This fantastic cake shop is a stone's throw from the Vatican, and it has fantastic cakes and a great sweet, tea and coffee selection, plus good sandwiches.
Worth a visit and half the price of nearby restaurants etc.
55 Via Ottaviano (nr Vatican)
Forget bungee jumping, crossing the road in Naples can seem like the scariest adventure sport of the lot. The best advice is to do what the locals do: don't try and get around the traffic, let the traffic get around you. Just hold your nerve and walk across the road - it sounds insane, but the drivers will (generally) see you and avoid you. It takes some bottle the first time, but you get used to it surprisingly quickly. Obviously use common sense, i.e. don't walk out in front of a speeding car - but Naples traffic seems to feature the horn more than the accelerator, the congestion being what it is. Just watch out for ten-year-olds on Vespas...
I really suggest a visit to San Jouan Bed & Breakfast in Rome if you're looking to visit the eternal city. On the website the photos are not so good, but San Jouan is really better. This hotel is really lovely. The beds are great - so comfortable, the showers are great (OK, a bit small, but we're not very large so they suited us fine). I booked a couple of tours through the hotel and agree that it's more efficient to schedule them, especially, if you don't have a lot of time. However, if you prefer to sightsee on your own, ancient Rome is only a tram ride away. Public transport is excellent with a regular bus service just outside the hotel. We have had a wonderful stay in Rome, made all the better by this beautiful hotel. The hotel is in a relatively quiet area, which is nice, because there were crowds of people everywhere. I would definitely stay there again.
Via Francesco Berni 7, near San Giovanni Basilica;
tel: 06 700 8543;
Let's put things straight: Castiglioncello is not a place for nightlife. It's quite calm and very relaxed, but you can really enjoy the sea and the sun here. The beach has been awarded a blue flag for cleanliness. I used to spend my summer holidays here with my family when I was a kid and I still think it's a beautiful place. And if you have a car, try to find accommodation a little away from the sea. This way you'll be able to explore the countryside, which is lovely in this area.
Castiglioncello is 35 miles from Pisa, and accessible by train, bus or car;
A fabulous restaurant situated in the very vibrant and lively Piazza Navona. The food is delicious: 'crazy butterflies' - Farfalle in a rich creamy sauce, and you can't miss out on the taste of the Tartuffo - chocolate heaven. You can sit, eat and soak in the atmosphere and be spoilt by the wonderful waiters, for whom nothing is too much trouble.
Piazza Navona, 30
Mount Vesuvius is still one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and as such is constantly monitored with a seven day warning system. Assuming that no warning has been issued, it's well worth climbing to the top to peer into the ashen crater and view the Bay of Naples which looks all too vulnerable as it spreads out from the foot of the mountain. Coach trips will take you so far up the ascent, but the last 1000 feet must be done by foot, once you've paid your entry fee of course. Unless you're feeling charitable, it's best to ignore the little man handing out 'walking poles', as they're not of much use and he'll demand a few euros from you when you've come back down.
To get there, it's best to take an organised trip - you can drive there, but there are very limited parking facilities.
Unlike Pompeii, it's possible to look around the whole of the Herculaneum excavations in one visit. The small town was buried in lava and mud in the same AD79 eruption and rests below the ground level of modern day Ercolano. Highlights include a gymnasium, complete with athletes' swimming pool, bars which still have the recesses from which wine was served and some wonderful mosaics and sculptures.
Corso Resina 6, Ercolano;
tel: 081 739 0963;
To reach the ruins walk straight down the hill from the station for about five minutes, or if driving take the A3 from Naples then the turn-off for Ercolano.
The castle dates back to the 13th century, but it includes impressive Renaissance additions which make it an imposing sight. It's also worth paying a few euros to have a look inside, where you'll find the Barons Hall, a chapel, a disconcertingly glass-floored room that you can walk on to view original foundations below, and an exhibition of art and artefacts. It also has excellent top-floor views over the bay.
tel: 081 795 2003
If you want to have a boogie in Positano there is only one place - Music on the Rock. It's carved into the rock - great atmosphere and overlooks the sea.
Totally different point but don't ever stay in Sorrento - only place in Italy I think is awful.
On the seafront to the left handside.
OK, so it's Sicilian and we're talking Rome, but Capricci Siciliani delivers the best baby squid in the known universe. Fantastic seafood, excellent wine list, including many native Sicilian grape varieties, reasonably priced, and a warm and inviting staff. Over an 8-day visit, we actually had dinner here twice, and our 14-month-old enjoyed both the delicious bread and unending attention. Two truly memorable meals.
Via di Panico, 83 (near Piazza Navona;
tel: 06 4543 3823;
We booked a room through Leonardi Hotels online, only to find that "due to a mistake" there was no room at the inn when we got there. They taxied us off to a cheaper hotel farther out and we only received compensation from Easyjet and not the hotel chain after lengthy hassle.
I've just come back from an (all too) brief stay at this hotel in Taormina, Sicily. It's nestled on the side of Monte Tauro so all the rooms have balconies with spectacular views along the coastline. The room was very luxurious, with flooring made from volcanic rock from mount Etna!
I booked through Perfect Places - www.perfectplacesoline.co.uk or 08703 331771 and flew to Catania from Gatwick with BA.
Just got back from an (all too) brief stay in this slightly larger than boutique hotel in Taorminain Sicily. It's perched on the side of Monte Tauro so all rooms have balconies with spectacular views across the coast. The room was very luxurious, with floors made from volcanic rock from Mount Etna!
I booked through Perfect Places - www.perfectplacesonline.co.uk or 08703 331771 and flew into Catania from Gatwick with BA.
Traditionally a dirty, noisy and over-populated area of Rome just north of the forum between the Viminale and Esquilino hills. Rather than stray dogs, vagrants and ladies of the night, these days you are more likely to find locals sharing a slice of everyday Rome. Even though it’s a stone’s throw from the forum, these few streets feel like a village with a history all of their own. If it's genuine Rome you're after, this is the place to see it.
Via dei Serpenti, just off Via Nazionale. Also Via del Boschetto running parallel to via dei Serpenti plus several cobbled streets running off each.
If you like your sculpture al fresco, then this is the place to come. It all seems slightly surreal, particularly the ‘Loggia dei Lanzi’, which is a specially built raised area housing the famous Rape of the Sabine Women, Perseus and a clutch of Roman priestesses. Near the wall of the old council chamber is a copy of Michelangelo’s David next to Bandinelli’s Hercules. To top it all off is the Neptune fountain and the Grand Duke Cosimo further out into the square. I’m not sure why there’s such a concentration on stonework at this spot, but at least it saves on the shoe leather.
Centre of the city
Last August my partner and I stayed at Piccola Perla, a charming one-bedroomed apartment in St. Antonin, located roughly midway between St Mark's Square and Arsenale.
It was quiet, tastefully decorated and it was great to come back in the evening after a long day's sightseeing and put our feet up in the little courtyard, together with a drink of Prosecco. Being on a budget, some evenings we cooked our own meals, so it was good to be a couple of bridges away from one of only two supermarkets I have come across in Venice.
Recommended as a romantic getaway for a couple or an inexpensive spot for a small family (there was a sofabed in the living room).
www.ourveniceapartment.com - Tel. (UK) 01242 243693. Nearest Vaporetto: San Zaccaria.
After the Duomo, this is one of the most interesting of the churches as it contains the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo and Machiavelli among others. It was completed in 1294 and sits at the eastern end of the large square that takes its name, casting long Gothic shadows over it if you happen to be there in the morning.
Piazza di Santa Croce.
Seven traghetto (ferry) points between the railway station and San Marco allow you to cross the Grand Canal without having to squeeze over the bridges. These decommissioned gondolas ply back and forth until dusk for 60c a trip. Venetians make the crossing standing up. Tourists sit down and worry about the rocking motion.
Look out for small yellow signs pointing down alleys leading to the Canal.
One time home of the Medici family who bought it from the eponymous rival family after it bankrupted them. This is opulence Italian style, all the trappings of people for whom money was no object are here, including paintings by Titian and Raphael. The Boboli gardens at the rear are pleasant enough, but if you have limited time, the Palace is much more interesting.
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