The harbour city of ancient Rome, which was abandoned when the shoreline moved. Beautiful mosaics on the floor of the old baths, a necropolis, virtually intact buildings, and relatively few visitors.
Metro to Piramide and then train to Ostia Antica; www.ostia-antica.org/
This is the best way to get your bearings in Venice, as it goes from one end of the Grand Canale to the other. Take the Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Travel Guide, with annotated illustrations for every stage of your journey, you get a marvellous guided tour from the station at one end to San Marco and the Arsenale at the other. Approximately 30 minutes each way, and not too expensive.
Most places along the Grand Canal, including the point where you arrive from the mainland
Rome’s rice croquette. Originally conceived as a way to use up leftovers, it consists of a mixture of rice, mozzarella and tomato paste in a crust of deep-fried breadcrumbs. More often found in bars and snack bars than in restaurants. Hard to stop at just one.
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
I love this part of Venice. It's a little off the beaten track even though the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Accademia are only a few blocks away.
Stroll the quiet streets and escape the crowds and for a genuine trip in a gondola for a fraction of the price take a tragetto across to S. Maria Griglio. Be sure to stand up though - sitting is frowned upon.
What appears to be just another medieval church (which has excellent mosaics) sits above a fourth-century church which in turn sits above an even older pagan Temple of Mithras and underground spring. Not for the claustrophobic.
A couple of hundred yards from the Colosseum.
Unmissable - not too big, so if you've only got a day in the city it wont take up too much time. But a beautiful building, with lovely gardens and a fabulous art and sculpture collection. The walk to it takes you off the tourist trail as well so it's a chance to experience real, peaceful Venetian streets.
The villa of the powerful Borghese family. Not only the gardens are wonderful, the villa itself boasts some of the most famous works of the Baroque era. Some of the best Bernini sculptures are there. Booking required.
Entrance: Piazzale Museo Borghese; www.ticketeria.it/ticketeria/borghese-eng.asp
A tourist ticket is the best way to get around on the vaporetto. As an introduction to Venice, ride the No 1 from the station down the four kilometres of the Grand Canal until it opens out into St Mark’s Basin.
As warm breezes from the Adriatic ruffle your hair, watch Renaissance palazzos gently slide by, each gazing at its own reflection. Mooring posts for gondolas lean drunkenly, their stripes bright against the plaster walls.
When you arrive at the airport you have the option of taking a bus, water taxi or an "Alilaguna" boat to Venice. (Alilaguna is the name of the operator.) Especially if you have never been to Venice before, this is a magical way catch your first glimpse of it, unless you are happy and able to pay around £50 for a water taxi. The boat goes round the islands, finally stopping at the Arsenale and San Marco.
Venice is always crowded, noisy and vibrant but just occasionally you might feel the need for some peace and quiet. You will find it at the 'Parco delle Rimembranze' at the eastern tip of Venice island. Turn left out of Piazza San Marco and stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni. As you keep walking east alongside the San Marco Canal, the crowds will gradually thin and after about 45 minutes you will reach the park.
It is nothing special but the greenery, the views and the quiet will give you a chance to recharge your batteries.
Too many people try to cram Pompeii into a couple of hours. Don't even think about spending less than a full day there. The site is huge, and some of the best (and least crowded) villas are outside the city walls.
The Naples to Sorrento train will drop you right outside the main entrance.
Every morning this gorgeous piazza hosts a food market. I am not going to be able to do it justice. It is full of tomatoes, chillies, fruit, garlic, onions. But not as we know them. The bland unripe unseasonal rubbish that you find on the shelves of British supermarkets bears absolutely no relation to the stuff you can buy (for pennies) in Campo dei Fiori.
For a cheap lunch just come here early, buy a few tomatoes and some foccaccia, stuff them in your bag, and eat them at a Bernini fountain in nearby Navonna while laughing at the fessi (gullible ones) who have paid through the nose to eat tourist junk at the inauthentic cafes.
At Campo dei Fiori of course. Just north of the Jewish ghetto along the east bank of the Tiber
The legend is that if throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi fountain, you will return to Rome! It worked for me! Eat an ice cream whilst sitting there. Famous for most celebrated sequence, Ekberg splashing in the fountain, in Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita.
Down Via del Corso follow the signs for Fontana di Trevi, it's to the right.
Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma
Directions: near Via Del Corso and Via del Tritone Underground exit: Barberini Buses 52,53,61,62,63,71,80,95,116,119,175,492, and 630 exit Via del Tritone
Torcello is the island at the north of the Venetian lagoon that might have been Venice, and that Venice might have been. In their early days they were equally populous, but Venice prospered and Torcello dwindled; as a result, you can find quiet and contemplation on Torcello that sometimes eludes one in Venice itself.
Especially noteworthy for church junkies is the Ciesa Santa Maria Assunta, with its mosaics of the Last Judgement and of the Virgin and child, heavily Byzantine influenced but with some North European influence too.
Take a vaporetto to Burano, a picturesque little island in its own right, and then the Traghetto to Murano.
Palladio's church on the island of the same name in St Mark's Basin. The church has a fine facade, two terrific Tintorettos, and a monk-operated lift up its campanile where you can get the best views of Venice and beyond.
San Giorgio Maggiore accessible by vaporetto no.82
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.
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