Rome History and Beauty

There’s a French proverb that says “Rome wasn’t built in one day” which means it takes time to do things. Indeed, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Per the Roman Mythology, the twins, Romulus and Remus wanted to found a new city to reign. Romulus wanted to build the city on the Palatine Hill and Remus on the Aventine Hill. After a battle between the two brothers, Remus is killed. Rome is then built on Palatine Hill. We can now visit the Roman Forum Ruins on the Palatine Hill by the Colosseum. Not too far from there, Romulus was entertaining the city with a Festival of horse racing at Circus Maximus. The temples on Capitoline Hill became later on the political center of the city. 

One of the new 7 wonders is the Colosseum. 2000 years after the ancient 7 wonders have been defined, the new 7 wonders of the word committee decided to create global memory again with the new 7 wonders. After the voting in 2007, the Colosseum became one of the new 7 wonders. The majestic amphitheater is well conserved and still breathtaking even after the earthquake that damaged it.

Other attractions :

Trevi Fountain: Per the legend, you need to drink the water for good luck. Nowadays people just toss a coin over their left shoulder for good luck and to come back to Rome.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

Piazza Navona: Construction from Renaissance and Baroque periods like Piazza Novano and Piazza del Popolo are now part of the must-sees in Rome. They can both be accessed from the shopping alter Via del Corso. Piazza Navona has few fountains and the main one is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, majestic in the middle of the Piazza. The Piazza has a delicious gelato place called Tre Scalini. Go through the small street to have a drink at Bar el Fico and shop at the latest Roma store Zaporazzi. 

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Italy and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Did you know Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world?

UNESCO, the United Nations for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, establishes each year and handful of sites around the globe, World Heritage Sites since 1972. That means those unique and diverse sites are landmarks that have some cultural, historical or scientific value that is important to humanity and they should be legally protected by international treaties. By accepting the World Heritage Site label, the countries where the site is located, promises to carry on the mission established by UNESCO to safeguard the site and promote the awareness around it.

As the UNESCO Committee said: “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.”

Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world with 51 sites; 47 cultural and 4 natural sites.

By going to Italy and cross the country from North to South with train I got the chance to come across many of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites.Here are the Cultural World Heritage Sites I passed by and their amazing history and heritage:

Only one hour away from Naples, the ruins of Pompeii “provide a complete and vivid picture of society and daily life at a specific moment in the past that is without parallel anywhere in the world”. Despite the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 that destroyed a lot of the town, there are still a lot of remains of that ancient Roman civilization that show us how they used to live. As I walked  through the streets well structured, pass by the very first pedestrian crosswalks ,the houses, temples and  theaters , I could see how smart and sophisticated they were , how they were managing their city and how they gave importance to art, religion and politics. We did lean from that civilization and it is indeed important to preserve that past.

Assisi, the hilly medieval city few hours away from Rome, is a Religious town since it is the birthplace of the Franciscan Order. As a matter of fact, the day I visited the city the Pope was in the Basilica and so nobody was allowed to go in the premises. You will see there the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli that was built around Chapelle Porziuncola to preserve the Chapelle.

I went to Milan few years ago and I had the chance to be able to see “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci. It is impossible to get a ticket as an individual and you have to go with a tour. They make you go to a small room first and then to the big room with the painting on. The first room looks like the disinfestation rooms that you see in the movies. You can’t stay in front of the masterpiece for too long but they give you enough time to appreciate it.

The Amalfi Coast is formed by small villages that are clinging to the mountain. The bus ride between the villages through the very curvy road can be hard to handle for some people but the view is priceless.  The famous villages that you can go to with the SITA bus are Sorrento, Positano, my favorite, Amalfi, Ravello and Salerno. Each village will dazzle you with its colorful houses, breathtaking costal view and amazing food. ‘Costiera Amalfitana is an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values resulting from its dramatic topography and historical evolution.”

Florence, symbol of the renaissance is an open air museum. No need to go inside any monument; the walk through the city is the way to see the beauty of the 600 years of artistic work. Here is a 2 day walking guide to admire that chef d’oeuvre.

Start at the Train Station from where you can see the Church of S Maria Novella. Take the small pedestrian streets to get to San Lorenzo Basilica and Palazzo Medici. You can quickly go inside both monuments if you want; but again I don’t think it’s worth it. However take a moment to admire the San Lorenzo Basilica from outside and go to the courtyard of Palazzo Medici to see the David by Donatello. Then, head to San Lorenzo Food and Flea Market. The covered food market is the perfect stop for lunch and the flea market is the perfect place for some souvenir purse shopping. After that cultural break, walk to the Duomo and the Baptistery. The entrance to the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore is free but to go up the Duomo you will have to get tickets in advance. In front of the Duomo, in the middle of the Piazza you will see the Baptistery and the east door of it called Gate of Paradise. The Duomo Piazza and the Cathedral are just breathtaking. The Piazza next to it via the pedestrian passage of Via de Calzaiuoli is where is Piazza Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio and Loggia dei Lanzi, a lodge full of inspiring statues . Palazzo Vecchio is not an impressive palace if you have been to Versailles. You can easily skip it. You can seat at one of the cafes on that square like the Rivoire Café to take a moment to absorb all that beauty. Walk then towards Ponte Vecchio by passing by Uffizi Gallery Courtyard where you can admire statues and check out the work of the painters in the courtyard.  You can admire the sunset from there or even better from the bridge next to it Ponte Trinite. The neighborhood of San Spirito next to those bridges is not that touristy yet and is full great locals’ restaurants and bar. Great way to finish that first walking tour day.

Start you day at Galleria dell Academia. Make sure you bought your ticket in advance as the line can get very long very fast. The museum is fairly small and the main attraction is the Statue of David by Michelangelo. David is enthroned in the middle of the museum. To see the rest of the museum, you should follow that 2 h guide– click here.  You should then walk towards Via de Tomabuoni the shopping street of Florence for why not shopping session. Then cross that Ponte Trinite to go to Pitti Palace. The ticket will allow you to visit the palace, the exhibition, the Boboli Garden and the Bardini Garden. The only attractions worth visiting, I believe.  The palace is beautiful and you will get the feel of the grandeur of the Italians monarch. The Boboli gardens are beyond beautiful and as you go up you get to see more and more of that legendary Florence from the above view. There is a cave on the corner of the garden; don’t miss it. It is one of the unusual things to see in Florence. You can go up the small narrow street of old Florence, classified UNESCO World heritage to go to Giardino Bardini Gardens. The Building is a museum and has a very interesting exhibiting. The gardens are bigger than Boboli garden and majestic. Finish your walk uphill at the Forte di Belvedere where you will have the best view of Florence and the sunset. For dinner you can head across the Arno River to Santa Croce.

I had the chance to stay in the old town defined by the Aragonese walls where the streets are narrow but full of life with its shops, busy cafes, pizza places and churches (Naples has 448 churches). The old town life doesn’t stop at night as it is close to the university and the students gather in the piazzas to enjoy a drink. By the bay you can enjoy the port and the castles or you can go up the hill to have the view of the whole Naples and Mt Vesuvius.

Capital of the Christian world since the 4th century, Rome is an open air museum with monuments of antiquity  like the Colosseum, the complex of the Roman and the Imperial Forums, construction from Renaissance and Baroque periods like Piazza Novano and Pizza del Popolo and civil and religious buildings like Capitoline Hill.

How many modern cities can say they’ve been built around ancient monuments and they have been able to preserve and promote that heritage? You can add to that heritage the beauty from sites like the Fountain of Trevi or the Spanish Steps. To have energy to visit those sites make sure to have enough past and wine.

San Gimignano is a Tuscan gem. It is a medieval hilltop town. I had the chance to walk through the old narrow passages of that medieval town; the small shops have great souvenirs. You can see the triangular Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo where you will found painters working on their art. What you will see a lot on those paintings is towers; indeed the patrician families who controlled the town built around 72 tower-houses as symbols of their wealth and power, however only 14 have survived. Go towards the walls, and it is a high town you will get to enjoy the view of all the nearby wineries.

I took a tour of that city and met the guide at the main square Piazza del Campo. “This Tuscan city developed on three hills connected by three major streets forming a Y-shape and intersecting in a valley that became the Piazza del Campo.” Piazza del Campo is the home to Siena’s Horse race called Palio. That race, organized twice a year, see ten of the seventeen contrada or districts  of the city circle the narrow piazza three times or usually 90 seconds after which there is only one jockey left on his horse. The palio maintains the rivalry that exists between all the contrada and reanimate all the passion people have for their contrada.  We then had and chance to visit the Contrada’s Museum for Contrada of Aquila (Eagle) and learn the history behind that contrada. We then headed to Piazza del Duomo to admire the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta; what a majestic cathedral. We finally walked through the historic center of Siena that has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site to get to Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico.

The Boboli Gardens that you can visit with Pitti Palace are the proof of a sensibility for landscape aesthetics that was developed during Renaissance. The Boboli Gardens are beyond beautiful and as you go up the garden you get to see more and more of that legendary Florence from the above view. There is a bizarre cave on the corner of the garden, the Buontalenti Grotto; don’t miss it. It is one of the unusual things to see in Florence showing the Florentine Mannerist style in a magical and beautiful way.

The Piazza is the place where all the Pisa must see are including the famous leaning tower of Pisa that “had a great influence on monumental art in Italy from the 11th to the 14th century.” You can go inside the tower and while going up you can feel the tower is leaning. You will always be attracted to the walls which makes the walking up the stairs a little bit difficult. From the top of the tower, you will have an amazing view of the Piazza and its monuments, the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the Cemetery as well as the whole city.

Cinque Terre has a “cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.” Cinque Terre National Park situated in Northern Italy, is probably the most famous hiking area in Italy. Trails connect the colorful fisherman villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The most popular trail is the Blue Trail; it will take you to the perfect hiking journey in that Rainbow Land.

“Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.”

Take a half a day tour of some Venetian Lagoon islands Murano, Burano and Torcello. The boat takes the San Marco Canal and passes along the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and Arsenale to get to Murano. Murano is famous for its glass manufacturing industry. Hence, we got to see a Glassmaking master at work in a factory. It was impressive to see how one can in just few minutes make an animal out of a liquid glass. We then went to Burano, famous for its lace and colorful fisherman houses. It was magical to be able to walk along all those colorful houses. You start your walk at the main square Piazza Galuppi, where you can visit the church of S. Martino, and then walk along the canal to discover the picturesque bright island. The tour ended with the 3rd island Torcello, the first center of civilization in the estuary. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral and the Church of S. Fosca.

See Venice like locals:

By the St Mark Square area you will see the Bridge of Sighs. You will pass by the uncompleted church of the Pietà by Canaletto but unfortunately it is in restoration and you can’t go inside for now. Then go to the Famous St Mark Basilica, admire the St Mark’s Clock Tower right next to it. You can go visit the tower and learn about the clock machinery by reserving in advance and go on top of St Mark Campanile Bell Tower. That elevator ride is worth it. You will have a beautiful view of St Mark Square and Venice in general. Visit the Dodge Palace or Palazzo Ducale. While visiting the palace you will pass inside the Bridge of Sighs and you will be able to see Venice from the inside.

Get a Vaporetto Ticket and ride along the Grand Canal. You will get to see all the Venetian style buildings like Palazzo Balbi, Ca Rezzonico by artist Canaletto or Ca D’oro, the 15th Century Gothic Palace and the Venice Casino, the world’s oldest casino built in 1638 and the beautiful city architecture. Hop on Vaporetto No 2 and go to island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Situated in front of St Mark Square. The Church of the same name built in the 16th Century, has a bell tower that gives you a great view of Venice.

Don’t lock yourself in the museums and explore the Dorsoduro neighborhood by foot instead. Start your walk at Rialto Bridge. The Bridge is being restored but you can still enjoy one side of it. Walk along the canal to get to San Toma Vaporatto Stop. From there you can walk towards Frari Church inside of which you can see art from Venetian artist Titian. Along the walk you can see the Ca Fasconi University and Scuola Grande di San Rocco Museum where all the arts in the building are from artist Tintoretto. Around the same neighborhood, by Squero San Trovaso you can pass by a little construction site; it’s where they make the gondolas. Walk towards the end of the island, Punta della Dogana, to go to see the Guggenheim garden. Gorgeous. Visit the Santa Maria della Salute Church and just relax by sitting on those stairs and admire the Grand Canal. Cross the Accademia Bridge and go to La Fenice Theater. If you have time, go see a representation at night. If not, you can take a tour of the inside during the day. If they are having rehearsals some parts of the theater will be closed.

A Day in Tuscany

Siena, San Gimignano and Greve in Chianti Day Trip from Florence with Wine Tasting

Wanting to see Tuscany in one day is very hard. Taking a tour is the way to go. I booked the Tuscany Tour with Viator. They offer the perfect itinerary:  Siena, San Gimignano and Greve in Chianti Day Trip with of course Wine Tasting. Travel with Viator through the picturesque countryside in Tuscany to discover those three places.

We first stopped at the Tuscan gems of San Gimignano. It is a medieval hilltop town. We had 30 minutes to walk around that walled city. Walk through the old narrow passages; the small shops have great souvenirs. You will soon get to the triangular Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo where you will found painters working on their art. Go towards the walls and enjoy the view of all the nearby wineries.

We then stopped in Siena for lunchtime. We had some times to grab lunch or just walk around on our way. Then we met up at the main square Piazza del Campo for a walking tour of the city. Piazza del Campo is the home to Siena’s Horse race called Palio. That race organized twice a year, see ten of the seventeen contrada or districts of the city circle the narrow piazza three times or usually 90 seconds after which there is only one jockey left on his horse. The Palio maintains the rivalry that exists between all the contrada and reanimates all the passion people have for their contrada.  We then had a chance to visit the Contrada’s Museum for Contrada of Aquila (Eagle) and learn the history behind that contrada. We then headed to Piazza del Duomo to admire the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta; what a majestic cathedral. We finally walked through the historic center of Siena that has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site to get to Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico.

After all, those walking we traveled through the picturesque Chianti countryside, passed by olive groves, green hills, and vineyards to get to  Chianti in Greve for a tasty wine tasting session at a great winery on the hillside. We tasted great white but of course red Chianti wine with some cheese. Make sure to leave with some wine and cheese. It is a great way to remember that day trip once you get back home. It was raining so we didn’t have the chance to walk around or go to the barrel cave.

Finally, you will get to see Greve. It’s a very small town. You can take a break the at the main square Piazza Giacomo Matteotti where you can admire the statue of Giovanni Verrazano and buy amazing salamis at Antica Macelleria Falorni.

Greve Piazza Giacomo Matteotti
Greve Piazza Giacomo Matteotti under the rain

Thank you Viator for nailing another tour.

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Hiking at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre National Park situated in Northern Italy is probably the most famous hiking area in Italy. Trails connect the colorful fisherman villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The most popular trail is the Blue Trail; it will take you to the perfect hiking journey in that Rainbow Land.

Take the train to La Spezia. At the train station, go to the Cinque Terre National Park Office to get your 24h pass. You will need that pass to be able to access the trails and take the train and buses between the villages.

For a while now, the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola called Via del Amore and the trail between Manarola and Corniglia are closed for security reasons.

Cinque Terre Hiking
Cinque Terre Hiking Trail Start

 

You should then start the hiking journey at Corniglia. When you get off the train at Corniglia, you can walk to the village or take a bus. You are here to hike so start to walk to the village by taking the Lardarinato stairs. You will have a taste of what that hiking adventure will be; sometimes hard but the rewarding is so worth it. You should visit Corniglia before starting your hike. You can already sit down and catch your breath at Largo Taragio square or enjoy the best lemon Gelato at Alberto Gelateria.

 

Before starting the hike make sure you get your pass stamped at the village. All the hikes will start with an uphill since the villages are at sea level, then flat and finally downhill to the next village. The hikes between each village will take about 1h30min each. They are not that difficult at all, take your time during the uphill parts and enjoy the view. There are a lot of people on the trail and it is very easy to follow.

Corniglia to Vernazza– On that hike, you will have the sun behind you. The reward is when you get close to Vernazza and you can see the colorful village and port from far.

 

Stop at Vernazza for lunch at any of the seafood restaurants by the port/beach or grab a seafood cone and seat down by the beach to enjoy the view. You can also go to the castle called Doris Castle. You can go up that castle for a colorful view of the village.

 

Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare – On the way to Monterosso, you will pass by some wineries. If you are planning to spend few days in Cinque Terre, you can take a tour of those wineries. You will have breaking view of the ocean during the whole hike. Approaching Monterosso, you will see the private beaches with their colorful beach umbrellas.

 

Monterosso Al Mare has amazing beaches especially the private ones with their hypnotic blue and orange beach umbrellas. Seat down at one of the cafes now that you finished your hike.

 

You should now go back to the first two villages by train.

Manarola is the smallest village. Go down towards the beach with its colorful fisherman boats and the fact that there is no sand beach but only concrete sections don’t stop anybody from laying down and tan.

Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola
Cinque Terre Manarola
Manarola

was one of the favorite villages. Grab some seafood in a cone and go on top of the port to enjoy the food and the unique view. On top of the train station, at the start of Via del Amore, there is a restaurant called Bar e Vini a Pie de Ma and no other restaurant can beat that view. Finish your day with a glass of wine and the sunset.

 

 

 

 

Colorful Venetian Lagoon Tour

I booked my tour with Local Venice Tours and the tour as well as the guide were both great.

If you have a cramped schedule the half a day tour is the way to go to see the Venetian Lagoon islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello.

The tour starts by St Mark Square. The boat takes the San Marco Canal and passes along the island of San Giorgio Maggiore with its church of the same name from the 16th Century and the Arsenale, the former Venetian industry site from the 13th Century

Arsenale
Arsenale
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island

Murano is famous for its glass manufacturing industry. Hence, we got to see a Glassmaking Master at work in a factory. It was impressive to see how one can in just a few minutes make an animal out of a liquid glass. We had the occasion to buy some work either jewelry or decoration for home at the factory after the demonstration. Or, we could go explore the island. Unfortunately, you won’t have enough time to explore fully the island. I wish I had another 30 minute.

Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glass Factory
Murano Glass Factory
Murano
Murano

We then went to Burano.

abandonned-island-by-burano
Abandoned Island By Burano

Burano is famous for its lace and its colorful fisherman houses. We had 30 minutes on the island.  It was magical to be able to walk along all those colorful houses. I just wanted to sit down and stare at them for hours. You start your walk at the main square Piazza Galuppi, where you can visit the church of S. Martino, and then walk along the canal to discover the picturesque bright island.

The tour ended with the 3rd island Torcello, the first center of civilization in the Estuary. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral and the Church of S. Fosca. Definitely the less impressive island.

I know the company also offers a Burano and Murano only tour and it is fine to skip Torcello and only take that 2 islands tour. The tour, as well as the guide, were great. I just wish I had more time to spend in Murano and Burano and enjoy those rainbow islands.

Venice like locals

Forget about the pricey gondolas and get ready to use the public vaporetto and walk around the island. The best way to see Venice is to get lost on those streets and you will discover beauty in every corner.

My travel App: Ulmon. It has all the sightseeing places saved and most of the restaurants and bars as well. It can be used offline which is very practical.

My booking site: Tripmasters.com . This is my 3rd time going through them to arrange my travel plans and I love the site. They have a great itinerary suggestion, hotels and all for a great price.

My Hotel : Hotel Canaletto beautiful traditional hotel situated between St Mark Square and Rialto Bridge.  I love to stay in traditional hotels where I feel like I’m in an authentic Venitian Palace. The rooms can also have a view on the Canal, perfect spot to just relax and enjoy a glass of wine. Great location, great service, great room and great price.

Day 1:

Start the day with a half a day tour of some Venetian Lagoon islands Murano, Burano, and Torcello. If you have time to spend a day in those islands, then take the vaporatto and go by yourself and fully enjoy Burano and Murano. If you have a cramped schedule the half a day tour is the way to go. The tour starts by St Mark Square. The boat takes the San Marco Canal and passes along the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and Arsenale to get to Murano. Murano is famous for its glass manufacturing industry. Hence, we got to see a Glassmaking master at work in a factory. It was impressive to see how one can in just a few minutes make an animal out of a liquid glass. After the demonstration, I went to explore the island but I have to say, there was not enough time to fully explore. We then went to Burano, famous for its lace and colorful fisherman houses. We had 30 minutes on the island.  It was magical to be able to walk along all those colorful houses. You start your walk at the main square Piazza Galuppi , where you can visit the church of S. Martino, and then walk along the canal to discover the picturesque bright island. The tour ended with the 3rd island Torcello, the first center of civilization in the estuary. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the cathedral and the Church of S. Fosca. I booked my tour with Local Venice Tours and the tour as well as the guide were both great. I just wish I had more time to spend in Murano and Burano.

Full Tour description https://leilaspassport.com/2016/10/12/murano-burano-and-torcello-tour/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

Torcello Santa Fosca Church
Torcello Santa Fosca Church
Burano S. Martino Church
Burano S. Martino Church
Murano Glassmaker Master at work
Murano Glassmaker Master at work

You will get back to St Mark Square by 2pm. Stay in the area to go to :

  • See the Bridge of Sighs

    Bridge of Sighs
    Bridge of Sighs
  • You will pass by the uncompleted church of the Pietà by Canaletto but unfortunately, it is in restoration and you can’t go inside for now.
  • The Famous St Mark Basilica – if you want to skip the line get your ticket online. If not make the line. The entrance is free. You can pay 5 euros and go on top of the basilica but it’s not worth it
    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
    Inside St Mark Basilica

    St Mark Basilica
    St Mark Basilica
  • Admire the St Mark’s Clock Tower right next to it. You can go visit the tower and learn about the clock machinery by reserving in advance

    St Mark Basilica Clock Tower
    St Mark Basilica Clock Tower
  • Go on top of St Mark Campanile Bell Tower. That elevator ride is worth it. You will have a beautiful view of St Mark Square and Venice in general.
    St Mark Basilica from the Campanile Tower
    St Mark Basilica from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above
    Venice from the Campanile Tower
    Venice from the above

    St Mark Campanile Bell Tower
    St Mark Campanile Bell Tower
  • Visit the Dodge Palace or Palazzo Ducale.Again if you want to skip the line you can buy your tickets online. While visiting the palace you will pass inside the Bridge of Sighs and you will be able to see Venice from the inside.
    Dodge Palace Gold Stairs
    Dodge Palace Gold Stairs
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace
    Dodge Palace Architectural details – Gothic Architecture

    Inside Bridge of Sighs from Dodge Palace
    Inside Bridge of Sighs from Dodge Palace

Have a gelato at one of the best gelato places in Venice: La Mela Verde.

La Male Verde Vanilla Gelato
La Male Verde Vanilla Gelato

 

You can relax at one of the famous cafes on St Mark Square: Caffe Florian the oldest one where Goethe used to go to grab cappuccinos, Grancaffe Quadri where Proust used to go and have a cappuccino at Café Lavena. You can go to any of those places at night to have a good drink and enjoy their live music.

Caffe Florian
Caffe Florian

 

At night, you can also stop by Harry’s Bar, a very posh small bar between St Mark Square and Grand Canal

Day 2:

Get a 24h Vaporetto Ticket and ride along the Grand Canal. You will get to see all the Venetian style buildings and the beautiful city architecture.

Hop on Vaporetto No 2 and go to island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Situated  in front of St Mark Square. The Church of the same name built in the 16th Century, has a bell tower that gives you a great  view of Venice.

St Mark from San Giorgio Maggiore
St Mark from San Giorgio Maggiore
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
San Giorgio Maggiore Island
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore

Along the ride you will pass by the Cannaregio Neighborhood also known as the Jewish neighborhood.

Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood
Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood
Venice Cannaregio Neighborhood
Cannaregio Neighborhood

You will see the front of Palazzo Balbi and Ca Rezzonico ( artist Canaletto)

You will be able to admire Ca D’oro, the 15th Century Gothic Palace and the Venice Casino, the world’s oldest casino built in 1638.

Casino Di Venezia
Casino Di Venezia
Ca D'Oro
Ca D’Oro

 

Day 3:

Don’t lock yourself in the museums and explore the Dorsoduro neighborhood by foot instead

Start your walk at Rialto Bridge. The Bridge is being restored but you can still enjoy one side of it. Have a Gelato at Gelateria Da Suso. Great way to start your walk around Venice.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge
Gelateria Da Suso
Gelateria Da Suso

Walk along the canal to get to San Toma Vaporatto Stop. From there you can walk towards Frari Church inside of which you can see art from Venetian artist Titian. Along the walk you can see the Ca Fasconi University and Scuola Grande di San Rocco Museum where all the arts in the building are from artist Tintoretto. The best Gelato in the area can be found at Gelateria Il Doge.

frari-church
Frari Church
scuola-grande-di-san-rocco-museum
Scuola Grande di San Rocco Museum
Gelateria Il Doge
Gelateria Il Doge

Around the same neighborhood, by Squero San Trovaso you can pass by a little construction site; it’s where they make the gondolas. Go to Gelateria Nico to get a Gelato and come back to watch them building the gondolas.

Gondola Construction Site by Squero San Trovaso
Gondola Construction Site by Squero San Trovaso
Gelati Nico
Gelati Nico

Walk towards the end of the island, Punta della Dogana, to go to Galleria dell Academia Museum and Peggy Guggenheim Museum. If you are not a museum person you should still go and see the Guggenheim garden. Gorgeous. Visit the Santa Maria della Salute Church and just relax by sitting on those stairs and admire the Grand Canal.

Cross the Accademia Bridge and go to La Fenice Theater. If you have time, go see a representation at night. If not, you can take a tour of the inside during the day. If they are having rehearsals some parts of the theater will be closed.

La Fenice Theatre
La Fenice Theatre

P.S: The Accademia Bridge is the perfect stop to catch the sunset.

Venice
Venice

Must go places for Happy Hour and Dinner:

They are a lot of amazing places by Rialto Bridge in San Polo neighborhood that is full of locals and younger crowd contrary to the expensive cafes on St Mark Square. Try the local drink Spritz and eat Chiccheti Tapas at :

  • Naranzaria with Canal View

    naranzaria
    Naranzaria
  • Al Merca – Must go for happy hour as all the locals and students come to the piazza for a drink.

    al-merca
    Al Merca
  • Cantina Do Mori

    cantina-do-mori
    Cantina Do Mori
  • Bancogiro with Canal View
  • Cantina do Spade
  • Da Fiore

The good thing is that all those bars are next to each other … a bar crawl in Venice anybody?

Colors of Seville

Seville is one of the most beautiful cities of South of Spain. The colorful city is full of history.

< Day 1>

Start your day in the heart of old town Seville. Visit the Cathedral of Seville with its Giralda Tower. After visitant the Dark yet majestic interior of the Cathedral go towards La Giralda, an old Minaret, right next to the Cathedral. Take the step challenge and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking 360 view of Seville.

No too far from there, you can visit Alcazar, the oldest European royal residence still in use (the king and queen stay here when they’re in Seville). The different palacios are beautiful as well as the gardens. Just wander around and admire the artisan work.

At night, grab dinner at one of the many restaurants in old town. The setting is just beautiful. Later on, make sure to catch a Flamenco Show, many places in town offer one.

<Day2>

On day 2, head to Plaza de España, about 15 min walk from old town. It is a crescent-shaped Renaissance-style Plaza designed and supervised by Architect Aníbal González. Get close to the murals; it’s all about the details. You can rent rowboats for excursions on the canal, be ready for some arm workout.

From there, walk though Maria Luisa Park to go towards Torre del Oro and Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. It is worth taking a tour of the magnificent Bullring with its impressive Baroque façade and the main entrance Puerta del Príncipe with beautiful 16th-century iron gates. Unfortunately it is not possible to step into the ring.

In the late afternoon, you can head to Barrio de Triana , across the river. It is the working class neighborhood, where you can do some not touristy shopping. This is the best area to head for early evening tapas.

Barcelona in 3 days

If you don’t have that much time to explore the city, the best way is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus. I’m usually against those buses as I like to explore the city on my won and get lost but Barcelona is too big for that.

I was staying by Las Ramblas, the famous walking zone in Barcelona and so I started my journey there. Walk through Las Ramblas, enjoy the walking zone, but don’t stop to buy anything or eat there, it’s a major tourist trap zone. Walk all the way to Plaza Catalunya one of the major squares with all the major shops and heart of the Bari Gòtic area. You can catch the bus there. I bought a 2-day pass.

From the bus, I enjoyed the view of Camp Nou the famous football stadium for Barcelona Football Team, Bogatell Beach and Nova Mar Bella Beach. We also passed by the Forum Designed by the Swiss architects Jaques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the triangular Forum building is an urban and very curious landmark in Barcelona; I personally think it doesn’t fit in the Barcelona landscape. We also saw The Torre Agbar, or Agbar Tower,  a 33-story tower at Plaza de les Glòries Catalanes. These are stops that you can explore if you have time later on.

First stop Port Vell. This picturesque old harbor is a popular tourist area with many attractions and sea-food restaurants aplenty.

Port Vell
Port Vell

Next stop, La Sagrada Familia. The Gotic Cathedral designed by Gaudi is a must see and the line is always long so is always good to go as early as possible. The unfinished masterpiece is breathtaking. The inside, as well as the outside, is just spectacular; it’s all about the details.

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia

I  got back on the bus and went to La Pedrera or Casa Milà, a block of flats with a wavy stone facade and sculptures on the roof. This site was designed by Antoni Gaudi and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Next top is Casa Batlló, another Gaudi masterpiece, this site was built in the architect’s signature style where fluid lines and organic forms replace straight lines and right angles. Actually walk between those 2 bus stops as they are on the same street called Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s most elegant avenue.

At night, you can walk to catch the last bus to go to Barceloneta. It’s the name of the beach and the neighborhood has great restaurants especially seafood restaurants. If you don’t like seafood try Maka Restaurant right by the beach, it’s such a fun and young crowd restaurant A good place to try the typical Paella.  For the bars, you can head back towards Las Ramblas, the small streets that take you there are full of great bars like London Bar or Bar Lobo Restaurant.

Barcelonate
Barceloneta

On day 2, I took the bus to see the Catedral-Barri Gòtic (Cathedral Gothic Quarter). The Cathedral is the most important building in the Gothic Quarter.

Next stop, the must-see Park Guell. Designed by Gaudi and declared a Heritage Site by UNESCO, the park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling, and fascinating buildings. One can spend hours there admiring the colors and the architecture.

Then go to Tibidabo. This hill is Barcelona’s highest point so you can see the whole city from here. There is also an impressive modernist church, called the Sagrat Cor (Sacred Heart), a planetarium and the oldest amusement park in Spain (complete with original rides).

Tibidabo
Tibidabo

At Night head to the W Hotel, that you can see rise at the end of Barceloneta. That Hotel has an amazing Rooftop bar.

Barcelona W Hotel
W Hotel

 

On day 3, start your day by going to the Market on Las Ramblas, La Boqueria. You can find fresh fruits and local food.  Then, you can enjoy some of the other stops from the hop-on-hop-off bus or just walk around the city. Plaza Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia are great places for some shopping. You can also go back to one of the beaches to enjoy some sun. If you like museums, check out  Museo Picasso, MNAC Museum or Fundacio Joan Miro, said to be the best museum in the world.

Kutná Hora Day Tour by Sandeman’s

During your stay in Prague make sure to go to the UNESCO world heritage site of  Kutná Hora, a few hours away from the capital.

You don’t necessarily need to take a tour for it since it’s easily accessible by train, but I think you get a lot more with a tour as the guide will explain the history of the city and you will also get a tour of the churches.

I chose Sandeman’s New Europe Tour. It is the best tour out there, you will see everything and the price is unbeatable.  The tour guides are students that are passionate about the history of Prague and they are eager to make you discover the amazing cultural sites that it offers. We met by the Clock in Old Town Square and went from there to the Train Station. The Tour includes the train transportation ticket.  A few hours later we were at Kutná Hora.

We started to discover that beautiful city by walking through the medieval Ruthardska Street. As the tour guide was pointing out some interesting architecture embedded in some buildings, we started to hear the rich history of that old town that was the economic power-house of the Kingdom of Bohemia and played a crucial role in the 15th century Hussite Wars. We then visited the Splendid Italian Court. Our next stop was the restaurant for lunch. We went to Dacicky and had the best Czech food and of course beer. Again lunch is included in the tour price. In the afternoon, we headed to Saint Barbara’s Church, a Gothic masterpiece. The guide gave us a tour of the Church that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Church is breathtaking from outside and inside.  The Baroque style, the Vault of the Church, the Stained Glasses are all are beautiful. Keeping the best for last, we went to the famous Bone Chapel, The Sedlec Ossuary. The Chapel, located in the middle of a small cemetery is filled with bones. In the middle of the Chapel, you will be attracted to that sort of art installation with bones. Very impressive and unique.

We were back to Prague around 5pm-6pm.

You can take the train and go to that town by yourself but it can be a bit confusing as you have to change train. Also, with the tour, you get a full explanation of the history of the city, the Church and Bone Chapel. For that price, it is more than worth taking the tour.

Duration : All Day

Price: 30 Euros

Website : Sandeman’s New Europe Tour

Rating: 5-star-rating

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Prague

Hello Everybody.

Here are my tips about what to see, where to eat and what tour is worth to take in Prague. I’m including pictures of everything and a map of the city.  All the addresses are hyperlink and you can easily found all the information.

I booked my Eurotrip kinda last minute, a month before going and found a great package (flight and hotel) deal on tripmasters.com. That website has the best packages, at unbeatable price and you can easily customize them.

Things to know:

  • You can walk everywhere but be ready to walk a lot
  • Just drink beer
  • You are not a dessert person…Well you will be there. They know what a Café is.
  • The currency is Koruna but most places accept Euros.

3 days in Prague:

Day 1: Prague Old Town

The best way to start is to take a free Walking Tour that takes about 3h. You will not enter in any of the churches, however it gives you a great idea of where the sites are situated in the city and it will be easier to walk around the city after.

I took the Sandeman’s New Europe Tour and it was a great choice. The tour guides are amazing, friendly and know a lot about the city. Since it’s a free tour, a great tip – around 10 euros – is appreciated.

With that free walking tour, you will see:

  • Old Town Square & Astronomical Clock – You will be in front of the clock at the hour for the “show” that was by the way nominated one of the most deceiving attractions in the world.
  • Church of Our Lady before Týn
  • Nicholas’ Church
  • Kinský Palace
  • Statue of Jan Hus
  • Wenceslas Square
  • Powder Tower: There are few of them. If you have enough energy, you can climb up the 186 stairs of the one by Charles’s Bridge and have a look at Old Town’s rooftops, the Bridge and the Castle. Perfect Spot to take some gorgeous view from top pictures.
  • Old Jewish Quarter – Old New Synagogue and the Jewish Cemetery

And finished with:

  • View of Charles Bridge
  • View of Prague Castle
  • Rudolfinum – Czech Philharmonic

Since the tour ends by the Rudolfium, walk back toward Charles Bridge.

Stop by The National Library, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It has an infinite book tower at the entrance.

Have dinner at one of the restaurants in old town square. Try one of the typical Czech foods like Goulash. The beef goulash was my favorite.

Have coffee and dessert at Kafka Café right behind St Nicholas Church.

Day 2: Excursion to Kutná Hora

You don’t necessary need to take a tour for it since it’s easily accessible by train, but I think you get a lot more with a tour as the guide will explain the history of the city, you will also get a tour of the churches.

Again, I chose Sandeman’s Tour. It is the best tour out there, you will see everything and the price is unbeatable.  Click here for the website info.

The tour includes:

  • The train transportation ticket
  • The Lunch – I had the most delicious Czech food at Dacicky
  • The entrance and Tour of Saint Barbara’s Church, a Gothic masterpiece
  • The entrance and Tour of The Sedlec Ossuary (Bone Chapel)
  • Visit of The Italian Court
  • The Medieval Ruthardska Street
  • Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John

We met at the same place in old town square and walked towards the train station. On the way there we passed by the Jubilee Synagogue which is a beautiful colorful synagogue.

After taking 2 trains, we arrived to Kutná Hora. Our tour guide decided to start with the tour of the city first, then lunch and finally the visit of St Barbara Church and the Bone Chapel for the grand finally.

You should be back to Prague around 5pm-6pm. Take a walk towards the Frank Gehry’s Dancing Building. It has become an icon of modern architecture in Prague. Right next to it, you will see series of Colorful houses; just gorgeous.

Finish the day at Café Slavia in front of the The National Theater and the Vltava River. Their sandwiches are delicious.

Day 3:  Prague Castle and Lesser Town

Since my hotel was in Lesser Town, I started with the Lesser Town attractions and finished with the castle.

For breakfast go to Café Savoy; you will feel very nicely posh.

Walk thought Kampa Island. You will discover interesting sculptures by David Cerny.

From there, take a Cruise of the Vltava . The boat departs from Kampa Island every 30 min. It lasts 50 min. Enjoy a beer on board and admire all the monuments that are along the Vltava River

Right before Charle’s Bridge, there is the John Lennon Wall. Have your sharpie ready, to be able to write down something and leave a mark on that wall.

Go under the bridge to get to Kafka Museum. You will again see one of David Cerny’s sculptures.

Right next to it, don’t miss the narrowest street in the world. It has a crossing light!

From there, you can walk to the castle or take the tram #22. If you decide to walk, there are some stairs that will take you right to the entrance of the castle. It’s a 10 min walk/climbing stairs.

At the entrance, the ceremonial rotation of soldiers starts every day at noon and rotation at the observation posts occurs every hour, on the hour. Then walk all the way to the end of the castle, where you can get tickets at the information center. I think the best ticket option is the Circuit A  which includes St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, exhibition The Story of Prague Castle, St. George’s Basilica, and Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Powder Tower, and Rosenberg Palace for 350 CZK.

  • Vitus Cathedral – breathtaking inside and out
  • Take a break at the café just outside of the cathedral.
  • The Old Royal Palace
  • George’s Basilica,
  • Golden Lane : This bizarre conglomeration of mini townhouses within the castle complex was once briefly home to writer Franz Kafka)
  • Rosenberg Palace
  • You can also take a break at the Lobkowicz Palace Café & Restaurant, from which you’ll be able to see Prague in its panoramic beauty

Then go through the Castle Garden. You will have a panoramic view of Prague all along the way. The Castle Garden ends on a small street. Walk down the stairs; the road leading to the Lesser Town has small shops and galleries tucked into every narrow nook. 

Finish your day or start your night at one of the restaurant by the river. The view is just gorgeous. I went to Hergetova Cihelna, the view is priceless.

If you stay few more days or you have some extra time:

Walk to the Petrín Hill, or take the funicular from Újezd halfway up to Nebozízek, the hillside restaurant, or all the way up. Petrin Park is the city’s biggest and most beautiful park with sweeping views of Prague. You’ll find a garden, a maze (Labyrinth), and a lookout tower that looks like the Eiffel tower (Petrín Tower).

Letenské sady is the park, across the river from the Jewish Quarter, features several walking trails, a café, and expansive views of the cit. Cross over to Chotkovy sady for beautiful gardens and rear views of the Prague Castle. Letna Park is on a hillside, providing spectacular views of Prague’s Old Town

Explore Vyšehrad and St. Peter & Paul Church. It’s outside of the city but very easy to access by metro and takes half a day to visit.