'Southern' Bucovina is located in Romania's very north – testimony to a long history of division. In 1775, the Austro-Hungarian Empire annexed Moldavia, keeping it until 1918, when Bucovina was returned to Romania. However, the Soviets annexed Northern Bucovina in 1940, incorporating it into the Ukraine.
Monasteries Around Târgu Neamţ
Although Târgu Neamţ (literally, German Market Town) is a grim post-communist backwater, it's a transit hub on the Suceava–Piatra Neamţ road, and also has significant sights nearby. Rural pensiunes (pensions) are preferable to uninspiring town accommodation (though an organised day tour or drive-by will usually suffice).
Some 28km northwest of Rădăuţi, along a forested road dotted by traditional villages, Putna Monastery (built 1466–81) was built by Ştefan cel Mare following his victory over the Turks at Chilia (a large white cross indicates where he stood). About 60 monks live here. Simple accommodation is offered, ranging from dorm-type large rooms with five to 28 beds to en-suite doubles.
Rădăuţi & Marginea
Side trips from the monastery trail include Rădăuţi (rah-dah-oots), a small market town with Moldavia's oldest church, the mid-14th-century Bogdana Monastery, built by Prince Bogdan I, which is also the mausoleum for eight Moldavian rulers and their families, including Bogdan I, Latcu, Roman Musat and Ştefan I. Rădăuţi's square, Piaţa Unirii features a multidomed cathedral.
Cotnari is 54km northwest of Iaşi. Its vineyards, dating from 1448, are among the most famed in Romania, and its famous sweet white wines are exported worldwide. Cotnari's Cătălina Hill (280m) hosted a 4th-century-BC Geto-Dacian stronghold. In 1491 Ştefan cel Mare built a small church, followed by a Latin college in 1562.
The winding mountain road from Moldoviţa to Suceviţa Monastery, the largest and arguably finest Bucovina monastery, offers breathtaking views, reaching 1100m before descending. The heavily-frescoed church (built 1582–1601), inside the fortified monastic enclosure, has a bare western wall.
Founded by Chancellor Theodor Bubuiog under Moldavian Prince Petru Rareş, Humor Monastery, built in 1530, is surrounded by ramparts, with a three-level brick-and-wood lookout tower. Ascend it for views from the lookout deck. The narrow walls enclosing the last stretch of stairway were designed so that defending soldiers could kill off attacking Turks one by one.
Built in just three months and three weeks by Ştefan cel Mare following a key 1488 victory over the Turks, Voroneţ Monastery is the only one to have a specific colour associated with it worldwide. 'Voroneţ Blue', a vibrant cerulean colour created from lapis lazuli and other ingredients, is prominent in its frescoes.
Built in 1532 Moldoviţa Monastery occupies a fortified quadrangular enclosure with tower, gates and well-tended lawns. The central painted church has been partly restored and features impressive frescoes from 1537. The southern exterior wall depicts the Siege of Constantinople in AD 626, under a combined Persian-Avar attack.