Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Gondola Trips in Venice

Gondola Trips in Venice can be a romantic voyage for a couple. Or it can be a fun group activity shared by 5 or 6 people. Gondola trips in Venice have a lot of flexibility - you can choose to set off in the morning, afternoon, evening or nighttime. You can also choose between long, short and in between rides and you can either go along the Grand Canal or to more out of the way locations.

There are several convenient locations to catch gondola trips in Venice. One way, popular with many, is simply to let your hotel work out the details. They will be able tpo bargain for you, or even include a gondola ride as part of the package. They can often arrange transportation for you from the hotel to your point of embarkation.

The main tourist sections are the best places to board gondola trips in Venince. There are a few of these - though it's hard to narrow them down, since the city is one giant tourist attraction. Tronchetto, the Piazzale Roma, the Doge's Palace in Piazza San Marco are all popular places to catch a Gondola.

You will also find that many of the pedestrian crossings in secondary canals will have men offering a gondola ride. If you decide to take one up on the offer, be sure to exercise caution, especially when handing out money. In general though, you will find less crowded (and slightly less expensive) gondola trips in these less populated areas.

The 2 mile stretch along the Grand Canal is the most popular place for Gondola trips in Venice, because it covers some of Venice's grandest sights, including the Basilica di San Marco, the Campanile and others. But prices here do tend to be a little higher.

Prices currently range anywhere from €80 (about $120) for 40 minutes to €150 ($220) for an hour or more. These, however, are official rates set by the city government. Many gondoliers politely ignore them. Hence, your price could be lower (rare) or higher (more common).

Bargaining for Gondola rides is normal and expected. But do remember the basic principle of supply and demand. There are a relatively small number of boats and lots of tourists. Gondoliers rarely have to do much beyond wait for the next potential customer willing to meet their price. Costs per person can be lowered by sharing a ride with up to six people.

For those who choose to, Gondola Trips in Venice are really are quite fun, though. The romantic aspect is mixed, since you'll be seen by thousands of people crowding the bridges across and streets along the canals. If you can ignore them, and only pay attention to the scenery (or each other), more power to you.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Information on Leaning Tower of Pisa

If you are planning a visit to Pisa, or somewhere near by you probably want some Information on leaning Tower of Pisa.

Work on the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173 AD and there has been an architectural problem almost from its beginning. As a reslt of the soft ground and a shallow foundation, the tower began to lean as early as the time the third floor was completed. This despite the over 13 foot-thick walls at the base. But engineers at the time had few resources to call on. There was no ground penetrating radar, geological science, lasers or huge cranes to right the work.


If you read any information on Leaning Tower of Pisa you'll discover that ironically, the tower is not, or more accurately was not, the main attraction of the site. It was actuually intended as a bell tower for the nearby cathedral. Both are extraordinary works of Romanesque-Gothic art and it's only because of this unfortunate engineering failure that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most famous of these two structures.


But far from being considered a failure at the time, it was not completely unknown for buildings to be less than perfect 800 years ago. There are examples in Germany, Ireland and even not far away inside Tuscany of both towers and rectangular buildings that lean slightly. Still, visitors today will be thrilled by the view from below or above.

From the base, standing far back from the tower, one can see the round, layer-cake type facade. The base is somewhat plain, but not far up there are magnificent columns. The elaborate carving is even more amazing when one considers that the major construction effort was completed less than 200 years after beginning.

The project was stalled for about 100 years while the Pisans engaged in battles with Genoa and other Italian city-states of the period. Then, picking up in 1275 AD it stalled again in 1284 AD, just before the belfry was added. Finally, in 1360, the building topped out at 51m/167ft.

From the perspective of distance those who observe carefully can see that not only is the tower leaning (which is obvious), but that it is curved as well. Noting the lean, builders attempted to compensate by making some of the floors taller on the side opposite. The result gives the tower its slight banana shape.

Fortunately, since digging out 70 tons of earth from below the ground, the tower was reopened in 2001. Visitors in bunches of 30 can now go up inside for a 35-minute guided tour. One of the most important bits of information on the Leaning Tower of Pisa is to be sure and get tickets well in advance. It's a hugely popular attraction and often can be fully booked for most of the day. If you are there for more than one day you may want to consider buying tickets 24 hours in advance.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Lucca Italy Attractions

If you are in Tuscany you don't want to miss the Lucca Italy Attractions. Lucca was once the capital of and has green rolling hills, medieval cathedrals and even a cooking school. Lucca is certainly worth a day trip to visit, but you could easily find an entire vacation's worth of things to see and do here.

One of the main Lucca Italy attractions is the city walls. These walls were built during the Renaissance and they are are over two miles long. Taking a walk along the top of the wall is a great introduction to Lucca and you can get some exercise and good views at the same time. The walls of Lucca were originally there to provide defense during the many wars between Italian city-states, but these days, they serve an entirely different purpose, giving Lucca the look of a huge, open castle.



Another Lucca Italy attraction is the Duomo di San Martino. This cathedral is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic structure and it provides visitors with lots to see. It was originally constructed in the 6th century, and it continued to evolve through to the mid-14th centurt. Inside the cathedral you will find  outstanding sculptures from the early Renaissance period made of marble, including a funeral momument of Caretto, a local noblewoman.

Visitors should be sure not to miss the Via Fillungo. This wide tree-lined boulevard offers plenty of shops and restaurants as well as lots of interesting sights. An authentic medieval area, cafes along the street offer a view of the Tower of Hours and other structures of the period.

After stopping for a coffee or lunch, one of the most interesting Lucca Italy attractions is still to come. The art collection at the Villa Guinigi is the envy of the region. Once the personal property of Paolo Guinigi, ruler of the town in the 1400s, the collection has been expanded far beyond his original holdings. There are figurative arts on display ranging from the Middle Ages up through the 18th century. Sculptures, ceramic objects, gold crosses and much more are housed here.

For opera lovers, a visit to Lucca is a chance to see the birthplace of the renowned composer Puccini. Creator of Madame Butterfly and many more popular works, visitors will get a good idea of where his lush romanticism first was aroused. The family house has been preserved and it is filled with memorabilia from his youth. Scores in the master's hand, photos and even the piano on which he composed Turandot are on display.

If you are planning to be in Lucca for at least a week and you have an interest in Italian cooking you may want to consider attending classes at the renowned cooking school here. Then head over to the Bagni di Lucca spa and imagine former patrons Byron and Shelley entertaining you with a verse while you get pampered in the thermal bath.

Lucca is less than an hour away from Florence, so planning a stop here to take in all the Lucca Italy attractions will definitely be worth your while.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Piazza Navona Fountains in Rome

If you are sightseeing in Rome you don't want to miss the Piazza Navona Fountains. The Piazza Navona has one of the finest examples of Bernini's fountains, built in 1651: the Fontana dei Fiumi (which means Fountain of the Four Rivers). Arrayed around the central rocky mass supporting the almost-obligatory obelisk are four large sculptures executed by his students. One of them, the Ganges, was sculpted by Claude Poussin who would later become a master under his own name.

This Piazza Navona fountain is a tour de force with a sea monster, a lion, palm tree, cacti and many other pieces woven together around the central column.




The cost of this Piazza Navona fountain was so massive  that taxes were levied on bread. This prompted outcries from Roman citizens both rich and poor. However, this controversy is now a part of history, so tourists can simply relax and have a cappaccino while watching the world go by.

Another one of the great Piazza Navona Fountains is the Fountain of the Moor. This is at the opposite end of the piazza and features a Triton (one of the many gods of the sea) riding a dolphin. From this particular view point, there is a lot of opportunities for people watching, while enjoying the warm Rome sunshine.

There are dozens of merchant stalls in Piazza Navona, interspersed among the many cafes and restaurants. You could stop near one and have your portrait sketched by one of the numerous artists dotting the piazza.

There is nightlife until early in the morning, with mimes, beggars, artists and a hundreds of natives and tourists threading through the oval plaza. The piazza was constructed around one of the ancient circuses - a circular area where streets converge, not a show with animals.

Be sure to stop in at the Tre Scalini and indulge yourself in a Tartufo. Or visit the oldest extant bar in Rome nearby, the Caffe della Pace. Here you can enjoy a Campari and take in the ambiance. Confess your sins at the Church of Sant'Agnese, set not far from three of Bernini's famous fountains.

The Fontana dei Calderai (Fountain of the Coppersmiths), later renamed the Fountain of Neptune is also here. Festooned with sea figures, Neptune slaying an octopus, sea horses, dolphins and Nerieds (sea nymphs) it carries Rome's fountain-sea creature theme to the ultimate peak. The fountain is made of the same Portasanta rose marble used for St. Peter's doorjambs.

Or, you can take a short walk to the Piazza Sant'Eustachio, between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona and listen to some classical music. Or catch the bus to the Pantheon.

Don't miss an opportunity to visit these amazing Piazza Navona Fountains in Rome.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Cortona Sightseeing

Cortona is a Tuscan town once little known to travelers booking for Florence. After the publication of the book Under the Tuscan Sun (and the subsequent film and follow-up books) it garnered a place on every visitor's agenda. Here are some tips on sightseeing in Cortona.

Cortona is an Italian hilltop town of 30,000 and there are more sights than a visitor could see in three vacations. Located about half-way between its much more famous neighbors of Rome and Florence this ancient city offers museums, restaurants, villas, biking tours and much more.

The founding date is unknown, but Cortona's streets were walled in by the Etruscans more than 2,600 years ago. Some of that history is still extant near the Porta Guelfa and the Porta Montanina. At the base one can spot Roman repairs made to Etruscan slabs.

Inside, looking out above the walls, visitors will find a breathtaking view of Lake Trasimeno from the square of Piazza Garibaldi. Just past the church is an entrance to a park. The fountain in the center features two bronze dolphins that will reward the effort of the short walk. Just left is an amphitheater that offers a lovely place to sit and see part of beautiful Tuscany.

The Piazza Grande, featuring the Town Hall that dates from the 6th century, is another must-visit location. If your visit to Cortona falls on the first Saturday of the month, be sure to take in the Market. Food, small artifacts and many more interesting items are offered for sale. In nearby Casali Palace there's a National Market of Ancient Furniture held in the Piazza Grande during the last two weeks of August.

From there one can also almost see the ancient burial grounds of Cetona Belvedere. Full of grottoes and caverns to explore, they're one of the many delightful excursions offered. One can also get a clear view of the tallest peak of the local mountain range. Down from the top is located another town worthy of a visit, Montepulciano.

Another worthy short trip entails a visit to the Great Cloister of the Monastero Di Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Built in 1443, tourists will want to see the frescoes depicting the life of Saint Benedict by Signorelli, painted near the end of the 15th century.

Those interested in religious architecture will also not want to miss viewing the church of Santa Maria del Calcinaio, built in 1485. This Renaissance structure is octagonal, an unusual choice for the period.

Another unusual sight within the city walls visitors can take in is the Torre del Pulcinella, a large public clock. It announces the hours by a different technique. Its chimes are a pair of clanging cymbals, rather than a bell.

Not far away is the Museo dell'Academia Etrusca. Despite the name the museum covers not just Etruscan art, but everything from ancient Egyptian artifacts to paintings of the 15th century. Also on display are books, period furniture and sculpture.

By contrast, the Museo Diocesano offers a more focused exhibit. This includes the Cortona Altarpiece from 1432 along with six predella. Predella, in painting, are small paintings that run along a frame at the bottom of an altarpiece.

However long you have for Cortona Sightseeing, an hour or a day, or even a week, time in Cortona is well spent.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Where to Shop in Florence Italy

If you are planning a visit to Florence, you may be wondering where to shop in Florence Italy.
Despite its small size, Florence boasts a good variety of high quality shops, selling designer clothes, shoes, antiques, crafts, jewellery, gifts, food and wine. It’s not the place for bargain shopping, but you will definitely be spoilt for choice.

If you are looking for designer goods, all the big names such as Armani, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino can be found in the elegant streets of Via de’ Tornabuoni and Via della Vigna Nuova. If you’re seeking bargains you may want to take a trip to the designer outlets listed in section 6.4, or do your shopping during the months of January or July when the sales are on.

If you’re looking for leather goods your best bet is to head for Santa Croce or San Lorenzo. There is a wide selection of shops selling leather jackets, handbags, wallets and shoes. If you’re a leather enthusiast you may also want to check out the leather museum near Santa Croce, where you can view work in progress and do a spot of shopping.

The street for antique shopping is Via Maggio, near Santa Spirito in the Oltrarno area. Here you’ll find everything from furniture to picture frames and vases, as well as antiques dating from the 16th century.

If it’s jewellery you’re after, then head for the Ponte Vecchio where you’ll find many small shops offering unique jewellery.

Also, if you are wondering where toi shop in Florence Italy like the locals don’t forget to visit the markets!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Venice Lagoon Islands - Lido, Murano, Burano, Torcello

If you are in Venice for a few days you may want to consider taking a boat ride to visit some of the Venice Lagoon Islands. You may find the following islands to be interesting.

Lido
If you are a beach lover and want to enjpy some sunshine and swimming during one of Venice's warm summers, then Lido is a great option. In September the Venice Film festival takes place and lots of celebrities attend. If you want a game golf you'll also find a good golf course here.

A short boat ride will take you out to Sant Erasmo. Pellestrina is another option for those looking for a quieter spot to sunbathe.

Murano

One of the most popular Lido lagoon islands is Murano. A lot of tourists come to Murano to visit the glassmakers and buy some souvenirs. The art has been practiced here for centuries. Since the late 13th century, glass artisans here have been offering their wares to rich and poor alike. Prices can range from a few dollars for a trinket to thousands for a true work of art.

The Museo Vetraio (Glass Museum) on the island continues to attract visitors by the thousands every year. A 30-minute tour provides a complete introduction to this fascinating and beautiful craft. Tourists can see an outstanding church on the island: Basilica di Santi Maria e Donato. There's also a fascinating small lighthouse worth a look.

Burano

Burano has 7,000 inhabitants, and is one of the larger islands of the area so there is a lot to see here. There are lots of lovely colourful houses in pink, yellow, lavender, green and blue

This island is famous for its lace-making industry. It was traditionally a small fishing village and it houses the Museo del Merletto displaying many samples of the wares that made the town famous.

Torcello

Finally there is Torcello. This is a nature preserve and attract animal lovers. The human population numbers fewer than 100, but there are thousands of wild birds and sea life species. There is also a lovely church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which was built in the 7th century. The Mosaic of the Madonna is one of the main attractions.

You can easily spend a full day visiting the Venice Lagoon Islands and there is lots to do and see for everyone.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sightseeing in Fiesole,Tuscany

A sightseeing visit to Fiesole can take just an hour, after winding up the steep curvy road, or it can last a full day or an afternoon if you prefer.

Fiesole is a wonderful side trip from the bustling city of Florence below, Fiesole also offers amazing views of Florence, the River Arno and a lot more.

The town itself far predates the Roman period, and gios right back to the country's Etruscan era in the 9th century BC.

Fiesole was conquered by the Romans in 283 BC and soon became home to an outstanding school of the period. The city saw wars between Rome and the Vandals, as well, in the early 5th century AD. Its citizens fought many wars with Florence until succumbing to its more famous neighbor in 1125 AD.

If you take a sightseeing trip to Fiesole you'll find reminders of that histry scattered around the town.

The cathedral in Fiesole is a relatively plain building, but still well worth a quick visit for its orange brick and medieval tower. The Franciscan monastery is another site that may offer simple architecture, but is full of historical significance. In the Courtyard to Heaven, there is a quite interesting small column with a cross set between two short thin columns topped by a lintel.

Much more impressive is the Medici Villa, which was constructed by the famous rulers in the mid-15th century. You may also want to visit the nearby Lombard tombs, a reminder of the time the site served as a necropolis. In addition, there are outstanding examples of Greek vases, amphorae and many other artifacts that would have been well known to citizens of the day.

But unquestionably, one of the most enticing sights for sightseeing visitors to Fiesole is the Roman Theater, still in use today.

Built in the 1st century BC, it offers an amphitheater that seats 3,000 people today just as it did 2,000 years ago. The right half is original, the left portion was rebuilt in the 19th century. Sitting among sections of column, broken friezes and other remnants of the period, it's easy to imagine hearing a performance from that bygone era.

A grove of olive trees decorates the center and there are baths with outstanding arches nearby. Sitting on the curved stone bleachers one can hear the strains of Vivaldi from the 18th century while being reminded of music from much further back.

Sightseeing in Fiesole can be very rewarding, even if it is just a couple of hours spent wandering around the streets and a quick coffee in a pavement cafe.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Grand Canal Sights - Venice

Are you going to Venice? If so, you don't want to miss the Grand Canal Sights! Venice's Grand Canal is the main waterway through the city. It provides amazing scenery, relaxing gondola rides and much more to both visitors and

locals. As Venice's 'Main Street' the Grand Canal is something that must be seen. The Rialto Bridge and other amazing sights mean that no visit to Venice is complete without this.

A ride along the Grand Canal can easily be the highlight of a trip to Venice, and there are several ways to go about it. Grand Canal Sights along the leisurely trip include the Basilica di San Marco, the Campanile, the Doge's Palace and manu more.

Gondola rides are one of the most popular things to do on a trip to Venice, despite their expense. One way to make it more affordable is to go in a group of up to six people and split the price. You may have to do a bit og haggling to arrange a price, so if you don't want to do this try to arrange it through your hotel instead.

There are other types of vehicles that cross or navigate the Grand Canal as well. The water taxis, known as vaporetto, are small boats that travel along all of the city's canals. They are a little bit like bus routes in

cities as they are numbered and have distinct pick up and drop off points. If you get a free map when you reach Venice you'll quickly locate a route you'd like to travel.

Passenger boats, called traghetti usually go only from one side to the other, but they can still be good fun short rides. As there are not that many bridges that cross the Grand Canal along its 3km length, the traghetti can move you from one side to the other and save you long walk to one of the bridges. Since the canal ranges from 30-70m wide, your trip length can vary.

Another fun option is to take one of the water taxis to one of the nearby islands. Visitors can see famed glass works, churches and more on Murano and Burano, Lido and Torcello.

If you travel along the waterways in the evening you'll have a chance to take a look in some of the palaces that have large, well-lit arches. Many of them will be close enough to allow you to get an excellent view of the highly decorated interiors. If you are not sure which of them to visit during the day, a canal trip at night can help you to decide.


You don't have to see the Grand Canal sights by water. An alternative option to travelling via the canal option is to take a short walk and see Venice's Natural History Museum - the Fondaco dei Turchi. This museum was built in the 13th century and it provides one of the most amzing views from a gondola. Some parts of the Natural History Museum are still under construction, but there is still much to see. You'll find a section with dinosaurs, a small aquarium and the Correr Museum.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Top 10 Sightseeing Spots in Italy

Here are 10 of the Top Sightseeing Spots in Italy.
by Jonathan Williams

Italy is one of the most popular places to visit in the world. It's a favorite of millions of tourists worldwide. And who can blame them? Nobody can resist the charms of Italy's culture and architecture. This boot-shaped country was, after all, the home of the Legendary Romans and the Heroes of the Renaissance. Indeed, if you're going to go to Italy, be prepared to have your breathe taken away by the sheer beauty of the place.

1. The Coliseum
No other civilization in the world could top the Romans in terms of strength and power, and indeed, the Romans practically conquered the world. And for their entertainment, the Romans had the world. They had the Coliseum where the prizes of their conquests, lions and other exotic animals were made to battle with the gladiators. Indeed, if you stand within the walls of this gigantic complex, you can almost feel the spirit of celebration that once rang through the place.

2. Piazza Campidoglio
The Piazza Campidoglio, or the Capitoline Hill, was the seat of power of the Ancient Romans. And up until today, it still stands as Italy's center of politics. It holds the famous statue of Castor and Pollux and various structures designed by the great Michaelangelo himself like the double staircase and other buildings.

3. The Roman Forums
Also, there's nothing more exhilarating than to visit the place where democracy was born. The Roman Forums, where the Roman senate once held their heated debates discussing everything from large-scale wars to petty squabbles, are also popular tourist attractions. Here, you can find the Forum of Caesar and the Forum of Trajan, and there's also the Palatine Hill and all the other temples dedicated to the various gods and goddesses of the ancient Romans.

4. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is one of the best places that you can visit in Rome. It's teeming with beautiful architecture, beautiful sculptures, and beautiful statues. This magnificent building is also the home of the grave of the famous painter, Raphael.

5. The Trevi Fountain
This world renowned fountain is famous for its sheer beauty and size, and it features several sculptures, including one of Neptune coming out from underwater, riding on a sea shell that's drawn by two horses with wings. It's featured in Dan Brown's famous novel, the Da Vinci Code. Also, toss a coin into it while facing away from it and it is said that you will be guaranteed a return to the great city.

6. The Grand Canal in Venice
There's nothing more Romantic than going on a boat ride through the famous canals of the floating city of Venice. These quixotic canals are featured in various movies and are a favorite of newlyweds all over the world. It's also a great way to take in all the sights of the beautiful city.

7. The Sistine Chapel
The Vatican, though it's considered as an independent country in itself, is still found in the heart of Italy. And, there, you'll find the great Sistine Chapel where extraordinary pieces of art can be found. There, you'll see the works of Michelangelo and Botticelli.

8. St. Peter's Basilica
Also, if you're a fan of great architecture, you will have to see the famous St. Peter's Basilica. It's the largest Catholic Church in the whole world, and it's simply teeming with beautiful paintings, frescoes, and statues. You can also see this Basilica's famous dome which is literally filled with works of art.

9. St. Peter's Square
And of course, if you're going to St. Peter's Basilica, you might as well walk a few steps to get to St. Peter's Square. This beautiful plaza is designed by the famous artist Bernini. It is also featured in Dan Brown's novels.

10. The Vatican Gardens
The Vatican Gardens as beautiful as they are large. This grand paradise is filled with beautiful sculptures, fountains, and flowers. It's a great place for sightseeing and picture-taking.

Jonathan Williams is the travel writer for Destination Guide TV - the place to share travel videos [http://www.destinationguide.tv].


Hope you enjoyed these top sightseeing spots in Italy!