Varese Ligure has three restaurants, all excellent (and cheap) and two pizzeria both very good. Varese Ligure, of course, boasts its own cooking, and the best place to experience this is at the Hotel Dei Amici, a family run place, with delightful laid back charm.
Hotel Dei Amici: www.viaggiaedormi.it/eng/scheda.php?id=15344&plu=1&az=
A delightful converted monastary in one of the old passageways of this delightful whitewashed hilltop town. Cool rooms and a stone's throw from the main piazza, the winding streets and restaurants.
Eat exquisite regional food in the myriad of open air restaurants. The Vecchia Ostuni is reccomended. Sip cocktails in the main square for 5 euros and don't miss the weekend passagiata for posing in the latest fashions.
For a day at the beach (10kms) drive down to the blue Adriatic, hire a lounger and umbrella for 8 euros and gaze into the blue horizon, drinking ice cold Peroni from the beach bar.
Italian perfection, and minimum Brits.
+39 0831 336651/2
Il Sasso is a language school offering courses in Italian for adult learners at all levels and of all ages. Classes are small and fun.
The teachers, all local, are excellent. I have been there three times and the highlights have been: meeting students from all over the world, staying with a local family and having wonderful food, enjoying the local music and wine festivals, going on visits to Montalcino, Sienna, Cortona and Arezzo, and simply living in such a beautiful place.
For me it has been the best way of getting to know a part of Italy well.
Il Sasso, Via di Gracciano nel Corso, 2
I-53045 Montepulciano (Siena)
Tel.: 0039 0578 758311
Fax: 0039 0578 757547
Nearest station: Chiusi.
Nearest airports: Pisa, Florence, Rome.
Stayed at the very reasonable Appartamento Piazza Re di Roma over new year. Really liked the area, San Giovanni, only a handful of tube stops from the Spanish Steps and 'walkable' to the Forum and Colosseum - preferable to staying bang in the centre. Friendly and helpful landlady.
The Palatine Hill, located beside the Forum, is definitely worth a visit, and a great place to grab a break in Rome.
Also, go there before you visit the Colosseum, as the ticket is valid for both places - this means you can avoid the lenghty queues at the Colosseum.
It was like a burst of sunshine and all that I had hoped for. A relaxed and fun holiday set in the Sabine Hills just north of Rome. Cooking lessons, luxury accomodation, a stroll through an olive grove and a day trip to Rome. Eating the fabulous food and wine tasting really topped it off. Our host, Sally, and the chef, Guido really looked after us.
If you're new to Rome, and have no idea where to start, I recommend swallowing your pride and getting a ticket for one of the Big Bus Sightseeing Tours. These can be purchased at the main bus terminus in Rome. Once you're on the bus, you'll be taken round ALL of the sights, and you can hop on and off etc. And no, I don't work for this company, and this isn't a marketing ploy; I just found it an invaluable way to plan your attack on this beautiful city.
Main Bus Station - Rome
Do you Brits ever go anywhere except Tuscany, Venice and Rome?
Skip those tired, overrated and overpriced places and try Sicily. Besides spectacularly beautiful landscapes, the island offers some of the best, most interesting and unusual food to be found anywhere in Italy.
If you want outstanding pastry and gelato, then Pasticceria Scardaci in Catania is a must. The pistacchio gelato is reason enough for a trip. Fantastic locally grown pistacchios, in a superb gelato base - It is to die for. Try the wonderful pastries, too, especially the sheep milk ricotta cannoli, biscotti, and crostate.
Scardaci's also is a great place to hang out while enjoying your gelato or pastry and espresso and mingling with the hip and young crowd (many students and artsy types) often to be found there.
V. S. Maddalena 80
If you're in Rome make sure you take a day or afternoon trip out to Ostia Antica (30 mins by train). It was the ancient port city of the Roman Empire & when the river silted up it was abandoned and the silt preserved the city beautifully. What's left is a huge ghost-town several miles inland with amphitheatre, apartment blocks, forum, bath houses and villas.
You can enter and walk around most buildings - even go upstairs and walk in gardens - and there are few of the restrictions you'll find in Pompeii. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the place was spookily almost deserted.
In the summer, the amphitheatre often hosts open air performances of folk and opera. A real find. Plus you can round off the day with a swim with the surf girls and boys at Rome's funky beach suburb, Ostia, a train stop away at Lido Centro.
Take the (very shabby)overland from Piramide/ Ostiense towards C. Colombo or Lido Centro. Costs about 3 Euros.
Bosa is a beautiful little town just inland on the western coast of Sardinia. Although it is about 5km up river from the sea, it has the atmosphere of a harbour town, as local fishermen bring their boats right into town to moor them on the banks of the river. There are several beautiful beaches nearby which are easily reached on bike, bus or car, and the food is to die for. I'd especially recommend staying at the Agriturismo Bainas which is a short walk out of town. It is a very scenic spot at this organic farm and it is very relaxing sitting out on the veranda watching the friendly farmer weeding amongst the artichokes and aubergines.
For Agriturismo Bainas email Ernesto at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 00 338 2090967. They don't speak much English though so brush up on your Italian before you call!
Santo Spirito, as i think a few have pointed out, gives you a welcome breather from the tourists yet it can only be a hundred yards from the Ponte Vechhio.
It is popular with students and with the locals (nearby are some delis and whatnot so you actually see Florentines) and comes to life after nine or so in the evening.
At the top of the square is Brunelleschi’s spectacular church - as well as having a crucifix by a very young Michelangelo, it was studied and admired by many including Da Vinci and it is easy to see why. It is especially pretty when the facade is lit at night.
There are a few restaurants and a couple of bars in the square, the type of spots where, if you drink too many amerettos, they give you a tequilla on the house - the atmosphere is friendly at all of them.
Istayed at Antica Dimora with a friend but it would be especially nice to go there romantically - ask for a room with a little balcony. You can watch (and listen!) to the market being set up in the morning. The rooms are huge with lovely wooden beams and, maybe vaguely kitsch decor but it feels like you’ve been to Firenze! It’s a short back street walk to the wonderful, wonderful Bobili gardens too.
piazza santo spirito no.9
t. +39 055 2658376
The Palatine Hill is next to the Roman Forum in central Rome. Access is via the Forum but most people tend to bypass it due to the 8 euro (approx) entry fee. But it is well worth it especially in high season when the forum is heaving to breaking point with tired tour guides shouting over each other about 'interesting' ancient Rome stories.
The Palantine Hill is quiet by comparison and the ruins are set amongst pleasant settings. Being away from the crowds allows for a more authentic picture of ancient Rome with some buildings in tact. Great for an early evening stroll (check opening times!!)
Minori is a small town 4 kilometres from Amalfi. It is much cheaper for everything - food, drink and accommodation - and is a beautiful small town. It is ten minutes by ferry, a great way to see the coast, and a ticket costs about 4 euros. Well worth it. A great spot with very friendly people, particularly the staff in Antares restaurant, and beautiful food.
For accommodation check www.amalfivacation.it
A shot of espresso with a dash of foamed milk.
An excellent way to enjoy a shot of coffee, best taken standing at the bar. It is socially acceptable to drink anytime of the day, not marking you out as the sort of person who would drink a capuccino after lunch.
The splash of milk makes the espresso more palatable. But do not spoil this by adding sugar.
A macchiato is also cheap. Even standing in a cafe right by the Rialto bridge I have still paid only one euro for a macchiato.
Enjoy, but be careful, by the time you leave Italy you will be having one of these an hour.
Any Cafe, Bar
This is a walled, Tuscan hill top town on a small scale. You can drive up to the town, park your car in the shade beside the town wall, gaze out over the valley below and walk five minutes through cobbled streets to a town square with a selection of good restuarants.
This is a very pretty little town that is worth a visit and is out of the way enough to not be crawling with tourists. And still only a few minutes drive from A1, the main motorway north from Rome. I've driven up here to eat in the past, rather than stop for lunch at a motorway services.
Also the setting for Under the Tuscan Sun, apparently.
Booking directly through Trenitalia's website is easy, and a bargain compared to rail travel in Britain. There are lots of discounts available too, we were able to find Eurostar tickets between Rome and Venice for Eu29. However, the standard first class fare is only Eu74. That is the most you could possibly pay, for a journey that is the equivalent of London to Edinburgh (but is over faster).
For our convenience their website is even in English.
Beautiful houses and cobbled streets lead to stone paths and elegant cedars with far views across the town - at sunset the warm light turns it all to intense gold.
Just walk up the hill from center of town, Saint Margaret is at the top.
It looks equally amazing from the outside, with its facade and obelisk, or the inside, especially the ornate ceiling. You're unlikely to have to queue to get in, in contrast to another cathedral in town. It's also the Pope's own church.
Near the San Giovanni Metro, or a ten minute walk from the Colosseum.
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