The enormity and beauty of the landscape on the journey from Switzerland to Italy is more than a little overwhelming.
There was nothing wrong with the seats inside the train – they were plush and luxurious with massive panoramic windows and hostesses serving gourmet food and champagne. We had paid a premium for the seats … but we never actually sat in them.
We spent the entire 2½t hours from Samedan in Eastern Switzerland over the Bernina Pass to Tirano in Northern Italy standing in an open carriage at the rear of the train, lurching from one side to the other, spellbound by the staggering landscape and the utter perfection of the cloudless, autumn day.
My heart rate started to ramp up as soon as the bright red Rhaetian Railway locomotive with the Bernina Express sign slid into the station in Samedan, hauling a string of panoramic carriages which looked like glass capsules.
To say that the Amalfi Coast of Italy is beautiful is something of an understatement!
Oh, and don’t get me started on the weather too! While some of us are sat at home, scratching our heads in disbelief at summer snow/hail and wondering why we still need coats in the middle of summer, the Amalfi Coast of Italy seems to just be basking in what seems like perpetual summer sunshine.
Then there are those colourful villages homes, staggered on terraced cliffs, fragrant lemon groves, delicious freshly made Italian food and turquoise waters – all of which are pretty much guaranteed to make you fall in love instantly with not just the Amalfi Coast but Italy as a whole.
But here’s the thing, the Amalfi Coast isn’t just one spot! It’s a collection of lots of different towns and villages – each of which has it’s own unique character and appeal and so you kinda need to decide A.) where to base yourself in the Amalfi Coast when you visit and B) which other places to see during your time in the Amalfi Coast.
Vissa Venkata Sundar wanders through Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and falls for its many charms
The climb to the top is not for the faint-hearted, but if you manage to negotiate the 463 narrow steps from the inside, you will be greeted with extraordinary views of the city. A sea of terracotta roof tiles spreads across the city’s vista, like a handmade canvas painting.
The orange-tiled Duomo changed the skyline of Florence forever. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and completed in 1436, it is a ground-breaking engineering feat that draws inspiration from the Pantheon. A goldsmith with no formal architectural training, he went on to single-handedly create a brilliant and risky octagonal structure that would become the quintessential symbol of the Renaissance. Brunelleschi received a princely sum of 200 gold florins for his ingenuity and completion of the project.
Santa Maria del Fiore
A walk through a maze of tiny alleys leads you to the cathedral named in honour of Santa Maria del Fiore. The magnificent exteriors of the church, especially the doors, will leave you gasping. It consists of 10 rectangular panels.
There’s nothing like a destination on top of the world to make you feel, well, on top of the world. For centuries, humans have gone to great heights for gorgeous scenery or fresh mountain air. You don’t have to be a skiing or snowboarding enthusiast to appreciate what high-altitude destinations have to offer, either. All over the world, you’ll find mountainous getaways with plenty to offer in the way of food, drink, historical sites, beautiful scenery, and tons of relaxation.
While there are popular high-altitude spots like Machu Picchu or Mount Rushmore, mountain towns that have an actual population of residents or visitors have a separate charm to them. Living in, or even visiting, a town situated on a mountaintop has plenty of benefits that are apparent in the relaxed attitude of those present. Some are simply great resort towns with fantastic skiing and food, but others have a lot more to them. Some mountain areas have fantastic spa facilities, whereas others provide the chance to explore a new culture or religion amidst a serene backdrop.
Join the only tour that takes you to the Cinque Terre on a one-day hiking trip from Florence. Hiking is the only way to truly experience the magic of the Cinque Terre. Take a break from the bustle of the city and hike this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. It’s a unique and memorable experience, exploring the only unspoilt survivor of the genuine Italian Riviera.
Led by your knowledgeable guide you will trek scenic trails and wander through vineyards and olive groves, over stone walls and along a spectacular coastline. This tour includes coach transportation, rail and boat travel between villages and entry in to Cinque Terre National Park. The Cinque Terre takes its name from the five picturesque fishing villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Each town has a distinct character, but all share alleys, arches and steep stone steps, best explored on foot. An idyllic snapshot of old-world Italy, the villages are surrounded by sunny beaches, narrow lanes lined with shops and stalls, brightly colored fishing boats, seaside promenades and sleepy piazzas. The ancient trails are rough but manageable.
We have two places to give away on a four-day cultural tour to historic Ravenna this September, worth £2,950, thanks to our friends at Sapienza Travel
Sapienza Travel’s All That Glitters Is Byzantine Gold is a four-day guided cultural tour of Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Roman Empire. Discover a treasury of dazzling mosaics and Byzantine architecture including the Neonian Baptistery and the 6th-century, Byzantine Sant’Apollinare Nuovo church.
Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, spent much of his exile in Ravenna and is buried in the city. Ravenna is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, and you will visit all of them on this carefully curated tour with Sapienza Travel’s expert guides.
The itinerary also includes a private visit to the church of San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and Sant’Apollinare in Classe, plus four-star accommodation at the Hotel Palazzo Bezzi.
Return flights from London on British Airways (economy) to Bologna
Three nights in the four-star Hotel Palazzo Bezzi
Three breakfasts, three lunches and two dinners (lunch and dinner with wine, water and coffee included)
“Wetlands for a sustainable urban future” Message from Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, for World Wetlands Day 2018
In focusing on the theme “wetlands for a sustainable urban future”, this year’s World Wetlands Day sheds light on the importance of wetlands for cities. Today, 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. Forecasts expect the urban population to rise to 6.3 billion by 2050 – a more than eightfold increase since 1950. While the urban proportion of the world’s population will more than double from 1950 to 2050, the number of the world’s wetlands has already more than halved over the past 100 years. However, wetlands play a vital role for cities and for the whole of humanity. For instance, they serve as a source of drinking water; they reduce flooding and the vegetation of wetlands filters domestic and industrial waste and improves water quality.
On the occasion of the World Wetlands Day 2018, the World Heritage Centre welcomes the close collaboration between the Ramsar Convention and the World Heritage Convention. As of today, more than 95 Ramsar Sites of International Importance overlap with more than 69 World Heritage properties.
Avoid the crowds at the beginning of tourist season with our guide to spring in Tuscany, featuring rolling hills, revered traditions, and excellent food.
With rolling, verdant hillsides lush with blossoming flowers and a mild climate, spring is an ideal time to venture around Tuscany. It is, however, also the beginning of tourist season. Fortunately, at 8,875 square miles, it’s also large enough to find hidden enclaves, local favorites, and a few surprises away from the crowds. To make the most of spring in Tuscany, see our guide below, featuring Florentine tradition, a seaside escape, and the gorgeous Tuscan countryside.
The most dramatic Easter commemoration in Tuscany, the Scoppio del Carro, takes place in Florence’s Piazza Duomo. A tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, this ritual is said to have originated when a member of the noble Pazzi family returned from First Crusade.
Enjoy all of the facilities on board Celebrity Constellation
Cruise provided by Forever Cruises
Fly from the UK to Rome and enjoy a one-night hotel stay. Sail with Celebrity Cruises, embarking on board Celebrity Constellation. Your first port of call is Naples, with its historic centre being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Catania in Sicily is next on the itinerary, with all of the architecture existing post-1693, when there was an epic earthquake. A trip to the Maltese capital follows, before a day is spent at sea enjoying the facilities on board. Your first taste of Spain on the journey comes in the form of Palma de Mallorca and Cartagena.
Being a pilgrim had never appealed to me. Slow suffering for organised religion? No, thank you. But cycling 300 kilometres from Siena to Rome on the Via Francigena taught me I was being as archaic in my thinking as the route itself.
Via Francigena (fran-CHEEDG-ena), loosely meaning the road through France, is a lesser known and longer Camino de Santiago. Since the 8th century, pilgrims have travelled its 1900 kilometres from Canterbury to the Eternal City at the risk of shipwreck and pirates, wild animal and bandit attacks, sickness and starvation. Those days it really was all about the destination.
Never one road but various routes between significant centres and safe havens, the Via Francigena eventually disappeared. In 2009 the Italian government launched a project to recover its section and also developed CicloVia Francigena from Swiss-Italian border to Rome. Hikers and cyclists are encouraged to travel one way.