Tag Archives: italy

Italy | Museums you don’t want to miss when visiting Florence

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Pic by Toni Rodrigo

Italy is high on everyone’s travelling list – whether it’s for the food, the rich culture and history, or the stunning Amalfi coast. There’s something so irresistible about the combination of pizza, gelato, Roman history and beautiful beaches and countryside. I went to Rome as a teenager and toured all the famous sights – the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel and many more before eating my way through the city then moving on to tour the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. It was an amazing trip and one I’ve never forgotten, and although sadly I haven’t yet had the chance to return to this beautiful country it is definitely on the list. Ever since reading Under The Tuscan Sun, I’ve always loved the idea of summering in Tuscany and experiencing all the tastes, sights and sounds described in the narrative. While I may not be getting the opportunity to experience all Tuscany and the wonderful city of Florence has to offer, if you are planning a trip look no further than this post for tips on visiting the best museums and galleries on offer – and where to book your tickets.

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Pic by Gareth Williams

Uffizi Gallery

An absolute must-see when you visit Florence, the Uffizi Gallery is a highlight of this historical city. The unique museum, which was originally constructed in 1560 as a palace for Florentine magistrates, now hosts a huge range of masterpieces. Creating an area to home the art collections of the Medici family, the areas later grew to host masterpieces commissioned by Medici which became what visitors will see today. As one of the world’s most prominent art museums, it provides a home for some of the most important art pieces of the Renaissance including works by Leonardo da Vinci. Other famous works you can spot among the displays include Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, and works by the likes of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Michelangelo.

As visitors plan to make their way through the labyrinth of rooms, they should be aware that this is one of the most-visited museums in the whole of Italy, welcoming over 1.5million visitors each year. This many people does create lines with weekends, Tuesdays and mornings being the busiest times – buy your tickets ahead of time to skip the queues.

Accademia Gallery

Traveler’s simply cannot visit Florence without taking the opportunity to view one of the most famous statues in the world – Michelangelo’s David. The Academia Gallery, an 18th century museum founded by Grand Duke Peter Leopold, was chosen as the new home for the statue in 1873 after it was moved from its original location on the Signoria square. Expressing the genius of the young artist, the statue is known as a symbol of the free Florentine republic of the beginning of the Cinquecento. Later more statues by Michelangelo have been displayed in the same room, transforming in this way the Gallery into a Michelangelo museum: the four unfinished Prisoners, destined to the tomb of Pope Julius II, and never sent to Rome, the unfinished Saint Matthew and the Pietà of Palestrina, attributed to mature Michelangelo. Book skip the line tickets here.30303775721_cf2343537f_z

Palitine and Modern Art Gallery

This extraordinary collection is housed in the winter apartments of the Medici, on the first floor of the Pitti Palace, and features masterpieces of famous artists of the Baroque and Renaissance period. Visitors can see works by the likes of Raffaello, Tiziano, Rubens, Van Dijk, hanging from the walls creating an overwhelming and magnificent effect completed by the luxurious furnishing. In the Modern Art Gallery, a collection founded after the First World War displays the development of Italian art between 1745 and 1945. The heart of the Gallery displays the collection of small pictures, masterpieces by the Macchiaioli, Fattori, Lega, Borrani the revolutionary young artists who used to gather in Florence around the mid 19th century. Book skip the line tickets here.

Bargello Museum

The medieval palace was once where the chief of the military police resided, but it was restored in the second half of the 19th century and became a museum of Renaissance statuary and of minor arts. The museum holds a collection of statues, starting from Quattrocento artworks by Donatello, Ghiberti Luca della Robbia, includes masterpieces by Michelangelo, as the Bacchus and the Brutus, and reaches the end of the 16th century, with Cellini and Giambologna. Also on display are a range of precious items including the outstanding collection of ivories, the Renaissance maiolica from Urbino, jewellery and objects decorated in enamel. Book skip the line tickets here.

Pic by Erik Drost

Pic by Erik Drost


All of the museums offer a range of tours, talks, joint tickets and bookings for larger parties hoping to visit during their stay in Florence. With each of the museums welcoming such a large volume of visitors each year, it is best to book tickets in advance to avoid wasting your trip in queues. All tickets for tours, talks, entrance and more can be found here – book skip the line tickets for museums in Florence.

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Travel | My top city break destinations

imageCity breaks can be a great way to escape everyday life for a while without breaking the bank and without sacrificing too much of that precious time off work. Not all of us are as lucky to travel full time, and who doesn’t need a well-deserved break from work every once in a while? I’ve always been more of a beach bum than a city girl, but it’s great to check out the cultural centre of a country as you’re passing through it because I always find it gives such a different impression of the country. Plus it gives you a good excuse to give in to the tourist inside you – to do and see all the things you’ve read about. My parents love a good city break and are always jetting off for a mid-season getaway; in the last few years they’ve been to Venice, Rome, Athens and Barcelona – I’ve got a bit of catching up to do when it comes to Europe! But luckily my readers come from all over the world so I thought for my list of top city breaks I would take a look at some of my favourite cities from across the world – so whether you’re based in America, Europe, Asia or Australia – there’ll be one nearby for you to check out.

UK

LONDON

Of course, a particular favourite in the UK. London is a bustling, vibrant city packed full of things to do, and for me, lots of people to see. I studied near London and love returning there to visit friends and family. Plus it’s a great place to go shopping, visit one of the amazing museums, go to the theatre or spend a day at one of the fantastic markets. When I’m at home, I usually end up heading to London pretty regularly and never run out of new experiences – check what’s on listings as there are always free events going on! If you’re wanting to make a full weekend of it and want to experience somewhere new to stay. Why not try somewhere like the Rosewood hotel? Based in Covent garden, it oozes luxury and acts as a perfect luxury getaway (take me there now!).

BRIGHTON

One of my favourite cities in the UK even though I have only been twice – I last visited years ago with my boyfriend and had the most amazing weekend. It’s a beautiful city and I love that it’s right by the sea – my perfect kind of city. It has a more relaxed feel than London and is full of quaint little boutiques and independent shops when you head to the Lanes. There’s some fantastic restaurants and hotels there, and I loved staying in a beautiful boutique hotel overlooking the sea when we went.

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EUROPE

ROME

I went to Rome years ago on a school trip where we visited all the stunning historical monuments; walked around the Coliseum and threw coins in the Trevi Fountain, we pounded the streets drinking in the culture, practicing our Italian, and stuffing our faces with pizza and ice cream. I’ve always wanted to go back since, it’s a beautiful city and a perfect one if you love your food and culture, there’s just so much history waiting for you. Just remember to take good walking shoes as you’ll be out all day!

VALETTA

I went on holiday to Malta two years ago and totally fell in love with the country – it may be tiny but it’s a fantastic place to visit. Being so small you can work your way around the whole island by bus and experience every part of Maltese culture. We took a day trip to Valetta, the capital city, and loved the day we spent wandering a round the adorable little streets, around the harbour, and eating Maltese desserts from a cute little bakery in the square outside the library.

BRUSSELS

Sensing a theme here? One of the main reasons I love to travel is the food and the choice of Brussels was a great one for that. My mum and I headed here for a weekend of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate to celebrate my 18th birthday. I loved the city, it was so beautiful and the buildings were just stunning. You could walk the streets for hours just looking around and I lost count of the amazing restaurants. It’s such a cosmopolitan city that you can eat food from all over Europe in the same street!

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FURTHER AFIELD

NEW YORK

The ultimate in city break getaways, New York has everything and more to offer. It’s a magical city and one I’ve fallen in love with over and over again, I’ve actually been there four times and still not run out of things to do. Beyond all the usual touristy activities, there’s endless restaurants to gorge yourself at, neighbourhoods within the city to explore, shopping to be done and experiences to have. I’m writing a full post on New York that will be going up over the next week make sure to look out for that if you’re planning a trip!

BANGKOK

Easily one of my favourite cities in the world – it’s a total culture shock, it’s brash, rude and extremely cheeky, you’re always in for a good time there and there is so much to see. Amazing historical monuments, beautiful temples scattered across the city, shopping centres and markets packed with everything you could imagine, a nightlife that will keep you going until sunrise. And the food, oh my god, the food. It’s dreamy and spicy, it’s exciting and unexpected. Fully expect to spend most of your time scouring street food stalls and eating the world.

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Fancy something a little less mainstream? Head to Vietnam where one of the prettiest little cities awaits. Set upon a river, but just a few kilometres from the beach, the city has everything you could want including an incredible, rich history that lies on every corner waiting to be discovered. There are a fantastic range of shops, and plenty of opportunities to get clothes made specifically for you. Plus the food is amazing, totally unlike the food elsewhere in Asia – it brings a range of different flavours and textures to the table.

imageAfter three months living in the outback, I’ve never been more excited at the prospect of returning to a city. I’ll be flying to Melbourne in nine days and I can’t wait to experience the hustle and bustle again. Plus Melbourne has so much to offer – not only is it right by the sea but it’s full of art and music and a quirky attitude that I love. I’m looking forward to exploring and discovering all the little treasures that lurk around the city, I can’t wait to shop and be able to do city activities again like going to museums and the cinema, going to clubs and bars that don’t close at 11pm, being able to use public transport and never being far away from a shop – trust me you really appreciate that stuff after living in the Australian outback!

What is your favourite city and why? Which ones should I visit? Have you visited any of these – what did you love about it? Any cities you wouldn’t want to visit?

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Five cities I would give anything to return to…

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My family and I on holiday in Mauritius, where my parents married

I was nominated by the lovely Lauren Blenkinsop of Tea and Post, a travel and lifestyle blog, to blog about the five cities I would most like to return to as part of Booked.net – Top Destinations To Go There. As someone whose whole life seems to be dedicated to making travel plans and saving hard for a number of adventures I have planned for next year, this is a great chance for me to reminisce over some previously amazing holidays and trips I have had with family and friends. I’ve been lucky enough to go on a number of amazing holidays and to travel a lot in my life, unfortunately I also have a pretty adventurous heart that tends to fall in love with most places I visit which means I always want to go back for more. Like Lauren, I never feel like I get enough time to really explore a place and always leave wanting more…

Port Louis, Mauritius

On my dad’s side, my family come from Mauritius, and sadly because of the cost and the time needed for a holiday there, I have only been able to visit twice in my life. I love the country, its smells, colour, music and culture. I loved visiting the markets, walking the streets and visiting the temples in Port Louis, where my father was born, and where my family still live. To me, the country is summed up in a hot afternoon spent in my grandmother’s yard eating mangoes picked fresh by my uncle from the overhanging trees, while my aunt and grandmother are cooking up a goat curry ready for when the whole family comes round that night for lots of chat and music.

Brussels, Belgium

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Image by Matthias Ripp

For my 18th birthday, my mum and I celebrated with a weekend away in Brussels together. We wanted to do something special and this was a great excuse to get away, spend some time together before I went off to university, and to eat lots of amazing food! The city is stunning, packed full of culture and amazing architecture. We spent the days walking endlessly around the city, shopping, and dining in gorgeous little restaurants run by families and full of delicious food. Such a multicultural city, we could eat French food for breakfast, Greek for lunch and Italian for dinner – it was fabulous. And don’t get me started on the chocolate…

Valletta, Malta

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A stunning city I visited while holidaying with the boyfriend in Mellieha a couple of summers ago. This city has such a long, rich history and we loved taking a trip to really experience a place that time seems to have forgotten. The buildings are stunning and I could look at them all day, in fact I did. I walked so much I felt like my feet would cave in, up and down the wonky streets, so full of character and old time magic. The churches and cathedral were beyond beautiful and you felt such a sense of peace walking through their silent rooms. I loved our day visit there but wished we had more time to explore at a slower pace, it would have been nice to spend more time exploring the culture.

New York, USA

little italyOf course, New York has to be in there, I love the city so much and despite having been about four times now, I still feel like I have so much more to discover. There is something about New York that has captured my heart and I just feel addicted to the atmosphere, the excitement and the possibilities that come with a trip to the big city. I will never get bored of the city and will always happily go back, but I plan to wait a while until my next visit – perhaps a visit to some other US cities is in order – San Francisco anyone?

Rome, Italy

Image by RaSeLaSeD - Il Pinguino

Image by RaSeLaSeD – Il Pinguino

Rome HAS to be on my list. I was lucky enough to go on a school trip to Italy, we travelled to Rome and did all the sights, then on to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It was stunning, such a beautiful country, but I feel I was too young to really appreciate the incredible historical landmarks, the amazing food and the people. Plus being on a school trip meant what we had time to see was limited and filtered through schoolteachers. I actually heard of a job opportunity in Rome, working as a nanny for the children of the head of police, but sadly couldn’t go for it as I had already decided to go travelling at that point and was saving. Rome is a city I would truly love to live and work in so I could really experience and throw myself into it.

My nominations:

1. Adventurous Kate

2. The Travel Hack

3. Tatty Travels

4. VickyFlipFlop Travels

5. The World Wanderer

Where would you most like to return to on your travels? Which city holds some serious magic for you?

Ab Lucy sign off

Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There

Review: Rediscovering a taste of Italy

IMG_4959As with every visit to New York, this holiday was not complete without a return trip to Little Italy and another attempt to find the gorgeous little family-run restaurant we stumbled into one time to get out of the rain. Years ago, when we made our first visit to The Big Apple, we headed down to Chinatown, Soho and Little Italy for a wander around, unfortunately on the wettest day. It was raining so hard that it seemed like droplets were rising from the pavement to hit me in the face. Despite umbrellas, raincoats and boots, we were soaked to the skin and couldn’t seem to get out of the storm. Eventually, tired, soggy and after getting very lost, we stumbled into Little Italy and into one of the first restaurants we spotted – Amici II.

IMG_4788This cute little restaurant was only small and run by a family who serve the finest foods from their home of Napoli. The restaurant itself was simple, clean and let the walls do the talking – packed with pictures, messages and memorabilia from customers of years gone by, right up the the present. The photos were of families, couples and groups of friends with the owners who had clearly created a legacy among friends that had customers returning for all their special occasions, family meals or just a light lunch.

IMG_4958As a family, ever since that first meal we have made it our business to return to the restaurant. The second time it was again sheer luck that we stumbled across it although we had hoped to find it again – we couldn’t remember the street so it was a lot of guess-work! Since, I have refused to remember the street address, instead preferring to follow my instincts and have always managed to find it, despite entering Little Italy from various directions. I reckon it was just meant to be! The first time we were there, my dad and I kept it simple with a spaghetti with garlic, chilli and oil. Simple proved effective and it was a delicious meal that warmed us up nicely after the wet walk there. My mum had a seafood pasta dish that she said was also amazing, while my sister went for a lasagne which she loved. Sadly I can’t remember what we had the other times, but I know that we absolutely loved it and that it was one of the best Italian meals any of us has ever had – including those in Italy!

IMG_4955This visit was extra special because it was our proper celebration meal for my mum’s 50th birthday which had been a few days earlier. She was adamant that she wanted to spend her birthday meal at this lovely restaurant with a glass of red wine in hand and a plate of delicious pasta in front of her. She was determined on this visit that her dish of choice would be carbonara.

IMG_4956My sister Laura, left, and I were dying to try the food again, Laura was craving pizza while I had a fancy for some seafood and spice. We were all thrilled to be back and couldn’t wait to try out the menu, which is made up of all the classic Italian dishes with a Napoli twist and some special dishes unique to the area. All brimming with flavour and freshly cooked.

IMG_4793I was also loving the wine – house white so I’m not sure of a name, but it was delicious and from the Napoli area. Gorgeous and in a half carafe for myself, served in the lovely big glasses – the only way wine should be served! It was the perfect way to relax after a lot of walking around the shops in Soho. The restaurant was nicely busy, but not packed as it has been when we went later in the day before. There was a group who were going for several courses, and a few pairs just popping in for lunch.

IMG_4794We started with a shared platter of fried zucchinni with a spicy tomato sauce – perfect for sharing, freshly made in the tiny kitchen and so tasty. We’ve had these before in other restaurants, but never quite as crispy or delicious. When we had them before they were served as fried disks which stayed a little soggy as the vegetables (courgettes) are quite wet naturally. The crispier the better in the case of fried anything, but as someone who doesn’t usually like fried food, I found these light and non-greasy. Just full of flavour.

IMG_4957Words cannot describe my main meal – it was beyond anything I could have hoped for and had my taste buds firing on all cylinders. I went for a special dish of black linguine with shrimps after making a hard decision between several dishes including lobster ravioli. I chose this in the end because I had not yet tried black linguine and because the dish just combined all of my favourite flavours in the king prawns and garlic. The decision paid off and it really was exquisite – the best meal I have had there yet. I would really recommend you try this dish if you visit, but whatever you choose will be fantastic. Laura went for the pizza and said it was also really yummy.

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The noises of contentment and mouth-watering dishes continued across the table where my mum was tucking into the spaghetti carbonara she had been waiting for  all those months – she couldn’t stop raving about it! I tried a mouthful and it was definitely the best carbonara I have ever tasted – so creamy and the bacon really gave it some flavour. Dad was also loving his chicken parmagiana with pasta which really says something because he makes an amazing version of the same dish! The chicken was tasty and crispy and, of course, the pasta was perfectly cooked. Happy faces and empty dishes surrounded the table – can anything show a top restaurant any better than that? If you go to Little Italy – I’m sure there are many amazing restaurants lining the streets, but I would seriously recommend Amici II if you want wholesome, good quality food that is full of Napoli flavour from a staff that will do anything to make your meal perfect. A true expression of Little Italy.

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Have you got a restaurant you always return to for the amazing food and staff? What’s your favourite pasta dish?