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Jessica

Jessica

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Jessica Spiegel is a Portland-based freelance writer and social media strategist with a penchant for all things Italy. She has a passion for cities with bad reputations, is an enormous fan of public transportation, and if she never hears the "tourist vs. traveler" argument again it'll be too soon. Jessica's website is jessicatravels.com, and she's on Twitter @andiamo.

Mar222013

Travel Recommendation

Free Things to Do in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Visiting Italy isn’t cheap, so finding ways to save money without sacrificing on your experience are always welcome.

Mar222013

Travel Recommendation

Seeing the Last Supper in Milan

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Although making time to visit Milan on a short trip to Italy isn’t necessarily the best use of your precious vacation hours, the Milan airport is often one’s point of entry (or egress) – so you might as well make the best of that 24 hours or so you’ll spend in the area, right? Easily the top thing to do on a short trip to Milan is to see Leonardo da Vinci’s famous fresco, “The Last Supper.” The trouble is that doing so on short notice is nigh unto impossible.

Mar212013

Travel Recommendation

Naples Underground

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

One of the great things about visiting cities as old and constantly inhabited as Naples is that you often get two cities for the price of one.

Mar212013

Travel Recommendation

Visiting Italy in the Spring

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

Travelers looking for the perfect balance of decent weather, reasonable prices, and smaller crowds are often drawn to what are called “shoulder seasons” in any destination.

Mar212013

Travel Recommendation

Shopping at the Quadrilatero d’Oro

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Milan is widely known as a shopper’s paradise, but even in this fashion-centric city there are some places that are more conducive to chic shopping than others.

Mar212013

Travel Recommendation

10 Things to Do in Pisa (Besides the Tower)

Pisa

My Recommendation Tip

Of course we’re all familiar with Pisa‘s most famous monument – the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most visited tourist attractions.

Mar192013

Travel Recommendation

First-Time Visitor Tips for Venice

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Venice is simultaneously popular and polarizing.

Mar192013

Travel Recommendation

How to Spend One Perfect Day in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Defining what constitutes a “perfect day” in Tuscany, or anywhere else on earth, is downright impossible.

Mar192013

Travel Recommendation

St. Peter's Square

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

If St. Peter’s Basilica is the main draw of a trip to Vatican City, then St. Peter’s Square is the welcoming embrace inviting you in. The huge piazza in front of the enormous church is oval in shape, with long colonnaded arms extending out on either side of the Basilica. It’s a grand sight, whether viewed from the street leading toward St. Peter’s or from the church’s dome.

Mar192013

Travel Recommendation

Hiking Mt. Etna

Sicily

My Recommendation Tip

There are some people who won’t be discouraged from climbing a mountain, any mountain, even if they hear it’s one of the most active volcanoes on earth, in a near-constant state of erupting. That’s exactly how Sicily’s Mt. Etna can be described, and yet you can still go on a hiking tour of Mt. Etna. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in order to climb to the upper parts of Mt. Etna, however, you really need a guide.

Mar192013

Travel Recommendation

Visiting the Cape of Good Hope

Cape Town

My Recommendation Tip

When you get as far as Cape Town, it’s hard to resist the temptation to keep going south; you’re so close, after all to the southernmost tip of the African continent. The good news is that you can get really close to that southernmost point during an easy day trip to the Cape of Good Hope. The bad news is that you’ll need to go all the way around False Bay to Cape Agulhas to actually reach the southernmost point in Africa, but let’s focus on the good news here, shall we?

Mar122013

Travel Recommendation

Hop-On Hop-Off Tours in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

When visiting a new city for the first time, one of the best things to do is take a relatively quick city-wide guided tour. This helps give you a lay of the land, an understanding of local history, and a better idea of what you’ll want to spend more time on and what you feel comfortable skipping. In Rome, there are a few hop on/hop off tours to choose from that will help accomplish all three of these goals. What’s more, you can – just as the name suggests – hop on and off as you like, spending more time on certain sights so you don’t need to backtrack later if you’d prefer not to.

Mar112013

Travel Recommendation

Visiting the Vatican with Kids

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

No visit to Rome is really complete without a trip to Vatican City, the smallest independent city-state on earth. But when the main attractions at the Vatican are its immense collection of art and artifacts and its stunning basilica, it’s easy to see how parents may need a little help to make the day more interesting for the kids. Certainly, you’ll be the best judge of how much you’ll need to tailor the day to your kids, depending on their ages and levels of patience with museums. Regardless of your kids’ temperament, however, here are some of the things you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re visiting the Vatican with children.

Mar082013

Travel Recommendation

Naples for Cruise Visitors: What You Need to Know

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Naples is a city that only seems to make the international news when something bad happens, so it may seem strange that it’s such a major port for Mediterranean cruises. The truth is that Naples is an historic city with much to offer the tourist – whether you’re visiting for a day on a cruise or you stay for a little longer. It pays to do your homework before you arrive in Naples, since it’s an enormous city and anyone with limited time can get easily overwhelmed, but you’ll be glad to know that as long as you’re armed with a little information and common sense you can really enjoy this quintessentially Italian city.

Mar082013

Travel Recommendation

Day Trip to Chianciano: A Tuscan Spa Day

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Visiting a spa while on vacation can be the perfect way to unwind from the busy “real world.” Of course, a trip to Tuscany sounds like a pretty good way to relax, too. So, why not skip the agonizing decision-making and combine the two? Take a day trip from Florence to Chianciano Terme to see an historic Tuscan town and spend some time in one of Italy’s nicest spa resorts.

Mar072013

Travel Recommendation

Gubbio: A Hilltop Charmer in Umbria

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

You’ll often hear Italy travel writers talk about Tuscany‘s delightful “hilltop towns,” many of which are small enough and out-of-the-way enough that visitors can still feel like they’ve discovered something no other traveler knows about.

Mar062013

Travel Recommendation

Capodimonte Museum

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Unquestionably, the first museum stop for most visitors to Naples is and should be the city’s fantastic archaeological museum, which houses most of the statues, frescoes, and mosaics excavated from Pompeii and Herculaneum. That is far from the only museum worth visiting in Naples, however. For a look at the finest collection of Neapolitan paintings in a museum that also includes sculptures from ancient Rome, you’re advised to head up to the Capodimonte Museum.

Mar052013

Travel Recommendation

Football Games in Milan

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Sports fans visiting Milan shouldn’t miss out on the chance to see Italy’s favorite game – soccer, AKA football, or “calcio” in Italy – in its grandest stadium, the San Siro.

Mar052013

Travel Recommendation

Culinary Tours in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

You’ll repeatedly hear that eating your way through Italy is a must – but in a city as popular as Rome, you’re as likely to run into overpriced and not-very-good restaurants hoping to take advantage of ill-informed tourists as you are to find a real gem of a restaurant.

Feb282013

Travel Recommendation

How to Choose the Right Safari in South Africa

South Africa

My Recommendation Tip

Taking a safari trip in South Africa is one of those experiences many people have on their life lists – most people are lucky to go on one African safari in their lifetime.

Feb262013

Travel Recommendation

Palermo’s Best Markets

Sicily

My Recommendation Tip

You don’t have to be a shopaholic to appreciate the pastime of browsing local markets when you travel – and when the markets are as famous (and non-touristy) as the ones in Palermo, the experience is even richer.

Feb262013

Travel Recommendation

Bacanal del Gnoco: Verona’s Carnival

Verona

My Recommendation Tip

Most of us are familiar with Venice’s Carnival – the elaborate costumes, the decorated masks, and the extravagant parties – but did you know there’s a carnival in nearby Verona every year, too? Verona’s Carnival, called the “Bacanal del Gnoco,” includes some familiar elements you would see in Venice, but there are some things that make it quite unique, indeed.

Feb262013

Travel Recommendation

Italy for Adventure Travelers

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

For as much as Italy travel guides focus on the cities, there’s quite a bit of Italy that’s ideal for a variety of outdoor activities, no matter what the season.

Feb212013

Travel Recommendation

Pienza: Tuscan Village and Pope’s Legacy

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

There are many iconic images of Tuscany that make us sigh deeply and start hunting for airline tickets.

Feb212013

Travel Recommendation

Things to Do in Rome in Winter

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Rome might be at its most popular in the summer months when the weather is conducive to spending long hours outside, but savvy travelers know that visiting touristy cities in the off season has major benefits.

Feb212013

Travel Recommendation

Easter at the Vatican

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

One of the biggest holidays on the Italian and Catholic calendars is Easter, so it’s no surprise that Easter in Vatican City is a very big deal.

Feb202013

Travel Recommendation

Cortona: Worthy of More Than a Day Trip

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Long before Frances Mayes arrived in Tuscany and bought a now-famous farmhouse called Bramasole here, the hillside town of Cortona was already drawing tourists from all over Europe. Now, of course, the number of visitors has increased to such a degree that in the summer the streets are clogged with people. Still, it’s a beautiful town and it’s easy to see why so many people have fallen in love with it over the years.

Feb202013

Travel Recommendation

Castello Sforzesco

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Milan’s Castello Sforzesco, once the fortified home of the regional government, now anchors one of the city’s big parks and houses a few separate museums and galleries. The structure dates back to the 14th century and features several distinctive towers.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Torre dell’Orologio: Venice’s Clock Tower

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Venice‘s most famous square, Piazza San Marco, is home to more than just the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica and bell tower.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Day Trips from Naples

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Naples is one of Italy’s biggest (and most interesting) cities, but because it’s south of Rome it often falls off the radar of most visitors.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Italy’s Most Beautiful Churches

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

Let’s be honest – anyone attempting to rank the “most” or “best” of anything is injecting a fair bit of subjective judgment into the mix.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Florence’s Chocolate Festival

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

What’s better than a chocolate festival if you’re a traveling chocoholic?

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

How to Get Around in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Tuscany has long been one of the most popular places to visit in Italy, and you’ll certainly find plenty of other people there no matter when you go.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Romantic Things to Do in Milan

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Milan is famously Italy‘s capital of banking and fashion, which doesn’t sound like it leaves much room for romance.

Feb192013

Travel Recommendation

Romantic Things to Do in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Rome is a busy city that one often thinks of in terms of its historic and culinary values to the traveler.

Feb132013

Travel Recommendation

Romance on the Amalfi Coast

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

The Amalfi Coast has long been famed as a romantic destination, and once you’re there it’s not hard to see why.

Feb122013

Travel Recommendation

Table Mountain and Cableway: One of the New7Wonders of Nature

South Africa

My Recommendation Tip

Visiting Table Mountain is probably already on your to-do list during your Cape Town trip – and with good reason.

Feb112013

Travel Recommendation

Chiaramonti Museum at the Vatican

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

The Vatican Museums are pluralized for a reason—within the complex there are several individual museums. It’s easy for them to blur together as you wander through, but different collections are housed under different “museum” names. One such collection is the Chiaramonti Museum, sometimes called the Chiaramonti Gallery (Galleria Chiaramonti in Italian). The name comes from Pope Pius VII, who established the museum in 1807 and gave the museum his family name (prior to becoming Pope, of course).

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

Romantic Things to Do in Boston

Boston

My Recommendation Tip

The historic capital city of Boston has much to offer those looking for romance.

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

Mt. Vesuvius: Hiking the Infamous Volcano

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Few mountains have the notorious reputation of Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy.

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

Dining on a Budget in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Eating well in Italy isn’t terribly difficult, but sometimes eating well on a budget isn’t as easy as you might think.

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

Exploring the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts

Orlando

My Recommendation Tip

Those visiting Orlando, Florida, with an interest in art may want to check out the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts.

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

How to Get Around Atlanta

Atlanta

My Recommendation Tip

For those traveling to Atlanta, Georgia, you’ll most likely be using public transportation to get around the city.

Feb072013

Travel Recommendation

Famous Foods to Try in Naples

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Although not everyone arrives in Italy as a foodie, it’s hard to visit Naples without becoming one.

Feb052013

Travel Recommendation

Milan in Winter: Things to Do

Milan

My Recommendation Tip

Although Milan is often skipped by visitors in Italy, it can be a particularly good city to include on a winter itinerary.

Feb052013

Travel Recommendation

Teatro dell’Opera di Roma – Teatro Costanzi

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Music lovers planning a trip to Rome would be smart to check out the schedule for the city’s opera house, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Feb052013

Travel Recommendation

What You Need to Know About the Sistine Chapel

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Easily the most famous and popular attraction in Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel, with its colorful ceiling frescoes and enormous altarpiece both painted by Michelangelo.

Feb012013

Travel Recommendation

The Swiss Guards: The Vatican's

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

When you visit Vatican City you expect to be wowed by the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. You’d probably also guess that there’s a relatively heavy guarded presence around for the Pope. What you may not anticipate is being wowed by the Vatican’s Swiss Guards, who are something of a tourist attraction themselves.

Jan282013

Travel Recommendation

Visiting Sicily in the Winter

Sicily

My Recommendation Tip

Sometimes we choose winter vacation destinations because they’re winter wonderlands. Sometimes, we’re trying to escape the cold. And then there are places like Sicily—in the winter it’s neither too hot nor too cold, and you’ve got the added bonus of low prices and hardly any crowds.

Jan282013

Travel Recommendation

Italy's Most Romantic Destinations

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

One could argue (successfully) that you could point your finger randomly at a map of Italy and end up in a suitable place for a romantic holiday. Still, there are some destinations in this beautiful country that lend themselves especially well to honeymoons or other romance-laced vacations, and no matter what your definition of “romantic” is, Italy has something for everyone. Here are some of Italy’s most romantic destinations.

Jan272013

Travel Recommendation

The Borgia Rooms of the Vatican Museums

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

The Vatican Museums are so immense that it’s been said that even if you spent a solid week inside you still wouldn’t see everything.

Jan272013

Travel Recommendation

Things to Do in Italy in Winter

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

Italy may be at its tourism peak in the summer, but the country is open for business year-round.

Jan232013

Travel Recommendation

Monte Amiata in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

For all its famous beaches, Roman ruins, and Medieval villages, Italy is also quite a mountainous country. The whole northern border of the country is in The Alps, stretching east into The Dolomites, and the Apennine Mountains run the length of the country from the northwest all the way to the toe of the boot. Italy is littered with volcanoes and the remnants of volcanoes, and southern Tuscany‘s Monte Amiata falls into the latter category.

Jan212013

Travel Recommendation

How to Get Around Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

The central part of historic Florence is quite walkable – it’s compact, most major sights are close together, and much of it is flat.

Jan212013

Travel Recommendation

Monasteries of the Casentino near Arezzo

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

There are monasteries in different parts of Italy that can be interesting places to visit or – in some cases – provide a budget accommodation option.

Jan092013

Travel Recommendation

Skiing in Italy

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

So much time is spent extolling the virtues of Italy‘s beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and Roman ruins that it might be easy to forget it’s an incredibly mountainous country.

Jan092013

Travel Recommendation

Finding the Perfect Pizza in Naples

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Naples is the birthplace of pizza, so it stands to reason that eating copious amounts of pizza should be on your list of things to do while in the city.

Jan072013

Travel Recommendation

Vittoriano: One Roman Monument, Many Names

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

One of Rome‘s most recognizable monuments goes by many names – some official, some less so. Its official moniker is the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, it’s more commonly known simply as the “Vittoriano.” Many Romans dislike the monument’s design, however, so you may also hear it referred to as “The Typewriter,” “The Wedding Cake” or even “The False Teeth.” Like it or hate it, the Vittoriano is hard to miss.

Jan042013

Travel Recommendation

Venice’s Witch Race: Regata delle Befane

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Venice‘s car-less existence and dark waterways already give it a mysterious quality – but throw in a fleet of boats rowed by witches and you’ve got the makings of something bizarre and memorable.

Jan042013

Travel Recommendation

Free Things to Do in Vatican City

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

A trip to Italy isn’t always easy on the wallet, but thankfully most cities have at least a few attractions that are totally free. It’s not often that those attractions are also the most popular sights in a city, but in the case of Vatican City that’s exactly the case. One of Vatican City’s free attractions isn’t usually free, so that one takes some advance planning, but otherwise this list of free things to do in Vatican City is applicable no matter when you visit.

Jan032013

Travel Recommendation

Visiting the Amalfi Coast in Winter

Amalfi Coast

My Recommendation Tip

Most people go to the Amalfi Coast in the summer, when the weather is best suited to lounging on the many beaches or swimming in the beautiful water. The summer months are, not surprisingly, when the region is packed to the gills with visitors, when tourist-related businesses raise their prices, and when you’ll find it tough to get into some of the restaurants or hotels you might want to book. Winter, on the other hand, is practically the easy life for a tourist – you just can’t plan to spend your whole trip lying on the beach.

Dec282012

Travel Recommendation

Wine Tasting in Tuscany from Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

It’s entirely possible to spend several weeks just in the city of Florence and still not see and do everything. This relatively small city is packed to the gills with world class art and historic attractions, as well as excellent restaurants and shops. But even with a short visit to Florence you can sample of the Tuscan wine that makes this region so famous with a wine tasting tour of the region that leaves from Florence.

Dec282012

Travel Recommendation

Dining on a Budget in Venice

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

It’s no myth – Venice is notoriously expensive to visit. You’ll get more out of your stay if you can spend at least one night on the islands, but that may mean watching your euros more closely in other areas. The good news is that seeking out the cheap eats in Venice can often help you eat better – and more like the locals do. Here are some budget dining tips for Venice.

Dec272012

Travel Recommendation

Epiphany: The 12th Day of Christmas

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Christmas in Italy is definitely a big deal on the calendar, but Epiphany – January 6 – is equally big. This holiday marks the moment when Christians believe Jesus Christ was revealed to be the son of God. As you can imagine, this is an especially important date on the calendar in Vatican City. It’s the final celebration of the Christmas season.

Dec262012

Travel Recommendation

What Not to Do in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Every decent travel guidebook or website on earth will have its own opinions about what to do in Rome (this one included).

Dec182012

Travel Recommendation

The Sacred Grottoes of the Vatican

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

For a tiny country, Vatican City certainly packs in an enormous list of things to see and do.

Dec182012

Travel Recommendation

Tuscany in Winter

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

The iconic images of Tuscany are of its rolling hills and cobbled streets, usually bathed in sunlight or fog, but there are very good reasons to make plans to visit Tuscany in winter, too.

Dec182012

Travel Recommendation

New Year’s Eve in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Like other cities in Italy, Florence has public New Year’s Eve celebrations in its historic center. There are also private parties at clubs around the city, as well as special menus at restaurants, so can find just the activities that suit your style and budget.

Dec172012

Travel Recommendation

South Africa’s Biggest New Year’s Eve Parties

South Africa

My Recommendation Tip

Spending New Year’s Eve in South Africa has perks you might not automatically think of.

Dec142012

Travel Recommendation

New Year’s Eve in Venice

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Spending New Year’s Eve in Venice involves a mix of traditions you’ll find throughout most of Italy as well as some special Venetian touches. After all, this unique city can’t just celebrate like everyone else, now, can it?

Dec142012

Travel Recommendation

St. Stephen’s Day in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Many are familiar with “Boxing Day,” the holiday that follows Christmas Day in many countries, but you might not have heard of St. Stephen’s Day. This holiday is also on December 26th, and is widely celebrated in Catholic countries around the world.

Dec132012

Travel Recommendation

Italy’s Biggest New Year’s Eve Events

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

Italians will take advantage of just about any excuse to celebrate. Couple that with their insane love of fireworks, and you’ve got the makings of a great place to spend New Year’s Eve. Some areas have more interesting New Year’s Eve events than others, though, so if you’re still looking for the best places to spend New Year’s in Italy, this list may help you narrow your options.

Dec132012

Travel Recommendation

New Year’s Eve in Naples

Naples

My Recommendation Tip

Celebrations in Italy are often marked with fireworks. Italians, almost to a person, love their firecrackers – but this affection is stronger in certain parts of the country, and in Naples it seems strongest of all. Neapolitan women are known for threatening to withhold sex if their men stay out all night playing with fireworks – but, truth be told, the boys usually stay out all night anyway. On New Year’s Eve, all bets are off – and all of Naples celebrates.

Dec102012

Travel Recommendation

New Year’s Eve Events in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Rome is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy year-round, and with good reason. On New Year’s Eve, the city gets even more popular, with Italians from other parts of Italy heading to the capital for the festivities. If you’ll be in Rome over New Year’s Eve, there are a few events going on that you can attend (most of them completely free of charge), but keep in mind that hotels in the historic center get booked quickly over the holidays – so don’t delay in making your own arrangements.

Dec072012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas in Cape Town

Cape Town

My Recommendation Tip

Christmas conjures up images of snowflakes, warm drinks, and bundling up against the cold – unless, of course, you’re in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dec062012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas on the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

My Recommendation Tip

The Amalfi Coast, unlike most beach-centric destinations, probably isn’t on top of most lists for Christmas vacations. This isn’t a tropical climate we’re talking about, so the weather over the Christmas holidays is likely to be chilly and rainy – not exactly conducive to suntanning – and some of the tourist infrastructure is going to be closed for the off-season. Still, if you’re not looking for a sun-soaked holiday and just want to experience a bit of the Italian Christmas spirit, the Amalfi Coast and Naples may be good options to consider.

Nov282012

Travel Recommendation

Concerts and Opera Performances in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Whether or not you’re a serious opera aficionado, you’re probably familiar with Italy‘s prominence when it comes to the opera world. Many of the world’s most famous opera composers came from Italy, and opera remains popular today. Some cities have extremely well-known concert halls that are tourist attractions as well as venues for music – La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice among them. In a city like Florence, the venues may not be as famous, but the performances are sure to be the highlight of any music-loving visitor’s trip.

Nov272012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas Markets in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

While each town in Tuscany will get into the Christmas spirit to some degree, shopping aficionados will want to make sure to visit the cities and towns that include good Christmas markets in their celebrations. There are several towns in Tuscany with good Christmas markets, so you shouldn’t have to travel too far to find one close to where you’ll be. And if you plan your days right, you could visit quite a few of them.

Nov272012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas in Vatican City

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Christmas is one of the bigger holidays on the Italian calendar, and one of the most popular spots to be at Christmas is in Vatican City. Even if you’re not Catholic, being in St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s traditional midnight mass is something to behold. Not a night owl? On Christmas Day the Pope delivers his Christmas message from his balcony overlooking the square. You aren’t the only one with the brilliant idea of going to Vatican City for Christmas, however, so here are some things to know before you go.

Nov262012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas Markets in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Outdoor Christmas markets are a common element to many parts of Europe during the holiday season. They’re especially typical of Germanic countries, but their popularity has made other countries adopt the tradition, too – including Italy. In Rome, there are a few places where Christmas markets spring up in the weeks before Christmas.

Nov162012

Travel Recommendation

Visiting the Vatican in Winter

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Most people visit Vatican City during the summer, when they’ll certainly stand a good chance of experiencing sunny days. Summer also means high prices and big crowds, so if you’d rather enjoy the big attractions without huge crowds and without spending a fortune, consider going in the winter months. There are a few things to keep in mind, however, when you visit Vatican City in winter.

Nov152012

Travel Recommendation

Bologna City Guide

Bologna

My Recommendation Tip

For visitors to Italy who are interested in getting beyond the usual Venice-Florence-Rome itinerary without an hour-long train ride, a stop in Bologna is an excellent option. This city has everything you’re looking for – grand piazzas, historic attractions and exceptional food – without many of the trappings of a tourist city. What’s more, Bologna is on Italy’s high-speed train line, making it easy to include it on an itinerary in the northern part of the country.

Nov142012

Travel Recommendation

When Venice Floods: What to Do if You Get Caught in High Water

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

It may not be surprising to learn that Venice floods on a regular basis. The city is built on the water and it’s sinking – if it didn’t flood regularly, that would be the shocking piece of news. Venetians are prepared for the periodic influx of water, and if you’re visiting Venice when it’s flooding then you’ll need to be prepared to deal with it, too. After all, life in Venice doesn’t stop because things get a little wet.

Nov052012

Travel Recommendation

Exploring the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town

Cape Town

My Recommendation Tip

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of the most popular parts of Cape Town.

Nov022012

Travel Recommendation

Visiting Venice in Winter

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Most of our romantic ideas of a trip to Venice involve being outdoors, wandering through the narrow streets, taking a gondola ride, or sipping wine at a canal-side cafe. When you imagine these things, you probably don’t imagine it being cold and damp, right? Visiting Venice in the winter may not offer ideal weather conditions, but it more than makes up for it in terms of smaller crowds and lower prices.

Nov012012

Travel Recommendation

Tasting Olive Oil in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Many of us are familiar with the idea of wine tasting, especially in wine-rich regions like Tuscany, and sampling the local wines is a great way to explore the flavor of a new travel destination. How many of us, however, think about tasting olive oil? Really, how many of us think of olive oil at all, beyond being a key ingredient in our favorite salad dressings? Olive oil, like wine, is produced in Tuscany and tastes extremely different depending on who makes it, where it comes from, and the quality of the olives.

Nov012012

Travel Recommendation

Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

If you’ve ever walked into an enormous old church in Europe and noticed the spectacular acoustics, you might have followed that thought with the realization that a musical performance in such a space would be fantastic. As more churches serve as venues for concerts, we are able to bask in the glory of those wonderful acoustics. If that sounds appealing to you, then mark your calendars for a visit to Italy in the fall so you can attend a series of concerts in Rome‘s beautiful churches for the International Festival of Sacred Music and Art.

Nov012012

Travel Recommendation

Christmas in Italy

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

While most travelers head for Italy during the summer to take advantage of the nice weather, there’s something to be said for spending Christmas in Italy. Any place is especially fun to visit when it’s decked out in its holiday finery, and the added bonus of experiencing Christmas traditions that may be new to you can make your trip even more exciting and memorable. Here are a few of the things to know about planning a trip to Italy during Christmastime.

Nov012012

Travel Recommendation

The Best Markets in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

One of the distinct pleasures of a visit to Italy is the shopping – and even if your budget doesn’t include coming home with a new Versace handbag or pair of Prada shoes, you can still bring something home from the spoils of outdoor markets like the ones in Florence. What’s more: depending on which market you visit, you can pick up goodies for the kitchen, your closet, or a any other room in the house.

Oct192012

Travel Recommendation

What Not to Do at the Vatican

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Visiting the Vatican is a highlight of any trip to Rome – even more so because this tiny city-state is easy to see in a half-day or so. That is, as long as you don’t plan to see the entirety of the Vatican Museums. The Vatican collections are so vast you’d need weeks inside the museums to see everything. That’s not the only admonishment to keep in mind when visiting the Vatican, however. Here is a list of some other important DON’Ts in Vatican City.

Oct182012

Travel Recommendation

Great Hiking Destinations in Italy

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

As crowded as Italy‘s big cities are, there are plenty of green spaces and remote hills that seem ready-made for outdoor enthusiasts. A topographical map of the country reveals that there are a lot of elevation changes packed into this tiny peninsula, which explains why so many Italians are avid hikers. On your next trip to Italy, you can easily work some hikes into your itinerary; whether you plan to hit some easier trails on your own, join a local hiking group for a day, or book an Italy hiking tour. Every region of the country offers opportunities to hike, as long as you’re prepared to head uphill.

Oct172012

Travel Recommendation

How to Rent an Apartment in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Renting an apartment in Florence can be an excellent way to get the most out of your stay. Even if you’re only there for 4-5 days, you may be able to save money with an apartment rental over a hotel room, not least because you have your own kitchen and can keep goodies on hand for breakfast and snacking. There’s even bigger potential for saving money if you’re traveling with a group, either several friends or a small family. There are just a few things to keep in mind before you book an apartment in Florence.

Oct082012

Travel Recommendation

Diving With Great White Sharks in South Africa

South Africa

My Recommendation Tip

There are few things more exhilarating than getting up close and personal with a wild animal that could, if not for the metal bars between you, rip you to shreds.

Oct082012

Travel Recommendation

Verona City Guide

Verona

My Recommendation Tip

For many, Verona conjures up images of Shakespearean ill-fated lovers – and there are certainly attractions related to Romeo and Juliet in the city. Verona is much more than the setting for the famous (though fictional) family feud. This beautiful and historic city makes an excellent home base for exploring the Veneto region, or the perfect day trip from nearby Venice.

Oct082012

Travel Recommendation

Haunted Venice

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

If Venice‘s dark alleys seem like the perfect setting for a ghost story, take heart – this is a city with plenty of tales to tell. Whether or not the spirits walking the city streets are real, well, that’s for you to decide.

Oct032012

Travel Recommendation

How to Skip Museum Lines in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

Besides money, time is the most precious commodity we have when we travel – which is why it’s so frustrating to waste time standing in lines. If there are long lines for the big museums – you know, the ones you came to Florence to see – then you have no choice but to wait, right? Wrong. Travelers who plan ahead and know where they’ll be on a given day of their trip can book visits to the big museums and attractions in advance, effectively “skipping the line.”

Oct032012

Travel Recommendation

The Tuscan Hill Town of Montepulciano

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Many of the hill towns of Tuscany are famous for their clustered houses, cobbled streets and lovely views. To an outsider, they often seem interchangeable – unless one of them is particularly noted for a wine grape that’s arguably even more well known than the town from which it comes. Such is the case with Montepulciano. The town and the wine grape share the name, and any visitors drawn to the area for one of the two is likely to be equally charmed by the other.

Photo courtesy of lo.tangelini via Flickr.

Oct012012

Travel Recommendation

Visiting Perugia from Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

After you’ve spent a few days exploring Rome, you might be in the mood to get out of the big city and see something else for a day. There’s a seemingly endless array of great options for day trips from Rome, some of which are less than a half-hour from the city center. If you want to get even further afield to see another region entirely, then the Umbrian capital of Perugia might be just what you’re looking for.

Sep282012

Travel Recommendation

First Time Visitor Tips for Vatican City

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

No trip to Rome is complete without a visit to Vatican City. This city-state, entirely enclosed within Rome’s borders, is home to the headquarters of the Catholic Church, and although its list of main sights may be short, it’s impressive. You can certainly cover all the necessary ground in a day if you plan ahead.

Sep212012

Travel Recommendation

What Not to Do in Venice

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Anyone can tell you what to do in Venice – get lost, visit the St Mark’s Basilica, take a gondola ride, yadda yadda yadda. When you hear people talk about Venice, however, it’s all love or hate – there’s very little in-between. How can one city inspire such diametrically opposing feelings? It’s simple: there’s as much value in knowing what not to do in Venice as there is in knowing what to do.

Sep212012

Travel Recommendation

Vatican Tours: A Guide to Your Options

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

For a tiny city-state, Vatican City sure has a lot of amazing things to see and do. This is but one reason why booking a guided tour for your day at the Vatican is a good idea – but which tour to book?

Sep202012

Travel Recommendation

Cruise Ports in Italy

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

With as much coastline as Italy has, it’s not surprising that it’s a major destinations for Mediterranean cruise ships. Not every popular tourist city has its own cruise port, however, and some aren’t even located on the sea. Therefore it’s important to look into the ports of call that are included on your Italian cruise before you get off the ship. That way, you can make better decisions about how to spend your time and money.

Sep192012

Travel Recommendation

Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Any country with as much coastline as Italy is bound to have a long list of islands off the coast – and Italy does not disappoint. Some are (rightly) famous, including the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, and an island that has served as a playground to the wealthy for thousands of years, Capri. Did you know that there are seven islands in an archipelago off the coast of Tuscany alone?

Photo courtesy of magnetismus via Flickr.

Sep192012

Travel Recommendation

Florence Tips for Cruise Visitors

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

The first thing to know when you see “Florence” on the itinerary of your Mediterranean cruise is that your ship won’t be docking in Florence’s city center. A quick glance at a map of Italy will show you the Renaissance capital lies quite a distance from the coast, so the top tip for cruise visitors to Florence is this: you need to get yourself to Florence.

Sep192012

Travel Recommendation

Truffle Hunting in Tuscany

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Italy is known for many culinary delicacies, including cheeses, meats and wines; but few can match the truffle in terms of market value. Gathering truffles is a time-consuming task, and as yet they have proved difficult to cultivate. Both of these factors contribute to the high prices some truffles can fetch, as well as how closely truffle hunters guard their preferred hunting grounds.

Photo courtesy of tuscanycious via Flickr.

Sep072012

Travel Recommendation

Burano Regatta

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

There are several boat races in the Venetian lagoon from May through September, and the last one of the season is the Burano Regatta – the Regata di Burano in Italian. It is, as the name suggests, at the island of Burano, one of the islands in the Venetian lagoon popular for its brightly-painted houses and tradition of lace-making. Should you find yourself in Venice in September, make a point to check out this historic race.

Sep062012

Travel Recommendation

Things To Do in Genoa

Genoa

My Recommendation Tip

The city of Genoa may not be among the must-see stops on most Italian itineraries, but this historic port city is a treat to explore – not least because it’s not on most must-see lists! Genoa (Genova in Italian) has a busy cruise port, so you may find yourself with just a day in the city, or you may opt to spend a few days as you work your way along the Ligurian coast to the famed Cinque Terre. Either way, here are some of the things to do during your stay in Genoa.

Sep052012

Travel Recommendation

Gladiators of Ancient Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

We have long been fascinated by gladiators, as evidenced by things like the blockbuster Russell Crowe movie, but how much do we really know about the gladiators of Ancient Rome?

Sep052012

Travel Recommendation

Tuscany’s Vineyards in Harvest Season

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Italy is a wine lover’s dream year-round, and every region of the country produces wine. Still, there’s nothing quite like a visit to Tuscany‘s famous vineyards during the autumn harvest season, which allows you to combine your love of good wine with Italy’s fondness for celebrations.

Sep052012

Travel Recommendation

Visiting Fiesole from Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

There are many excellent options for day trips from Florence, including Pisa and Siena, but if you have less than a day to spare—or you just want to spend more time exploring a destination instead of in transit—then the historic town of Fiesole is the ideal choice. Fiesole (pronounced fee-YEH-zoh-leh) sits in the hills above Florence, which means you get a great vantage point over the city.

Aug232012

Travel Recommendation

Italy for Art Lovers

Italy

My Recommendation Tip

Even if you’re not a serious art buff, no visit to Italy is complete without checking out some of the country’s world-class art museums. These are, after all, the kinds of exhibits you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life. “Remember the time we walked into that room full of house-sized Botticelli paintings in Florence? Yeah, that was amazing.” If you are an art lover, however, Italy is a treat just waiting to be devoured.

Aug222012

Travel Recommendation

Exploring the Boboli Gardens in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

From the austere facade of the Pitti Palace in Florence, you would never know that an expansive and elaborate garden lies just over the palace walls. The Boboli Gardens were once the private gardens of the ruling Medici family who used to live in the palace. Today, this former royal backyard is open to the public.

Aug212012

Travel Recommendation

Rome’s Gay Village Festival

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Never mind that the Vatican is across town or that Italy is an overwhelmingly Catholic country – there’s an enormous festival called Gay Village that sets up in Rome for 2.5 months every year.

Aug212012

Travel Recommendation

Romantic Things to Do in Tuscany

Tuscany

My Recommendation Tip

Planning a honeymoon or any other kind of romantic vacation in Italy can seem overwhelming, not for lack of choice or resources but for the overwhelming number of things you can add to your must-do list. This seems especially true in Tuscany, where every turn in the road reveals yet another postcard vista or fairy-tale hilltop town.

Aug102012

Travel Recommendation

Venice Film Festival

Venice

My Recommendation Tip

Venice may seem like a sleepy city steeped in history, but the art scene is alive, kicking and contemporary. This is showcased every other year during both the Venice Biennale, a big contemporary art festival that takes over the city in odd-numbered years, and on an annual basis at the Venice Film Festival. As part of the Venice Biennale, the Venice Film Festival usually takes place in late August to early September and draws famous actors and filmmakers from around the globe.

Aug082012

Travel Recommendation

Aperitivo: Happy Hour in Florence

Florence

My Recommendation Tip

The words “happy hour” can be music to the ears of any budget traveler, but everyone knows things sound better in Italian. Yes, you might see the occasional sign in English declaring a bar has a “happy hour,” but you’re more likely to hear about “aperitivo” – and if you do hear about it, you should make a point to go.

Aug082012

Travel Recommendation

Perfetto! Your Perfect Cooking Class in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

One of the greatest pleasures of a visit to Rome is eating your way through the city. Sampling local specialties like Roman-style artichokes, bucatini all’amatriciana, porchetta, and cacio e pepe (a “comfort food” pasta dish with grated pecorino cheese and black pepper), not to mention the city’s array of fabulous gelato shops.

Aug082012

Travel Recommendation

Biking in Rome

Rome

My Recommendation Tip

Some cities lend themselves well to bicycles as a mode of transportation, while others seem to create an atmosphere in which it is more intimidating to hop on a bike when everyone else is apparently driving something with a motor. In Rome many residents have long relied on bicycles to get around the city, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t do the same thing. If, however, you’d like to start with a set of Italian training wheels, then taking a bike tour of Rome or the surrounding countryside is an excellent option.

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