Podere La Serra is a really special villa in Northern Tuscany, I stayed there last year and had the most fantastic break. The house sleeps 10-12 people and we had a family get together there - it is absolutely wonderful and I will certainly be going back. The house is beautifully decorated with handmade furniture, it's really well set up for big groups with two kitchens and two living rooms. The interior is stunning - traditional stone walls, huge chestnut beams, vaulted archways and a wonderful log fire in the living room. We loved the infinity pool, which is filled with natural spring water from the villa's well. The whole place is fantastically high spec and we couldn't fault it at all, the owners are English and live just 10 minutes drive away, they were on hand to sort out a jazz band for us on the terrace and pizza chefs - all sorts! We visited Pisa (1 hr), Lucca (45 mins) and the Cinque Terre (45 mins) and we're thinking of returning for the ski season as Cereto is only 45 minutes away. The real knock out thing about this gorgeous place is the view of the Apuane mountains, which is just spectacular. The villa has unbelievable panoramic views and we were happy just sitting out on the terrace with a glass of wine gazing at the tuscan hills. We also found a really excellent local restaurant called 'Malliano's', just 30 minutes stroll round the corner through the sweet little villages. Altogether a wonderful place.
Casina di Rosa is a great holiday rental in this tiny village south of Siena. A fantastic base for daytrips to most popular sites. We loved it. Civitella Marittima still retains the true essence of Italy and has not been spoilt by tourism. The people are friendly, from the owners to the shopkeepers and the lady who waved each morning from a nearby window.
Civitella Marittima is also well located for visiting other places in Tuscany. The villa has lovely town and countryside views (particularly from the bedroom window) and the glow of the rising morning sun on the surrounding buildings, with the swallows circling overhead, is not to be missed. The village is very friendly - after a week we almost felt like locals.
Villa consisting of four apartments, family run, with fantastic grounds and own swimming pool.
Very friendly English family who embraced Italy, the culture and language and renovated an old farm house in this small village.
The apartment we stayed in was very spacious and extremely well equipped, everything we needed and more was there. The surrounding grounds were perfect for our children to explore safely. There were hammocks for relaxing quietly while admiring the amazing views across the mountains, and a badminton net (for when you're feeling more energetic) and bikes.
The girls (aged eight, 11 and 12) spent most of holiday in the pool. Our son (aged five) helped Damien the owner pick, plant and water their many vegetables and fruit (hours of entertainment) and they didn't mind the guests helping themselves.
The apartments were full, but not overcrowded and there was a great mix of people. You could take a 10-minute stroll into town from the villa. Walk up into the centro historico for beautiful buildings and views. Stop for a coffee half way up and enjoy the mountain views while soaking up the sun. Take the children to the park, play crazy golf or tennis.
The nearest beach is only 45 minutes away. We had an amazing time and would definitely suggest you check it out.
The Palazzo rooms are spacious - and if you like antique decoration and a welcoming atmosphere, you won't be disappointed. It has high ceilings and all the luxuries you need (TV, minibar, fully equipped bathroom, etc), and you can even play the piano if capable.
You get a feeling of living in an aristocratic duke's house. The breakfast selection was unbelievable (cereals, yoghurt, fruit, bread, sweets and more) and most of all the quality was top-notch. It's in the city centre, and a two-minute walk brings you right to Piazza Navona. The owners are extremely friendly and helpful.
Il Monastero is an apartment in an ancient monastery in a hill top town in Le Marche, a great budget accommodation for a couple wishing to explore the area. Sant'Angelo has two restaurants in the lovely cobbled streets, and amazing views of the Sibillini Mountains.
It's easy to get to the historic towns of art and culture from here - Marche is rich in Benedictine abbeys, well-endowed churches and monasteries and works of art. A particular joy of the area is to be able to look at works of art in churches and galleries in small cities where it is unlikely that there will be any other visitors.
Our friends and family have just enjoyed a weekend of autumn sunshine in this wonderful part of Italy. Halloween was spent dressing up and joining the locals at a disco in the medieval town of Sarnano, Saturday was spent blowing away the cobwebs by hiking along old mule tracks within the awesome Sibillini National Park and on Sunday we all went for lunch at the rifugio or mountain refuge at Monte Amandola.
This is one of a chain of places to eat and stay at high altitude within the park. The food was delicious and included strozzaprete pasta (literally translated as priest strangler pasta) with a truffle and sausage sauce, meats and home made deserts, coffee and wines and all for €13 a head.
We visited La Lucertola during the 2008 Witsun break, in search of a chill-out break in the tranquillity of the Tuscan countryside, but having three grumpy teenagers in tow, it was also important to be close enough to places of interest to keep them amused. What greeted us was an unexpected delight.
Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, high up on a mountainside amidst an ancient olive grove and with stunning views of the surrounding countryside as far as Pisa and the coast beyond, the two self-contained farmhouses at La Lucertola are perfect – large, comfortable and extremely well-equipped. The setting is exquisite and as a bonus, there is the lovingly nurtured organic garden - the produce is available to pick and use, free of charge, by the guests! This proved a particular favourite with our children, who loved going out to pick the salad and herbs for our meals and we returned home with all good intentions of recreating our own Tuscan vegetable patch!
Being less than a 30 minute drive from Pisa airport and with highly competitive rates available on Ryanair flights from London Stansted, La Lucertola is ideally located as a base from which to explore the delights of Tuscany (if you actually choose to leave the peace and tranquillity of your Tuscan home that is).
Living in their own separate farmhouse on site, Luisa and Coz are the perfect hosts and I would like to thank them for allowing us to spend a little time sharing their little piece of Tuscan heaven, where even the rain storms hold a certain charm; it’s very easy to understand why they chose to swap their hectic London life for this! Check out their excellent website for more details.
Via di Cavina, 14
56017 San Giuliano Terme
Tel: 00 39 050 851405
We've just spent a superb weekend in wonderful Autumn sunshine here in Le Marche staying at lovely Villa San Raffaello with its great apartments, amazing views and free organic vegetables.
On Friday we visited the lovely medieval town of Sarnano, ate at the excellent Le Clarrise ristorante in the Centro Storico and then dressed up and joined the locals at L'ex disco for Halloween.
The next morning we had to blow away the cobwebs using the local maps of old mule tracks walking in the fantastic Italian rolling hills, past the heady scent of locals making vino cotto (a cooked wine that was first made by in Roman times), past 13th century churches and a 15th century mill.
On Sunday, fuelled by a desire to eat something local and unpretentious, we hiked into the Sibillini mountains and ate at the rifugio (refuge) at Monte Amandola. This is one of a chain of mountain refuges at around 1500 metres, which walkers can eat, drink and stay at. The food was really tasty and included many seasonal dishes, including strozzaprete (literally priest strangler) pasta with truffle and sausage, and succulent lamb cooked on coals. The bill, including wine, coffee and home made tiramisu, was only €13 a head.
A superb pair of farm cottages providing beautiful views of the leaning tower. Easy access to Lucca and Pisa with a good train service to Florence.
The cottages have every modern facility you need, including a swimming pool.
The owners live on site and provide a friendly information facility and comprehensive support.
An absolutely brilliant location.
Il Monastero is an apartment in an ancient Monastery in a hill top town in Le Marche, a great budget accommodation for a couple wishing to explore the area. Sant'Angelo has 2 restaurants in the lovely cobbled streets, and amazing views of the Sibillini Mountains. Its easy to get to the historic towns of art and culture from here, Marche is rich in Benedictine abbeys, well-endowed churches and monasteries and works of art. A particular joy of the area is to be able to look at works of art in churches and galleries in small cities where it is unlikely that there will be any other visitors.
We have just enjoyed a weekend of wonderful autumn sunshine in this wonderful part of Italy. Halloween was spent dressing up and joining the locals at a disco in the medieval town of Sarnano, Saturday was spent blowing away the cobwebs by hiking along old mule tracks within the awesome Sibillini National Park and on Sunday we all went for lunch at the rifugio or Mountain refuge at Monte Amandola, this is one of a chain of places to eat and stay at high altitude within the park. The food was delicious and included Strozzaprete pasta (literally translated as priest strangler pasta) with a truffle and sausage sauce, meats and home made deserts, coffee and wines and all for €13 a head.
We were staying at lovely Villa San Raffaello a sympathetically restored old Marche farmhouse that has amazing views over medieval Sarnano and the Sibillini Mountains
Great campsite just north of Alghero old town. It's an easy 20-minute walk along the beach into the city centre/port.
Staff are helpful and the loos and showers are clean and well-maintained (with the added luxury of loo roll!) Oddly, there is a big communal barbecue in the midst of all the showers/loos/sinks etc - looks well-used but I'm not sure about the location!
The campsite has a well-stocked shop, which has fresh bread and pastries every morning, and a bar/pizzeria. There's also direct access onto the beach and a little windsurfing centre which offers lesson and board hire.
We camped here in low season when prices were very reasonable but I think it pretty much doubles in high season, when to be honest it would probably be too crowded (as it's the only campsite in Alghero) to be fun. There's space for camper vans and mobile homes and you can also hire little wooden cabins and breeze-block bungalows (which look very basic but fine).
There are slighly battered outdoor chairs and tables dotted around the campsite, for anyone to use. I suspect that in high season these are the subject of fierce wars of possession but in low season they're fairly easy to find. We preferred setting up our meths stove on the beach and eating there, anyway - definitely recommended.
Wouldn't hesitate to return.
Florence holds a sumptuous medieval fireworks festival, the 'explosion of the cart', in piazza del Duomo on Easter Sunday. Almost all museums are open (except on Monday when they tend to close anyway), and there's some of the best open-air sightseeing in Europe, with the piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio and piazzale Michelangelo to visit. Most bars and restaurants have terraces or put tables out (many have canopies in case of rain too!).
It's usually warm to very warm spring weather. You can fly direct to Florence from Gatwick with Meridiana or to Pisa (one hour train ride) from Bristol with Easyjet. Both flights are around two hours.
Osteria Vivaldi was the site of our first dinner in Venice. It was just around the corner from our hotel in San Polo, and there were several families dining there. The tantalising menu is online. The Risotto di pesce was a highlight! It was a great restaurant and not very expensive. I'd definitely go there again.
san polo 1457
Osteria Vivaldi is located on the Calle della Madonnetta in San Polo. You can reach it from the Rialto vaporetto platforms or, more conveniently, from the No. 1 vaporetto's San Silvestro stop
This hotel started as a co-operative although it is very professionally run. It is located on the side of the mountain with fantastic views over the valley below from all the rooms and terraces.
This is the place to stay if you enjoy climbing, walking and being close to nature and even in the height of summer the air was refreshingly cool. Many different activities can be organised from the hotel to enjoy the mountain scenery and it is also a good base to visit the town of Nuoro and the murals at Orgosolo.
The restaurant is also very popular, especially at the weekends, and serves pizzas and Sardinian specialities. It's a good place to eat even if you're not staying here, although you would need to book at the weekend.
The rooms are clean and comfortable with wooden furniture and some open directly onto a large balcony. We paid around €75 for a double room including breakfast.
Cooperativa Turistica ENIS, Monte Maccione - 08025 Oliena
You can see more photos and read my review on my blog here
Orosei is a pleasant small town on the eastern coast of Sardinia and worth a visit for its shady squares, old churches and winding old town alleyways.
In medieval times it was a prosperous port but over the centuries the river silted up and left it marooned 3km from the sea.
You should definitely take a look at the church of Sant'Antonio off Piazza Sant'Antonio. It dates from the 15th century and is set in a courtyard with a square stone Pisan tower and small dwellings where pilgrims and travellers once stayed.
The church interior has been modernised but there are some colourful medieval frescos on the walls which have been preserved and in front of the altar you can see the old painted tiled floor which is a couple of feet below the current floor level.
Chiesa Sant'Antonio, Piazza Sant'Antonio, Orosei
You can see my photos and description of the church on
Just an excellent hotel and staff. Great location and proximity to rail station. Lots of restaurants close by. Very clean. 2 mins walk to Metro. Its location near to the termini proved to be very handy as we got a train from the airport. Would definitely recommend and would not hesitate to return. Good value and highly recommended.
Hotel Felice, via Tiburtina 30
We had a brilliant holiday at Nicolas Inn in Rome. Lovely rooms and the staff was very warm. The location is ideal, just a few minutes from the Coliseum.
They gave us priceless information on how to avoid the queues - go to the Vatican Museum in the afternoon. Every piece of research stated that we needed to arrive early or wait in line. We took the advice and went to the basilica first and arrived at the museum at 1.30pm. We walked in without a queue. Brilliant! To think we almost avoided the Sistine Chapel due to the horrible queues.
If you're visiting the eastern coast of Sardinia and fancy a change from the crowded beaches of the coast in high season, swimming in river pools is a tranquil alternative.
We found a wonderful cool pool to swim in on the way to the well known gorge of Gola di Gorroppu.
You drive from Dorgali towards Gola di Gorroppu and park the car when the track runs out, then cross the footbridge and walk on the right of the river in the direction of the gorge.
After about 15 minutes, the path forks - the right fork will lead you past a barrier into the national park and on towards the gorge, the left fork leads you downhill towards the river, where you can find big boulders and deep river pools to swim in.
After fighting our way through the crowded beaches in August it made a refreshing change, but sadly we didn't quite make the gorge which is a sight in itself.
On the way back, just short of the Dorgali road, you might like to stop for a drink or meal at the hotel Sant'Elene which serves Sardinian specialities and has a terrace with an amazing view over the valley.
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