Avoid the usual celeb haunts and head out to the north western coast of Sardinia. We stayed in a gorgeous agriturismo set in the hills of the picturesque and unspoilt town of Bosa. Amazing beaches, beautiful town centre, great food and lovely friendly locals - it is everything you imagine Italy to be right down to the buildings the shades of ice-cream! Heaven!
This is a small family run hotel on the edge of the lake. The rooms are beautiful and most have lake and mountain views. Meals are served in the pretty garden with tables overlooking the lake and the food is amazing. The little port of Gargnano is a 10 minute lakeside walk away where you can get a boat to different towns around the lake and there are numerous restaurants and Trattorias. This summer there is a D H Lawrence exhibition in the town hall to celebrate the centenary of the author's stay in Gargnano and there are also guided walks and other events. You can go for mountain walks or just relax on the sunloungers in the garden and catch up with your holiday reading.
A beautiful hotel situated on the south of the island, between Cagliari and Villasimius. Converted from a nineteenth-century monastery which was later adapted into a farm, the hotel still retains many of the original features, and even some wonderful old farm machines. There's a lovely pool you can relax by, if you don't fancy the 10 minute walk to the nearest beach. There's also a minature golf course, and the opportunity to go horse-riding in the nearby national park. The hotel is somewhat remote, and hiring a car is definitely recommended if you don't want to stay in the hotel for your whole stay - though, the settings are lovely enough to make you want to. We thoroughly enjoyed just sitting out with a glass of wine in the courtyard outside our room; would love to go back. If you're lucky, you may even be visited by the hotel cat, or some local kittens!
A lovely restaurant situated on the stunning coastal road that runs from Cagliari to Villasimius. Quirky features, like old bikes decorating the garden, a relaxed atmosphere, and a wide choice of mains, starters and desserts - even five or six vegetarian meals, which was a rarity in the region! The owner made us feel very welcomed, often coming over to chat and even offering to make us up some lunch himself when we turned up out of hours (it shut during the late afternoon). Prices were reasonable, about 10 euros for a main, and the quality far surpassed the other restaurants in the area charging similar prices. We liked it here so much we returned three or four times! I would fully recommend an evening or lunch spent here, sat in the garden looking out to the hills opposite, ideally with their pesto gnocci ordered (which is still the best gnocci I've ever had.)
Cafe Van Gogh, Località Baccu Mandara, 09040 Maracalagonis Cagliari, Italy
+39 070 786082
Google map: bit.ly/MRdcwH
The Sacro Monte di San Francesco is a pilgrim route devoted to St Francis of Assisi, on Lake Orta’s eastern shore. This UNESCO World Heritage site has wonderful views across the lake, and along the pathway are twenty-one chapels containing colourful, vibrant frescoes which depict the life of the famous saint. They were constructed between 1591 and 1750 and encompass a range of architectural styles from Baroque to Renaissance. In all, there are no fewer than 900 frescoes and 376 sculptures, recreating the tumultuous life and times of St Francis. Art lovers, historians and contemplative individuals come here from all over the world to drink in the views and breathe the fresh air. It’s a place for meditation and relaxation, and speaking of drinking there’s a fine restaurant beside the church of St Nicholas with great views across the lake – just the place to refresh with an iced tea or something stronger.
Eastern shore of Lake Orta in the Italian Lakes (Piedmont & Lombardy).
Google map: bit.ly/MbaCYy
This 8km fairytale system of underground caverns is truly magical, consisting of tunnels and rock-rooms encrusted with minerals and festooned with magnificent stalagmites and stalactites that glitter in the lamplight. They’ve been created by the rivers Placido and Rapido in their underground courses. Although the caverns delve deep into the mountain, the first cave has walkways for visitors to get up close and marvel at these natural wonders. If you want to explore further you can go in with a group of experienced cave explorers from the local speleologists’ association. Not for the claustrophobic, or if you’re afraid of the odd bat, but certainly a breathtaking experience even if you just visit the first vast cavern.
Grotte di Su Mannau s.r.l, Via Vittorio Emanuele, 3 – 09010, Fluminimaggiori
Google map: bit.ly/LV5Yxr
Keep kids and adults engaged by visiting the fascinating turtle sanctuary based on the beautiful south coast of Sardinia. As well as the rescued sea turtles and aquarium the nearby Roman ruins and beautiful beach with perfectly situated Sant'Efisio church will easily fill a day out. Best of all, we managed this trip, which was one of the highlights of our stay on the island, by public transport from Cagliari.
The best meal I've ever eaten was at Agriturismo Tuttusoni. Agriturismos are farms that offer meals and/or accommodation and help farmers diversify and keep going.There was course after course, all fresh and beautifully prepared. We went at the end of the season (late September) and were among the only people there.
This is an amazing hotel. We stayed here as part of our honeymoon touring Sardinia a couple of years ago and it was our favourite location. The rooms are quirky and individual, the views of the mountains are stunning and the food is just incredible. We went half-board and struggled to finish the four course dinners - tip - don't be tempted to gorge on the anti-pasti or pasta courses or you'll never finish the suckling pig - famous across the island and a speciality of the hotel (you can see - and smell - them roasting on the old-style open fire). We were lucky enough to watch a demonstration of pane carasau (Italian flatbread) being made on-site too. It's an amazing place and if you're a foodie it's a must.
Hotel located in a very central location on the north bank of the Arno river. A hotel since 1837, located within a much older building (dating back to the 13th century I believe).
Perhaps slightly worn around the edges - all the fixtures, fittings and furnishings hark back to the early 20th century.
We paid just over £50 using a well known hotel website. The continental breakfast choice was varied with cereal, fruit, cold meats, cheese to name but a few.
Seemingly many famous people have stayed in this hotel, ranging from Charles Dickens to Daryl Hannah.
Not perhaps to everyone's taste.
Bus to airport (£1.50) just across the road from hotel.
Just a remider to folk that you need to validate your train ticket before you board the train.
We bought tickets at Stazione Centrale di S. Maria Novella in Florence for a trip to Pisa.
We did not realise we had to validate the tickets on the platform before we got on the train. We could have incurred a fine, only that the ticket inspector let us off!
Stazione Centrale di S. Maria Novella
A 'must see' to visit Michelangelo's statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Additionally you see half finished sculptures by Michelangelo so you get an opportunity to see how the process of creating David must have taken.
The most important thing is getting in and avoiding the queues. Sometimes there are small queues while other times the queues can be quite big.
You can call +39 055 294883 to make a reservation in advance which costs an extra €4 onto the €11 ticket price. The phone operator will give you a six digit extension number which you quote when you purchase tickets. All the operator takes is your name and asks what your chosen day / time slot is.
The reservation will then allow you to go to a different door avoiding the long queues. The real beauty of the phone reservation is that you do not pay until you turn up so if there are any unforeseen changes to your schedule you don't end up out of pocket. Additionally if there are small queues, you would simply queue up and avoid paying the €4 reservation fee.
Phone reservation available Mon - Fri 08.30 - 18.30 (Italian time) & Sat 08.30 - 12.30.
Tried the online booking service but gave up as it kept falling over as I input the details of my UK credit card.
Square on south side of Arno river off Corsa Italia.
A square surrounded by bars and restaurants, with locals sitting around and kids playing football.
Nice place to relax, in complete contrast to the more tourist orientated area around the Campo dei Miracoli.
Square on south side of Arno river off Corsa Italia.
Google map: bit.ly/LTXy5o
Nice tree lined square surrounded by pavement cafes.
Plenty of seating in which to relax, away from the more tourist parts of Florence.
One end of the square has the church of Santo Spirito dating back to the 15th century.
On the south side of the Arno river on the right as you come over the Ponte Santa Trinita.
Google map: bit.ly/LTXFOw
Great location to sit and drink and watch the world go by, on Piazza Santa Croce. The Santa Croce church is just yards away.
For such a prime location, the prices were surprisingly good. We only had drinks but at €3.50 per large glass of house white we were not complaining.
Service was good.
Decent 'Irish' bar in Florence. Drink prices for pints range from €5.20 - €6.00 depending on the drink. Guinness sells at €5.50 a pint with Magners bottles retailing at €6.00.
Wine per glass costs from €3.50.
Usual range of sports on TV as you'd expect.
Wonderful ice cream from this establishment. Three heaped scoops in a tub cost €3.80.
The girl behind the counter offered us samples of the wide array of flavours before we settled on our choices.
Some seating indoors but we sat on the Ponte Santa Trinita as we looked at the more famous Ponte Vecchio in the background.
Absolute superb find. This pizzeria located in what looks like a German beerhall serves great pizzas for extremely reasonable prices.
Two large pizzas cost about €7 each and one litre of house white cost about €6!
Was family friendly as well.
Decent bar a few streets off the main Borgo Stretto street, north of the Arno river. While it does feel a 'student type' of bar, we saw all ages there. A Counting Crows album was playing in the background the afternoon we visited.
Quite a big bar which has some free nibbles on the bar. Good choice of beers - the beer I had had an unusual passion fruit tinge to it!
Prices were very reasonable.
For a bar in the heart of Florence, it feels like a bar in a small town in Italy. Bar serves small tapa like portions (from 75c) as well as larger paninis.
What really struck me about this place was that people served themselves (both wine and food) and paid for it at the end. From the crowds of locals milling about the place on the road outside (as there is very little room inside) it seems like a popular spot.
Via de' Neri 65, 50122 Florence
Google map: bit.ly/LPLoZ2
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