Archive for » July, 2014 «

Jul
31

“This is not Italy, USA!” : Traveling Points for Americans

While enduring every traveler’s nightmare, a layover at the under-construction Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, France, we watched with exhausted dismay as the electronic departure sign intermittedly displayed and then removed our last-leg flight into Venice. After having flown for eight hours through the night, a sleepless one at that, our group was tired, cranky, and out of sorts…we wanted to get on the next plane only to get off of it ASAP. Still, there’s no excuse for bad behavior, especially when one’s feet are resting upon foreign soil. Watching for any sign that our flight via Air France was again on the board, we grew bored and started people watching. I don’t know which was worse, that feeling of being stuck in an airport or being stuck in the characterization as one of many rude, uncouth traveling Americans. Yet I could see why the French disliked those from the US, on that day, I witnessed several Americans demand in loud voices for their flight to be rescheduled…yesterday. It would have been comical, had it not been so crass…and unreasonable. I cringed and not for the last time during our nine day excursion at some Americans’ ridiculous and impolite behavior toward our very gracious and accommodating Italian hosts.

Fast forward another eight hours, our entire tour group of thirty-eight men and women are happily ensconced at the Hotel Saturnia where every guest is treated with the utmost courtesy and respect, so it was a simple matter to respond in kind. Still there were moments during the upcoming days when we witnessed more uncivil and even bizarre behavior from fellow US citizens. At times, we wanted to run interference and offer apologies. Finally, we realized that some Americans were simply unaware of how their attitudes and actions were affecting native Venetians. Time for an education.

According to Hotel Saturnia’s chief concierge, Andrea Scarpa, Americans, despite their foibles and lack of travel savvy are still considered “fantastic” in comparison to guests from across the globe. Scarpa says that what Italians most appreciate about Americans visiting their country is their expression and appreciation upon receiving a good meal (as in spaghetti) or after a good rest (as in a hot shower). Americans almost always make their requests for the best restaurants, shopping, etc…kindly, warmly, and they tip better than most Europeans as well. Kudos to Americans for expressing

Jul
30

These days, more and more people are leaving the comforts of their own homes to discover the joys of traveling. Barely a few years ago, it was the past time of the rich and famous. Now, however, even college students with little money can now travel to their heart’s content. What was once a luxury has now become a way of life.

Indulge Your Wanderlust

There is truth in the adage: “The world is a book and those who don’t travel read but a page.” There are indeed many marvels in the world, marvels that people are now traveling far and wide to see. Think of the pyramids of Giza, the beauty of Venice, and the full moon celebrated in Koh Phangan. These are things you don’t see in your own backyard, so pack your bags, get your passport, and keep your cash on you at all times with one of those Colibri money clips.

Rough It Up

Of course, travel does not come cheap but it does not have to be expensive either. Budget travel is now being made possible by budget airlines, hostels, and tours. You won’t be sipping champagne in first class seats, staying at the Hilton, and driven around in a limousine, but you will be seeing the sights that you so long to see. And don’t worry. Chances are you won’t be staying in the wilderness, unless, of course, you choose to.

Indeed, budget traveling means roughing it up. You might have to share your room and bathroom with strangers in hostels, so keep your valuables under lock and key and your cash in Colibri money clips. Some of the most beautiful sights in the world are in very poor areas with very bad living conditions. Get yourself vaccinated. You don’t want your holiday cut short because of some strange, exotic illness. Prepare to live on street food as they are the cheapest food there is. Keep your Colibri money clips on hand to pay for your food on the go. You don’t want to spend a lot of time distracted while rummaging through your backpack for your money. Your Colibri money clips will also come in handy when you buy souvenirs from your trip.

Do It Right

Banish the image of fancy Louis Vuitton trolley bags and fashionable travel clothes from your head. If you’re going to go budget traveling, you need to pack light and dress right. You can never go wrong with a big strong backpack. Pack wash and wear clothes because you don’t have the luxury of ironing. Wear sensible footwear, such as hiking boots, rubber sandals, and flip flops. Keep a sturdy pair of sunglasses, a hat or two, Colibri money clips, and lots of sunblock.

Remember, you’re not Paris Hilton jet setting from one location to the other. You are a budget traveler, a backpacker, and practicality is your best friend. At the end of the day, you’ll find that you’ve had more fun backpacking than traveling first class. And when you find yourself watching the amazing sunset in the island of Boracay or listening to the call of thousands of birds in the Canary Islands, you’ll know it was definitely worth it.

Jul
30

In the distant past chandeliers were so rare and expensive that only royalty could afford them. Nowadays, there are so many different styles of chandeliers available at all price levels that it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices! The right choice of a chandelier is extremely important as it is one of the most important details of the interior design. That is why people who care about the look and style of their home and want to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere often look for a unique, one-of-a-kind chandelier. Just such a chandelier can be found in Murano, Italy.

Murano island, located just north of Venice, Italy, is a world-famous center of glassmaking that has been housing the glass producers since the thirteenth century. All of the glassmakers were moved to this island in 1291 from Venice as a result of dangerous fires jeopardizing the largely wooden structures of Venice. These days, all the major Murano glass producers are still based on this small island, and they keep up the ancient glassmaking traditions.

Murano glass chandeliers are entirely hand-made in the ancient traditions of the craft using the same techniques and tools that were employed by the artisans’ predecessors centuries ago. That is why when you are purchasing a Murano chandelier, you are not simply purchasing an object that was made to light a room, you are actually purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece of history that has been created by master artisans with care and passion. Murano glass is extremely high-quality and certainly one of the best types of art glass in the world, so when you buy a Murano chandelier, you can rest assured that you are buying the very best.

If you happen to be looking for a Murano chandelier, there are many things to consider before you purchase one. First of all, if you are not buying your chandelier physically in Murano, make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller who carries only authentic Murano glass. For that you need to know whether the seller or the maker of the chandeliers are members of Consortium Promovetro – the only Venetian Glass industry organization that promotes authenticity of Murano glass against the multitude of counterfeits and fakes available in the world today. Quoting from the Consortium’s website, “it represents over 70 craft and industrial businesses on Murano and in Venice. Since its foundation, Promovetro has worked hard to promote the image of Murano’s artistic glass with the declared intent of conserving, safeguarding and defending Murano’s thousand year old art of glass, and at the same time to promote, develop and assist in properly marketing this important cultural heritage in the world.”

Secondly, decide on a style you like, the size, and the number of lamps you need. Murano glass chandeliers come in multitude of designs from classic ones that vary little from the antique pieces hanging in Venetian palazzos to art deco or modern ones with clean lines and bold colors. Usually due its handmade nature, each chandelier can be further customized to your requirements in terms of the colors and number of lamps. Keep in mind that Murano artisans can create anything from small and simple wall sconces to large and intricate concert-hall pieces.

Thirdly, consider the price ranges for the chandelier styles you are interested in and definitely do your research to ensure you are getting a good deal. A quick online search will bring up multiple results that will not only allow you to locate the online retailers that will sell a Murano chandelier, but will also let you explore the various styles and compare prices. Just keep in mind as you are doing that to always ensure authenticity, as counterfeit pieces from China and other places outside of Venice will cost much less than the genuine ones. If you cannot buy in Murano, you are usually better off going with a direct importer than with a reseller, who not only has limited knowledge of the market and the products, but also will often charge a higher price and add extra fees to your order.

Last but not least, you need to consider where you are going to put it. A Murano chandelier is not just a light fixture, but a beautiful masterpiece with rich history. It is a treasure that, if placed right, will create a special atmosphere in your home or office. Hanging it in a formal entryway, over a dining room table or in a living room are some of the options, but keep in mind that it needs to work well with the rest of your dcor and color scheme.

While there is a multitude of chandeliers on the market today, there is simply nothing that compares to a Murano glass chandelier. The unique design, the amazing heritage, combined with the perfect skill and passion that goes into making these beautiful pieces of art is unparalleled in the world.

Jul
26

Birmingham used to be the city of the car, to the extent that pedestrians in the city centre came a poor second. This is no longer true, Birmingham has inner and outer ring roads that keep traffic out of the way, an orbital motorway system so that passing traffic doesn’t even have to be near the city and a fully pedestrianised shopping zone. A combination of elevated highways and underground tunnels speedily carries traffic that does have to pass through the city centre away from the shopping and business areas. With its central location in the heart of England Birmingham is well served by road, rail, air and canal.

The city of Birmingham is ringed by a network of motorways, from which the city centre can be accessed. These are the M42 to the east and south, the M5 – to the west and the M6 to the north. The junction of the M5 and M6 heading north had for many years been a cause of major delays as the motorways were carrying twice the volume of traffic they were designed for. The M6 Toll Road was opened in 2003 to relieve this congestion; it is the only toll motorway in The UK and runs for 43km (27 miles) from the M42 at Coleshill to the M6 at Cheslyn Hay. The main route connecting Birmingham and London is by using the M6 which joins the M1 near Rugby.

Heading north the M6 continues on to Carlisle. The Gravelly Hill interchange is a route by which traffic on the M6 accesses the city. The interchange is known affectionately as Spaghetti Junction, due to the tangle of elevated roads and underpasses that make up the junction. Motorists new to Birmingham can be confused by the A38(M) at Gravelly Hill. It has seven lanes and operates a ‘tidal’ system in the middle-lane. If you have to travel through the city from north to south, using the Queensway tunnel system makes it an easy journey. A series of three inter-connected tunnels means you can avoid a whole lot of traffic trouble.

The main railway station for Birmingham is New Street, in the heart of the city. With a footfall of 35 million passengers a year it is the busiest railway station outside of London. Many train operators use the station, but Central and Virgin Trains are the two main users. Virgin operate the lucrative express London-Birmingham mainline route, the fastest journey time for this is 1 hour 21 minutes. Virgin also operates the main south-west to the north routes, many of which pass through and stop at Birmingham New Street. As well as operating local commuter trains Central run many other services such as those between Liverpool & Norwich and Nottingham & Cardiff. There are two other stations in the city centre; Moor Street (at the east of the city centre) and Snow Hill (at the north of the city centre) which are connected by a railway tunnel. The main train operators from these stations are Central and Chiltern Railways.

Central Trains again run local commuter services, as far as Worcester, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Wolverhampton. Chilton Railways operate a service that runs to London Marylebone; this is a service that stops frequently with a fastest journey time of 2 hours 7 minutes. Most journeys begin at Snow Hill with the option of joining the train at Moor Street.

The main coach station in Birmingham is Digbeth, to the south of the city centre. The main coach operator from Digbeth is National Coaches who offer services to all other major towns and cities. whose main operator is National Coaches. The fastest journey time to London Victoria Coach station is 2 hours 50 minutes, but can cost less than 10 GBP one way. Megabus, which operates from the city centre, offers a similar service.

Birmingham Airport is to the east of the city and is the fifth largest airport in the UK. 50 airlines operate out of it to over 100 destinations daily. The airport does handle inter-continental flights, however most flights are to and from European destinations. The airport also used by freight carriers and charter flight operators.

Birmingham has an excellent public transport system operated by Network West Midlands, which integrates public transport across the region. The city has a modern fleet of buses operated by Travel West Midlands that are able to utilise ‘bus only’ lanes on the main arterial routes, an excellent local commuter railway network that befits the second city and is only surpassed by London’s. Centro is the current operator of this franchise. The rail network is fully integrated with the bus services and many of the railway stations have free park-and-ride facilities. Midland Metro is a light rail/tram system that operates from Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton city centre, via Wednesbury.

It is a fact that Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Whilst still used to transport some freight around the country, they are now more likely to be used by leisure craft. Once the transport highway of the nation, Birmingham is at the confluence of 4 major canals; the Dudley & Stourbridge, the Grand Union, the Stratford and the Worcester & Birmingham canal.

Jul
26

If you are hankering for a European tourist destination, why not consider the Veneto region of northern Italy on the Gulf of Venice? Venice is its best-known city and one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth. Don’t forget that the Veneto region is a lot more than this great city. It hosts many other excellent tourist attractions, and you won’t have to fight the huge crowds. With a little luck you’ll avoid tourist traps, and come back home feeling that you have truly visited Italy. This article examines tourist attractions in the university city of Padua in central Veneto. Be sure to read our companion articles on northern Veneto, on southern Veneto, and on that Shakespearean city of Verona.

Padua, population over two hundred thousand, is only about twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) west of Venice but has always had a life of its own. It was the setting for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Padua claims to be the oldest city in northern Italy, founded early in the Twelfth Century B.C. It held out against the Lombards for twelve years at the beginning of the Seventh Century only to be burnt to the ground. Padua was the headquarters of the Italian Army in the First World War and the site of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s surrender.

The historic city center surrounded by seven miles (eleven kilometers) of Sixteenth Century walls is home to the City Hall, whose wall is covered by the names of the Paduan war dead. Other sites of interest include the Palazzo della Ragione described next and the Nineteenth Century Neoclassical Caff?edrocchi. This caff?s one of the largest in the world and the hub of the uprisings in 1848 perhaps not surprising given its proximity to the university described below.

The Twelfth Century Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) in spite of its name is not a philosopher’s hangout, but a huge centuries-old marketplace. The hall itself is about two hundred seventy feet (eighty meters) long so when people say you can’t miss it, they aren’t kidding. This magnificent building was heavily damaged by fire early in the Fifteenth Century, unfortunately completely destroying a great collection of frescoes. So the frescoes you’ll see are somewhat more modern. By the way, the collection includes one of the few complete sets of the zodiac signs. The palace is no longer the seat of the Padua government and often hosts art shows.

Padua University in the city’s historic center at the Palazzo del Bo’ (Ox Palace, named for a inn that it replaced) was founded in 1222 when many professors and students left the University of Bologna over the issue of academic freedom. Jurisprudence and theology were the first courses offered. From the Fifteenth Century to the Eighteenth Century the university was renowned for its research, particularly in the areas of medicine, astronomy, philosophy, and law. On June 25, 1678, Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia became the world’s first woman graduate when awarded a doctorate in Philosophy in the Padua Cathedral. In addition to mathematics, philosophy, and theology Piscopia mastered the following languages: Italian, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic. Other famous professors and graduates include Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Giacomo Casanova. You should visit its Anatomy Theatre, the oldest in the world built in 1594. To deal with the issue of overcrowding many university faculties have recently moved to other cities in the Veneto region.

Along the Piazza dei Signori (Seigneurs’ Square) you’ll see the early Seventeenth Palazzo del Capitanio, the residence of the Venetian governors with its great door. The palace included its own church, the church of San Nicolo. The nearby Duomo (Cathedral), remodeled in the mid-Sixteenth Century after a design by Michelangelo, is not one of his best works. The Thirteenth Century Baptistry includes a series of frescoes illustrating the Book of Genesis by an early Renaissance Italian painter. This piazza is home to the city’s St. Mark’s Lion. If you read my companion article on southern Veneto you’ll know what to look for when you get there.

The Fourteenth Century Cappella degli Scrovegni (Scrovegni Chapel) is Italy’s best-known chapel after the Sistine Chapel. It is also known as the Arena Chapel because it stands on the site of a Roman-era arena. The chapel’s fresco collection devoted to the life of the Virgin Mary is virtually unmatched. Before entering the chapel you must spend 15 minutes in a climate-controlled air-locked room reducing the temperature difference between the outside world and the inside of the chapel. Nearby you will find the Musei Civici degli Eremitani (Civic Museum) a former monastery with its collections of Venetian paintings, ancient coins, and other archeological treasures.

Padua’s most famous church is the Basilica di Sant’Antonio da Padova (Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua) started around 1238 but only completed after the turn of the century. His remains repose in a beautiful chapel. In front of the church is a Donatello statue of a Venetian general riding horseback. This statue, cast in the middle of the Fifteenth Century, was said to be the first full-size equestrian bronze statue cast since antiquity. Nearby are the Thirteenth Century St. George Oratory and the Sixteenth Century Scuola di San Antonio (St. Anthony’s School) both of which boast great fresco collections, the first by Altichiero and the second by the more famous Titian. There are several other churches to see if you have the time and energy.

Padua’s Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden), founded in 1545, was the first in the world. The Botanical Garden still maintains its original layout, a circular central plot symbolizing the earth surrounded by a ring of water. It has expanded over time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a center for scientific research. Nature lovers will appreciate the Eighteenth Century Villa Pisani (Pisani Palace) about eight miles (thirteen kilometers) southeast of the city on the Brenta River, home to many fancy, fancy homes. This Palace contains 114 rooms in honor of the 114th Doge, a member of the Pisani family. Napoleon spent a night here before giving the palace away. Make sure to see the trompe-l’oeil frescoes on the ceiling. The adjoining park is a-maze-ing if you get my drift.

One of Padua’s best-known symbols is the Prato della Valle (Valley Meadow), often called the Grassless Meadow, the largest square in Europe after Moscow’s Red Square. It measures approximately one million square feet (ninety thousand square meters) or about fifty football fields. In its center, if you don’t mind the hike, you’ll find a wide garden surrounded by a ditch and lined by 78 statues portraying famous citizens. The site includes the abbey and the basilica of Santa Giustina (Saint Justine), with an interesting art collection. This complex was built around the Fifth Century tomb of Saint Justine of Padua. Napoleon suppressed the monastery in 1820 and it didn’t reopen for more than one hundred years. You can find tombs of several saints as well as relics of the Apostle St. Matthias and the Evangelist St. Luke.

What about food? Padua is a unique city. It claims a variety of food specialties, some of which may not sound all that tempting. Specialties include torresano allo spiedo (pigeon raised in tower lofts), sfilacci (salted, dried, and smoked horsemeat), mushrooms and truffles (that sounds better already), and peaches. Like I said, Padua is a unique city.

Let’s suggest a sample menu, one of many. Start with Prosciutto Veneto Berico Euganeo (Montagnana Sweet Cured Ham). Then try Bondole (Smoked Pork Sausage). For dessert indulge yourself with Crema Fritta (Fried Cream Custard). Be sure to increase your dining pleasure by including local wines with your meal.

We’ll conclude with a quick look at Veneto wine. Veneto holds third place among the 20 Italian regions both in terms of the area planted in grape vines and for its total annual wine production. About 45% of Veneto wine is red or ros?leaving 55% for white. The region produces 24 DOC wines and 3 DOCG wines, Recioto di Soave, Soave Superiore, and Bardolino Superiore. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Nearly 30% of Venetian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation.

Bagnoli di Sopra DOC also called Bagnoli DOC is vinified in many styles from a variety of international and local red and white grapes in the area approximately between Rovigo and Padua. Colli Euganei DOC is made in a wide variety of styles from local or international white or red grapes on the volcanic hills southwest of Padua.

Jul
26

Driving in Italy A Tourist’s Worst Nightmare or a Cultural Awakening?

My mother had always wanted to visit the hill towns of Tuscany in Italy. So there was no doubt that we were going to have to drive.

She and my best friend Ruth and I started in Paris. We rented our car the day we were leaving. Everyone said that you’d be crazy to drive in Paris, so we didn’t. We did have to drive from the rental car agency out of Paris, however. We circled bravely around the roundabout at the Place de la Concorde (once known as Place de la Revolution and yes, this is where they guillotined everyone- nowadays they only execute tourists daring to drive there). We were trying desperately to make the needed Left onto the Boulevard by the Seine. We chose badly at the last moment and ended up having to go one way all the way back to where we began at the Madeleine Church, a lengthy, though scenic journey.

Patience prevailed and we did get out of town. Paris is where I first learned about lanes disappearing and reappearing. Suddenly three lanes turn to only two, requiring a quick and flawless merge. Flawless meaning the $35,000 midnight blue rental Citroen does not get damaged. Quick meaning no one screamed French obscenities and honked mercilessly at me. Life would have been easier with a smaller, less expensive car. Europe is made for those little half pint cars. But, did I mention we were 3 women traveling for a month in Europe? The first thing I did when we got the car was measure the trunk. It was large. It was an Avis Class E Car. Still we barely fit everything in. And this was before we began to shop in earnest.

The Italians have the disappearing lane trick everywhere. How else would they know who were the tourists, if they did not see us floundering in wonderment, weaving desperately? Are we in the right or left? We were in the middle, but now there’s no middle! What does one do when there’s suddenly no middle? Not even any lines to tell you; just suddenly there is no room.

Paris did not prepare me for what we would see in Italy. Italian driving made Parisian driving seem sane. I think that nothing on earth could have prepared anyone for Italian driving.

In Italy, all signs everywhere lead to the Autostrade. The Autostrade is the toll freeway. If you are trying to get somewhere (say from Venice to Florence) you will get shunted onto the Autostrade. If you decide that you are tired of paying tolls every 10 or 20 kilometers and decide to get off, you will

Jul
25

 

Bangkok was known as the “Venice of the East” in the past as it was filled with many canals. People used to live on water doing their day to day activities while floating on boats. Many of these canals were filled in to make way for new roads and buildings over the past years but even now many of these old canals still remain on the Thonbui side of the Chao Phraya River.

 

Along these canals, we can see even now many people dwelling and they are very much used to the life in their floating residencies. They are visited monks who do alms rounds, the postmen, and even vendors coming by boats. One can enjoy a long tailed boat ride for about 1,000 baht to have some good time in a quiet environment and even to have a closer look as in how Thai people used to live along the canals. And also it is possible to visit so many temples that have very historical background. While traveling through these temples and other ancient monuments one can gain a thorough knowledge about the history and the development of the entire city.

 

More over, during the boat ride, it is also possible to stop at the Royal Barge National Museum, which is established along one of the main temples in the canals. That is also a major destination where most of the tourists intend to go in the hope of gaining more knowledge about the traditions and basic cultural aspects of Thailand as well as Bangkok. Therefore many tourists who come across Bangkok for their business purposes and to spend some good time do not miss the opportunity to spare some more time along the canals to relax them selves.

 

For visitors who opt to stay for a longer time Bangkok serviced apartments such as President Park will provide convenient access and comfortable stay to most of the other attractions in Bangkok as well.

 

Mentioning about more attractions that grab the eyes of the visitors are the monasteries called “Wat Paramal Ylkawat”, “Wat Suwannaram”, “Wat Chaloand more near the canals in Bangkok. All of them are based on the history and various cultural aspects of Thailand which enhances the value of the nation.

Jul
25

By far the most popular destination for Europeans who take overseas holidays is Spain – but a Spanish airline has surprised many by opening a new route to holiday competitor Malta – which is riding the crest of a tourism wave after some years in the doldrums.

Vueling, a Spanish low cost airline, started flying to Malta three times a week from early April, with the route of Spain’s capital Madrid to Malta’s Luqa Airport.

The Spanish airline was set up just four years ago and already has 24 aircraft in her fleet, and before the announcement of the new Malta service flies to nearly sixty different destinations, and passenger traffic grew an impressive 75 per cent year on year to November 2007, when it carried nearly half a million passeners in that month alone.

Current destinations for the airline include internal Spanish flights to Alicante, serving the Costa Blanca region, and Malaga for the Costa del Sol – both ideal to escape from the city for a golfing or sailing break, or just to spend some time on the beach. With low prices a weekend break is affordable and easy for those working and living in the Spanish capital.

Less surprising in the routes the airline flies to are Nice in the South of France, Milan in Italy, which allows easy access to the Swiss Alps – and Venice, ideal for a romantic couple of days away.

Choosing Malta as a destination for Spanish tourists is a clear example of how Malta is successfully diversifying from her main holiday trade from the UK, which has formed the vast majority of her tourists in recent decades. Allowing low cost airlines to fly to the island’s Luqa Airport has boosted the Malta holidays and hotel trade tremendously in the last two years.

New official figures show that last year’s all important summer season was the best in six years for holidays to Malta, reversing the decline in fortunes for the Mediterranean island.

The good news for Malta is that despite the increase in the number of tourists arriving on the island via low cost flights, the occupancy levels of hotels has increased across the accommodation range from basic to 5 star, showing that Malta can appeal to all.

Further good news for Malta came from the figures for hotels and holidays with the news that while the number of arrivals from her traditional UK market rose by eleven per cent, the number of people from Germany visiting Malta increased by a third in 2007, adding strength to the holidays industry that has been reliant on tourism from one country in the past, and even Spanish tourists now visiting the island.

Both Germany and the UK have seen new low cost flight operators sucessfully applying to fly to Malta, and the increase in tourism can largely be put down to them, but with Spanish and Scandanavian airlines taking an interest Malta could see a real cosmopolitan mix arrive for a holiday this year, further diversifying the mix of European tourists the island welcomes for their holidays.

Jul
23

The best time to go to Italy could well be, well, anytime. In reality the best time is between April and June as the flood of school holidays hasnt yet hit the roads, the countryside is at its fullest bloom and the weather isnt uncomfortably hot yet.

When deciding at which time of the year to go to Italy it may be worth scheduling around a couple of festivals as they are invariably spectacular occasions.

Here is a shortlist of the best on offer:
Festa dei Ceri, Umbria in May
Il Palio, Siena in July and August
Carnevale, Venice in February
Festa di San Gennaro, Naples in December
I Candelieri, Sardinia in August
Palio delle Quattro Antiche Repubbliche Marinare, Venice / Pisa / Amalfe / Genoa in May / June
Processione dei Serpari, Abruzzo in May
Sa Sartiglia, Sardinia in February
Umbria Jazz, Perugia in July

In August prices tend to skyrocket across the country along with the weather, so is best avoided. However, that is not true of the whole of the country. In a country such as Italy the weather is incredibly diverse, ranging from stifling heat in the low-lands of Florence to the snow-capped chills of the Alps and the Dolomites.

Overall you can expect long hot summers the further south you are, with Sicily and Sardinia enjoying the best of all, where sea swimming is possible right into mid October.

Italy is a fairly expensive country with accommodation being the single most costly aspect of a trip. You may find cheaper accommodation out of the city centres and in surrounding satellite towns. Expect to pay around 12 to 20 euros for a youth hostel, 25 to 45 euros for a basic pensione or small hotel, and around 70 to 120 euros for a mid-range hotel.

Eating out is an incredible experience throughout Italy. As any Italian will tell you, there really is no such thing as Italian food, as each region tends to be known for its particular specialities. Budget for around 20 to 35 euros for a great full-course meal with a house wine on average.

The delectable Cucina Italiana is never far away in Italy. If youre a bit of a gastronomic connoiseur then id recommend touring around the Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria regions for the quintessential food tour.

Shop for Italian delights to take home in the Mercato delle Erbe in Bologna, then head off to nearby Modena for a bottle of perhaps the worlds finest balsamic vinegar.

Next pick up a delicious antipasto in the most well-known food town of Parma – see Parma ham and Parmesan cheese.

For you first dish perhaps Umbria for some umbricelli (pasta served with shaved truffles). If you can try to get your hands on the ever-elusive tartufo nero or black truffle from Norcia.

For the next course perhaps a taste of the infamous bistecca alla fiorentina from Florence or head to Perugia for a porchetta, an Umbrian speciality of suckling pig stuffed with its own liver plus a handful of wild fennel and rosemary.

What to drink with these delights? Head to the Chianti region for a rocking red, or Orvieto for a succulent and sharp white.

Round off this tour with dessert in Siena in the form of a slice of panforte, a hard flatcake of candied fruits and nuts, or perhaps cantucci e vin santo (yes you guessed it – a biscuit doused in sweet white wine), a Tuscan speciality.

Getting around Italy is relatively easy and cheap, although car hire prices are on the rise. If you decide to take a train the regionale (local stopping trains) are much cheaper than the diretto (fast intercity and eurostar trains) and in my opinion are far more rewarding as you get to see more and take photos along the way.

It youre in search of good reading to help in capturing the spirit of Italy then id recommend picking up a copy of Il Gattopardo by GT di Lampedusa, The Aeneid by Virgil, La Storia by Elsa Morate or perhaps Grazia Deledda’s Canne al Vento.

Have fun!

Jul
22

History of Venice says that Venice was founded on April 25 in 421 AD. It was the village of Torcello and not Venice that was very important during that time as it was the refugee ground for many people who fled from the barbarian invasions. Slowly Venice was built on a number of islands of a lagoon. They were connected by bridges.

 

According to the ancient history of Venice, the government formed was known as Doge government with the first doge being Orso Ipato in 726 AD. Commercialization began after 1000 AD when it was successful in defeating the pirates of the Adriatic Sea. It took part in the Crusades for a free Jerusalem.

 

The historical journey from Venice to China of the Venetian merchant Marco Polo took place during the Middle Ages (1271-95 AD). Venice was successful in gaining the position of a leader among the four sea powers of the Mediterranean Sea in 1348 AD. It conquered the island of Cyprus in 1489 AD.

 

Ghetto was founded for the first time in Venice in 1516 AD. In 1630 AD, Venice was attacked by a great plague. In 1790 AD, the Teatro La Fenice was founded and after 7 years in 1797 AD, the Venetian Republic called Repubblica Serenissima di Venezia got defeated in the hands of Napoleon.

 

With its defeat, Venice was incorporated into the Hapsburg Empire of Austria. A state of decline started after that as several palaces and buildings went into despair. In 1848 AD, the Venetians attempted to get Venice free from the Hapsburg Empire. Ultimately, in 1866 AD, Venice became a part of Italy.

 

The Second World War could not damage the city of Venice but a flood occurred in 1966 and made a heavy damage to the city. Today, it is one of the major tourist places of the world with well developed transport system like buses, water buses, car hire Venice service, etc.