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Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

The Bel Paese of Italy

Ciao, and welcome to the Bel Paese (beautiful country) of Italy! It’s no wonder that Italy is among the world’s most popular destinations. It’s the alluring home to quaint villages, rolling green vineyards, vibrant cities, stunning architecture, exquisite art, wine and, of course, cuisine. From wandering through St. Peter’s in Vatican City and gazing at the awe-inspiring works by Michelangelo and other masters, to sipping a glass of fragrant red wine while nibbling a piece of young Pecorino cheese in Tuscany and learning, hands-on, the traditional art of silk screening, these treasures and experiences make Italy a bucket list travel destination. Read on and fall in love with this romantic country, full of fascinating culture, friendly locals, magnificent history, and divine experiences.

Venice, Italy

Venice
From the beautifully restored buildings that look like pictures straight from a fairy tale to romantic gondolas meandering through the labyrinthian canals, Venice has captivated the hearts of travelers from around the world for centuries. There are endless reasons to visit this charming and historic city, but no matter how much time you have, a visit to one of the cities many campaniles, or bell towers, is a must! Not only are they a symbol of Venice’s resilience through tumultuous times, they are among the best places to admire the sweeping views. A particular favorite is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, where you can observe breathtaking sites of the city and the Adriatic Sea.

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10 Hauntingly Beautiful Cemeteries

What makes a cemetery special? Perhaps it’s the size, or the number of tombs? Or is it the age of the graveyard, or the famous people buried there? Are they architectural masterpieces in baroque style, or are they more whimsical? Find out for yourself below, as we celebrate Halloween with a list of ten of the most haunting and beautiful cemeteries from around the world!

Père Lachaise Cemetery © Alexander Baxevanis / Flickr

1 Père Lachaise, France

This one of a kind collection of burial sites located in the heart of Paris is known to be the most visited cemetery in the world. The Père Lachaise opened in 1804 and experts estimate that there are somewhere between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people buried on its grounds. Many celebrities are laid to rest among the grand tombs and mausoleums including Oscar Wild, Frédéric Chopin, George Seurat, and even the Doors’ Jim Morrison!

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Can you guess the most popular European destinations to visit by rail?

Rail travel is the most sophisticated route to international adventure. Imagine sipping a cappuccino as you traverse the Tuscan countryside or enjoying a spot of afternoon tea while you await your arrival in Paris. It’s truly a relaxing, easy, and fast way to travel.

In fact, I believe rail travel is perhaps the best way to explore Europe. It quickly transports visitors between top destinations, without the hassle of road traffic or airport security. Plus, when taking a train from place to place, you depart from one city center and arrive in the next, completely eliminating the hassle and expense of those long transfers to the airport.

More than 713 million passengers traveled across the EU by rail between April and September of 2014, showing resurgence in popularity among locals and internationals alike. But can you guess what the top destinations to visit by rail were for the summer of 2014?

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Why save your vacation days for the summer? Travel during the off-season!

Forget springtime in Paris and summer in Santorini. Off-season is the new hot time to visit your favorite European destinations. More and more travelers are ditching their summer vacations and opting to visit their favorite cities throughout the winter months.

From November to March, Europe takes on an entirely new persona. Gone are the large crowds, humid days, and high prices — leaving only the true cultures, histories, and sights of each destination for you to enjoy. If you’re interested in experiencing some hidden, off-season gems of Europe, here are just some of my reasons why the off-season is the perfect time to travel.

Sightsee at a fraction of the price. It’s no secret that off-season travel often means lower prices. Not only will travelers save on airfares, tours, and accommodations, but they’ll often find that restaurants, shops, and bars in high-tourist areas are also less expensive. This can help significantly pare down a tight travel budget. Also keep a lookout for bundled tours that take place during the off-season. Tour operators often make the most out of seasonal pricing and share the savings with travelers. By saving on the essentials, travelers can splurge on extra special events, like enjoying a Champagne dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower or taking a dip in Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, making their trips even more memorable.

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How many of the most-pinned travel destinations have you visited?

I recently stumbled across a Mashable article highlighting the most-pinned places on Earth. As I scrolled through the list, I noticed that many of these Pinterest favorites are also destinations that we offer to our travelers!

I’m not surprised. Our Friendly Planet Travel team lives to craft once-in-a-lifetime tours to some of the world’s most popular destinations. Places like Italy, Greece, and Spain are not only beautiful in photographs, but engaging and authentic destinations that can change the way we look at the world.

While Pinterest is a great place to fantasize about exotic destinations — Friendly Planet’s Pinterest page in particular will make you drool — nothing beats the real experience of discovering the world.

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The perfect Mother’s Day gift: International travel

It’s almost Mother’s Day, and as a mother and grandmother, I wanted to take a minute to share some motherly advice. While all moms appreciate the traditional Mother’s Day flowers, cards and the occasional breakfast in bed, the ultimate present has always been spending time with our children and yes, our grandchildren. I’ve watched my kids grow from wobbling toddlers to successful adults, and looking back over the years, the moments that bring the biggest smiles to my face are those spent enjoying time together.

With that in mind, I suggest rethinking the traditional Mother’s Day gifts this year, and consider giving Mom a present that will create lifelong memories for your family — a mother-and-child trip to an exotic destination that both of you are dying to visit and enjoy together.

In my more than 30 years in the industry, I’ve heard countless stories about how travel has built bonds and strengthened relationships. In fact, a lot of those stories are mine, having traveled internationally with both my own kids and grandkids. Not only do families learn about new cultures, they learn about each other and gain a new level of appreciation for one another. In case you haven’t discovered any mutual travel “must visits” of your own, here’s my Mother’s Day gifting guide to help you choose the perfect destination for you and your mom.

The first-time-traveler mom: Italy

Italy is a perfect destination for first-time international travelers. Your mom will fall in love with the welcoming Italian people and feel completely at home in the relaxed culture. Stroll through the winding cobblestone streets of Venice, a city that floats on water, and watch gondoliers serenade patrons as they glide along the city’s 177 canals. Travel to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and shop for gold, jewels, and art on the Ponte Vecchio, a walking bridge lined with high-end stores. Then gaze upon Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. End the trip sipping bold red wines at a café in Rome and wandering through the ruins of the famed Coliseum. Whether you and your Mom love cooking, art, music or just plain strolling, you’ll find boundless opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime.

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A night in Italy at the Friendly Planet Travel Book Club

JOYFUL DISCUSSION: We chatted about “Every Day in Tuscany”
over wine and snacks 

Another inspiring Book Club meeting has come to a close, and we’d like to thank everyone who attended. It was a joy recounting Frances Mayes’ stories of fragrant gardens, warm and interesting friends, and gorgeous scenery from “Every Day in Tuscany,” her third installment of the “Tuscan Sun” series.

We recalled how entertaining it was to live vicariously through Frances’ writing as she recounts her adventures in Italy. Several attendees spoke about their own trips to Italy and how this wonderful country has touched their lives. Also discussed was our yearning desire to “pick up everything” and buy a house in another country as Mayes did, as well as the challenges that come with such a life-changing decision.

We enjoyed a lovely array of Tuscan inspired snacks, such as tomato and basil crostini, prosciutto and melon, and delicious Toscana olives, and toasted with a glass of prosecco.

After discussing Italy, we chatted about our other favorite destinations, which led to a friendly debate about the next book selection. Africa and South America were top contenders, but we’d love your input too. Let us know what you think we should read next (any destination/region will be considered). And, of course, we hope to see you at our next meeting!

4 destinations to visit in summer 2012

It’s hard to believe that summer is right around the corner. With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, I started thinking about the best summer destinations to visit in 2012. Here are my thoughts:

Kenya: See the abundance of spectacular wildlife and lavishly gorgeous, incredibly photogenic landscapesKenya. Although June through September is the rainy season, the great migration of animals that cross the Serengeti occurs during this time, making it well worth the trip. Travelers will be amazed to see the plethora of wildlife as the animals take part in their annual search for water and a mate. Think of it as the best safari ever, unfolding right before your eyes.


Ireland: Enjoy the emerald green countrysideIreland. Pleasant weather during the summer allows travelers to enjoy the lush, green scenery that this country is known for. The friendly, outgoing Irish people will make you feel right at home, and travelers will have more chances to take in all of the attractions, as they have the longest operating hours during the summer.


Greece: Explore the ancient secrets of the Greek islands and bask on the sun-splashed Mediterranean beachesGreek Islands. This summer is a great time to visit, as travelers can take advantage of the many bargains being offered to attract tourists. Although Greece is experiencing unrest and a problematic economy, the exquisiteness and charm of the most beautiful islands that exist anywhere in the world remains unchanged.


Italy: Experience the art, fashion, and music that flourish in the citiesItaly. Though a great year-round destination, some places are better visited in the summer. Tuscany is lavishly fertile, with vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see, delectably fresh food, and magnificently endless panoramas and rolling hills. Venice and Florence are also great to visit in the summer, thanks to many outdoor performances and festivals. The Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, aka the Sunbelt of Italy, is home to some of the most beautiful towns, dramatic coastlines, and stunning panoramas in Europe, and should not be missed. There’s also nothing like enjoying a summer evening outside at one of the countless restaurants with a delicious Italian meal, glass of wine, and good friends.


If you’re interested in booking a trip to one of these destinations, or would like to speak with a member of our reservations team about other fantastic summer getaways, you can reach us at 800-555-5765.

Where are you traveling this summer? Let me know your top choices in a comment!

Italy’s history: Modern pictures of the past

Ciao a tutti! Italy is a destination for all travelers and is filled with some of the most interesting history, culture, and art in the world. It’s the home of the gladiators in ancient Roman times, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and driver of the Age of Discovery.

And with all that history, there are more than a few sites that tell the stories of people long ago and give a glimpse into what their lives were like. So we put together this photo essay to show you some of the most important sites from Italy’s history.

First, a look at historical Rome.

This is the beautiful Colosseum in Rome, the largest amphitheater built in the Roman empire. It was the spot of gladiator fights, dramas, and re-enactments of famous battles.

The inside of the Colosseum. It was completed in A.D. 80, and could sit over 50,000 people.

The skyline in Rome is breathtaking, as the red brick architecture so widely used here makes it famous.

On to Florence, famous for its art, architecture, and heritage! The Piazza della Signoria is one of the most famous squares in the world and the cultural hub of this city.

The city is beautiful at night. Here is Giotto’s Campanile, which sits near the Florence Cathedral. It has seven bells, and took over 20 years to be built.

A bridge over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence has shops built on the bridge. It was built during Roman times, but now houses shops with jewelry, art, and souvenirs.

For more information on this beautiful country, see some of the posts we’ve done on Italy in the past. Do you have any pictures of Italy? Share them here or on our Facebook page.

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