Italy’s Finest Hikes Exploring the Beautiful Great Outdoors

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Italy’s Finest Hikes – Experience Italy in a completely new way by lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trail and Exploring the Great Outdoors – on one of Italy’s Finest Hikes

Italy’s finest hikes Cinque Terre is on of Italy’s Finest Hikes

These five towns are perched on sheer cliffs above the Ligurian Sea and are connected by rail and hiking trails.

It’s best to try and visit in the off-season, as the trails are immensely popular and crowded in the summer.

You can check the Cinque Terre National Park site for the most updated information on the status of all of the trails.

Italy's Finest Hikes
Italy’s finest hikes

The the towns’ candy-colored buildings and old-world charm are seemingly untouched by tourism.

Be sure to build in time in your hike to explore each of the towns.

A dip in the water at one of the beaches is a great post-hike treat.

Cassis, France on Mediterranean Coast
Cassis, France on Mediterranean Coast

Visit The Picturesque Cinque Terre, Italy

If you want to travel to the Mediterranean this year for your holiday, Cinque Terre should be at the top of your list of places to consider.

It’s part of the Italian Riviera and made up of five little seaside villages, namely: Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

The area has been protected by the UNESCO World Heritage Foundation since 1997 which means that the only way of getting around is via a public service of electric buses – cars are not allowed.

Bliss!

A few days holidaying in this part of the Mediterranean offers a really authentic experience too as many of the villagers will rent out their spare rooms to interested travelers.

One thing you must do if you choose to spend your holiday time in Cinque Terre this year is hike from Monterosso to Vernazza along the guided footpath.

It’s a brilliant and natural way to workout while on holiday and the views will make all your exercising efforts worthwhile.

Hikes in Tuscany

Tuscany offers a series of diverse hiking opportunities covering dense forests, coast cliffs, medieval villages, amazing history and more.

A hike around the Anello del Rinascimento (Renaissance Ring) allows you to take in the nature and history of the countryside surrounding the city of Florence.

While the entire trail is 170 km long, you can utilize public transportation from Florence to enjoy a single section of the trail.

Depending on what part of the trail you experience, you will see country churches, castles, walled communities, and roads dating back to the Medieval and Roman times.

Other trails in Tuscany allow you to meander through the rolling Tuscan countryside and visit some of Italy’s ancient towns.

A trip out to Monte Argentario, a rocky promontory connected to the Tuscan mainland by two huge sandbars, is a great way to see wildlife.

The Dolomites
The Dolomites

Make sure you pack a pair of Bushnell binoculars when visiting La Feniglia Nature Reserve, which is on one of the sandbars, to be able to spot the wildlife there.

Hiking Dolomites

A short trip from Venice or Milan, the Domomites mountains have something to offer everyone.

Some of the paths are wheelchair accessible, while others require serious mountaineering equipment.

Dolomites Italy
Dolomites Italy

It’s possible to take multi-day treks, but remember that pitching a tent is forbidden, so make plans to stay in a refuge and make your reservations in advance!

Also, make sure plan ahead with the right equipment and proper footwear from Uttings Outdoor.

Break your boots in before the trip — a series of short hikes will help get you in shape for your hiking vacation.

Volcanoes Hike

For something different, try climbing  one of Italy’s famous volcanoes.

Hiking Vesuvius

Vesuvius is a good day trip from Naples and is the least difficult volcano to climb.

Mt. Etna
Mt. Etna

Stromboli

Stromboli is a bit harder to summit, but the island has glimmering black sand beaches to relax on afterwards.

The sunset view from the top is hard to beat.

Mt. Etna

Vulcano

Vulcano is perhaps the stinkiest volcano, with the smell of sulfur apparent as soon as you step off the boat from Sicily, but it also provides a great view of the other Aeolian Islands and the opportunity to peer into otherworldly craters.

Italy's Finest Hikes

Mt. Etna

As it has recently been prone to belching lava, it may not be possible to climb Mt. Etna, but Sicily’s stunning beaches make for a lovely back-up plan.

Venice, Italy

Renowned as one of the most romantic destinations in Europe, Venice is a great choice whether you’re jetting off with your partner or a group of friends.

This sophisticated Italian city has plenty to offer, from the outlying islands which make a fantastic day out to its many museums packed with artistic and cultural treasures.

Perhaps one of the most popular activities on a city break here is to enjoy a gondola ride on the canals, allowing you to sightseeing with minimum effort.

Make sure you spend a bit of time on dry land to explore the beautiful Piazza San Marco, or to browse the hundreds of artworks in the Gallerie dell’Accademia.

Venice, like much of Italy, is well known for its high-quality cuisine and, as the city is located by the ocean, seafood is a staple of the diet here.

Tuck into some freshly caught fish, accompanied by local favorite polenta, and treat yourself to one of the delicious desserts – such as a slice of Nicolotta cake (a type of bread pudding).

(photo credit: 1)

Getting Around in Venice: To Walk or Boat in Venice

Transportation is pretty binary in Venice, and there aren’t many options when you visit this unique European city.

However, this ends up being the most interesting thing about Venice.

It’s the only city in Europe that has remained free of cars or any other type of sizable vehicles.

When planning your trip to Venice, be sure to pack a good pair of sneakers.

You will be walking a lot.

Your choices are to either boat or walk when getting around in Venice.

Getting around in Venice

Everyone who has ever visited Venice will tell you: It’s not if you will get lost.

It is when you will get lost.

It seems to be part of the initiation.

Inevitably, you will lose your way when you stroll through the many winding, narrow roads around this beautiful town.

Walking in Venice

There are a couple of things that are a must when walking around Venice.

These tips will help you out.

Map of Venice

Investing in a detailed Walking Tour Map of Venice​ is simply a necessity.

If you are one of those people who thinks they can wing it and will always find their way around, then you might find your way into a country pasture or a six hour window of large crowds and lost time.

getting around in Venice Boat in Venice
Boat In Venice

Sometimes this is just what the doctor ordered; however, if you are on a tight schedule, then you need to make sure you are prepared.

Understand the signs

There are many signs (usually white or yellow) to get you to your destination when walking in Venice.

However, it is really not very straightforward.

You need to understand exactly where you are going.

It is worth noting that some streets might share the same name or even be similar to the name you are looking to find.

You also really need to understand the wording on the signs as they are not in English so try to learn some useful Venetian phrases in order to ask directions.

Learn how to travel to Venice on a budget.

Getting Around the Canals

When talking to regulars or someone who has just visited, they almost always speak about the crowds, getting lost, and walking for hours on end.

If this does not seem very appealing to you, then you need to situate a water taxi ahead of time.

It can zoom you around in comfort and style to your chosen destinations.

Getting Around the Canals of Venice - getting around in Venice
Getting Around the Canals of Venice

Tips on Hiring a Water Taxi

Watch for high/low tide which can be difficult for getting off of boat

It can be pricey so you might want to share the price with your group.

Plan for ways to save money on your trip.

Know that when taking a water taxi, it can be a long walk to your destination from the pier

Make sure the driver has a valid driver’s license.

Look for a yellow stripe along with his number.

Airport Transfer

A great idea is to plan your airport transfer ahead of time.

This is definitely the quickest way to get to your bed when you are tired from your long flight.

When searching the web, you can find sites like Book Water Taxi Venice where it is possible to book a ride online and pay with your credit card or PayPal.

Knowing in advance about getting around in Venice will help you enjoy your stay that much more.

Did you know that Fort Lauderdale in Florida is often compared to Venice, Italy?

How To Visit Venice On A Budget

Venice is often referred to as “the sinking city” – a statement which is true, but there is also no major rush to visit before it’s too late, Venice has been sinking for the last 1,000 years.

Venice On A Budget
Venice On A Budget

However, at the time they built the city, there was no such thing as global warming or tourists, so they never prepared for raising water levels and the 20 million visitors that would crowd the small islands some 1,000 years later …

But they are working on it, since Venice needs to be saved – it’s beautiful, unique – and also a money-making gem.

Venice has in a way become a victim of its own popularity, it’s such a beautiful and unique place, but it comes at a price – a high one…

Before I went there I had heard about the exorbitant prices, the crazy amount of tourists and the feeling that nobody lives there anymore – like a ghost town …

Well – you know us, we stopped blindly believing in what we read online a long time ago.

You realize that people online love to exaggerate, and even if they were right about some things, there is always a way to get around those things and still have a great time.

Venice, Italy VIDEO

Venice, Italy VIDEO
Venice, Italy VIDEO

After leaving Switzerland, it was time to jump back on the train and head to Venice, Italy.

We enjoyed our time in Venice, even though it was pretty expensive & busy – you could also get away and find a quiet corner to relax and also find cheap(er) pizza.

We hope you enjoy our Venice video.

We’re in San Marco’s Square.

Sofia’s just been feeding the pigeons. They’re really tame.

That was really cool to seem they were just all over the place.

Standing here and I realized there were cafés all around the square and outside many of the cafés they have live classical music bands who are dressed up in tuxedos really fancy.

These are the places that have a nine Euro cappuccino. So let’s go closer and check out the prices.

Often when you go to a café to relax they’ve got the latest pop or rap music in the background, 50 Cent and Brittany Spears, that kind of stuff. Here in Venice, they do it differently.

You’ve got live classical music, guys and girls wearing tuxedos and formal dress. Beautiful.

It really is like an experience coming to this café.

Like I said though, these are the cafés that have cappuccino for about nine or ten Euro. So let’s go and order one maybe Cappuccino, nine Euro.

It is expensive, but I guess you get what you pay for. It’s absolutely beautiful here.

So we’ve seen the main attraction around San Marco’s Square, and now we’re going to go back into the maze of Venice.

Get away from the crowds and try some Italian ice cream. Maybe some pizza as well.

We went to a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years but for some reason never have had the time to see:

Venice!

The historical, beautiful city on water that I had dreamed of going to – was right there in front of me – the narrow streets, hundreds of bridges and thousands of Venetian masks were no disappointment.

The only thing that surprised me was that the pizza I tried there just didn’t live up to expectations – maybe it’s just bad luck, but none of the ones I tried in Venice were any good!

And to be rudely honest, the best pizzas I’ve tried have actually been in other countries.

Sure, I give the Italians credit for having invented this awesome thing, but to be honest I think some countries have been inspired and taken pizza to a new level 😉

Maybe I just like people experimenting with food, trying to reinvent something rather than settling for the tradition is more my thing.

Venice
Venice

The Italians would probably laugh at me if I told them that my favorite pizza is one with banana, curry and peanuts as ingredients… trust me it’s nice!

How To Visit Venice On A Budget

We avoided the expensive hotels by staying at a cheaper one in Padova, a town 20 minutes away from Venice, using our InterRail passes to take a free train to Venice for the day.

We avoided the big tourist crowds by starting early in the morning – at this time the streets were close to empty, and you could enjoy the melancholic alleys and quietness of the town – alone.

We came here before the big tourist season, and the locals hadn’t fled the town, the kids were still playing football in the squares – the town was vibrant and alive with Italian flare.

We avoided the expensive Gondolas and Vaporettos by simply walking – it’s about compromising, and the Gondolas didn’t seem to be worth 79 Euro for ONLY an hour…Getting Around in Venice

We avoided the expensive food by eating away from the touristy areas – a full-sized pizza for only 3 Euro was what we had for lunch.

A cappuccino at St Marco’s square costs a whopping 9 Euro, while a few blocks away it costs 2.5 Euro.

An ice cream went from 2.20 Euro to 1.10 closer to the train station 5 minutes away.

You get the idea – it’s only expensive if you can’t be bothered to look around – so take that time, do a bit of research since Venice really can be enjoyed by anyone on any budget – as long as you make a bit of an effort!

Lost In A Misty San Marino Micro State

Get some useful information about San Marino here to make your trip more enjoyable.

The world is full of exotic locations that stir your imagination – countries that speak languages you’ve never heard of before, food you could never have imagined yourself, and traditions that show you how diverse people really are.

There are big cities and famous destinations like the Parises and New Yorks of this world, but then there are those smaller ones whose name you may have heard for the very first time.

If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable trip to a country that’s small enough to be explored at your own relaxed pace, then San Marino could be the perfect place for you.

Surrounded by Italy on all sides, the enclaved micro state San Marino is the oldest republic and surviving sovereign state in the world – dating back to year 301!

Perched on top of a hill, clinging to steep cliffs, is the country’s capital city “San Marino”.

The World Factbook states that at 61 square kilometers, San Marino is the 3rd smallest small state in Europe, its size being about a third of Washington D.C.

Geographically an enclave, San Marino is entirely enclosed within Italy, which makes it a very popular day trip destination for those visiting other popular Italian cities.

Lost In A Misty San Marino Micro State
Lost In A Misty San Marino Micro State

On the day we went to visit, the town which on a clear day offers views from all sides overlooking the hills and valleys of the tiny country, was instead hidden from the outside world by a thick mist.

Although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the awesome views, the misty atmosphere added to the medieval vibe of the town, which by the way was incredibly well preserved.

San Marino
San Marino

Reaching over the stoned walls it was impossible to see the ground below through the mist, which made it feel as though the fortified town was floating in the air.

It was easy to see why Giuseppe Garibaldi (a leader of the Italian unification movement) chose the secluded San Marino as his hiding place when escaping his enemies.

In appreciation, he let San Marino remain independent when the rest of the Italian peninsula was forced to be unified.

San Marino
San Marino

During its long and fascinating history, the tiny country San Marino has survived by charming their way past big leaders like Napoleon – and still today it charms its visitors even on the grayest of days.

Things to do in San Marino

Just because it is small doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in San Marino.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of attractions that can keep your days and nights busy.

It’s even an advantage that the area is relatively small, because that means you can explore it easily.

Here are some of the best activities and attractions you can look forward to when visiting San Marino:

Visit the Fortresses of Mount Titano

A visit to San Marino would not be complete without heading to its capital, the City of San Marino (locally known at Città di San Marino or simply Città).

There you’ll find San Marino’s highest point, Mount Titano, which has the most splendid views of the countryside, the Apennine mountains, and even the coast.

You can head to three different fortresses: Guaita, Cesta, and Montale.

Each fortress will give you a different part of history.

Rocca Guaita dates as early as 1253 and is the oldest of the three.

Cesta on the other hand contains the Museum of Historical Weapons, where you’ll find around 1,550 weapons from as early as the medieval times.

These fortresses and towers are a must-visit when you’re in San Marino, and the breathtaking views from the top of that mountain are to die for.

Hear Mass at the Basilica del Santo

A neo-classical style first Basilica built in 1826 before it was demolished and rebuilt, visiting this religious site is not only good for those interested in architecture and religion.

It has massive Corinthian columns and a beautiful bell tower, but more than that, it’s significant because this is where you can find the relics of St. Marino.

Explore the Quirky Museums

San Marino in itself is a living and breathing historical artifact, but there are a number of interesting museums you can explore.

You have the Museum of Curiosities, the Wax Museum, the Coin and Stamp Museum, and even the Museum of the Agricultural Culture and Traditions.

Another museum you shouldn’t miss is the Museo di Stato or the National Museum.

Watch the Changing of the Guard

The neo-Gothic Palazzo Pubblico is where you’ll find the heart of San Marino’s political scene.

It contains the town hall and is where all the important ceremonies take place.

The plaza in front of it is the Piazza della Libertà, where you’ll find tourists all day and where you can witness the Guardie di Rocca changing of the guard ceremony.

Sample the Local Cuisine

Food is a very important part of San Marino life, and you should never leave this place without sampling the best that local cuisine has to offer.

Enjoy the locally grown produce and the rich flavors of their Mediterranean offerings.

Local family-owned restaurants will surely tickle your taste buds with recipes passed on from generation to generation.

Make sure you sample the wine as well.

San Marino is the oldest republic and surviving sovereign state in the world

Aside from all these attractions, perhaps the best motivation for paying a visit to San Marino is that it’s actually the oldest republic in the world.

Established as early as 301 A.D., San Marino is also the oldest sovereign state with the oldest constitution that you can find, so visiting it today will be akin to traveling back in time and taking a piece of world history home with you.

With only 30,000 citizens, it is called The Most Serene Republic of San Marino and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It also has the smallest population out of all the countries in the Council of Europe.

It’s certainly a welcome break from visiting countries with dense populations and a lot of people.

Tourism is picking up, so you’ll most likely bump into a lot of tourists and visitors who like you would want to experience the San Marino magic.

Free things to do in Rome

Rome is probably not the first destination you think of when it comes to budget travel, but the great thing is that there are so many free things to do in Rome that once you have found cheap apartments in Rome – the rest of your budget planning is easy.

The city is practically an open-air museum, and there are so many historical sites that won’t cost you a dime – to give you an idea. 

Here are 7 free things to do in Rome …

Foro Romano
Foro Romano

Take A Stroll In Foro Romano

Stroll among the ruins of what once was the commercial, governmental and religious center of ancient Rome and its powerful empire.

Used as a venue for public speeches, criminal trials, gladiatorial games, it was the heart of ancient Rome and one of the most important meeting places in history – an ancient beauty not to be passed up!

Toss A Coin In Trevi Fountain
Toss A Coin In Trevi Fountain

Toss A Coin In Trevi Fountain

Rome is home to many incredible piazzas and almost as many fountains.

One of the most famous is the Trevi Fountain, where the Swedish beauty Anita Ekberg splashed in La Dolce Vita – a scene that would become one of the most iconic in film history.

The flamboyant baroque fountain was completed in 1762 by Niccolo Salvi, and legend says that if you throw a coin in the fountain over your shoulder you will return to Rome again some day.

Visit The Pantheon

The Pantheon is the oldest standing domed structure in Rome, built in 27 B.C. as a temple honoring the Roman gods (in 609 it was converted into a Christian church).

The structure is the burial place of several famous artists, and the reason for the huge 30 ft hole in the ceiling is still a mystery.

One of the most popular explanations is that the opening was built as a sundial to illuminate the emperor as he entered on important occasions.

It’s the largest un-reinforced concrete dome in the world, and a must see when in Rome.

Try Your Luck At La Bocca della Verita
Try Your Luck At La Bocca della Verita

Try Your Luck At La Bocca della Verita

Literally translated to “the mouth of truth”, this quirky sculpture is thought to once have been a piece of an ancient Roman fountain.

A legend from the middle ages has it that if you put your hand in the gaping mouth of this grotesque sculpture and tell a lie, you will pull out nothing but a stump!

Relax In Nature

Free things to do in Rome
Free things to do in Rome

For panoramic views of Rome, Park Gianicolo on Janiculum Hill is perfect!

Another great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the huge city are the fardens at Villa Borghese, some of the largest and most beautiful gardens in Rome and a great place for a picnic.

Check Out The Free Events

Summer is the high-season for free events in Rome, with music, film and theater festivals accompany wine-tastings and food events.

The International Urban Theater Festival has plenty of spontaneous and free dance, music and acting performances throughout the city in September.

The main summer festival, Estate Romana, is dedicated to outdoor performances and practically the whole of Rome becomes a stage.

During the festival hundreds of concerts, film showings, art displays and dances are held, many of them free of charge in all sorts of places, from the ancient ruins at Ostia Antica to open squares.

Visit These Two Churches

San Clemente
San Clemente

There are many absolutely stunning churches in Rome, but you can only see so many churches until you get so sick of them that if you see another church you swear you will go mad.

But before that happens, there are two amazing churches in Rome you should take the time to visit – the first one is St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Roman Catholic building in the world and an amazing work of art.

Make sure you rub the foot of the bronze statue of St. Peter before leaving, as it’s supposed to bring good luck!

The second church is San Clemente, which actually holds three churches in one.

Made up of three levels, the lowest one is an ancient worship site, the second level is the first version of the church as a Christian worship site and the third a sanctuary from the 12th century with beautiful mosaics!

3 Amazing Roman Architecture

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire may be ancient history, but Roman architecture is still on prominent display in countless European cities.

From arches to aqueducts, temples to baths, there is no shortage of places to admire the remains of the great civilization.”

While not as famous as the Coliseum or the Pantheon, here are three sites that demonstrate a range of architectural techniques and give visitors a sense of what it was like to live in ancient Rome:

Verona Arena – Verona, Italy

Built in 30 AD, this structure is one of the best preserved Roman arenas, and despite a damaging earthquake in the 12th century, it is still in use today.

Verona Arena - Verona, Italy
Verona Arena – Verona, Italy

Originally built outside the city limits, the arena accommodated up to 30,000 spectators, and Romans would flock to it to watch barbaric gladiator fights and other games.

The Verona Arena is famous for its wonderful acoustics, and it is a currently popular venue for opera productions and rock and pop concerts.

A great option is to stay in local Verona apartments and take in a show.

Villa Adriana – Tivoli, Italy

The Emperor Hadrian’s expansive villa, comprised of 30 separate buildings, is a testament to his appreciation of and influence on Roman architecture.

Built in the early 2nd century AD, Hadrian’s vacation home included vast gardens, multiple pools, theaters, libraries, baths, underground tunnels, and housing for guests and servants.

Villa Adriana - Tivoli, Italy
Villa Adriana – Tivoli, Italy

Especially interesting is the Maritime Theater, a pool with a small island in the center that could only be reached by drawbridge.

On the island was a small Roman house – allowing the emperor to retreat from his retreat!

The Ruins – Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy

Destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, these Roman towns were buried under the volcano’s pyroclastic flows.

Pompeii is well known for its ruins, but Herculaneum’s ruins were even better preserved: the city was completely buried so even upper stories of buildings remain intact, and the hot ash preserved wood objects such as furniture.

The Ruins - Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
The Ruins – Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy

There are bakeries, bars, luxurious homes, and brothels.

Sharp-eyed visitors will notice ancient graffiti and a “beware of dog” sign.”

Visitors can even come face-to-face with the towns’ last inhabitants; eerie plaster casts are all that remain of those who failed to escape the volcano and were quickly overcome by super-heated air.

Rome: History You Can Still Experience

Rome was once the center of a vast empire that spread thousands of kilometers.

While many of the empire’s cities have fallen and artifacts from the era have been destroyed, some are still intact in Rome.

This makes Rome a perfect destination for those interested in the history of the Roman Empire, and a trip there lets you experience the ancient architecture and understand the Roman way of life 2,000 years ago…

Preparing for Your Arrival

Rome: History You Can Still Experience

Before you can explore the rich history of Rome, you must first plan your trip.

Consider how you will arrive, where you would like to stay and what you would like to do during your visit.

Even if you are not quite ready to make your purchase, start reviewing the price of tickets and accommodations now.

Book your airfare and a place to stay in Rome as far in advance as possible.

Generally speaking, the sooner you make your reservations, the cheaper it will be.

This is especially true if you will be going during the high season, which is June through August.

During these months, airfare and accommodations will be more expensive.

Easter is also a very busy time of the year in Rome, and although you might find somewhere to stay, I would still suggest that you go outside of this holiday to really be able to enjoy your time there.

Essential Historical Sites to Experience

The Colosseum

There is an overwhelming number of places to visit in Rome, but to break it down for you, here are some unique and captivating historical sites I recommend:

The Colosseum:

Easily the most recognizable and famous historical monument in Rome, this was once the world’s largest amphitheater.

Gladiators, lions and criminals were pitted against each other for the entertainment of the emperor and citizens.

It has been well-maintained and offers regular tours, allowing you to see the arena that once hosted life-or-death battles.

Palatine Hill

As the birthplace of this ancient city, Palatine Hill is home to dozens of historical sites.

From ancient buildings to sacrificial alters, you will be able to absorb the earliest history of Rome in this single location.

The foundation myth of Rome states that the city was founded in 753 B.C. by the twins Romulus and Remus, and they are enshrined throughout this landmark.

As the oldest historical site in the city, simply setting foot on the grounds imparts a sense of awe.

Ostia Antica

One of Rome’s lesser-known historical sites, it is also one of its best preserved. Ostia Antica was the port of ancient Rome, and this gateway traces its roots to the 4th century B.C. Ancient military camps, temples and the Baths of Neptune are all located in this well-preserved area.

Musei Capitolini

This museum is home to hundreds of artifacts of  Rome’s extensive history — from the Renaissance, medieval and ancient periods.

With so much history in the multi-building complex, this is a must-see for those looking to relive the history of Rome.

Circus Maximus

Perhaps the second most popular historical landmark in the city, Circus Maximus was once the largest primary sports stadium.

This arena hosted the famous chariot races and was capable of holding 150,000 spectators.

Explore Unrivaled History

The Roman Empire was the world’s first civilization of its size.

It spread all the way from Europe to the Middle East.

It originated technology and ideas that we still use today, such as roads and some schools of mathematics.

Rome was a center of commerce and knowledge for centuries.

Fortunately, due to pristine preserved monuments and historical artifacts, you can still experience the rich history of this once-great Empire.

Verona – The City Of A Love That Never Was

Known as the city of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is the location of the most romantic and tragic love story of all time.

Every year 1,600 Japanese tour groups stop for one hour to stand on “Juliet’s Balcony” and rub the boobs of Juliet’s statue on the square below for good luck.

Nobody seems to care (or even know) that the romantic couple never actually existed, or that Shakespeare had never been to Verona.

Verona - The City Of A Love That Never Was

However, the fighting Capulets and Montague families were inspired by the real families of Capello and Montecchi who lived in Verona at that time.

And despite the fact that Shakespeare had never been to Verona, he could not have chosen a better city to base a love story in.

Dark Alleys & Lovely Piazzas

Dark Alleys & Lovely Piazzas

Romance is everywhere in the little town of Verona, and while Juliet’s balcony is the one people come to visit, there are romantic little balconies decorated with flowers everywhere along the dark winding alleyways that suddenly open up in large piazzas full of life.

Piazza delle Erbe is the most charming of the squares in Verona, and has been a marketplace for over 2000 years.

You can have a seat at one of the elegant cafes or sit grab a gelato and sit down by the 14th century fountain or the 15th century Berlina shrine (once used for public elections and punishments of guilty citizens) while taking it all in.

Past & Present Side By Side

Verona

Just like many other picturesque Italian towns, Verona’s rich history blends in with the present; scattered among modern shops and bars are chips of Roman columns, old facades, a Roman theater and medieval reliefs.

There is even an arena dating back to 50 AD (older than the Colosseum in Rome) which is still today used for concerts and events!

Relax & Have A Drink

Aside from the passing tour groups on their way to and from Juliet’s balcony and the train station, Verona has a calming vibe which slows you down and makes you appreciate the small moments of everyday life on the streets.

The outside seating at the many small Trattorias (Italian Café/bars) are full of people enjoying a few glasses of Aperol Spritz and chips in the sun.

A great place for an Aperol Spritz and chips is Attimo Caffé at Lungadige Porta Vittoria 19a, a popular hangout spot among the town’s university students – it has a cute little outside seating area in the sun, and prices are cheap.

In general you’ll find that prices are cheaper on that side of the river than in the city center.

Take In The Views

Verona View

Walking along the narrow streets (and even narrower sidewalks!) you’ll find little love stories everywhere in Verona, but the most romantic place in all of Verona, is at the Castell San Pietro, a favorite spot for romantic couples.

Climb the steps up the hill to get the most amazing sunset view overlooking Verona with the river and bridges below (including Ponte Pietra, a beautiful bridge dating back to 100BC) and the snow covered alps in the backdrop.

There is much more to see and do in Verona, but these were among our favorites.

What are your favorite things about Verona?

Best Health Resorts in Italy

The best health resorts in Italy will help you to relax and greatly enhance your quality of life.

Most people rush through life taking little time to care for themselves.

They hurry from one responsibility to the next, neglecting to indulge in the relaxation and recreation that could greatly enhance their quality of life.

Even worse, they don’t make opportunities to eat a healthy diet or regularly exercise.

Sometimes that holds true on vacations as well. It’s all too easy to rush from one must-see sight to the next.

Once again, there’s no time to relax, enjoy and feel the regenerative effects that a good vacation should bring.

A stay at the Hotel Adler Balance is the cure for that kind of vacation.

It’s a resort unlike any other in that the health and well-being of every guest is the primary concern of the staff.

Accommodations, meals and activities are all geared toward providing the relaxing and rejuvenating atmosphere people need in order to experience the best that life has to offer.

Even the resort’s setting seems designed to inspire awe and soothe away every day cares.

Set in the breathtaking majesty of the Italian Dolomites, the Adler Balance is the perfect venue for experiencing an escape from the ordinary.

Even the air guests breathe here positively affects their health and well-being.

At elevations greater than 4,000 feet, visitors enjoy a stronger circulatory system and may benefit from a positive hormone release.

ADLER BALANCE Best Health Resorts in Italy to Help You Relax
ADLER BALANCE Best Health Resorts in Italy to Help You Relax

Hotel Adler Balance is located in the picturesque Val Gardena, a northern Italian valley.

It’s a region recognized for outstanding outdoor recreation like rock climbing, hiking and skiing.

One of the valley’s villages is Ortisei, which hosts the Hotel Adler Balance.

Only about 6,000 fortunate people get to live in Ortisei, but this is a village designed to cater to the tourism industry.

Visitors love strolling along the center of the village to discover quaint shops and one-of-a-kind eateries.

Local history and culture is explored at the Gherdeina Local Heritage Museum or during one of the many annual festivals.

While the valley, Ortisei and the Dolomites are lovely, most people come here for the wellness resorts.

Foremost among these is the Hotel Adler Balance.

In all public areas and private suites, resort management has provided painstaking attention to detail.

There are no jarring lines and no wrong notes in the color choices.

Everything is designed to soothe and relax.

From the muted music pouring softly from state-of-the-art speakers to the tasteful art collection, the Adler Balance is aimed at producing a calming effect.

It’s virtually impossible to feel rushed here.

Ordinary stress simply melts away under the influence of muted tones and beautifully designed furnishings.

ADLER BALANCE
ADLER BALANCE

Each suite is luxuriously appointed to cater to an excellent night’s sleep.

Sliding glass doors allow in copious amounts of natural light. Even better is the balcony that lies beyond.

Each is equipped with a comfortable seating arrangement and a breathtaking view.

Back inside, guests enjoy spacious proportions that are enhanced through the use of natural building materials and textiles.

The bathrooms are particularly impressive.

Each has an extravagant wellness tub where guests can soak their cares away.

The tea bar and minibar featuring organic fruit juices are welcome alterations on the usual hotel room offerings.

While it would be tempting to spend inordinate amounts of time in the suites, there are plenty of enticing activities to experience elsewhere.

The hotel offers a number of different packages, each of which is tailored to the guest’s specific health and wellness goals.

Some packages are designed to enable weight loss while others provide helpful strategies for coping with stress.

The main idea is that guests utilize their time at the hotel to learn new techniques and then apply them to their everyday lives back home.

The result is a happier, more fulfilling lifestyle in which the individual is better able to balance responsibilities with taking excellent care of themselves.

Adler Balance achieves this goal using a number of methods.

In the gorgeous dining room, guests enjoy items from a diverse menu of al a carte meals or adhere to a nutrition plan that is personally designed for them by the resort’s medical personnel.

Regardless of which option is chosen, diners can expect superior cuisine that draws heavily on fresh, local produce and traditional dishes.

The theme of health and wellness is also exemplified in the property’s Water and Wellness World.

It’s a sumptuous oasis of indoor and outdoor pools, spas and saunas.

A splendid hay sauna resides in a picturesquely rustic mountainside hut while a decadent salt lake hides deep underground.

The area is dotted with relaxation zones that are ideal for napping and reading.

After a difficult day of spa treatments, there’s no better place to unwind.

Best Health Resort in Italy
ADLER BALANCE Private Best Health Resort in Italy

Speaking of the spa, the Adler Balance features a spectacularly well-appointed one.

Guests may select from an impressive array of treatments designed to relax, rejuvenate and beautify in a carefully cultivated atmosphere of repose.

Couples may want to choose treatments that pamper both partners at the same time.

It’s a lovely way to reconnect while on vacation.

The health and well-being of guests is reinforced at the resort’s state-of-the-art fitness center. The center features a packed schedule of activities.

Guests may be introduced to yoga, Pilates or specialized classes designed to burn the maximum amount of fat.

There is also an extensive selection of resistance and cardio machines for guests to choose from.

Every activity is overseen by friendly, knowledgeable staff members who are there to help guests gain the most benefit from the experience.

The resort even takes fitness outside with walking and outdoor programs.

In the warmer months, guests may try walks, climbs and bike rides.

When snow covers the ground, skiing and other winter sports take center stage.

Guests may indulge on their own or join a program led by an experienced guide.

The Hotel Adler Balance offers a remarkable experience for guests hoping to indulge in a truly relaxing vacation.

Its unique mix of activities and accommodations make it the most desirable resort in a region known for its breathtaking beauty.

How To Visit Venice On A Budget

Family Friendly Italian Holidays

Italian Holidays ~ Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for its rich history, stunning landscapes, trendy fashion, art treasures, top-class cuisine and passionate people.

With so many wonderful things to do for almost all kinds of travelers in this country in the southern Europe, it is always difficult to choose which regions to visit in a single trip to Italy.

If you are looking to have some wonderful experiences in Italy with your family, consider the following 5 family friendly places:

Family Friendly Italian Holidays Dolomites Italy
Family Friendly Italian Holidays Dolomites Italy

Tuscany

Tuscany is perhaps the most popular family vacation destination in the world for its natural landscapes that include cypress trees, vineyards, olive groves, and beautiful rolling hills.

You can find fairy tale style, luxury holiday villas to have some wonderful moments with your family.

There can’t be anything more pleasing to see the wonderful nature of Tuscany sitting on the balcony of a Tuscan villa with your family.

Some other popular activities for family vacationers in Tuscany include exploring Renaissance art in Florence, relaxing in hill towns like San Gimignano.

Paying visits to the leaning tower of Pisa, to the wonderful beaches in Elba and medieval city of Siena all can offer you and your family plenty of unforgettable experiences.

Amalfi Coast

Stretching 30 miles along the southern part of the Sorrento Peninsula, Amalfi Coast is one of the most popular travel destinations in Italy for its picturesque coastline that features multicolored villas, lemon tree gardens, craggy cliffs, ritzy resorts, and shimmering bays.

With scenic mountains, pastel houses, and beautiful pebbled beaches, Positano is one of the most romantic towns along the Amalfi coast.

So, you can have some wonderful moments in Positano as well.

Rome

Rome, the eternal city, is perfect travel destination for all kinds of travelers.

There is limitless number of wonderful architecture and arts to explore for travelers visiting Rome.

So, you can take your family on holiday to the most popular tourist attractions such us the roman coliseum, the Vatican Museums, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain and so on.

Capital Of Café Culture
Capital Of Café Culture

Sicily

With several small isles, Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy.

It is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is a destination which is rich in history and art and boasts of Palermo’s Baroque churches, Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, and Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.

Venice

Venice is a wonderful archipelago of 118 islands connected with some beautiful scenic canals and bridges.

Although Venice might not be as family friendly as Tuscany and the other places mentioned about, but Venice is a city you can do on a budget.

Getting Around in Venice – Taking a gondola ride with your family along the famous Grand Canal and many other small ones can be an experience of lifetime.

And don’t forget to pay visits to the magnificent Venice landmarks such as Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace and most importantly like Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica.

Cinque Terre Italy Travel Guide

Cinque Terre Italy Travel Guide – Cinque Terre is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque areas in Italy, and it’s impossible not to be charmed by the colorful quaint villages clinging on to the rugged cliffs along the coast and its warm hospitable locals.

Walking around the villages you can easily picture what it must have been like a hundred years ago when the area was so secluded that the only way to get there was by sea or mule paths.

These mule paths have been maintained and used over the centuries and are now popular hiking paths with the most amazing views of the sea-swept Cinque Terre …

Cinque Terre Italy Travel Guide
Monterosso

You can buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes that are valid on all local trains on the Cinque Terre route – that way you can travel back and forth between all the towns as much as you like for the time period the pass is valid.

A 1 day pass costs €10 per person and lasts all day.

There is also a one-direction pass for €8 where you can travel in one direction, but by the end of the day you’ll still need to return to your city and pay a single ticket, so it kind of evens out anyway.

Single tickets cost between €1.80 and €2 between the villages when bought from the stations.

Cinque Terre 5 Villages

Cinque Terre literally translates to “5 lands”, and includes the five villages Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. While they have many similarities, each village stands out with its own unique attributes and charm.

Vernazza

With a picturesque harbor and stunning views overlooking the village from the walking paths nearby, Vernazza is surrounded by hilly vineyards on one side, and the great ocean on the other.

The cafés are cute and cheap, perfect for a lunch stop.

Vernazza
Vernazza

Manarola

The waves that clash against the dark rugged rocks that the little colorful houses in Manarola cling to really makes the view over the town one of the most dramatic in Cinque Terre.

Completely surrounded by vineyards, Manarola is a good stop to sit down in a Trattoria and taste the local wine.

If you’re feeling for something more refreshing, Manarola has the best Gelateria in Cinque Terre called Gelateria Cinque Terre.

Manarola
Manarola

Monterosso

The largest village and also the flattest, Monterosso has two sandy beaches, a rare commodity in the area, it also offers more budget friendly hotels than the other villages and is often the place travelers base themselves in.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore was the village we stayed in, so we naturally spent more time there and loved the cafes and take-away restaurants that lined the steep main street of the village.

We never tired of the view of the houses tightly tucked next to each other on the steep hill.

Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore

Corniglia

Set high above the ocean on a hilltop, Corniglia is very different from the other villages that are located by the shores.

The narrow, winding alleys in Corniglia charm visitors with its tiny Trattorias, Pizzerias and handicraft shops.

The views overlooking the other villages below and a small village even further into the secluded hills are stunning.

The village is so secluded that locals buy their daily necessities from vans that drive up to the village to sell food, cooking utensils and what not from the back of their vans.

Our Favorite Cinque Terre

Each town has its own charm and special touch, but if we had to choose our favorite, it would be Vernazza.

It’s incredibly picturesque, offers beautiful views, and has a great vibe.

What To Eat & Drink in Cinque Terre

What To Eat & Drink in Cinque Terre

The locals are very friendly and open, and the cafes and eateries serve fantastic food for good prices – we were expecting over-priced meals since the villages in Cinque Terre are rather secluded and small, offering few options.

But instead we found that the meals were normal compared to other places in Italy, and we didn’t have one boring meal during our stay (coffee was a bit more, around €2.50).

Pesto

Cinque Terre is a pesto paradise, and local diners serve all sorts of food smothered in the green deliciousness.

We became huge fans of the “Gnocchi al Pesto” at Te La Do Io La Merenda in Riomaggiore (€6).

Limoncino

Cinque Terre grows a lot of lemons, which is why their dessert wine Limoncino is a local specialty.

Wine

Also make sure you try their local wine, which are grown from the unique vineyards you see all over the area clinging to the ocean cliffs and hills.

Cinque Terre was one of the most colorful areas we’ve ever been and we absolutely loved it!

What are some of your best tips for travelers visiting Cinque Terre?

Italy

Top 5 Places To Visit in the Winter Italy
Italy

The cornerstone of style, the foundation of civilization, the bedrock of a modern world, yes Italy has done it all.

As one of the most culturally significant places in the world, you won’t be short of things to do.

From the tops of the Alps to the simmer of Southern Italy, all that’s left to do is pick the perfect holiday for you.

Whether you’re a fan of the classic film Roman Holiday, are a history buff, or just have serious wanderlust, there are a million reasons to visit Rome.

Many believe that there’s no better way to get to know a city on foot.

Rome walking tours are a wonderful way to explore the city and feel more like a local than a tourist.

Plus, you’ll get a little exercise in the process — meaning you can binge on as much pizza and pasta as you want later.

What should you know about Rome walking tours, and which areas should you be sure to see on foot?

Read on to find out.

Beautiful Rome Walking Tours

With a Guide or Self-Guided?

The first thing you need to decide is whether you’d prefer to walk with a tour guide and group, or go at it on your own.

Thanks to smartphones, it’s easier than ever to find your way in a foreign city.

If you’re the independent type, and would rather go at your own pace, a self-guided tour may be best.

You can also pick up a travel brochure or book that will tell you a bit about the history of the places you pass by.

Of course, if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll likely choose to do a self-guided tour.

However, if you have the funds and interest, there are several professionally-guided Rome walking tours.

Especially if you’re concerned about getting lost, or are a solo traveler looking to meet others on your trip, a professional tour may be the best option for you.

Plus, your tour guide can make suggestions for the best local places to eat, see, and shop.

Additionally, you may get more personal history from a guide, and you’ll be able to get any questions you have along the way answered.

This isn’t always possible if you’re taking a self-guided tour.

Whichever option you choose, there are a few routes for Rome walking tours that you shouldn’t miss.

Let’s explore a few of them now.

Spanish Steps to the Historic Trevi Fountain

Everyone remembers this iconic scene from Federico Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita, where Anita Ekberg dances in the Trevi Fountain.

To see it for yourself, follow this tour!

Start at the very last step of iconic Spanish Steps.

Then, take a left turn, so that you pass the Keats-Shelley museum.

From there, you’ll be able to see the historic Column of the Immaculate on the Piazza Mignanelli.

Once you’ve seen enough of the Column, you’ll notice a fork in the road — head to the right side of the fork to walk up via Propaganda.

There are tons of restaurants on this street, so this is a great mid-day walk.

You’ll also pass the Saint Andrew Basilica, which is well worth a look.

As you keep walking, you’ll notice that the road becomes narrow.

Eventually, the street will turn into Via di Sant Andrea della Fratte.

You’ll soon come across the Collegio Nazzareno, a former palace and current school.

Take a left on Via del Nazarelio, which you’ll follow until it becomes Via del Tritone.

This is one of the busiest streets in the city, so keep your eyes open.

You’ll also start to notice signs leading you to the Trevi Fountain, which will tell you to take the Via della Stamperia.

Get ready to feel those famous Italian cobblestones under your feet!

Soon, the Trevi Fountain will appear right before your eyes.

Resist the urge to jump in and mimic Anita Ekberg, as doing so will cost you a hefty fine!

Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon

Once you’ve had your fill of taking in the beauty of the Trevi Fountain, you can continue your walk to the historic Pantheon building.

The Pantheon is a stunning ancient building, filled with natural light.

It’s also the final resting place of the famed Italian artist, Raphael.

When you’re directly facing the Trevi Fountain, take a sharp left down the Via delle Muratte.

While this street is perhaps a little more of a tourist trap than most would like, it’s a wonderful place to pick up some souvenirs for your friends back home.

Plus, it’s a short street.

Walk along it until you see the Via del Corso across the street.

Soon, Via del Corso becomes the Via di Pietra.

Here, you’ll take a look at the Piazza di Pietra.

This Piazza is home to the famous Temple of Hadrian.

Interestingly, the name of the street translates in English to “The Plaza of Stone.”

This is because the cobblestones you’ll walk along were made from the same stones that built the Temple of Hadrian.

Though the wall along the Temple has certainly had a tough time surviving the passage of time, the part that still exists is stunning.

Luckily, you’ll even be able to see a few of the Corinthian columns that still stand.

Exit the Piazza on the left side, and walk along the Via del Pastini.

Here, you’ll have another opportunity to grab a snack, or even a much-needed glass of wine!

Keep following this street until you see the magnificent Pantheon coming into focus.

The square itself is filled with shops, tourists, and locals alike.

From there, you can enter the Pantheon and experience history firsthand.

Make These Rome Walking Tours a Part of Your Trip

Whether you decide to go with a professional tour guide or on your own, make sure you don’t miss these walking tour routes.

Things to do in Florence, Things to do in Bologna

Of course, once you’ve finished your tour, you’ll want to know what you should see next!

And when you’re planning your trip, you’ll likely have questions about what to pack and how much money you should bring.

We’ve got you covered.

Check out our travel blog for the top tips on things to see and do in destinations all around the globe.

We’ll also share our favorite packing tips with you, so you can cram as much as possible in your suitcase.

Now all that’s left to do is book your flight.

5 Italian Foods You Must Try on our European Trip

Italy is a foodie’s paradise mainly because the Italians like to use the freshest local products when preparing their dishes.

And after you have indulged, take a Rome Walking Tour.

Traditional Italian food is known to most people around the globe but tasting it in Italy, where recipes have been handed down for generations and the ingredients were probably picked yesterday, just a mile away, is a whole new experience!

Apart from prepared dishes be sure to try the olive oil, wine, fresh mushrooms, Italian cheese, garlic and Italian pesto.

Italian food you must try

Pasta

Any variety will be delicious but the carbonara made with egg yolks, guanciale and pecorino, served with rigatoni is divine, especially when eaten in Rome.

Make sure you’re eating the pasta which has been freshly made on the premises and explore all the shapes and sizes of pasta as well as the traditional sauces.

You’ll discover the many forms the humble pasta can take and the individual flavored sauces depending on what part of Italy you’re in.

Gelato

You’ll find gelato shops serving creamy ice-cream on almost every corner of every street in Rome and most of Italy.

The flavors are vast and the rich treat is piled high in the display cabinets showing a rainbow of colors.

Enjoy your gelato in a waffle cone or a tub.

The gelato is delicious because of the high quality ingredients used, and no calorie counting is taken into consideration when the gelato is created!

Pizza

You’ll discover that pizza comes in many forms and mainly in squares (pizza al taglio), but can be in triangles or circles!

Try the Pizza Bianca, a white pizza made using thick, fluffy focaccia bread as the base.

In Rome you’ll find thin crust pizza and in Naples there is a thick bread base.

A good pizza should be baked in a wood oven and they can be piled high with fresh vegetables, meat and basically anything else.

Truffles

Italy produces the best truffles in the world so why not try them here, even better see if you can join a group hunting for truffles.

Truffles grow in the Piedmonte and Umbria regions, here you can also find truffle festivals.

The most famous truffle festival is the White Truffle Festival of Alba.

They are extremely expensive due to their rarity.

Truffles grow, like mushrooms, but beneath the ground and attached to a tree’s roots.

One truffle is produced a year from each fungi and the flavor of the truffle varies according to the tree it grows on.

You can try the white truffles (the most precious) or black truffles and enjoy the delicacy in its country of origin.

Because of its price truffles are often added in sparse quantities and you can find them on the menus of only the finest restaurants.

Tripe

Trippa, may sound like an unlikely candidate for this list but for that reason it is here, it is unusual to foreigners!

The stomach lining of a cow’s first stomach is cooked very slowly and served in a tomato or meat sauce it can also be made into a stew.

Tripe became a popular dish because it is cheap, but today it is a respected item on classy restaurants.

So whether you are visiting Italy for a holiday or are studying abroad, be sure to experience this cuisine.

Hadrian’s Wall Walk – With its postcard-perfect panoramic views and historic Roman remains, Hadrian’s Wall is one the most epic paths you can hike on.

The defensive barrier runs from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway on Scotland’s east coast, and hiking the 135 km wall from end-to-end will take around a week.

An excellent way to soak up the vibe and dive into its rich history is to plan your route to take pit-stops at some of the incredible Roman ruins that are dotted along the way.

From famous forts and bathhouses to viewing towers and granaries, we reveal five of the most striking roman ruins that should be on your Hadrian’s Wall must-see list.

Best Roman Ruins You Will See on Hadrian’s Wall Walk

Hang out at Historic Housesteads

Ask any local for their advice on the best Hadrian’s Wall hotspot and they will most likely reply with Housesteads Roman Fort.

After All, this ancient landmark is probably one of the most famous Roman Forts in Northumberland, if not Great Britain.

The imposing fort is perched high above Hadrian’s wall, and a trip there will transport you back to an era when around 800 soldiers manned the barracks.

Prepared to be wowed by the artifact-filled interactive museum, discover more about the Roman Empire at a screening in the mini-cinema, and take a gander at some of the oldest toilets in the country.

You can head to the visitor’s center to view a detailed 3D interactive map of the site and chat with the friendly and knowledgeable staff about Housestead and its intriguing past.

A new North-West Frontier exhibition showcases the life of the Roman cavalry through film and interactive displays.

There is a small admission fee for adults and children, while National Trust Members get free access to the grounds.

Facilities are plentiful with car-parking, a gift-shop and a small cafe available on-site.

Archeologists Dream: Vindolanda Roman Fort

Another must-see spot — and the only one where you’ll witness archaeologists uncovering Roman treasures right before your very eyes — is Vindolanda Roman Fort.

Constructed around 122 AD, these barracks were filled with a treasure-trove of pristine personal items which archaeologists compared unearthing them to a lottery win.

The artifacts are in such great condition because they were protected by a thick layer of concrete which created oxygen-free conditions to preserve all manner of items including weapons, brooches, tablets, bags, combs and woven cloth.

Wandering the ruins will give you a strong connection to the 1000+ soldiers and slaves who once lived here.

The fort’s newly refurbished museum displays many of the archaeological finds, including an ancient wood-inscribed writing tablet which recorded some of the more personal details of the soldiers and commander’s lives.

Open all year round, Vindolanda Roman Fort does require a small entrance fee, but visitors will have access to a cafe, the museum, the souvenir shop and parking facilities.

Arbeia Roman Fort: Step into a Roman World

Arbeia Roman Fort shines a bright light on Roman culture through its beautiful restorations and reconstructions of original Roman buildings.

The large fort once housed soldiers who guarded the River Tyne entrance.

It was also a river supply center which played a vital role in sustaining troops who were stationed along some of the 17 forts speckled along Hadrian’s’ wall.

It’s here you can marvel at the foundation of some of the earliest granaries in the United Kingdom, take a stroll through the luxurious commander’s office and explore the barrack blocks that come complete with reconstructed beds and furniture.

Excavations are ongoing, and many of the findings are displayed in the on-site museum.

There is also a special interactive TimeQuest exhibition which unravels some fascinating Roman secrets.

Other highlights include a well-preserved chain mail suit and live-action events held throughout the summer months.

The fort and Museum are open from the start of January to the middle of September, and admission is totally free of charge.

Chester’s Roman Fort

One of the more tranquil spots is Chester’s Fort, which lies on the pretty banks of the North Tyne.

This fort has a large bathhouse, steam rooms, and clubhouse, which once served as a place of rest and relaxation for tired soldiers.

An amazing collection of rare objects await you in the on-site museum, while Chester’s tea room provides a quaint spot to sip on a cup of tea and enjoy a scone or two.

Kids of all ages will be kept entertained at an interactive game experience called Chester’s Fort Takeover, which will get you racing through the ruins on a fun adventure.

Visitors can choose to become an English Heritage member to receive free access to 40 hot spots, including Chester’s Roman Fort, several other historic places along the walls, as well as one-off events.

Non-members will be required to pay a small admission fee to access the fort, and family discounts are available.

You can choose to drive to your chosen Roman ruins and significant parts of the wall that is on your list, but the best way to truly absorb the history and magic of the wall is to hike it.

You can book Hadrian’s Wall Walking Holidays which range from 3 to 10 days in length, and include accommodation, a detailed guidebook filled with a personal itinerary, essential information, waterproof maps and images.

It’s an easy way to explore the best Roman forts, and have everything planned for you before you arrive.

At The End of the Wall: Segedunum Roman Fort

Last but certainly not least on the list is Wallsend Fort, which gets its name from being the last fort on the east end of the wall.

Also known as Segedunum Fort, this wall is the most complete excavated site on the wall.

Unliked Chesters Roman Fort, Wallsend features fully reconstructed Roman baths.

There’s also a reconstruction of the wall which sits just the other side of the main road, and visitors are allowed to climb on it in order to get a true feel for its size.

For birds-eye views of the wall and its pretty surroundings, head up to the top of the impressive 35-meter high viewing tower.

The extensive museum is worth a visit too, as the interactive exhibits tell a vivid story of Roman and pre-Roman times.

Special events are held through the year including fireworks, reenactments and kids fun days.

Check the official website to find out more information on opening hours, and what is on during your trip.

The fort and museum are open year round and there is an admission fee for adults, while concessions are available and children under 16 get in free.

The fort houses a small cafe, and a souvenir-filled gift and frequent lectures and reenactments are held through the year.

So don your best hiking boots, clean your camera lens and get ready to explore one of the most magnificent walls in Europe.

It’s time to steep yourself in the rich history of the area and get lost in a long-gone era.

These five Roman ruins are arguably highlights of Hadrian’s Wall and will impress even the most knowledgeable history-buffs.

Enjoy your trip.

Tuscany Italy – What To See And Do

If you want to go to a place known for its good food and drink, amazing atmosphere and peaceful ambiance, then Tuscany is the perfect destination.

Lucca

The city of Lucca is a great place to visit in Italy, and has many attractions for its tourists and residents.

The city is enclosed inside a wall, however there are lots of places to rent bikes and go on some splendid walks.

Some great sights to see in this city include the “San Michele in Foro Church”, the “San Martino Cathedral” and also the “Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni and Perparata”.

This is a great place to go if you plan on visiting Pisa.

Pisa

Pisa is a must see destination if you plan on going to Italy for a trip, it can become very hot in the summer and very crowded especially around the cathedral.

Strangely enough, this is where the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa stands, or leans.

For great views of the surrounding area take the 300 step ascent up to the top.

There’s no need to worry about this bizarre structure giving in to gravity and toppling, for it was leaning during its construction and has been ever since, for over 800 years.

For good measure it also counter weighted by hefty blocks of lead. Lots of them.

Siena

This city is around 200 km north of Rome and has some of the best festivals in Italy.

The most famous one is the festival “Il Palio di Siena”, which is a horse race in the square “Piazza del Campo”.

The countryside of Siena is beautiful and unique.

You will encounter small villages and medieval towns consisting of vineyards and impressive olive trees.

There are many beautiful Tuscany villa rentals around Siena, and they tend to be especially popular with wine connoisseurs

Florence

Florence is one of the most famous cities in Italy stands a very pretty Renaissance city in the center of Tuscany.

The most popular and famous square in Florence is Piazza della Signoria, which has a great open air sculpture exhibit.

You should definitely make sure you see the “Baptistery” which is of John the Baptist – as its one of Florence’s oldest buildings.

Stop by the oldest bridge in Florence – the “Ponte Vecchio” – which was built in 1345.

Wimdu has some amazing deals on local bed and breakfasts in this city and worldwide – so make sure you find yourself a place to stay before it’s all booked out for the Summer!

For something a bit more relaxing, why not head to the “Boboli Garden and Pitti Palace”.

You can wander through the huge park and view the wonderful gardens and fountains.

It has a great view of the city from here, so remember to take your camera with you.

Then head to Rome and take a walking tour.

Things To Do In Florence Italy

Things To Do In Florence Italy ~ Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence is a cultural, architectural and artistic gem.

From visiting world famous museums to sampling local wine in a corner bar, there is plenty to see and do in Florence, and the city will easily keep you busy for a week.

However, keep in mind that with all the entrance fees, the costs can easily add up, but on the other hand you won’t want to miss out on all the great attractions for being cheap.

Instead, spend on the attractions and save on accommodation, and stay in one of the many apartments on – that way you can cook your own meals, which will save you a lot of money!

Museums In Florence Italy

There are a number of excellent museums in Florence, from sculpture museums to science – there is even a museum dedicated to the luxury brand Gucci!

The most famous museum however, is Uffizi, one of the most popular museums in the world, with collections of Renaissance paintings and sculptures from classical antiquity.

The entry fee, and it’s not uncommon having to wait in line for hours, so the extra € for booking in advance could very well be worth it, as you will save a lot of time that could be spent in the museum rather than outside of it.

Other popular museums include Bargello, Accademia Gallery and Pitti Palace (with the beautiful Boboli Gardens).

Santa Maria del Fiore In Florence Italy

Also called “Duomo di Firenze”, this is the most beautiful cathedral in Florence, and is the symbol of the city.

It’s possible to climb up to the huge Dome to get a view overlooking the city.

But keep in mind that there are 464 steps to climb!

Ponte Vecchio In Florence Italy

Built in the 14th century, Ponte Vecchio, which literally means “old bridge”, is the oldest and most famous bridge in the city.

Unlike most bridges, this one is known for having shops still built along it, a tradition which was once common in Italy. The little buildings hanging off it over the river can be seen from the Uffizi.

Most of the shops are traditionally mostly jewellers since the days of the Medici.

Boboli Gardens In Florence Italy

Boboli Gardens which are located behind the Pitti Palace, is one of the most beautiful and relaxing spots in Florence.

With fountains, flowers, tree-lined lanes and wonderful views of the city, the Boboli Gardens are not to be missed!

We hope you found these tips useful, and we recommend checking out The Roman Guy for tours to Florence and Tuscany.

And checkout our article regarding Rome Walking Tours

Things To Do In Bologna Italy

Bologna, the capital of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy is a leading university city and one of the country’s most beautiful.

Together with ancient buildings the city is driven by a modern energy and dynamic cultural life.

Apart from the top five attractions recommended below be sure to try the famous Bologna cuisine.

Sip coffee in the Piazza Maggiore

With a stop at this central square you can see a number of attractions all in one go.

The ancient square is surrounded on all sides by historic medieval buildings and features the beautiful Fontana di nettuno (Neptune’s Fountain).

In the square are the City Hall Building (Palazzo Communale);

Basilica of San Petronio which is one of the world’s largest churches, holds the relics of the city’s patron saint and Charles V was coronation here in 1530 also Napoleon’s sister Elisa Bonaparte is buried here.

Portico of Banchi and the 1200 Palazzo del Podesta (Palace of the Podesta) where shops line the double open arcade on the ground level.

Relax in one of the outdoor cafes and enjoy doing some people watching while you sip your coffee.

Climb to the top of one of the Twin Towers

The two towers of Bologna are an iconic landmark in the Piazza di Ravegnana dating back to the 12th century when there were many more towers in the city.

The two towers were used for military and civil purposes.

The Asinelli family funded the construction of the tower where there is a 498 step staircase which can be climbed to get breathtaking views over the city and its red roofs.

The staircase is made of wood and takes you 97, 20 meters above ground level.

A the base of the towers you can see the remains of barracks built in 1448, today there are workshops in these strongholds.

Basilica of San Domenico

Apart from the stunning architecture this church is home to some exquisite artwork.

Here you can see work by Giuseppe Pedretti, Vittorio Bigari, Ludovico Carracci and many more artists.

But the church is best known as the place where Mozart played the organ while studying with Giovanni Battista Martini (1769).

In the pebble paved square in front of the church parishioners used to stand and listen to the sermons given by the priest from the pulpit at the churches corner.

Note the beautiful brick column in the square which holds a bronze statue of St. Dominic.

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna (National Art Gallery)

This is one of Italy’s leading museums and is home to an impressive collection of regional art spanning the history of art from the 14th to 21st century.

There are thirty rooms displaying the permanent collection which includes work by Reni, Carracci and Raffaello and regular temporary exhibitions as well.

The museum focuses on artists with some association with the city and they strive to preserve the region and city’s artistic history.

Basilica di Santo Stefano

This used to be a medieval complex of seven churches, today only four churches remain.

The relics of San Petronio are kept in Chiesa del Crocefisso and Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro is an octagonal church.

In the next courtyard Cortile di Pilato takes its name from the basin where Pontius Pilate washed his hands after sentencing Christ.

Chiesa della Trinita is next to a small museum and Santi Vitale e Agricola is the oldest church in the city.

Exploring The Beauty Of Venice

There is no denying that Venice is a unique destination – throughout history, the city resisted invasions, sieges, the plague, and ultimately, subsidence.

Still, Venice attracts more than 50,000 visitors every day.

This article will review the Hotel Cipriani, an interesting accommodation choice located in one of Venice’s most charming islands.

It will also provide the prospective visitor with suggestions on the best places to visit.

The Hotel Cipriani sits on the eastern tip of Giudecca island, the hotel offers its guests a 24-hour complimentary boat service that ferries passengers to and from St Mark’s Square.

The Cipriani is also well communicated with Venice’s airport and the city’s train station, via public transport.

The hotel provides only the most exquisite service and facilities.

In fact, visitors could spend their holidays enjoying a swim at the hotel’s heated swimming pool, or indulging in the whole range of treatments available at the wellness centre.

However, it would be a pity to miss the many sights that surround the Cipriani.

The island of Giudecca is nowadays an upscale residential area, but tourists flock to the island to visit the 16th century church of Il Redentore, which holds paintings of renowned Renaissance artists.

Another pleasure offered by the island is the possibility to walk along its pier, while taking in one of the best views of the Venetian city.

As locals say, you must see Venice from La Giudecca in order to get the right perspective of the city.

From the pier, visitors can get spectacular views of St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, just across the Grand Canal.

You can also cross the Canal to visit the Zattere, just north of La Giudecca.

Here, the ample promenade is the perfect setting for an evening stroll or a romantic dinner at one the many restaurants.

Alternatively, you can visit one of the few remaining gondola-making workshops.

I found it relaxing that a walking tour of Rome.

There is no shortage of historic buildings and monuments in the Zattere, so the tourist could easily spend a whole day taking in the sights.

Back in La Giudecca, the tourist can visit the Mulino Stucky, an impressive neo-Gothic construction which now houses a hotel.

It was here where electricity was first introduced to Italy.

The huge complex is comprised of 13 different buildings, one of which houses the Skyline bar, the perfect scenario to end to your Venetian holiday.

(photo credit: 1 – 2 – 3 – 1, 2, 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – Pixabay and Pixabay – 1, 2, 3, 46, 7)

Best Beaches in the Mediterranean

New to Sailing Why A Yacht Charter in the Mediterranean Is a Great Family Holiday

Updated:

Best Beaches in the Mediterranean – Travelers who love the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea should consider taking a cruise with stops at multiple destinations.

There are several ways to enjoy the best beaches in the Mediterranean.

Best beaches in the Mediterranean

But how do you decide which highlights to visit?

We’ve put together a list of the most idyllic hot spots so you can take in all the highlights of this wondrously diverse area.

You may choose to cruise, go by yacht, or fly directing to these locations.

Greece Beaches

With thousands of islands, making a stop in Greece can be tricky if you don’t know where to start.

Try Crete, which is the largest Greek island by area and has mile-upon-mile of picture-perfect coastline.

Head over to the eastern side of Crete to catch a boat to the beautiful untouched beach of Nissos Chrissi.

Here you can spend the day lazing on the white sands and snorkeling over the interesting seabed in the bay.

Nissos Chrissi is known as the Golden Island for good reason, as the colorful volcanic rocks are covered in fine sand and pretty purple shells.

If you feel like you’ve had too much sun, pack up a picnic and stroll into the cool cedar forest that coats the island.

Over on the west side, see if you can find the 13th century chapel of Agios Nikolaos and the Minoan ruins that still punctuate the landscape

Sailboats leave from the port at Lerapetra every morning and come back to pick up their sun-soaked passengers at 5pm.

Malta Beaches

The gorgeous island of Gozo is situated to the south of Sicily and is regularly referred to by experts as one of the best diving locations the Mediterranean has to offer.

With numerous dive schools around the island, along with crystal-clear waters, interesting caves and unusual marine life to spot, beginners through to PADI-qualified elites can enjoy the scores of dive sites on Gozo’s coast.

If you prefer to stay on dry(ish) land, check out Ramla Bay on the north side of the island.

Relax on the red-tinged sand warmed by the heat of the sun or walk up the grassy hills framing the beach if you fancy taking advantage of the cool breezes blowing off the Med.

best beaches in the Mediterranean island of Corsica
island of Corsica

France Beaches

The island of Corsica is a great choice for cruise passengers, with its clean beaches, palm tree-lined boulevards and temperatures of 30C+ during the summer months.

On the south-west of the island is Cappiciolo, a wonderful stretch of sand that is peppered with secluded coves – perfect for exploring.

There are a couple of restaurants to dine in the middle of the day and a few hidden gems if you care to scramble down the rocky banks.

Thrill-seekers might like to pay a visit to Sant’Amanza in the south of Corsica to try out the best windsurfing conditions.

This sandy beach is popular with locals and tourists alike and is about six kilometers from the town of Bonifacio.

Mediterranean best seen by yacht

There’s no better way to experience the Mediterranean Sea than by yacht.

New to Sailing? Why A Yacht Charter in the Mediterranean Is a Great Family Holiday

Since ancient times, sailors have navigated its warm waters and enjoyed breathtaking sunsets over its many coastlines and islands.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to visit, it will be an unforgettable experience.

Here’s why the Mediterranean is best seen by yacht and what you will see while you are there.

Today, modern villas and ancient cities cling to cliffs side-by-side, and it’s possible to drop anchor in a quiet port or in a bustling, world-class marina.

Here are four must-see sights while yachting in the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean best seen by Yacht
Mediterranean best seen by Yacht

Amalfi Coast

John Steinbeck loved Positano, one of the Amalfi Coast’s most picturesque places, raving that “It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes becomingly real after you have gone.”

The same could be said about any of the Amalfi Coast’s towns, from quiet Ravello, to charming Sorrento with its abundance of limoncello.

The Isle of Capri, where ancient Roman emperors retired, is still a playground for the rich and powerful.

Mediterranean by Yacht
Mediterranean by Yacht

Côte d’Azur

The cities that make up the Côte d’Azur, or French Riviera, conjure up glamour.

The first is St. Tropez, which is synonymous with sun and summer madness.

The second, Cannes, is famous for its film festival and celebrity-watching.

Third is Monaco, which makes up for its tiny size with outrageous luxury hotels and casinos.

Despite the glitz and paparazzi in the big resort towns, it’s easy to find quiet moorage on a Mediterranean Yacht Charter in old port towns, to stroll down cobblestone streets, and to watch older men playing pétanque and drinking pastis.

You will definitely get a real feel for the people who live there.

Côte d’Azur
Côte d’Azur

Aegean Sea

It’s impossible to go wrong island-hopping through Greece. From the old port of Mykonos to famous Santorini, with its distinctive white architecture set against the bluest of seas, it’s beautiful.

There is no shortage of harbors, and the usually calm waters make for smooth sailing.

The Aegean Sea borders the Turkish coast as well, and the port town of Bodrum, with its iconic castle, is always worth a visit.

Dalmatian Coast
Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast

While the red-roofed city of Dubrovnik still bears scars from the Yugoslav Wars, it is regaining its well-deserved popularity as a tourist destination.

This coastline has something for everyone, including several islands: sophisticated Hvar, sporty Brac, verdant Korcula, and wild Vis.

It is wonderful to be able to travel, and if it’s on a yacht in the Mediterranean, that is even better.

Traveling the Mediterranean

These best beaches in the Mediterranean will captivate you and will encourage you to visit again and again.

Wherever you go, be sure to bring your passport and other documents, safeguard your valuables, and focus on bringing travel essentials, like layering pieces, toiletries, medications, and a money belt.

You will enjoy where you are if you are not bogged down with too many of your belongings.

Gems on the Mediterranean Coast

The Mediterranean is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year – the food, the cultures, the beaches and the quaint little towns make it one of the most romantic regions in Europe to visit, whatever your age and whatever your circumstances.

Even if you happen to be travelling with a group of friends, a trip to the Mediterranean coast will make you feel as though you’re starring in the most romantic movie of all time.

There are plenty of wonderful places to choose from, and a number of these are listed below in more detail, but the Mediterranean is also the perfect destination to experience what it’s like to go on a cruise.

If you’ve ever wanted to travel on a cruise ship and take in the sites of a number of different destinations in one go, try a Mediterranean cruise.

Be Charmed In Cassis, France

Cassis, France
Cassis, France

Italy is not the only spot in the Mediterranean with a riviera worth visiting – the French Riviera is just as beautiful and if you’re looking for a holiday to help you relax and switch off from the daily stresses of the year, Cassis is the perfect spot.

France’s riviera used to be home to a number of tiny, fishing villages.

Now it’s a popular, but intimate, beach destination.

Having said that, the old village streets and buildings of Cassis are well-preserved, which means it hasn’t lost any of its rustic 16th century charm and unlike Nice or Saint Tropez, it is possible to escape the crowds even during the high season.

If you do plan on visiting Cassis this year, make sure you take a boat tour around the Calanques (a popular stretch along the coastline, famous for its deep inlets) or inject a little bit of action into your visit by opting for a kayaking tour of the Calanques instead.

You’ll get plenty of time to throw yourself into the water in-between visiting the different sites on the itinerary and you’ll benefit from some enjoyable “active time” on your holiday aswell.

Mediterranean Coast Gozo Malta
Mediterranean Coast Gozo Malta

Lay back & Relax In Gozo, Malta

Gozo inspires peace and quiet, but it’s far from being a lazy beach resort with nothing going on.

Victoria is a great place to go wandering around in at night.

There’s always some kind of activity to enjoy and the “go-with-the-flow” attitude is just the kind of medicine needed if you ordinarily live in a place which demands order, deadlines and routine.

Gozo might be geographically close to the Maltese mainland, but the traditions, accents, lifestyles and dialects of the people living on the island are very different from those on the mainland.

The wonderful thing about Gozo is that it really tempts you to do things you wouldn’t normally do without even realizing that you’ve been cajoled into experimenting.

There’s always a village “fiesta” or party going on during the high season that you’ll be able to join in with, whether travelling alone, with friends, with your partner or with the whole family.

Rabbit is a popular choice on the menu in most restaurants, which isn’t something you tend to see on many menus these days, and mountain bike rides around the island are really refreshing.

Watch out!

You’ll come back a party-loving, rabbit-eating, mountain bike champion and your friends won’t recognize you!

Visit All Of Them In One Trip

If you can’t decide between the many beautiful places in the Mediterranean, then don’t – book yourself onto a Mediterranean cruise instead and spend a week or two visiting as many spots on the Mediterranean map as possible. ‘

The best thing about living the dream on a Mediterranean cruise is that, if your live in the UK, you’ll have the option of starting your trip direct from the port at Southampton.

There are lots of cruise companies who offer great deals on Mediterranean cruises from Southampton’s port and, especially when travelling with small children, the convenience of this arrangement can be a real lifesaver.

Cyprus – A unique vacation experience

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, and although it is a part of Europe, it retains a distinctly Eastern feel.

Prior conflicts between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots mean the island is technically divided into two parts, but hostilities have been over for a long time now, and the country’s past events are no deterrent to the tourists that flood the main cities of Agia Napa and Pafos.

Cyprus offers a diverse holiday experience including culture, diving, golf, and more.

Cyprus Rich in Religion

The Kykkos Monastery is a beautiful Orthodox Monastery, and pilgrims travel from all over the world to see its icons and attend a morning mass.

Cyprus - A unique vacation experience
Cyprus – A unique vacation experience

Even non-religious visitors will appreciate the stunning Byzantine artwork and architecture, and the sound of its bells ringing out across the wooded valleys.

Outside of Pafos is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Tombs of the Kings, which gives tourists the opportunity to walk through ancient, plundered tombs, and learn about Aphrodite’s famed birthplace.

Dive into Cyprus History

The Zenobia Wreck, known simply as “The Zen” in the diving community, is a different kind of ruin: a large ferry that sunk off the coast of Cyprus in 1980 became one of the world’s top wrecks to dive.

Experienced divers can explore inside the wreck, while beginners can dive along the outside.

Dive into Cyprus History
Dive into Cyprus History

Those who want to experience diving around Cyprus but aren’t certified can visit a Dive-In location in Larnaka, Lemesos, or Pafos to take a PADI course at a reasonable rate.

And those who want a completely unique experience can try undersea walking.

With a specially-designed helmet that provides fresh air, visitors can walk on the bottom of the sea without the hassle of a regulator or snorkel!

Grab Your Clubs for Golfing in Cyprus

The rugged Cyprus landscape, set against the Mediterranean Sea, makes a memorable backdrop for a great golf holiday.

Golfing in Cyprus

Elea Golf Club has a course designed by legendary player Nick Faldo — a must for any serious golfer.

Listen to the Music

Visitors can immerse themselves in local culture at the Ultimate Music Festival, featuring Cypriot rock bands, or at the Peasant Festival, where local food and wine are on display, followed by dancing.

Staying in an updated village house in Skarinou instead of a hotel is a great way to experience traditional Cypriot life without giving up luxuries such swimming pools and air conditioning.

(Photo 1 – 2 – 3)

Cyprus: A Series Of Unfortunately Fortunate Events

Before I went to Cyprus I was very dubious about what would be on offer for vegetarians and, having booked the holiday, unhappily accepted what I presumed to be a salad-filled fate.

Cyprus restaurants
Cyprus restaurants

Fortunately for my taste buds (unfortunately for my waist line) my friend Joe and I found some beautiful Cyprus restaurants, all offering a plethora of veggie options!

One of my favorite restaurants of the holiday was ‘Karlina’.

The restaurant is nicely situated opposite the tombs of the kings, so after a hectic day it was lovely to sit outside and enjoy a delicious meal.

The menu is extensive, there is a lot of café type food (which I try to avoid) but there was also a lot of vegetarian stuff on offer.

I chose the Moussaka, which was mouth-wateringly delicious, I still think of it now!

While Joe opted for the steak, which he also loved!

The portions were massive, but the prices were very reasonable, so obviously we went back quite a few times throughout the holiday!

Sheftalia, a traditional Cypriot food
Sheftalia, a traditional Cypriot food

One place that wasn’t so hot on veggie food, but apparently had a delicious feast of meats, was ‘Michael’s Tavern’.

While I had the Halloumi salad Joe enjoyed the Sheftalia, a traditional Cypriot food that sounds hideous to my innocent vegetarian ears (a sausage that uses pig’s stomach to wrap ingredients, as opposed to sausage casing) but was ‘absolutely scrumptious’ to quote Joe!

Although there was little on offer for me I still really enjoyed myself, the staff were really friendly and the décor was completely fascinating (in a very good way!) the walls were adorned with pictures, old school radios and lanterns.

Cyprus: A Series Of Unfortunately Fortunate Events
Cyprus: A Series Of Unfortunately Fortunate Events

Unfortunately for our livers, Cyprus clubs were just as amazing as the food!

One evening I managed to drag Joe to karaoke at ‘Wheatsheaf Pub’.

Although it was a struggle getting him there, after quite a few of the wonderfully cheap alcoholic beverages he looked right at home – by the end of it my throat was soar, but my heart was full of Abba!

It is situated 5 minutes from the beautiful sea harbor and makes amazing and highly original cocktails, ‘ice cream dreamz’ was one of my favorites!

However, be warned, if you don’t enjoy boogying to a bit of Rnb then this place is NOT for you, as this is pretty much all they play!

I absolutely loved it, but Joe (a big Dubstep fan) failed to share my enthusiasm.

For sports fans ‘PitStop bar’ is the place to be.

On Saturdays they show major sporting events on a large screen (at which point it was my turn to be unenthusiastic) and the décor is pretty sports orientated too.

Although Joe and I sometimes failed to like the same venues, we balanced it out enough that we had a wicked time, whether it was karaoke or sports bars!

For more information visit Mydestination.com/Cyprus.
Mediterranean Malta

Mediterranean holiday highlights: Malta

For a Mediterranean break away from the hurly-burly of modern life, a holiday in one of the Maltese Islands is a great choice.

Lying in the middle of the Med with Sicily to the north and Tunisia to the south, these small but picturesque islands enjoy a warm but fresh climate all through the season.

While the islands’ capital Valetta has all the excitement and facilities of a major European city, you don’t have to go far to find peace, tranquility and some of the best Mediterranean scenery Malta has to offer.

Malta’s unique culture

MaltaThis group of diminutive islands have enjoyed a unique position in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea.

Over time the rulers of Malta have included the Romans, the Moors, the Greeks, the Knights of St John, the French and the British, leading to a cultural blend of European, Middle Eastern, African and British influences.

English is the official language alongside Maltese and the local cuisine is a mixture of Sicilian, Spanish, French and British flavours.

Malta’s Islands of history

Ancient churches, castles, historic remains and Megalithic temples are in evidence all over the main island of Malta.

World Heritage Site the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni, is the only known prehistoric subterranean temple in the world.

Gozo Malta

The quietest and smallest of the islands is Comino situated midway between Malta and Gozo.

Just 3.5 square meters, it’s a haven for wildlife.

Regular boat trips run for visitors to view the caves of the spectacular karst or limestone landscape which includes the world famous Blue Lagoon offering a unique swimming experience.

Malta

Gozo can be reached by car ferry or helicopter.

This quieter and smaller island offers peaceful villages such as the small fishing port of Xlendi which is a popular scuba diving spot, delicious local seafood, and the vibrant local center Victoria.

Malta

Malt’s Art and contemporary life

Malta itself has mainly rocky but beautiful beaches, delightful walks and interesting architecture such as St John’s Cathedral in Valetta where original paintings by the Italian baroque painter Caravaggio can be seen.

Malta

The strong Catholic culture of the islands can be seen in plain sight around Valetta’s bountiful Baroque cityscape, but it’s also a city of modern whims.

The capital is noted for its shopping, fine restaurants and even a nightclub or two.

With a flying time of just over three hours and regular flights, a holiday of contrasts on Malta is within easy reach.

Despite their small size these islands have a huge amount of interest packed in that won’t fail to impress the most world-weary of travelers.

When in Malta, dance the night away

When I started packing for my two-week holiday in Malta I did not have my ‘party’ clothes in mind.

Yet, when I went on my first night out (of many) I quickly realized my mistake.

When my friends and I arrived at the hotel, exhausted from our journey, we ventured out to Paceville with the innocent intent of returning home early.

Malta, dance the night away
Malta, dance the night away

However this rather sensible decision was soon lost in the abyss, as we were quickly swept away by Malta’s dangerously alluring nightlife.

From pubs, to bars, to nightclubs, techno, to hip-hop, to Rnb, there was something for everyone and none of us could resist.

A typical night would usually begin with a few cocktails, we particularly liked the bar Footloose as it was relatively cheap and played great 80’s music.

Then we would sometimes go to one of the Salsa bars (Fuego is a lively one) to get us in the mood for dancing.

The music would instantly get us on our feet, and soon we were attempting (‘attempting’ being the operative word) to imitate the moves of the more professional dancers.

If we hadn’t exhausted ourselves here we would usually head to Gianpula.

Malta dance
Malta dance

This is a MUST for club lovers. Although it is a taxi ride away from Paceville, the experience is well worth the travel.

Gianpula is an open- air club situated in the middle of a field (a clubbers paradise in the middle of nowhere!)

There are seven bars with a stunning sound and lighting system.

Not only that but in the early hours of the morning you can even take a dip in the pool!

The next day, when the hangover sets in, and your worst thought is alcohol, there is no better way to spend the evening then in the fully air conditioned cinema, which has a screen dedicated to older, popular movies.

Dancing in Malta
Dancing in Malta

If you’re feeling a tad more adventurous than there is also ten-pin bowling alley which is great fun and inexpensive.

For a night of decadence one should head to the casino, which is held in a 19th century palace, built by the Marquis Scicluna.

Even the plush casino, which is well worth a visit even if you don’t gamble.

For a casino, it is truly picturesque and even has a terrace that connects directly to the sea.

Much of its architectural character has been retained from the original build, and there is a true feel of glamour to the place.

After two weeks of frolicking, without my party wardrobe, I’m exhausted.

I never expected that we, or Malta, had it in us!

But Malta is the type of place that will have you mourning over sunrise.

(photo credits: keithusc – Cardinalos – kerryvaughan – Eje Gustafsson, used under Creative Comms license – 123 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 2 –  – 4)

10 Best Beer Festivals in the World

Oktoberfest In Munich

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Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, and, with more real ales on offer than ever before, it is hardly surprising that ticket sales for beer festivals are booming.

This gives visitors an opportunity to sample new beers and ales and have a rip roaring time in the process.

Forget your local events where there are 20 real ales in a tent and a van offering burgers to soak up the copious amount of ale being supped. These are huge events that have to be actually experienced to be believed.

Without further ado, we present the 10 best beer festivals in the world…

Best of British Beer Festivals

The Great British Beer Festival is held every year in the capital and the 2012 event, held at Earls Court, attracted more than 50,000 visitors.

Organised by CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, this year’s festival at Olympia is expected to surpass last year’s record breaking attendance and, with more than 800 different real ales, foreign beers, perries and ciders to sample this seems a reasonable assumption.

Taking place from the 13th-17th August, tickets are now on sale for this magnificent combination of beer, food and entertainment.

Czech it out

If there was one beer festival anywhere in the world that was more inevitable than inventive then it has to be Pilsner Fest which is held annually in the town of Pilsen which, yes you guessed it, was where Pilsner was invented.

This festival has been celebrated annually for over 200 years and the people of the town, as well as thousands of visitors turn out in force to celebrate the beer that put their little town on the map and this year’s fest, if you fancy a hop across Europe, runs from the 5th October – 10th November.

The best of the US – Great American Beer Festival

Despite having a reputation for being rather wishy washy, the Great American Beer Festival is big business, with more than 49,000 visitors getting through nearly 37,000 gallons of the stuff at the 2012 festival in Denver.

This is again the venue for the 2013 event, and if anyone fancies taking a trip over there, the festival takes place from the 10th-12th October.

Another land down under

We are all aware of Australian beers and how popular they are globally, but little is heard of beers from New Zealand.

Nevertheless, they have their own annual beer festival, rather unimaginatively called The New Zealand Beer Festival.

This is relatively new on the festival calendar as it first took place in 2006.

It has grown every year since however, and this year’s event which took place in March in Auckland boasted 130 different beers for the thirsty revellers to enjoy.

Magnificent Munich – Oktoberfest Munich

No list of beer festivals would be complete without mentioning the mighty Oktoberfest held annually in Munich from the end of September through to the first weekend of October in.

This, the biggest and best known beer festival in the world is not for the faint hearted, and pacing yourself is the key to surviving this week of festivities.

With 6 million visitors in 2012, its popularity is certainly not waning.

It is unique among beer festivals in that all the beers at Oktoberfest have to have been brewed within the Munich city limits, and with 14 tents to choose from, there is one heck of a time to be had.

Oktoberfest In Munich
Oktoberfest In Munich

Asian ales

Every year Qingdao, which is in China’s Shandong province, opens its doors to thousands of visitors who come to the Qingdao International Beer Festival.

So popular is this celebration of beers from around the world that the area of the city it is held in has now been named the Qingdao International Beer City.

The festival is now in its 23rd year and takes place annually on the second weekend in August.

As well as the traditional beer tasting there is live music, games and even drinking contests for those who think a thick head the next day is worth it.

Belgian brews – Belgian Beer Weekend

The Belgian Beer Weekend is a celebration of all Belgian beers, and there are more than most people realise.

The Brussels market place is transformed in the first weekend of September into an impressive Beerfest with visitors having the choice of over 350 Belgian beers ranging from Trappist brews through to Pilsners.

Winter warmers

Another beer festival held in Britain is the National Winter Ales Festival.

This is also organised by CAMRA but takes place further north in Manchester as opposed to London where the Great British Beer Festival is held.

The 2013 festival took place in January and it showcased more that 300 beers, bottled real ales, perries and ciders.

CAMRA  tempts visitors to the winter festival with the claim that there will be something for everyone and even the hardest to please will be satisfied by at least one of the beverages on offer.

Une bière, s’il vous plaît

beer festival in Canada is the Mondial de la Bière

The largest beer festival in Canada is the Mondial de la Bière held in Montreal, the festival has just past as it was held

There were over 550 beers, ciders, meads and other alcoholic beverages on offer, of which 229 were beers that were making their début at the festival.

This was the 20th anniversary of  Mondial de la Bière and as well as the drinks visitors were treated to tasty snacks such as kangaroo and wild boar and bison on a stick.

All around the world

Best Beer Festivals
Best Beer Festivals

Although most of the top beer festivals are a celebration of beers from around the world, there is only one that actually calls itself the Great World Beer Festival.

Originally known as Brewtopia, this annual festival takes place annually over the last weekend October in New York and is the biggest and longest running of the city’s various beer festivals.

It welcomes around 15,000 visitors over the course of the weekend who are looking to sample beers from around the globe.

So there you have it. If you love beer, love a festival and love to travel, there are plenty of places around the world where you will find your own little slice of beer heaven.

Remember to drink sensibly and above all grab some travel insurance from Columbus Direct – but remember no insurer (including Columbus) will cover you for accidents while you’re are drunk!

Festivals and Carnivals I Want To Visit and Experience

Top 5 Festivals and carnivals most often bring out the best in a city.

All this glitter, bright colors, feathers, bling bling, dancing and music really enchants me.

I must say I haven’t been to many, and most of the ones I’ve seen I just happened to stumble upon by chance or planned it at very short notice.

But I still feel drawn to all this glamour, and on my bucket list of places to visit and things to experience in the next few years – these 5 carnivals and festivals are my top 5 Festivals and carnivals:

Carnival of Venice

I’ve been dreaming of going to this carnival for years, but have never had the chance.

What makes this Carnival so special are the costumes and masks.

I love them!

It just seems to enhance the whole experience of visiting this ancient city, where people have been celebrating this carnival ever since 1162.

Top 5 Festivals and Carnivals
Top 5 Festivals and Carnivals

They initially used the masks so that you couldn’t see the people’s social status.

During this carnival everybody were equals.

Holi,the color festival of India

I have never seen pictures of a festival brighter and more colorful than this.

India in itself is like a big paint box, it can’t get more pleasurable for the eyes than this!

It is celebrated by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other.

Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of February/March.

Rio Carnival

This is considered to be one of the greatest shows on earth, and have been going every year since 1723..!

It is a carnival full of Samba dancing, music, glitter and sex.

There are parades and competitions between samba schools, as well as street carnivals where anyone is allowed to join the fun.

I’ll definitely match our visit in Rio with this carnival, I have to see it!

Tomatina Festival

A sticky but funny food fight festival. It’s basically all about throwing tomatoes on each other – like a big snowball fight, but with tomatoes…

On the night before participants in the festival compete in a Paella cooking competition, not my favorite dish but competitions are always fun 😉

Aboriginal Garma Festival

Unlike the Maori people in New Zealand, Australia didn’t show much of their Aboriginal culture, which is a real shame.

I found it pretty hard finding out much about these people who seemed to have such an amazing culture and beliefs during our visit to Australia last year.

I’d really like to get a closer insight in their culture from a real perspective, not just some white dude reading out loud from a paper.

Have you been to any of these Festivals or Carnivals?

I’d love to hear about it!

(Photo credits: 23 – 1 –  2 –  3 – 4 – 5 – 6)

5 Best Food Fight Festivals in Spain

Barcelona Spain Why You Must Visit VIDEO

Updated:

Festivals in Spain – Many people have heard of the world famous La Tomatina festivals in Spain where you throw tomatoes on each other, but few know that it’s far from the only food battle festival in the country.

Spain is simply the king of food wars, with celebrations throughout the year using everything from grapes to flour and even eggs in their food battles.

5 Best Food Fight Festivals in Spain

Here are five awesome festivals in Spain when visiting Spain

Meringue War, Vilanova i La Geltrú Festivals in Spain
Meringue War, Vilanova i La Geltrú Festivals in Spain

Meringue War, Vilanova i La Geltrú

La Merengada, also known as the Candy Fight, is a celebration that simply has to be every kid’s dream (as well as those with a sweet tooth like me).

While other countries and cities celebrate Fat Thursday by eating as much cake and sweets as they can before the fasting period begins, the folks in this little town head to the streets to throw their meringue pies on each other instead!

When the Meringue pies run out, the fun doesn’t end, but continues in candy throwing instead!

One piece of advice for anyone who is planning to hire a car in Spain during any of these festivals (especially sticky ones like this one): park it away from where all the action is so you won’t have to pay for a full cleaning service before handing it back!

When: February

Battle of the Wine, Haro
Battle of the Wine, Haro

Battle of the Wine, Haro

The Battle of the Wine festival simply sounds too good to be true: participants throw thousands of liters of red wine on each other using whatever containers they have on hand, from buckets to water pistols.

There is only one goal: to soak everyone you pass with wine!

Everyone dresses in white from head to toe with a traditional red handkerchief around your neck, and the rule is simple: there is no such thing as a “spectator” in this festival – anyone can (and will) be a target!

As you can expect there will soon be a purple ocean of people drenched in wine, all heading down from the hill where it begins to the main square of Haro for a procession around the square.

When: June 

La Tomatina, Buñol

La Tomatina, Buñol – The most famous food battle in the world, La Tomatina in Buñol, is the mother of all food fighting festivals in Spain.

The tomato throwing festival has become so popular that it has inspired other cities across the world to follow in its path, such as Reno in the US.

Every year during the festival the whole town is buried in a red mush of over-ripened tomatoes and people are literally bathing in it.

Approximately 150,000 tomatoes (over 90,000 pounds!) sourced from the four corners of the country are “released” from a fleet of trucks by official instigators and the battle is on!

When: Always on the last Wednesday of August

Festivals in Spain Flour Fight, Ibi

Yes, there is even a food fight for throwing eggs and flour!

Each year in the town of Ibi in eastern Spain a festival called Els Enfarinats is held, staging a massive battle using eggs, flour and firecrackers..!

A group of married men called Els Enfarinats takes control of the village for one day, pronouncing a number of silly and ridiculous laws, fining anyone who infringes them.

The other group, La Oposicio, tries to restore order.

By the end of the day the money collected from the fines is donated to charity.

Checkout the slideshow with some amazing photos from the festival earlier this year.

When: End of December

La Raima Grape Throwing Festival, Pobla del Duc

Dating back to the 1930’s, this annual festival signals the end of the grape harvest by having a huge grape throwing battle!

Up to 90 tons of locally grown Garnacha Tontorera grapes are dumped on the town square in front of hundreds of waiting participants for the huge grape throwing fight.

Expect to look like one happy purple raising once it’s all over!

When: end of August

Which one would you add to your bucket list?

Introducing Salamanca Spain

Salamanca is a great place to visit in Spain – for those who are learning or want to learn Spanish, Spain is the natural choice, whether just for a visit or to live, but instead of opting for the typical cities such as Barcelona and Madrid, why not go to a city like Salamanca?

There you can see some beautiful, ancient architecture, visit museums and get a taste for the Spanish way of life.

Situated north-west of Madrid, you can reach it from the capital in just two and a half hours.

It has the most famous university in the country and a well-preserved Old City, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988.

Introducing Salamanca Spain
Introducing Salamanca Spain

Museums And Galleries

There are a number of museums in Salamanca that you cannot miss on your visit, and the Bullfighting Museum is one of them.

There you get a chance to gain an insight into the history of this popular Spanish sport, which has caused so much controversy in recent years.

Introducing Salamanca Spain Museums And Galleries
Introducing Salamanca Spain Museums And Galleries

The Cathedral Museum is based in one of the most famous buildings of the city, and aside from its incredible architecture, the museum is home to a number of Spanish paintings and the famous 15th-century sculpture Anaya’s Tomb, by Francisco of Salamanca.

If you are interested in modernist literature, you should visit the museum based in Miguel de Unamuno’s home.

There you will be able to absorb the culture that surrounded his works as well as personal items belonging to the novelist, essayist and poet.

Introducing Salamanca Spain University
Introducing Salamanca Spain University

Introducing Salamanca Spain University

The university is one of the main attractions of Salamanca.

Founded in 1218, it is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest in Europe with extensive grounds and incredible architecture, a vast library and museums.

Whether you are visiting Spain for language courses abroad or simply to soak up some sun and culture, head to Salamanca for a unique experience.

Salamanca Spain
Salamanca Spain

Salamanca Spain Fine Dining

Eating out in Salamanca can be an incredible experience if you know where to go.

La Cocina de Toño is an award-winning restaurant offering impeccable Michelin-standard food in an intimate setting with excellent service and creative menu.

Although it’s located just outside the center of Salamanca, it is well worth the journey!

When To Visit Slamanca

The best time to visit Salamanca is in September, as the weather is not scorching hot but not yet cold, the student atmosphere will be rife again and most importantly it is the season for Salamanca’s main festival:

Virgen de la Vega, which includes street parties, events, markets and concerts!

If you’ve been to Salamanca, what are your best tips?

Great Food To Try In Menorca

Menorca cuisine is a blend of classic Spanish dishes and foods absorbed through two thousand years of international influence.

So there’s certainly no shortage of great food to try in Menorca, and while real home cooking has reduced in popularity in response to busier lifestyles, in recent years efforts have been made to reintroduce more traditional Menorcan dishes to the island’s restaurants.

And since traditional Menorcan food is healthy and full of rich flavors, visitors – even those on all inclusive holidays to Menorca – should make dining out and trying the local food a holiday priority.

Great Food To Try In Menorca
Great Food To Try In Menorca

Menorca Food Fit For A King

As you would expect, seafood and shellfish are favorites, with mullet, sole, sea bass, squid, mussels, barnacles and prawns all featuring on menus.

But Menorca’s most famous dish is caldereta de llagosta – a lobster stew so highly regarded that it’s rumored Spain’s King Juan Carlos visits the island just to eat this meal.

Sweets For Breakfast

And so on to pastries and desserts: particularly popular across Spain are ensaimadas, a sweet spiral pastry topped with icing sugar and often taken with hot chocolate for breakfast.

Cakes flavored with almonds or toasted nougat and carquinyols – almond macaroons – are available wherever you go, and if it’s cold and refreshing you crave to complete a Menorcan meal, then La Menorquina is a locally produced and particularly creamy ice cream.

Menorca's Favorites
Menorca’s Favorites

Menorca’s Favorites

One of Menorca’s national dishes is the Baked cuttlefish – Sépia al Forn, a favorite among locals.

The agricultural produce is just as delicious, and the traditional Menorcan farms which supply most of the island’s restaurants breed free range calves, lambs, pigs, chickens, turkeys and capons.

The resulting meat dishes pack a lot of fantastic flavor, with sobrasada – pork sausage flavored with peppers – and cuixa – black sausages with fennel – the best known among them.

Olives and peppers feature on every traditional Menorcan menu.

Tumbet is a popular baked vegetable meal, made from local potatoes, peppers and aubergines and available as a vegetarian dish or with fish or meat.

In fact aubergines are a Menorca specialty, cooked in a variety of ways.

Other great Spanish food to try are and clams – escopinyes – either baked in breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley or served raw with lemon, and Paella – probably Spain’s most famous culinary export, and a dish the locals take particular pride in perfecting.

The Invention On Mayonnaise

It will surprise many first-time Menorca holiday-makers that mayonnaise is believed to have been invented here in the 18th century in Maó and locals will tell you it’s best when made with the island’s own eggs and olive oil.

The cheeses too are particularly flavorsome, particularly Mahon, which comes in different strengths depending on the length of time spent curing.

What are some of your favorite Spanish dishes?

Andalusia Spain to Watch the Hunter and Archer Battle

Un Chien Andalou

“But now the stars, concealing landscapes, reveal the perfect schema of their courses. ” Federico García Lorca

The night sky in the autonomous community of Andalusia is among the most vivid in Europe; with the milky way stretching languidly, high above and between the brighter constellations.

Thanks to its relative isolation and subsequent lack of light pollution it is common to see shooting stars arc across this mountainous region; thrilling to watch the Hunter and the Archer battle for supremacy within the all consuming darkness.

Andalusia Spain Mountains
Andalusia Spain Mountains

In his Ode to Salvador Dali, the co-creator of Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), Lorca gives us the briefest glimpse into the landscapes and fiercely independent cultures that inspired both his poetry, Dali’s painting and the passionate relationship that the two shared.

At times, imbued with a surrealism worthy of the modern master; where the sliver, white, red and yellow soils daub the mountains of Almeria: and at others, a sense of the solitude and isolation found within the Tabernas Desert and Lorca’s body of work are almost palpable.

Andalusia Spain Home of the Ancients

Spanning the southern coast of Spain from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and sharing a border with Portugal with a southern extreme that reaches across the straights of Gibraltar to North Africa, it is perhaps unsurprising that Andalusia has a rich and vibrant history that gives its major cities a certain modern mythology.

Seville, Granada and Cordoba; Malaga, Jerez and Cadiz are all documented within ancient manuscripts and scrolls, spoken within the hushed walls of monasteries and mosques; in Greek, Latin, Arabic and the countless dialects that populate the region.

Ancient harbors that once saw invading Greeks, Phonecians, Romans, Carthaginians and countless other civilizations have now given way to fishing, and then tourism, with each stretch of coast providing something for travelers of any predilection.

The brash, high-rise-party-life of Malaga and Marbella give way to the much quieter resorts north of Almeria; a favorite among Spanish tourists and locals.

Here, seafood straight off the boat is still found at reasonable prices in many of the seafront restaurants.

Independent and Diverse

“….the whole of the southern lands is too vast and varied to be embraced as a single unit.

In reality there are not two, but three Andalusias: the Sierra Morena, the Valley [of the Guadalquivir] and the [Cordillera] Penibética “

Andalusia Spain
Andalusia Spain

Antonio Domínguez Ortiz

The region is split into eight provinces, each as culturally distinct as the next, however, the essence of Andulausia is dictated as much by its geography as it is by its people.

Climb some 1332 meters above sea level to the north and you will reach the peak of the legendary Sierra Morena mountain range; a mass of granite and quartzite that tells tales of bandits and the child raised by wolves.

Further south lies the Guadalquivir valley with Spain’s longest river snaking its way through the marshy lowlands to the Mediterranean.

Further south still and the Cordillera dominates, with the imposing peak of Mulhaven stretching 3478 meters above the Sierra Nevada.

From the frozen peaks through the burning desert to the breezy coast, the flora and fauna of Andalusia is also surprisingly diverse despite its seemingly barren exterior.

For travelers with a penchant for the natural world, and with a soft enough step, Andalusia is home to the Iberian Lynx and Wildcat, the Iberian Wolf alongside countless wild foxes and dogs.

Eagles soar high above the peaks and wild boar are in abundance, sharing the peaks and valleys with Ibex, otters, badgers and mongoose that skitter through the cacti, almond and olive trees, citrus plantations and wild thyme.

Andalusia Spain
Andalusia Spain

Fabulous Fiestas and Fantastic Food

During summer, when temperatures across the length and breadth of Andalusia often rise above 40 degrees, the pueblos and provinces explode with color and light, music, flamenco and food washed down with delicious Andalusian wine.

In fact, with more than three thousand fiestas celebrated throughout the year, travelers looking for an authentic slice of Andalusian culture can simply hop from one party to the next.

Among the largest fiestas to be held during the summer are the Granada Music Festival, The Moors & Christians Festival, the Cherry Festival and the Jerez Horse Festival although perhaps the most important fiestas for locals are the Grape Harvest and the Bull Fighting Season.

Outside of Spain, the barbarous art of bullfighting has fallen out of favor in recent times, however, a resurgence in the popularity of the beef that remains means at least nothing is left to waste.

Formerly, the meat was handed out during fiesta, providing poor villagers with a rare opportunity to eat beef, however, with the advent of intensive farming it was often discarded or cremated.

Now, thanks to shifting ecological perspectives and opinion leaning towards traceable meat, this beef has been making its way into gourmet restaurants as an eco-friendly alternative to farmed beef.

Bullfighting, like many “Spanish” customs, actually began in Andalusia and has remained an important and controversial part of life in the community.

Much like the wild boar hunt, one reason why the species remains so abundant in the region, has continually provided excellent food for local consumption.

The deep red, spicy chorizo is another staple alongside giant paella made to feed entire villages at a time whilst the Jamón de Huelva is protected as a Denominación de Origen, meaning a unique taste and supreme quality is always assured.

Whether you are looking for a beach holiday overflowing with sun-drenched night-owls or the tranquility of the stars in rural Andalusia, it is a rewarding choice for those who can spend more than a short break.

Perhaps if you are short of cash then this company, that provides short term loans, may help you strike out into the rolling hills and gorgeous valleys.

Festivals in Spain you can Indulge in local custom and taste everything the community has to offer as you travel through its disparate provinces and enjoy the year round sunshine.

Finally, don’t forget the wealth of historic sites on offer in and around the many towns and villages as you explore the home of some of the earliest Europeans.

(Festivals in Spain photo credit: 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 42 – 3)

How To Be A Local In Lyon France

Top Spots To Visit In Northern France

Updated:

Lyon France is one of the most beautiful and atmospheric cities in France where past and present, old traditions and new trends live side by side and add a quirky touch to the city.

We spent two weeks staying in an apartment in Vieux Lyon (old town), and had a chance to see the city from a local perspective and find out what it would take to become “one of them”.

To blend in with the locals in Lyon you simply have to do what they do and …

Get Yourself A “Kick Scooter”

How To Be A Local In Lyon France

A very peculiar detail we found in Lyon was that everyone, adults and children alike, loved to get around the city on kick scooters – you know the ones every kid on the block had in the late 90’s!

The trend quickly faded and became uncool in the rest of the world, but in Lyon the kick scooter business is thriving.

Fancy girls in high heels and businessmen in suits sweep past on their kick scooters every few minutes – so the first step to becoming a local in Lyon is to get yourself one of those.

Always Buy 2 Baguettes

Always Buy 2 Baguettes
Always Buy 2 Baguettes

Of all assumptions the French are associated with, their love for baguettes is indeed one that is true.

Every day, no matter what time it is, you will see people walking down the street on their way to work, lunch or home, carrying not one – but two, baguettes.

It was a rarity to see someone holding just one baguette, and we sometimes got a funny look from the baker when asking for one rather than two – judging by what we saw on the street, one baguette is for munching on while you’re on your way home, and the other one for lunch or dinner.

So next time you buy yourself a baguette, get two… 😉

Buy Your Food At The Right Places

Lyon is a foodie mecca, so don’t resort to buying all your food from the supermarket – in fact, good supermarkets are difficult to find in Lyon, perhaps because the locals prefer to shop elsewhere.

From Tuesday to Saturday there is a morning market (St Antoine Market) along the Saône River on Quai St-Antoine where locals go to buy food, flowers, wine and delicacies.

Stalls are lined up along the river offering a huge variety of local wines, meat, cheese straight from the farm, fresh vegetables and fruit, grilled chicken, bread, cakes and pastries.

Anything French you’re looking for, you will be sure to find on this market.

Behind one stall they serve massive oyster plates and a glass of white wine as though it was fast food.

Can it get any more French than this?!

Once you zoom off on your adult kick scooter on your way to the local market to buy your daily dose of 2 baguettes – you know you’ve become a local in Lyon.

Have you been to Lyon?

What did you think about the city?

Capturing The Essence of Lyon France

So far, Lyon is my favorite city in France. It has all the benefits of a cosmopolitan city but it feels more like a small town and has a  great laid-back atmosphere.

Although there aren’t many attractions per se, it’s a wonderful city to just wander around in soaking up the atmosphere and all the “Frenchness” surrounding you.

Getting to Lyon France:

Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport makes it easy to reach the city from all over Europe with several great flights going between UK (Birmingham, London-Luton and Dublin are just a few).

You can use websites for parking your car at the airport in Birmingham and Luton, and can book your parking there and at other airport locations on their website.

From the airport you can take the tram-train Rhônexpress to the city for €13 one-way (30 min) – the train is a more convenient way of reaching Lyon with three stations to arrive at, Part-Dieu station being the most central one.

These three things are what for me really capture the essence of Lyon…

Lyon France City Of Food

Capturing The Essence of Lyon France
Capturing The Essence of Lyon France

Lyon prides itself to be France’s best food capital, and it truly is – that is, if you’re a fan of pig cooked in a hundred different ways..!

One of the main things to do in Lyon is to dine at the many Bouchons (traditional Lyonnaise restaurants), but the menus are excessively meat heavy so there wasn’t much to choose from for vegetarians like us.

Instead, we decided to explore Lyon’s sweets and snacks, which fortunately there was plenty of!

What to eat in Lyon France

Make sure you try the Praline tart and St Martin cheese – two local specialties that are really tasty.

Also make sure to check out the St-Antoine market where stalls sell plenty of local specialties and delicacies – especially during weekends!

Hidden Treasures in Lyon France

Hidden Treasures in Lyon France
Hidden Treasures in Lyon France

There is more to Lyon than what meets the eye – literally.

On the historical cobble stoned streets of Lyon are doors leading to old traboules, a type of traditional passageways that are used as a way of moving between buildings hidden from the outside.

It was primarily used by silk manufacturers to quickly transport their silk to the merchants by the river.

Textiles were also transported in the traboules as they were sheltered from bad weather.

Some of the traboules are said to date back to roman times, and many of them are from the medieval century.

The traboules are open to the public, and residents live in the buildings and use the traboules every day, but since people live there you should respect their privacy while you’re there.

Where: Finding the traboules can be difficult without a map, but fortunately all the traboules in Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse are marked in red on the city map that you can get for free at the tourist office (with a numbered list above the fold).

There is also an app you can use to find your way.

Views And Gardens in Lyon France

Views And Gardens in Lyon France
Views And Gardens in Lyon France

When exploring the traboules you will be walking through some of Lyon’s cutest neighborhoods and oldest areas, but after some time wandering the streets of Vieux Lyon and Roisse croux you may want to find a place to relax and enjoy some nature or views.

The most famous viewing point in Lyon has to be the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, overlooking the whole city and its rivers.

The cathedral is truly beautiful, and the views are nice as well, but just like with the views from the Eiffel tower it’s missing one important thing – the cathedral itself.

Lyon France
Lyon France

The best view in Lyon is the one overlooking the old town with the cathedral in the background, perched on top of the green hill – and you get it from the riverside walk along Quai des Célestins and Quai St-Antoine.

But the walk up to (or down from) the cathedral is worth the visit alone, as you walk through beautiful lush gardens and flower plantations. It’s an oasis in the middle of the city.

Another lovely green area in Lyon is the Parc de la Tête d’Or, a huge park expanding 290 acres and a favorite picnic hangout among locals.

There is a lake, gardens, ponds with exotic birds and small open-air zoo that is free to visit.

These are just a few things that make Lyon so special, what are your favorite things about Lyon?

Lyon France Hacks – 5 Things to do in Lyon

France’s third city is a bustle of boutiques, bistros, hidden passageways, riverside walks and historic architectural masterpieces.

There is a lot to do both in the city and the surrounding countryside but here is a short list of things you have to do in Lyon!

Eat in Lyon France!

Lyon is France’s gastronomic capital and you could spend your whole trip just going from romantic bistros to gourmet restaurants and sidewalk cafes.

Many of the “must-eat” dishes can be sampled in the many “Bouchon”, intimate restaurants which serve traditional Lyonnais cuisine in multi-course meals.

Try the offal (tripe, bone marrow and pork offal sausages), fish dumplings and chicken liver cake.

Café de la Cloche is a good choice for trying the Lyon café culture and chocoholics can enjoy the Chokola chocolate-only shop!

Wash down your meal with some of the local wine like Brouilly.

Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon) in Lyon France

Wander through the meandering pedestrian cobbled streets, take in the historic buildings, stores, craftsmen shops and sidewalk cafes.

You can see Renaissance and Medieval architecture and this is one of Europe’s largest concentrations of Renaissance architecture.

The buildings which have struggled to survive have been lovingly restored and renewed.

Within Old Lyon is the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and St. Jean cathedral.

Traboules

These are tunnel-like passage ways which wend their way between and even through houses.

The majority of traboules are found here in Lyon.

You may just follow a traboules which opens up to a secret garden or courtyard.

It is believed that the French resistance used these passages during the Second World War to hid from the Germans.

Saint John Cathedral in Lyon France

Although there is also the hill top Notre Dame de Fourviere Basillica, this one, the cathedral St. Jean is a 15th century masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Roman Catholic cathedral was built on the site of earlier churches and parts of the earlier structures dating back to the 6th century still remain.

The cathedral’s most stunning feature is the astrological clock, a 13th century addition.

The church also has stunning stained glass windows and a beautiful rose window.

Parc de la Tete d’or (Golden Head Park)

This is one of Europe’s largest parks (Disneyland Paris vs Walt Disney World Orlando – Which Is Better?) covering 290 acres, here you can enjoy the wide open green spaces, a small zoo, botanical gardens, rose gardens, a velodrome, greenhouses, a large lake, mini-golf, miniature train, sports grounds and a statue commemorating the 22nd G7 conference of 1996.

Enter through the ornate 1901 wrought iron Porte des enfants du Rhone.

The park is one of only a handful of parks in Lyon and is very popular. Come here to picnic, play or enjoy the attractions.

Nice France Hacks – Top Places To Visit

Nice France – Top Places To Visit is situated on the French Riviera, the city of Nice is nestled between the mountains and Mediterranean Sea in the Provence Côte d’Azur.

The city has mild temperatures throughout the year, and with its beaches, museums, monuments, coastal bars and restaurants – it is easy to see why it’s such a popular holiday destination.

Below are some of the must see places in Nice…

Promenades des Anglais Nice France – Top Place To Visit

The Promenade des Anglais is a five-kilometer promenade along the beach, and one of the most popular attractions in town.

Walking along the avenue you will pass beautiful architecture, restaurants, shops and street vendors.

The area is also popular with locals who roller-blade, jog, cycle, walk or sit by the Promenade or, for short, La Prom, and is the perfect place for a romantic walk with your loved one.

Top Places To Visit Nice’s Markets

Nice has markets scattered all over the city selling a variety of things.

The markets are the perfect place to prepare a picnic basket, with fresh bread, fruit, vegetables, pickles, meats and cheeses.

The Cours Saleya Flower Market provides for a wide array of ripe produce, sidewalk cafes, souvenir shops and flower shops selling bouquets of all sorts of colors, textures and scents.

There are also local cafes, shops and boutiques dotted around the market’s edges.

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral Nice France – Top Places To Visit

The St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral is a 20th-century Russian cathedral that is a big contrast with the tropics of Nice.

It is locally known as Catherdale Orthodoxe Russe St-Nicolas, and features bright onion shaped domes and classic Russian design reminiscent of the USSR on the Côte d’Azur.

Place Massena Nice France

Place Massena is the main square of the city and is bordered by red ochre buildings of Italian architecture.

Is sees a constant flow of people among its bright buildings, many stopping to watch the  statues that change color and the fountain.

On the square you will also find some great cafes and bistros, and street performers, especially during summer.

Matisse Museum Nice France

The Musée Matisse is a national museum devoted to the work of French painter Henri Matisse, including his depiction of the Nice shoreline. Also make sure to check out the museum shop.

Nice France – Top Beaches To Visit

The French Riviera has several beaches extending from Nice to Juan les Pins to Antibes.

They offer water activities along the shore and restaurants and bars, and the water is warm enough to swim in until late autumn.

Learning French

While people speak some English, having the ability to speak French would make things much easier.

But it’s better to learn once you’re there than trying to do it before you get there.

There are many opportunities available to those wishing to learn French in France.

Investing in French language learning will also be very beneficial when traveling to many other countries, as they speak French not only in France but in many other countries as well, especially in Africa.

Nice, France Timeless

It’s called Nice the Beautiful, and this is no idle boast.

For free spirits looking for a cultural experience with a difference, Nice will call out, promising unforgettable memories.

Nice, the magic of this jewel of the Côte d’Azur is in its link between tradition and modernity, where visitors can absorb its historic atmosphere whilst enjoying the charisma of a cosmopolitan city.

It would take time to talk about everything Nice has to offer its visitors, but to help you get an idea of what is awaiting, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Nice France
Nice France

Nice is renowned for its healthy air and mellow light, making it a favorite destination for the likes of Matisse and Chagall who regularly visited for inspiration.

With its warm climate and minimal rainfall in the high summer season, there are ample opportunities to combine sightseeing with relaxation.

Highly recommended is the old town, where you can wander the narrow streets, complemented by buildings with red tiled roofs, abundant open markets and intimate restaurants.

It is not difficult to imagine Matisse walking these curving walkways, taking in the atmosphere while contemplating a masterpiece.

Then there’s the 19th century Opera de Nice, regularly offering a full program of public performances, and don’t miss out on a visit to the 17th-century Nice cathedral, with its Baroque architecture and 10 chapels.

Take a walk up Castle Hill for spectacular views of the city, the Bay of Angels and, of course, the stunning cerulean blue of the Cote d’Azur in all its glory.

If you want to fully explore the city, you should sign up for a guided walk or one of the Nice bike tours.

From cultural monuments to delicious bakeries where you can enjoy coffee and cake on a terrace, you won’t want to miss out on anything the city has to offer.

The Promenade des Anglais skirts the Bay of Angels, with Hotel Negresco’s flamboyant facade facing onto the street.

There are vehicle-free zones in the city, including the Zone Piétonne which runs parallel to the promenade.

You can enjoy shopping in the small boutiques before sampling the rich cuisine the restaurants have to offer, including Spanish, Italian, Chinese and, not forgetting, Nicoise.

Visit the beautiful squares, such as the Place Rossetti which lies in the center of old Nice, where buildings are the color of red and yellow ochre and a magnificent fountain and the cathedral of Sainte-Reparate sit alongside cafes and superb ice cream parlors.

Come nightfall, the lighting of the square, together with the music and the tempting smells emanating from the restaurants, make it a very inviting spot.

It’s also a city that invites contemplation, not only at its various and varied religious buildings dotted around its center, but at the large Monument aux Morts, a war memorial carved into Castle Hill in memory of the city’s men who fell during the war.

Of all the city’s churches, the St Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, designed in the style of Russian Orthodox cathedrals, is the most impressive.

Reflecting the eclectic mix of visitors to Nice over the centuries, this 20th-century church was built as a tribute to a Russian royal who died in the city.

Over the years, Nice has drawn in many admirers from across the globe and continues to do so today, enchanting new generations with its graceful glamour.

Nice offers you a quintessentially French experience, with the opportunity to savor its bright lights and exquisite cuisine against a cultural backdrop that gives you a glimpse of the past and moments of peaceful reflection intertwined with a stylish way of life.

Don’t forget to book your airport transfer with Holiday Transfers when you visit!

Provincial and Exotic, it’s Brittany France

If there’s one place in Europe that steals many hearts, that would be Brittany, France.

Located in the north-west of France and referred to as “Little Brittain”, Brittany is a cultural region full of architecture, arts, music, great cuisine and festivals.

Known as a “magical destination”, you will find scenery like no other in the world including beaches full of hidden coves, golden sand and charming towns.

Provincial and Exotic, it’s Brittany France
Provincial and Exotic, it’s Brittany France

One of France’s most rugged regions, Brittany is more than just a spectacular coastline, history and architecture take center stage in this quaint town with is Celtic culture, museums, music and landmarks.

Brittany is France’s well-kept secret hideaway.

There are a variety of choices when it comes to accommodations but holiday homes such as those provided by Casamundo will give you that local “home-away-from-home” feeling, giving you the opportunity to explore every detail of this culturally rich destination.

Brittany France
Brittany France

Brittany as the French Do

Life among the residents of Brittany is tranquil and yet, purposeful.

The French always make their daily chores look like a scene from a graceful ballet. Brittany offers many little rural lanes full of restaurants, hotels and shops.

No matter where you stay chances are you’ll find enough to explore just a short walk away.

Find a quaint café, a bustling diner or just take part of the thriving cultural scene.

If you’re in the mood for a little exploring, make sure you visit one of Brittany’s islands, Île de Bréhat or Île de Sein are among the most popular ones.

There’s also a vast amount of Cathedrals including Cathedral St-Pierre-St-Paul, which is one of France’s last Gothic cathedrals.

Brittany’s islands
Brittany’s islands

You’ll need more than a week to really enjoy all the area has to offer.

The walled city of Saint Malo is one of the more popular among tourists holding within it’s walls all it’s pure medieval character and activities.

When in France, do as the French do!

Pick between a rural or seaside setting, wake up to ocean breezes or the sight of acres of colorful flowers.

Take a dip in the outdoor pool or wander cobblestone streets in town.

A holiday home can certainly offer all this and more, make you feel like a local and give you enough time to explore all the details of it’s ancient towns.

Cathedrale St-Pierre-St-Paul
Cathedrale St-Pierre-St-Paul

You’ll enjoy the shops and sights found only in Brittany.

Saint Malo: Small Town, Big History

What is it about Saint-Malo that tempts tourists to board ferries to France?

What leads them to cross the English Channel in droves?

Historically, this stretch of water was dangerous, as it was the turf of the infamous corsairs.”

These privateers pillaged ships and guarded their loot behind the city’s heavily fortified walls.

Fortunately for visitors, Saint-Malo is more welcoming these days, and it is more than willing to share its current bounty of seafood and crêpes.

Here are some great ways to explore Saint-Malo:

Saint Malo
Saint Malo

Explore the City

A walk along the city’s ancient walls or beach is the best way to start exploring the town.

Next, visitors can continue out to the Fort National or the Île du Grande Bé.

These sites are only accessible at low tide, and a modern-day Malouin rescue flotilla descends on those who time their visit poorly.

The Cathédral St-Vincent is another stop on every walking tour, as is the impressive Chateau.

The French government put it in place to help them keep tabs on the privateers, and visitors to La Maison de Corsaire can see firsthand how well all the 17th and 18th century plundering paid off.

WWII memorial
WWII memorial

A trip to the WWII memorial provides a sobering counterpoint – most of the city’s ramparts were completely destroyed during the war.

Their careful reconstruction is a testament to both the city’s determination and pride in its past.

Cathédral St-Vincent
Cathédral St-Vincent

Taste the French Cuisine

Saint-Malo’s numerous cafés and crêperies are great places to grab a bite and wash it down with some local cider.

La Maison du Beurre is a paradise for dairy lovers, as they have several artisan cheeses and butters to sample.

Platters of oysters and mussels are served up pretty much everywhere, but connoisseurs should check out famed restaurant Le Chalut.

Those who prefer sea life that is alive and swimming should visit the Grand Aquarium instead.

Throughout the old town, charming shops open onto cobblestone streets and provide a pleasant afternoon diversion.

The Celtic Breton musicians about are yet another reminder of Saint-Malo’s unique heritage.

La Maison du Beurre
La Maison du Beurre

Although the passage of time has altered this port city, it has changed less than one might think.

To stand on a pier, with salt on the air and boats creaking in their moorings, is to stand in the shoes of countless voyagers, past and present.

Many who plan a day trip to France chose Saint-Malo for its convenience, but this proud little city is a destination in its own right.

Top Spots To Visit In Northern France

As a child I spent many happy family holidays in France – living close to the south coast of the UK as we did, it was really easy to stick us kids in the car and catch a ferry from Dover to Calais, arriving on foreign soil ready to explore within a few hours.

I go back there still – here are three of my favorite spots, all are only an hour or two’s drive from Calais.

Le Touquet – Ideal For Beach People

Top Spots To Visit In Northern France Le Touquet - Ideal For Beach People
Top Spots To Visit In Northern France – Le Touquet – Ideal For Beach People

The quirky coastal town of Le Touquet around an hour west along the coast road from Calais used to be a hangout for film stars and a playground for politicians back in the 1920s and 30s.

Rich and powerful Parisians built exuberant villas here, a casino opened and the airport ferried in moneyed Brits from across the channel – today, the place has a bit of an air of faded grandeur about it which I really love.

You can hop on a bicycle and pedal your way around those grand villas – many of them with interesting Art Deco architectural flourishes, some now housing interesting art exhibitions.

The local produce market in the center of the town buzzes with life, bursting with all manner of fruits, vegetable, fish and fowl – and then there’s the beach, which of course was what attracted the rich and famous in the first place.

Giverny – Lovely For Art Lovers

France has given the world its fair share of genuinely great artists and few come much more impact than Monet.

At the forefront of the Impressionist movement which sought to depict hyper realistic scenes using tiny dabs of bright paint – Monet painted many of his most famous canvases at his house and gardens in Giverny which lies around 3 hours inland from Calais on the banks of the River Seine.

Monet lived here from 1883 to his death in 1926 and devoted much of his time to creating the most amazingly vibrant gardens – wonderfully laid-out expanses of brilliant blooms interspersed with placid lakes, shady bowers and delicate footbridges.

From these views were born some of his most famous works of art – in particular the vast canvases of water lilies, many with a slender Japanese footbridge in the background.

Laon: Wonderful For Romance

Laon: Wonderful For Romance
Laon: Wonderful For Romance

The medieval town of Laon sits atop an escarpment on the wide plains east of Paris – it’s also around a 3 hour drive from Calais – down the A26 autoroute – but well worth the traveling time, particularly if you’re looking for a cozy weekend break á deux without many other tourists around.

The big auto route going right past the door means many visitors to this part of France cruise right on by and that’s why I particularly like it – it’s surprisingly un-visited.

The tightly contoured hillside it sits on means that the old town is a delightful labyrinth of narrow old cobbled streets and wooden beamed houses.

It’s ideal for just strolling – sudden abrupt views of unexpected vastness arrive around corners as you reach stretches of the old ramparts.

And then, sat right in the midst of it all, is the massive cathedral – a Gothic fortress of the most incredible proportions adorned with all manner of carvings and statues.

In the evenings the town is quiet and cozy, ideal for a meander and a spot of food at one of the handful of local bars and creperies.

Getting there: P&O Ferries has regular sailings every day from Dover to Calais – the crossing takes just 90 minutes and if you’re lucky you’ll get to travel aboard their smart new super ferry the Spirit of France.

Cycling tour of France

France is a wonderful country with so many exciting cycling trails.

It is arguably the best country in the world for a cycling holiday.

You can go on a challenging slog up a Tour de France col or a gentle stroll between France’s wonderful natural landscapes and pretty villages.

You can explore the great cities of France on two wheels as well.

As cycling is so very popular around France, you can find some local cycling races and championships arranged on your French cycling tour.

(photo credits: 1 – 2 – 1, 2, 3 – 1, 2, 3, 4 – 1)

Colmar France The Best of France, Germany and the French Alps

Ski Holiday in France

Updated:

Colmar France – The Best of France and Germany – This year we have been traveling around Europe very slowly and even more randomly.

We stay in a country for a month or more, and make up our next step on a whim, often just days before our rent runs out and we need to pack up and leave.

The first week in a new place always tends to go very slowly, and you feel like you have lots of time to plan your next step.

But then time speeds up and one day you suddenly find yourself stressing about finding a new place to stay.

These late decisions have often resulted in us not getting to stay in the places we wanted the most, but they have also brought us to some very unexpected places: like Colmar – we didn’t even know that this place existed until about a week before we arrived …
Colmar France - The Best of France & Germany

Colmar France Peculiar & Cute Toy Town

Colmar is a small town in Alsace region in eastern France, close to the German border.

With wonky half-timbered houses in the colors of the rainbow lining the streets of the maze-like town, you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook about Hansel and Gretel.

Pretzels hang from the window sills of sausage and jam shops next to French wine cellars with locally produced wine.

Living In Kreuzberg Berlin
Oktoberfest In Munich
Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Colmar The Perfect Road Trip Destination

Colmar is one of the most popular towns along the Alsace Wine Route, which is a must for any wine connoisseur (or wannabes like myself), as Alsace has some of the best white wines in France.

The local wine is delicious, cheap and you can find it everywhere.

The Wine Route is a road trippers dream, simply because it has it all; spectacular landscape dotted with castles and forts perched on the hilltops in the region, small winding roads perfect for cruising, roadside wineries to stock up on local wine bottles and cozy little villages to explore and stop for lunch in.

Driving is the best way to really make the most of the wine route, as it isn’t possible to reach many of the villages by bus.

Don’t worry though, you can easily rent a car from Colmar, and look into getting car hire excess insurance instead of the insurance they offer at the desk as the car rental companies’ own insurances tend to be much more expensive.
Colmar France

Is Colamr Really France?

My French is embarrassingly bad, but I try my best.

It turned out that in Colmar, my French didn’t matter – because they always replied in German anyway.

A Swede and a French person in France talking to each other in German – now that’s a scenario I never would have imagined..!

In other words, it’s not at all what I had expected to find in France of all places!

You see an interesting German-French mix everywhere; from restaurants serving a blend of German and French cuisine, bi-lingual signs and the radio alternating between French ballads and Bavarian beer songs.

But these little culture mixes are not actually that surprising considering the fact that Colmar has belonged to Germany twice (1871 – 1918 and 1940-1945).

Historically, the Germans considered the mountains as the natural border between the countries, while the French thought the Rhine River was – the Alsace region was right in between, and who doesn’t want this breathtaking region with its fertile vineyards and adorable villages to belong to them?

Have you been to any towns in the Alsace region? Europe’s Most Scenic Views on A Train Journey

Best Way of Travelling to the French Alps That’s Affordable

If you think an Alpine holiday is too expensive, think again.

The best way of travelling to the French Alps for an outdoor adventure holiday in the French Alps is a fantastic choice for those who love the great outdoors.

There are affordable activity holidays to experience in the French Alps.

You’ve just got to know where to look. Go Skiing in Andorra

Options here are varied and numerous; prices are on a wide scale too. Here are some tips on how to get the best deals.

When to go for the best deals?

A trip to the Alps can be expensive, but there are certain times of the year that are more affordable than others.

Of course, peak ski season will be quite costly.

However, booking during the summer months can be a lot cheaper.

You can definitely get the best deals during the summer months.

Especially when you book outside of peak times such as school holidays.

You won’t get all day skiing, but there are some resorts where glacier skiing is still possible in the alps, even in the summer months.

While the skiing may be questionable, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities to choose from.

Best Way of Travelling to the French Alps
Best Way of Travelling to the French Alps

Getting to the French Alps – Self Drive or Flights?

Flights tend to be the most expensive part of your holiday, especially at popular times.

When you book a package holiday, the flights and hotel are usually all included in the total price.

The combination by the companies often ends up with discounted prices overall.

But how much money could you save if you decided to take the self-drive choice?

Well with Alpine Elements Activity Holidays you can save up to £200 per person if you choose a self-drive option.

This makes it a much cheaper option, especially if there are a lot of people in your group or you are travelling as a family.

In addition to saving money, there are many benefits of driving to the Alps:

You can carry more luggage.

You can make stops at sights along the way.

Because you won’t have to rush off and catch a flight, you can stay over in the resort longer.

The drive time, once you have arrived in France, is about seven hours with the potential to stop over at other locations on the way.

A stop in Paris is always an experience.

More people in the UK are deciding to drive to the Alps for their activity holidays.

It gives holiday makers more freedom.

For some, it means a more relaxing travel environment than having to brave the airports.

Things to remember when driving from the UK to France:

There are toll roads in France that make your journey to the Alps quicker and easier.

The total bill is around £130 return if you choose to use them.

Petrol is cheaper in France, so it’s a good idea to fill up there, especially on your way home.

Stock up on supplies at major supermarkets rather than smaller shops nearer resorts.

Where to stay on a budget in the French Alps?

Accommodation in the Alps usually consists of: Hotels, Catered Chalets, Self-Catering Chalets and You may also find hostels.

The best budget deals will depend on your chosen destination and the type of dining you are looking for.

If you are happy to cook, then a self-catering chalet is an excellent budget option.

It’s even easier if you have chosen to self-drive, as you can stop at the local supermarket and stock up on supplies before you arrive and during your stay.

Most self-catering units are completely independent units, so you have your own personal space as a group or family.

If you don’t fancy cooking on your holiday, then you could opt for a catered chalet at the most basic half board option.

That way your breakfast and dinner are taken care of, and you will only have to plan your own lunch.

Of course, having catering will add additional costs compared to self- catering.

It’s just a case of your budget, time, and your preference.

What should you look for in a self-catering chalet?

Be sure to find out in advance what home comforts and facilities available at a self-catering stay.

Here are a few things you should check out before you book:

Make sure there’s a representative or person you can call for advice or if things go wrong.

Check what facilities there are in your chalet.

For example, a washing machine, dishwasher, hot tub or sauna.

Anything that will make your life easier or more relaxing is great.

Is there a welcome pack?

Some operators will provide things like liquid soap and toiletries.

Some may offer snacks or a welcome drink.

Find out before you go so you don’t buy unnecessary items.

Having some of these facilities means you have the ability to travel light.

Packing the minimum will give you more space in the car knowing you can wash and re-wear clothes while at your destination.

The Alps – An Amazing Family Activity Destination

Perhaps the Alps are merely known as a ski destination but it is definitely much more than that. The Alps – An Amazing Family Activity Destination.

There are so many different outdoor activities both for adults and children it makes a great fun holiday destination.

During the summer months the French Alps transforms into an adventure playground for activity holidays and is a destination for immense family fun.

The summers are warm especially in the southern Alps (France) but you still get that beautiful scenery of snow-capped mountains, rolling green hills and sparkling blue lakes.

Sound like a great summer destination?

Here are a few activities you can try as a family in the Alps, consider these for your next family holiday.

The Alps – An Amazing Family Activity Destination

Image from pixabay.com

Mountain Biking

The two best Alpine resorts for family mountain biking are Morzine and Les Gets.

Here you can take the lifts to the top most trails and take in the fabulous views as well as enjoying the downhill trails.

Children as young as 5 can use the lifts when accompanied by an adult but you might need some assistance before you get used to the areas.

In both resorts there are guided family rides to get you started on the trails so you can build your confidence until you are happy to go it alone.

There are plenty of trails in the area for all abilities and the whole family are sure to improve their skills whilst riding here.

One of the good things about this mountain biking is that it’s quite a cheap past time to get into.

You don’t need any expensive equipment to try this activity and you can hire everything you need during your trip.

That’s if it is not already included in your package.

Mountain biking is one of those sports that you can continue to enjoy at home too.

Paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is an activity the whole family can enjoy, from toddlers to teenagers and the adults too.

On the calm waters of Alpine lakes, you can take out these boards and peacefully glide across the waters.

All safety equipment and instructions are given before you set off and sometimes this is all included in your package with your tour operator.

Although it is a bit of a workout, especially for the core, people who try paddle boarding exclaim that the past time is peaceful and relaxing. Almost like walking on water.

And with the amazingly beautiful mountain scenery surrounding the water, the Alps are certainly the perfect place to try paddle boarding.

Lakes to enjoy this activity include both Lac Montriond and Tignes Lake which are accessible from all resorts in the French Alps.

Kayaking

When you book multi activity holidays in the Alps some activities such as Kayaking are often included in your package.

As mentioned above the Alps have some amazing rivers and lakes which means water sports are in abundance here.

Kayaking, is another great sport to get the family active and out on the water.

As the lakes are quiet and calm they are an excellent for beginners who want to try kayaking for the first time or just a calm environment.

This in turn means is is great for families of all ages and even with small children.

Lac Montriond is one of those amazing lakes in the Alps.

As one of the largest lakes in the area it is home to lots of activities and Kayaking is just one of them.

It is easiest to get to from the resort of Morzine but you can visit and enjoy the activities from other resorts in the French Alps.

Horse-riding in the mountains

Children in particular love the idea of meeting and riding horses and this activity is often a memorable experience.

Horse-riding as a family is a fun and exciting thing to do in the Alps.

The horses are well looked after and are completely at home on the mountain paths.

Most lessons also include learning how to look after, feed and groom the horses, which kids really enjoy.

So, although there are many different ways you can take in the Alpine countryside in the summer, horse riding gives you a unique perspective.

At your resort you’ll find an equestrian center and they all offer mountain rides of both half day or day long excursions.

Children from 5 years of age can try this activity and you don’t need any experience as complete beginners are catered for.

A must do on a summer trip in the mountains.

Adventure Parks

Have some amazing family fun at the adventure parks in the Alps, children of all ages will love climbing and testing out their skills in the park.

The parks are aimed at families with different levels of ability and ages.

There are a variety of obstacles to overcome, some challenging, some thrilling and others just easy and fun.

Climbing ropes, treetop exploring steps, valley crossing zip lines and ground tunnels are all things that you can expect.

You will find all of this among the amazing outdoor landscapes of the Alpine forests.

Think of a massive playground in the forest for both adults and children and your imagination will be on track.

Rock climbing

Beginners or experienced climbers can enjoy climbing and navigating on natural rock faces or artificial climbing walls at resorts in the Alps.

If you want outdoor lessons then an instructor will guide you as part of a group and introduce you to the stunning natural rock faces.

You will be taught different climbing and abseiling techniques starting with more comfortable climbs to ease you in and become more adept.

Then if you wish you can try your hand at moderate and more difficult climbs as your ability improves.

If you’d like to start out slow then artificial walls a great place for families and beginners.

Learn in a safe environment with instructors and easy to follow color coded hand and foot holds.

This way you can see the different levels clearly, which means beginners can climb walls at the same time as experts by following the easier routes.

White water rafting

White water rapids are a famous terrain of the Alps and rafting is one of the most popular activities to try on these rivers.

Families will enjoy the rapids together as children from the age of 8 years can partake in the experience.

Under instruction from the rafting center experts, this safe but exhilarating sport will be a fun and memorable experience.

Before your session you will be briefed on the kit and safety procedures before you go.

Rivers include the Durance, the Ubaye, the Bachelard and the Guil where the waters for rafting vary from grades 2 to 5.

So, there is a range of options for beginners to the more experienced rafter.

How does an outdoor activity holiday in the Alps with your family sound?

There are many different types of activities to try in the French Alps, enough to keep your family entertained and wear out the little ones too.

So if it an action packed summer adventure holiday you are looking for then look no further than the Alps for your next family break.

What’s best Package holiday or Booking direct?

It’s much easier to book a package holiday so you know exactly what is included and the small things are thought of already for you.

The great thing about the French Alps is that you can book with a tour operator whether you want a whole holiday including flights, catered or self-catering and even packages including Self-Drive.

If you are going to fly, here are some resources for economical luggage options:

The Carry-On Checklist: What You Need For Your Flight
8 Luggage Sets You’ll Want for Your Next Vacation
Roller Bag vs Backpack Review- Which Is Better?
Portable Travel Digital Luggage Scale Product Review with Video

The companies understand that there are many people who want to enjoy an Alpine holiday but can make their own way there.

The difficulty with booking your accommodation and activities separately can be communicating and booking with individual chalet owners or through a third party booking site.

Many tour operators have chalets and hotel rooms that are only booked through their own company.

Meaning many of the sought-after locations and chalets are only bookable through an operator.

What’s included in the French Alps Tour?

If you are deciding between destinations, tour operators and accommodation, make sure you check what else is included in your stay too.

For example, are there free transfers if you are taking a flight?

Is there free parking if you are driving?

Also find out what activities and passes are included in your booking.

Providers might offer bike hire, guided hikes, or kayaking as part of their package and either free or discounted lift and cable car passes to get you started in the area.

This can be of great benefit when booking a family break, saving you money, and enabling you to enjoy activities without spending extra cash.

What is the best budget option for a break in the French Alps?

In conclusion, the best value for money options are to drive to your destination yourself and to choose a self-catering chalet.

Buying and cooking your own meals is the cheapest option for a budget holiday here.

Booking through a tour operator may afford you some free activities included in your stay too.

Choosing dates outside of the peak holidays will save you some money as well.

So, what would you choose?

A summer road trip for an activity holiday in the French Alps?

Or a flights and catering option for that little bit more?

Or would you choose something in between?

Have you already been on an Alpine holiday on a budget?

Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.

The Alsace Wine Route – Photo Essay

With vineyards on rolling hills that stretch into the horizon, small medieval villages scattered in the region and castles and forts perched on top of small mountains, the French Alsace is among the world’s most picturesque wine regions.

The Alsace Wine Route - Photo Essay
The Alsace Wine Route – Photo Essay

When I first arrived in Alsace I couldn’t believe my eyes – the scenery and towns were the kind I didn’t think existed anymore; pastel colored half-timbered houses line the sides of cobblestone alleys with basement restaurants serving wine from the surrounding vineyards.

The Alsace Wine Route
The Alsace Wine Route

It’s like a storybook, only difference is that it’s actually real, and authentic. Unlike many places in the world that have become open-air museums, the towns of Alsace are real and alive.

The Alsace Wine
The Alsace Wine

During WWII many towns and cities in Europe were burned to the ground, and historic beauty was rarely a good enough excuse for a town to be spared.

Colmar, however, was an exception, and the American and British military were careful not to bomb the quaint cobbled town – while other villages in the Alsace region were destroyed, many are still intact and lovingly cared for to continue preserving its medieval beauty.

Today, Colmar is thriving, and the surrounding villages continue with their wine business as they have for hundreds of years already.

Time really does seem to stand still in this part of the world.

Alsace Wine
Alsace Wine

The quiet atmosphere and pastel colored houses with overflowing flower boxes by every window make these little villages the perfect places to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine, harvested literally from around the corner.

Two very picturesque villages that are located close to the larger Alsatian town Colmar are Eguisheim and Riquewihr, but there are dozens more to choose from.

Alsace France Wine
Alsace France Wine

I’ve always been a red wine kind of girl, but since I was in the white wine capital of France I knew I should at least try some, and turned out loving the Riesling and Gewürztraminer, they were spicy and refreshing.

They do make one red wine though, Pinot Noir, which I highly recommend tasting!

French Wine Alsace France
French Wine Alsace France

The easiest way to get around is by car, but there is a bus going from Colmar to Riquewihr a few times per day so it is possible if you do some planning in advance (the ride takes 30 min, €6 return).

French Wine Alsace
French Wine Alsace

Alsace’s unique culture mix is one you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the world, and I highly recommend you take some time when traveling in France (or Germany for that matter!) to check out the quaint Alsace region.

Quick Guide To Normandy, France

Spanning 674, 843 km², France is one of the largest countries in Europe, divided into 26 different regions.

Each one of these regions are unique and offer something unique and distinctive to that area.

This diversity is what makes France such a great destination to travel to.

One of the most popular areas is Normandy, a region located in Northwestern France, famed for the D-Day Allied invasion on June 6, 1944, but also known for so much more.

From the rocky cliffs in the Cotentin peninsula and the famous white cliffs of Etretat, to wonderful small towns and villages with half-timbered houses in the inland area, there are many things to see in Normandy.

Here’s a quick guide to the top sights and attractions in Normandy …

White Cliffs of Etretat

White Cliffs of Etretat
White Cliffs of Etretat

Famous for its beaches and chalky white cliffs, these 70meter high cliffs are a beauty to behold and one of the most beautiful features of Normandy – its three rock formations are known as Potre d’Amont or the Upstream Cliff, Porte d’Aval or the downstream cliff and Manneporte.

Carved by nature and adorned by mysterious names there are images of a hollow eye needle and an elephant dipping its trunk in the ocean.

A walk along the Pebble beach, climbing up the steep stairs to the top of the cliffs for a view, and discovering a 17th Century oyster bed are just some of the things you can do in Etreat.

An easy way to get to Normandy is to take the ferry from UK to Calais and continue down the coast from there – click here for information about ferries to Calais.

Mont St. Michel

Mont St. Michel

This tiny tidal rocky island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited places in all of France.

This remarkable medieval walled city, crowned by its great gothic abbey, is built on a small granite outcrop standing all by itself in Mont Saint Michel bay.

At the peak is the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel.

During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and today a few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept.

Still to this day, people actually live in this village, and there are even a few places where you can eat on the island, such as La Mere Poulard, which is world-famous for its omelets (a specialty on the island).

D-Day Landing Beaches

The D-Day Landing Beaches

On June 6, 1944 – today known as D-Day, Operation Overlord, a long-awaited invasion of Northwest Europe, began with Allied landings along the coast of Normandy where the Germans had turned the coastline into an interlinked series of strong points.

The Allies launched a simultaneous landing of British, Canadian, U.S., and French forces on five separate beaches with the code names Sword Beach (British), Juno Beach (Canadian), Gold Beach (British), Omaha Beach (American) Utah Beach (American).

When they landed they stormed the mined beaches and stormed the gun positions, and continued fighting their way into the towns and hills advancing inland.

The victory was a turning point in World War II and led to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

While today the coast is dotted with lovely peaceful seaside towns, there are still many remains from German gun emplacements and bunkers, and war memorials and monuments marks where the allied forces landed on the beaches.

Since there is barely a square yard that wasn’t fought over, there are also monuments in almost every village and at every bend in the road.

These beaches can be reached from UK by taking a ferry from Dover to Calais and then continue by car for about 1.5 hours.

You can simply drive your car on the ferry at Dover Port and drive down along Normandy when you land in Calais.

France

Arcachon Bay, Aquitaine, France
Arcachon Bay, Aquitaine, France

Associated with the glitz and glamour, the south of France is often the choice of millionaires as they look to escape the ‘stresses’ of life.

With a host of cities and villages for you to explore, you can soak up the southern climate in more ways than you think.

Or alternatively, head to the beach!

Have you been to Normandy?

Share your experiences below!

French Food: Your Guide to Meal Time in France

The wonderful thing about France is that each region has its own very distinct specialties.

Most produce their own wine, and have cheeses, breads and dishes they call their very own.

From bouillabaisse in the South of France, to the wonderful bleu cheeses in Auvergne, to the champagne from—where else?

Champagne, you could very well spend your time nibbling and sipping across the country.

When I taught English during the 10-11 school year I ended up in Burgundy, which is (in my humble opinion), France’s Basket of Deliciousness.

Thus my guide to the best French food is heavily Burgundy-biased.

Apéritifs

Kir

Kir is a mixture of crème de cassis (black currants) and white wine.

This is Burgundy’s regional drink, so if you’re going to do it right your wine should be one of the delectable whites from Mâcon.

Mixing it with champagne makes it a kir royale, but again: purists will insist you go with one of Burgundy’s crémants, a sparkling white from the region.

Pastis

Hailing from the south of France, pastis is a refreshing anise-flavored beverage that is mixed with water until it reaches the potency you desire.

The most famous brand of pastis is Ricard, which when mixed with water goes from yellow to a cloudy white.

Bière (French Beer)

A note on French beers: Unless you prefer your beer to closely resemble mineral water, you will be unhappy with France’s offerings.

One would think that its proximity to Belgium and Germany would make France a suds paradise. One would be wrong.

Many bars try to pizzazz-up their offerings by adding fruity syrups.

I tried a Monaco (grenadine plus beer) when I was sick and didn’t think it was too bad.

Once I could breathe through my nose again and taste things, I re-tried it and wanted to spit it out.

Word to the wise.

French Hors d’Oeuvres

Les Escargots

French cooking is all about the sauce, and the sauce typically used for snails is a real winner in my book: parsley, garlic, and a heckuva lot of butter.

I’ve had varying experiences with escargots, from the awful to the sublime, and I think this is one of the cases where you get what you pay for.

Do not go to a random brasserie at 4:00 p.m. and expect to pay 6E for delicious snails.

Go to a nice restaurant at a proper eating time (lunch is served at noon and dinner starts at 8:00) and make sure they’re served piping hot.

You may have to fish them out of their shells yourself, which is a fun exercise in dexterity.

If you decide you’re not a fan of the chewy texture, you can always shake the liquid from the shells onto your plate and just go to town on the sauce with a piece of baguette.

You will get strange looks, but hey!

You’re a tourist!

You’re never going to see these people again!

Les Cuisses de Grenouilles

Everything you’ve heard is true: frog legs taste like chicken.

Generally you will see them fried, accompanied by a lemon wedge and a wet nap.

Yes, this is one of the few things besides baguette you’re allowed to eat with your hands in France.

Beware of the legs’ many bones—eating around them can be quite a chore.

Do not order these on a date or in front of anyone else you may want to impress.

It’s messy.

Salade de Chèvre Chaud

I saw this once translated on a menu as “hot crusty goat cheese.” YUM.

It’s basically a salad topped with toasts on which goat cheese, or chèvre, has been melted.

It’s a taste sensation.

Plats Principals French Food ~ Boeuf Bourguignon

This is the dish that brought me to Burgundy.

After mastering Julia Child’s version, I thought to myself, “Any place with something this tasty named after it has got to be the place for me.”

Any time you see a dish with “bourguignon” or “à la bourguignon” after the name, it usually means it has a luscious, rich sauce made from Burgundy wine.

Boeuf bourguignon is a beef stew, usually accompanied by carrots, mushrooms, onions, and a smattering of other vegetables, as well as lardoons—little chunks of flavorful bacon.

Highly recommended for a cold winter’s eve.

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin is very similar to boeuf bourguignon, but with chicken instead of beef.

I’m fairly certain the rooster of the dish’s namesake is no longer used.

Again, a rich Burgundy wine sauce will fill your insides and make you feel loved.

Oeufs en Meurette

One more winey dish and then I swear I’m done.

This one is a bit more delicate—it’s poached eggs along with our usual cast of characters.

I highly recommend slathering some of the egg on the baguette slices that come with your meal.

It should go without saying that you should also be using this baguette to sop up every last bit of sauce you can from the serving dish.

Pôt au Feu

The first time I had pôt au feu was in November at a celebration of the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau—the toddler-aged wine from the region just south of Burgundy that had spent the minimum amount of time aging in its bottle.

It gets you just as tipsy as its older brothers and sisters, though.

Anyway.

Pôt au feu is a beef stew that hasn’t been thickened by wine or any other thickening agent.

It’s beef, carrots, leeks, potatoes, etc. that have been simmered together with a bevy of soup bones all the livelong day.

It’s served with some stone-ground mustard and cornichons (little dill pickles).

If you’re lucky, your waiter might bring out a bowl heaped with those boiled calf femurs and you can spread some of the marrow on your baguette.

It’s rather greasy, but if you like fatty greasy things it’ll be right up your alley.

Raclette

So clearly I did a lot of eating in winter.

Raclette is actually the name of a cheese that hails from the region of the Alps near Grenoble.

Its name is now synonymous with this dish.

I had this only at people’s homes, not restaurants, and this is how it was always served: you take a boiled potato and mash it around on your plate, along with pieces of charcuterie (duck breast, prosciutto, dried beef, etc.), pickles and cocktail onions.

You then top it with a freshly melted piece of raclette cheese and snarf that sucker up.

You can find a raclette machine at most home appliance stores, and it has an internal heating element under which you put individual trays of cheese.

Once one of the trays is bubbling, you slide it onto your dish, refill it with another piece of cheese, and put it back under the heater.

Because you will want more.

Fromage

I could do an entirely separate post on the attributes of French cheeses, but for now I’ll just give you some highlights.

You will often be given the option of a cheese plate between your main course and your dessert.

Be adventurous!

DO NOT be afraid of the stinky cheese.

It will help give you a taste of the teroir.

Favorite Fromage include:

  • Comté, a nutty and mild hard cow’s milk cheese
  • Reblechon, a soft cow’s milk cheese from the Haute Savoie with a bit of a bite
  • Délice de Bourgogne, a sinfully creamy cow’s milk number from my favorite region
  • Chèvre—any kind of goat cheese—especially when paired with fig jam.

You. Are. Welcome.

French Food Desserts

Crème Brûlée

Popularized by Amélie, this sugar-crusted custard is always a winner.

Some restaurants will go nuts with special flavors and textures, but, for me, the classic always wins out.

Tarte Tatin

France’s version of an apple pie is concocted with caramelized apples that are baked crust-up in the oven.

When it’s done, the pie is flipped onto a plate and served hot.

For those who don’t like their desserts too sweet, this will tempt your taste buds.

Île Flottante

Egg whites are whipped into a frenzy to create this meringue floating in a sea of anise-flavored crème anglaise.

Speculoos à Tartiner

This isn’t really a dessert, and it isn’t really French, but I discovered it there so it counts.

It’s a paste made from the Belgian spice cookies of the same name.

The best way to describe it is liquid teddy grahams.

Slather it on a chunk of baguette and just try not to polish off the rest of your bread with it in one sitting.

I dare you.

Did I miss any of your favorite French food?

Tell me about it in the comments.

Bon appétit!

(photo credit: 1 – 2 – 3 – image from Pixabay.com

Best Capital City Beaches In Europe

Best Beaches In Europe

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Best Capital City Beaches In Europe – If you’re like me and love the culture and many activities that cosmopolitan cities offer, which is why I travel.

But still like to spend a few days on the beach on a sunny summer day, you might sometimes find yourself torn between going to a small beach town or a large bustling city.

Best Capital City Beaches In Europe and swimming spots in the city

The great news is that you actually can have both at the same time, if you just go to the right cities.

Berlin – Strandbad am Weissensee Beach

Some parts of Berlin feel like a concrete jungle, but there are many large parks and green areas to escape to during sunny summer days.

Not many tourists know about the lake in Weissensee, but it’s really not far from the city of Berlin and if you rent a bike you can easily get there (about 6km from Rosenthaler Platz).

The lake is great for swimming and there is even a small beach!

Many apartments in Berlin are close to this lake so if you stay there you will have it all to yourself in the early morning before the rest get there.

Copenhagen – Havnebadet Beach

Located right by the ocean, Copenhagen has realized its potential and recently spent millions on creating 4 swimming spots in the middle of the city and improving the water quality.

Today the water in these urban swimming spots is just as clean as by the beaches outside of the city and a perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day – the most popular is Islands Brygge with an awesome carnival atmosphere in summer.

Stockholm – Långholmen & Kristineberg Beach

Built on 14 islands and the gateway to an expansive archipelago, it’s not surprising that Stockholm offers dozens of beautiful beaches and swimming areas in the middle of the city.

One of the more popular go-to places is Långholmen, but Kristineberg Beach (an unofficial swimming spot) is also a favorite among locals. Here is a list of 5 of the most popular urban swimming spots.

Geneva - Bains des Pâquis
Geneva – Bains des Pâquis

Geneva – Bains des Pâquis Beach

My favorite part about Geneva was the lake, it’s one of the largest lakes in western Europe and among the prettiest I’ve seen (travel movie) – little did I know when I was there that it was possible to actually swim in the middle of the city!

At Bains des Pâquis you can swim with a view overlooking the famous Jet d’Eau fountain, dive into the water from diving platforms and waterslides or eat at the restaurant.

Paris Beach – Paris Plages

This huge city located miles from the coast and far from any lakes, Paris is certainly not the first capital city that comes to mind when planning a beach holiday.

But there really is a beach in Paris – well at least during summer – every year there is a summer event called Paris Plages (Paris Beach) where they transform several spots into full-fledged beaches.

Some of these beaches even have swimming pools suspended over the river Seine, and the evenings are just as popular with many concerts and live shows.

So if you’re planning a city break to Paris, its beaches are a must-see, if nothing else than just for the crazy and cool idea alone!

Other swimming spots in capital cities:

Have you been to any of these urban beaches and swimming spots for the Beaches In Europe?

Do We Travel to Escape Reality?

Photo credit: 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5)

Enjoying Monaco on a Budget GUIDE to How That is Possible

Guide to Monaco Budget

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Monaco on a Budget – At first glance, Monaco and budget are two things that just don’t seem to go together in the same sentence – but believe it or not, it IS possible – and we’ll show you how to make the most of this beautiful tiny country while still on a budget…

Get In Monaco on a Budget

Whether it’s a trip planned months in advance or a spur of the moment last minute break, getting to Monaco is easy and often quite cheap.

Closest airport is Cote d’Azur Airport in Nice, where you can often find some great deals as many budget airlines operate there (Jet2, EasyJet, Air Berlin, Air Baltic etc).

From there you can either take a bus or train to Monaco (the Express Transfer bus costs €30 return).

Free Things To Do In Monaco on a Budget

Explore The Rock

The Rock is the name of Monaco’s old town, a small but charming quarter on top of a monolith with beautiful views overlooking the city and its harbors on both sides of the rock.

Monaco on a Budget

The narrow streets lined with cafes and pastel colored buildings add to the cozy atmosphere, and the gardens facing the ocean give the old town that picturesque touch.

It’s well worth walking up to The Rock in the evening to take in the breathtaking views during sunset and visit the Saint Nicholas Cathedral which is lit up beautifully at night.

Meanwhile mornings are also lovely, and at 11.55 am sharp you can watch the changing of the guards in front of the Palace.

Go to the Beach

Monaco

On a hot day Monaco’s pebble beach and crystal clear turquoise water is a great place to cool down and relax under an umbrella.

The public beach is free to enjoy.

Relax in the Japanese Gardens

The lush green gardens and Koi ponds in the Japanese Garden is an oasis among the concrete jungle of high rise buildings in the city.

It’s a great place to wander around, and beautifully designed just like an authentic Japanese Garden.

Stroll along the Harbor

Monaco’s harbors are quite special, lined with one impressive three-story super yacht after the next, perfectly polished shining in the sunlight, stretching to the length of a whole house.

The enormous sailboats and yachts really brings out the essence of Monaco and its wealthy residents.

Visit the Casino Square

Casino Square

Even if you’re not interested in losing your money at a Casino, the Casino square is still worth visiting if only to marvel at the extravagant buildings, manicured gardens and shiny Lamborghinis parked outside.

At €10, the entry fee to the Monaco Casino isn’t very steep, but you still have to wear a suit jacket and tie to get in (although the Casino sometimes offers to lend you a tie).

Getting Around Monaco

Monaco is a small country

Monaco is a small country and super-easy to get around, so we would suggest doing it on foot.

We had planned to take advantage of the cheap and extensive public transport, but found that it was never actually necessary – and even though it’s a hilly city, most stairs have escalators!!

Walking from one side of the country to the other takes under an hour, and you will want to stop along the way anyway.

However, if you prefer taking the bus, or will do a lot of “back-and-forth” traveling, you can buy a day-pass for only €5, or a one-way ticket for €2.

Where To Eat in Monaco

Where To Eat in Monaco

The cheapest area to eat and drink in Monaco is around the area surrounded by the harbor and rue Grimaldi, as well as Place d’es Armes (which also has a morning market and a supermarket with cheap food).

The Old Town also has restaurants and cafes with some good prices, although we found drinks slightly more expensive there than downtown – besides many places in the Old Town close around 6pm.

Try the “Monaco” drink (€2.8), a pink girly beer mixed with grenadine syrup and lemonade or soda, it’s delicious!

Our favorite place was “Crock’ In” (22 Rue P. Caroline), a family run cafe with friendly staff and cheap sandwiches and Paninis (from €3.50).

Where To Sleep

Hotel Columbus is one of the best value hotels in Monaco (with rooms starting from €170).

It’s located with ocean-front view in laid-back Fontveille, about a ten minute-walk from the Center of town and five minutes to supermarkets and shops.

Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel, Monaco (REVIEW)

During our stay in Monaco we checked into the Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel, a charming hotel located by the Fontvieille harbor – one of the newest quarters in Monaco, constructed almost entirely on artificially reclaimed land.

Only a five minute walk from the busy city center, there is a calm and relaxed atmosphere in Fontvieille, something which is appreciated especially during the famous Grand Prix in May.

It has become somewhat of a tradition among many of the top Formula 1 racers to stay at this hotel during the Monaco Grand Prix every year, and they say it brings them good luck.

Whether it’s luck or a really good night’s sleep, the winners of the 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 races all stayed at this hotel during the race..!

Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel, Monaco
Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel, Monaco

With a fresh and young attitude, the hotel has a chic and relaxed environment, where beautifully glamorous and barefoot elegance sit easily side by side.

Rather than feeling that we were staying in a museum and had to dress up in suits and tie just to hang out in the lounge, we felt at home right away.

Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel
Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel

The rooms are bright and modern with a Riviera style and a touch of Scandinavian designs in white, blue stripes and wood.

The hotel is located near the heliport and in some packages a helicopter transfer to the airport (7 minutes) is included in the price.

Even if it isn’t, you might be surprised to find that it’s not only faster than a cab but even cheaper to take the helicopter to the airport over taxi.

The Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel is one of the best value hotels in Monaco, and we would recommend anyone planning a visit to Monaco to stay there.

Columbus Monte-Carlo Hotel

  • Address: 23 Avenue des Papalins 98000 Monaco
  • Prices: from €162, includes breakfast, free shuttles within Monaco & access to fitness suite.
  • Website: www.columbushotels.com

Synonymous with glitz and glamour, it’s no surprise that Monaco is often referred to as the Las Vegas of Europe.

Boasting the “cream of high society”, the rich, beautiful and famous either live in Monaco permanently, or take frequent holidays to their private mansions in the country.

Being a tax haven with incredibly low taxes, one of the main sources of the country’s income is tourism, and every year hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to attend their world famous F1 Monaco Grand Prix or visit their famous casinos.

According to Party Casino, Monaco and especially the city Monte Carlo, is the place to be if you enjoy glamorous gambling.

This small city with only 15 000 residents, has become a gambling mecca.

Not only is it the location for the Grand Prix, but it also holds the location for one of the most famous casinos in the world: the Monte Carlo Casino.

The impressive Casino was built in 1863 in baroque style with a view overlooking the ocean, and rooms decorates with frescoes, stained glass windows and sculptures.

The Casino also houses an Opera house, and there are plenty of luxurious boutiques around the Casino to spend your money if you happen to win.

Monte Carlo and the Casino were also the locations for a number of James Bond movies, including Never Say Never Again and Golden Eye.

The entrance fee to get in is only €10, but strangely enough, the residents of Monaco are not allowed inside.

If you’re not a resident, however, the Casino is definitely a place worth to visit just for the experience, whether you’ll be gambling or not – but remember to dress properly!

The casino is owned by a public company in which the government shares a major part, which may explain why they made the country into such a popular gambling destination.

It is amazing how the country has grown from being the poorest in Europe, to the wealthiest.

And just like there is more to Las Vegas than its casinos, there is plenty more glamour to experience in Monaco.

While there are many opportunities for fine dining, the restaurant Louis XV is definitely one of the very best.

Sparkling with gold and jewels, the dining room transports you back to the 17th century Europe, and ordering some wine from their wine cellar, which is the largest in the whole world with 250,000 bottles, is definitely something special.

One of the city’s top attractions is to visit the Oceanographic Museum, an exceptional marine museum where the rarest species of fish and marine life in many magnificent shapes and colors swim about in 90 pools, including the new Shark Lagoon, a giant 450 cubic meter pool.

These are just a few ways to enjoy Monaco on a Budget, what are your favorite things to do in this city?

(via: 1)

Turin Italy’s Forgotten Food Capital Guide to Eat, Drink and Stay

Turin Italy's Forgotten Food Capital

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Before we traveled to Turin we knew very little about the city other than that it was known for its car production.

Little did we know that Turin is also a foodie’s heaven, something that we discovered during our time there.

Not many people seem to know about this great gastronomical treasure of northern Italy – it’s almost as though it as been forgotten of.

The locals claim that the reason is because they don’t brag and tell everyone about how great their food is, they just know it’s the best…

Turnin is Europe’s Largest Open-Air Market

In Turin you will find the largest open-air fruit and vegetable market in Europe.

Full of life, the bustling market starts in the morning (around 8am) and goes on until 2pm.

This is where the locals go to buy their weekly food shopping, and a great place to soak up the Italian atmosphere.

Selling seasonal fruits and vegetables by the kilo, you can easily buy a whole week of greens for €6, and it’s the perfect place to put together a cheap picnic lunch before heading over to one of the parks nearby.

Turnin is Europe's Largest Open-Air Market
Turnin is Europe’s Largest Open-Air Market

Giandujotto

If you’re a chocolate fan, prepare to be in for a real treat!

What was originally an attempt to “thin out” chocolate to make it more affordable turned into one of the most delicious chocolate treats ever: the Gianduja.

A mixture of chocolate and hazelnuts, the Gianduja comes in bite sized treats called Giandujotto, and can be bought pretty much anywhere in Turin.

They’re seriously some of the most amazing chocolate treats I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate in my life..!

To give you an idea of the flavor, Gianduja was the inspiration to the more famous (and cheaper) Nutella spread we all love so much – which in Turin they throw into almost everything, from coffee to snacks.

Giandujotto
Giandujotto

Bicerin

We’ve written before about Turin’s obsession for chocolate, and the Bicerin is one of its proudest inventions.

A hot chocolate/coffee drink, Bicerin is a unique drink of Turin, and a must-try for cool evenings.

Zabaglione

Another warm drink typical for Turin is Zabaglione, an alcoholic type of egg-nod, where the egg is whipped into a foam, and you basically eat the drink with a spoon.

It’s sweet, a little sticky, and has a strong alcoholic liqueur flavor.

Zabaglione

Biscotti & Bagnati

To go with their hot chocolate coffee drinks, the Savoy family that ruled Piedmont invented bite sized biscuits to dip in their hot drinks.

These delights made especially to be dunked come in many different flavors and varieties, some of the most famous are Baci di Dama, Canestrelli and Savoiardi – better known as ladies fingers.

Our favorite were Torcetti (in the lower left corner), but there is really an infinite variety of specialties waiting to seduce you and be enjoyed in Turin’s small, traditional patisseries.

At Caffé al Bicerin (famous for their Bicerin) you can order a plate of assorted traditional biscuits for €6 to go with your drink – they’re definitely worth it!

Caffé al Bicerin

Ferrero Rocher

As if the fact that Turin invented eating chocolate wasn’t enough, one of the most famous gourmet chocolates in the world – Ferrero Rocher, was also invented in Turin.

Piedmont region Turin Wine

The Piedmont region of Turin is famous for their wine, especially of the red sort.

One of the perks of Italy, and especially Piedmont, is that wine can be bought everywhere, and surprisingly cheap.

In some of the cheaper restaurants such as “Brek” you just grab a jug of the size you want and pour wine from a tap lie it was water!

Two glasses can cost as little as €1,70, not to mention the prices of bottles from a wine shop of supermarket.

If you like wine that is a little tangy, you’ll love Italian wine.

Piedmont region Turin Wine
Piedmont region Turin Wine

Aperitivo

Turin claims to be the inventor of so many things it’s almost a bit of a joke; one cafe even claims the fame for “bite sized sandwiches”, and prize them accordingly…

The city is apparently also where “aperitivo” was invented, a sort of “happy hour” thing when you buy a drink and get a buffet or snacks for free.

Unlike “happy hour”, drinks aren’t usually cheaper, but you get free food included.

For a proper buffet expect to pay €9, but if you just want to enjoy a refreshing Aperol Spritz with some peanuts and chips you can get a drink for as little as €4 (at least from our favorite local hangout, Roger Bar at Via Torquato Tasso 9).

Turin’s Slow Food Movement

The invasion of fast food joints popping up like a plague across Italy in the 80’s gave birth to a new food revolution – the Slow Food Movement.

This new movement began in the Piedmont region (in a town called Bra close to Turin) and was aimed to reclaim the meaning of eating in Italy, and offer the public good food carefully made with love, rather than pre-made reheated burger patties.

While the Supermarket/Restaurant Eataly is the most famous, there are many great slow food restaurants all over Turin.

Food in Turin

Truffles

The Piedmont area is not only one of the best wine growing areas in Italy, but also the best for growing the exotic (and expensive) Truffels.

Every year Turin holds a truffle festival where the best chefs from around the world travel to the city to seek out the best truffles for their restaurants.

If you’re interested in visiting Turin and sample their amazing food, Co-op Travel offers some great holiday packages to Italy, where you can easily make Turin part of a day-trip.

Next time you travel through northern Italy make sure you stop over in Turin for a day or two to sample their great food!

5 Top Things To Do In Turin Italy

Some say that Turin is Italy’s most overlooked city, and until the Winter Olympics in 2006 few people thought of it as anything else than an industrial car city – they couldn’t be more wrong!

Although Turin justifiably is known for its cars, there is so much more to the city than Fiat or Ferrari.

And since we’re not very interested in cars – we will give you a car-free guide to Turin and show what we think are the city’s real treasures …

Turin Italy - Eat, Drink & Eat Some More

Turin Italy – Eat, Drink & Eat Some More

While you can find good food all over Italy, Turin specializes in the food that we love most; wine, cheese, chocolate and truffles.

Turin is said to have invented the solid form of chocolate, but is more famous for its hot chocolate drink called Bicerin.

Turin has a love story with chocolate like few other cities, and a must-try when you’re there is the Giandujotto, a hazelnut chocolate praline that was the inspiration to the worldwide favorite Nutella chocolate.

If you’re not a chocolate fan there are still plenty of other foods to taste, such as the world famous truffles – every year during the truffle festival the world’s best chefs visit Turin to seek out the best truffles.

Also make sure you spend an evening at a bar and order an aperitif (a drink with snacks or a small buffet included), a popular tradition in Turin.

For a more detailed guide on what to eat in Turin, stay tuned for our “food guide to Turin” next week.

Turin Medieval Castle
Turin Medieval Castle

Turin Medieval Castle

Located by the river front, Turin has a stunning medieval castle – only it dates back to the 19th century…

That’s right, it’s not actually a medieval castle, but a mash-up of inspiration from all the surrounding medieval buildings in the Piedmont area, built in 1884 for an international exhibition.

The replica of the 15th Century Piedmontese Castle and Village gives you a great idea of what life was like in Piedmont during the medieval times.

Each room is furnished and built as a replica of a room in the various castles in the area, so in a way you could say that you get “the best of all the castles in one” – the Valentino Park which the Village is located in is really lovely to spend some time in as well, with a botanical Garden and food stalls.

Reggia di Venaria
Reggia di Venaria

Reggia di Venaria

Reggia di Venaria is one of the latest additions to Turin’s attractions, as it opened to the public only a few years ago – the beautiful palace where the Savoy family once lived is quite spectacular, and after years of neglect and decline it has been restored to its former glory.

Built in mid 1600’s to celebrate beauty, hunting and leisure pursuits, it was a true show-off palace for the Savoy family that once built it.

We spent several hours in the palace, gardens and cute medieval town and still didn’t see everything there was to see, so it’s definitely a half-day trip in itself..!

National Museum of Cinema
National Museum of Cinema

National Museum of Cinema

To tell you the truth, neither of us are big fans of museums so we don’t usually make an effort to visit many of them when traveling.

The Cinema Museum, however, is actually really cool, and even Nathan was glad he went to check it out.

Located in Turin’s most iconic building Mole Antonelliana, it’s an interactive museum where you can walk through different rooms, each dedicated to its own film genre; from romance, comedy and Loney Toones to horror and sci-fi, all very creatively designed.

At the top of Mole Antonelliana you can get one of the best views overlooking Turin, and the lift taking you up to the viewing point is a pretty neat experience alone!

Sassi-Superga
Sassi-Superga

Sassi-Superga

One of our favorite things to do in Turin was to take the old 1930’s cogwheel train from Sassi (a suburb across the river in Turin) up the Superga mountain to the Basilica of Superga.

The cute train is well preserved in its 1930’s condition and slowly climbs the mountain through green forests until it finally stops at an altitude of 672 meters.

The bright yellow Basilica proudly sits on top of the mountain overlooking Turin, river Po and the snowy alps, and there is a cute little cafe just below the Basilica terrace that makes a great Spritze to be enjoyed under the cherry blossom trees on the terrace.

Many football fans make pilgrimages to the top of this hill to pay respect for the city’s historic football team Il Grande Torino, who were on the plane that tragically crashed into the Superga mountain in 1949 – the team used to go under the nickname “the invincible”.

A big thanks to the Turin tourism board for providing us with Turin Piedmont Cards to help explore the city.

5 Famous People From Florence Italy

famous people from Florence

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Famous People From Florence is more than just a beautiful Italian city. 

Over the years, it has been the birthplace of many very important people in history, from Donatello to Catherine de Medici. 

Famous people from Florence

There are many famous people from Florence.

Although there are probably as many notable people who have hailed from this city as there are places to stay in Florence, let’s take a look at five you will certainly recognize.

Donatello & Michelangelo  – The “David” Sculptures

Throughout the world, people recognize Florence as the birthplace of Renaissance.

It was the home of many famous Renaissance artists such as Donatello and Michelangelo.

Both were incredibly skilled artists, and both are famous for their “David” statues.

famous people from Florence

Donatello revolutionized the 15th century art scene.

One of his most famous works is “David,” a bronze statue commissioned for the court of the Palazzo Medici.

It was the very first free-standing nude sculpture made since ancient times and it was like no other work at the time.

Michelangelo is another important Renaissance artist associated with Florence.

He too created a “David” statue, which is perhaps even more famous than that of Donatello.

The statue is meant to be a representation in marble of the perfect male form.

Where to find Michelangelo Statues in Florence

Although the real statues of David are in Museo Nazionale del Bargello and Galleria dell’Accademia, you can see a replica of Michelangelo’s David at Piazza della Signoria.

Roberto Cavalli – The Fashion Designer

Born in Florence in 1940, Roberto Cavalli is a fashion designer.

People know him for creating the “sand-blasted” style of lighter-colored denim jeans, which is now a standard style for many denim makers.

He began his career in 1965 when he was only in his 20’s, creating hand-painted T-shirts.

He went on to become one of the most well-known Italian fashion designers.

Elton John is a huge fan and is said to spend hours in the store picking out clothes.

Cavalli’s designs are synonymous with rock-and-roll, and they utilize a lot of leather, color, silk, feathers and much more.

Where to find Caffe Giacosa:

Next to his shop is Caffe Giacosa, a great cafe which Cavalli actually owns (and designed of course!).

It has a great atmosphere and delicious food and coffee.

famous people from Florence

Catherine de Medici – The Ruthless Queen

Daughter to Lorenzo ll de Medici, Catherine was a French/Italian noble woman born in Florence in 1519.

She would eventually take the throne as the Queen of France after marrying King Henry II when she was only 14.

Henry’s death thrust her into the political arena.

In 1560, her frail 15-year-old son, King Francis II died.

This left her as regent on behalf of her 10-year-old son, King Charles IX.

She also played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henry III.

Although she is thought to be unforgivably ruthless, she is considered by many historians to be the most powerful woman in 16th century Europe.

Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi Gallery (one of the most famous museums in the world) was once a palace of the Medici family full of art treasures.

Today visitors can view the art collected by the family and others at the museum.

Sandro Botticelli – The Painter

Another among the famous people from Florence is Botticelli.

Born in Florence, circa 1445, he went on to become an Italian painter during the Early Renaissance.

He studied at the Florentine school under the esteemed patronage of the famous Lorenzo de Medici during what would later be considered the “Golden Age.”

His best known works are “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” (also known as the “Allegory of Spring”).

Primavera is one of the most controversial paintings in the world. People have written about it extensively.

Uffizi Gallery in Florence

Both paintings hang at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

These are just five examples of famous people from Florence, Italy, but there are many more.

This city just seems to have something special and inspiring.

When you visit Florence, you will see it for yourself.