The gem of this town is of course the Town Hall Square, or Piazza del Comune: the cathedral, the comune and the battistero are all located there, and I think it's one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, even if it's not famous.
We stayed at the Villa San Raffaello for our first family holiday in Italy. The Villa has recently undergone extensive renovation and refurbishment and now has four spacious self-catering apartments. There is still plenty of exposed original stonework and wooden beams and ceilings to remind you of the heritage of the place.
We stayed in apartment Elisa - a first floor apartment comprising double bedroom, twin bedroom, bathroom, lounge and modern kitchen and dining room. Access is via the courtyard with jasmine plants growing up the walls. The great feature of this apartment is the balcony and breakfast area which is accessed from the lounge. We spent most mornings having our breakfast here together (and evenings when the children were asleep!). You look down upon the beautiful courtyard below, but best of all are the stunning views across to the medieval hill-top town of Sarnano a couple of miles away, with the backdrop of the spectacular Sibillini Mountains and National park. The view changed every hour!
The huge swimming pool was a massive hit with the children and came in very handy during the heat of the day to cool down.
We hired a car from Ancona Airport which was an absolute must, but make sure you check the cost of hiring child car seats in advance. We visited the stunning Lake Fiastra, 25 mins away up and over the top of the mountains (remember the roads in the Italian Job?).
Also visited the Roman town and ruins at Urbisaglia, the market at Macerata and fully explored the town of Sarnano. We found we could have a two-course meal with wine for around €15 a head.
We can recommend the 'Osteria scherzi a parte' a great little restaurant 15 mins up the mountain road from Sarnano to Sassotetto, the local ski resort (yes, you can do some skiing here too!).
We will definitely be returning to the Villa San Raffaello some time soon. Damien and Sharon, the owners, were extremely welcoming and invaluable for their local information, suggestions for walks and sightseeing, markets and help with the language, both being fluent in the local lingo!
One and a half hour drive from Ancona Airport (Ryanair fly there from Stansted).
A friend of mine and I decided to book travel in Italy through our local tourist agency here in France. Probably this web agency had been helped by an Italian local tour operator that arranged us the whole trip.
Services and hotel were provided by them: we enjoyed Rome and our stay in Italy very much. If you are a group of people and you need help in finding a hotel or a special itinerary, just contact them via mail or by phone call.
Last, but not least, their website is absolutely amazing!
Missing Italia | Local Tour Operator
Me and my wife booked by a web site, RoomsAccomodation, customer service was attentive and enormous efforts were made. We talked with them by skype and by mail
to reserve a perfect pick up service from the airport with a blue Mercedes, they also gave us tips about restaurants, (Hostaria de Pegno near Piazza Navona) nightlife, and sightseeng.
About the hotel La griffe - it's beautifully done and still very comfortable (fashionable and friendly). The location, in Via Nazionale, is great and the staff are first rate. If you can get a good
room rate, (with Rooms Accomodation we payed 375 € (special offer). I think this is a nice hotel for both the business and leisure traveller.
That's a hotel reservation service, we booked hotel La Griffe in Via Nazionale, they gave us the lowest rate.
Rome's zoo is being gradually improved and has been renamed the Bioparco. A greater emphasis is now being placed on its ecological and environmental credentials. I visited it on a Wednesday afternoon. Apart from three Russians who asked me for directions to the exit, I was the only visitor. I think the animals were glad to see me. If you like wolves there are lots here. Very wolfish and sleek. Apart from its intrinsic merits, it's one of the few places in Rome where you can get away from the crowds.
Viale del Giardino Zoologico. Trams 3 and 19, plus a short walk.
There are many reasons for taking the trouble to queue and shuffle through the museum and to continue on to the Sistine Chapel. For although the droves of other people, some of whom have a scanty understanding of why they're there (I know, I asked them!), can make the visit pretty stressful, the sight of the Sistine Chapel and especially the work of Michelangelo is entirely worth it.
This palace contains a wonderful collection of paintings and sculpture, set in galleries of the most sumptuous rococo design. Parts of the building are still used by members of the original family and the entire collection has the strong sense of having been bought and assembled by a succession of discerning individuals. The "star" of this great show is undoubtedly the Velasquez portrait of Pope Innocent X.
Piazza del Collegio Romano, Rome.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS HOTEL in Bergamo's Citta Alta. It has a One am curfew. They were not flexible AT ALL about negotiating this and refused to give us a key. On two occassions, over a long weekend break we had to leave friends early to make sure we were allowed back in. Some bars in the Citta Alta seemed to carry on untill at least three am. - with people of all ages strolling about the street outside our hotel enjoying themselves. Because we were there for a friend's wedding and there was also a cycling event that weekend we found it impossible to look for or find alternative accomodation at such short notice. If you like spontaneity then this is not the place to stay.
Citta Alta,Bergamo, Italy
This is a great B&B near Amantea, in the centre of Calabria located in Cleto. The friendly proprietor is a sculptor and everything about the house and grounds reflects his professional skills. This B&B offers free bike hire, ping-pong table and internet. Outside there is a wonderful sitting-pool with a fountain. I felt absolutely fantastic there.
Via Piano Prato. 1 Cleto, Cosenza.
Tel: 0039 0982 4403
Venice Cream is a gelato shop located right on the canal between the Arsenale boat stop and San Marco square. You should avoid this shop at all costs.
I requested a taste of the gelato & was handed "chocolate" gelato that was terrible. When I requested a different flavor, the owner became obviously upset, and very reluctantly gave me my taste of mint gelato. Just as I was about to have a taste, I glanced in the case & noticed numerous bugs & flies on the front edge of the cooler. When I pointed them out to him, he became angry & began to yell at me in Italian. I was amazed that he would be angry with me when his shop clearly had major cleanliness issues. Nonetheless, he continued to yell and waved me out of his shop, still yelling as I walked away.
For cleanliness sake, I would avail myself of one of the dozens of other gelato shops around Venice. So many of them are wonderful (and CLEAN) and the people are very friendly. Unfortunately, Venice Cream is not one of them.
On the canal between Arsenale boat stop & San Marco square, near the Metropole Hotel.
Please beware of people trying to overcharge you for taxi fares from the airport. I booked an apartment through the website www.feelhomeinrome.com and they booked me a taxi for 65 Euros. I only found out later, when the taxi didn't turn up for the return journey and I had to hail a cab from one of the main streets, that the official charge is 30 Euros to the inner city. You can also get a bus for eight Euros to termini.
By the way, even though the apartment was good, I wouldn't recommend feelhomeinrome.com as they apply hidden charges for cleaning the apartment and work with a dodgy taxi company that is charging more than double the official fare.
The Yellow is a funky hostel close to termini, I recommend it just because of the great time I had there. They've got a brand new reception and a cool bar with cheap drinks for guests.
I've stayed all over Europe and the States in hostels and this place is at the top of my list.
HUB is an English speaking restaurant and bar serving some of the best Italian food and wine (like the local Montepulciano) at very affordable prices.
It is on the first two floors of a striking modern building. Its beautiful outside terrazza is furnished with cosy white sofas and chairs and the view from there is pretty amazing. At aperitivo time, around 7pm, people like chilling there with some of the best cocktails ever. Great music all day long.
HUB is also 10 minutes away from the beach and only a 30 minute drive from the mountains and national parks. Children and families welcome.
HUB is in Pescara near the new Tribunal. Telephone 085 4554999 www.hub.pe.it
This the best agency you can find in Florence to rent or buy apartments and villas. Their service is outstanding. The owner is bilingual, knows how people "think" in the US and can help you deal with all the cultural differences and the problems you would certainly find if you wanted to rent or buy properties in Italy. Simply The Best.
Very acceptable 4-star hotel. Great for exploring Padova, but even better for visiting Venice by train (30-40 minutes) to avoid paying crazy prices to stay in that city.
Wonderful detective novels set in Venice. Donna Leon is an American author living in Venice and her observations of the city and her affection for it couldn't be put to better use. Her books made me feel like I knew Venice before I got there and in fact give you some good tips if you want to experience Venice like a Venetian and not a tourist. Her descriptions of food will make your mouth water!
Any good book shop.
It tastes better in Venice than anywhere else. Have it as a mid-morning ombra with cicheti (small snacks in bars) or as an aperitif or with your dolci or just for the sake of it. Best drunk standing outside in the sunshine watching the world go by.
All over Venice!
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