Archive for the Category »Venice Transportations «

Aug
11

What is a Cuttlefish?

My wife and I returned from our two week trip to Italy not too long ago. We had an amazing time. We visited Rome, Tuscany, Florence and Venice. The art was stunning, as I stood in awe before a Michelangelo sculpture and asked myself how he could create such life and movement out of marble. The views from the Tuscan hill towns of the vineyards and rolling hills were amazing. And then there was the food. The freshest mozzarella, perfectly ripe, red tomatoes, and gelato in every flavor including grapefruit, pistachio and stracciatella (chocolate chip). And then there was the cuttlefish.

One evening in Venice, I felt like a change of pace from pasta and I wanted fish. I saw an item on the menu listed as cuttlefish. So I said to the waitress, whose English was not very good: “What is cuttlefish?” She said: “It’s cuttlefish.” And I said: “What is cuttlefish?” And she said: “It’s just cuttlefish.” Not getting anywhere, I decided to be adventurous and I went ahead and ordered it. A few minutes later a plate arrived with many black pieces of squid on it.

Now this was a big problem because I follow the Jewish dietary rule which prohibits eating shellfish of any kind. I tried to explain to the waitress that I am Jewish and do not eat shellfish. She had no idea what I was talking about. So I sent it back, ordered the sea bass, which was terrific, and I ended up paying for two meals.

What did I learn from my culinary adventure in Venice? I realized that not everything labeled as a fish has fins and scales. But I also learned another lesson about mishaps and mistakes. When I think back on our Italy trip, I will remember the times when everything went well. But I will also think of my cuttlefish story and others stories that I do not have time to share, like how we got lost in Tuscany and almost had to sleep in the car.

I suspect that we all have these kind of travel stories. Times when we reserved the dirtiest hotel room ever that looked great on the internet. Or when the rental car broke down in the middle of nowhere. At the time, we might say to ourselves: This is terrible, what a disaster. But then something funny happens. We get back from the trip. We look at each other and we smile and laugh about the problem. And we tell the story for years to come.

So I asked myself: Why is it that the best travel stories are not about the perfect view or the amazing piece of art, but the time when you

Aug
10

The area encloses Lake Iseo, Valley Camonica, Montecampione ski resort and the lower Alps. To understand better the fascination of this area, we shall embark on a virtual tour of discovery. The first place of call has to be the City of Bergamo, not only because of the airport, but also because I would rate it up there with the best in terms of culture, sites and experience. High claims I admit so I’ll explain why.The train and bus station sits like a pedestal to the expansive central avenue with some excellent shops and restaurants but the cream on the cake is the fortified old medieval high town (Citt  Alta) reachable by cable car at the top of the main street. It is still today one of only four Italian cities (with Ferrara, Lucca and Grosseto) with the old town centre still totally surrounded by the walls that have maintained intact their original aspect over the centuries. The lack of cars is a blessing although scooters wizz past you at regular intervals. Standing on the old cobbled streets looking at the Old Square (Piazza Vecchia), with the Contarini Fountain and Palazzo della Ragione (the Reason Palace), you can still hear every evening at 10.00pm the ‘Campanone’, or bell tower, ringing out to recall the past when these bells announced the nocturnal closing of the fortified doors of the city. On the other side of the Reason Palace there is the large white building of the New Palace that hosts the Angelo Mai Library. For the energetic, you must climb the Torre del Comune (City tower) as the views are worth the hard work but careful of the narrow steps as it’s a long way down. Nearby the famous Romanesque Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica holds the tomb of Bergamo’s favorite son, the musician Donizetti.Bergamo Citt  Alta also hosts a Botanic Garden and is the centre of the prestigious university faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature, and there resides a sort of Italian Cambridge antmosphere as students bussle past, late for their classes. Before descending, I recommend a visit to the Rocca (old castle) as there are also beautiful views from the castle walls and a large cannon reminds you of the real reason for this hilltop walled town.sOn the way back to the station, stop in the Accademia Carrara Gallery in Piazza Giacomo Carrara 82. you will be surprised to find such a variety of masterpieces, from Botticelli and Raffaello to Bellini and Donatella, all illuminating these ancient walls .The bus station has handy buses every 30 minutes to Lovere port on Lake Iseo. The lake surprises most people as it winds majestically for over 18kms through the lower Alps and hosts Europes largest inland Island, Monte Isola, with it’s characteristic Sanctuary of the Madonna of the Ceriola sitting like a beacon on the highest elevation of the Island. Lovere was recently voted as one of Italy’s prettiest borghi (picturesque villages) and apart from the obvious bars and restaurants, I particularly recommend a walk along the bank of the lake down to the port with the odd duck or swan to accompany you on your way. The ferry point in the centre is a great place to set off on a trip around the lake or take an evening cruise with live music to accompany an evening meal onboard.Next stop is a 15 minute bus hop north to Boario spa town in Val Camonica, famous for it’s bottled mineral water and used by many as a central location to explore both the lake and mountains of this idyllic location. Boario’s name is thought to derive from an ancient Celtic word for “ancient water” and the valley itself has the unusual fact that it contains the highest concentration of ancient rock carvings in Europe and is indeed a UNESCO World heritage site. At the head of the valley on the western side is The Alps largest national park, Parco dell’Adamello, rich in flora and fauna with numerous lakes and valleys. Staying in one of the many parks lodges is back to nature at its best.Just above the town is Lake Moro. Unspoilt and nestled like a cup in the palm of the mountains. Walking round the edge of the lake is a favourite past time of many and the occasional deer or Kingfisher are a reminder of the natural beauty of this area. Waking up in the morning wondering what to do is not a problem as the area is teaming with activities, places of interest and history. Activities include the usual canoeing, windsurfing, ferry boats, multi pool complex and horse riding but also the more exhilerating treetop rope parks, indoor go carting, paragliding, canyoning and rock climbing ! To get the most I recommend hiring a car locally for a couple of days and bringing health insurance !The rich history of the valley is reflected in its castles and villages with their quaint churches centrally located as if the villages themselves were but an afterthought. There are many stories abound the valleys dramatic past. One story recounts that in the time of the “witch hunt” in 1510 the bishop Paolo Zane came to the valley and accused hundreds of witch craft with the subsequent sad consequence. In fact the then rulers (Venice) sent another Bishop to investigate…not the numerous witches but Bishop Zane himself !Excellent pasta, pizza and wine are a staple of the Italian cuisine but digging deeper their are some exquisite local delicacies to discover in every region. In the Camonica valley it’s Casoncelli (A home made type of Raviolli), wild boar stew with Polenta, Strinu (a type of sausage) and Tagliata, delicate slices of lightly cooked beef often served with rocket salad and Parmesean cheese. Every village in the summer has a weekend street party where they serve these dishes along with music and barrels of wine. Fortunately there are a lot of villages so summer seems an endless festival of food!Winter calls for a trip up to the Montecampione Ski resort situated just above Boario and lake Iseo. The trip itself is a discovery, as between the tree lined roads appear spectacular glimpses across the lake and over the valley and Alps beyond. The resort, although large and stretching over 3 stations with some 80kms of piste, is mainly used by Italian day trippers from Milan which leaves most weekdays surprisingly quiet and ski passes much lower than some other “famous” resorts. Even better there is available locally, snow mobile hire, snow shoe excursions , ice climbing, Heliski etcOur trip ends with a picturesque train journey from Boario down to the bottom of the lake to the actual village of Iseo. Also voted amongst Italy’s top 20 villages, it sits along the lake with a large pedestrian area behind. Many people from the surrounding area go down to sit outside a bar sipping a cocktail and watching the sun set behind the mountains reflected in rays of orange and red across the lake…unforgettable.For my work I have travelled extensively throughout Italy and personally the “branded” locations like Lake Garda, Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome, I find much the worse for wear from over development of tourism, sometimes to the detriment of their local culture. They remain “must-see” places, yet, for a real “slice of Italy”, I’d head for the hills and the lesser known Lakes of Lombardy.sFor a more complete destination guide to the area see www.monticolo.it

Aug
08

The sleeping city in Italy is called Venice.

It is divided into six zones namely San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Castello and Santa Croce. The zones do not really have strict divisions, but they are characterized in different ways. San Marco has the Basilica and Piazza. San Polo is a down to earth area where the locals live and hang out. Cannaregio is home to the historic. Dursoduro contains students and the cities university. Castello has the beautiful Giardini and the Venice Arts Festival. Santa Croce is next to the station.

Venice is the only European city and one of the few in the world to have its public transport located entirely on the water. Run by Actv Company, the timetable constantly changes, depending on the tide. The main waterway in Venice is shaped like an S. This means that if you want to travel from San Marco to Rialto by boat, it will take you twice as long as it would to walk. The Grand Canal has only three bridges, but at certain points along the canal you can hire a gondola to cross the stretch of water; this often saves a great deal of time.

If you prefer taxis, the water cabs have very different charges to the more generally found land taxi. You should always tell the driver your destination and find out the price before stepping aboard. Gondolas are also subject to additional charges. They will charge you for an hour even if your trip only lasts fifty minutes.

When you compare Venice to other major cities of the world it is rather quiet. There are several reasons for this. The first is the high average age of its citizens probably the highest in Italy. The second is the relative difficulty there is to get around. This is not a place for cars and other private means of transport and a boat ride is not really ideal for an evening out. Finally, there is a lack of space in Venice, so everything is very cramped.

By nature Venetians enjoy entertaining friends in the privacy of their own homes. As a consequence, there are very few restaurants which stay open until late. Campo Santa Margherita in the summer is an exception to this rule. The presence of hundreds of students on their summer holidays transforms the square into a pleasure pavilion, with restaurants, live music and extemporaneous art exhibitions.

In comparison with other Italian cities hospitality in Venice doesnt come cheap, this may be due to the romantic environment.

Aug
07

Rome – ‘The city of Ceasars, romance and la dolce vita’ – A.Moreton.

Rome was not built in a day and has the spectacular treasures to prove it. Rome has provided the pretty backdrop to many a Hollywood movie: Three Coins In The Fountain, Seven Hills of Rome and Roman Holiday to name but three.

It’s the city of the Caesars, of romance, the city of la dolce vita and long sunny days, the city of endless art, churches and museums, fountain-splashed piazzas and majestic monuments to its golden age of empire. Those monuments will already be familiar to many – the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. But one of the greatest pleasures of exploring Rome is the number of times you stumble across hidden corners, wonderful viewpoints, evocative street scenes and touching vignettes of daily life.

The ancient town of Tivoli is the most popular one-day excursion from Rome. Some 20 miles from the city centre, it’s known for two main sights, the Villa d’Este, a Renaissance villa celebrated for its
Gardens, and the Villa Adriana , a vast villa and grounds created by the Emperor Hadrian.

Trains run from main termini to Tivoli, but this can be a slow journey.

Buses depart every 10 or 20 minutes from the Ponte Mammolo Metro station (Line B). The journey time is 50 minutes. If you have time to spare, Frascati offers a cool, calm retreat from Rome’s heat and hustle.

The Villa Aldobrandini was built at the end of the 16th century and was one of the few old buildings to survive the bombing during 1943 and 1944 that destroyed 80 percent of old Frascati. The villa itself is closed to the public, but some of the grounds are open and offer excellent views of Rome in the hazy distance. Trains depart from main termini every hour and the journey takes 30 minutes.

Helpful Hints about Rome

Language
Italian is delightfully easy on the ear and relatively easy to learn. A few polite phrases might break the ice. Try Buongiorno (Good morning) or Bueno sera (Good evening). Come sta? (How Are You?) or Quanto costa? (How much?)

Currency and Tipping
The Italians use the Euro, made up of 100 cents. Tipping is not expected for all services, and rates are lower than those elsewhere. As a general guide, cabs: round up to the nearest 50 cents; restaurants: around 2 Euros 50; porters: 1 Euro a bag.

Dress Code
Rome can be extremely uncomfortable in the high summer, with temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius in July and August. Light clothes and sensible planning will prevent you becoming hot and bothered in the Roman fray. Top restaurants might demand formal dress for dinner, but for the majority, it’s smart casual.

Safety
Rome is generally safe, but take precautions. Pickpockets are the main worry so carry money and valuables in a belt or pouch, wear your camera, leave valuables and jewellery in the hotel safe and avoid gangs of street children.

Travel
Many of Rome’s sights can be visited on foot – there are organised walks taking in monuments and other places of interest on the way. There’s also a small, efficient (but crowded) subway system that will take you to the outskirts of the city.

Hotels
There are hundreds of Rome Luxury Hotels available so shop around online for your favourite.

Venice – ‘A city built on water with unequalled beauty, which was once the World’s greatest trading empire…’

Nothing quite prepares you for Venice. You can read about it, see film of it and listen to people enthuse about it, but only when you’re actually on the Grand Canal with the wind in your hair watching a Venetian sunset will you fall under its magical spell.
This is truly a place like no other – a city built on water, where the main streets are canals; there’s traffic, but not as we know it. It’s also a city rich in art, sculpture and music. But there are many other faces to Venice.

The shopping here is as good as anywhere in Italy with all the designer names, as well as crafts such as jewellery, glass and fabrics. There are chic bars and a vibrant nightlife and little surprises round every corner. Wander from your intended route and you could find yourself in a small but beautiful piazza – there might be a little restaurant, a chapel or a shop selling Carnival masks. This is a city for art-lovers and romantics … and anyone who wants a brief escape from the age of the automobile.

The main trips out from the city of Venice are to the islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is like a miniature version of Venice itself, but with more modest palaces and fewer churches. Everything here revolves round the glass manufacturing industry which has been established here since 1292.

A visit to the Glass Museum or one of the many galleries is well worthwhile. Visitors to Murano might like to visit Burano on the same day. This has traditionally been a lace-making centre and the houses here are painted in a rainbow of blue, red, peppermint, russet and yellow – colours that are attractively reflected in the waters of the canals. Both islands are reached by waterbus – the journey’s about 40 minutes.

Helpful Hints about Venice

Language
Italian, with a Venetian accent. Italian is delightfully easy on the ear and relatively easy to learn. A few polite phrases might break the ice. Try Buongiorno (Good morning) or Bueno sera (Good evening). Come sta? (How Are You?) or Quanto costa? (How much?)

Currency and Tipping
The Italians use the Euro, made up of 100 cents. Tipping is not expected for all services, and rates are lower than those elsewhere. As a general guide, gondolas and water taxis: between 5 and 10 per cent; restaurants: around 2 Euros 50; porters: 1 Euro a bag.

Dress Code
Summer isn’t necessarily the best time to visit Venice. Apart from the crowds of tourists, the air can be unpleasantly humid. But if you are there in July or August, light cotton clothes would be ideal, with some warm jumpers for evenings on the canals. Good walking shoes are a must.

The best time to visit is from late April to early July. In the late spring, it rains less often, the air is mild and the long days allow you to dine out of doors in the light of the setting sun. If you time your visit to coincide with the famous Carnival (February), remember that the Adriatic coast is often cold and windswept. Take coat, gloves and rainwear. And in the winter and autumn (fall), remember that high tides can cause some flooding of piazzas, so make sure your shoes are fully waterproofed! Except in the very best restaurants, smart-casual is the accepted dress code.

Safety
Venice is not a dangerous city, apart from pickpockets in the most touristy areas. The usual precautions apply: carry money and valuables in a belt or pouch, wear your camera and leave valuables and jewellery in the hotel safe.

Travel
Venice itself is not so big and the best way to explore it is on foot. A good map is essential and it’s useful to locate and remember a few landmarks like the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square to help you get your bearings. If you do want to go farther afield, you can either take the vaporetto or the motoscafo. The former is big and rather slow, but offers fine vistas of Venice from its open deck. The latter is low over the water and faster, with a smaller deck. You can use it to go to the islands of the lagoon. The Venice Public Transportation company, ACTV, has a useful website with full details of fares, routes and times

Hotels
A huge selection of Venice Luxury Hotels available so shop around online to find the one that suits your needs.

Florence – ‘Located in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is considered the birth place of the Renaissance…’

Few nations, let alone cities, can boast of having nurtured such a remarkable heritage of artistic, literary, scientific and political talent as Florence, or Firenze. The roll call of artists and writers who lived and worked in the city is extraordinary – Dante, Donatello, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Machiavelli, to name but a few.

Renaissance Florence remains very much intact and in evidence at every turn. However, its historic palaces, great churches, exquisite sculptures and countless other works of art are not crumbling relics but still a vivid and functional part of everyday life – worked in, lived in, prayed in, prized by present-day Florentines and accessible to all.

Florence is far from being austere and haughty. Alongside the museums, art galleries and historic churches there are designer shops, beautiful piazzas, chic restaurants and cutting-edge clubs. It’s a city of a thousand secrets.

Independent travel to nearby cities is easy. Regional train and bus services cover the whole of Tuscany. Take the No 7 bus from Santa Maria Novella railway station for the little hill-top town of Fiesole for an escape from the city’s summer heat and wonderful views over Florence and the Arno Valley.

Roughly 50 miles west of Florence lies Pisa, the birthplace of Galileo and home of the fabled leaning tower. It can be reached by train from Florence’s mainstation, Santa Maria Novella.

Siena, 21 miles south of Florence, is a mediaeval hilltop city with a maze of narrow winding streets that have survived virtually unchanged from the 16th Century and earlier. It can be reached by Sita’s regular express bus service. If you’re in Italy on July 2 or August 16, it’s worth going out of your way to see the palio, a traditional bareback horse race that’s been held in the Piazza del Campo in Siena since the 13th Century. It’s hot, crowded and utterly crazy!

Helpful Hints Helpful Hints about Florence

Language
Italian, with a Florentine accent. Italian is delightfully easy on the ear and relatively easy to learn. A few polite phrases might break the ice. Try Buongiorno (Good morning) or Bueno sera (Good evening). Come sta? (How Are You?) or Quanto costa? (How much?)

Currency and Tipping
The Italians use the Euro, made up of 100 cents. Tipping is not expected for all services, and rates are lower than those elsewhere. As a general guide, cabs: round up to the nearest 50 cents; restaurants: around 2 Euros 50; porters: 1 Euro a bag.

Dress Code
Florence can be extremely uncomfortable in the high summer, with temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius in July and August. Cotton and linen clothes are best for coping with the summer heat, but you’ll want a sweater or jacket for the cool evenings in spring and autumn (fall).

In winter, you’ll need warm clothes, a waterproof jacket and an umbrella. Comfortable walking shoes for the cobbled streets are highly recommended. Remember to wear respectable dress for Florence’s churches including something to cover bare shoulders.

Safety
Florence is generally safe, but take precautions. Pickpockets are the main worry so carry money and valuables in a belt or pouch, wear your camera and leave valuables and jewellery in the hotel safe.

Travel
You can easily get around the tourist areas of Florence on foot. The longest walks take twenty minutes at most as the important monuments and museums are contained within half a square mile. Hiring a car is not advised, but you’ll see many young Florentines on scooters and if you’re brave enough and can stand the competition, these can be hired for about 30 Euros a day. If you’re taking a cab, use only the official white taxis with a ‘Taxi’ sign on the roof.

Hotels
There are a wide selection of Florence Luxury Hotels available so shopping online is your best bet to find the perfect choice.

Aug
03

The Cannes Film Festival was launched around 1939 as an alternative by the French Minister of National Education out of concern of interfence of both the Fascist and Nazi movements of both Italy and Germany and their impact on the Venice Film Festival. The first Cannes Film Festival had difficulty getting established due to France and the United Kingdom declaring war against Germany on September 3, 1939.

The major catalyst asides from Germany and Italy was when the film “La Grande Illusion” by Jean Renoir was overlooked for the top prize, the “Mussolini Cup.” Instead, it was awarded to a film called “Olympia” detailing Nazi success at the 1938 Berlin Olympics and “Luciano Serra, Pilota.”

France was outraged because the film was overlooked in favor of films promoting Nazi and Fascist propaganda. France, Britain, and the United States withdrew from the jury of the Venice Film Festival. At the same time Renoir’s film which was anti-war was banned in Germany and Italy.

While the Venice Film Festival was in turmoil, Cannes capitalized on it. They petitioned the French Government to make an alternative film festival in France. This one was a festival that would be films can be shown and compete against one another without political bias. Especially bias from Fascists and the Nazis.

But due to strong lobbying, the French Government gave in and gave the Cannes Film Festival the go ahead. And thus the Cannes Film Festival was born.

However, it wouldn’t be held again until 1946 from September 20 to October 5 in the old casino in Cannes. But because of problems in the budget, the Cannes Film Festival wouldn’t be held in 1948 nor 1950.

By the 1950s, the Cannes Film Festival gained great growth that the month was changed from September to April. It was to avoid competition with the Berlin and Venice Film Festivals. At the same time, it was easier for people to travel between Berlin, Cannes, and Venice to attend all three festivals and thus sharing the benefits of premieres.

Cannes would present a diversity of films from the top international directors of the world. First it was a place for tourists and socialites, Cannes grew to be a place for the international film industry to get together and network for future projects.

In the 60s, a sidebar called the Semaine Internationale de la Critique was established that focused on presenting works of first and second time directors. In the late 60s, there was a strike that cancelled one of the festivals.

American cinema dominated in the 70s. But there were plenty of European films being shown in that decade as well such as Andrei Tarkovski’s “Solaris.” Three sidebars would be introduced in 1975 but would be rolled into a single sidebar in 1978 called the “Un Certain Regard.” That same year, the “Camera d’Or” award was introduced for best first-time feature film in any section.

A new Palais des Festivals et des Congres was commissioned on the site of the old winter casino int he 80s due to its huge growth. The location would host its film festival in ’83 bringing a plethora of stars.

Today, it’s the biggest of all film festivals and media events of the world. More than a thousand films from a hundred different countries. The biggest American and international stars will show up with all the glamour gazed upon by the grounds. But everybody still gathers to watch the films.

Keep in mind if it wasn’t for the events surrounding the early years of the Venice Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival would never have been created.

Aug
03

Amsterdam’s unique position has made water and bridges to be of vital importance among the historic cities of the north. Along the banks of the river Amstel a city developed that depended on the water for its survival. At one time water was even more important than dry land. Water was the feature which allowed transportation of goods as well as keeping the enemy. Moreover it also added to the beauty of the city. It is quite apparent that due to these reasons Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North.

Amsterdam is a city of water and, naturally, of bridges. Amsterdam has no fewer than 1,281 bridges. Since the 17th century a maze of canals has divided downtown Amsterdam in 90 islands. There are hundreds of bridges which link the islands. The canals have made Amsterdam famous. It is quite apparent that the city has more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris. Generally quite a few of the downtown bridges are romantically illuminated at night.

The history of Amsterdam may, can be looked upon as a history of bridges from a certain point. To begin with, wooden bridges were built, modeled on the type which was common in the Dutch countryside. They served to provide the needs of road traffic mainly in areas where the east-west connections were of vital importance. Their purpose was entirely practical. The main importance was given to function instead of form. The water was spanned by wooden beams which served as girders. Wooden planking across the beams created an acceptable road surface. Whenever the length of the span required extra support, one or more trusses – interconnected wooden beams reinforced by corbel pieces – were constructed.

The urbanization of the city with modern times and the increasing prosperity were instrumental in the development of the brick bridge. Brick came to replace wood and the arched bridge with its elegant masonry took over from its wooden predecessor which led to the idea that bridges were conceived of as integrated architectural designs. The advent of the brick arched bridge coincided with a more conscious approach to urban development. Bridges became an integral part of the ring of canals.

Bridges that cross Amsterdam’s canals are a wonderful spot for sightseeing: the channel, the tree lined streets, the daily life of locals, the typical houses along the water, the bicycles. On top of it they also provide beautiful scenic background for photos or a useful place to take photographs. There are so many famous bridges across the canals of the city. Every corner one turns one find another bridge leading as the city of Amsterdam calls to find more.

One of the more famous canal sights in Amsterdam is the lineup of seven consecutive bridges that can be seen gracing Reguliersgracht. The old city center of Amsterdam boasts a bridge from which one can see no fewer than fifteen bridges. One can enjoy this unique view from the bridge on the corner of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht. At night the spectacle is extra special, as the arched bridges are illuminated with hundreds of fairy lights.

One of the most important landmarks of Amsterdam is The Skinny Bridge or Magere brug. The fact remains that it is one of the most beautiful bridges of Holland’s capital city. The Skinny Bridge is romantically illuminated at night with thousands of fairy lights. It is very popular with lovers and photographers illuminated with hundreds of lights.

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
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.

 

Jul
22

If you find Nice none too nice and Cannes a little over-run then a visit to Mougins might just remind you why the French Riviera remains one of Europe’s premier holiday destinations.

Situated just 7km (4 miles) North of Cannes, Mougins is considered as chic as its more famous neighbour, yet it offers a haven from the over-commercialisation and over-development that affects certain parts of the region.

Mougins is very much the destination for those in the know and has attracted some of the greatest cultural figures of our time. Yves St. Laurent, Jean Cocteau, Isadora Duncan, Christian Dior, Winston Churchill and Catherine Deneuve have all called Mougins home at some point in their lives and it was here that Pablo Picasso chose to spend the final fifteen years of his life.

Though occupied since Roman times, the majority of the village dates from the 15th century when it was the property of the Monks of Saint Honorat from the nearby Iles de Lerins, located just off the coast of Cannes. Nowadays many of the Abbey’s former properties, including hundred’s of luxury villas and apartments, are available to rent in Mougins.

Many people use the town as a base from which to explore the region and, during the Cannes Film Festival, villa rental in Mougins is big business, with luxury villas only available at premium prices. Fortunately, being blessed with a warm and sunny climate, the Cote d’Azur is a viable destination year round and off-peak villa rental in Mougins is not only affordable, but can provide value for money for people who require more than just a hotel room.

Set atop a hill overlooking the bay of Cannes, this former fortified village is also a wonderful destination in itself. Its narrow alleys, cobblestone streets and beautiful vistas give it an air of a movie set perfection that makes it an ideal destination for a romantic break.

The beauty of the village is complemented by a wealth of boutiques and cafes, while the more cerebral will enjoy the Museum of Photography which contains work from such famous photographers as Lartique, Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau. Just outside of town, on the A8 Autoroute, one can find the Musee de l’Automobile which houses a large number of classic and racing cars including Ferraris and Bugattis, and for the ‘sportif’ amongst you there are scores of great golf clubs within a short drive.

But one can’t talk about Mougins without mentioning the food. The village is home to more Michelin rated restaurants than any other region in France. The best known of these is Le Moulin de Mougins, owned by the celebrated chef and writer Roger Verge and considered to be amongst the best restaurants in all of France.

Although Mougins has a number of good hotels, perhaps the best way to enjoy the area in an authentic a way as possible is by considering using one of the companies that provide rental villas in Mougins. They offer a great choice to suit all budgets and all requirements, whether you are looking for a luxury villa with swimming pool, or a smaller apartment to rent in the centre, Mougins has something for everyone.

Getting There:

By Air

The region is extremely well served and boasts two nearby airports, Nice Côte d’Azur (15 miles) which serves 10 million passengers a year and Cannes- Mandelieu which serves a more exclusive clientele.

By car

The journey from Paris takes 8 hours via the A8 motorway; from Monaco and Nice, the same road provides access from the opposite direction.

By rail

The TGV rail services provide access to Cannes from major French cities. Other cities with rail connections include London (9hours), Brussels (6 hours), Milan (5 hours), Basel (10 hours), Rome (10 hours) and Venice (10 hours).

Jul
21

Planning a vacation can be stressful, especially when it comes to money. If you are heading to Los Angeles, you want to find a great hotel without spending excessive amounts on money. Finding cheap hotels during your stay can help you keep your vacation within your budget or save money to spend on airfare or a rental car.

Comparison Shop

There are many websites promising the lowest rates on hotels, airfare, and car rentals. It doesn’t take long to compare rates between the different websites, but spending an extra ten minutes could save you plenty of money. The internet makes it easy to search for hotels by price or location and check rates instantly. Websites like Priceline and Hotels.com regularly offer deep discounts that you would never find if you reserved your room directly through the hotel.

Travel in the Off-Season

If you are planning a vacation and not traveling for work, booking your vacation during the off-season or on weekdays is a great way to save money on hotel costs. Hotels charge higher prices during peak vacation times and on the weekends. Fall and early spring tend to be good seasons to travel, however California’s moderate climate means that even the middle of winter could provide acceptable weather for a trip to many Los Angeles attractions.

Look for Package Deals

Are you planning a Disney vacation? Keep an eye out for package deals where you can score a bargain on a hotel room and admission to the park. You may be able to stay at a more convenient hotel for a bargain price, or get better free perks. Whether you are going to Santa Monica, Universal Citywalk, Hollywood, or Venice, you may be able to find great deals if you look for packages with nearby attractions.

Stay in Adjacent Areas

The hotels closest to major attractions and venues are going to have the highest prices. If you are willing to travel a little further, you can find cheap hotel rooms in other parts of Los Angeles. Keep in mind that Los Angeles does not have as extensive of a public transportation system as other major cities, so if you stay further out you may need a car.

Consider Hotel Alternatives

Do you have to stay in a hotel? There are many boarding options that people do not consider. Empty apartments or timeshares frequently rent for low rates. Most people know that you can resell your timeshare, but few people are looking for rentals. Because of that, you can find deals on spacious timeshares for a week-long vacation at a bargain price.

Shop smart to find the cheapest hotels and lodging in Los Angeles for your next vacation or business trip. By taking a little time to research and compare rates, you can save money on your hotel and keep your vacation plans during tough economic times.