Five Travel Tips for Florence

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Five Travel Tips for Florence

1 The Uffizi Gallery Tip

The Uffizi Gallery contains some of the most important and greatest art collections in the world. It is also the world’s oldest museum. Most tour guide books and online travel sites will urge you to ensure that a visit to the Uffiizi is included as part of any Florence vacation, no matter how short. What most of them fail to tell you, or at least stress with sufficient emphasis, is that without a pre-booked ticket, you may not be able to visit the Uffizi at all!

My wife and I had a three day holiday in Florence at the beginning of April 2005. We had planned on visiting the Uffizi Gallery and as soon as we checked in at our hotel we telephoned the gallery to purchase tickets. After several attempts without our calls being answered, we asked the hotel reception to do the booking for us. They explained that it was nearly always difficult to get through on the booking line and that our three day stay might not provide sufficient notice to make a booking possible. Despite this, the hotel staff were most happy to keep trying whilst we enjoyed the other wonders of Florence. We decided to check out the situation for ourselves the next day but discovered queues that hardly seemed to move, stretching for an enormous distance around the area of the Uffizi. Queuing all day was certainly not the way we wanted to spend our time in Florence, so we decided to leave things in the capable hands of the reception staff whilst we enjoyed the other attractions that we had come to see. The following evening, we were informed that after many fruitless attempts at getting through on the booking line, success had finally been achieved but only to receive information that all tickets were sold for the following day. We consequently missed out on seeing many of Florence’s greatest art treasures and our top travel tip for anyone visiting Florence on a short stay vacation is to book tickets for the Uffizi Gallery online some time before their holiday.

2 The Inside Tip for the Duomo

Another of the wonders of Florence not to be missed is the Duomo. Actually, it is impossible to miss this magnificent building because it dominates the city and can be seen from virtually everywhere. Savour the views of it whilst enjoying a coffee at one of the cafes in the surrounding piazza. Walk around it, pausing every now and then to appreciate it from every aspect. View it from more distant, elevated, positions around the city. This was once the largest cathedral in the world and even now, nearly six hundred years after it was built, it is the fourth largest. Florence always insisted on everything being the biggest and the best but what really makes the Duomo unique is its dome or “Cupola”. When Fillipo Brunelleschi undertook this masterpiece of renaissance architecture, no one believed that such a dome was possible. The secret had been lost for over a thousand years but Brunelleschi travelled to Rome to unravel it by examining the dome of the ancient Pantheon.

My tip for the Duomo is to ascend this incredible feat of engineering. You can do so by entering a stairway that leads up inside the dome, between its inner and outer shells. When you reach the top, you can step outside onto an external gallery that provides magnificent views of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside. This gallery was never finished however, so your views are restricted to northerly and westerly directions.

3 Palazzo Vecchio – David’s Copy Tip

Perhaps the next most famous landmark of Florence is the Palazzo Vecchio. Once again, it is a building worth enjoying from every aspect on the outside before entering to explore its fascinating, art filled, interior.

My tip for the Palazzo Vecchio is to spare a few minutes looking at the pollution-streaked COPY of the world’s most famous statue, realizing that although the original Michelangelo’s David is safely inside the Accademia, the copy is standing just where the original once stood.

4 River Arno Cross Over Tip

This tip is to retreat from the busiest tourist attractions of the city centre and to cross the Arno river via the Ponte Vecchio. The crowds on this wonderful, historic bridge will probably be even more tightly packed than in the central Piazzas you have just left but within a hundred metres of the other side, they will have thinned out and you can explore the delights of the Boboli gardens and the Palazzo Pitti before walking up the meandering paths to the Piazzo Michelangelo which stands on a beautiful hill overlooking Florence and its surrounds.

5 A final Florence travel tip – Avoiding “Stendhal Sydrome”

Florence has so much beauty that every year, there are a few tourists who have to be treated at local hospitals for a condition known as “Stendhal Syndrome”. Symptoms range from feeling faint to complete exhaustion. Stendhal was a French tourist whose nineteenth century tour of Florence overloaded his senses so much that he collapsed with these symptoms.

My final travel tip for a short vacation in Florence is not to try to pack too much in. Even if Florence’s wealth of art treasures, beauty, and architectural achievements don’t actually send you running for medical help, they can easily overwhelm a tourist who fails to heed this advice.

Trip To Italy

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Trip To Italy

All these we visited and saw the beauty of Italy.
Some advice we wished to give new visitors:
Parking for coaches are always very far from the tourist spots so be prepared to walk a lot. Try and get comfortable sport shoes.
During summer it can be very hot so buy lots of water to drink during your trip.
Water can be bought at different prices in the country. Rome and Vatican city are the most expensive with 500cc of water costing 3.50 euros while at Florence we were able to get 12 litres of water for only 0.99 euros.
The sun can also be very glaring to the eyes. We advise bringing good UV block sunglasses or wear a hat or cap.
Most of the big shops uses the major credit cards such as VISA, MASTERCARD, DINERS CLUB, AMERICAN EXPRESS but for the small stall holders selling souveniers cash is still important.
Bring sufficient cash for incidental buying of souvenier, food, icecream, even the usage of toilets etc. Remember that there are many pickpockets in Italy so keep your valuables(cash, credit cards, and passports) in a body pouch. It is safer than to lose your valuables to the pickpockets.
All services and goods carry a value added tax of 20% which can be refunded at the customs in the airport provided the amout is large enough. Get a form filled up at the shop where you buy the goods.
The hotels in Italy are generally comfortable but do not come with amenities like kettle, teabags or coffee. So if you need to boil water, bring along a travel kettle. Remember to bring the the right plug for the electical socket.
There is no airconditioning in most hotels but there are heaters for winter. Services like porters are slow so expect to receive your luggage late. It is better if you can bring the luggage up to your rooms yourselves.
Most Italians speak very little English. So try to learn a few Italian phrases.
Internet services cost about 5 euros for half an hour.
We found that there are a lot of illegal immigrants such as Africans and Asians selling fake goods along the roadside.
Once on the way to our hotel there was a blockage ot the road by the police as a result of strike by some workers working in factories. As a result the coach had to U turn and go by an alternative route.
Not all the toilets are free. Some cost 0.5 to 1 euro per entry. Best places to use a toilet would be at MacDonalds or you may be able to use a toilet at a food shop provided you buy food from them. No purchase means no usage of their toilets.
Bring sufficient batteries for your camera or bring the charger for your camera. If you don’t then all the pictures which you take for your vacation will be wasted. The cost of batteries are very high in Italy.
Photo taking are prohibited in many places in Italy especially where there are frescos as the flash damages the painting. Examples are Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Assissi.
Churches or Basilica are places of worship so your dress code should be decent-no mini skirts and exposed shoulders. Silence is also important!
The largest lemon in the world can be found in Sorrento.
Finally enjoy your trip to Italy as we did with all these tips and precautions.

Tourist Attractions In Prague

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Tourist Attractions In Prague

It’s little surprise that Prague has become one of the tourism capitals of Central Europe. This bustling city, the capital of the Czech Republic, is home to historic buildings, natural beauty, lively nightclubs and cocktail lounges and impressive shopping districts.

But that’s just part of the appeal of Prague. This capital city is a prime vacation spot for fans of the arts, too. Prague is home to a busy music, dance, art and theater scene. Tourists can take in everything from Shakespeare to classical ballet to the latest avant-garde performance artist.

The city’s inventive theater scene is a perfect example of the wide variety of art that tourists here can expect to find.

The Narodni Divadlo, tucked along the Vltava River, offers sumptuous ballet and opera performances. And even those tourists not interested in taking in a show should make a stop at this performance space. The building, which was built from 1868 to 1881, is a prime example of Neo-Renaissance architecture. It also features a dazzling golden roof that leaves many visitors speechless.

The Divadlo Archa can be considered the Narodni’s opposite. This theater features contemporary dance, music and theater. It’s the place to go for tourists who are looking for the avant-garde.

For even more experimental works, tourists can visit the Laterna Magika. This small black-light theater, located in a glass addition to Prague’s National Theatre, features no spoken words. Instead, performers and directors communicate with the audience through film projection, elaborate dance choreography, lights and sound. It’s a great place for the Prague tourist to experience performances that are purely Czech in nature.

The city’s theater scene has something to appeal to every Prague tourist, including the youngest. Children, and their parents, will enjoy the performances at the Narodni divadlo marionet. That’s because the performers aren’t human, they’re incredibly detailed and artistic marionettes. The performers behind these marionettes have been performing Mozart’s Don Giovanni since 1991.

Finally, the Svandovo Divadlo has become one of Prague’s most popular theaters, and should be a must-stop for any Prague tourist.

The theater reopened in December of 2002 after a lengthy renovation had shut its doors. The public’s response has been overwhelming, with the theater today playing frequently to packed houses. It’s a place for the Prague tourist to take in works from the old masters. On any given day, the Svandovo Divadlo might be producing a Chekhov classic or one of Shakespeare’s famous tragedies. Even better for tourists from the Western world, the performances here usually feature English subtitles, so it’s easy for everyone to follow along with the drama.

The Prague arts scene continues to be a major attraction. Every Prague tourist needs to take in at least one play or ballet while staying in this capital city. To do otherwise would be to miss the essence of this amazing place. If this is the trip for you then why not check out some of the amazing Prague Hotels available.

Ski Resorts You Don't Want To Miss

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Ski Resorts You Don't Want To Miss

Do you ever find youself stuck in a rut when it comes to getting over the winter blues? Well, there’s no better way to beat these blues than by surrounding yourself with the sparkling mountain snow at a world-class ski resort. Below, you’ll find a compilation of snow-kissed properties that are sure to get you excited for the winter season. Many of these resorts have amenities that allow you to relax at the spa and grab a bite to eat, just a snowball’s throw from the bunny slopes and the black diamond runs.
Aspen, Colorado; The Little Nell
The Little Nell is a resort that gives you the best of both worlds, a down-home country inn atmosphere with sophisticated urbanity. You just might find yourself wanting to discover this kind of oasis in the middle of the city, but the fact that it sits at the base of Aspen Mountain makes it even better. The Little Nell is nestled among many other resorts in the area, all of which are appealing for one major reason, you can ski, ski, ski! As you’re skiing leasurely down the Montagna you can stop and have a nice lunch, or you can head over to the Elevator Shaft on the Silver Queen run to feel the brisk snow gently blowing in your face. One great amenity about The Little Nell is that they have a full concierge ski team that is dedicated to making your ski vacation all that it was meant to be. You have the option of having your boots warmed, your snowboard or ski’s tuned, or they can pre-order your lift tickets. After a rigorous day on the slopes you can head back to the hotel to enjoy a deep tissue or a sports massage.
Bretton Woods, New Hampshire; Mount Washington Hotel
If luxury is what you are after, then the Mount Washington Hotel just might be the right choice for you on your ski vacation. This wonderful resort embraces an old-fashioned formality that gives the property its unique charm. You’ll enjoy such luxuries as colonial style decor in the bedrooms, an atmosphere of class where jackets are required in the dining room, and a beautiful orchestra to serenade you while you enjoy your cuisine. This old world hotel opened its doors in 1902, after two years of construction by 250 master craftsmen. Because it boasts such old world charm, it is a Natioal Historic Landmark.
As you step outside the doors of the hotel you will find yourself surrounded by hundreds of acres of ski terrain. While you’re exploring which slope is right for you, you’ll find 101 trails and glades, including plenty of black diamond glades, White Mountain National Park for cross-country skiing, high-speed quad lifts and a gorgeous landscape for night skiing. If it is great-American skiing that you are after, look no further than the Mount Washington Resort at Bretton Woods.
Park City, Utah; Stein Eriksen Lodge
When thinking of the perfect place to stay while on your ski vacation, what better place to stay than at a rustic lodge, founded by an Olympic gold medallist, Stein Eriksen. He founded this wonderfully charmed lodge in 1982 when he wanted to bring full-service luxury to the slopeside. The lodge features blond wood and mountain decor which may give you the feeling that you are in Scandinavia, but while the look is rustic, the ambiance surrounding you is anything but. You are sure to experience world-class service while you stay here. You’ll be able to enjoy access to Deer Valley Resort and experience what the rush of gliding on white snow is really all about. Did you forget your skis, boots, or other snow accessories? No problem, just head on down to Stein Eriksen Sport, which is an onsite retailer who sells and rents their inventory. The lodge features a full-service spa that includes treatments suited to a long day on the slopes. Maybe you got a little sun from the bright reflection off of the snow, if so try the Nordic Princess treatment. If it’s the muscles that are giving you trouble treat yourself to a wonderfully relaxing deep tissue massage.
Teton Village, Wyoming; Teton Mountain Lodge
Teton Mountain Lodge is among many other fine ski resorts situated amid Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Here you will enjoy 120 runs and one of the country’s longest, steepest, continuous vertical drops. Jackson Hole is a favorite for skiing and snowboarding because it sits slopeside and makes sure you are as close to the action as possible. As you make your way out the doors of the resort, you will be just steps to the resort tram and the Bridge Gondola.  Here in Jackson Hole you get the full rustic experience of a mountain ski vacation. After your day of skiing on the slopes, satisfy your appetite with a genuine Black Angus beef dish or a native game dish at Cascade Grill House and Spirits. Coming to Teton Mountain Lodge is an experience beyond the standard. You’ll come away feeling as if you never left home because of its homey atmosphere, featuring stone fireplaces and custom kitchens.
This winter season head out of town and hit one of many first-class ski resorts to enjoy an experience unlike any other. Even if you don’t ski, there is plenty to keep you busy and you will feel relaxed and rejuvenated unwinding in the many spas that are available. What says luxury more than a mountain full of glistening diamonds beckoning you to take a ride? Find your thrill this season on the slopes.

Sienese Medieval art exhibitions of Marco Romano and Jacopo della Quercia

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Sienese Medieval art exhibitions of Marco Romano and Jacopo della Quercia

Two exhibitions which retrace the artistic lives of Medieval protagonists through painting and sculptural works of great merit, and which once again attest to how Tuscany has always been a source of inspiration for the creation of absolute masterpieces. And also, of course, an occasion to welcome back to the area a number of pieces which have long lived abroad. A few kilometres away, in Pievescola, lies another jewel of inestimable historical value: Relais La Suvera. Away from the hustle and bustle of tourists, Relais La Suvera has always been at the forefront when it comes to promoting cultural events relating to the local area. This year Relais La Suvera has decided to open the season early, on 26 March, offering customers with an interest in the exhibitions a relaxing and pleasant stay.

In Casole d’Elsa all attention is focused on the gothic sculptures by Marco Romano, whose creative genius was in large part rediscovered in the eighties by Giovanni Previtali, one of the most important Art Historians of the twentieth century. The artist has left immortal testimony of his work in Cremona and Venice as well. Eyes will especially be cast on the “Messer Porrina”, the restored monument dedicated to Bernardino Albertini, an illustrious jurist of the time, and on the marble “Testa del Profeta”, recently acquired by the Museum. These two works, together with other works by Marco Romano, will be on exhibition from 27 March to 3 October 2010. Bernardino del Porrina, who headed the powerful Ghibellini family of Casole d’Elsa with his brother, the bishop of Cremona, played a very important role in Marco Romano’s life, strongly influencing his artistic development and career.

Other works by Marco Romano have been received directly from the State Museums of Berlin, the Museum of Basilica San Marco in Venice and the museums of Colle Val D’Elsa and Siena. The event is organised by the Municipality of Casole D’Elsa, the Fondazione Musei Senesi, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation and the superintendence for Historical, Artistic and Ethno-anthropological heritage of the provinces of Siena and Grosseto.

Within this context Relais La Suvera is the perfect place to spend a holiday fully dedicated to artistic treasures: this historical villa, transformed into a luxury hotel winner of the Cond? Nast Johansen’s Award for excellence as Most Excellent Hotel in 2009, has rooms dedicated to famous people of the past, as well as countless guest services. Above all, the hotel hosts a private museum managed by the Cardinale Giovanni Ricci Cultural Association, which also carries out publishing work under UNESCO sponsorship. When the gates to the historical villa are reopened there will be a number of new holiday packages on offer which can be seen on the special offers page.

Preparations for the exhibition to be held in Siena from 26 March to 10 July 2010, entitled “From Jacopo della Quercia to Donatello. Art in Siena in the Early Renaissance” are also well under way. The exhibition will be held in the Santa Maria della Scala complex and the Opera Metropolitana Museum, where more than three hundred works will give visitors a chance to rediscover the “Dark Ages” through sculptures, paintings, works of jewellery, furniture, handiworks and manuscripts.

The Casole d’Elsa and Siena exhibitions are timeless testimonies of the presence of unsurpassable artistic mastery in Italy; artists who, inspired by the green Tuscan landscape, found that creative talent which is still so visible in their works centuries later.

The Best Golf Courses in Portugal

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The Best Golf Courses in Portugal

Portugal is one of the best destinations of the world for the practice of this sport. The mild weather and the quality of the courses make golf a mandatory presence in all Portugal vacation packages for those who like this sport. Let’s discover two places with a large offer of golf courses: Estoril/Cascais and the Algarve.

Estoril/Cascais – Between the areas that goes from the Natural Park of the Serra of Sintra to the seaside resorts of Estoril and Cascais hide great emotions for the golfers who like to improve their technique. Near the Serra of Sintra, the path Atlantico da Penha Longa where it has been organized several competitions of the European Tour, is inserted in a luxury touristic resort which was a convent. It’s a rocky field with several levels of difficulty, which offers a magnificent landscape over the mountain and the sea.

The most recent golf course of the region is the Quinta da Marinha Oitavos, designed by the famous American architect Arthur Hills and the first in Europe and second in the world to possess the Certified Signature Sanctuary/Gold given by the Audubon International. It offers a superb view over the Palacio da Pena and the Cabo da Roca being the main challenge of this course of large fairways the rolling greens which demand well-aimed puts. Closer to Lisbon we have the golf course of Belas, designed by William Rocky Roquemore where the wind is the major key that influences the trajectory of the strike. Two holes deserve to be highlighted: hole number 1, baptized with the name Augusta in honour of the hole 13 where the Us Masters is held and hole 18, an unforgettable pair 4 named Big Hole where on the second strike the ball has to run 180 meters to the green well protected by a lake.

Algarve – The Algarve has about 30 golf courses of excellent quality, which are visited by golfers from all over the world. The wonderful weather characterized by many hours of sun per day makes this region a golf destination for all year. The weather, the natural beauty of the region with 150 kilometers of white sandy beaches and a coast full of beautiful cliffs led Sir Henry Cotton to predict a great future for golf in the Algarve. Don’t forget that we are talking about a region that was chosen by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators as the best golf destination and ten golf courses were chosen by the magazine Golf World as being on the top 100 of Europe.

We have to mention the Ocean Course (designed by Sir Henry Cotton) and the Royal Course, both in Vale de Lobo. Probably, you already know the hole 16 of the last one as photographers from all over the world take pictures of the amazing cliffs between the tee and the green. Nigel Mansell, Formula 1 champ, was the president of Pine Cliffs where the hole 16, near a ravine demanding a strike over the beach was one of his biggest challenges. It is worth mentioning the golf courses of Palmares, near the historic city of Lagos, San Lorenzo in the exquisite Quinta do Lago or Quinta da Ria opposite the beautiful Natural Reserve of Ria Formosa. In Quinta da Ria, near the river Guadiana, don’t let the wonderful landscape distract you from your golf performance. Besides your favorite sport, don’t forget to appreciate other great things that the Algarve has to offer, for example, grilled fish and seafood.