Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Vineyards in Tuscany

Tuscany is a major wine-producing region in Italy and well known for its vineyards and world famous wines. Chianti is probably the most well known type of Italian wine, and comes from the Chianti region, which runs south of Florence towards Siena.

There are seven different wine zones in Chianti. The best wine comes from the Classico area, which starts just north of Siena and runs most of the way up to Florence. Other areas include Colli Fiorentini, Colli Senesi, Colli Aretini, Rufina, Montalbano and Colline Pisane.

Many of the vineyards throughout Tuscany offer wine tasting and will also sell wine direct to the public. If you are travelling through the area, just look out for signs saying “vendita diretta”.

If you wish to visit the wine regions of Tuscany as part of an organised tour, you can find out more about vineyards and order free brochures for Tuscany Cooking schools and winery tours here

Friday, 16 February 2007

Milan Sightseeing

Milan Travelling

Milan is a city with diversities it offers a delightful experience for tourists with varied taste. Everything from modern art to contemporary architecture is the pride of city. In 569 A.D. Lombard’s conquered Milan and by the end of eighth century the bishops managed to compel an alliance with emperors. During the earlier half of year 1000, the most powerful political figure in northern Italy was the Archbishop of Milan. By the year 1117, Milan managed to become a municipality and was at liberty from the clutches of Archbishop. Next it developed into a “Seigneury” from 1200, and gained increased importance as a major city in world. The city has been rising since then until lately by 1861 it claimed itself a place as the Kingdom of Italy.

Milan is well known for stupendous art and culture heritage. The most famous National Museum of Science and technology, “Leonardo da Vinci” in Milan is among world’s best scientific and technical museums. A water stretch, Navigli in Milan allows navigation from Ticino to center of Milan. Navigli Grande and Navigli Pavese join Milan to Pavia and form one of the most charismatic spots in Milan. There are numerous roadside shops and clubs on the banks of these rivers.

The place Brera in Milan gives almost the look and feel of Paris. It constitutes most fashionable spot of the city. The area is full of open-air shops that exhibit loads of apparels, all of which seem to be a sculpture on its own. The area includes Via Brera, Via Pontaccio, Corso Garibaldi and Corso Como, these places are also known as “luxury Bohemian”.

A perfect place to pass free time in the laps of nature is a large fascinating park having meadows, little bridges and lakes located behind Castello Sforzesco. Another place of interest is the Milan Lounge “Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Walking around the arms of this lounge provides a view of restaurants, boutiques, bookshops and old-coffee stops.

Milan’s platter has witnessed a lot of changes. It offers every kind of taste ranging from Chinese cooking to Indian, African, Japanese and Middle Eastern cooking styles. Recently there has been increased demand for Milan’s original traditional food. A trip to Milan is almost incomplete without trying typical native food of the place. A classical Negroni is one of the many aperitifs that can be served with some snacks. Some of all time favorite conventional dishes of the place are Risotto alla Milanese, Cassouella and a specific Milan cutlet that has a very pleasing flavor.

Milan is an ultimate for fashion freaks and a paradise for shoppers. The popular Fashion Quadrilatero form the magnificent shopping area. The place contains top showrooms and boutiques in world crammed with articles boosting of best designs. All eminent brands and labels on earth constituting of Chanel, Armani, Prada, D & G, Valentino, Cartier and many more have their magnificent outlets at this place. The streets Via Sant’Andrea, Via Della Spiga, Via Montenapoleone, Via Manzoni along with others boosts of having warehouses clustered in that area. Milan offers a never say enough attitude for every flavor of life and is a remains a hot favorite among tourists around the globe.

Mansi AGGARWAL writes about Milan traveling. Learn more at

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Lucca Sightseeing

Lucca, the capital of the Province of Lucchesia is a town rich in tradition and culture and was once a colony of ancient Rome.

It has a unique town centre that is completely enclosed by a massive brick wall dating back to the 16th century. A good way to find your way around Lucca is to follow the 4km path around the top of the city wall.

The town has plenty of churches, monuments and the gardens to visit - enough to keep you busy for a day. In the centre of town, just to the east of the main Piazza Napoleone, on Piazza San Martino you’ll find the splendid cathedral of San Martino, dating from the 11th century.

Lucca, Tuscany

In the Piazza San Michele you’ll find the impressive Church of San Michele in Foro - probably the most photographed church in Lucca. It has a huge Romanesque style marble fa├žade, with 5 rows of elaborately carved marble columns, all of which are different from one another. Inside the church you’ll find an interesting collection of artwork from the 12th-15th centuries.

At Via di Poggio, you’ll find Casa di Puccini, the 15th century home of the composer Giacomo Puccini. This is now a school of music with a small museum, featuring the Steinway piano on which he composed his last opera Turandot.

At the end of the street in Via Galli Tassi is the seventeenth-century Palazzo Mansi, home to Lucca's National Picture Gallery. Inside there are some splendid tapestries, frescoes, and other decorations, as well as artwork by Agnolo Bronzino, Domenico Beccafumi and Luca Giordano.

For the best views of the city, head to the 130 foot high Torre Guinigi and climb to the top for beautiful views of the rooftops of Lucca.

Find out more about Lucca Sightseeing.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Lake Como, Italy's finest Lake

At the base of the Alps to the west and not far from the Dolomites to the east, the Italian lake district has numerous lakes, but only two of any size that are frequented by tourists to any degree. These are Maggiore, with Locarno at its northwestern tip and Como the larger of the two and by almost any tourist standard, the more scenic of the two.

Lake Como (Lago di Como) stretches from the north to its southern limit at the city of Como on its longest branch - just under a hundred miles and about sixty miles on the shorter eastern arm. Como is the lake to visit if you have a limited number of days in Italy and want to see all you can fit in. Europeans and southern Italians who can afford it have long summered in the Lakes region. The shores are populated with pink villas of all shapes and sizes, hotels grand and small, quaint little villages, from the city of Como north to Menaggio.

If you're driving and approaching Lake Como from the north, perhaps from St. Moritz or Innsbruck, an excellent place to stop is Varenna. It's on the east side of the widest part of the lake where it splits into two branches and forms a near perfect triangle with Bellagio at the centre of the fork and Menaggio on the west side of the lake.

So park your car, check into your hotel or B and B for two or three days and soak up some Italian small town atmosphere. Varenna is actually on the quieter side of the lake, with a small harbour, a romantic promenade, narrow lanes and its own villa. There's benches along the promenade, so bring along something to munch on, watch the lovers walking up and down the "passerella" (lakeside walk) at dusk and watch the ferries and ubiquitous motorboats (and regrettably speed boats too) churning up and down the lake.

Next day, take a ferry south to Bellagio. Go anywhere you want around Lake Como, but go by ferry. There's lots of them, they're not that expensive and it really adds to your holiday here. Driving along the shores of Como is just not worth it. It's one small town after another, so most of the time you crawl along at 10-20 mph. And you can see very little of the lake, what you do see is a lot of fences, high walls, etc. and signs in many languages that all translate into one phrase: "Keep Out!" It was that way the first time I came here in 1960-61 and it has only gotten worse. Word from the wise whether you come by car, or by train from Milano, travel by ferry after you get here.

Bellagio, the "Pearl of the Lake" is a combination of class, Old World elegance and affluence. Lots of shops and stalls, selling high priced items for the most part. If you must buy something, shop up the hill where the locals shop. Some lovely lakeside cafes. As I was once told "A nice place to see, an expensive place to be".

When you have tired of Bellagio, then take the ferry to Menaggio. This puts you across the lake and just a short ferry ride back to your base in Varenna. It's also only eight miles as the crow flies from Lugano on the Swiss border. Menaggio is a lower priced smaller edition of Bellagio and my favorite of the two. Lake Como is too dirty to swim in but if you are in the mood to take a dip, Menaggio has a nice public pool. Take advantage of it, good public pools are few and far between in most parts of Italy.

If you can spend another day in this area, then next day take the ferry again to Bellagio, but stay on it (or change to another - it depends on the schedule) and get off across the lake at Tremezzo. If you are interested in Grand Hotels, this is the spot. The rich and famous have been staying here for two centuries, even Best Western is here, but where we want to go is the Villa Carlotta.

Built by a Marquis in the eighteenth century, later modified by a Count, with gardens designed by several Dukes. you get the picture; here you walk among the ghosts of royalty. There's a Botanical Garden well worth the visit by itself, but in addition there is a museum with marble statuary, famous paintings and a large collection of seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture. Some parts of the Villa itself have been open in the past to guided tours, mostly at the whim of whoever is the current owners and how badly they need the money for upkeep. It's hard to do this place justice with only word pictures. The Villa itself is an imposing building fronted by a series of ivy-draped marble colonnades facing onto the lake.

So there you have it, a fine three day restful holiday on one small section of Lake Como. Enjoy!

Oh and by the way, if you see George Clooney relaxing at his villa south of Bellagio on the west side of the lake, give him a wave for me.

Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Tourism

A Florence Hills Tour

Italy, a veritable treasure chest of culture and heritage - with its food, wine, culture and history, is always on the top of a European tour list. A tour to Italy wouldn't be complete without a visit to Florence. This city is in the heart of Tuscany and is sometimes considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It is a place that is famous for its abundance of fine art and architecture and in the modern day, its fashion and leather goods.

If you're feeling a little tired after days of sightseeing and visiting museums in Florence, a Florence hills excursion can be a great way to relax and wind down. With a great ambience and an aura of solitude the hills of Florence are very popular and ideal for those who wish to take a break from the city.

If you only have a few hours to spare and don't want to venture too far from Florence, then a trip to the town of Fiesole is highly recommended. Fiesole is set amongst the hills, just 5 miles from Florence. It makes a pleasant half-day trip from the city and you'll be rewarded with wonderful views of Florence. You can get there by bus from the centre of Florence in around 20 minutes.

If you're feeling more energetic or have a little more time to spare you can walk from the centre of Florence to Fiesole in around 2 hours. Once in Fiesole you can easily spend a few hours wandering round, taking in the breathtaking views of Florence and the valley below. Sights include a Roman Amphitheatre and baths dating from 1 BC, the Duomo and a number of small museums.

If you have a full day to spare there are many tour companies that can organise day trips by bus, walking tours or biking trips. Alternatively you can hire a car and use a map to discover the delights of the Tuscan countryside for yourself.

A guided walking tour of the Florence hills will provide you with an insider's view of Florence & Tuscany - you can discover the hidden treasures, legends and stories and gain a much more intimate experience of the region of Tuscany. A walk through the Florence hills is invigorating and you can soak up the beauty of the surroundings as you breathe in the fresh air and bask in the warm sun. You'll also find plenty of photo opportunities as you pass by churches, castles, hill top towns and villages, olive trees and vineyards

If you're reasonably fit and have cycling experience you may want to take a Florence Hills Excursion by bike. There are many tour companies that offer guided biking expeditions of the area. With these tours you will cover more ground than the walking tours and you will see many of the different terrains and landscapes that the Florence hills have to offer. Be sure to find out as much information as possible about the cycling route before you go, as many excursions of the Florence hills by bike can be tough because of the steep climbs that you have to make.

If you want to make the most of the peace and quiet and spend a few more days enjoying the countryside you may want to book a stay in one of the many bed and breakfasts, hotels or villas in the Tuscan hills. Hiring a car will allow you to venture just that little bit further afield and visit some of the beautiful Tuscan hill towns such as San Gimignano, Colle Val D'Elsa and Monteriggioni.

Regardless of how much time you have to spend there, an excursion to the hills surrounding Florence will give you a taste of the Tuscan countryside that will help to make your trip just that little bit more special.

Find out more about Florence Sightseeing

Friday, 2 February 2007

Sicily Travel Guide

Sicily has made an indelible mark on the European traveling scene. Is it because of the Volcano that is still burning, or is it because of the rich cultural heritage that the city carries? The European experience has been adorned by the Italian influence. The Greek domination has left such marks on the settlements around Rome and rest of Italy including Greece and Sicily that it has become next to impossible to miss it. The roman leftovers are grand enough to attract the historians as well as the tourists.

Sicily is one of the most sought after destinations in Italy. The tourism advantage that Sicily can give is just an added feature. The reason for this is that it is essentially a culturally charged city. The city has in itself treasured the exploits of the second Great War as well as the ancient historical facts that a significant part of world history. The city holds a distinct aura as differentiable as its language, which is a mixture of many nearby languages. The Mediterranean influence on the place can be felt by the cuisine that is served in its lavishly decorated restaurants.

Sicily holds a unique history that is flanked by the exploits and rule of many dynasties. The geographical location of the place gives a very wrong picture of it being part of the Italian rule. Though it is now a part of Italy but its origin and history is different from that of Italy. The main land of Sicily is separated from the Italian land and thus it finds many indigenous people living in it. How ever it has been a favorite of almost all the empires. The Carthage, the Greeks and the Normans fought over the land too much and it saw the changing the hands. Rome was finally the victor and they ruled it for a long time. Then in the late 19th century Italy took over the control. However the impact of mafia on the island is too much and large part of the land is still under its influence. The city also has the honor of perpetrating the mafia concept.

The Greek and the roman influence on the city can be seen by the architecture that is seen around the city. The enormous size of the cathedrals and platforms dazzles the mind of the visitors. The Sicilian backdrop has been used by many film makers and performers. The sheer grandeur of the roman and Greek constructions makes it one of the most sought after destination in southern Europe.

Mount Etna is one of the volcanoes that is still active apart from being the tallest in Europe. The rich thick forest cover around the Etna region is an added attraction to the tourists. Apart from the seldom traffic problems and delays in flights and trains, the city offers a vista of traveling experiences.

The city is easy to approach, as it is a part of most of eastern and southern European tours. The individual visit can also be a good idea. From romanticism of the mafia to the raw power of nature Sicily has it all.

Mansi aggarwal writes about Sicily travel. Learn more at