This is the place to get that picture every one has got of someone holding up the leaning tower or that postcard of all three buildings, the tower, the baptistry and the Duomo or cathedral.
Staying here for a night to get your flight or stop off before you hit the rest of Tuscany can be a good diea. It will leave you refreshed and ready to see all the wonders this part of Italy has to offer.
Trattoria Anita is a great but cheap restaurant. We went for lunch and dinner. Two course lunch for two including wine came to 20 Euros. It has a cosy wooden interior and very friendly staff. Food was delicious and certainly good value. Added bonus is it is near Gelateria dei Neri so you can pop for icecream afterwards!
Via del Parlascio 2/r
Tel: 055 218 698
Friday and Saturday nights, the Quadrilatero area (north west corner of the city) is full of life and locals....the area 'piu trendy' in Torino...but in an authentically italian way! Go there for the best alfresco dining and people watching.
We went on the basis of the Guardian readers' guide recommendation, already posted. It exceeded all expectations and we went several times. The fagioli al forno was a taste sensation, the ribellita was glorious... need I go on? Does lunch only.
Via Rosina 2r, near San Lorenzo and the Mercato Centrale;
tel: 055 210 916
To be transported back in time, visit the Villa Oplontis, once home to Nero’s second wife before he kicked her to death in A.D. 65. Take the train to the next stop past Pompeii – Torre Annunziata, a seedy suburb of the Neapolitan conurbation once famous for its black velvet sand beaches, now infamous for its contribution to the crime columns of the local papers. A hand – written scrawl in the ticket office of the station advises directions to villa, including, “…and if you survive the crossing of the main road, continue along …”
It is a strange site to visit, all sound is blanked out in spite of its proximity to the road. Only birdsong is heard in the gardens of this well – preserved ruin. Here are decorations on the walls far superior to Pompeii, with clever illusionist motifs of rows of columns in perspective and tiny detailed paintings of birds feeding. Little imagination is needed to re – create life in this villa, the buildings of which alone cover an area of over a hectare.
Because it is such an undervisited site, it is a delight to ramble through this extensive villa and listen to the whispers of breezes through the leaves of the lemon trees where the ancient atmosphere of relaxation and contemplation linger on in spite of its violent owner.
At the Torre Annunziata rail stop outside Naples.
The road from Sorrento to Amalfi hugs the cliff as it curves around vertical rock faces with the tail of the bus swinging out over the edge and bringing visions of the Afterlife to those passengers sitting on the right hand side. Be thankful that this observation is from a large air-conditioned, soft-sprung, reclining seat in the front of a Mercedes coach and not from the small hire car that is between this coach and another in front.
Coach drivers consider it a matter of pride to be as close as possible to everything including the cliff edge. Every corner is blasted peremptorily by the wind-horn and coaches give way to nothing. It is small consolation that the casual manner of the driver comes from driving this coastline several times a day and that he sleeps soundly in his bed at night.
The final plunge into Amalfi some ninety minutes later leaves the traveller in a melee of coaches parking, baffled tourists and drivers arguing.
South of Sorrento
These loos are spotless and spacious if you have luggage or shopping. The attendant is a charming Philippino lady who is so kind and helpful and speaks several languages.
In the subway leading from the city centre to the Santa Maria Novella Railway Station - on the left-hand side next to a record shop.
The Bed & Breakfast is located in Palazzo Agostini, also known as Palazzo dell’ Ussero, with its fifteenth century facade and remains of the ancient city walls dating back to before 1155, when Pisa was an important Maritime republic. The facade is late-Gothic which in the 1400s alternated with the Renaissance style.
The name of the building comes from the coffee rooms of Cafe dell’Ussero, historic meeting place founded on 1st September 1775. The cafe was previously an inn, the Locanda dell’Ussero. Famous and distinguished guests have been - Carlo Goldoni in 1744, Giacomo Casanova in 1760, Count Alfieri in 1785, Filippo Mazzei in 1792, Gioacchino Belli in 1829 and John Ruskin in 1840.
The Relais dell’ Ussero is on the right bank of the River Arno between the Ponte di Mezzo and Ponte Solferino bridges, in the historical centre of Pisa and the oldest part of town. The Palazzo della Sapienza and Palazzo del Rettorato of the University are 30 metres away, Piazza dei Cavalieri, where we find the Scuola Normale Superiore, at 250 metres. Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral, Baptistery and the famous leaning Tower is only 850 metres away.
It is in the historic centre of Pisa, 1 km from Pisa rail station, 1.5 kms (5 minutes) from Pisa Airport, 80 kms (50 minutes) from Florence airport, 20 kms (15 minutes) from Livorno port - all can be reached by taxi.
A wonderful and often neglected gallery, the Bargello formerly housed a barracks and a prison; now, however, it is home to some of the finest sculpture in the city. Gems include Donatello's insouciant bronze David, which has an almost dandyish air, and Michelangelo's stern and commanding bust of Brutus, very much in the artistic line that paints Caesar's adoptive son as a heroic and inspirational figure, rather than a weak and malleable one. You will also find a treasure trove of works by the Della Robbia family in this imposing castle.
Via del Proconsolo 4 (near the Palazzo Vecchio); tel: (+39) 055 238 8606
Very new, very modern, and very reasonably priced hotel south of the Arno. About a 25 minute walk from the centre, but worth it for the cool bar, funky showers, and to get away from the tourists in the evening.
B&B on Piazza Duomo. Very central, comfortable and reasonably priced. The rooms at the rear are quieter.
This has to be one of the most gorgeous chapels anywhere in the world. The first impression of the azure blue panels by Giotto telling the story of Christ's passion is just awesome. Yes, it's touristy, but the sheer beauty of the paintings transcends any suggestion of tacky. The grounds are lovely to walk around too. The only problem is that the 15 minutes you're allowed in the chapel is not long enough to take it all in.
Piazza Eremitani 8 (off Corso Garibaldi, entrance through the Museo Eremitani);
tel: 049 201 0020 for required reservations (lines open Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 9am-1pm);
open: daily 9am-7pm; until 9:30pm in summer;
This bar - favoured by the beautiful young things of Florence - is the perfect place for pre-dinner aperitivo. Plates of delicious cold meats, cheeses and pasta are served up, washed down with Florence's best (though highly alcoholic) cocktails and accompanied by low-key music from resident DJs. It's also perfect after midnight, when the party spills onto the street, and the illuminated Ponte Vecchio serves as a backdrop to the Florentine frolics.
Lungarno Corsini 12-14r next to Ponte Santa Trinita; tel: 055 210 751 or 055 293 258
Basically, this place is a mecca for students, especially American ones. There's table footy, pool, probably some other bar games I've forgotten... and a very, very cheap happy 'hour' which lasts all night. The cocktails are particularly worth it, especially after a hard day of thinking about art/history/Italian grammar. Its location in the Santa Croce area means that you're near all the coolest places to go out too. Ahh, Loch Ness... Get messy with Nessy.
Via dei Benci 19r
An estate run by the same family for generations. Absolutely spectacular scenery and beautiful old tuscan buildings that have been converted into self catering apartments of all sizes. Their service is astounding. From providing a chef, to helping you with shopping and transport. July sees the estate host an international music festival of brilliant quality in picturesque surroundings.
In the Tuscan countryside, a few miles south of Montepulciano. Visit www.lafoce.com
Hotels like the Do Pozzi, which in the 13th Century was a convent, have gradually been subject to the ravages of decay as the waters of the lagoon have seeped into their foundations. Windows are no longer rectangular as walls have sunk, and floors slope in such a way as to give occupants a pronounced limp.
Bit of a rip-off to see the balcony and statue of Juliet. You have to pay to go up the stairs to the museum, if that’s what you can call it - very sparse, and so busy that you’re lucky to get a picture on you own on the balcony. Graffiti everywhere on the arches as you go in and chewing gum - yuk! not worth the trek.
Via Cappello 21-23, south of Piazza delle Erbe, in the Old Town Just follow the crowds of tourists - you cannot miss it.
This charming Inn is unique, because besides having 4 charming rooms, it is possible to eat in the restaurant downstairs, which is run by the same owner.
The location is perfect: between the Rialto Bridge and Saint Mark Square.
This bay in eastern Sardinia has water that has to be seen to be believed. Bright blue, green, turquoise and even purple. Hidden coves are backed by a mountainous, rocky and remote national park, which means the beaches can only be reached by boat. Out of season you can rent a dinghy for a reasonable price and have the place (almost) to yourself. Absolutely stunning.
Boats can be rented from Cala Gonone, which is 120kms south of Olbia. Catch a bus from Olbia to Dorgali and then a bus to Cala Gonone.
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