Off the Beaten Path in Sicily: Palermo’s Qanats

The qanat (pronounced ka-naht) is an Arab-designed underground canal/irrigation system that directs water from a high-elevation aquifer water source to a town or agricultural area along a perfectly-calculated and very slight downward grade (see illustration). Invented by the Persians in 1000 BCE and functioning as a “below-ground aqueduct,” it is ideally suited to warm, dry […]

Taj Mahal Architecture: Origins in Humayun’s Tomb (Video)

Humayun’s Tomb was built by the Islamic Mughal dynasty in Delhi from 1562-71, 85 years before the Taj Mahal. By comparing the two structures, you will see how the Mughals refined and perfected their original design to create their masterpiece: the Taj Mahal. Approach Guides’ founder David Raezer explores the how the design similarities between […]

Eat Slow Food in Italy

While researching our Regional Guide to the Foods of Italy, we traveled throughout Italy visiting local markets and eating in thousands of restaurants seeking out the cucina tipica (typical foods) of each region in Italy. We found that the best restaurants in Italy are those that remain true to the local cuisine. The country’s Slow Food movement has championed […]

London Architecture: Wren’s Churches (Video)

Following the Great Fire of 1666, King Charles II of England appointed Christopher Wren as chief architect in charge of rebuilding the city. In this Insights series video, Approach Guides’ founder Jennifer Raezer introduces Christopher Wren, offers insight into his distinctive style that defined London architecture during the early 18th century and points out her […]

Dome Mosaics of Martorana (Palermo, Sicily)

Due to its compelling colors, human-sized proportions, and central location in the downtown district, the Martorana will likely be the church that you return to a number of times during your stay in Palermo. It is our favorite stop on our tour of Palermo’s Norman churches. Fig. 1. Dome mosaics, Martorana. Highlights added. Photo by: […]

What to Eat in Cambodia: Amok Fish

Amok fish We just spent several weeks in Siem Reap researching our guidebook to the temples of Angkor, and since we’ve come back, many people have asked us about the food and what to eat in Cambodia. In our opinion, the culinary delicacy of Cambodia, amok fish, is a must-try. The fish. If you are […]

Hidden Gem in Italy: Sanfelice’s Baroque Staircase (Naples)

18th century Neapolitan Rococo architecture is best illustrated in the work of Ferdinando Sanfelice (1675-1748), who is known for his striking staircases. We especially love the Palazzo della Spagnuolo. Via dei Virgini, 19.  Sanfelice’s stairway in this building is distinctive for its height, the large size of its openings onto the courtyard, and the movement […]

Cultural Insight: Buddhist Prayer Beads

The use of prayer beads, or japa malas, in both Buddhism and Hinduism speaks to a historical connection between the two faiths; however, Buddhist japa malas typically contain a lesser number of beads than the Hindu japa malas’ 108 — it is usually a divisor of 108. There many potential explanations for the significance of […]