My parents always treat themselves to a city break in the spring - it's a perfect time to celebrate both of their birthdays by escaping to Europe to explore some amazing new place. The other year they decided to try out Venice for the first time and came back raving about the maze of canals, the gondola rides and the amazing architecture. They spent their days wandering the city in the sunshine, stopping off regularly to indulge in the local delicacies washed down with endless glasses of wine. Their glowing recommendations made sure it became a place I have to one day experience for myself to experience the culture and art of this timeless city. It's definitely on my bucket list, and if you're planning a trip look no further than this post for tips on the top experiences on offer – and where to book your tickets.
Doge's Palace & Secret Itineraries Tour
The Venetian Gothic style will captivate visitors to the city, but none quite so much as the Doge's Palace. One of the city's main landmarks, the Palace is the main symbol of Venice and although starting out as the home of the Doge, the supreme authority in Venice it was opened as a museum in 1923. Purchasing a ticket to the Doge's Palace also allows entry to the Correr Museum, the Biblioteca Marciana and the National Archaeological Museum. You can purchase tickets here.
While exploring the Palace, it is worth checking out the Secret Itineraries Tour which includes the visit of the old rooms where the Serenissima government carried out all important and secret issues related to the administration of the State over the centuries. The tour gives visitors a taste of the political history of the city, Venice organization and justice institutions. You can purchase tickets for this tour here.
Venice Museum Pass
If you're a museum fan, this pass is the one for you. The Venice Museums Pass gives you access to all Civic Venice Museums and the museums in San Marco Square. These include Doge's Palace, Correr museum, National Aercheological museum, Biblioteca Marciana, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Carlo Goldoni Home, Palazzo Mocenigo and Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume, Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art and Museo d'Arte Orientale, the Glass museum, Murano, the Lace museum, Burano, Museum of Natural History. You can purchase this ticket here and it remains valid for six months.
Venice Islands Boat Tour
Fancy getting outside and exploring the city? Why not try the Venice Islands Boat Tour - get to see the city from the canals and visit the most important and famous islands of Venice lagoon, Murano, Burano e il Torcello, by boat. This tour is available every day and at just 22 euros it's a great way to explore the city. Tickets available here.
Gondola Serenade Tour
Of course a trip to Venice would be nothing without experiencing the magic of a gondola tour, and how better to woo your love than by being serenaded during this beautiful cruise along the canals? This is a fascinating tour along Canl Grande and smaller, hidden channels which gives visitors a chance to experience this unique city from an unsual point of view with a background serenade. Pick up your tickets here.
Venice Walking Tour
For those who prefer to stay on dry land and explore on foot, the Venice Walking Tour could be the perfect way to explore the city. Last around 80 minutes, the tour takes in a wealth of sights and monuments with a guide to tell you all about them. The tour starts from St. Mark’s Square giving you a description of the history of the main monuments including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace,the Campanile, the Clock Tower and the Procuratie. The tour will then head to one of the most popular squares in Venice, S. Maria Formosa, before exploring Marco Polo’s house and Malibran Theatre, where ancient and recent history meet Mercerie in this wonderful corner of Venice. Tickets available here.
If you're planning a trip to Venice, don't miss out on the amazing deals available online and don't forget to book in advance as many of these attractions will get booked out during peak season. Be a smart traveller and skip the queues buy purchasing your tickets ahead of time through Italy Travels. Check out their website here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tasmania is one of the most easily skipped parts of Australia for backpackers who are more often drawn to the commercialised party of the East Coast or the big city life of Melbourne and Sydney. Many know nothing about Tasmania, I certainly didn't realise it was a separate island until I actually arrived in Australia. But I knew almost straight away that the West Coast of Australia and Tasmania would be real highlights for me when exploring Australia. Don't get me wrong, there are some special sights to see along the East Coast but it is very much about partying and I think it is a shame so many never travel beyond it. When I returned on my second year visa, it was my absolutely priority to get myself to Tasmania as soon as possible, my tax back from the previous year was sitting in my account waiting to be spent and how better than on a month in Bali and a Tasmania road trip?
Flights and job-hunting
Flying into Hobart, I was excited for the crisp, clear air and the stormy skies after the last month in humid Bali and sunny Cairns. Flights to Tasmania are some of the cheapest I have found in Australia, I actually paid less than $100 for my flight from Cairns via Sydney, and landed in Hobart which I used as my base for the next few weeks. I originally arrived with hopes of finding work and staying over Christmas before returning to Melbourne, but friends I made in the hostel assured me it would be harder than expected to find work and I was best off just travelling then working in Melbourne. The farming season had been delayed in Tasmania due to the weather so those hunting for raspberry/strawberry picking work or cherries, were hanging around in the hope something would turn up. Hospitality work was hard to come by as there just weren't enough jobs for those looking and it always helped to know someone who could get you in. I personally would really recommend just travelling Tasmania so you can get the most out of it as it actually costs very little to have an amazing experience compared to other parts of Australia.
Where to stay?
In my view there is only one hostel even worth mentioning in this section - The Pickled Frog. Within minutes of arriving it became one of my absolute favourite hostels ever, not just in Australia. It was full of the most friendly and relaxed travellers I have ever met and many of them were there long-term to work so they made the place feel like home. Some were just about to set off on road trips around the island, others had just come back, either way, they were a wealth of information about what to see and do. The hostel was a pretty old building with creaky floors and two huge dogs, it had charm and character and all centred around a huge living area with couches and tables to relax on and hang out with other travellers. The kitchen was huge and was a great place to meet new people and cook up a feast before sitting in the living room to play cards all night and drink beers from the bar in the reception.Situated at the top of Hobart city, you can't miss the hostel which has been painted bright green and it is easy to get the airport shuttle to right outside the door. A bed in the hostel came to between $26-30 a night depending on the size dorm you went for - I always stayed in six bed dorms which were perfect as I wasn't a fan of the bigger dorms downstairs. Even better, you get a lot of great freebies for your money as the hostel provides free trips to Mount Wellington, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see Tasmanian devils. Trust me, staying in this hostel will make your Hobart experience!
Top 5 things to see and do:
Why I fell in love with Hobart
Hobart has a real charm that other parts of Australia lack, perhaps being English it was the quaint, older charm the city had that won me over. I loved the way everything had a real history and seemed from a time long before the modern skyscrapers of the cities. The solid wooden bars seemed like they had a story to tell, the musicians were quirky and brought unique talent to the table. The lifestyle was slower and more appreciative than the busy bustle of Melbourne or Sydney, less focused on partying and more on appreciating the great outdoors, and when it came to that, Tasmania had a lot to offer. Everyone knows from this blog that I am a total party animal, but there is another side to me, that country girl from the UK who loves getting outdoors and active. Tasmania was a perfect place to do this and so when I was in Hobart, I used my time to plan a road trip around the rest of the island - I'll be blogging about how I planned my trip at a later date.
Have you been to Hobart - what was your favourite part? Can you recommend any things to do/places to eat at?