Tag - Italy

Fontanellato’s ‘Slow Boiled Meat Day’, Slow Food Near Parma

One Type of Bollito-Rabbit and Veal Cheek

One Type of Bollito-Rabbit and Veal Cheek

The first annual ‘Festa del Bollito’, ‘Slow Boiled Meat Day’ is 6 February, 2011 in Fontanellato, a small Renaissance town between Cremona and Parma, Italy

If you are in Northern Italy and hankering for some real Italian food, the kind farm wives serve on holidays and Sundays, the kind that takes hours and hours to prepare, put February 6, 2011 on your calendar. That’s the Sunday chosen for the first annual ‘Slow Boiled Meat Day’ , the ‘Festa del Bollito’ in Fontanellato, near Parma, Northern Italy.

Fontanellato, Citta’Slow, and its Famous ‘Bollito’

Fontanellato, a small town between Cremona and Parma , was recently named ‘CittaSlow’, to highlight the town’s dedication to preserving its heritage and culture by, among other things, promoting the historical foods its citizens prepare best. The ‘Bollito’, the second course of Northern Italian Sunday dinners for hundreds of years, is one of these foods . Large cuts of various meats, plus vegetables and spices are boiled and served with a plethora of appetizing sauces, such as green parsley sauce, red sauce with tomato, both sweet and spicy fruit based sauces, and homemade horseradish sauce.

Fontanellato’s ‘Festa del Bollito’ , ‘Stew Day’
 Bollito with Sauces and Veg


Bollito with Sauces and Veg

The event begins at 9 AM and is sponsored by The International School of Italian Cuisine, the local business bureau, the town and provincial governments and the farms and restaurants of the area.

‘Bollito’ with all the trimmings will be served in the Sanvitale Castle Renaissance courtyard at noon . The courtyard is covered and the meal inexpensive. A tour of the castle is also planned, with emphasis on the paintings on culinary subjects by Felice Boselli and the Sanvitale family’s china and cutlery sets and serving customs. Many restaurants in the area will offer their own special versions of the ‘bollito’ on that day as well.

Before lunch, don’t miss the cooking lesson with mini-tastings, followed by a round table of chefs , restaurateurs , wine experts, and food writers speaking on the proper preparation and presentation of this traditional dish. The chefs will also offer tasty recipes for using the leftovers, a thrifty habit rapidly disappearing.

At 10AM a ‘Sauce Competition’ is on the agenda. The various ‘bollito’ sauces will be judged by two juries, the ‘expert’ panel and the ‘peoples’ panel made up of local high school students. As you can see, Fontanellato takes its ‘bollito’ seriously, and the education of its young people as well. A respect for the local traditions can only be taught by involving young people in them.

For Children, a Different Sunday

Also at 10 AM, easy cooking lessons with emphasis on ‘bollito’ sauces will be offered to children from five to ten years old in the Sanvitale castle. Children of all ages will love visiting the live cattle and calf exhibition, where the best local animals will be on show, to be held in a special tent with corral outside the castle.

Local butchers will be offering their cuts of meat at special prices from stands set up throughout the town. Mark 6 February on your calendar and visit Fontanellato!

Make it a day by visiting one of the other small, picturesque towns nearby: Padernello, Soncino, >Sabbioneta, Torrechiara, Cremona

Enjoy and be safe!

Sources:

Town of Fontanellato Web site

L’Espresso Magazine, Events List

The World’s 4 Best Bike Tours This Summer

 Best Bike Tours

Best Bike Tours

by Gino Teller,

From urban, bike-friendly cities to unspoiled and majestically alluring countryside, destinations all over the world make delightful journeys for you and your two-wheeled BFF. If Lance Armstrong has you fiening to ride, check out these four picks for fascinating places to bike all over the world

New York City

Though some people see New York as a hectic nightmare filled with cussing taxi drivers, ornery pedestrians and psychotic bike messengers, a bike tour of this city can be remarkably peaceful, so long as one stays away from the high-density areas like Midtown and the Financial District.

There have been numerous projects that have made the city more accommodating for bikers, including designated bike lanes, bike rentals and several paths, including one that follows the Hudson River from the southern tip of Manhattan all the way to 181 Street. There are also several guided tours offered by Bikeandroll.com.

Montreal, Quebec

Montreal is one of the most charming cities in the Western Hemisphere. On top of being a thriving metropolis and a premier destination for foodies and craft beer enthusiasts, the city is also remarkably beautiful, both on account of the natural splendor of the St. Lawrence River and the city’s rich history of architecture.

By taking a bike tour through Montreal, you can ride through eclectic neighborhoods such as Le Plateau, take in the sights of Old Montreal or even visit Saint-Helen Island, the site of the 1967 World’s Fair. Montreal On Wheels offers some of the most affordable and informative tours of the city.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam offers far more than just cafes. This is certainly not a “sepulchral city” as Joseph Conrad once wrote, but a vibrant and thrilling center of culture filled with magnificent architecture and gorgeous scenery. Touring Amsterdam by bike will allow you to immerse yourself in this incredible city. Mike’s Bike Tours, for example, will allow you to explore either the city’s harbor and famous dykes, the city’s center or the beautiful Dutch countryside.

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany has become synonymous with bucolic landscapes and tranquility. By taking a bike tour through the Tuscan countryside, you will not only get to experience this sense of serenity firsthand, but also get the opportunity to dive into the culinary and architectural history of this beautiful region. Tuscany Bike Tours offer many options, including a trip deep into Chianti and through Florence, as well as private tours.

Beyond the Helmet

Before you set out on a biking expedition, take a few precautions before you leave. This goes beyond simply wearing a helmet.

Make sure your home is safe in your absence. Websites like SecurityCompanies.com have numerous links and recommendations that will allow you to set up a security system that’s both effective and affordable, and may be accessed and controlled with a smartphone.

Before you leave on your bike tour, leave valuables in the hotel safe. This includes jewelry, credit cards, phones and important travel documents, such as your passport. All you need to carry is a map and enough cash to get you through the day.

After one of these tours, you’ll realize just how incredible it can be to bike the road less traveled.

Photo by Flickr user Bratislavská župa

Spring’s Most Inspiring Photograph Locations

by Deborah Clark,

Ask any artist: the search for inspiration is constant. For photographers, a new breed of inspirational beauty comes with every season. We love the clean crisp winters and warm colors of fall, but nothing sparks a creative eye like the vibrant allure of springtime. While the entire world comes alive, there are some places that truly embrace the spring season. Turn your camera’s lens to these locations to capture the magic.

Newark, New Jersey

Most people think of Washington, D.C., when they imagine the famous fragrant cherry blossoms. In a recent segment on NPR, Branch Brook Park in Newark, N.J., was featured for its jaw-dropping inventory of the tiny white and pink spring flowers. Not only does Newark hold more of the trees than Washington, D.C., they are No. 1 in the world for cherry blossom tree varieties. Once a grim depleted place, Branch Brook Park now receives thousands of tourists each spring viewing and taking photos of the beautiful flowering fields.

Branch Brook Park (public domain photo via Wikimedia)

Tuscany, Italy

Vineyard in Tuscany

Vineyard in Tuscany

Visiting Tuscany is like stepping back in time. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany exudes old-world culture and beauty. This time of year, the tourism crowds haven’t quite taken over and the farmlands are full of life. Italian towns hold plenty of spring festivals that celebrate age-old traditions and medieval novelty, such as the Festa del Grillo and Scoppio del Carro in Florence.

Tuscany in May (Photo credit: Guido Haeger via Wikimedia)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam canals

Amsterdam canals

The weather in the spring is still cool and the smell of blooming gardens fill the air. While Amsterdam is arguably a perfect landscape year round, springtime is exceptional. May is full of festivals and special occasions, such as National Cycling Day and National Windmill Day. The multitude of tulips in every color imaginable are available in markets all over the city. If it’s still not quite enough for you, the Keukenhof Gardens showcase more than seven million daffodils, tulips and hyacinths across 32 acres of nothing but flowers. View the garden’s website for a list of spring flower shows through April and May.

Amsterdam in May (Photo credit: Patrick Clenet via Wikimedia)

Paris, France

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg

The City of Lights is always a photographer’s dream, but when spring rolls around the city is almost surreal. Classic European architecture, street-side cafes, remarkable city monuments and romantic cliches around every corner— if that’s not enough to get your creative juices flowing, nothing will. Many famous gardens surrounding the city abound with seasonal blooms, such as the 60-acre 15th-century Jardin du Luxembourg. The near-perfect weather brings out tourists and locals alike to pepper the streets of Paris with springtime cheerfulness.

Jardin du Luxembourg and Luxembourg Palace (Photo credit: Rdevany at en.wikipedia)

Victoria Falls, Zambia/ Zimbabwe

Of course any photographer would leap at the chance to capture an image of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This time of year, Victoria Falls is more wonderful and awe-inspiring than usual. The rainy season ends in early April, according to Mother Nature Network, leaving the mile-wide waterfall with an earth-shaking rush of clear water. To get the best shots of Victoria Falls and the connecting Zambezi River, helicopter tours can be booked for stunning aerial views.

Victoria Falls in April (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Italian Lessons in Italy

Pinocchio,Bargain in Italian - Klearchos

Pinocchio,Bargain in Italian – Klearchos

To learn to speak Italian, the language of food, fashion, art and opera, is a goal for more and more people. Why not study Italian in Italy?

The novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, and now the film with Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love , started the rush. The film Letters to Juliet with Vanessa Redgrave reinforced it. People wishing to learn Italian, like the protagonists in those films, are hopping onto planes and arriving in Rome and Florence daily, ready to jump into the Italian lifestyle and learn to speak the language.

A word of advice is in order: Hold on! Not so fast! Prepare this life-changing learning experience carefully in advance, so as to take full advantage of living in Italy while frequenting a language course.

Preparing for an Italian Course in Italy

First, start at home by signing up for a free online course of spoken Italian. Simply buying an Italian grammar book and studying a chapter a day is not enough. From the beginning of their study, students should hear the pronunciation of words they learn, not simply read them. The BBC offers an excellent introductory course of spoken Italian, online. The video course consists of realistic situations with basic but useful vocabulary, especially designed for the beginner. Each short scene includes interactive grammar lessons, vocabulary lists and suggestions for further study.

If the student is still keen to continue, the next step would be to invest in The Rosetta Stone course of Italian. The CDs are expensive, but far less expensive than finding oneself in Italy, enrolled in a language school that does not correspond to expectations, and with little chance of remedying the situation. The Rosetta Stone course provides the spoken Italian necessary to navigate through any rough waters once in Italy. It is the Cadillac of language learning …a complete course based on research into how people learn their own languages. The course is used by the US military and many international corporations. Students are presented with hundreds of vocabulary words, combined in various ways, on ever increasing levels of difficulty, plus excellent grammar and syntax explanations.

While pursuing these courses, the student should do everything possible to surround herself with spoken Italian.

How? Try these suggestions:

To hear Italian as it is really spoken, rent Italian movies and set the language option on the TV to “original language.” If the plot is difficult to follow, watch the movie first in English, then in Italian, several times. Add sub-titles, then watch the movie again, pausing to listen to and study the written word as it is spoken.

Here’s a short list of some of the best Italian movies available in the US, new and vintage, all with clear Italian, not dialect, spoken by the actors.

  • Cinema Paradiso
  • La Vita e’ Bella
  • The Leopard
  • The Conformist
  • 8 ½
  • Lamerica
  • Don Camillo

If the student is Italian-American, finding a relative in Italy to correspond with should not be difficult on Ancestry.com. Or use Facebook to find an Italian who wants to practice her English. Set up one-to-one exchange conversations on Skype….one session in English, one in Italian. Ecco! A personal Italian tutor! Of course, the usual caution is advised: avoid revealing personal information online.

On nights out, choose Italian restaurants and practice pronouncing the items on the menu with the staff. Most Italians working in restaurants here in the US would be happy to correct faulty pronunciation (as long as it is not during rush hour!).

Choosing an Italian Language School in Italy

Once preparation has been completed to the student’s satisfaction, it is time to find a good Italian course in Italy. Rome and Florence, of course, offer courses all year round in various language schools. However, to avoid being surrounded by other American students and thus missing out on an authentic introduction to Italian life, go online and check out the courses offered in other Italian cities, such as Milan, Venice, Verona, Padua, Bologna, Pisa and Naples. Google “ corsi d’italiano” plus the name of a city. Or use social media to find someone who can recommend a school that teaches Italian in Italy.

The best will offer courses catering to mixed nationalities. Studying along with Spanish, French, North African, Polish or German students will ensure that Italian will be spoken between students, in class and out…it will be the only common language.

Be sure to ask if the teacher is trained in teaching Italian to foreigners and how much experience he or she has. Check on the number of students in a class. Eight to ten is ideal… more, less so. Also ask if the school is in the town center. Schools located far out in the suburbs usually mean unnecessary transportation expenses and fewer possibilities of socializing in the evenings.

Finally, the best way to learn Italian is to speak it, no matter how embarrassing that might be at the onset of the Italian course. Enjoy Italy, make Italian friends and try to speak only Italian to them. And of course, be safe!

Source: Transitions Abroad

Limone sul Garda

    Limone sul Garda

Limone sul Garda

Limone sul Garda is home to the unique lemon houses, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Thanks to the mild climate on lake Garda this is the only place on Latitude 46 Degrees North where lemons and citrus fruits can be grown. The town of Limone sits on a narrow strand of land at the base of the tall, rocky cliffs north of the Riviera. Today Limone is one of the top tourist attractions of  lake Garda  but still manages to keep it’s authentic Italian charm while being very affordable if your looking for a good quality holiday. Its picturesque, historic town centre, medieval homes,
narrow cobbled streets, and ports surrounded by green vegetation offer endless possibilities for enjoyable, relaxing hikes and strolls both inland and along the lake.

The Garda territory and the mountains surrounding the Lake also provide an unending network of hiking possibilities while enjoying the scenic landscapes and the fresh air and freedom. Monte Baldo defined as the Garden of Europe , the huge Alto Garda Natural Park with it’s unlimited hiking paths and the mountains of Pizzoccolo and Denervo are only a few of the more notable walking excursions. The Garda territory is often referred to as a walker’s wonderland.

Lazise A town on the south east coast of Lake Garda that has kept its historical outline, including its ancient walls dating from the Scala family rule and has also maintained the original charming old buildings and medieval streets. Hotel accommodation is welcoming and comfortable, as in all places around the lake and if you book in advance there many excellent offers available. The district also has the biggest water park in Italy, the recent movie theme park and the soothing spa baths in their beautiful park in nearby Cola di Lazise.

Offering a holiday that can be as exhilarating or as relaxing as you choose, Cola di Lazise is a  charming hamlet that lies three kilometers south of Lazise surrounded by the large parks of Villa Miniscalchi, Villa Da Sacco dating back to the 16th century. Noteworthy is the 17th century church of Madonna della Neve and the Santa Maria and San Giorgio parish church, which were rebuilt in the 18th century.

Alternatively Bardolino village lies in a wonderful lakeside position at the foot of hills of Monte Baldo famous for it’s orchards, olive groves and vineyards producing renowned wines as Bardolino and Soave which  can be bought at any local store or at the many wine canteens found around the lake area. Visitors are offered the charm of the old town and lakeside walks as well as the chance to discover the surrounding hills and their views over the whole of lake Garda. It has a mild climate and plenty of inviting beaches dotted around the lakes shore.

Situated at the lower end of the Riviera where the lake widens out it take on an ever more Mediterranean appearance, Bardolino also has varied types of accommodation for the most diverse needs.

Useful info:

http://www.lakegardatourist.com/

Escaping to Siena: Stepping Out of the Present and Into the Past

    Siena, Image flicker Creative C

Siena, Image flicker Creative C

by Claudina V,

For many visitors to Italy, the daily itinerary is an endless parade of historical sites, cathedrals, priceless paintings and gut-busting meals. Instead of experiencing la dolce vita, they experience feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed — and leave feeling like they saw everything and yet nothing at all.

That’s why when many people arrive in Siena, they feel time has stopped. It could be the 800-year old buildings that wind up the hillside, the lack of cars in the central city and a generally slower, more relaxed pace of life — or simply the fact the city feels far removed from the hassles of modern life. For the visitor overwhelmed by the fast pace of other Italian cities, Siena is a place to kick back and enjoy simple pleasures.

The Basics: Food and Shelter

Because Siena is chiefly a tourism destination, accommodations are plentiful. However, those who want to truly relax tend to search for a bed and breakfast in Siena. Many of the city’s smaller B&Bs are family operated, offering visitors privacy with the chance to relax as well as to enjoy Italian hospitality and home-cooked meals.

Food is where Siena shines. You’ll find an abundance of osterias in Siena, or small rustic dining rooms similar to taverns serving simple menus highlighting local fare. Everyon has their own favorite osteria — try out several, like Da Trombicche, where you’ll find large groups of friends enjoying specialties like panzanella and meatballs. Osteria Sotto le Fontiis another popular choice. Located in the shadow of the Duomo, the English-speaking owner is a rarity in Siena — she is also a wine expert (don’t miss the Chianti from nearby vineyards) and will help you build the perfect meal and wine pairing.

Picnics in the Piazzas

While there are plenty of osterias and ristorantes in Siena, on Sunday afternoons, many of the city’s residents take to the countryside to enjoy a picnic and relax. Pack a picnic lunch from one of Siena’s delis and take to the hills for some quiet time. About 40 minutes from town, Rotonda di Montesiepi, the former hermitage of San Galgano is an ideal place for a breather. Saint Galgano was born and raised in Siena and lived a life of debauchery before giving his life over to God, symbolically lodging his sword into a stone outside of the abbey, turning it into a cross. The sword in the stone is still there today, and while a popular spot with visitors and locals, the long-abandoned abbey has plenty of quiet and secluded spots for relaxation and reflection.

Siena proper is home to several open-air piazzas and public areas as well. The Piazza del Campo is the prototypical Italian plaza, a seashell-shaped space surrounding Siena’s town hall and lined with open-air cafes and shops. This is the ideal place to stop for a drink and watch the world go by, or to enjoy an evening grappa or vin santo. Don’t expect bustling nightlife in this city, though. On most evenings, the major activity is the passeggio, or stroll around town, which might include a stop for gelato or drink at a café or bar.

Museums and More

While Siena is ideal for slowing down and experiencing the beauty of Italy, it’s not all abandoned abbeys and delicious dishes. The Museo Civico, in the Piazza del Campo, celebrates Siena’s history; here you can view 14th-century frescoes and climb the Torre Mangia to view the surrounding countryside that runs right up to the city’s wall. The Cathedral of Siena (Duomo di Siena) is also worth exploring; the tower is the tallest in Tuscany and the façade is one of the most fascinating in Italy.

Siena truly comes alive in the summer, though. On July 2 and Aug. 16, Piazza del Campo transforms into a horse racetrack for Il Palio. Ten horses and riders, representing ten of the 17 city wards, ride bareback in a treacherous 90-second race around the piazza. The race itself is for the most part secondary to the four days of tradition, ceremony and pageantry leading up to the event. The highlight is the Corteo Storico, a lively historical costume parade.

Outside of ll Palio, though, Siena is a quiet and serene city. Largely unchanged for more than 800 years, Siena’s unspoiled charm mixed with modern conveniences makes it the perfect escape from the frenzied tourist hotspots of Florence and Rome.

About the Author: While studying art history in Florence, Madison Muir visited Siena for a weekend trip and fell in love. Although she lives in New York, she’s saving up for a flat in Siena where she can enjoy la dolce vita while working on her art.

Copyright Claudina V© STI

A Holistic Guide For Your Vacation In Rome With Your Close Ones

If you are planning to take a break from your hectic and busy schedule then why not choose Rome as your next break location. You would not be disappointed by an inch and will take pleasure in making such a decision. Rome the capital city of Italy has been world famous because of many reasons.

Prominent among them are the various civilizations that were established in the historical times. The culture and customs related to those civilizations make this city one of the most preferred tourist attractions. Holiday tours come in packages. These packages include everything from reaching the airport to arriving back to your dwelling after spending a vacation.

Some of the things that these packages include:-

  • Airplane tickets including food and other necessities.
  • If you somehow live in a remote area, they provide you conveyance for reaching the nearest airport and the same during your return.
  • Hotels, vacation houses and resorts are pre booked and included in these packages.
  • A professional guide who makes your stay easy and comfortable at Rome and guides you regarding various places those are worth visiting.

A detailed picture of Rome and some of its highlights have been mentioned below. Rome is accessible from every part of the world. Various day and night flights are available to take you to your destination holiday.

Rome City

Rome City

Holiday Homes

Luxurious and lavish holiday homes are available for vacationers to make their experience even more memorable. These holiday homes are built keeping in mind the every section of society and comes in varied structures and styles. You can get easy affordable and competitive prices. These homes are cosy and eye pleasing in their interiors. Although several enticing offers are available in the city, make sure you get the best deal; after all, you do not have to outstretch your pocket. These homes are accessible at the various popular tourist destinations and ski resorts. Florence, Sardinia, Umbria and the list go on and on.

Plenty of agencies are there to help and guide you. These agencies offer packages, which include not only holiday homes but also professional guides and services. If you are from the adventurous lot these houses are also available in the countryside. There you can experience rocky terrain, mountains and pacific surroundings.

Destination Sites

Rome is a home to various sites having historical and tourist significance. Vatican City has so many Roman and Greek museums exhibiting the ancient civilizations and dynasties. Sistine Chapel that has been restored recently can also be visited for its splendour and brilliance. Michelangelo’s outstanding and commendable work can be seen in this chapel. Next comes the place named as Foro Romano, this is the place which was used for ancient public speaking and trading. Ancient temples and architectures are also worth watching here.

rome-italy

Rome-italy

Drinks and Cuisines

This guide would be incomplete if various delectable drinks and cuisines are not mentioned. Various options are available in the hotels or holiday houses only but to get the true Roman flavour you have to step outside. In fact, Italians are world famous for their meals and drinks and they cherish them a lot. Extravagant as well as reasonable options are available in every street corner of each town. Some of the highly applauded drinks of Roman culture are Glorious Grappa, Fabulous Frascati and Fernet Branca.

Rome city serves for all pockets sizes whether you are going for a short and cheap vacation or want to treat yourself with a little bit of sumptuousness there is an impressive showdown for everyone and now with low cost airlines operating from most parts world airports it has become more and more accessible. Rome is a compulsory vacation destination for everyone.

Best History and Culture Vacations

    Bus for rental

Bus for rental

If you want to go out for a vacation to visit historical places this time then here is a list of top places/cities which are known for their culture and history.

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem city is among the oldest cities of the world and it has culture and history related to Jerusalem’s religious beliefs. This is capital city of Israel and must visits places are Wailing Wall, Dolorosa, Dome of the Rock and Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 Boston, United States

Boston city is also known as ‘The Athens of America” and it is one of the important places in American history. Other than New York City it is the only place in United States known for history and culture. The most popular places you must visit are Fenway Park, Boston Public Library, USS Constitution, the Kennedy Library and the Faneuil Hall.

Hong Kong, China

At this city in China you will see a combination of old tradition and history with modern traditions. It is a place with this kind of rarest combination. The main attractions in the city are Peak Tower, Man Mo temple, Hong Kong Museum of History and Po Lin Monastery with largest outdoor bronze Buddha.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This is one of the best cities in the Netherlands with old rich history. Every visitor visits the Anne Frank House. Other historical places in the city are Royal Palace, Dam Square, the world class Rijksmuseum and the chilling story of Anne Frank House.

Prague, Czech Republic

If you want to visit a place with streets full of historical architecture then Prague is the best place for that. You will find the Gothic and Medieval period history here in the city. The main attractions are Prague Castle, Saint George’s Basilica, Old Town Hall, Prague City Museum and the Wenceslas Square.

Washington DC, United States

If you love the political history and want to visit such place this vacation then Washington DC is the best city to visit. This city is full of debate, democracy, politics, scandals and such history. The main attractions in the city are the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Capitol Hill, Washington Monument and the Smithsonian Institution. This is one of the most political cities in the world.

Florence, Italy

Florence has lots of Roman’s history and this city is full of art galleries and historical structures that are still able to survive. You will love the culture of the city and the main attractions in the city are Florentine Church, Renaissance art work and the Duomo. If you are an artist then this is the right place for you.

Montreal, Canada

This place was a village and after the 1535 it has emerged as a big city in the Canada. The history of its development from village to a city is the main attraction to watch. Other attractions are Notre-Dame Basilica, Botanical Gardens and Parisian style streets.

Berlin, Germany

The Berlin city in Germany has been changed a lot in the last 50 years which is now the part of history. This city is among the world’s most interesting cities and the main attractions are Berlin Wall, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandeburg Gate and the Reichstag.

Useful info:

http://travelgola.com

http://travelblast.co.uk/

Amalfi Coast Tour

    Amalfi coast

Amalfi coast

I highly recommend the Amalfi Coast Tour by private limo! The excursion begins with a chauffeur-guide picking you up from Rome International Airport. He will then take you to Tivoli, where you will see Villa d’Este, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in the 16th century, featuring jets and fountains decorating terraces. Marvel the over-2600-years-old paintings at Tarquinia, another World Heritage Site and the home of the Etruscan civilization.

The trip includes a visit to Naples, the capital of southern Italy, which has a wealth of cultural, historic and artistic heritage. Catch a boat to the beautiful island of Capri, a hill town with narrow streets and passageways, and listen to stories about the local culture. Indulge in local food, churches and museums along the Amalfi Coast in a gorge along Mount Cerreto. Visit Sorrento and enjoy the beautiful gardens, natural attractions, pleasant climate and great history.

The guide will show you Revello, which has history dating back to the sixth century BC and has the best preserved temples of Neptune and Ceres. Walk in the Castelcivita caves, prehistoric dwellings more than 40,000 years old, at Paestum. Take a history lesson at the ruins of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of 79 AD that also destroyed Pompeii. Climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius for a final glimpse of the Bay of Naples before heading home. All that by the famous guides of A La Carte Italy Tours, who will also show you around Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence and all other major Italian landmarks.

For instance, see attractions including the Pantheon, Coliseum, Vatican museums and the Statue of David in the Rome-Venice Tour. Enjoy sights of Palazzo Venezia on Piazza Venizia that hosts art galleries, pottery and sculptures from the Renaissance era. Explore the Coliseum, which was built in 70 AD and could seat 80,000 people. Learn about gladiator games and other shows held during the Roman civilization. The guide will show you other attractions including Fori Imperiali, the Arch of Constantine built in 315 AD, the Palatine Hill where Lupercal is located, Bocca della Verita, and the Capitol Square with the museums. Walk along St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, and see the museums and the Sistine Chapel. Learn about the history associated with the holiest site in the world. Take a water taxi to discover Venice along the Grand Canal. Take a leisurely stroll and admire Rialto Bridge, a stone bridge built in 1591, with shops on both sides. Explore local art and architecture at Santa Maria dei Frari Church and Palazzo Querini Stampalia. Complete the tour with a gondola ride with music and songs.

The Sicily Tour is an excursion of Palermo, Syracuse and Catania. Fly to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, which was founded in 700 BC. Start by visiting Piazza Bellini that has historical churches dating back to 1143, and see baroque style curved houses in Quattro Canti. Explore the unique architecture and cultural history of Monreale town. Visit Segesta, the capital of Elymians, from the Iron Age. See the Valley of the Temples, ruins of Doric temples from the fifth century BC, in Agrigento.

The guide will show you the Cathedral of St. George in Ragusa, with history that can be traced back two thousand years BC. Spend the day in Syracuse exploring the Archaeological Park of Neapolis, the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Piazza del Duomo. Explore the historic Piazza del Duomo and Acireale in Catania, where people have roots dating back to 729 BC.

Climb Mount Etna to see the active volcano, and explore the rich history of Taormina. Enjoy leisurely walks at Villa Comunale Gardens established over 100 years ago. See the exquisite mosaic pavements at the Villa of Casale, with the best well preserved Roman mosaics. You’ll realize why Sicily has been featured in books and movies as you indulge in reminiscence about the trip on the flight back home.

useful info:

http://www.alcitalytours.com/amalfi-coast-tour.html

Designer Outlet in Venice, Italy

    Nearby Venice at Sunset - Alastair Rae

Nearby Venice at Sunset – Alastair Rae

Just 40 miles from Venice and 21 miles from Marco Polo airport lies an impressive McArthurGlen Designer Outlet and a hidden treat for savvy shoppers.

From afar, Veneto Designer Outlet and its towering Venetian style architecture and elaborate palazzos could be mistaken for a mini Venice or Treviso. However, on closer inspection, visitors will actually find a stylish and spacious setting for 85 designer brands offering up to 70% off. Compared to the prices in the boutiques found in nearby Venice, there are bargains to be enjoyed on womenswear, menswear, sportswear, accessories and luxury home furnishings.

Venice is a city renowned for designer names and designer prices but this little Venice offers a very affordable alternative to the shopping found in the San Marco area. It may not have the canals but it does boast its very own gondola.

Opened in 2008, it is the fourth McArthur Glen outlet to be opened in Italy. With 140 stores, some of the designer labels found here include: Armani, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Fendi, Ferragamo, Jill Sander, La Perla, Prada, Valentino and Versace. For sportswear, labels include Billabong, Nike and Quiksilver. And, if there’s simply too much choice, customers can recruit the help of a personal shopper from €70 per hour. Booking in advance is necessary.

There is a choice of three restaurants.

Getting there:

A private shuttle service runs from Piazzale Rome in Venice to the Veneto Designer Outlet from Monday through to Saturday. The shuttle leaves Venice between 10.30am and 3pm and departs from the outlet between 2.30pm and 6.30pm. Bookings must be made prior to 7pm on the day before you wish to visit.

The service costs €35 per person and children under 4 years travel for free. Visit  for further information.

If you are traveling by car from Venice, take the A4 in the direction of Triests and exit at San Donà di Piave. From Trieste, take the A4 and use the same exit. There is ample free parking (2000 spaces to be specific).

By train, take the Venezia/Trieste line and exit at San Donà-Jesolo station.

There is also a return bus service from San Donà di Piave which runs every day. They depart from San Donà di Piave bus station from Monday to Saturday at the following times: 9am, 10.35 am, 11.35 am, 4.45 pm, 6.45 pm, 7.50 pm. On Sundays and holidays, they leave at: 2.30pm, 4.15pm, 5.45pm, 6.45pm and 7.50pm.

Opening hours:

Veneto Designer Outlet is open Monday to Saturday from 10am until 8pm. Normally closed on
Sundays.

Address and contact details:

Via Marco Polo, 1

30020 Noventa di Piave (VE) – Italy

Tel: 0039 0421 5741

A Short Break in Genoa Italy

    View of Genoa's port - M.R.

View of Genoa’s port – M.R.

Not many tourists visit Genoa. They should. It has something to offer all the family, from quirky, to great fun or stunningly beautiful.

Genoa, like Trieste, is one of those hilly Italian cities which are a monument to 19th century engineering in terms of getting about. There are funicular railways, rack railways, and lifts, one of which will get you to the quirky Castello d’Albertis, the restored home of Capitano Albertis, an explorer and collector. From the terrace there are wonderful views over the tops of roofs and palm trees to the busy port beyond.

The Family Day Out in Genoa

The position of Genoa (Genova to Italians), in a perfect semi-circle sheltered by mountains, has made it a prosperous port since Roman times. Nowadays, thanks to architect Renzo Piano, the whole port area has become a lively focal point. There are pleasure cruises; the Bigo, a kind of crane which lifts you up in a capsule for a panoramic view; the Bollo (biosphere); and the Aquarium, the largest in Europe. This is very popular, and tickets are timed.

Art and Architecture

The city has a wealth of art collections in lovely buildings. Important works by Flemish artists are everywhere, reflecting the strong commercial links with the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The imposing via Garibaldi, also known as the Strada Nuova, houses three Palazzi which can be visited on one combined ticket: Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi. Of the three, Bianco has the most important collection, including a Filipino Lippi cheekily inscribed at the bottom as being the property of Napoleon. If you haven’t yet suffered art fatigue, The Spinola National Gallery shouldn’t be missed. (It’s worth while finding the lift: the stairs are hard work at the end of a day of culture.)

Should you fancy becoming an Argonaut for half a day, you can sail on the Argo, a recreation of the mythical ship, to the Palazzo del Principe. This was, and is, the home of the Doria-Pamphili family whose finest hour as saviours of Christendom came at the Battle of Lepanto, depicted in their many huge tapestries.

Staglieno Cemetery

In any compilation of the world’s top ten cemeteries, the Staglieno Cemetery must be up there near, if not at, number one. The 34 bus takes you on a tour through the city until you reach what appears to be a flower market. This is the source of all the abundant plants and flowers laid on tombstones over many acres. The 19th century funerary sculpture is amazing, vernacular modernism from Rodin onwards, in long covered galleries or outside in extensive gardens. Spot the lovely bronze art nouveau nymph lost in the woods, or the life-size bride opposite a pile of masks on the tomb of a defunct thespian. Oscar Wilde’s wife is buried here in the Protestant sector.

Visiting Trieste in Italy

    Castle Miramare - Travel Eden on Flickr

Castle Miramare – Travel Eden on Flickr

Situated in the northeast of Italy, next to the Slovenian border and the Adriatic coast, the stylish town of Trieste offers something for everyone. From the architecture to the food, the town of Trieste in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region successfully combines the very best of Italy and its neighboring countries.

Sitting grandly along the Gulf of Trieste, it is possible to recapture some of the geographical, cultural and economic importance that Trieste once enjoyed as the only port of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the end of World War 1, that may have changed but what remains is a series of breathtaking buildings from its period of power and a stark reminder of its former prosperity.

Built by the Austrians back in the early 19th century, the main piazzas are lined with grand neoclassical buildings, decadent art nouveau architecture and an array of impressive statues. It is hardly surprising that Trieste was once home and inspiration to Irish novelist James Joyce.

Places To See

Home to some of Trieste’s finest architecture including the Palazzo del Governo, the Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino and the Town Hall, the Piazza Dell’Unita is also the largest seaside piazza in Europe. The best views of the Adriatic and what was once a key port can be found outside one of the numerous restaurants or cafes on this piazza.

Adjacent to the Piazza Dell’Unita, there is the Piazza della Borsa.

The castello and cattedrale di San Giusto are situated on a hill of the same name and offer far-reaching views across Trieste and the Adriatic Sea. From here, it is possible to view Roman ruins and, for a small admission fee, take a tour of the 14th century castle and visit the museum.

Around five miles west of Trieste, the famous Castle of Miramare overlooks the Bay of Grignano. Surrounded by 54 acres of parkland, it boasts a vast array of tropical trees and plants. With the exception of some restoration work, the castle itself remains as it has always been so there is a real sense of history. The museum and gardens are open all year around although opening times vary.

For literary lovers, the Joyce Museum is located on the second floor of the Attilio Hortis Public Library on the Piazza Hortis, just a few minutes walk from the center.

To celebrate Christmas, the town is tastefully decorated and illuminated with festive lights. The Christmas market or Fiera di San Nicolo is held in the first week of December and stalls selling sweets, toys and other festive items run along the Viale XX Settembre.

How to Reach Trieste and Getting Around

Transporting locals and visitors for over 100 years, the tram is the most authentic way to travel through Trieste. Leaving from Piazza Oberdan, in the center, the tram weaves its way through the town before climbing 348 meters above sea level to the Carso Plateau.

Trieste is a two hour train journey from Venice.

Hidden Venice

    A Backwater near San Pantalon - MR

A Backwater near San Pantalon – MR

Get Away from the Crowds and Cliches

Been there, done that. What next? Each tiny corner of Venice has something new to offer if you only know where to look. Here are a few original suggestions

All the guide books recommend that you reach Venice by boat. So do I, but here’s the difference. Go from the fishing port of Chioggia (pronounced Keyojia). There are regular boats (vaporetti) which sail across the lagoon from there to Venice and you approach the city from the most beautiful side, a breathtaking view, instead of approaching by the back door, so to speak. Venice is rather like an onion. Peel off a layer, and there’s always another intriguing layer underneath.

The Unknown Church

The main churches in Venice usually charge an entrance fee. They are worth seeing for the great art they contain, (buy a combined ticket), but some equally great churches are free. Be bowled over by the ceiling in San Pantalon church in Dorsodouro (one of the 6 districts of Venice). The trompe l’oeil ceiling shows the saint ascending to heaven through clouds and cherubs which appear to be miles away. Round the edges, there are figures half painted on the walls, and half thrusting arms and legs into the space of the church. Poor Fumiani the artist spent the last years of his life painting this masterpiece, only to fall off the scaffolding to his death when it was completed.

The Museum less Visited:

The Fortuny museum was the home of the textiles designer famous for his pleated silk. How he came to live in Venice is an interesting story. Fortuny originally lived in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, but his terrible fear of horses drove him to the only city which didn’t rely on horse transport, Venice. To enter the museum is to time-travel to an art nouveau world of rich wall hangings, dark furniture and early sepia photographs. On the top floor there’s a fascinating view of dozens of strangely-shaped chimney pots.

The Gondola Ride for 50 Cents:

Most tourists want to experience a ride in a gondola, even if it costs a fortune, but you should try what the locals do: take a ferry (traghetto) across the Grand Canal. These are large gondolas rowed by two gondoliers in their familiar striped shirts. (More for your money!) It can be quite exciting at busy times when they are crowded and you have to stand up, clutching your fellow passengers when a vaporetto chugs past creating big waves!

The Last Boat Yard in Venice:

At San Trovaso you will see the only surviving squero, a workshop for making and repairing gondolas. It was on the point of closing when an American revived it, and now it’s a picturesque flourishing place in a forgotten corner of the city.

The Cemetery Island:

Many tourists visit the islands of Murano and Burano, but the island of St Michele is where the Venetians bury their dead, and it’s peaceful and fascinating. When the vaporetto drops you off, you may even be the only people there, unless a water hearse is sailing in, covered with wreaths for a burial. The word unique is overused, but in the case of Venice you never tire of discovering the new, the amazing, and the completely original.

Sailing Into Venice

    SeaDream I Sailing the Adriatic SeaDream Photo courtesy of SeaDream

SeaDream I Sailing the Adriatic SeaDream Photo courtesy of SeaDream

Queen of the Seas

When I mention to friends that I have sailed into Venice,  known as Queen of the Seas in times past, they ask, “What’s so special about it?” My answer is that the city-state that once dominated the known world is the most romantic, enchanting place I’ve ever seen, the most poetic, with the most magical light.

Canals and Bridges Galore
With its 100 or so rii (canals) and 400 bridges, Gothic and Renaissance hotels and houses, arcaded shops and galleries and the famous colonnaded pink and white marble Doge’s Palace (former home to the Doge or chief magistrate of Venice and now a museum) this dreamscape which covers only three square miles is truly one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Floating City As our ship, SeaDream I moved along the shining waters of the Adriatic Sea towards the floating city, I could see why the majestic vistas and perspectives of La Serenissima (the “most serene” republic) inspired painters such as Titian, Tintoretto, Guardi and Canaletto.

Marco Polo embodied the enterprising spirit of 13th century Venice. By 1380, after defeating its rival, Genoa, Venice finally became queen of the seas among European nations. This sea-consciousness was expressed by the sybolic marriage ceremony of the doges with the Adriatic, celebrated with marvellous pomp on the beautiful gilded gondola, the Bucentaur, the state galley of the doges of Venice.

The Academy of Gondoliering
If you would like to try your hand at gondoliering, contact the Academy of Gondoliering in Venice. There are 400 licensed gondoliers who take passengers on rides in the famous flat-bottomed black boats. The number to call from North America is 011-(39)041529871.

St. Mark’s Square
AS we glided along my eyes sought the colours of Venice – the Venetian reds and gold and the famous winged lion of St. Mark, the emblem of Venice which sea breezes furl and unfurl continuously on Venetian flags. Since Venice is a car-free city, the only way to get around im yhid dmsll, floating mirage is to take a waterbus or a motor-boat, known as a water taxi. In fact, the city is built on 118 alluvial islets within a lagoon in the Gulf of Venice.

Once docked, I made my way by vaporetto (waterbus) from the pier to the first of the top sights, St. Mark’s Square. The best approach is from the Lagoon for you will feel you have stepped back into the days of Byzantium, for it was the Orient, particularly Byzantium that influenced the art and architecture of Venice.If you have a pair of opera glasses or binoculars with you, now is the time to take them out. Feast your eyes. And your ears, to the sound of music from the quartets playing at the cafes in the Piazza San Marco, and the gentle lapping of water against the sides of the palaces and houses, built on piles in the water.

As the water-bus pulled up to the floating bus stop, I turned reluctantly from the superb facade and dome of the Church of Santa Maria della Salute (1631) on the other bank, took in the exquisite grouping of Palladio’s church and tower and dome on the island of San Giorgio, and then stood hypnotized by the architectural composition that is the Piazza San Marco.

Scenic Siena

Located amid rolling hills in the heart of Tuscany, Siena’s wealth of culture and architectural wonders culminate into a romantic allure that delights all those who pass through its city gates. From the stunning cathedral to the buzzing Piazza del Campo, Siena’s old-world charm will certainly casts its spell of enchantment.

Siena’s Centrepiece

A divine highlight of Siena is, without a doubt, the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. The ornateness of the structure’s Gothic façade, which boasts statues of prophets and philosophers alongside protruding figures of lions and griffins, provides just a glimpse into the exquisiteness behind its doors.

Dominating the Piazza Duomo is the striped, black-and-white bell tower, or campanille, and the facciatone, which stands as an unfinished testament to the city’s attempt to expand the cathedral in the Middle Ages. Yet due to the Black Plague at that time, which claimed 4/5 of Siena’s population, the project came to an abrupt end, thereby permanently shelving the Duomo Nuovo.

Siena Cathedral

Siena’s Santa Maria Assunta  Cathedral

Ethereal Beauty

The cathedral’s stunning feat in design and artistry truly captivates the visual sense with a dizzying array of masterpieces in sculptures, some of which are by Michaelangelo, and artwork by many celebrated, Italian artists from the Baroque and Renaissance eras.

The ceiling of the dome will certainly leave an impression on anyone who casts their eyes upon it. However, this is the cathedral’s trompe l’oeil; for it’s the painted surface that creates the illusion of coffers, upon which golden stars adorn the deep-blue background of the optical semblance of sunken panels.

The cathedral’s marble pulpit, designed by Nicola Pisano and a showpiece in its own right, features seven scenes from the Life of Christ and eight Corinthian columns, four of which rest on lions and lionesses. Moreover, an impressive 56 marble mosaics cover the flooring, one of which is the She-Wolf of Siena—the city’s symbol. According to legend, Senius, the son of Remus and nephew of Romulus, founded Siena on three hills here.

A Renaissance Bookworm

Further down the nave is the must-see Piccolomini Library. The 15th-century Archbishop of Siena, Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini, consigned the construction of the library in order to commemorate the memory of his uncle Enea Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II. Upon stepping inside, the eyes will naturally gravitate to the illustrious vaulted ceiling that completes the overwhelming beauty this room exudes.

Once admiring the architectural grandeur of the Piazza Duomo, follow the Via di Città to one of the small alleyways that lead to the city’s central gathering point: Piazza del Campo.

A Picturesque Piazza

Siena's Palazzo Pubblico

Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico

Another example that is symbolic of Siena is its famed, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, or simply referred to locally as Il Campo. A former Roman forum in the heart of Siena, the square’s prominent structure is the Palazzo Pubblico. Built in 1310, the civic building not only houses municipal offices, but also the city museum and prized artwork by Sienese painters. Highlights include frescoes from the Middle Ages in both the Sala del Mappamondo and the Sala della Pace.

A statement of elegance, the Palazzo’s 88-metre Torre del Mangia soars above Il Campo. Named after its first watchman, nicknamed Mangiaguadagni (money-eater), the top of the tower offers commanding views over Siena and its surrounding area.

Further focal points in the piazza include the marble Chapel of the Square, which the city built in observance of the end of the Black Plague, and the Fonte Gaia—the Cheerful Fountain. The original fountain, from the early 15th-century, sits in the loggia of the Palazzo Pubblico.

And They’re Off!

The square also sets the scene for the annual Palio horse race, which occurs on 2 July and 16 August every summer. Drawn by lots, ten of Siena’s 17 contrade, or districts, have the privilege to participate in this long-standing and important tradition that incorporates preliminary races, processions and other ceremonies that lead up to the big day. Jockeys ride without a saddle and take three laps around the square in order to complete the one-kilometre race. The first horse to cross the finish line—with or without a jockey—is the winner. The corresponding district then holds a dinner to celebrate their victory in early autumn.

Picture this annual extravaganza by sitting at one of the cafés or restaurants in Il Campo or, for another perspective of the square, take a seat on one of the three benches on Bar Key Largo’s narrow balcony. Located on the corner of Via Rinaldini, it’s a great spot to have a frosty beverage or a late-afternoon espresso and enjoy the scene of tourists and pigeons with Siena’s cathedral serving as the perfect backdrop. For a breath of that Tuscan air, look no further than the natural beauty just beyond Siena’s gates.

Natura Pura

Having a car to explore Tuscany’s pure nature is ideal, and Siena is a great place to base oneself for those fantastic day-trips around the province. When heading to the wine region of Montepulciano, take a leisurely drive through the undulating hills of le Crete. Towering cypress trees—those quintessential features of the Tuscan landscape—stand as sentinels along country lanes and atop the ridges of distant hillocks. In spring, ruby-red poppies and canary-yellow gorse punctuate he swathes of emerald-colored fields that appear like blankets of plush velvet in a gentle breeze.

le Crete, Tuscany

le Crete, Tuscany

From Siena, take the SS438 road towards the small town of Asciano. Along the route, various points to pull off the side of the road offer great opportunities to admire this picturesque landscape, including one such location with small wooden steps that lead to the top of a hill. The fantastic view of the vast sea of green and the terracotta silhouette of Siena in the distance is truly breathtaking.

Siena boldly illustrates its passion for stunning art and rich culture amid its ancient walls. These testaments of its history span millennia and have given rise to a city that has become one of the most cherished in Tuscany.

Ecoship MSC Divina helps keep the ocean clean

    Seconds after the christening of the MSC Divina in late May 2012, it was time for streamers, lights and music. Photo: Helen Ueckermann

Seconds after the christening of the MSC Divina in late May 2012, it was time for streamers, lights and music. Photo: Helen Ueckermann

Travellers interested in cruises may remember the furious protests in Venice last month when the MSC Divina, labelled a “monster ship” in some media, entered the waters of the ancient Italian lagoon city.MSC Divina was the largest ship to ever visit Venice.

Environmentalists carrying “No Big Ship” banners made their point and used the event to step up their efforts to have large cruise ships banned from the city, calling on the ship’s godmother, Italian actress Sophia Loren, to ditch her endorsement of the ship, adding that it contributed to the destruction of Venice, a world heritage site.Complaints, with which I wholly agree, ranged from the huge ship blocking views to massive air pollution, damage to the delicate maritime area that is the Venice lagoon and the very real possibility of the ship’s vibrations, the lapping waves in its wake as well as the displacement of huge volumes of water damaging the foundations of historic palaces and churches in the city.Silvio Testa, spokesperson of the No Big Ships Venice Committee, reportedly claimed that the ship produces the same amount of pollution in an hour as 15 000 cars, and that the pollution it causes contains 15 times as much sulphur than car fumes.

Now that is mouthful and could put any environmentally aware traveller off cruising forever.

However, I believe there are a few positive points to be made about MSC Divina and its sister ships cruising the oceans of the world. I had the privilege of attending the christening of MSC Divina by the lovely Ms Loren in the French Mediterranean port of Marseilles towards the end of May and spent three nights on the luxury cruiser. During my stay on board I made it a point to learn more about the ship’s carbon footprint, completely unsuspecting of the furore that was to follow a few days later in Venice. But more about that later.

MSC Divina, named in honour of MSC Cruises’ “godmother” Sophia Loren, is modelled on her sister-ships, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, but features some remarkable enhancements.

“Experience classic glamour in high-tech comfort,” it says on the MSC website, and truly, that is no exaggeration.

The Infinity Pool in the aft of the ship, with its “beach zone” adjoining the glass balustrade, offers a unique view of the ship’s wake fading into the sunset. And if you’re travelling in the expanded MSC Yacht Club, you can relax in style in the Top Sail Lounge.

It is a first class hotel on waves with a spa, sports club, shopping centre and entertainment complex where you can enjoy a cosy coffee break, a quiet stroll or a romantic drink beneath the stars. A floating holiday destination indeed.There are six restaurants to choose from, 17 bars and lounges, for entertainment you can go to the theatre, attend a 4D cinema, visit the card room, the cyber library, or try your luck at the casino. If it is shopping you are after, five shops will keep you occupied.

The luxury mega vessel can accommodate a total of 3 959 guests and 1 325 crew, has a total of 18 decks of which 13 are passenger decks, 13 elevators, and weighs 133 500 tonnes.

With all that, it stands to reason that MSC Divina will have a considerable carbon footprint, but despite that obvious deduction, the ship has been awarded the 6 Golden Pearls award by the leading international classification society Bureau Veritas.

This is one of the highest awards for cruise vessels in recognition of specific voluntary attention paid, from design to operation, in relation to “Quality Health Safety Environment”. MSC Divina also received the additional classification notation “Cleanship 2 ship”, for the three domains of potential pollution of air, water and waste.

The ship’s hull was designed for maximum fuel efficiency and energy saving devices for efficient energy production with regard to engines, propellers, motors, etc. It further boasts  last generation 5 diesel engines, an automatic system to reduce cooling in case the cabin is not occupied, lighting optimization with led lightings and low consumption bulbs, as well as a continuous temperature control including an optimized system when the balcony door is open or the cabin card is not in place.MSC Divina, just like all other ships in the MSC fleet, has an environmental officer responsible for all environmental issues on board. This includes the monitoring of up-to-date recycling and waste disposal procedures to ensure the implementation of the highest possible technological standards for sewage treatment and disposal. The environmental officer also ensures the careful, frugal use of resources, such as water and energy and is responsible for the training of crew members dealing with recycling procedures as well as the handling, collection, sorting and disposal of garbage.

The MSC Cruises also employs a shore based environmental co-ordinator responsible for overseeing all environmental operations throughout the fleet. This also ensures that on board conservation and environmental measures are supported ashore when the ships are in port.

One cannot expect a huge cruise ship not to have a carbon footprint, just as one would not expect that of any hotel or holiday resort. We can, however, expect cruising companies to do their utmost to protect our environment so that our children and and their offspring can enjoy the same great relaxing holidays that only a good cruise ship can offer. I believe that MSC Divina passes that test.

I will cruise with MSC Cruises again, if I ever get the chance, but let’s steer clear of ancient, fragile, beloved and beautiful world heritage sites like Venice, shall we?