Want to go to Venice but afraid of the hotel prices there? Stay in Mestre and commute to Venice each day. We did and found it fascinating to jump on a bus each morning and go to Venice with the workers. The view of Venice from a bus on the causeway is certainly different.
If you're arriving at San Marco airport, do splash out the 12 euros to get the blue line Alilaguna boat to your nearest stop. Day or night it's the only way to arrive, but once you're there, enjoy Venice most by just walking and getting lost in the quieter backstreets, and seeing a glimpse of what's left of the life of a diminishing non-tourist resident population. Small shops, bars, galleries and markets will welcome you.
Try Arsenale or around Campo Santa Margherita and the beautiful Del Frari Church for a start. If it's raining or misty, so much the better. If it's December, the Christmas market near Accademia Bridge will warm you up. For half a euro cross the canal by shared traghetti gondala and stand like the locals.
Then have a map handy for use in emergencies only
Far from the madding crowd, yet only 30 minutes from central Florence is San Giovanni Valdarno, a delightful, small medieval town in the heart of Tuscany, unstressed by tourists and traffic, where it is still possible to savour the taste of Italian daily life. Il Sillabo is a gem of a school, family owned and operated, that really makes students feel at home. Extra classes in History of Art, Drawing and Painting, Italian Literature, as well as fantastic food and wine.
La Caravella is a historic restaurant in Venice, the decor recalls the famous vessel, but with an elegant touch. In summer the restaurant serves its delicious dishes in a typical Venetian courtyard. It's a first class restaurant with great dishes (turbot, filet of beef, risotto, pasta) and wide selection of wines. Cost is not obviously on the cheap side, however it is among the less expensive, considering restaurants of the same level, or even of a lower consideration! Remember to make a reservation especially on weekends.
La Caravella is on via XXII Marzo,
refer to its website
Yes! It's a shoe museum. Besides showcasing the history of Ferragamo, there are lots of stills of famous customers and their shoe-lasts. Some surprises, like Anna Magnani.
via de' tornabuoni 2
An outfit calling itself RomeCityApartments has many hidden charges. Beware of them and don't believe you will get any service or what you expected or even paid for. The airport car we had paid them to collect us did not show up and then after abuse from them we were forced to pay an extra 50 euros for arriving to their office late. They were the only bad thing about our week in Rome.
Florence and Tuscany in general are two of the best Italian regions where you can take part in active and outdoor sports.
The best path is the 'Via Francigena', an historical itinerary leading to Rome from Canterbury.
The main attractions to see are:
- Val d’Elsa (presented in the books of Dante and Boccaccio)
- San Gimignano (declared by UNESCO to be part of the 'World's Architectural Heritage')
- The Chianti region
I felt perfectly comfortable during my stay in Venice. We were a group of people and our trip was arranged by a local tour operator that I found surfing the net. I contacted them by email and accommodation and all ground services were perfectly organised (boat trip to the islands, restaurants, guide and museums). Since I was the leader of a group of 23 people I felt a bit stressed until our vacation was over, but now I can tell you that it was brilliant! So do not miss the boat trip to Murano, Burano and Torcello, and ask for a trip off the beaten track... far and away from the crowds. They can handle it!
We had much fun taking the olive oil tasting tour combined with a wine-tasting tour in southern Tuscany escorted by a very nice man, Carlo!
We thank Gloria and Marcel, owners of Casina di Rosa (www.casinadirosa.it) for recommending this fun activity. Don't miss it if you go to Siena or the Maremma.
If you fancy a bit of a change of food while in Alghero then Ko De Kap Sushi and vegetarian cafe is fantastic. The modern decor is great, staff really friendly and food delicious.
It's closed Mondays and limited menu on Tuesday lunchtimes. They also do takeaway. We were really pleased to find it - sure this is a top tip for an area where the range of types of food is a bit limited; especially for veggies.
Via Asfodelo 35, Alghero. It's opposite the marina; you can see the sign if you look across the road and on the other side of a large car park.
My family, that is myself, my wife and three grown up children took the overnight sleeper from Paris Bercy to Verona for the remarkable price of £26 each.
You have to book in advance for this and there are limited places at this price. Whist the accommodation is somewhat basic, we had a six berth-compartment, its hard to imagine getting any sort of accommodation at that rate in Paris, let alone one that allows you to wake the next morning in the land of Romeo and Juliet.
A second tip, take your own butties and drink onto the train- those sold on board are expensive.
Venice by train is the ultimate arrival. Across the lagoon and then out of the station onto the Grand Canal.
Don't take too many bags, because your next destination has to be reached by vaporetto (waterbus), motoscafo (watertaxi) or gondola!
The city of Venice is easily reached from Paris by train using the overnight service out of Bercy station.
If your an adventurous type, the campsite at Mistre on the mainland overlooking Venice old town is ideal and with great facilities.
It even has its own boat service to the old city. If the boat works out a bit pricey, buses from Mistre campsite take you to Mistre transport exchange, from which a five minute ride by train or bus takes you to the heart of Venice proper- couldn't be easier.
A beautiful old Tuscan farm at the top of a hill. Great views of the surrounding countryside and the medieval village of Casole d`Elsa. Private garden and swimming pool.
Lovely gallery in a superb location specialising in modern and Ligurian art, with possibly the friendliest staff ever.
We arrived to be told it was closed (out of season), but instead of that being that, the staff had a little chat between themselves and decided that it would be OK for us to go and look at everything anyway.
They gave us a book, got the caretaker and he proceeded to take us up to where every piece of art they owned was in storage! Hung on rollers in a vast space in the attic.
No way would they have the space to show everything in the museum, yet they let two tourists have the run of the place. Great fun and a truly once in a lifetime experince. The sort of thing that only the owners and workers of galleries get to do.
Via J. Ruffini 3, Genova
Only a few minutes from the railway station, bus station and Vaparetto stops, but tucked down a quiet alleyway.
The price is good (85 Euros for a single ensuite, 110 for a double) and the rooms, though small, are comfortable and spotless. Recommended for those on a budget who want a no-frills but pleasant place to stay in Venice.
I booked through www.venere.com but other agencies list the hotel as well.
Cannaregio 219 - Calle Gioacchina, Lista di Spagna, Venezia, Italia 30121. Turn left out of the train station down Lista di Spagna. The hotel is down a small alleyway about 3/4 of the way down.
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