A brilliant way to get into fantastic situations amongst some of the most dramatic, spectacular and beautiful mountains in the Alps.
The via ferratas are protected routes, or climbs, with fixed cables and some ladders and bridges which allow you to get to places normally reserved for rock climbers.
Even so some experience and mountain sense is needed, as well as the correct equipment that can be easily hired.
Arabba is one centre that gives access to a range of routes.
They are graded to degrees of difficulty.
Others are Cortina and Corvara.
One way to get there is to fly to Venice/Treviso followed by a relatively short drive north.
Essential reading are Volumes 1 and 2 of 'Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites' by John Smith and Graham Fletcher and published by Cicerone.
Arabba Tourist Office, Via Boè 3, Arabba, I 32020, Italy.
Tel: 39 0 436 791 30
Cortina d'Ampezzo Tourist Office, P.tta San Francesco 8, Cortina dAmpezzo, I-32043, Italy. Tel: 39 0436 3231/2/3/4/5.
There are a number of alta vias - literally high ways - across the Dolomites. AV2 is among the tougher: a two week trek from Bressanone in the North West to Feltre in the South East.
Accommodation is available throughout the walk in rifugi (mountain huts) (booking recommended in August) - no tent required. Some of the most outstanding walking in Europe (if not the world) -the Puez-Odler national park, Sella massif and Pale di San Martino all present unforgettable views.
Male is an good base for exploring the Brenta Dolomites (walking or via ferrata), more soul and local flavour than Madonna di Campiglio. Excellent public transport (Ferrovia Trento-Male train).
Extensive ski resort stretching over three stations between 1,200m and 1,800m.
Has two ski schools, hotels, restaurants and lodges.
Compared with other more "international" resorts it is great value for money.
50 mins north of Milan Bergamo airport. Resort guide in English at
For activities, unspoilt nature and dramatic scenery.
A 16km lake nestled into the lower Alps, with the largest inland Island in Europe.
Ferry boats, windsurfing, golf, canoeing, multi-pool complex and many other activities.
Value for money and no tourist bussle.
Just north of Bergamo (Milan Bergamo airport is a Ryanair hub). Activities guide www.monticolo.it/activitieslakeiseovallecamonica.html
Beautiful forested national park up in the Apennines.
In late June we felt we virtually had the national park to ourselves.
Wildlife is protected here so, unusually for southern Europe, you will (if you're quiet and alert!) actually see wild boar, deer, as well as numerous butterflies, wild flowers...
Refreshingly cooler up in the mountains too.
40km east of Florence. You can fly Ryanair to Forli then drive 30km south to pretty town of St Sofia which is on the edge of the national park.
Directions on the official website: www.parks.it/parco.nazionale.for.casentinesi/Earr.html
Homely yet sophisticated Tuscan food in a family setting.
Mountain fare can be a bit turgid but this is wonderful: carpaccio of newly-picked mushrooms with lemon, pasta with hare sauce, guinea-fowl in marsala, fresh home made apple pie...
Down-to-earth presentation; food to die for.
We sampled about ten restaurants in around the national park and this is head and shoulders the best.
Moggiona di Poppi
Tel: 0575 556080
Le Marche's hills roll in from the Adriatic and reach the Sibillini mountains. A national park has been created to protect this awesome high section of the Appenines and its flora and fauna which includes wolves, golden eagles, wild boar and porcupines.
In Spring the area is carpeted in a rainbow of wild flowers. In summer you can swim or eat at tavernas round the shore of a lake; walk through cool gorges that dissect the mountains; and cycle or walk the paths that cross the ridges at 2,000m.
There are an abundance of fascinating medieval hill towns with museums and great ristorante serving up great value meals.
A great base for the area is Sarnano; which has 20 ristorante, a ski resort nearby, a variety of bars and stunning views.
Sarnano is in Macerata region of Le Marche and can be reached via Ancona and Pescara airports.
not sure if this is the best place for this but here goes...
i'm constantly surprised to hear complaints of people travelling with kids and i really don't understand why. obviously the more you travel, the better they get at it (practice makes perfect), but for those who are still having problems i offer this piece of advice.
we travelled to rome last easter (2007) and had a wonderful visit. we underestimated the time we would have liked there, hey that's rome for you, we were there a week and it was way too short, so we'll be going back again soon.
i must say that we have cracked it traveling with kids; ours, both girls are 13 and 10. rather than choose a hotel where we have to eat out 3 times a day, plus typically the room is too small to spend any time in, we've been experimenting with apartment rentals.
we were lucky enough to find romecityapartments.com on google, they have a range of private apartments that they rent out by days/weeks. we rang to explain our needs and were recommended several options, and ended up going for an apartment in the middle of trastevere with a lovely balcony overlooking a typical roman lane, with just a few other neighbours in the block. there were 4 of us but we decided to play it safe and go for a place that sleeps 6 just to have that extra bit of space, and the prices are very reasonable so i didn't feel we were being "extravagant". (my wife, bless her, keeps a pretty close eye on our spending!)
we were able to have breakfast in each morning, stroll out into the street and be right in the middle of the action (all major sites are within walking distance). we'd see the sites stopping for the odd cappuccino, have lunch in a really nice restaurant, see more sights, then stop on our way home to pick up supplies for dinner. we had the evening to put our feet up ad play with the kids, then a quiet dinner in and an early night; essential if you're planning lots of sightseeing the next day.
we managed this pace for a week quite easily, and the kids had a ball. they are very good travelers but, like anyone, will get ratty if their needs are ignored.
so we had a great time, were very comfortable, and spent way less than we would have on a 4 star hotel, didn't have to think about using a car, and really relaxed while seeing the city.
(and many thanks to the folk at rome city apartments for their advice and good service. our apartment was called the 'eternity'.)
it's all about space, allowing for the kids' interests, breaking up activities, seeing the sights BUT still having time with them. sadly i think it's not far off that our 13 y.o. will prefer to spend more time with her pals than her parents, but we'll push on for the moment and keep our fingers crossed!
and good luck to all parents!
Pitch your tent among the pine trees. There’s a restaurant, cafe, disco and shop, but this is a peaceful place close to an ancient theatre and other archeological sites and there’s a vast sandy beach.
0039 922 846023, www.eracleaminoavillage.it
Lake Iseo, with Monte Isola, southern Europe's largest lake island, is Italy's best kept secret and behind it is Valle Camonica with skiing, rivers and more lakes.
Easy to get to, lots to do, not expensive and unspoilt.
Just north east of Bergamo (Ryan air hub for Italy) see
The restaurants in the area range from special (grand) to rustic but all are so friendly and reasonable. With the town of Sarnano only 15 minutes' walk from the villa, an evening sampling the fine wines (local) can be undertaken with no drink drive problems.
Damien and Sharon, the hosts, will babysit by arrangement. The villa is in a dreamy setting and another goody is to drive into town and pick up pizzas and eat in the cool cortile of the villa.
One and a half hours' drive from Ancona airport. Villa San Raphaello.278 via case Rosse, Sarnano, Le Marche Italy Tel: 0044 733 657 945, mobile 0044 3402610288. villasanraffaello.com
Living in Le Marche and having sampled the great ristorante there, where you eat well and spend little "mangia bene spende poco", I wanted to share a few tips on where to eat out...
You will probably notice different names for restaurants apart from ristorante, such as "osteria", "trattoria", "agriturismo" and "pizzeria", but rest assured that all serve up a range of great Italian flavours to savour at about €15 a head, or €7 at a pizzeria.
Sarnano itself is well served by numerous ristorante and pizzerias. Our favourites are listed below plus a few seleced others. Please note that it is worth booking in advance as they will often prepare extra dishes. To ask to book a table for 4 or 6 people at 8 o'clock tomorrow, say “Vorrei prenotare una tavola per domani sera alle otto per quattro  / sei  persone”.
Il Jolly, Sarnano
Tel: 0733 657571.
An agriturismo lying on the left of the SS78, 2km towards Amandola. Relaxed atmosphere, good antipasti. Try the truffle tagliatelle. Has outdoor space: useful if you have children who like to play while you eat.
Ai Pini, Sarnano
Tel: 0733 657183
Good little trattoria in the centre of town. Excellent pastas and meats, and very well priced.
If you enter Sarnano from Amandola, take the left turn just before the main piazza, head down the hill and turn right by the bakers. Go through the arch and its on your left.
But wear sunglasses to reduce the effect of the paintwork!
Osteria Scherzi a Parte, Sarnano
Tel: 0733651 244.
Very convivial atmosphere created by the owner Gabrielle, who speaks English and will translate the many lovely dishes.
Take the right turning for Sassotetto at the main piazza and drive for about 4-5 km up towards the mountains - its on the left at a big right hand bend. Closed Wedensdays.
La Marchigiana, Sarnano
Tel: 0733 658 090.
Impressive ristorante with varied antipasti, good first courses and meats cooked alla braccia/flame grilled. Try the Cinghiale in Salmi (wild boar and olives in a robust sauce).
Drive through Sarnano and out the other side toward Macerata: it’s about 1km out on the right. Closed Fridays.
Bar Sassotetto, Sarnano
Excellent Pizza with very fresh ingredients. Try the Bresaola (cured beef, with fresh rocket and Parmesan). Takeaways available.
The green building opposite the park. Closed Wednesdays.
Il Pincio, Sarnano
Just out of Sarnano, 200m towards Macerata. Good Pizzas/pasta and an excellent Tiramisu.
Da Marino, Sarnano
Buzzing bar with pool table, jukebox and video games. Serves up a mean pizza and is very reasonable. Takeaways available.
Turn left into the piazza, then turn right and it's on your left.
Le Logge, Urbisaglia
Tel: 0733 506788.
In the town of Urbisaglia on the hill by the castle. Unusual menu includes goose & duck plus a lamb and wine risotto. A bit more upmarket and the food is great. Closed Wednesdays.
La Selva, Abbadia di Fiastra
At the monastery there is a pizzeria/osteria La Selva that has an interesting menu with a good choice of game and a well-stocked cellar at tremendous prices.
Open every day in Summer.
Ristorante Chiaroscuro, Belforte/Tolentino
Tel: 0733 905499.
If you fancy pushing the boat out and eating somewhere very stylish and ultra-modern then this comes highly recommended. The food is only a euro or two more expensive per dish, but its all mouthwatering, the service is the tops and the delicacies are all served up with a dash of panache.
The antipasti is amazing, the first courses vary from tagliatelle with a goose ragu to Radicchio and Sea Bass Risotto. The meats, fish and panacottas are also tremendous.
It also has a very good wine cellar. Expect to pay €20-€25.
Take the road out of Sarnano and after 5km turn left for Caldarola/Tolentino. Follow this road for 5 minutes and fork right to Belforte/Tolentino. Travel for a further 6-7 minutes and at the T-junction turn right. After another 3 or 4 minutes you will see the ristorante on your left up on a hill just before a big roundabout. Closed Sunday nights & Mondays.
Ristorante da Sandro, Caldarola
Tel: 0733 905183.
Situated in a small piazza just beyond the main one in Caldarola, this is a lovely spot and serves up very robust food at amazing prices.
Da Rosa, Macerata
Great trattoria at 17 Via Armaroli, described by an Observer critic as his favourite restaurant in the world! Modern twists on local dishes adding culinary surprises here and there. Good wines. Closed Sundays.
Osteria Pigliapochi, Macerata Tel: 0733506788
Vicolo della Rota 8, off Corso Republica, near Teatro Rossi. Cosy old Osteria with well priced sumptuous local food.
Closed weekends at lunchtime.
If you want a great place to stay whilst sampling these, I recommend Villa San Raffaello just outside Sarnano: www.villasanraffaello.com/
Small hotel at Agrigento Sicily with private car park 2km from the beach 4km from the vally of the temples, comfortable and peacefull,all you need for a stay with local culture,hospitality and tradition.
Double rooms from 45 euro.
A family run place.
Great 4 stars hotel with nice location and very polite staff, I stayed there 2 weeks ago for 3 days on vacation, The Hotel Saturnia is a family run hotel with very traditional decor and rooms, however if you like something more modern you have the possibility to choose from the 93 rooms (some are single...)
This combined ticket covers the Duomo, Baptistery, Opera dell' Duomo (museum), Duomo Crypt and St Bernard Oratory.
It works particularly well if you buy the ticket at the Baptistery as the queues there are shorter (and it opens earlier than the Duomo itself).
You then have time to look at the Baptistery, and walk round to the west end of the Duomo for the opening time of 10:30.
There is a priority entry system for ticket-holders, so if you time it well you can get into the Duomo before the main rush starts and have a few moments to appreciate the scale of the building in peace.
Despite the impression given by the map which comes with the ticket, the St Bernard Oratory is right over the other side of town by the Basilica of St Francesco. However the remainder of the sites are all clustered around the Duomo itself.
Baptistery of Siena (at the east end of the Duomo)
Spent a week in a ground-floor apartment in this impressive villa with views you dream about.
The hilltop town of Sarnano with the backdrop of the Sibilini mountains is just wonderful and only 10 minutes' drive away. Taking a dip in the pool and looking straight out to the view is magic.
Will definitely be going back and probably experience one of the other apartments, perhaps the one with the balcony.
We hired a car from Hertz at Ancona airport. The address is 278 via Case Rosse
Macerata Le Marche www.villasanraffaello.com
In Sicily there are three big natural areas and other little ones.
The first one in the Etna Park. Mount Etna is not only a volcano - it also has a lot of paths and trekking opportunities. The best ones are the excursions on the summit craters on the south side starting from Rifugio Sapienza in Nicolosi (Catania).
The second park is the Nebrodi Mounts. This is between Messina and Catania. This park is full of forests the most known is the "Bosco di Malabotta". The park is a little less accessible so it's advised to use a four-wheel drive vehicle and take a good map.
The latest park is the park of the Alcantara river. This is a river formed in a lava eruption thousand years ago. The river is walkable.
Etna Park - Nicolosi (Catania)
Nebrodi Park - Between Messina and Catania
Alcantara River - Near Francavilla di Sicilia (Very near to Taormina)
The nearest station for Etna Park is the Circumetnea. From here, a rail road goes around Etna and its villages. You can take it in the Catania central railways station (Piazza della Repubblica) or in the Station of Giarre if you come from Messina by train.
More info here:
The hotel (4 stars), located in Bologna city centre, is the wonderful result of
an accurate restoration just completed.
Every room is fully decorated with original "a fresco" decorations in liberty style. It offers congress room, fitness, restaurant. I enjoyed it a lot!
Via Indipendenza 69
40121 Bologna - italy
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