Fascinating Florence

Overflowing with history, amazing architecture, priceless art and culture, Florence is a captivating city steeped in heritage. Often called “Rome Light”, Florence is the city of the Medici and the birthplace of Renaissance.



In the first century BCE, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar aptly renamed this former Etruscan town Florentia, meaning ‘destined to flower’. Florence flourished between the 13th and 17th centuries AD. The Medici family, who ruled over Florence during the 15th century AD, patronized many of the city’s most spectacular landmarks, buildings and monuments, most of which remain in excellent condition. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and other Tuscan masters created their masterpieces here, and Florence (Firenze) grew to become the unrivaled authority of Renaissance art, literature and culture. Florence is the provincial capital of Tuscany, and from 1865 to 1870 served as the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. The narrow, winding lanes of the compact city are home to classic, timeless creations of art which take you back in time to the Renaissance era.

General Visit Information

Florence has fairly pleasant weather, with warm summers and cool, breezy winters. May and October are the best months to visit, but you should be prepared for tourist crowds and queues at any time of the year.

Aeroporto di Firenze-Peretola, the nearest airport is just 5km from the city centre and well connected internationally. The main railway station Firenze Santa Maria Novella is conveniently located at the city centre.

The centre of Florence is pretty compact, and the best way to see it is by foot. You can start off with a quick Walking Tour of the Historical Centre (4.5 star rating: Recommended) of Florence. The Florence area features a well-networked public transport system, with several rail lines, tram ways and orange or purple ATAF buses. To visit the Tuscan countryside, rent a car for convenience. The A1 Motorway links Florence to major Italian cities such as Bologna, Milan, Naples and Rome.  The A11 Motorway leads to Lucca, Pisa and various coastal towns.

Things to do in Florence

  • Piazza della Signoria

The No. 1 thing to do in Florence is to visit the Piazza della Signoria, the medieval hub of political power.

The 13th century Gothic Palazzo Vecchio with ornate ceilings and frescoed walls was the seat of Florentine government during the 13th and 14th Centuries. Visit the opulent Ducal apartments upstairs that were occupied by Medicis, and get great views over the city from the campanile and the battlements.image

The adjacent Palazzo degli Uffizi has the renowned Uffizi Gallery, which is home to Italian masterpieces from the Medieval period to the Modern, with an unrivalled collection of Renaissance art by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Raffaello and Caravaggio. The original project with plans to demolish at least 43 houses and towers in order to build the new palace of the “Uffici” or offices was shelved as Cosimo de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, realized that this would be too expensive, but eventually they were incorporated into the new construction by architect Giorgio Vasari. The Piazza degli Uffizi is usually crowded during the summer with outdoor exhibitions, street artists and performers who entertain tourists queuing up to get in.image

The Piazza della Signoria also displays a unique outdoor gallery of sculptures, including the imposing statue of ‘Il Nettuno’, the fountain of Neptune, and a copy of Michelangelo’s famous Statue of David. The original, a 5m tall statue carved from a single slab of marble, is kept at the Galleria dell ‘Academia, which also has other well known statues, paintings and carvings on display, well worth seeing. Under the loggia at the piazza is a collection of other famous statues including The Rape of the Sabines, Hercules and the Centaur Nessus, by Giambologna and Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus. Close by is the mounted figure of Cosimo I Medici, and the bronze plaque that marks the spot where the priest Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in 1498.image

  • Ponte Vecchio and Oltrarno

Alongside the Uffizi is the River Arno, with its many bridges. The most famous of these is the 14th century arched ‘Old Bridge’ Ponte Vecchio that houses goldsmiths, jewelry workshops and the Signoria open arched gallery. At the northern end of the bridge is a covered colonnade, which was built as a secret passageway for the Medicis as they walked between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. The original occupants were butchers who discarded their scraps into the Arno, which gave rise to such stench that the Medicis could not bear it, so the Grand Duke Ferdinando I ordered them to move out and invited the goldsmiths to move in. This is the only bridge on the Arno that wasn’t destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, and looks fabulous during sunset.image

On the other side of the bridge is Oltrarno, which literally means “Over the Arno”. This is where the 16th century Palazzo Pitti stands. It was originally built by Brunelleschi for a wealthy banker, eventually became home to the Medici family and now houses several important museums and galleries on various items such as silver, porcelain and Renaissance clothing as well as more modern artworks from the 18th to 20th centuries AD.image

The adjoining Boboli gardens with beautiful fountains and walkways offer breathtaking views and make a great place for a relaxing break. Designed in the mid 16th century, there are the typical grottoes and garden follies of the Renaissance aristocracy. The Santo Spirito Oltrarno area also has several cafes for a quick bite.

  • Duomo

Soaring high above the city skyline, the Cathedral of Florence, Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. Completed by Brunelleschi in 1436 after 150 years of construction, the splendid red-tile terracotta dome with intricate interior frescoes is an architectural marvel, and offers stunning views if you can climb the 450 steps to the top.image

Giotto’s 82-m high Campanile with a pink, white and green marble façade is next to it. Many of the original works that were used to decorate the exteriors and interiors of the church and campanile are kept at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, behind the cathedral. There are many pieces by Michelangelo, including his Pieta that he partially destroyed and was later completed by a student.

Opposite the Piazza del Duomo, the Baptistery de San Giovanni, built in 1128 on the foundations of a Roman temple, is one of Florence’s oldest monuments of Romanesque architecture with bronze doors at the Gate of Paradise, which are a replica of the original ones by Lorenzo Ghiberti kept at the Museo dell’Opera.

  • Other Things to See

Florence has some magnificent palaces, such as the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and Palazzo Strozzi. The Cappelle Medici and the San Lorenzo e Biblioteca Laurenziana are other famous buildings.

The Piazzale Michelangelo has a bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David, and sometimes hosts public events in the summer. Situated in the parklands up behind Piazzale Michelangelo, the Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte has some extraordinary 13th – 15th century frescoes in the interiors and is totally worth a visit.image

The classical Teatro Comunale opera house is a good place to catch a performance.

Among other places, the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial pays homage to those who lost their lives protecting the town during the Second World War.

Around Florence

Exploring Florence is a good start to a wider Tuscan experience and a great way to become acquainted with the history and culture of the region. Tuscany’s countryside is unparalleled anywhere else in Italy, offering delectable produce, fresh meats and outstanding wines for your personal indulgence.

Tuscany, its towns and cities are full of beautiful Renaissance architecture and the art here is stupendous. The Tuscan countryside is a gourmand’s delight, with delectable produce, fresh meats and exceptional wines. Florence’s surroundings such as the hills of Chianti, the Careggi, Fiesole and Settignano are literally covered with wine and olive trees. Indulge in a Chianti Food and Wine Tour (5 star rating: Highly Recommended). This is a breathtaking area scattered with wine-growing estates spread out around ancient castles, ‘magioni’ and country villas. Take a tour to the vineyards and sample classic Tuscan wines such as Chianti, Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino, or visit olive groves and buy pressed olive oil to take home. Sample some of the finest wines and learn the art of evaluating wine from connoisseurs.image

As a first-time visitor, if you have the time, you could walk to Fiesole or take the bus to the top of the hills. It offers magnificent views of the countryside, in the midst of architectural treasures such as the Dome, the Roman Theatre and the Convento di San Francesco. On the second Sunday of every month, Fiesole hosts an antique market in the central square.

One of the prettiest medieval towns near Florence is San Gimignano which is known for preserving 14 out of its originally 72 Romanesque and Gothic towers.

To indulge yourself the Italian way, revitalize at the natural hot spring spas on the mountains of Bagni di Lucca.

From Florence, a short drive along the A11 will lead to the historic towns of Pisa and Lucca. Seina is near Florence, but merits a long stay over a couple of days.


A thriving commercial hub boosted by tourism, Florence is noted for its jewelry, leatherwork and ceramics. Take a Luxury Shopping Tour (4.5 star rating: Recommended) and spend an exciting day shopping to you heart’s content.

The Santa Maria Novella area has high-end shops, and the headquarters of luxury fashion houses such as Versace and Ferragamo. Real Ferragamo aficionados should visit the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo on Via de Tornabuoni, displaying more than 10,000 works of art he created throughout his illustrious career. One of the oldest pharmacies in the world, Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella on Via della Scala offers lotions, potions and herbal remedies in a charming setting with an old world ambience.

The narrow lanes and streets of Florence, particularly around Santa Croce and Oltrarno hide little, authentic leather and perfume workshops.

Via Maggio and Borgo Ognissanti have some fine Florentine antique shops.

The Piazza del Mercato Centrale also has a few market stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs and other items.

On the Piazza della Repubblica, among the high end hotels and cafes are stalls selling leather belts, wallets and handbags. Head along Via Calimala from here to find the loggia with more market stalls, some of which sell fake leather goods. Here you will find ‘Il Porcellino’, the bronze statue of a boar, which is believed to grant wishes to people who drop coins through its mouth. Also rub its snout to ensure you return to Florence some day 🙂

For dirt cheap second-hand items and flea markets, go to Piazza dei Ciompi or San Lorenzo Market. Beware of cons and fake leather, and be patient to bargain well.

The vibrant Mercato Centrale is a delight for foodies, with olives, meats, cheeses and fresh vegetables.image


Florence and its Tuscan countryside are full of trattorias serving hearty Italian food with wine. Bistecca alla forentina, prime Fiorentine T-bone steak with leave you speechless.image

There are also quite a few tripe comfort foods, such as the trippa alla fiorentina and lampredotto. For lighter antipasti, you could have the affettati misti with a Chianti. Try the Teatro del Sale on Via de’Macci or Antica Trattoria da Tito on Via San Gallo for an authentic Florentine dining experience. Experience the culinary culture of the cradle of Renaissance on this sumptuous Food Tour (5 star rating: Highly Recommended).

Visit Florence to experience the joyous Italian way of life, and you’ll never want to leave.

Camping 101

Great camping getaways are easy to plan and a whole lot of fun. You don’t even need to travel far for your camping trip. You could drive to a local campground or pitch a tent in your own backyard if you cannot make it to a national park.

Of course, for a super exotic camping trip, you could head to Sweden for a 3 Day Kayak and Camping Experience.

Camping Preparation

Even if you weren’t a Scout, you should “Always be prepared”.

Check the weather forecast, and pack accordingly. Toilet paper, paper towels, soap and toothpaste are absolute necessities. Don’t forget sunscreen, bug spray and hygiene items. Fully stocked survival and first aid kits with bandages, pain relievers and topical antibiotics are essential supplies for every camper.


Tents and Camping Gear

Whether you are an experienced camper or you are starting off on your first camping experience, it is important to have the right gear of good quality. Many of the supplies can be expensive and some items may be hard to find.

Your camping gear has to be durable and reliable under all weather conditions. If you find it expensive, you could borrow from friends who have camped in the past, or check on the internet or local resale shops for used gear. If it is your first camping trip, for maximum convenience, you can rent a recreational vehicle or travel trailer with cooking and sleeping facilities.

Most first timers though, start out with a tent. Four season tents are sturdier than three season tents, with poles to protect from snow and gale, but three season tents are fine if the weather forecast is pleasant.

There should be at least 30 sq ft of tent floor space per person, and dome tents are a good option to consider as they provide good headroom as well, along with porch extensions in some models, if needed.

Polyester and nylon tents are light, but canvas tents with metal bars are the sturdiest for high wind conditions. UV-Tex-5 is the material to go for if you are looking for long-lasting tents that would not degrade in harsh sunlight. A polyethylene flooring is best for all types of tents.


Sleeping bags made for the appropriate season are a minimum requirement for keeping warm and comfortable while sleeping. Adding a waterproof sleeping mat and sleeping pillow can also enhance comfort.

Alternately, you could use plastic padded mats with air bubbles, vinyl cover stuffed pads and air mattresses instead of sleeping bags.

Food and Cooking

Campfire cooking can be a fun if it is not too windy. Portable gas-powered stoves and Hibachi grills are other options if you do not want an open fire on the ground. Coolers and mini-refrigerators are useful to keep perishable items from spoiling.

Make sure you are carrying everything you need for a quick bite and drink, such as biscuits, water, juice boxes, tea bags, instant coffee, sugar and long-life milk cartons.

Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables at every chance. Take one prepared meal in a freezer meal that can be easily reheated on arrival at your destination.

Carry old cutlery, pots and pans, a small meat mallet, Swiss army knife, barbecue tongs, matches, enamel crockery, and paper plates and plastic dishes if water is scarce. However, you must ensure you discard your trash appropriately and do not litter.


The great outdoors provide endless opportunities for fun times. It’s the best time to try new activities, like boating, fishing, catching butterflies and searching for fossils. Apart from hiking and trekking nature trails, you can play Frisbee and ball games to engage your kids. If there’s water nearby, carry inflatable kayaks with you if you want to do more than swimming and rock-diving. Many campgrounds provide fun activities like pools, playgrounds, fishing or recreational boating, so check ahead for these and provisions for renting sporting equipment.image


It’s William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on April 23. The world’s greatest playwright was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where his memorabilia are well preserved. There are big celebrations planned here, and lovers of literature are already streaming in to raise a toast and commemorate the Bard’s writings.

Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire on the banks of the river Avon is a delightful little town, where the spotlight remains on Shakespeare’s haunts.

  1. BirthplaceShakespeare’s Birthplace is a 16th century half-timber Elizabethan house on Henley Street in the town centre, where he spent his formative years. He also spent the first five years of married life in this house with his wife, Anne Hathaway. The house has exhibits covering his life and career, and excellent gardens around. It is a shrine for artists from all over the world.

  2. Church of the Holy Trinity – This is where Shakespeare was baptized on 26 April 1564, and also buried in the chancel in 1616, next to his wife. The oldest building in Stratford, this is where Shakespeare is believed to have prayed every week while in town. Students from King Edward VI Grammar School, where he studied as a boy, offer quill pens on his grave. His tombstone reads – GOOD FRIEND FOR JESUS SAKE FOREBEAR,

  3. New Place – This was the place where the house that Shakespeare died in stood. Shakespeare had bought it once he had become famous as a playwright, and used to live there whenever he was in Stratford. This is also where Shakespeare is believed to have written some of his later works. Next to it is the opulent Nash’s House, house of Thomas Nash, husband of Shakespeare’s daughter Elizabeth. A well preserved Tudor building, it offers insights into the lifestyle and ways of the moneyed of those times.
  4. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage – The childhood home of Anne Hathaway in Shottery has been preserved with a lot of the the original furniture intact and has a delightful cottage garden and Elizabethan yew maze.

  5. Hall’s Croft – Hall’s Croft was the luxurious home of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter Susanna and her physician husband Dr John Hall before till Shakespeare’s death. It is a typical 17th century Jacobean home of wealth and splendor, with a pretty rose garden.

  6. Royal Shakespeare Company – No visit to Stratford-Upon-Avon would be complete without seeing a live performance of the great playwright’s pieces. Check the schedule of the RSC http://www.rsc.org.uk/buy-tickets/l/stratford-upon-avon/ and buy your tickets in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on this.

Celebrations around his birthday bring in performers and artists from around the world to commemorate his life and works. There’s music, drama, sonnet readings, and fireworks all over the place.

Take a Weekend Trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon and see for yourself the town and its beautiful countryside that inspired Shakespeare to become one of the greatest writers of all time.

Paris Encore

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt during your first trip to Paris. Of course, you just have to come back to Paris for more. “We’ll always have Paris”, you know.

Paris has a lot more than Seine cruises and Eiffel Tower views. Discover quaint neighborhoods of old Paris, hidden museums, open arenas as you take a map and just wander the streets.

Here’s the secret Paris, the one you probably missed on your first whirlwind trip and the one that’s definitely worth exploring.

  1. Nicolas Flamel’s Paris

    Harry Potter fans can instantly recognize the name. This legendary 14th century alchemist’s home on Rue de Montmorency is the oldest stone house in the city, housing the Auberge Nicolas Flamel which serves some of the most delectable dishes in all of Paris. Flamel designed his own tombstone, which can be found at the Musee de Cluny.image

  2. Musee du Vin

    A heady break for tired travelers, the Musee du Vin (Wine Museum) is for oenophiles. Displaying historical wine-making artifacts from the time of the Romans, to mini-Bacchus figures, viticulturists’ tools, a barrel-maker’s workshop, and other equipment, this museum also hosts wine tasting sessions.

    A place where mineral springs flowed alongside an abbey till the 18th century, the Wine Museum is on Rue des Eaux – Water Street.image

  3. Cabaret Au Lapin Agile

    The Au Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) cabaret in Montmarte, once the hangout of dubious types as well as art luminaries such as Picasso and Matisse, keeps the old world atmosphere alive today, and gives you an insight into Bohemian Paris.image

  4. Paris of The Da Vinci Code

    While the Louvre Museum, Jardins des Tuileries and L’arc du Carrousel are Da Vinci staples for visitors, the Saint-Sulpice of the Paris Meridian fame, the Gare St Lazare and finding the Rose Line insignia are for harcore fans revisiting the city. Saint-Sulpice, a huge Baroque church with beautiful Delacroix frescoes in the Luxembourg Quarter, was turned into a Temple of Victory during the French Revolution. It has a gnomon line on the floor, which is the fictional Rose Line of the book, though it does not have any historical, real-world significance. Discover the Holy Grail on this Movie Tour of Paris. Of course, there are 135 Arago bronze disks marking the erstwhile Meridian before the one in Greenwich was canonized, and they are obscured in a large area, so chancing upon one serendipitously as you wander around Paris can be a great joy.image

  5. Arenes de Lutece

    Even locals may not know about this, so you definitely need a map to return in time to Historical Paris.

    Modern day Paris got its name in the 4th century AD from the Parisii, the Gallic tribe. Our site dates back to the times when the city was called Lutecia, after the Romans invaded it in 52 B.C. under Emperor Julius Caesar. Built at the end of the 1st century AD by the Romans, the 25000 sq ft amphitheater could hold about 16,000 spectators. During the next century, gladiator fights and other gruesome sports (e.g. offering early Christians for lunch to beasts of prey) were held for the benefit of the local Roman population. With the fall of the Roman Empire and rise of Christianity, such sports fell into disrepute and died down. The arena was demolished during the barbarian invasions of 280 A.D., and the site later became a cemetery. In the late 12th century, the ruins were buried under a large rampart built to defend Paris. They remained forgotten until 1869 when they were unearthed to the greatest surprise of all historians. Later on, in 1883, the site was repurchased and rehabilitated under the guidance of French novelist Victor Hugo. A further rehabilitation project began in 1916 which unearthed the site completely.image

    Today in a quiet and empty corner of the Latin Quarter, the arena may not be a grand vision, but stands as a reminder of the historical past of Paris.

  6. Musee de la Magie

    The underground Museum of Magic is a testament to all that is wacky in Paris. Displaying artifacts from the history of magic, this museum can be tacky, but justifies its entry price if you’re in the mood for just some strange.

  7. Marche St Quentin

    A food market dating back to the 19th century, this is a favorite local shopping ground for cheese, wine and all things good.

  8. The Botanical Gardens

    The Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens) is actually a collection of individual gardens, with several old structures, including the Botanical School and the Magny Mansion (built in 1650). The Botanical Gardens are a huge site with an enormous variety of species. The Rose Garden (La Roseraie) alone has some 170 species of roses! Between the Otter Basin and the Cuvier alley is the Alpine Garden, 40,000 square ft of mountain flora, from places as diverse as the United States, China, Japan, the Balkans, Morocco, the Caucasian mountains, Spain, and the Himalayas! There are some really old trees as well, such as an 18th century Pistachio tree, a17th century acacia from the United States and an 18th century Lebanese cedar.image

Lanzarote Landscapes

Located on the eastern end of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is a 40 mile-long sunny island with lovely beaches, plenty of outdoor activities, dramatic landscapes with aged volcanoes and relaxing retreats. The influence of Cesar Manrique, the visionary architect, is evident all over the island at places like Castillo de San Jose, Ceuva de los Verdes, Jameous Del Aqua, Mirador Del Rio and Museo Campesino. For the outdoorsy, there’s go-karting, golf, horse-riding, jeep and quad-bike safaris, boat cruises, submarine diving and parasailing.

You can cover the best of this tiny island in a Day Tour too.image


Lanzarote offers a wide variety of beaches along the entire coast of the island. 

The man-made Playa Grande is the central and most popular beach, with a magnificent promenade of bars and restaurants running along its length. It is a well-facilitated beach with lifeguards, showers, changing areas, rentals for beds, boats and water sports equipment. The placid waters in this part of the island make it ideal for windsurfing.

Teguise is one of the largest and most popular of Lanzarote’s seven municipalities. Los Charcos on Costa Teguise has fine white sands and calm, clear waters, making it a favourite with tourists. La Caleta de Famara, with fine golden sand and mountains in the backdrop, is often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe. A surfers’ paradise, it has huge swells with steady winds.image

Teguise has an aqua park for kids as well. Bastián, in a semi-developed zone of Costa Teguise, and El Jablillo nearby have volcanic gravel sands and placid, turquoise waters which are kid-friendly. The adjacent Las Cucharas beach has a lot of development around it, and offers a full range of services from hammocks/parasols to bars/restaurants along its promenade to rentals for a wide range of sports equipment.image

Haria, the northernmost part of Lanzarote, has some fine beaches with Sahara sand. The entire coastline known as Malpaís de la Corona (“badlands”) has white and golden sand, with volcanic magma forming bays which are ideal for swimming. El Caletón Blanco (“the big inlet”) is a white sand beach and camping ground. For windsurfers, there are the  Caleta Caballo and La Garita.

Tinajo the central north part of Lanzarote is reputed to have one of the best surfing conditions in Europe. It has the La Santa village with beaches around a lagoon. The famous hotel and sports complex Club La Santa is a winter training ground for international sports stars, with world-class facilities for sports.

Tias has the holiday resort of Puerto Del Carmen and a succession of beaches along its 6 km long southern coastline. The Playa de Los Pocillos at the more exclusive end of Puerto Del Carmen is quieter, but still has a good choice of pubs and restaurants. Windy on occasions, but with calm waters, it is very popular and offers good wind surfing conditions. The Fariones and Barrilla are other beaches in the Puerto Del Carmen area.

The Playa de Matagorda is good for beginner windsurfers, but its proximity to the airport means you have the motor noises from aircraft taking off and landing. Alongside the Matagorda area is the Lima beach with fine lava stones in the sand, which is also good for beginner windsurfers.

San Bartholme has relatively few beaches. The Guacimeta is a fine beach, close to the airport. The Playa Honda is a family beach with good conditions for windsurfing. La Concha with fine golden sand and calm waters, has a small promenade of shops and bar/restaurants.

Arrecife, adjacent to San Bartholme, has few beaches, mostly frequented by locals only. The El Reducto beach, a picturesque ‘Blue Flag’ beach set in an almost enclosed bay has calm waters and fine golden sands. To one end of the beach you will find a park with palm trees and benches designed as a monument of a ship wreck. One of the major attractions of this beach is the “Charco de San Gines” lagoon, a natural pond formed by sea water housing a collection of small boats belonging to fishermen who live around the lagoon. The El Cable, a windsurfing beach, hosts unique Canarian festivals from time to time. The Ensenada de la Calleta alongside the port area of Mármoles is a favorite with tourists for its calm waters.

Punta de Papagayo, located at the southernmost tip of Lanzarote, is actually a collection of small beaches with golden sands, separated by high cliffs.  With a surrounding landscape of volcanic ash, crystal clear water and fine white sand, this stretch of the coast with several small bays and coves is quite simply stunning. The Playa de Las Coloradas – a quiet gravel beach, Playa Blanca – parallel to the restaurant-lined promenade in the village, Playa Flamingo – a scuba diving coast, and Playa Dorada are other good beaches in the area.

Inland Attractions

The Mirador Del Rio Observation Deck in North Lanzarote is a lookout area on the Risco de Famara cut into the mountains, offering incredible views of the island, with the spotlight on the Archipiélago Chinijo Natural Reserve and the Famara Cliff.image

Nearby, at the foot of Mount Corona, an extinct volcano which is the highest point of the island, is the 11-acre Parque Tropical with gardens, waterfalls and lakes. The park has around 300 species of birds  including ostriches, flamingos, toucans, cockatoos, finches, weaver birds and macaws. Within this aviary there is a striking lake teeming with Koi Carp, with Mandarin and Carolina ducks for company. With a cactus park and waterfall, it is a relaxing natural retreat where you can spend the entire day.image

Next to it is La Cueva de los Verdes, one of the longest lava tunnels in the world, formed by the Corona volcano. The spectacularly colorful displays look great in the underground lighting. On the same Corona is the Jameos del Agua, a natural wonder created as a result of gas explosions within a volcanic bubble.image

Over the years, seawater has flooded the tunnels creating a saline lagoon connected to the ocean. It is home to tiny albino crabs, also called “jameitos” that have become blind through many years of living in poor light. There is also a fascinating underground auditorium in rock.image

The “Parque Nacional de Timanfaya” is the ground of the Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains), created in the 1730’s when more than 100 volcanoes flared up, with six years of eruptions leading to complete devastations of several villages. The wacky ‘El Diablo’ restaurant, where traditional Canarian food is grilled using geothermal heat, is within the park.image


Lanzarote may be tiny, but you could easily spend a week here on the splendid beaches in the midst of stunning landscapes. Check it out for a lively, leisurely summer.

Astounding Andalucia

Andalucia, at the southern end of Spain, is a great place to holiday in summer as well as winter, with sunny beaches along the Costas and the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountains inland for skiing. An Andalucian holiday has much to offer, with picturesque landscapes, mouthwatering Tapas and flamboyant Flamenco. With the Moors having occupied the region until the mid-15th century, the region has a heady mix of Spanish and Moorish architecture. 

Book a fabulous Trip to Seville, Malaga and Granada now!


Inland, rural Andalusia has three wonderful cities to explore, namely Cordoba, Granada and the capital of the region – Seville.

  1. Seville

    Seville (Sevilla) on the banks of the Rio Guadalquivir, is one of the jewels of Spain, with Moorish architecture, museums, food and shopping that make it a must-see holiday destination.

    Seville is a busy city with lots of narrow roads and limited parking. It is best explored on foot, or you could use the regular, reliable and inexpensive bus service. A fancier way of going around is to hire a horse carriage around the main sites – a particularly popular option with couples and families.image

    You need at least a few days in which to explore Seville, though you will instantly fall in love with this ancient city and its culture. El Arenal, the erstwhile port of the city, is a good place to start.  After the river silted up and the area became notorious for its underworld for some time, the river was converted to a canal to restore the area to its former glory.  Today boat trips can be taken down the river to view Seville from the water. Seville is famous for its Cathedral, which is the largest in the world. La Giralda, the Cathedral’s bell tower which was first built in 1198 and enhanced in 1568, offers wonderful views of the city. Standing on the site of a twelfth century mosque which was built under Moorish rule, the Cathedral is simple, but awe-inspiring and a sight not to be missed, towering over Santa Cruz.


    Santa Cruz is the old Jewish quarter, a literal maze of narrow streets, and small sunny squares obscuring tapas bars, plazas and quaint gardens. For a real feel of Seville, spend some time in the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most picturesque parts of the city, full of narrow lanes with whitewashed houses, pretty squares, and exceptional tapas bars. Don’t leave Seville without visiting one of its wonders, the Reales Alcazares, Royal Palace.  The Mudejar Palace of Alcazar is a fine work of art in itself, and the exquisite buildings, facades and gardens will take your breath away. Green and beautiful with waterways, flowers and foliage everywhere, the Alcazar Gardens are a place to take a break and relax your tired feet. Also make sure to see the Casa de Pilatos, built by the first Marquis de Tarifa in the early 16th century. It is one of the finest palaces in Seville and now also houses a courtyard and park, at the end of which are museums that were once mansions. The Plaza de Espana in the Parque de María Luisa is also worth a visit.

    The bullfighting ring of Plaza de la Real Maestranza is the finest in Spain and worth a visit. The bullfighting sessions are intense, but you should still visit the structure if you aren’t interested in the actual event. Built in the 18th century, it is one of the oldest in Spain.  The arena seats up to 14000 spectators and visitors can take guided tours here.  Bullfighting season commences on Semana Santa (Easter Sunday) and lasts until October.

    Tapas is thought to have been invented in Seville, and it’s certainly the way that most locals choose to eat. The range is incredible and the prices good, so take advantage of the more than one thousand places in the city where tapas is available.

    Surrounding the city is the gorgeous countryside of the region also known as Seville and a fertile farmland, La Campina. There are charming towns like Italica and Carmona nearby. To the north of the region is La Colmarca de la Sierra, a mountainous area with lots of outdoor activities.

  2. Cordoba

    Cordoba is well worth a trip. FInd out more here.

  3. Granada

    For many travelers, Granada is the best city in Spain. The prime attraction is the Alhambra, a fortress-palace built and used by the Moorish rulers. The Alhambra simply has to be seen to be believed. The structure is in fabulous shape, the beautiful interiors detailed with intricate Moorish architecture and style. In addition to the palace, Granada gives off the air of a “real” Spanish city with winding cobblestone streets and bullfighting arenas.image

In addition to these historic cities with their Moorish past, there are many traditional and picturesque whitewashed villages – pueblos blancos, steeped in the Moorish tradition of whitewashing the buildings. Places such as Competa, Mijas and Casares,  and towns such as Ronda, Gaucin and Jimena de la Frontera are a few of them, with their holiday accommodation comprising of rustic fincas, the traditional village houses to Spanish Cortijos set within olive groves.

  1. Ronda

    Ronda, part of the Malaga province in western rural Andalusia, has a spectacular location on a huge outcrop of rock and is one of the most beautiful historic towns in Andalucia.image

    Ronda has a charming old town area worth walking around. Stroll through Plaza Duquesa de Parcent to see the town’s architectural highlights, such as the belltower of the Iglesia Santa Maria de Mayor and the dramatically arched Ayuntamiento building. Ronda is famous for its bullring, Plaza de Toros, the oldest in Spain. It took 6 years to build and opened in 1785.  The Punte Nuevo – ‘the New Bridge’ spans the gorge and links the old part of Ronda with the new. The New Bridge is, in fact, over 200 years old and took more than 40 years to complete, with masonry stones brought up from the depths of the Tajo gorge. The City Museum and the Bullfighting Museum are also very popular sights to visit.  The Sierra de las Nieves natural park is within the province and has a forest of Spanish firs. The fair and festival of Feria Goyesca de Pedro Romero, the only event in the world dedicated to a matador, is usally held at the beginning of September and is a good time of year for tourists to visit.

This part of Andalusia is also home to the whitewashed villages as well as picturesque towns and villages such as Alhaurin el GrandeAlhaurin de la Torre and Coin. Also in this area near the village of El Chorro is the natural wonder of Garganta del Chorro, a vast canyon of the Rio Guadalhorce in the limestone mountain. The El Camino del Rey, a 1m wide catwalk along the length of the gorge is one of the most dangerous paths in the world.image

The national park of El Torcal is also popular with hikers and nature lovers.

In the east of the Malaga region, Antequera is a busy market town within easy reach of Malaga for a day trip. It is a more traditional town and is famous for its olive oil production. It is possible to walk around the walls of the 13th century hilltop castle from where there are wonderful panoramic views over the surrounding area.

The Costas

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is the coastline of the area of Andalucia in southern Spain, running from Gibraltar to the holiday resort of Nerja. It is a very popular destination and has many resorts from the luxurious Marbella and its marina, Puerto Banus with its wealthy patrons on expensive yachts to the more family-friendly holiday destinations of Estepona and Rincon de la Victoria. It is also the preferred choice of many looking for Spanish golfing holidays, as over 30 of Europe’s best golf courses can be found a short distance inland.

  1. Puerto de Sotogrande, one of the most expensive marinas on this part of the coast, is a striking complex surrounded by apartments, shops, bars and restaurants. The overall design has been inspired by Portofino, flanked by sandy beaches to either side of the marina and golf, riding, tennis and squash courts nearby.
  2. Puerto de la Duquessa also has sandy beaches on either side of the marina, 5 minutes away from the village of San Luis de Sabinillas which has a fishing beach, and a short bus ride from the elevated white village of Casares, a designated Historical-Artistic Complex.
  3. Puerto de Cabopino (Pine Cape) is a relaxed, small harbour surrounded by Andalucian style houses. Cabopino beach, with its fine sand, artificial reefs and superb seafood is considered to be one of the best on the Costa del Sol.image
  4. Puerto de Jose Banus, the playground of the rich and famous, has whitewashed, Andalucian-style buildings surrounding the marina, hosting luxury boutiques, upscale bars, restaurants and night clubs. The 3.6 tonne Dali’s Rinoceronte vestido con puntillas (“Rhinoceros dressed in lace”) is a famous landmark here. You can hire yachts for sailing around the marina. Marbella is 15 minutes away by car or bus.image
  5. The small marina at Puerto de Marbella is surrounded by tourist developments, and can get very busy during summer. The town itself is well worth exploring, with the Old Town dating back to 1600 BC. In the old quarters are the Villa Romana de Rio Verde and Las Bovedas, ancient Roman Villas dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. Las Murallas del Castillo Moorish castle is also a fascinating reminder of the town’s history. Don’t miss the famous Orange Square at the heart of the city centre, and the Golden Mile with ultra-luxury residences. The Parque de la Alameda has some works by Salvador Dali on display. Finally, no journey to Marbella would be complete without a visit to one of the city’s fine beaches such as Guadalmina, Linda Vista and San Pedro De Alcantara.image
  6. Marina del Este has a small beach close to its yacht harbor, and is a short distance from the Alpahurras valley, with its charming villages towered over by the magnificent Sierra Nevada. 100 km away is the Puerto de Benalmadena, a huge marina flanked by good beaches, with over 200 commercial premises including boutiques, night clubs, restaurants and bars. Malaga airport is just 8 km away.

Puerto de Malaga is the major commercial and fishing port of the Costa del Sol. Malaga, known as the “City of Flowers” is a charming place with beautiful views.

  1. Malaga

    Malaga, the capital city of the Costa del Sol, is also a port city and the location of the largest international airport in Spain. Malaga is surrounded by mountains and there are two rivers, the Guadalhorce and the Guadalmedina which flow across the city into the Mediterranean.

    The history of Malaga goes back over 3,000 years, when it was founded by the Phoenicians and named ‘Malaka’, meaning salt, probably because of the fish which were salted by the harbour. In the 8th century it was inhabited by the Moors and became an important trading city.  In more recent times, tourism has naturally boosted the economy.image

    There is plenty to do and see in Malaga – the Arabic Fortress, the Gibralfaro Castle from where there is a beautiful view over the city, the harbour and various museums, cathedrals and churches as well as, of course, the bullring. It is also the birthplace of Antonio Banderas. Of course, the most famous artist born here was Pablo Picasso, to whom the Museo Picasso at the Buenavista Palace is dedicated.

    Discover the illustrious past of the region a short drive away from Malaga at La Alcazaba, an archaeological museum housed in an 11th century Moorish fortress. The town of Mijas is just a 30km drive from Malaga and is one of the most visited pueblos blancos. Despite the influx of tourists, the town retains traditional Andalusian charm and hospitality. It is home to many artists, who are drawn to its picture-perfect location and leisurely lifestyle. Stroll through the old town to browse the galleries and craft shops of local artisans.

  2. Nerja

    Nerja at the eastern tip of the Costa del Sol, is steeped in history and houses the primitive red and black pigment Neolithic paintings in the Nerja Caves, which were discovered in the late 1950’s and have now become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain.  The caves are also home to the world’s largest column of stalactite and stalagmite.image

    Nerja is also famous for the Balcon de Europa, ‘the balcony of Europe’, a lovely mirador on the edge of a cliff which was once the site of a Moorish fortified tower. It offers stunning views of the sea along the Calohonda and Burriana beaches. Locals believe that wishes made in the centre of the star at the end of the Balcón de Europa come true.image

    Nerja has some lovely beaches which are mostly rocky coves with sand. There are some good restaurants along the beaches which specialise in local seafood. The old town of Nerja has small, narrow streets and hosts a weekly market on Tuesdays.

    It is also becoming a popular destination for hikers exploring the mountainous areas of the Sierra Almijar and the Sierra Tejeda.

Costa de la Luz and Cadiz

The Costa de la Luz or the Coast of Light, named after the bright sunshine here, is situated at Spain’s most southern point. It is an unspoilt stretch of coastline with lovely beaches and attracts more of wealthy Spaniards than international travelers.imageTarifa on the southern edge of the Costa de la Luz is very popular for windsurfing, and whale and dolphin watching trips on the Gibraltar. Los Lances is considered to be the best beach in all of Europe for wind and kite-surfing. For good views of the sea, climb up the Castle of Guzman el Bueno, named after the heroic general who sacrified his son in the fight against the Moors to save Andalucia.

Cadiz, to the south of Huelva province, shares the same stretch of coastline along the Costa de la Luz. Inland, the area is dotted with pueblos blancos which look fresh and verdant due to the moist air brought in from the Atlantic, vis-a-vis the drier Malaga region.

Cadiz city has a fascinating history in mythology, legend has it that the city was founded by Hercules, though historical evidence points to its establishment by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. The Pillars of Hercules at Los Barrios are believed to have been set there by Hercules as a monument to his labour of seizing the cattle of the three-bodied giant Geryon.  Over the centuries the city has been inhabited by Carthaginians, Romans and Moors.image

One of the most interesting towns in the province is Jerez de la Frontera, the capital of the sherry region where many of the bodegas offer visitors a tour of the sherry-making process, most famous of which are Gonzalez Byass and Pedro Domecq. The renowned white horses of Andalucia are trained at the Real Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre here.

Costa Tropical

The Costa Tropical situated between the Costa de Almeria and and the Costa del Sol has approximately 320 days of sunshine a year, enabling the area to develop a large fruit industry with many exotic fruits. The oldest town and one of the most popular resorts is Almunecar. It has the Moorish Almunecar Castle, San Miguel Castle, a Roman aquaduct in disuse and a museum.image

There are several very good beaches and there is also the Loro Sexi Bird Park for kids. The resorts of Salobrena and Motril are also to be found on the Costa Tropical. Salobrena has a restored Arab castle with a backdrop of traditional white houses and wonderful views of the Sierra Nevada.

Costa de Almeria

The Costa de Almeria has a virgin and varied coastline.

At the north of the Costa between the Alhamilla and Cabrera mountains is Vera, a beach town for nudists. A little further south is the municipality of Mojacar with 300 days of sunshine a year, lovely beaches as well as a traditional ‘white village’ which attracts a lot of tourists.image

Mojacar has retained most of its traditional values, with a Moorish fortress called El Torreon, Arch of Luciana, and quaint, narrow cobbled streets. To the east of Almeria is the rugged, arid coast of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata, popular with backpackers. It is sparsely populated and can be explored on foot. The coastal village and fishing port of San José in the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata area has one of the best beaches in the vicinity. West of Almeria are the highly developed tourist resorts of Roquetas de Mar and Aguadulce, and the developing complex of Almerimar with marinas, wide beaches, water sports, golf and many other facilities.

The old fishing port town of Adra lies further west. In spite of the interesting castle and assorted archeological remains, it is often missed by tourists travelling along the coastal motorway to or from the Costa Tropical.

Almeria, a Moorish city, has the 10th century Alcazaba castle, which overlooks the old part of the town, and is well worth a visit.

Look no further, Andalucia has all that you could possibly be looking for – beaches, culture, history, food and lovely landscapes. Here’s to a glorious Spanish summer.

Vegas Baby!

Las Vegas is an extravagant city with endless gambling, alcohol, food, and vibrant entertainment in the middle of Nevada’s massive Mojave Desert. One of the most stimulating cities in the world which blurs the line between reality and fantasy, Vegas is the perfect place to de-stress. Millions flock to the city each year – some in hope of fortune and fame, others for entertainment and just to have a wonderful time.



Las Vegas’ vast neon playground of gigantic casinos, enthralling displays, high-end shops and amusement parks with interlinked moving walkways and trams draws you into its glitzy world where you lose track of time.

The heart of the city is the Strip in Las Vegas Boulevard, a concentration of luxury hotel-casinos each with their own set of glamorous nightclubs and award-wining shows. On the far end of the strip is the Stratosphere, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States.


Of course, the biggest reason to visit Vegas is the casinos. From the nickel slot machines to the private rooms with reserved tables, there is a venue to suit every pocket. People throng tables for blackjack and baccarat, swilling freely flowing alcohol.

Las Vegas is not called the “Entertainment Capital of the World” for nothing. It is the home of the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil, the funky Blue Man Group, the world famous Las Vegas showgirls, Jersey Boys and other unparalleled theater performances. From the Rat Pack in the 1960s to Celine Dion this summer, Vegas has always drawn the best artists and performers. Illusionists such as Penn and Teller, comedians like Carrot Top are Vegas favorites for their showmanship. At the southern end of the Strip, Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino has a giant arena presenting America’s top boxing matches.

The House of Blues in the Mandalay Bay area offers the most brilliant views of Las Vegas from its Foundation Room lounge on the roof. For an opulent experience, indulge in the luxury of the Mandalay Bay’s ultra-chic Light nightclub. Probably the most popular and famous of all the nightclubs in Vegas is Hakkasan at the MGM Grand. The TAO Las Vegas at the Venetian, Pure Nightclub at Caesar’s Palace, Hyde Bellagio at Bellagio and XS in the Encore at Wynn are also a cool places to hang out and let your hair down. With so much to do late into the evening, Vegas is truly a city that never sleeps, with non-stop nighlife.

Shopping and food are two other past times in Las Vegas. Caesar’s Palace has an incredible mall that will leave you spellbound with its ceiling of painted blue sky with clouds. The Venetian also has luxury shopping with many designer labels. Most other hotels too have luzury shops inside their lobbies. Las Vegas may once have been famous for its $3.99 all-you-can-eat-buffets, but today world-renowned chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse have opened several excellent restaurants in town, and most of the prominent hotels have gourmet restaurants.

Free Attractions

A trip to Vegas doesn’t have to break the bank. There are several free attractions to keep you entertained for the duration of your trip.

  • MGM Grand Lion Habitat

Inside the casino, take a break and view the magnificent lions. It’s a wonderful experience and there are plenty of Lion Habitat souvenirs you can buy at the gift shop.image

  • Bellagio Fountains

The Bellagio on the Strip puts up a free musical fountain show. It’s better at night when the fountains are lit beautifully, creating a magical atmosphere.


  • Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Past the Bellagio’s lobby are the Botanical Gardens with a wonderful seasonal display of flora.

  • Volcano at the Mirage

Watch the volcano at the front of the Mirage erupt in the evening, a scintillating display with the dark sky in the backdrop.

  • White Tigers and Aquarium at the Mirage

View Siegfried & Roy’s white tigers in their specially designed habitat at the Mirage, accessible to the public. Behind the front desk is a 53 foot long aquarium housing over 1,000 creatures from all over the world including Australia, Fiji and the Caribbean.


  • Sirens of Treasure Island

The Sirens of TI live show presents a seventeenth century battle between attractive sirens and a group of pirates. Located at the front of Treasure Island and featuring music and dance, it’s fun and lively.

  • Fall of Atlantis at Caesars

Huge animatronic statues star in this show with stupefying special effects, fire and smoke in the midst of neon lights and fountains.

  • M&M’s World

M&M’s World is a lot of delicious fun. You can catch a free 3D movie “I left my M in Vegas” and explore the wonderland, which has NASCAR-themed M&M products on the 4th floor.

  • Circus Acts at Circus Circus

Every half hour from 11am-12am daily, you can watch jugglers, trapeze artists and acrobats perform death-defying circus acts.

  • Ethel M Factory

Only 15 minutes from the Strip, the Ethel M Factory offers a free self guided tour of the candy making process, viewing of the Living Machine and a stroll through the Botanical Cactus Garden to burn off the chocolate calories.

Las Vegas is also blessed with beautiful, natural surroundings.  Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley are close enough for day trips.

Weird, Wacky Vegas

If you can think of it, then Vegas has it. A Mob Museum showcasing the history of organized crime, Hahn’s World of Surplus selling army surplus, the Art-O-Mat dispensing cool creations, the historical Pinball Hall of Fame and a Neon Museum, to name a few.

Hotels and Casinos

The hotels in Las Vegas are truly incredible to behold, with each striving to better the next one with its own unique theme, rip-roaring casinos, grand views, delectable restaurants, and impressive entertainment. Some are obviously inspired by the greatest cities like New York, Venice, and Paris. New York, New York hotel reconstructs the lively streets of Gotham. The Venetian hotel has a huge indoor canal complete with gondolas and gondoliers. There are tributes to other themes as well, including ancient Rome (Caesar’s Palace), Hollywood (MGM Grand), pirates (Treasure Island), Arabian nights (Aladdin) and many more.

A grand resort built by Vegas hotel legend Steve Wynn, the 50-story Wynn Hotel opened in 2004 with opulent rooms, oasis-style pools, a Lake of Dreams, an 18-hole golf course, award-winning restaurants, private spa rooms and luxury stores including Ferrari and Maserati dealerships. The imposing hotel displays Wynn’s eclectic art collection, and the entertainment shows are world-class. The casino is, of course, among the best on the Strip.

The swanky Bellagio has great rooms, excellent service, botanical gardens, enthralling entertainment and a remarkable water fountain show. With swish nightclubs and a state-of-the-art casino, the Bellagio attracts the crème-de-la-crème of Vegas tourists. Steeply priced, it is well worth a stay if you can afford it.

  • Mandalay Bay

The Mandalay Bay Las Vegas Hotel is one of the most popular spots in the city, with beautiful rooms, a sprawling casino and delectable food. The pool is awesome and the service incredible.

  • Four Seasons

A swanky luxury hotel within the Mandalay Bay complex, the Four Seasons may be located at the end of the strip, but has all the trappings to keep you captivated, with the best entertainment Vegas has to offer.

  • Ritz Carlton at Lake Las Vegas

The Ritz Carlton hotel is a half-hour drive from the Strip, with a magnificent golf course and lovely environs. Adjacent to the man-made Lake Las Vegas, this Tuscan-themed resort offers a gilded experience, with suites on a special bridge built to recreate Florence’s legendary Ponte Vecchio (Bridge of Gold).

  • Venetian Resort Hotel Casino

Ride down the canal on a gondola and get transported to a different world. The fine setting, elegant décor and delectable food will just take you to Venice.image

The Paris hotel experience comes complete with a replica of the Eiffel Tower. With amazing service and great food, it is a true bright spot in the sometimes less than colorful strip area.

The MGM Grand is awe-inspiring, with live lions in the lobby, over 100,000 sq ft of casino space with masseurs at tables, the largest selection of slot machines in town and a Grand Poker room, and incredible guest rooms. The food at the restaurants supervised by Emeril Lagasse, are to die for.

The Monte Carlo has relatively inexpensive decent rooms, lots of stuff to keep kids entertained and is a favorite with families.

There are so many things to do, see and experience that it’s impossible to cover it all in one or even three trips. Vegas is constantly evolving and there’s always something new and exciting happening. Find out the best in Vegas on Explore Las Vegas. So let’s go to Vegas baby!

Come to Lake Como

52 miles to the north of Milan, surrounded by charming little towns with gorgeous villas amidst the picturesque Rhaetian Alps in Lombardy, is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe – Lago di Como. The ethereal Alps provide a stunning backdrop to the placid, marine-blue waters of Lake Como. With lush Mediterranean gardens and magnificent views, it is easy to see why it is reputed to be one of the most romantic getaways in Italy.

The main town of Como at the southern end of the west leg of the lake makes a great base for exploring the area. Como’s main and most posh street, Via Vittorio Emanuele, runs through the medieval quarter, with narrow streets and wood-beamed houses. The Duomo, better known as the “Renaissance Cathedral”, is located in the town center of Como. Nearby are the Broletto, 13th century town council, the Teatro Sociale designed by Cusi, and the Casa del Fascio (The Fascist Party House). Just 2 blocks south of the Duomo is the Piazza San Fedele with its famous 12th-century Basilica. About a km to the southwest along Viale Roosevelt stands the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio, a Romanesque masterpiece from the 11th century.

There are numerous things to do in the sprawling area around the lake. The serene lake is a gorgeous setting to just sit back and relax. There’s sailing and water-skiing in the lake, and hiking, mountain-biking, and horse-riding nearby. Around the lakeside, there is the Piazza Cavour and the adjoining Giardini Publici, where the Tempio Voltiano houses memorabilia on the life and experiments of physicist Alessandro Volta, a native. There are several monuments as well in the area.

Mountain excursion day trips offer mind-blowing views of the lake and surrounding areas. For a quick retreat and some stunning views, take the funicular for a ride up to the top of Brunate and walk to the Volta lighthouse.

Ferry services from the lake run to local monuments and exquisite villas, as well as to lovely lakeside towns, such as Tremezzo, Varenna and Bellagio. With impressive works of art and traditional Italian landscaped gardens, the 17th century neo-classical Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo has to be on your itinerary.

Varenna has the charming Villa Cipressi and the Villa Monastero, with a fascinating terraced botanical garden. You could walk around the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with old shops, restaurants and churches in Bellagio, a quaint town with an old-world charm.

The entire area is an epicure’s delight, with regional produce like olive oil, wine, and cheese in the numerous lakeside shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Come to Lake Como for the spectacular views, the tranquility, the elegant Italian setting. Take a leisurely cruise. With its unspoiled beauty and charm, it is a dreamy, idyllic destination for travelers in search of peace and quiet.