If you're in Pisa on the 24th/25th of March then you can see in Pisa's second (or first, if you're a patriotic local) New Year.
The tradition dates back to the glory days of Pisa as a mighty maritime republic and, in an Indiana Jones moment, the new year is said to begin when a sunbeam breaks through a specially placed window in the cathedral, lighting up a precisely positioned marble egg.
Cue lots of kissing, medieval costumes, marching, flag throwing and carousing. The main venue is clearly the cathedral, framed as it is by the Leaning Tower and the splendid baptistry in the 'Field Of Miracles'.
The tower, alongside the cathedral, finally free of all scaffolding and gleamingly white as of early 2011, may be ascended and you can book at the official site or use the second site below if you'd like to book for a date further in the future than allowed on the official site.
Duomo di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa, Tuscany
Google map: bit.ly/hlM9oY
The bus system is very problematic for a tourist. The guidebooks emphasise that you must buy a ticket (flat-rate of 1€ for 75 minutes travel) and validate it on board. But we hardly ever saw locals validating tickets and there seems no way of checking, apart from spot-checks by (non-existent) inspectors. The truth is that for most routes in the centre, particularly at rush-hour, the buses are impossibly crowded so there is only a slim chance of getting onto a bus and no chance of getting near a validating machine – ticket revenue for ATAC must be tiny for the number of passengers carried. Furthermore ATAC has clearly decided not to put a diagram of the route inside the bus or to have a screen telling you what the next stop is. This adds up to a really tourist-hostile service.
Google map: bit.ly/dOTiNm
After days of picking out fish in my 'vegetarian' salads, and getting thoroughly bored of pasta with tomato sauce, it was a joy to find Il Margutta. The huge vegetarian buffet meant that I finally got to enjoy Italian food. And the beautiful, quiet location, tucked away near the bustle of the Spanish Steps, was magical. I half expected Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn to stop by.
Tarthesh Hotel is a four star boutique hotel in middle-eastern/Sardinian style.
It is located in Guspini and houses just 39 rooms.
Its strong point is given by its beautiful garden, made of green lawn and exotic plants and crossed by streams.
I stayed in the hotel and especially enjoyed its Jacuzzi area!
Just off Piazza Maggiore is one of the most tantalising sights in the world - a warren of streets dedicated to the best fresh produce in Italy. Cheese, salami, fish, chocolate, fruit, vegetables, bread, pastry, and even a Chinese takeaway - all will arouse your taste buds. And on Viccolo Ranocchi - heralded by the single word Vino - is the ancient Osteria del Sole where you can take your food and buy a drink to wash it down.
Take via Pescherie Vecchie off Piazza Maggiore and follow your nose.
Google map: bit.ly/fmzvyZ
Osteria del Sole is a unique institution. From the outside it's nothing to write home about - there's just the single word Vino and a slightly grubby entrance. Inside there is a cross section of Bolognese society, tucking into food they've bought around the corner in the market or eating a packed lunch. No food is served, just wine or beer. You go for the craic, especially on a Friday night when the place is heaving and has taken over the tiny street outside.
an Italian paradise! We've seen some beautiful places but there is nowhere quite like Capri. People are friendly, the views spectacular wherever your hotel. The prices are quite high but I feel it's all well worth it. It's really amazing just to take your backpack and walk all around the island, trails and paths discovering places that will take your breath away. The choice of tiny bars and restaurants is endless here. We ate at the most amazing restaurant called Capri's which is situated just off the main street in Capri overlooking Marina Grande. It's modern and the location gives it a 10 out of 10. I have to admit prices are high but it's such a wonderful place - the perfect place to propose!
The Venice Carnival is a photographer's dream with figures dressed in costumes ranging from the absolutely beautiful to the bizarre.
Most people go to St Mark's Square to take pictures on the last days of Carnival. There are many fantastic images to be found but the square gets incredibly crowded and shots have to be taken quickly and often onlookers get in the way. My tip therefore is to move away from the square to other, quieter locations where you will encounter some of the more professional models who will be prepared to give you much more time to pose them and to compose your pictures.
The best time to try is late morning and promising locations are outside the Salute Church, the walk between Accademia and S. Toma vaporetto stops (taking in Campo S. Baranaba) and the walk between San Marco and Campo Santo Stefano. Indeed, many of the main piazzas and campos are a good bet. This is a great opportunity to get away from the crowds and work with some good amateur models.
To take photographs simply ask politely and if language is a problem, indicating the camera is usually enough to start taking pictures.
Perfect little pizza place which also serves up local snack food but this is fast food that tastes out of this world.
I rode over from Zermatt for the day I found this place, desperate for food I went into the village to find substance at a reasonable rate. I walked past this super small shop which had a large queue I decided to find out why it was so busy ... after a 10 minute wait I was served the best pizza I have ever tasted. The only downside was it was so cheap I felt I was robbing them. I see why it was so busy.
Its not easy to find, and of course you have to take your board/ skis off to get to it, but trust me its worth it!
Via Carrel 43
You don't even need to be a fan of opera to appreciate the thrill and romance of watching an opera performed in an open-air arena on a warm summer's night in the beautiful city of Verona. This is not the hushed atmosphere of Covent Garden. Imagine thousands of people in a Roman arean, humming along, waving lighters, cuddling in the back row. A stunning experience
Set in the small, walled medieval town of San Gimignano in Tuscany, a work of art itself, a delightful, white, tunnel-like space displaying a huge collection of exciting contemporary ceramics, by Italian and international artists, ranging from the sublime to the startling, supported by equally exciting paintings and sculptures, all within a few metres of shady bars and gelaterias.
Visit the Vatican and the eat here. Off the tourist track and a short walk away. Fantastic dining with great rustic food and wonderful atmosphere.
Under represented in the guide books and slightly away from the heart of Milan, the Triennale, in the gardens of the Castello Sforzesco, is a museum of modern applied arts.
There are usually four or five temporary exhibits, covering an eclectic mix of different disciplines. When I was there the standout was an outstanding retrospective of the work of Milanese designer and architect Marco Ferreri.
A great place to people watch too, as an indoor alternative to gawping at the fashionistas in the Quadrilatero della Moda!
Great family accommodation just moments from the Accademia and vapparetto. Rooms located in a 15th Century building. We had a gorgeous quad room, comfy beds and a wonderful breakfast included.
Dorsoduro 995, 30123 Venice, Italy
+39 041 2960725
Best fine dining I've had in a while. This place is a gastronomic delight. Great food, beautifully presented, fantastic service and the wine list just superb! Located in a palazzetto, the interior is just stunning.
Best pastries and coffee when you need a break with the family from sightseeing. It's a foodie's paradise with cakes beautifully presented and great service.
Via del Governo Vecchio, 12 00186 Rome, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/gVgsy5
Standing proud on the hills outside Turin we found the chicest of contemporary art, beautifully presented in a restored 17th century palazzo originally built for the Savoiardi family. The exhibitions are very, very cool, and the building is a wonder of old and new architecture, fused together with lashings of Italian ‘eleganza’. Go in the evening to combine your visit with the breathtakingly expensive Combal. Zero, voted one of the top ten life changing restaurants in the world, apparently, presenting a feast as experimental as the art next door.
In a tiny bay at the end of the path from the village of Sorgeto is a thermal vent which heats the sea all year round. There are small pools marked out by stones and a really great bar where you can buy beer and Ischian food - what more could you want?
Take a water taxi from Sant'Angelo or use the clockwise/anti-clockwise bus and walk down to the sea from Panza.
We found this hotel in Rome's center, amazing price and friendly staff, we were satisfied. An excellent quality price hotel. Basic but very clean double room. Perfect location for the public transportation.
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