. I read the text message to the others over breakfast:

“Like a bird on a wire, you’ll take flight Toward rocky spires that are quite a sight!”

Carmela said,“The clue must be referring to the Lucanian Dolomites. They’re a group of mountains with peaks that are unique shapes.” “Great!” I exclaimed. “But why does it say ‘you’ll take flight?’” Thea and Trap exchanged a look . “Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing, G!” Thea reassured me. “We’ll figure it out when we get there!” A few hours later, we were driving up, up, up toward Castelmezzano, another beautiful Italian mountain town. When we finally arrived, Trap pointed to a peak across the valley. “Geronimo, it’s time to take flight to Pietrapertosa!” he squeaked. “That peak?” I asked. “HOW do we get there?” “It’s easy, Uncle G,” Benjamin said with a grin. “We fly!” I followed his paw as he pointed upward.


gulp! There was a steel cable connecting the two peaks, and there were rodents in harnesses connected to the cable. They were flying toward Pietrapertosa along a sky-high zipline!

“Che cosa?!? Scordatevelo!”*

*What?!? Forget about it!


I’m too fond of my fur for such a risk! But despite my protests, there was no stopping my family. I soon found myself flying from one peak to the next at a fur-raising speed! It gave me a bird’s-eye view of the Lucanian BZZ Z BZ Dolomites. When I had my paws on solid Congra tu Team S lations, tilto ground again, I was trembling You’ve n! comple t from snout to tail. That’s when anothe ed yet r stop. See you I received a new message from in Puglia! the THOUSAND WONDERS judges . . .


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!



Boo! It’s a ghost town!

Yum! How tasty!

It was exhausting scampering around the magnificent caves of Matera. My family and I felt like we deserved a snack of ten strazzate each! These cookies are a local specialty in Matera, and Carmela shared her recipe with us. Buon appetito! About 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Matera is the town of Craco, deep in a moon-like landscape called badlands. Due to a landslide in 1963, the old part of town had to be evacuated, citizens had to abandon their homes and move elsewhere. The old town of Craco has been known since then as a ghost town. We couldn’t miss seeing it! Our visit was spooky. The empty town was eerily silent—all we could hear was the whirring of cicadas!

Ingredients (for 15-20 cookies):

200 g sugar • 200 g almonds, toasted and chopped • 200 g flour • 2 eggs • 50 g dark chocolate, chopped • 20 g unsweetened cocoa powder •A pinch of cinnamon • A pinch of ground nutmeg • A pinch of salt • 8g baking powder • Scant lemon zest

BADLANDS The landscape around Craco is covered in mounds of land that have been formed by constant erosion. They have little vegetation growing on them, but they create a truly stunning landscape!

1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and work them with your fingers until you have a dense dough. 2. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 3. Ask an adult for help with the oven. Preheat the oven to 160° C (325° F). 4. R  emove the dough from the refrigerator. Pinch off small pieces (about the size of a nut) and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 5. Bake cookies for about 18 minutes. Let cookies cool before eating. Enjoy!

A Feast for the Eyes . . . and Ears! Region: Puglia Capital: Bari

When we arrived in Puglia, we were greeted by Nicoletta, a dear friend of Thea’s. Nicoletta is a wonderful cook who moved from New Mouse City to Salento in southern Puglia. She runs an agriturismo , a farm where tourists can stay. When she learned we were participating in the THOUSAND WONDERS competition, she immediately offered to be our guide around Puglia.

Salento is the southernmost area in Puglia, with the Ionian Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. If you think of Italy as shaped like a boot, Salento is at the heel!

Puglia I received a text message bright and early the next morning, which I read to the others right away:


“The walls here are thick and strong, Built of stones stacked tall and long!” I wasn’t sure what that meant. But Nicoletta smiled. “The clue is referring to dry-stone walls, one of the symbols of Salento. You’re in luck: To see them you only have to take a few pawsteps from here!” We followed her outside the inn, where she continued to explain. “Dry-stone walls are typical around here. Farmers built them by placing stones on top of one another without using mortar between them. The walls mark the borders of each farm and keep animals out. Walls built using this technique are sometimes called paralupi, which means ‘wolf barriers.’” “D-did y-you say wolf barriers ?” I squeaked. “Is that because there are wolves here?!” Trap began to howl like a wolf and everyone burst out laughing! My snout turned redder than a cheese rind. How embarrassing!


A Feast for the Eyes . . . and Ears!

“The practice of making these walls is passed down from one generation to the next,” Nicoletta said. “The mice who build them are called paritaru, or ‘wall makers.’” As soon as I sent our photo to the judges, the next clue arrived. Thea read it for everyone to hear:

“Look upon my eight perfect faces. They make this site unique among places.” 66

*Ah! I’m sure you’ll like this!

“Don’t worry about wolves, Geronimo,” Nicoletta assured me. Then she led us down the road a bit and showed us a traditional stone wall. It was the perfect backdrop for our next selfie!

“Ah! Sono sicura che vi piacerà!”* Nicoletta cried. “The clue is talking about the famouse Castel del Monte! The fortress was built by Emperor Frederick II and completed in 1240. It’s a unique shape, and it’s so tall you can even see the sea from it!” We headed back to the farm and climbed into Nicoletta’s SUV to head to the castle. We stopped to see some of the giant olive trees growing throughout the region. Nicoletta explained, “These trees are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Some have been here for almost three thousand years!” I was amazed. “Cheese and crackers!” I exclaimed. “These trees are natural monuments!” While Benjamin and Trappy played hide-and-seek among the trees, I heard Benjamin’s stomach growl. Grr! “I’m so hungry I could eat an entire wheel of cheese!” Trappy added.


A Feast for the Eyes . . . and Ears! “Let’s go!” Nicoletta said. “We’ll be passing close to Bari—we’ll stop there for a delicious meal.” As we walked through Bari’s old city, Trap stopped in his pawtracks: Right before his hungry eyes was a street with table after table of orecchiette —small, BARI dome-shaped pasta—drying in the sun. This pasta is typical in Puglia and is named for its unique shape. “Wow!” Benjamin squeaked as he looked at his tablet. “This must be the famouse Strada delle

Puglia Orecchiette—it’s a street where tourists come to watch mice making pasta by paw.” After an incredible pasta lunch in a nearby restaurant, we strolled through the streets of Bari while Nicoletta told us more about Castel del Monte. Still, we were blown away by the sight that greeted us when we arrived at Emperor . Frederick II’s fabumouse


ORECCHIETT The word “ore E cchiette” means “small ears,” and that’s exactly w pasta looks lik hat this e! It’s prepared carefull yb and a thumb in y hand, d gives each piece entation its distinctive shape.

A Feast for the Eyes . . . and Ears!

*Why, it’s stupendous! I’ve never seen anything like it!

Thea cried, “Ma è stupendo! Non ho mai visto niente di simile!”* The building’s SHAPE was truly unique! It was an octagon, with an octagonal tower at each of its eight corners! While Trappy snapped a photo to send to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges, Benjamin EMPEROR FREDERICK II He spoke six languages: Latin, studied the building. Sicilian, German, French, “Did Frederick II love Greek, and Arabic! geometry?” he asked. “Yes, he did,” Thea replied with a smile. “They say the castle’s octagonal shape represents the emperor’s quest for perfection. Its design is the perfect blend of the Greek, Latin, Arabic, Jewish, and Germanic cultures that Frederick II brought together in his court.” Just then, my phone buzzed with a new BZZ message. I read aloud:


“Great job, Team Stilton. The adventure continues . . . in Molise!” 70

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME One of Emperor Frederick II’s great interests was falconry, a sport that uses falcons to hunt and catch prey. On the second floor of Castel del Monte is an area called Falconer’s Tower. According to legend, the emperor had it built to house his loyal falcon. But this is only a myth: Frederick, like all great lovers of birds of prey, knew that falcons need space to fly and spread their majestic wings. It’s more likely that the tower in question, which was dark and unwelcoming for guests, was used by Frederick for another one of his interests: observing the sky, the stars, and the planets!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Alberobello The next time we are able to visit Puglia, we’ll have to spend a few days in Alberobello in a trullo. That’s a traditional dry stone hut unique to the area with a conical roof made of stones. The peaks of the roofs have decorative spires, which were thought to ward off bad luck.

It looks like something out of a fairytale!

Monte Sant’Angelo

A place between the earth and the sky!

Before leaving Puglia, we visited the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo sul Gargano in the hill town of Monte Sant’Angelo, which is 800 meters (2,624 feet) in elevation. The sanctuary is a complex of stone buildings built around a cave where a chapel dedicated to St. Michael is located. It’s incredible—but exhausting—to climb all the way up there!

Foresta Umbra In northern Puglia, we visited the spectacular Foresta Umbra, a protected natural area within the Gargano National Park. Umbra is not to be confused with Umbria, the Italian region. In fact, Umbra means dark and shaded, and more than two thousand plant species can be found in this forest. Animals including roe deer, wild boar, badgers, and dormice roam undisturbed through the woods, while woodpeckers, barn owls, magpies, and eagle-owls fly among the trees.

The unique Foresta Umbra!


The Secrets of the Bells

As soon as I sent the photo to the judges, another message arrived from them:

Region: Molise Capital: Campobasso

When we received our first clue about Molise, we , we were still couldn’t figure it out! But with Nicoletta, so we asked for her help. “Hmm . . .” She thought a moment. Here, r inging h as made “I think if you head to histo Ask fo r help ry. Agnone, an enchanting the my to solve stery! town in the province of Isernia, you’ll find what you’re looking for.” Then she gave us a sly wink and didn’t squeak another word! So we thanked Nicoletta for her hospitality, rented a van, and hit the road once again. Sure enough, when we reached Agnone, we realized we were in a town that has produced bel l s for a thousand years! I turned to Thea: “Forza, facciamoci un selfie davanti a uno dei campanili!”*



*Come on, let’s take a selfie in front of one of those bell towers!


Team Stilton, you’re close, but that’s not the right place. Find the cradle of the bells for this leg of the race!

“Rancid ricotta! We figured out the town, but not the place!” I told my family. “What could the ‘cradle of the bells’ be?!” “It must be the place where the bells are born!” Trappy said, pointing to a map. “Look here: It’s the Marinelli Bell Foundry, a factory that makes bells!” At the factory, we met a kind rat named Francesco who took us on a guided tour. He explained that the foundry in Agnone is one


The Secrets of the Bells of the oldest in the world. Artisans there use the same techniques they have used for a thousand years to make bell with a lovely, bright sound that are used all over Italy. Benjamin and Trappy were fascinated with the tour. They peppered Francesco with endless questions.

Molise “Is this one really a thousand years old?” Trappy asked as we passed by a massive bell. “It is,” Francesco explained. “An ancestor of the Marinelli family made it. This work is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation!” The two mouselings listened intently. “Today, the ringing of the bells is almost always controlled electronically ,” Francesco continued. “In the past, though, a campanaro, or bell ringer, had to pull ROPES attached to the bells to create a specific melody.” “That sounds tricky!” Trappy commented. Francesco nodded. “It was an important job. Different melodies meant different things. They let rodents in town know it was time to wake up,


The Secrets of the Bells The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

that the day’s work was done, or that there was danger, trouble, or a fire. The bells were even used to gather mice together for occasions.” After learning the secrets of the bells, we took a picture and sent it to the judges. This time, we’d gotten it right! We received our next clue a few moments later. Our next stop would be Abruzzo, a region known for its natural wonders. We were excited to continue our incredible journey—after a good night’s rest!

Caciocavallo Silano

A whiskerlicking-good treat!


While we were in Molise, we had to try the famouse cheese caciocavallo silano. It’s a specialty originally from Sila, Calabria, which then spread to Basilicata, Molise, and Puglia. Every member of the Stilton family loves cheese—what rodent doesn’t?—and caciocavallo silano was fabumouse!

HOW IS CACIOCAVALLO MADE? First, cow’s milk is curdled: it is boiled and mixed with rennet, which makes it soft. This mixture is left to mature for 4-10 hours. When it is elastic and stringy, the mixture is kneaded, cooled in water, and cured in brine (a solution of water and salt that flavors the cheese). Each piece is tied with twine at the top and paired with a second piece of cheese. Then the pairs of cheese are hung to age a cavallo, or “on horseback,” straddling a wooden beam. That’s how this cheese gets its name!



All Aboard! Region: Abruzzo Capital: L’Aquila

The next morning, my family and I were trying to figure out the best way to get to Abruzzo when my phone buzzed. It was another clue! B Z Z

“A relic on rails will give you a ride Across a magnificent countryside!”


Trap grinned. “I know this one!” he said proudly. “I’m an expert on historic trains. There’s a railway that connects Abruzzo and Molise, and the train cars are all from the 1920s! If I remember correctly, we’ll need to depart from Sulmona.” We looked at the map and saw that it wasn’t far. Benjamin checked his tablet and confirmed. “You’re right, Uncle Trap!” he said. “If we leave right now, we should be able to get to Sulmona in time to catch what’s known as the Italian TransSiberian Railway.” “Trans-Siberian, as in the train line that crosses Russia?” Trappy asked in confusion.


Benjamin nodded. “Yes, but this is the Italian version,” he explained. “It departs from Sulmona in Abruzzo and arrives at Isernia in Molise, crossing spectacular mountains and valleys, and passing by quaint villages. Even though we’ve already been to Molise, it’s worth the trip!” Cheese niblets, how exciting ! We hurried to Sulmona, got our tickets, and hopped aboard the train. As we pulled out of the station, we pressed our snouts up against the windows to admire the countryside. Seated next to us was a friendly mouse. “I’m

All Aboard!


*You’ve chosen a wonderful place to spend your vacation.

Rosella,” she introduced herself. “You’re tourists, right? Avete scelto un posto magnifico per passare le vostre vacanze.* I live in Sulmona, so I’ve taken this train many times. It’s unforgettable! Along the way, we’ll pass RivisondoliINE Pescocostanzo: At 1,200 meters ENN OIS P A AM (almost 4,000 feet), it’s one of CH the highest-elevation train stations in Italy!” “Wow! ” Trappy said. Rosella smiled. “And then we’ll go through Majella National Park, a true natural gem!” She pointed to the slope of a mountain out the window. “Do you see those brown spots up there? Those are Apennine chamoiS —mammals similar to goats that live in the mountains of Italy. They are a vulnerable species protected by Italian law.” Rosella pointed out roe deer in the distance and told us all about the Apennine wolf ,



which also lives in the park. Luckily, we didn’t see any wolves. Just the idea of coming face-to-face with one made my whiskers shiver with fright! Suddenly, Trap pointed to the sky. “Look!” he squeaked. “It’s a golden eagle !” Holey cheese! The bird had a wingspan of more than two meters, or six and a half feet! When we reached Carovilli in Molise, we heard the ringing of the bells and thought back to the LE marvelmouse bell factory in GOLDEN EAG Agnone. We stopped to stretch our paws before climbing back onto the train for the return to Sulmona. When our journey was complete, we snapped a selfie by the train. C lick! The next morning, I was awakened by the familiar buzzing of my cell phone. I had to read the next clue a few times before I figured it out:

“Where the trout stay nice and chill, Pick up a paddle for a real thrill!” 83

All Aboard! Moldy mozzarella, I had a bad feeling about this one! The Tirino River in Abruzzo is known for its CHILLY water, and this clue made it sound like we were supposed to take a canoe trip on it! Benjamin and Trappy were almost jumping out of their fur with excitement. “Come on, Uncle G!” Benjamin encouraged me. “This will be super fun!” Sigh, how could I say no to my sweet little nephew? Reluctantly, I agreed. Getting into the canoe without capsizing wasn’t easy, but after a few minutes we were heading down the river . Trap

Abruzzo and I were in one boat, and Thea, Benjamin, and Trappy were in another. The landscape was breathtaking! Trap kicked back his paws, leaving all the paddling to me. Rancid ricotta, it was a workout ! Puff! Pant! Puff! Thea noticed Trap, and called out to him. “What are you doing? Taking a rat nap? Come on, you have to paddle, too. Geronimo can’t do it all!” Trap moved to take an oar, which made our canoe rock dangerously from side to side. HEEEL L L L LPPP! As we made our way down the river, I was


struck by the colors surrounding me: the sparkling clear turquoise water alongside the white willow trees and their dark trunks along the shore. What an enchanting display! “Did you know the Tirino River is the clearest and cleanest river in Italy?” Thea asked the rest of us. “The river is fed by microsprings .” “It’s true!” Benjamin squeaked in agreement. Microsprings are cracks in “And brown trout and the earth where water flows crawfish live in the into the river. cool, fresh waters.” The canoe trip down the river ended up being just what we needed—I didn’t even fall in! In fact, it had been relaxing and refreshing. As we climbed out of the boats, my phone buzzed with our next clue. I cleared my throat and read it to UT BROWN TRO the others:

“Once you climb this castle’s tower, You’ll see the river where you spent the past hours!” 86

“Oh! I know!” Trappy squeaked. “It’s the tower at Rocca Calascio. I spotted it as we were arriving. The view from up there must be FABUMOUSE!” she added. “Che ne direste di andarci domani?”* I said. “If we leave early, we might even see some roe deer on the way!” Trappy and Benjamin agreed. Then we enjoyed a well-earned dinner and a great night’s sleep at a nearby inn. The next day we made the climb to Rocca Calascio where we took a guided tour and learned the history of the famouse FORTRESS. Construction on the Rocca began in the eleventh century, and it sits on a hill from which you can enjoy a spectacular view. “The WATCHTOWER was built first,” our guide explained. “From the top of the tower, you can still look out over all the valleys and land in the area today. A small village developed near the castle, but after a powerful earthquake at the beginning of the 18th century, the old part of town was soon abandoned.”


*Why don’t we go tomorrow?

All Aboard!

All Aboard!


Our guide turned to Benjamin and Trappy. “Did you know that movies have been filmed here?” “Wow!” Benjamin squeaked. “I wish we could take our selfie with a famouse star!” In the end, my nephew had to settle for a selfie with yours truly—his pawsome Uncle G! I snapped the picture and sent it to the judges. The reply came quickly: Our time in Abruzzo had come to an end, and Umbria awaited us! “Aw, too bad,” Benjamin said sadly. “I was hoping we’d have time to explore Majella National

Park. And if it were wintertime, we could have gone S K I ING , too!” “Don’t worry,” Thea told my nephew. “We’ll come back when it snows , I promise! But for now, let’s get ready to head to Umbria. I just know it’s going to be truly fabumouse!”



In Abruzzo, y ou ing while you can go skimagnificent se take in the a Passo Lancian views! The o – Majelletta ski resort ov erl of the Adriati ooks parts c Sea.

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Hermitages

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The National Laboratories of Gran Sasso From herm

itages to science!

Beyond the spectacular natural wonders of Abruzzo, visitors can also visit various hermitages. These are secluded, hard-to-reach places where visitors can isolate themselves in order to meditate, pray, or get in touch with nature. Some are really well hidden in natural caves or deep in the woods!

A Renaissance work in progress!

L'Aquila L’Aquila is the capital of the region of Abruzzo. The Renaissanc e castle Forte Spagnolo, built in the first half of the 16th century, is the symbol of the city. In 2009, L’Aquila and the surrounding area was struck by a strong earthquake, and reconstruction efforts are still underway.

Hermitages carved into rock aren’t the only things you’ll find in Abruz zo. It is also home to the National Laboratorie s of Gran Sasso (LNGS), the largest underground laboratory in the world dedicated to the study of neutrinos and astroparticle physic s. It’s located about 1,400 meters (4,500 feet) below the Gran Sasso landmass. Every year, it hosts events, teaching labs, and conferences to help adults and children learn about the fascinating world of science! There are even training camps for students to explore the wonders of the planet. You can bet your whiskers that we'll be going back!

In Search of Inspiration . . . Region: Umbria Capital: Perugia

My family and I climbed into the van and headed toward Umbria. As soon as we reached the border of the region, we stopped in a shop in a small town to buy some local products. While there, we received our next clue from the THOUSAND WONDERS judges:


These fields create a colorful show: Poppies and daisies in a natural rainbow!

Each May and June, the fields of Castelluccio bloom with wild yellow mustard flowers, red poppies, white daisies, blue cornflowers, and violet lentils. Visitors come from near and far to see the spectacular sight, though picking or stepping on the flowers is not allowed.

Umbria Trap pointed to a poster hanging in the store window. “Look: It says here that in Castelluccio di Norcia, visitors can come admire the many colorful flowers that bloom in the fields around the town!” “Cheese niblets! You’ve solved the riddle, Trap!” I cried. “Castelluccio isn’t far from here,” the shop owner told us. “Why don’t you bike? It’s a wonderful experience, trust me!” We rented some bicycles and rode through the countryside. When we arrived in Castelluccio, we weren’t disappointed! We were greeted by a

you write nimo, did Gero nice little poem? a

In Search of Inspiration . . . breathtaking view: striped fields of vibrant red, violet, yellow, and blue flowers! It was truly fabumouse! We snapped a colorful selfie and sent it to the judges right away. They replied quickly to confirm that we had solved the riddle correctly, but they didn’t send the next clue. We decided to spend the night in Castelluccio so that we could visit another beautiful place nearby the next day: the springs of the Clitunno River. “Did you know that many famouse poets found inspiration along these banks?” I asked Benjamin and Trappy when we JOURNEY THROUGH TIME arrived at the river The charms of the Clitunno river have inspired many poets, including the early the next morning. ancient Roman poet Virgil (70 BCE I would have gladly – 19 CE), who praised the purity and power of the river’s currents. Apart written a few lines from its natural beauty, the area is also rich in history. A short distance of poetry myself from the springs is the Temple of in this peaceful Clitumnus, a small early medieval church and an architectural gem. corner of the world. This temple is important evidence of the presence of the Lombards Unfortunately, thanks in Italy. These people of Germanic to my cousin, I didn’t origin built a flourishing civilization in the Italian peninsula from the get the chance to 6th through 8th centuries. focus!


ave you found e on, h Com y inspiration yet? an

ou come up with Did y ything good? an

“Enough!” I squeaked in irritation. “I’m done trying!” “Sounds good to me!” Trap replied. “This place is nice, but aren’t you hungry?” I had to admit that Trap was right: It was time for lunch ! We headed for the beautiful, historic Spoleto, one of the oldest cities in Umbria. “My friend Willy is a movie director, and he comes here every year for the Festival of the Two

Umbria Worlds,” Thea remarked. “Next time, I’m coming with him!” “That sounds like fun!” Trappy squeaked. “But what exactly is it?” Thea smiled. “È una manifestazione , danza, e teatro!”* internazionale di Just then, my phone buzzed. I read the latest message aloud: Z


BZ Z Z “He painted a circle so round and true, B

He wowed the pope with what he drew!” Trappy bounced up and down with excitement. “Oh, I know!” she squeaked. “I learned about this in art class. Giotto was a famouse Italian painter and architect. He once impressed Pope

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Giotto is one of the most important painters in Italian art history. He was born in 1267 near Florence. It is said that while he was an apprentice to the great painter Cimabue, one day he drew a picture of a fly that was so realistic the master painter tried to squash it! Giotto was one of the greatest innovators in western art: He was the first to represent sacred individuals in a way that showed their humanity and feelings. His paintings were detailed and realistic, which was a departure from the style at the time.

*It’s an international event featuring music, dance, and theater!

In Search of Inspiration . . .

In Search of Inspiration . . .

*Let’s go take a look!

Boniface VIII by drawing a circle that was so perfectly ROUND , everyone thought he had used a compass! Amazed by the artist’s skill, the pope immediately entrusted Giotto to create his portrait.” “Great work, Trappy!” I congratulated her. “Giotto must be the answer to our riddle! Some of his frescoes are in the Basilica of Assisi. Andiamo subito a dare un’occhiata!”*

Umbria We arrived in JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Assisi and reached Born in Assisi in 1181 or 1182 to a wealthy family, Francis the beautiful lived for many years in ease Basilica of Saint and luxury. After fighting in a war, however, he returned comFrancis just as the pletely changed by the horrors he witnessed. He decided to sun was setting. give up everything he owned We found a place to dedicate his life to helping others: He wore a robe and left to spend the night, his home. He lived in poverty and had a mission to serve and the next day we those in need. headed to the basilica bright and early to admire Giotto’s fresCoes . We learned that each painting depicts a particular moment in the life of St. Francis, who lived in this city in the 12th and 13th centuries. We snapped a selfie in front of some of the famouse frescoes and sent it to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. Trap grabbed my phone out of my paw to read the reply:

“Good work, Team Stilton! Now on to the Marche. We’ll see you there in two days!”



The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Perugia We couldn’t travel to Umbria without visiting Perugia: It’s the city of chocolate! We discovered many secrets about this delicious ingredient. In fact, there is an enormouse chocolate factory right in Perugia! It’s one of the bestknown chocolate factories in Italy and in the world. Do you know where chocolate comes from? It comes from the seeds of cacao pods, which grow on the trunk and branches of cocoa trees! The pods are split open and the seeds are removed, fermented, and dried in the sun. The seeds are then shipped to chocolate factories, where they are roasted and melted

Save some for us, Trap!

into a chocolate liquor. Finally, the chocolate liquor is mixed with sugar and milk before it is molded into bars and other shapes for packaging.

UMBRIA JAZZ FESTIVAL Perugia is home to the Umbria Jazz Festival, the more important jazz festival in Italy, which has been running for almost 50 years!

Pozzo di San Patrizio

A well of wonders! The Pozzo di San Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well) in the historic city center of Orvieto was built in the 16th century by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to serve as the water supply for the inhabitants of the fortress in case of a siege. The remarkable well is more than 50 meters (164 feet) deep and 13 meters (42 feet) wide! Two spiral staircases wrap around the center shaft of the well but never meet. The structure was planned this way so mule-drawn carts going down to collect water could avoid running into those coming back up with the water. Thanks to the well’s 72 windows and a skylight at the top, it is well lit throughout the day.


Underground Magic!

*I don’t have the foggiest idea what that could be . . .

Region: Marche Capital: Ancona

My family and I continued on in our rented van toward the Marche region. We were in a great mood thanks to the bag of chocolates that we bought during our trip to Perugia! As we rode along, my phone buzzed with our next riddle. My sister read aloud: BZZ

“Water drops falling around the clock Formed this underground castle of rock!” Thea remarked, “Non ho la più pallida idea di che cosa possa essere . . .”* Just then, we passed a road sig n for the Grotte di Frasassi—the famouse Frasassi Caves. “Did you see that sign?” Benjamin squeaked. “Maybe the riddle is referring to underground caves!”



“Well, what are we waiting for?” Trap asked, his eyes twinkling with excitement. “Let’s find out!” As Trap drove, Thea made a quick phone call. But she spoke so softly I couldn’t hear a squeak. How odd ! “Done!” she said, hanging up. “I’ve booked a visit to the caves, along with a little surprise for Geronimo!” Moldy mozzarella! What was she up to? As soon as we arrived, I found out: My adventurous sister had reserved a caving tour for the two of us! “How cool, Uncle G!” Benjamin said as he looked at me in awe. “You’ll get to go deep into the cave using ropes and lights . . .” My paws trembled in fright. “Don’t be a scaredy-mouse, Geronimo,” Trap teased me. “When else will you have the chance to descend into a dark, damp, slippery cave?!” Squeak! There was no way I could say no to my sister and disappoint my nephew, though, so I was soon outfitted in a caving harness , a helmet, and boots. Our guide gave us some brief instructions and then we descended into the first


chasm, which was 30 meters (or 98 feet) deep!

I was scared out of my fur! “You can do it, Ger!” Thea encouraged me. “The guides know all the routes. They’ll keep us safe!” The guide smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, you’ll be hooked up to this line the whole time!” I looked at the little carabiner hook the rope was connected to and turned as a pale as mozzarella. Rancid ricotta, I’m too fond of my fur for this! But I gathered my courage and followed Thea and the guide. And I have to admit, it was a fabumouse experience!

of re formations STALAGMITES a se up from the ri limestone that created when e ar ground. They deposit layers r drops of wate lly on the floor ua us , ls of minera of a cave.

STALACTITES are limestone formations that hang from the roof or ceiling of the cave.

Our guide led us through passages that were as narrow as a cheese stick! In fact, I found myself: slithering . . . crawling . . . climbing . . . and slipping . . . right onto my tail ! When we reached the cave’s exit, we met up with Trap, Benjamin, and Trappy. They had taken an easier path on paw. “Uncle G, did you see the stalactites?” Trappy asked me excitedly. “They were like enormouse icicles attached to the ceiling!”

Underground Magic! “What a marvelmouse place!” Benjamin agreed, his eyes sparkling. It was getting late, so we hurried to take a selfie for the Thousand Wonders judges. Their reply came right away:


Where there is a tower and two walls, Love immortal lives on within the halls.

“I read in the guidebook that this region is full of castles,” I told my family. “And the most

Marche impressive tower JOURNEY THROUGH TIME is at the fortress in Dante Alighieri is considered one of the greatest writers from Gradara. Maybe the medieval period. He was that’s the answer to born in Florence, Italy in 1265, and his most famous work is the riddle?” The Divine Comedy, which describes his imaginary journey We drove to the through the afterlife. In it, Danancient town, which te tells many stories, including the unforgettably tragic love sits on a small hill story of Paolo and Francesca, a woman who lived in the dominated by the Gradara Castle! beautiful fortress. We toured its rooms decorated with splendid frescoes . And we learned that legend says the FORTRESS was the scene of the tragic love story of Paolo and Francesca, which Dante Alighieri wrote about in his Divine Comedy. “That explains why the riddle mentions ‘love immortal!’” Thea squeaked. “Writers make the characters in their works immortal.” Benjamin was curious about the fortified wall that protected the building. He wanted to walk along the parapet with crenels, which was used to keep a lookout for enemies. When we had finished our tour, we snapped


a selfie and sent it to the judges. We were tired from our sightseeing, but it had been a magnificent day! While we waited for our next clue, I proposed taking a trip to Urbino, a walled medieval town built on two hills that became a center of the Italian Renaissance. We went the next day. It’s the birthplace of Raphael Sanzio, one of the most famouse Italian painters who lived during the 15th and 16th centuries. His paintings and frescoes are true mousterpieces! And the house where Raphael was born is now a museum. I explained to the mouselings that this type of museum is often found in Italy’s many cities of art , such as Perugia, Naples, Florence, Bologna, Palermo . . . As we walked through Urbino’s steep streets (called piole), we admired the many splendid buildings. “Federico da Montefeltro was the Duke of Urbino in the 1400s,” I explained to Benjamin and Trappy. “He made this city a true Renaissance gem. The Duke’s Palace, which he commissioned, remains one of the most famouse symbols of that era.”

Benjamin squeaked with excitement: “Questa volta vi faccio io da guida!* We studied the Renaissance in school, and we learned that some kings and lords brought the most famouse artists to their courts to make their homes and their cities more beautiful!” I suddenly realized I hadn’t heard my cousin Trap’s incessant squeaking lately. I turned to look for him, but he was nowhere to be found! Where had he scampered off to? My family and I retraced our steps through porticos and palaces. We were



*This time, I get to be the guide!

Underground Magic!

Underground Magic! The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

convinced Trap was hiding as one of his jokes ! But instead, Trappy discovered him leaning against a wall, devouring a feast of local desserts: crema fritta (fried custard), anise cookies, and ciambelle di mosto—a sweet bread flavored with must, the sweet juice from freshly pressed grapes. “Ah, Marche is so sweet!” my cousin squeaked, sighing happily. We all burst out laughing. I suggested that we go to the hotel to rest for a while, and everyone agreed—especially Trap, who was stuffed! Moments later, we received our next message from the Thousand Wonders judges:


The town of Fabriano is world-famous for its paper-making tradition. At the Paper and Watermark Museum, we learned that this extraordinary material was invented by the Chinese. But it was the Arabs who refined the paper-making process and brought it to Europe. As participants in the Thousand Wonders competition, we were invited to take a fabumouse seminar where we learned how to make paper with our own paws!

Good job, Stiltons! See you in two days in Emilia-Romagna, where you’ll find welcoming rodents, beautiful cities, and fine cuisine! Great Gouda! Thanks to that clue, we couldn’t wait to reach our next destination!


How fascinating!

A Fabumouse Dinner! Region: Emilia-Romagna Capital: Bologna

To reach Emilia-Romagna, we took a train that brought us to Rimini, one of the most famouse cities on the Italian coast. Once we arrived, we sat down at an outdoor piadina shop that had tables by the sea. A breeze ruffled our whiskers as we each enjoyed a sandwich on piadina, a rustic flatbread that is stuffed with fillings like fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. We were wondering what our next stop might be when our next clue arrived. BZZ Z Trappy read it aloud: BZ

“Many tiny squares make this artwork so fine, The colorful shapes form a sparkling design!” 112

Emilia-Romagna “The clue must be about MOSAICS!” Thea squeaked. “We saw some in Sicily, too, remember?” I smiled and nodded. “Good thinking, Thea! I know the city of Ravenna is known for its Byzantine mosaics. Let’s head there!” We took the train to Ravenna. As we stepped out of the station, we walked into the city. “Look! It's the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia!” I cried as we were approaching.

Emilia-Romagna When we entered the basilica, we were struck by its splendor. We could have stood there for hours admiring the mosaics and frescoes, but the Thousand Wonders called to us! We snapped a selfie and sent it to the judges. In reply, we received our next clue. Thea read it aloud as we listened carefully:

*Let’s finish our visit and then go see the Basilica of San Vitale!

“No umbrella when it starts to rain? You won’t get soaked here—just use your brain!”

From the outside, the mausoleum looked like a simple brick building, but on the inside . . . , We found ourselves in a sea of COLORFUL mosaics. Moldy mozzarella! It was spectacular! “They are such tiny pieces of glass —just think of the patience needed to make a work of art like that!” Trappy gasped. Even Trap was quiet as he studied the ceiling, . which was covered in I said to my family, “Finiamo il giro e poi andiamo a vedere anche la Basilica di San Vitale!”*




A Fabumouse Dinner! I thought and thought, and suddenly understood. “We have to go to Bologna!” I squeaked. “No other city has as many porticos , which are also called colonnades. You can walk through the entire city center under cover. That’s why you’ll stay dry if it rains, even without an umbrella!” In the twitch of a whisker, we jumped on the next train and headed toward the capital of Emilia-Romagna.

Emilia-Romagna Trap peppered us with facts about Bologna. “Did you know the city has three nicknames? Bologna La Dotta, Bologna La Rossa, and Bologna La Grassa,” he said. “La dotta means ‘intellectual’ because of the well-known UNIVERSITY of Bologna. La rossa means ‘red,’ and refers to the city’s many red roofs. And la grassa means ‘fat’ because of the city’s incredible cuisine!” Once we arrived, we explored Bologna’s famouse colonnades. “Where should we take our selfie?” I asked my family.


“Right here, Uncle G!” Ben and Trappy squeaked, pointing to the left. At the same time, Trap shouted “Here!” and pointed right! Thea made the call: She directed us to Via Marsala, where we found the oldest colonnades in the city and snapped the perfect selfie! CLICK ! We didn’t realize we were blocking the way for a rodent who was carrying a lot of shopping bags. We apologized, and my niece and nephew offered

The wooden porticos of Via Marsala are some of the most charming sights in Bologna.

*Don’t forget the parmesan cheese! It’s one of the culinary specialties of this region!

A Fabumouse Dinner!

to help her. She was headed to her restaurant , and she invited us to follow her! The mouse introduced herself as Agnese. Later, after a delicious plate of tagliatelle al ragù—a flat, ribbon-like egg pasta served with sauce—she told us the secrets of Emilia-Romagna cuisine. “Non perdetevi il parmigiano! È una delle eccellenze gastronimiche di questa zona!”* “I’ll take an entire wheel, please!” Trap squeaked. “Well, they each weigh about 40 kilos, or 88 pounds, so you might have a hard time carrying it!” Agnese replied, laughing. My cousin pointed to me. “HE will take it for me!” Squeak! Luckily, Trap got distracted by a big plate of tortellini—ring-shaped pasta stuffed with meat and cheese! It was a truly fabumouse dinner. Just as we were finishing, we received a message from the judges that our next stop was . . .Tuscany!


The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!


Piadinas are delicious!

Waterways Long ago, Bologna was a city of canals that were used to transport goods and powered the mills and factories, called opifici. Then, little by little, streets and sidewalks took the place of the old waterways. But if you look though the Finestrella di Via Piella—or the window on Piella Street—you’ll see one of the old canals!

Bologna . . . by water!

Piadinas forever! We enjoyed them so much that we asked for the recipe to try making them at home. Here’s everything you need: Ingredients: 500 grams of pastry flour • 170 grams of water (or milk,

for a softer dough) • 125 grams of lard (or for a vegetarian version, 80 grams of olive oil) • 15 grams of salt • 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding the milk (or water) a little bit at a time. When the mixture is well-blended, put it on a work surface and form it into a ball. 2. Let it rest for 30 minutes, then divide it into small portions of about 100 grams each. 3. Flour the work surface, then roll out each piece with a rolling pin to form thin rounds about 3-4 millimeters thick. 4. Cook each round on a pre-heated, lightly oiled nonstick frying pan. Each one needs about two minutes per side, or until the surface is lightly golden. 5. Let them cool, then fold each piadina in half and fill it however you please. One idea: Fresh mozzarella cheese and prosciutto!

MUSEO FERRARI We wanted to stop at the Ferrari Museum in Maranello to learn the history of one of the most famouse automakers in the world. But we didn’t have time! We’ll stop there on our next trip, and maybe we’ll even get to drive a single-seater. Thea can’t wait!


Up and Down in the Tuscan Hills Region: Tuscany Capital: Florence

To reach Tuscany from Emilia-Romagna, we rented an electric car and drove across the Apennine mountains. Great Gouda! What breathtaking views! During the trip we received a message from the Thousand Wonders judges. Benjamin read it aloud:

We didn’t know the answer, so we decided to head to Florence, the capital of Tuscany and one of the most famouse cities in the world. We knew we had reached the city when we saw the dome of the Cathedral of Florence in the distance. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century.

*This is a real surprise!

“In this place, you will find a special thing: A pool in the main square, fed by hot springs!”

My whiskers trembled with excitement. “It was built more than six hundred years ago, yet even today it is the largest brickwork dome in the world!” As we parked the car and walked through the city center, we puzzled over the riddle. “If there’s a pool in the middle of a square in Florence, then it would probably be in the travel guide, right?” Trappy asked. Before I could reply, Benjamin pawed me his tablet. We had just received a special Th note from the Won e Thousa nd der s ju a d g s u es h Thousand Wonders r ave Stilt prise fo on: r T e judges: Our family am the a trip thro Chi u a on had won a bonus five nti reg gh i o bic n excursion ! ycl es! “Questa sì che è una sorpresa!”* squeaked Thea. “Wow!” Trap said happily. “What a treat, right Cuz?” “A long bike ride is a treat?!” I groaned. “Oh, my poor sore tail!”


Up and Down in the Tuscan Hills “Cheer up, Ger!” Thea said. “I looked at the pictures of the bicycles waiting for us in Chianti: They’re electric !” Cheese and crackers! That was good news! We spent the afternoon immersed in the artistic mousterpieces of Florence and finished the day with a walk across the Ponte Vecchio, the most famouse bridge on the Arno River. The next morning we set off for Chianti, a region around Florence, Siena, and Arezzo that’s well known for its legendary wines. I have to admit the electric bicycle tour was a fabumouse experience! The wind ruffled our

Tuscany fur as we saw the beautiful countryside , which was dotted with old farmhouses and tall cypresses. At the end of the day, I was feeling great—but we still hadn’t solved our riddle! “I can’t think clearly on an empty stomach, can you?” Trap squeaked when I reminded him. “I think we should treat ourselves to a tasty dinne first!”

*I can’t wait to take a dip in the wellness!

Up and Down in the Tuscan Hills Lucky for us, we had met two friendly rats on the road: Manlio and Gaia. They suggested a nearby restaurant, and we invited them to eat with us. Our new friends told us all about the products the Chianti region is known for, including oil, bread, and wine. “The composition of the soil, the altitude, and the big difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures are great for growing grape vines and olive trees,” Manlio explained. “That’s why Chianti produces such legendary wines and olive oils!” Thea, in turn, told them about our scavenger hunt and the unsolved riddle. “In Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia, there’s a town near Siena with a square that has a pool fed by hot springs right at its center!” Gaia said. “It’s called Bagno Vignoni.” “Of course!” Thea squeaked. “That must be our next destination ! Thanks a million, Gaia!” “Non vedo l’ora di fare un tuffo nel benessere!”* I squeaked happily. Manlio explained, “From the main square, the thermal water travels to different points in the


town—one place you could put your paws in it to soak is at the Parco dei Mulini nearby!” The next day we drove to Bagno Vignoni. What a dream: hot springs, warm water, and plenty of space to relax! After we had snapped our selfie, I would have happily spent a few days enjoying some welldeserved rest. But we quickly received a new message from the judges. I read it aloud: BZZ

“When you arrive, just go with the flow And take a leap into the world of Tarot!” 127


Up and Down in the Tuscan Hills Trappy unrolled the map of Tuscany. “I know this one!” she said. “It’s The Tarot Garden at Capalbio.” “Too bad we don’t have more time to visit the Isle of Elba first,” I The Tarot Garden was created said with a sigh. “It has by the 20th century Frencht Sain American artist Niki de wonderful beaches and Phalle. It is home to gigantic is part of the beautiful sculptures dedicated to the s card of k dec Tarot, a special Tuscan Islands illustrated with mythological Biosphere Reserve. and symbolic figures. No guided tours are offered We’ll have to go there because Saint Phalle felt that on another trip!” everyone should view and interpret the sculptures for “And I would have themselves. loved to stop by the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera,” Thea said. “Piaggio is the manufacturer that created the legendary Vespa SCOOTER , and the museum has a fabumouse display of those historic vehicles!” Benjamin was busy taking notes on his tablet. “Don’t worry!” he reassured us. “We’ll visit both spots the next time we’re in Italy! I’ve added them to the list…”


Once we arrived in Capalbio, we explored the garden , which had been created by the FrenchAmerican artist Niki de Saint Phalle. She was inspired by the great Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí to create STATUES representing the figures from Tarot cards. We snapped lots of fun photos but decided that the picture of Trappy was the best! I sent it to the judges and quickly received this reply: BZZ

Good work, Team Stilton! Now prepare to leave for your next stop: The island of Sardinia!



The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!

The Palio of Siena

The Marble Quarries of Carrara The marble quarries of Carrara are world famouse. Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), one of the greatest sculptors of all time, spent time on-site in Carrara selecting the marble used in many of his sculptures! He wanted to see the various types of marble available up close, something he could only do by working directly with the quarrymen—the people who excavate the stone. Today you can visit the same quarries that Michelangelo went to. How cool!

Can you believe the great Michelangelo once visited these same marble quarries?

What an incredible show! The Palio of Siena is the most famouse historic horse race in Italy. It consists of three laps around the Piazza del Campo in Siena, and the winner is the horse that finishes first—with or without its rider! This race, which has ancient origins, has been beloved by the city’s citizens, who are members of one of seventeen Contrade, or districts. The city works all year on plans for the race, which takes place every July and August. The sought-after first prize is the Drappellone, a large flag painted each year by a different artist. It remains on display in the museum of the winning district.

Land of a Thousand Faces Region: Sardinia Capital: Cagliari

We headed straight to Piombino, which is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Capalbio. From there, we took an overnight ferry to Sardinia, arriving in the town of Olbia at dawn the next morning. The cool breeze carried with it the strong scent of MYRTLE, a common plant on the island. We had barely set our paws on the ground when we received the next clue :


Here, those who worked below the earth Dug up minerals high in worth!

MEDITERRANEAN SCRUB The Sardinian coast is covered in distinctive Mediterranean plants, including holm oak, juniper, rock rose, olive and carob, heather, and, of course, myrtle.


Sardinia “Hmm . . . are there MINES around here?” I asked my family. They were already heading toward the center of Olbia, though, and didn’t hear me. But a nice mouse who was passing by did! “Of course!” the rodent squeaked. “I’m Antonio, and I’m from Sardinia. The subsoil here is rich in minerals , and mining is an important industry. You can visit the Geomineral Historic and Environmental Park of Sardinia to learn all about it!” My family saw me squeaking and scampered back to listen.

“Un parco?! E dove THE GEOMINERAL HISTORIC AND si trova?”* Thea asked. ENVIRONMENTAL PARK OF SARDINIA The park covers an area of 3,800 Antonio gave us square kilometers (1,465 square directions: The PARK miles), including 81 towns! In Sardinia, mining has shaped both was very large, but he the landscape and the culture advised us to go to one of the area. The park protects place in particular—the the natural environment but also the extraction wells, underGreat Mine of Serbariu ground tunnels, industrial plants, in Carbonia. He was railways, and workers' villages, as well as the cultural memories and even HAPPY to join us in archives of generations of miners! going there! So we rented a van and headed off in the direction of the Sulcis region in SOUTHERN Sardinia. In this area of the park, mining began in the 1800s, was at its height in the 1950s and 1960s, and ended by the 1990s. There was also a train station in the area, to transport the extracted material directly to the port of Sant’Antioco and onto large ships to be taken to the rest of Italy. We had just taken our selfie at the exit of the MINE when our next message arrived. I read it aloud:


“Ancient stones form this mysterious treasure: Beautiful towers that bring viewers great pleasure!”

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME The work force for the mines in Sardinia came from all over Italy. In 1940 there were over 3,000 miners working in Serbariu, plus everyone who transported and processed the extracted material.

“It must be the NURAGHI !” Thea exclaimed. “These ancient megalithic buildings are found only on Sardinia!” “Ho sempre sognato di vederli!”* Trappy cheered. Antonio was proud of our enthusiasm . “The nuraghi are really special,” he agreed.


*I’ve always dreamed of seeing them!

*A park?! Where is it located?

Land of a Thousand Faces

Land of a Thousand Faces “They are unique to our island and made of huge stacked BOULDERS . It is said that the nuraghi could have been lookout towers for defending against enemies , or they might have observations.” been used for Trap’s eyes widened. “Did you say gastronomical observations?!” “Trap!” I squeaked, sighing. “Not everything is about your stomach! Antonio said astronomical, not gastronomical!” “In Barumini you’ll find the Su Nuraxi archeological site,” Antonio continued. “It’s the best preserved Nuraghic site. You should definitely visit!”


JOURNEY THROUGH TIME The Su Nuraxi archeological site is the most famous Nuraghic defensive complex. It’s located in the hills of the city of Barumini and was built in the second millennium BCE. In the middle of a labyrinth of wells and cisterns is a central tower. It’s surrounded by four other towers, which were probably added at a later date. The main construction, called the keep, was originally more than 18 meters (almost 60 feet) high and contains three interconnected rooms.


Sardinia “LET’S GO! ” Benjamin and Trappy squeaked. The next day, when we finally reached our destination in our van, our jaws dropped: The Su Nuraxi complex was truly spectacular ! That evening, as the sun that had accompanied us all day began to set , we took a beautiful

Land of a Thousand Faces


photo. Then, tired but happy after our exciting day, we found a hotel for the night. There, Trap read the next message from the THOUSAND WONDERS judges: BZZ


“Great job, Stiltons! You’re fabumouse travelers. Liguria awaits you . . . but first, enjoy the Sardinian sea!” We took the message at its word: The next day we headed to the east coast of the island , to beautiful Ogliastra.

We enjoyed two relaxing days on BEACHES covered in white stones, fine sand, and red rocks. Though we were sad when it was time to go, we knew more adventures awaited! So we headed to Arbatax and boarded a ferry for Genoa, a town in Liguria. “It’s too bad we have to leave already,” I sighed as we got on the boat. “But soon we can enjoy a feast of trofie al pesto, right Trap?” I knew my cousin was a fan of the delicious dish of freshly made spiral-shaped pasta in pesto sauce. But where had Trap gone? “There he is!” Benjamin squeaked, laughing. He pointed to a rat who was running up the gangplank onto the ferry carrying three big boxes. “He must have made a quick stop at the bakery!”


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Masks and the Sardinian Carnival


Canto a Tenore The canto a tenore is a traditional Sardinian folk song. It is polyphonic (has two or more melodies) and composed of four male voices, called bassu, contra, boche and mesu boche, each with different stylistic characteristics. The men sing while standing in a close circle, and performances are common in restaurants and taverns and during Carnival and religious ceremonies. Even Trap wanted to try it!

Everyone’s in masks!

Sardinian Carnival involves traditional masks, made by skilled artisans, of characters called Mamuthones and Issohadores. This ancient ritual involves a parade of these characters. Masks that are to be worn in a parade must be light and manageable, while those that are meant to hang on a wall as decorations are heavy—they’re made from carved wood. The Mamuthones have dark masks and large cowbells on their backs and necks and walk in a precise rhythm. Meanwhile, the Issohadores have white masks and red jackets and lead the Mamuthones. Those who wear the masks undergo a real transformation as they slip into their solemn roles.

Surfing at Capo Mannu

Capo Mannu on the west coast of Sardinia is the perfect beach for those who love surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. The winds in the area, especially the mistral, regularly create waves that can be several meters (1 meter = 3,2 feet) high!

Between the Earth and the Sea Region: Liguria Capital: Genoa

As soon as we got off the ferry in Genoa, we had a delicious breakfast of cheese focaccia, a specialty from the nearby town of Recco. Squeak! It was whisker-licking good! Just as we were finishing, we received our next message from the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. I read it aloud:


“Here, creatures live behind the glass,

BZZ In colorful schools that have real class!”

“That’s an easy one!” Trappy squeaked. “The answer is fish ! I think we need to go to the Aquarium of Genoa!” It wasn’t hard to find the aquarium—there were signs everywhere, and it was a short scamper from the port. We bought tickets and happily entered the aquarium’s beautiful underwater world. We


Liguria were greeted by dolphins, penguins, seals, and jellyfish. The Aquarium of Genoa is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. There’s also a paws-on pool where you can touch stingrays (carefully, so you don't disturb them), and a fabumouse tank devoted to sharks! Yikes! Those shark teeth almost . . .

scared me

out of my fur!


After a few hours exploring the aquarium, we snapped a selfie (without a flash) in front of my favorite sea creature, the friendly dolphins . Then we waved goodbye and headed into the city of Genoa for lunch. We followed a delicious smell to its source and discovered a restaurant serving heaping bowls of —a classic Genoese dish. Cheese niblets, it was delicious! While we ate, we read in our guidebook that the narrow streets in the historic center of Genoa are called caruggi. After lunch, as we walked peacefully through the city.

pasta with

pesto sauce



“See those buildings?” I pointed them out to my family. “In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Genoa was a very powerful city. It was the port that many illustrious businessmice, merchants, nobility, and foreign princes passed through. “When these foreigners arrived in the city, they stayed in beautiful palaces, with rooms with


ia trof La


*Will we be staying in one of these palaces, too?

Between the Earth and the Sea plaster and frescoes, impressive staircases, and elegant gardens. These private residences were called Palazzi dei Rolli because in the past they were included in a rollo, or rotolo (Italian word for "list") of prestigious buildings.” “Anche noi saremo ospitati in uno di questi palazzi?”* Trappy asked hopefully. “Maybe next time!” I told her with a smile. “But tonight we’ll sleep in a charming inn!” “Uncle G, is it true that Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa?” Benjamin asked me as we made our way to the inn.

Liguria “That's what they say. But in 1492 he set sail from Palos, Spain, with three ships. After months of sailing, he finally hit land: he thought he had reached Asia, but he was in America!” “Have you heard of Emanuele Luzzati ?” Thea asked us. “He was a famouse Genoese artist. EMANUELE LU Emanuele Luzz ZZATI I love his work!” a spired by Gen ti was inOur conversation was oa, the city where he was bor interrupted by a message and died in 20 n in 1921 07. His love for theater beg from the Thousand Wonders an when he enjoy as a child, e d creating judges. Rat-munching puppet shows to amuse his sister. His endless rattlesnakes! We had im made him a high agination ly almost forgotten about our painter, decorat respected or, illustrator, ceramicist, set scavenger hunt! I read the an designer, and an d costume imator. riddle aloud:

“Colorful houses dot the shore. Come for an hour and you’ll stay for more!” Where could that mean? It was late and we were exhausted, so we decided to sleep on it. We would continue the competition in the morning! The next morning, I showed the riddle to


*Take the bus—your destination is Porto Venere!

Between the Earth and the Sea Giovanni, the owner of the inn. He was a mouse and he of few words, but he had a was happy to help! “Prendete l’autobus, la vostra destinazione è Porto Venere!”* he told me. After a pleasant ride along the coast, we ! reached Porto Venere. It was We snapped a selfie and sent it to the judges. B Z Z BZZ A new message arrived right away:

warm smile



“Great job, Team Stilton! You’ve completed this stop. Mountainous Piedmont is next!”


“But we just got here!” Thea . “I’m not ready to leave yet.” “Then let’s enjoy it a bit longer!” I told my sister. “We can take the train to Manarola and walk along part of the Via dell’Amore—the Path of Love—in Cinque Terre. Piedmont can wait until tomorrow!”

Porto Venere is a fishing village on the Gulf of La Spezia, also called the Gulf of Poets—named for the many literary talents who wrote about the area’s beauty. Porto Venere is known for its brightly colored houses. The nearby island of Palmaria is named for its crystal-clear water and is part of the Porto Venere Regional Nature Park.

The Path of Love is a path along the coast that goes between the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola. This romantic walk is part of the longer Blue Trail which goes from Riomaggiore to the town of Monterosso al Mare against the backdrop of the villages of the Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands.” Currently, only some sections of the Blue Trail are open to the public.

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Genoa and Shipbuilding

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Ligurian Pesto

Shipyards have played an important role in the development of Genoa’s economy. In the mid-1800s, several Genoese companies—such as those owned by Raffaele Rubattino and Giovanni Ansaldo—began building large ships that made history for their journeys across the oceans. In honor of the ties between the city, the sea, and sailing, the city hosts the Genoa International Boat Show every fall. The convention attracts boat experts and enthusiasts from around the world. We’ll be sure to check it out on our next visit!

A marvelmouse traveler!

SS REX The Italian ocean liner SS REX was built in Genoa and launched in 1931 in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena. The cruise ship was the largest built at the time, and in 1933 it won the Nastro Azzurro, the trophy for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean!

Ingredients for sauce to put over 2 servings of pasta: ½ garlic clove, crushed • 25 grams basil leaves • 35 grams Grana Padano cheese, grated • 15 grams pecorino cheese, grated • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil • A pinch of kosher salt • 8 grams pine nuts 1. Wash the basil well and let it dry. 2. Put the crushed garlic clove into a mortar with some kosher salt. Grind the ingredients in the mortar with a pestle and, when the garlic has turned into a cream, add the basil and a bit more salt. 3. Crush it with the pestle until it becomes a soft paste. 4. Add the pine nuts and crush them finely. 5. Add the grated cheeses and, finally, stream in the olive oil while mixing with the pestle. Buon appetito!

Can you smell the pesto from there?


Between the River and the Mountains Region: Piedmont Capital: Turin

We had just returned to Genoa after our visit to the Cinque Terre when a new message arrived. Thea grabbed my phone and read it aloud: B Z Z

“This Alpine tunnel was built through rock. To get there, it’s an uphill walk!”


Thea looked up at us. “I read about this!” she said. “In Monte Viso near the French border, a was built through the mountains during !” the Renaissance. It’s still open “Awesome!” Benjamin squeaked. “Let’s go!” We rented a car and The tunnel, known as the Buco di Viso, was built to headed north. connect the Italian com“The tunnel crosses the munity of Crissolo with the French community Italian border into France,” of Ristolas. Today, it is a Trappy said. “When you go popular destination for lk wa can o hikers, wh in, you say ‘Buongiorno,’ and through the 75 meter (246 when you exit on the other foot) long tunnel just as n tha re mo did s ant merch side, you say ‘Bonjour’!”

“We can reach the tunnel at the end of a three-hour hike through the mountains,” Benjamin said as he consulted his tablet. “We’ll need to rent some hiking gear, but we can do it!” Moldy mozzarella! A three-hour hike?! I couldn’t say no to my sweet nephew, but Trap was disappointed. He had been dreaming of a lunch involving truffle in the city of Alba! A TRUFFLE is a ty that grows und pe of fungus erground amon g the roots of tre e hazelnut, lind s such as oak, en Some edible sp , and poplar. e fle are consid cies of trufered to be rea l delicacies.


500 years ago!


Going through the Buco di Viso itself was reserved for only expert hikers, but we could still enjoy a pleasant walk up to it. Soon, we strapped on our backpacks and picked up our walking sticks. Then we followed our guide, Bartolomeo, along the mule track that would take us to the tunnel. “During the Renaissance, caravans carried from the Camargue, a region in the South of



Between the River and the Mountains

The Langhe is a the Piedmont n area in re northern Italy th gion of at is sprinkled with medie v and vineyards. al castles The region is famous for its w fles, which are hite trufonly available in the fall .

A new message from the judges made the decision for us:


You’ll see the Mole, famouse films, and cars. Be there tomorrow, but tonight rest your paws! “This is easy !” I squeaked happily. “It’s Turin, home of the National Museum of Cinema, the National Automobile Museum, and the Mole Antonelliana!” “Evvai! Prossima tappa . . . Torino!”* we all cheered. We spent the night in an inn on the banks of the Po river, and in the morning we went straight to Turin’s National Automobile Museum. It was founded in the 1930s and tells the history of the


*Hooray! Next stop . . . Turin!

France, through the Buco di Viso,” Bartolomeo told us. “Textiles, rice, and oil also moved along this trade route.” After a looooong hike, we finally reached the tunnel’s entrance. We quickly snapped a selfie and sent it to the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. While we waited for a reply, we debated our next move. Should we head toward the hilly Langhe, with its castles and vineyards, or Turin, a city full of monuments and museums?


Between the River and the Mountains automobile from its beginning to the modern day. “Ta-da!” Trap exclaimed suddenly as he pointed to a car model from 1912. “Here’s the perfect car for a mouse like Geronimo!” “Ha, ha,” I grumbled. “Very funny!” Somehow, Trappy managed to snap a photo of Trap and me right in front of it!

Once we left the car museum, we headed to the National Museum of Cinema, which is located inside the Mole Antonelliana, a symbol of Turin. The building was designed by the architect Alessandro Antonelli. Construction began in 1863, but the building wasn’t completed until 1889. The Mole is 167 meters (548 feet) tall, and


a panoramic elevator takes visitors up, up, up to a terrace where they can admire breathtaking views of the entire city and the Alps! We loved learning all about the secrets, magic, and history of filmmaking. The museum was a true wonder for film lovers! In the center of the museum, we lay down on several comfortable red lounge chairs, admiring the Mole’s DOME above us. The walls around us were covered in screens showing iconic films and photos from cinematic history. After our visit, we returned to our inn to The National Museum of in Turin is the most Cinema rest. Early the next important museum in Italy de morning I woke to the dicated to filmmaking. From th sound of my phone room, you can wal e main k along a ramp that looks like buzzing. I read the new an canister of film and unrolled gi ve message to my family over view of the entire ha s you a ll below! breakfast :


Between the River and the Mountains

“In the wind is where you’ll head next, Pedal on two wheels, then send us a text!” “Huh?” I said, scratching my snout in confusion. “How do we head into the wind?” “Aha!” Thea squeaked suddenly. “I know! The important clue is ‘pedal on two wheels.’ There is a new bike path project along the Po river called VenTo, and vento means ‘wind’ in Italian!” “Why is it called VenTo?” Trappy asked. “It’s an acronym, or a word made up of initials,”

Piedmont Thea explained. “VEN stands for ‘Venice,’ and TO for ‘Torino,’ which is the Italian name for Turin. Those are the two cities that will be connected by the path.” “Holey cheese!” I exclaimed. ““We’re going to pedal all the way to Venice?!” “No, G, don’t be silly!” Thea replied. “The path isn’t completed yet. It’s still being built! But a few sections are ready. We can bike along part of the path and admire beautiful views of the Po river : At 652 kilometers (405 miles), it’s the longest river that starts and ends in Italy!” We rented five bicycles and set off on the VenTo trail.

*Hooray, we have some free time. Where should we go?

Between the River and the Mountains “Come on!” Thea said encouragingly as she started to pedal. “I packed a picnic for us to enjoy at lunch!” “That’s good news!” Trap replied enthusiastically. We spent the morning alongside the river, enjoying the sounds of nature and the gentle lapping of the water as we pedaled. When we stopped to eat, we snapped a selfie surrounded by green foliage. A moment later we received the judges’ reply: Z

BZ Z Z Great job, Team Stilton—enjoy your trip! B See you in Valle d’Aosta in two days!

“Evviva, abbiamo un po’ di tempo libero. Dove andiamo?”* Benjamin and Trappy cried. “I’ve always wanted to visit the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore,” Thea suggested. “They’re right across from the quaint lake town of Stresa.” “The Borromean Islands?” Trap asked. “What are they?” We started biking back to the city while Thea told us more. “They were named after the noble Borromeo family who owned them 500 years ago,” she


Piedmont explained. “But each island has a name: Isola Madre, Isola Bella, Isola di San Giovanni, the Scoglio della Malghera, and Isola dei Pescatori. and splendid They are home to beautiful architecture—and they sit in the middle of the picturesque Lake Maggiore!” We headed straight for the lake and spent our two days off relaxing while surrounded ! by infinite



The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

Sesia Val Grande Geopark


The Po river starts at Monviso!

The Sesia Val Grande Geopark is a vast area in the northeast Piedmont region of Italy. Within the park, there is a fossil supervolcano, which was active up to 280 million years ago. Its eruptions would have darkened the sky and changed the entire world’s climate! There are three Sacri Monti, or “sacred mountain,” nature reserves in the Geopark. These special places of worship are surrounded by lakes, mountains, and woods. The oldest of the three, Sacro Monte di Varallo, is rich in art and contains about fifty buildings. The other two reserves are called Domodossola and Ghiffa.

At 3,841 meters (12,602 feet) high, Monviso—also called Monte Viso—is the tallest mountain in Piedmont and the source of the Po river. Its name comes from the Latin Mons Vesulus, which means “visible mountain.” The mountain’s distinctive pyramid shape makes it instantly recognizable, even from far away. Italians also call Monviso “Il Re di Pietra,” which means “the Stone King” because it is so prominent. It also has great alpine skiing and a long snowy season!

Region: Valle d’Aosta Capital: Aosta

The next morning, I woke up in a great mood and jumped out of bed. I threw open the windows and admired the splendid peaks of the Valle d’Aosta, or the Aosta Valley. We had reached the lovely village of Cogne the night before, and I was thrilled to be so close to the tallest mou nt a in s in Europe: Gran Paradiso, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Monte Rosa!

Then Trap interrupted my peaceful morning. “Is it time for breakfast yet?” he grumbled loudly. Before I could reply, a new message arrived from the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. I grabbed my phone and read it:

BZZ Z “Get out of bed and move like the little guys BZ Who talk to each other with whistling cries.”

Trap buried his snout under his pillow. “I don’t get it at all,” he mumbled. “I’m going back to sleep. I was dreaming about a big wheel of fontina cheese!” But Trappy hopped right up and put on her

hiking boots and backpack. “Sveglia, squadra Stilton! È ora di muoversi,”* she squeaked. “The riddle is about marmots—the animals! They’re great whistlers, and they’re one of the symbols of the Gran Paradiso Natural Park !”


*Wake up, Stilton team! It’s time to move.

The Roof of Europe

Valle d'Aosta

The Roof of Europe

Valle d'Aosta

“Come on, lazyfur!” I told Trap. “You’ll like the marmots. They’re a little bit like you: They sleep like rocks and they wake up hungry!” We got in our rental car and headed toward the park. On the way, we passed through larch and Swiss stone pine forests. Then we climbed toward flower-covered Alpine pastures while rocks and glaciers sparkled above us in the distance. When we reached the park, our guide Orietta met us at the entrance. She would accompany us on our hike. Orietta explained that we would have to keep our pawsteps quiet as we moved through the woods. “After the long winter, Alpine goats and chamois depend on the brief summer months to regain their strength for the fall,” she told us. “We’ll watch from a distance so we don’t disturb them! The marmots also like peace and quiet as they fatten up to prepare for long months of hibernation.” At that moment, we heard a whistling sound: It was a MARMOT ! Orietta turned and pointed to our left. Then


she passed her

BINOCULARS to Trappy, who was jumping out of her fur with excitement. “Marmots are social animals,” Orietta explained. “They live in groups and they’re very friendly. They love to play !” “You were right, Geronimo!” Trap whispered. “I really like these MARMOTS . They live the good life!”

The Roof of Europe Trappy pawed me MARMOTS the binoculars. weigh as much as can mot A mar “Là in alto, invece, 7-8 kilograms (15-17 pounds), yet they are very agile. Their winter potete vedere degli dens take the shape of a long ,”* tunnel that leads to a nest filled Orietta told me. with hay. From October through April, marmots hibernate, living “How do they off the reserves of fat they built keep their balance?” up during the spring and summer. nt orta imp very are ps Social grou Benjamin asked. for them: The closer they stay to“Those cliffs look very gether to keep warm, the better ivsurv of e hav they nce cha the steep!” ing the cold of winter. “They have powerful muscles,” Oretta explained. “And the bottoms of their HOOVES are soft, which help them maintain their grip.” Looking at all those mountain goats balancing on the cliffs, I suddenly began to feel dizzy ! Squeak! I snapped a selfie for the THOUSAND WONDERS judges and then we started our hike back to the car. We said goodbye and thank you to Orietta. She suggested that we visit the Paradisia Alpine

*Up there you can see some mountain goats.



Botanic Garden in Valnontey, a nearby hamlet. In the summertime, the garden boasts more than one thousand plant species! Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop. We would have to visit on our next trip! We had just returned to the inn when my cell phone buzzed:

Take a walk to see this trio of falls. BZZ Z BZ Rest up so tomorrow you can give it your all! “I can’t even try to solve this riddle on an empty stomach,” Trap sighed. “I’m too hungry!” In fact, we were all famished! We headed to a local restaurant to try a regional specialty:


The Roof of Europe

fonduta . This Alpine treat is similar to Swiss or French fondue, but the Italian recipe is made from fontina cheese, butter, milk, and egg yolks. It was whisker-licking good! As we ate, we chatted with Daniela, the restaurant owner, and asked for her help solving the riddle.

FONDUTA RECIPE ina • 30 grams butter • Ingredients for 4 servings: • 400 grams font 4 egg yolks • 400 ml milk es, and put it in a bowl. 1. Cut the rind off the fontina, cut it into piec the refrigerator overnight. 2. Cover it with the milk and let it rest in transfer it to a saucepan. Then remove the fontina from the milk and Put the milk to the side. hot water bath, stirring it 3. Melt the fontina in the saucepan over a ts to form a dense mass, with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry if it star just continue to stir. add the egg yolks one at a 4. When it’s reached a creamy consistency, time and then the cold butter. Stir well. add a bit of the reserved 5. Add salt and pepper and, if necessary, milk to reach a fluid consistency. been warmed, and serve! 6. Pour the fonduta into dishes that have Buon appetito!

“I’m sure it’s the three waterfalls that flow down the Rutor glacier,” Daniela replied. “It’s the third largest glacier in the Valle d’Aosta, and the there are fabumouse!” So the next morning, we drove to La Joux, a hamlet of La Thuile, and from there, we hiked to the falls. They were truly majestic! As we took in the view, a rainbow appeared. It was the perfect backdrop for our photo! We snapped the picture and sent it to the judges, who sent this reply:

Stiltons, you’ve completed your stops in the Aosta Valley. Now you’ll continue on to Lombardy! 171

The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family’s Travel Blog!

Margherita Hut

Chamois Chamois is not only a small mountain village with a special name (derived from the mammals similar to goats, that carry the same name) and with houses richly decorated by colorful flowers. What makes this village so unique is that no cars are allowed! The residents are very proud of this fact. As a result, there is no environmental or noise pollution, and exploring the village on foot or by bicycle is a true pleasure. Chamois can be reached by cable car from Buisson, or on foot or bicycle via a dirt road from La Magdeleine.

What a special place!

Margherita Hut is located at the top of Punta Gnifetti, one of the tallest peaks in the Monte Rosa mountain range. At 4,554 meters (14,940 feet) above sea level, it is the highest Alpine hut in Europe. The high mountain refuge is home to a laboratory for scientific research: Among other things, scientists and doctors study ailments relating to the altitude and the effects of thin air. The hut was built in 1893, and Queen Margherita of Savoia spent a night there, giving the hut its name! To reach it, adventurers can hike up the glacier from Staffal in the Valle d’Aosta, or from Alagna Valsesia in Piedmont. The best time to visit is in July and August: Thea is already planning a future trip with an Alpine guide!

A Journey Among a Thousand Masterpieces Region: Lombardy Capital: Milan

Milan’s annual Salone del Mobile, also called the Milan Furniture Fair, is the largest trade show of its kind in the world. This world-class event is a must for anyone who is interested in interior design and furniture.


“Mmm,” Trap mumbled. “A scrumptious lunch sounds really good right about now.” “Trap, we just had breakfast!” I scolded him. “And the riddle isn’t


about food: It’s about Leonardo da Vinci’s mousterpiece, The Last Supper!”

Great Gouda!

We left early in the morning and headed for Lombardy, unsure of Twice a year, Milan’s our next destination. While we famous Fashion Week fills the city with modwaited for the judges’ next clue, els, photographers, we decided to go to Milan. journalists, and others who work in the It’s the capital of the region and fashion industry. Deis also a major point of reference signers present their new collections to the in Italy in the design and world in runway shows fashion worlds. and fashion events. When the message arrived, I was driving, so Trap read it aloud: BZZ

“You are all invited to a very special meal. This mural masterpiece has real appeal!”


We were going to see one of the world’s most fabumouse paintings, and we would also get a chance to visit the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The church is one of the most beautiful in Milan. When we arrived at our destination, a guide was waiting to give us a tour. Dear rodent readers, JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Soon after Leonardo da Vinci I am a journalist and completed The Last Supper, the painting began to deteriorate. a writer (and I really Unfortunately, da Vinci had exlove words!), but it perimented by painting in tempura on dry plaster rather than is difficult for me to in fresco, and the paint was never absorbed completely. Over describe da Vinci’s time, the wall peeled away, dust incredible painting settled into the cracks, and the painting’s vibrant colors faded. to you, because it’s The painting has been repaired many times. The most rea true wonder! In cent restoration was completed fact, my entire family in 1999 after more than 20 years of work. Thanks to state-of-thewas overcome with art techniques, the original colors were restored as much emotion as we viewed as possible, bringing this masthat magnificent terpiece back to its original splendor. mousterpiece.


Lombardy Benjamin, and Trappy rushed to check out the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, an elegant historical shopping mall that is nicknamed “Milan’s drawing room.” A few minutes later, my phone buzzed with a new message:


“It’s stupendous!” we squeaked all at once. The five of us stood there silently admiring this fabumouse painting that had survived for centuries, thanks to a long and careful restoration. Finally, we snapped our selfie and sent it to the judges. Then we walked through the cobblestone streets towards piazza Duomo, or Cathedral Square, with its beautiful church, the symbol of the city: the Milan Cathedral. While Thea and I admired the cathedral, Trap,


This city, just an hour away, Is where violins love to play.

A Journey Among a Thousand Masterpieces “It must be Cremona!” I told Thea. “The city is the birthplace of Stradivari, the famouse VIOLIN maker.” Thea sighed. “Do we really have to leave Milan so soon?” she asked. “We still haven’t seen the Sforza Castle or the La Scala opera house!” “I know,” I agreed, shaking my snout in dismay. “But the competition awaits! I promise we’ll come back to Milan on our next trip to , Italy—rodent s honor!—and we’ll stay for an entire week!” Thea reluctantly agreed, and we hurried to find Trap and the mouselings. During our quick drive to Cremona, Trap couldn’t stop talking about TORRONE , JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Antonio Stradivari, who was the classic nougat candy born and lived in Cremona in th th the 17 and 18 centuries, was made from egg whites, one of the greatest and most honey, and nuts that the famous luthiers of all time. His violins in particular are city is known for! We known as the best ever made in the world. Among those had just parked the car who have used his creations when we heard a sweet is the Italian musician and composer Niccolò Paganini, . It was coming one of the greatest ever violinists. from a nearby shop



Lombardy devoted to traditional Cremona lutherie—the instruments ancient craft of making such as violins, violas, cellos, and basses. Inside the shop we found a mouse named Carlo who told us all about his craft. “Lutherie has been practiced in this city for about five hundred years, and it’s become a symbol of Cremona. The work of a luthier is passed down from one generation to the next.


Knowing the secrets of the trade is like guarding a treasure!” But the real treasure for us was to be able to see a master luthier at work and then to listen to the beautiful sound of a VIOLIN he had just made! I knew I would never forget the smell of the wood Carlo used. It was so intense that it felt as if we were in the middle of a forest ! My family and I took a selfie with Carlo’s violins as a backdrop and sent it to the judges. A few moments later, I received this reply:


You’re super, Stiltons! Your scavenger hunt continues in Trentino-Alto Adige. See you there in two days!

Night was falling, so we decided to sleep in Cremona. But first, time for dinner! We found a restaurant, and while we ate, we chatted with the owner, a mouse named Silvia. We told her where we were headed. “Ah, Trentino is known for its lovely mountain peaks,” she said. “On the way there,


Lombardy you should stop in the Camonica Valley. The majority of the ROCK DRAWINGS in the Camonica There you can see the Valley can be traced back to rock drawings of the the end of the High Paleolithic perio d (around 10,000 years Camuni, the ancient ago) and the Iron Age (1,000 civilization there during BCE). The artwork depicts moments from the religious the Iron Age. They’re and daily life of the ancient extraordinary!” Camuni people. “Great idea!” I squeaked. “Ci dovrete tornare a marzo o a settembre!”* Silvia added. “Twice each year, on the spring and fall eq u i nox —the point when day and night are exactly the same length, which is around March event takes 21 and September 21—a place: A ray of sunlight seems to burst from the deep crevice of Monte Concarena. The Camuni noticed this phenomenon, too. Look, I’ll show you a photo !” Holey cheese! The photo on Silvia’s phone was incredible! Benjamin wasted no time adding that event to our list for our next trip to Italy. We thanked our new friend for her help and headed back to our inn for a good night’s sleep.



*You should come back in March or September!

A Journey Among a Thousand Masterpieces

A Journey Among a Thousand Masterpieces The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The next day, we were excited to go into exploration mode again as we focused on spotting the extraordinary rock dRawIngs around the Camonica Valley! We felt like real detectives as we tried to interpret the various drawings along with the help of our guide Marco. The easiest to spot was the famouse “Camunian rose,” which is so well-known it has become a symbol of the Lombardy region!

The Little Red Train of Bernina

A fabumouse ride past Alpine gorges and glacier lakes!





The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina area is a railway that runs a single track line from Tirano, Italy through the mountains to St. Moritz, Switzerland. Better known as the Little Red Train of Bernina, this legendary train line climbs from Tirano through the Bernina pass at over 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), and then gently descends to an altitude of 1,800 meters (5,905 feet) in St. Moritz. The train crosses viaducts and passes lakes, old towns, and fields—the journey is full of picturesque views. In addition to its cultural, economic, and historical importance, it provides the mountain communities it crosses with a means of transport.

A Hike Through a Labyrinth Region: Trentino-Alto Adige Capital: Trento

As we finished up our tour with Marco, a message about our next stop arrived from the THOUSAND WONDERS judges. Thea read it aloud:

*I’m sure that you’ll like them!

“These tall spikes are not flat. They look like giants in stone hats!” “Hmmm,” I said. “I have no idea!” “It’s the pyramids in Segonzano!” Marco squeaked. “They’re in Trentino.” “Pyramids?” Trappy asked curiously. “Like the ones in Egypt?” Marco smiled. “No, these are different,” he explained. “These natural rock formations are tall and narrow, and they’ve formed over many millennia due to the movement of glaciers . They’re very unusual. Sono sicuro che vi piaceranno!”* So the next day we drove to Segonzano. Then we took a lovely walk through the woods until we glimpsed the mysterious pyramids of Trentino.


Trentino-Alto Adige Great gorgonzola, what a sight! “How amazing!” Thea gasped. “They look like something out of a fairy tale !” Trappy added. “They really do look like giants in hats, like the riddle says!” Benjamin squeaked with a smile. “No, no, no!” Trap protested. “They look like they’re made of melted cheese , with tiny pieces of toast on top! Squeaking of which, is anyone hungry?”

A Hike Through a Labyrinth My family and I burst out laughing. My cousin was too much! We all know that when Trap has an empty stomach, there’s only one thing to do: Get him something to eat! So we snapped a selfie with the rocky columns in the background and walked back toward our car, looking for a restaurant along the way. We soon found a lovely café with outdoor seating and red and white checkered tablecloths . As we sat down to eat, we received another message. B Z Z BZZ Trappy read it aloud:

“A record of time formed by layers of rock— Experience history as you go on a walk!” “I don’t get it,” Trap mumbled, his mouth full of canederli.

Canederli is a d ish region of Italy an typical of the northeast d dumpling made of central Europe. It is a with bread, egg s, and milk, and there are m an cheese and spec y variations that include k or other veget (a type of smoked ham) ables and mea t.


Trentino-Alto Adige “I understand!” Benjamin squeaked. “It’s the Bletterbach Geopark: I read about it earlier when I was doing research about the Dolomites on my tablet. You can see animal tracks and the remains of fossilized plants from hundreds of millions of years ago there. In fact, each layer of its rocks corresponds to a geological era : That’s what the riddle is talking about!”

*You can reserve a special kids’ tour!

A Hike Through a Labyrinth Benjamin was so excited as he continued squeaking. “And do you know what the most fabumouse part is? Si possono prenotare delle visite guidate per noi ragazzi!”* We made the park our next stop. Once we’d arrived, Benjamin and Trappy did indeed take the tour. Their guide Silvano showed them a gorge on the Bletterbach river, as well as fossils of plants and shells that were centuries old. Now I understood why the riddle had mentioned experiencing history. Hiking between the rocky walls of the park’s gorges was like walking BACK IN TIME ! After a few fabumouse hours, we headed to the relaxing B&B we had booked nearby. The next morning over breakfast , we received a new message:

Way to go! You completed yet another stop. Tomorrow, enjoy your journey to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. I let out a satisfied sigh and stretched out my paws. “How nice! ” I squeaked. “We have an entire day to just relax.” “What do you mean, Geronimo?” Thea asked,


Trentino-Alto Adige an appalled look on her snout. “Where’s your spirit of adventure? We came all the way here, and you want to spend the whole day doing nothing?!” My sister gathered our entire family together for a pep talk. “Come on, mice!” she said. “This area is full of fabumouse places to explore. Why don’t we spend today hiking the Latemar Labyrinth trail?” Benjamin and Trappy had pulled on their hiking boots while Thea was still squeaking. They were jumping out of their fur with energy and excitement. “Let’s go!” they both cried.

The Latemar mountain range of the Dol marks the border between Trentin omites o and Alto Adige. The Labyrinth is a rocky lan dscape of scattered rocks and rubble that hav e fallen from the Latemar mountains through the ages. Fascinated by this lunar-like landscape , the famous British author Agatha Christie (189 0-1976) set a scene here in her mystery novel The Big Four.


A Hike Through a Labyrinth That’s how I found myself spending the day hiking across wood-covered valleys and pastures until we finally reached the trail that led to the Latemar Labyrinth. Cheese niblets! It felt like we were on the surface of the MOON ! It was soon obvious why this path had been called a labyrinth: If they hadn’t m arke d the

Trentino-Alto Adige trail with red and white paint, it would be easy to get lost among all those boulders! As always, Thea had been right: This trip had turned out to be a FABUMOUSE experience! After finishing our hike with a nice selfie, we climbed back into our car and headed for Bolzano. There was no way we were going to miss out on a visit to this enchanting city! My whiskers trembled at the thought of taking my niece and nephew to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where they had a 5,300 year-old glacier mummy on display. The mummy is so famouse, it even has a name: Ötzi the Iceman! When we saw it with our own eyes, our jaws dropped. “Where did they find it?” Benjamin asked. “Ötzi was discovered by accident in 1991 at the foot of the Similaun GLACIER between Italy and Austria,” Thea explained. “Thanks to the layers of snow and ice that had covered Ötzi for centuries, his body was perfectly preserved.” “It’s true,” I said. “And the truly extraordinary thing is that his clothing and belongings were preserved, too. Those items have helped us


A Hike Through a Labyrinth The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

learn so much about Ötzi and the time period in which he lived! Scientists think Ötzi might have been a shepherd, a merchant, or the leader of a tribe.” “There are 61 tattoos on his body, making them the oldest tattoos in history!” Thea added as she walked up to the life-size model of Ötzi. “Thanks to his perfect preservation, scientists have been able to figure out what Ötzi might have looked like, and constructed this model.” Trappy exclaimed, "That's so

It looks so r

coo l! eal ist ic

Lake Resia A bell tower . . . in a lake?!


The intriguing bell tower sticking out of the center of Lake Resia has become a symbol of the Venosta valley in the western part of Trentino-Alto Adige. In the years following World War II, a dam was built to produce hydroelectric power for the area. Unfortunately, the work involved enlarging the lake and flooding over 600 hectares (1,480 acres) of land, including the towns of Resia Vecchia and Curon. The families who lived there were forced to move. Today, Curon’s former bell tower is the only visible trace of the two villages.

lia Region: Friuli-Venezia Giu Capital: Trieste

We were just about to leave Bolzano to travel to Friuli-Venezia Giulia when our next clue arrived from the judges. Thea cleared her throat BZZ Z and read: BZ

“Next, head to the ruins of an old splendid city, And see the remains of mosaics most pretty!” Thea pondered, “Hmmm, ruins and a splendid city with MOSAICS . . . Of course! The riddle is referring to Aquileia!” I smiled. I knew the city was famouse for its Roman Aquileia was founded in 181 ruins and for the beautiful BCE and was one of the most mosaics that decorate important cities in the early Roman Empire. Thanks to its the Patriarchal Basilica. geographic location, it was a “I think you’re right, strategic commercial center. iman It also later became Thea!” I squeaked. portant center of religious I turned to Trappy and power. The forum, the port, of s trace other and many Benjamin and pointed the Roman era are still vistoward our rental ible today.


car. “Tutti a bordo, si riparte! Destinazione: Aquileia!”* A few hours later, we parked the car and were eager for our visit to begin. We saw the ruins of the Roman RIVER PORT and the Forum, or the main town square of Aquileia from ancient times. Then we entered the Patriarchal Basilica, and we were squeakless. We couldn’t stop looking down at our paws! The entire floor of the church was covered in fabumouse mosaics!

*All aboard—we’re taking off! Destination: Aquileia!

A Talented Master of the Ax!

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

A Talented Master of the Ax!

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Benjamin was studying the floor as if he’d lost something. “Is everything okay, Benjamin?” I asked him. He smiled at me. “Yes, Uncle G,” he said. “I’m just trying to decide which mosaic is my favorite, but I can’t. They’re all so amazing!” “Have you looked up at the ceiling, too?” Trappy asked us. We lifted our snouts to see. Squeak! My niece was right: The ceiling of the basilica was fabumouse, too! Trap said, “It’s too bad we can’t lie down on the floor to take our selfie . . . and maybe fit in a quick ratnap !” Trappy looked shocked at his suggestion, but I just rolled my eyes at him. I knew he wasn't serious! In the end, we decided to take our selfie next to a magnificent MOSAIC that showed the sea and lots of fish. A few moments after we sent our photo to the judges, my phone buzzed . But before I could read the message, Trap grabbed my phone and slipped it into his pocket! “Hey!” I squeaked. “What are you doing? Give back my phone !”

“Don’t worry, Geronimo,” Trap reassured me. “We’ll read this message soon enough!” “B-but what’s going on?” I asked in confusion. Trap just shrugged. “Aquileia has a lot more to offer us before we leave,” he explained. “And we can’t go anywhere else on an empty stomach!” We all burst out laughing. After all, my cousin was right! We treated ourselves to a lovely stroll past old palaces and colonnades until we reached a very inviting bakery. We stopped there for a tasty snack , and then Thea took control of the situation. “Okay, Trap, your stomach is full now,” Thea said. “You can give back Geronimo’s phone. I’m so curious to hear our next clue!” “Alright, alright,” Trap agreed. Then he pulled



A Talented Master of the Ax! out the phone and read the message aloud:

“The bora makes the sails move with grace In this port where you watch this famouse race!” “It’s the Gulf of Trieste!” Thea exclaimed. “That’s where they hold the Barcolana every year: It’s a famouse S AIL IN G R AC E . I’ve always dreamed of participating.” My sister never ceases to amaze me: Is there a single sporting event she isn’t interested in or doesn't know about?! Benjamin did a quick search on his tablet. “It only takes about an hour to get to Trieste,” he told us. “Okay,” Trap said. “But what’s a bora?” The name bora comes Benjamin tapped his tablet from Boreas, the god wind north cold of the to find the answer. “It says in Greek mythology. It’s here that it’s a very strong, an “interrupted” wind, with alternating strong cold, dry wind that blows and weaker gusts. In the in gusts from the northeast,” area around Trieste, the gusts can reach speeds of he read. “It’s named after 150 kilometers (93 miles) the Greek mythological per hour! figure Boreas!”


Friuli-Venezia Giulia By the time we reached Trieste, the sun had just set.

The city looked gorgeous!

After a brief walk to the Piazza Unità d’Italia, we headed to our hotel for a well-deserved rest.

Piazza Unità d’Italia is the largest main square facing the sea in Europe!

A Talented Master of the Ax!

*Come take a look!

The next day we set out on paw right JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Throughout history, thanks to its loaway. We walked cation and port activity, Trieste has and walked. Every been influenced by many cultures, particularly Italian, Austro-Hungacorner of the rian, and Slavic. Walking through its streets, you can see this melding of city was devoted languages, architecture, and culito amazing views, nary traditions. Since the 1700s, the city has been famous for exporting monuments, and coffee. It’s also been famous for its literary cafes, where important fabumouse buildings writers such as James Joyce, Italo to admire! Svevo, and Umberto Saba found inspiration for their extraordinary When we reached works. the port, I stuck my snout into a warehouse with curious noises coming out of it and saw a rodent working amidst hulls, sails, and masts. “Are you tourists?” he asked us. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Pepi and I’m a master of the ax .” “Ax?” Trappy squeaked, her eyes wide. “Are you a warrior?” He shook his head and invited us inside. “Venite a dare un’occhiata!* The ax is one of the instruments used to shape the wood. In the past,


Friuli-Venezia Giulia boats were built entirely out of wood, and the work of the master of the ax was very important. And that’s what I still do today—I’m a shipwright, or a shipbuilder!” “Really?” I squeaked. “Can you show us how?” Pepi smiled proudly. “Of course!” And so we had the good luck to be able to admire a skilled master of the ax at work. It was WONDERFUL to see!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Karst Plateau

The Barcolana Each year, on the second Sunday of October, the world-famouse Barcolana sailing race takes place in the Gulf of Trieste. It’s more than just a competition: It’s also a sailing festival and a true declaration of love for the sea. When it was first held in 1969, there were 51 boats involved, and participation has grown enormously over the years! In 2018, the Barcolana was named the “Largest Sailing Race in the World” by the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to the 2,689 participants. We’ve already planned to return to Trieste one upcoming October, and you can be sure Thea will be entering the race!

A sea of sails! A giant wonder! The Karst Plateau is a unique region that extends across the borders of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy and southwestern Slovenia. The area is made of soft, chalky rocks that are easily eroded by water. Drop by drop, rainfall creates caverns inside rocky mountains. This natural phenomenon is known as karst. One major landmark on the Italian side of the plateau is the Grotta Gigante (Giant Cave) near Trieste and the Slovenian border. It contains the largest underground chamber in the world that is accessible to tourists! Visiting it was a fabumouse experience!


Is This Really the End?!

*And pandoro is one of my favorite desserts . . . did you know?!

Region: Veneto Capital: Venice

We knew our next stop would be the Veneto region because it was the only region in Italy that we hadn’t visited yet! But we still weren’t sure exactly where to go within it. The next morning, we had just finished breakfast when my cell phone buzzed: Z

Pandoro is a traditional Christmas dessert from Verona. The name means “golden bread” and refers to the sweet cake’s yellow interior, which comes from the butter and egg yolks in the batter. This tall cake is traditionally dusted with powdered sugar to resemble a snow-covered mountain.

“This one’s too easy!” Thea squeaked confidently. “If you ask me, it’s—” “The Verona Arena!” Benjamin and Trappy both cried out together. “Ah, Verona!” Trap said with a sigh. “It’s also the home of pandoro! E il pandoro è uno dei miei dolci preferiti . . . lo sapete?!”* “I did know how much you love pandoro, Trap,” I said. “But I don’t think we’ll find it at this time of year, since it’s a Christmas dessert. We’ll have to come back again in the winter!”

“Enough chattering about food, you two,” Thea said, rolling her eyes. “Come on, let’s go!” We hopped into our rental car and reached Verona a few hours later. To get to the famouse arena, we took a walk through the historic city center. Suddenly, we saw a long line of rodents. We drew closer out of curiosity, and discovered that they were there to visit Juliet’s balcony! Though William Shakespeare’s well-known romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet is the of one is iet Jul Romeo and fictional, mice from all most famous plays by the English over the world come playwright and poet William the s tell It 16). 4-16 (156 re pea Shakes to see this balcony, tragic story of two young lovers which is inspired by in Verona who belong to warring ous fam st families. In one of its mo Shakespeare’s timeless scenes, Romeo declares his love mousterpiece. to Juliet while she is standing on her balcony. “How romantic!”



“Here, where gladiators used to fight, Actors and singers perform each night!”



Thea sighed dreamily as she looked up at the balcony. “I can almost picture Romeo down there, declaring his eternal love for Juliet!” After this unexpected discovery, we headed toward Piazza Bra, where the majestic Verona Arena is located. Even though we’d seen it before in photographs, admiring it in real life left us spellbound. “Can you believe this arena was built two thousand years ago by the ancient romans?” I asked in awe. “It really hasn’t lost a bit of its splendor!”


“It’s wonderful!” Trappy said, clapping The Verona Arena is a Roman amphit heater built around the midher paws in delight. dle of the first century CE. While it Then she suddenly has been used as a stone quarry for building the city walls and new became quiet. houses throughout the centuries, the “What is it, Arena has now been preserved in its original form. Trappy?” I asked. During the Roman era, the Arena “This trip has been hosted gladiator fights, duels, and so fabumouse, it’s a exotic animal hunts. Today, operas and concerts of all kinds—from shame that it’s almost orchestras to famous singers and over,” she sighed. bands—are held in the Arena during the summer months, drawing audi“The idea of saying ences from around the world. goodbye to Italy makes me sad!” “But our adventure isn’t over yet,” I replied cheerfully as I pointed to a billboard in front of us. “Look! There are still lots of things to see here in Verona. Why don’t we come back to the arena tonight to see a show?” “An opera?” Trap said. “Verdi or Rossini? Puccini or Bellini? Mascagni or Leoncavallo? Italy has had so many great opera composers !” “What a marvelmouse idea!” Thea cried. “I’ll go see which opera is being performed tonight.”


Is This Really the End?! When she returned, my sister looked pleased. “We have five tickets for this evening’s performance!” she said. Our tickets in our paws, we snapped our selfie and sent it to the judges. A few hours later, we were seated in the stands of the Arena. We were enjoying one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most spectacular operas, Aida, in a breathtaking setting!

Veneto After the opera ended, a new riddle arrived. BZZ I read it aloud:


“Remember the artist who impressed the Pope? This chapel masterpiece is epic in scope!” “It’s Giotto!” Trappy squealed. “Oh!” a rodent near us squeaked in surprise. “What a shrill squeak you have, miss!” “I’m sorry, please excuse me,” Trappy apologized. “I was excited because I thought I’d solved a riddle.” look “A riddle?” the mouse asked, a on his snout. “Yes,” Thea replied. “We’re participating in the THOUSAND WONDERS scavenger hunt, and we just received a clue.” “What fun!” the mouse exclaimed. “I’ve heard so much about the THOUSAND WONDERS! It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Alessandro, and I teach Art History at the University of Padua. Sarei felicissimo di potervi aiutare!”* We quickly introduced ourselves and then showed the professor the C LU E . “You’re right, young mouselet,” he told Trappy.



*It would be a pleasure to help you!


Is This Really the End?! “The answer is Giotto ! The clue refers to the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. You can’t leave without visiting it: It’s an absolute mousterpiece! Would you like me to come with you and be your guide?” “That would be perfect!” I exclaimed. We met Alessandro bright and early the next morning at the train station. On the train, he jumped right into giving us info. “Giotto painted the chapel between 1303 and 1305 at the request of Enrico degli Scrovegni, the representative of a wealthy Paduan family . . .” We exited the station at Padua and walked to the chapel, a small, plain brick building. When we stepped inside, we were captivated by the sea blue color of Giotto’s magnificent fresCoes . Alessandro snapped our photo for us before we headed back outside. I read the message that arrived in response:

“One island for glass, one island for lace, Get moving: You’re near the end of the race!” “Do you know the answer to the riddle?” Alessandro asked us.


“Um . . . not exactly,” I admitted. “Can you help?” “Of course!” Our friend replied with a smile. “It’s Murano and Burano, two famouse islands in the Venice lagoon.” “Venice!” I squeaked. “Of course! It must be the last stop on the THOUSAND WONDERS hunt!” Before saying goodbye, Alessandro gave us one final bit of advice. “I recommend you take the train ,” he said. “Cars aren’t allowed in Venice!” By that point, it was getting late, so we decided to spend the night in Padua. The next morning at


Is This Really the End?!

dawn, we were all wide awake. We couldn’t wait to get going! After a short train ride, we got off at the Santa Lucia station in Venice. Then we took a vaporetto —a public waterbus. They have scheduled routes around the city, just like a city bus! We traveled along the Grand Canal that crosses the city and went straight to Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Square, one of the most famouse city squares in the world.

Cheese and crackers, what an incredible city! Piazza San Marco consists of The canals take the place three sections: the square itself, which faces St. Mark’s of streets in Venice, Basilica with its famous bell; and gondolas and the smaller square that faces the Doge’s Palace; and the Piboats slip by instead of azzetta dei Leoncini, an open cars. There are bridges, space on the north side of the Basilica. palaces, and gardens everywhere. “Venice is such a beautiful place!” Trappy said with a dreamy sigh. “It is, isn’t it?” Thea agreed. “And there’s even more beauty to behold. Come on, let’s head to the islands of Burano and Murano!”


Is This Really the End?! Benjamin and Trappy wasted no time asking one of the vaporetto operators for information. His name was Alvise and he knew Venice like the back of his paw. “It’s easy: Murano is famouse for its glassmaking , and Burano is known for its lace work. I’ll tell you which vaporetto to take to get to each island!” We were glad for his help, since the Venetian lagoon has lots of islands! We followed his detailed directions and easily found our way to Murano, where a master glassmaker showed us the secrets of his craft. Squeak! It was like show! watching a We took another vaporetto to get to Burano. What an enchanting place! There were brightly colored houses, a lovely leaning bell tower, and artisans who, true to tradition, were embroidering delicate Burano lace. We snapped our selfie and spent the



afternoon wandering In the 16th century, Burano lace Burano’s colorful was highly prized thanks to streets. In fact, we almost its intricate needle-made designs. It was so highly relost track of time: We garded that the lace-makers got back to the dock just of Burano were even brought to France to teach this deliin time to catch the last cate art. vaporetto off the island! As we boarded the vaporetto, we received a message from the judges:

Congratulations, Team Stilton! You’ve reached the end of the Thousand Wonders scavenger hunt! Don’t forget to finish your travel blog . . . and good luck! In a few days, we’ll crown the winner of the competition! Once we got off the boat, we headed for Piazzale Roma (which is not far from Venice’s Santa Lucia train station), and we caught the bus to the AIRPORT . Moldy mozzarella, we could hardly believe it: it was time to go home!


The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

We’ll return to Venice for . . .

Padua’s Botanic Garden

BIENNALE In 1895, the Biennale was founded in Venice to promote contemporary art. Though originally linked only to the visual arts, today it includes architecture, film, dance, theater, and music as well. It has been called the “Olympics of the art world.” Every two years, the city hosts the Biennale d’Arte and the Biennale di Architettura in the Biennale Gardens and Arsenale, as well as various locations around the city.


A festival of masks and color!

Carnevale, also known as the Venice Carnival, is a huge festival that fills the city with colorful parties, parades, and elaborate masks every year. People in masks are all around the city on the calli, which is a local word for the streets (from the Latin callis, which means “path”). With its magical atmosphere, Carnevale attracts tourists from all over the world. We Stiltons absolutely want to participate sometime: We’ll be sure to return to enjoy the last few days of it, including the closing ceremony and the final fireworks!

An open-air museum! Founded in 1545, Padua’s Botanic Garden was the first botanic garden in the world to be connected to a university: Students could have first-hand experience with the plants they studied in books. Today it houses thousands of diverse plant species, including some very old specimens. The oldest plant in the garden, St. Peter’s Palm, was planted in 1585 and became famouse as “Goethe’s palm” because it inspired the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s theory on the metamorphosis of plants. Uncle G was captivated by this place!

See You Soon, Italy!

See You Soon, Italy! Once we arrived at the airport, we heard a squeak over the loudspeaker: Our flight was about to depart! “I guess our adventure is really over.” I sighed. “I’m happy to be going home, but I’ll miss Italy!” Thea nodded. “I feel the same! I’ll never forget the excitement of swimming in the sea at Baia amidst the columns, statues, and ancient mosaics.” “And I’ll never forget the canoe trip we took on the Tirino River,” Trappy recalled. “And what about our zipline flight from Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa?” Benjamin squeaked. “What an experience!” “I’ll dream about that delicious fonduta in Valle d’Aosta forever,” Trap added, rubbing his belly. And so we boarded our flight home to New of Mouse City accompanied by all the



our fabumouse trip to Italy! Once we were on board, I tried to take a little nap. But in the row in front of me, Trap was telling the mouse next to him every funny thing that had happened to us during the competition. She couldn’t seem to stop laughing! Next to me, Benjamin and Trappy were whispering as they typed on the tablet. “What are you working on?” I asked them. They showed me the tablet. Squeak! It was a list of all the places they wanted to go and things they wanted to do on our next trip to Italy!

The Stilton Family Travel Blog!

To Do on Our Next Trip to Italy: Participate in the Barcolana in Trieste Taste pandoro in Verona Attend Carnevale in Venice Visit Cinque Terre in Liguria ...

See You Soon, Italy!

See You Soon, Italy!

“Great work!” I said, full of pride at the mouselings’ initiative and enthusiasm. “It’s going to be a very long list,” Benjamin said. “This is just the beginning!” Trappy nodded. “We don’t want to miss anything!” “Well, let’s cross our paws that we WIN the grand prize trip from the THOUSAND WONDERS!” I said. My niece and nephew looked at me hopefully. “We’ll go back to Italy no matter what, of course,” I hurried to add. “Rodent’s honor! We have so much more to discover, to explore, and—” “To eat !” Trap finished, chuckling. And so, dreaming of our next trip, we landed in New Mouse City. As soon as we got off the plane, I heard my phone buzz. It was a message from the judges! I read it aloud, my whiskers trembling with anticipation: BZZ

“MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, STILTON FAMILY!” we cheered happily, our paws in the air. Our Italian adventure was over, but we’d soon be starting another one! And that’s the truth, or ! my name isn’t

Geronimo Stilton


“Congratulations, Team Stilton—you’ve won the prize! We loved seeing Italy through your adventurous eyes. Your teamwork was epic as you discovered and explored, We’ll welcome you back soon, when you’re ready for more!” 220


Stop #10 – Marche Underground Magic!

Index Ready, Set, Go!

Stop #1 – Lazio

The Adventure Begins!

Stop #2 – Campania

A Very Special Scuba Dive

Stop #3 – Calabria A Natural Adventure!

Stop #4 – Sicily

On Top of a Volcano

Stop #5 – Basilicata Save Yourself If You Can!

Stop #6 – Puglia

A Feast for the Eyes . . . and Ears!

Stop #7 – Molise

The Secrets of the Bells

Stop #8 – Abruzzo All Aboard!

Stop #9 – Umbria

In Search of Inspiration . . .

Stop #11 – Emilia-Romagna A Fabumouse Dinner! 3

Stop #12 – Tuscany


Stop #13 – Sardinia

Up and Down in the Tuscan Hills Land of a Thousand Faces


Stop #14 – Liguria


Stop #15 – Piedmont


Stop #16 – Valle d’Aosta


Stop #17 – Lombardy


Stop #18 – Trentino-Alto Adige


Stop #19 – Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Between the Earth and the Sea Between the River and the Mountains The Roof of Europe

A Journey Among a Thousand Masterpieces

A Hike Through a Labyrinth

A Talented Master of the Ax! 80 92

Stop #20 – Veneto

102 112 122 132 142 152 164 174



Is This Really the End?!


See You Soon, Italy!




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To find out more about Italian language and culture, visit the website: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Profile for italiana. lingua cultura creatività nel mondo

Geronimo Stilton | A Thousand Wonders  

A journey to discover Italy with Geronimo Stilton! This special edition was created for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interna...

Geronimo Stilton | A Thousand Wonders  

A journey to discover Italy with Geronimo Stilton! This special edition was created for the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interna...

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