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City Breaks in Europe – This Summer’s Hot Ticket

Typically when you think of summer holidays you begin to conjure up images of sitting on the beach all day sipping an umbrella drink, but more and more holidaymakers are moving to the city for their holidays, European cities specifically.

Obviously European cities are popular for a multitude of reasons: The history, the cuisine, the shopping.  There is something for everyone and it’s clearly a trend that many people looking to take holidays this year with many british tourists leaving the beaches of Spain and Greece in favour of city breaks all over the continent.

The main favourites for British tourists are Rome, Paris and Barcelona as they are well known.  Paris has many famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc De Triomphe and the Louvre for the art lovers out there.  Rome also has a lot of historic remains from the days when Rome ruled most of Europe, amazing structure such as the Coliseum and the Circo Massimo have stood the test of time and can still be visited to this day.

There are plenty of other cities worthy of visiting though other than the big three of Western Europe, many of these can be reached by train from the previously mentioned big cities.  One such attraction is Venice which is famous for being the city built on waterways rather than roads.  Venice has been seen in many movies such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the new Italian Job and the recent James Bond movie Casino Royale.  Not far from Venice is Milan which is famed for being one of the fashion capitals of the world. 

Some tour operators may offer deals where you can have multiple stops on your trip to add a bit of variety.  One such instance could be getting flights to Rome or Venice, staying a few nights and then catching a train to Rome or Milan.  Near to Venice is also Lake Garda which can provide a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Other popular cities include Amsterdam and Prague, tow recent favourites for stag and hen weekends but also have amazing sights to see.  Prague is a brilliant example of Eastern European culture with buildings and architecture than is amazing to see especially when the snow has fallen.

flights to these cities can normally be found fairly cheap due to many holidays being booked in parts, one place for your hotel, and one place for your car hire and another for the cheap flights that get you there.

A lot of companies allow you to compose your own holiday and so you get to take on the role of a travel agent and make the perfect holiday for yourself.  These multi-stop city breaks ensure you can see all the places you want to in a short space of time, depending on how much you want to see you could spend only a day or two in one location or you could spend a week, with this kind of holiday you’re the boss and you can march to the beat of your own drum.

MADRID ACCOMMODATION AND HOLIDAY INFORMATION

Madrid was once dwarfed by cities such as Rome, Paris and London, but after the death in 1975 of Francisco Franco, Spain’s dictator, it began growing one of the most culturally vibrant, round-the-clock cities on earth. If you take a Madrid weekend break or plan to stay for a while you will find that Madrid now has a mix of world-renowned artwork, busy public plazas, great cuisine and nightlife. Madrid has three reference points: The Puerta del Sol, the city’s absolute centre; the Plaza Mayor, The Golden Age core; and The glorious Plaza de Cibeles, with the most extravagant architecture. The oldest part of the city is commonly known as ‘Los Austrias’ after the Hapsburg dynasty. The Plaza Mayor is one of few parts for which the Habsburgs can really claim credit. An elegant arcaded square with some lurid murals added in the 1990s, this was where the greatest festivals and ceremonies of imperial Madrid were held, as well as bullfights and carnivals. It now has coin and stamp collectors markets on Sundays and lively dance bands during fiestas. Sol is Madrid’s most photographed square, home to the bear and strawberry tree statue. You will also find that much of the Madrid accommodation is part of the stunning architecture. Huertas & Santa Ana remains an important theatre district and for those art lovers planning a Madrid holiday, a visit to its three museums on ‘The Avenue of Art’ offers the chance to view countless famous works by notable masters. Among more than 7000 paintings in the Museo del Prado are pieces by Velazquez, El Greco, Titian, Rubens and Bosch. At the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, there are modern masters such as Dali, Miro and Picasso, including his masterpiece, Guernica. And the Museo de la Coleccion Thyssen-Bornemisza holds works by Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Goya.

There is a wide range of cheap hotels available to book online as well as cheap Madrid holidays and Madrid weekend break deals! Search for a Madrid hotel within certain dates using our site search facility, or use the link below to view the full listing of hotels in Madrid.

There are a wide range of cheap hotels in Madrid to suit families, couples, groups and singles. Combine cheap Madrid hotels and cheap flights to Madrid to create outstanding value Madrid holidays.

For information on cheap flights to Madrid please use the link below.
CHEAP FLIGHTS TO MADRID

SHOPPING

Even if you are only planning a Madrid weekend, make sure you leave just a little bit of time for shopping. Fashion for men, women and children from Spanish and international designers can be found around the streets of Almirante and Conde de Xiquena, as well as in the district of Salamanca which concentrates the best shops for jewelry, shoes, leather goods, furniture and gifts. Concentrated in and around the Plaza Mayor are plenty of shops selling traditional articles such as espadrilles, fabrics, ropes, hats and religious articles. Large department stores are located in the vicinity of the Puerta del Sol, and on the streets of Princesa, Goya and Castellana. Open-air markets such as the Rastro which is the most famous of the flea markets, opens on Saturdays and Sundays between the Plaza de Cascorro, La Latina and the street of Embajadores. Everything can be found here from valuable antiques to used clothing, including collector cards, books, records and paintings.

NIGHTLIFE

Madrid is one of the world’s liveliest cities, never sleeps and during weekends or before public holidays, and on the days running up to Christmas, it is not unusual to see more people out and about at 4, 5 or 6am in the morning than in many other cities during the day. Nightlife can be divided into the following areas – between Puerta del Sol and Plaza de Santa Ana, especially in a street called Calle Huertas is a great area if on foot as the many pubs, taverns, theatre-cafes and fashionable bars here are pretty close one to each other. Alonso Martinez and Bilbao are the names of two subway-stations, both of them in the heart of very lively areas. From the first one, try the locals around Plaza de Santa Barbara. Close to the other you will find, among others, Madrid’s most famous discoteque, Pacha, Argelles and Moncloa – Ciudad Universitaria are two more subway-stations where you may enjoy the ambience of Madrid’s university quarter. There are numerous traditional cafes to enjoy on a Madrid holiday, many of them decorated in the style of La “Belle Epoque”. On hot summer nights have a drink in one of the many beautiful terraces, where you will find large amounts of people until late in the night, mainly in Paseo de la Castellana especially between Cuzco and Paseo del Prado.

INFORMATION

Language: Spanish

Currency: Euro

Airport: Madrid

Italy: The Art Of Good Living

Most people’s perception of Italy is that of style, a country whose taste for the good life is matched only by its panache. The food is full of flavour, created with a desire to serve nothing but the best.

Variety is the spice of life; kitchens all over the country try to outwit one another with new recipes, each one tastier than their neighbours.

But what drives the Italian people is their passion, their zest for life. Nowhere else is life lived with so much enthusiasm.

The boys cruise by street cafes in their open top sports cars looking cool, trying to catch the eyes of the girls. The girls drink their coffees, dressed to the nines in their Versace designer dresses and pretend not to notice. This modern day mating ritual continues endlessly.

Elsewhere in Italy, tourists flock annually to this culturally diverse country, making it the fourth most popular destination in the world.

The majority of holidaymakers fly into Rome and make a beeline for the Colosseum. Brought to life in the recent Hollywood epic ‘Gladiator’, the ancient ruin makes no less impression in real life. Built in 80 AD, this bloodthirsty arena became graveyard for many a brave soldier, thrown to the lions with no mercy.

Within the walls of Rome lies the Vatican. Though technically not part of Italy, it is in fact an independent state and the smallest country in the world. Considered by many to be Christianity’s finest Renaissance church, St Peter’s Cathedral is a magnificent piece of architecture. Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is another must see, though you may have to compete with large crowds. It is advisable to book your visit beforehand.

High up in the mountains sits the beautiful little town of Assisi, overlooking Perugia. The 14th century fortress of Rocca Maggiore sits predominantly, once the sentinel guarding this proud city. It is the birthplace of St Francis and well worth a visit, provided you can negotiate the religious pilgrims.

In the north of Italy sits the vogue city of Milan. The town is famous for its fashion businesses and exquisite shopping. Indeed, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is believed to be the oldest shopping mall in the world.

The Biblioteca Ambrosiana holds sketches by Leonardo da Vinci amid its considerable resources of books and drawings. It is one of the main libraries of European culture.

It’s a God Thing

People ask me all the time why I went to occupied Palestine-not just once-but five times since 2005 and why do I care so much about such a small plot of real estate.

I reply, that I went the first time to meet a little boy of Bethlehem who changed my life and to be the Christian delegate amongst the Palestinian and Jewish co-founders of the Olive Trees foundation for Peace [http://www.olivetreesfoundation.org/] an interfaith non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and funds to purchase trees to replace those that have been destroyed by The Wall.

But, my last four trips to occupied Palestine were driven by the fierce urgency of now and a sense of calling; to go-bear witness-and report about the lives of regular people living under military occupation and to learn about and support the grass root efforts of Israeli, Palestinian and International nonviolent activists against the occupation of Palestine.

I also left hearth and home for occupied Palestine five times because injustice anywhere reverberates all over the world and American taxpayers are culpable in where their money is laid down. Annually, over 3.2 billion USA tax dollars are sent to Israel to support the now 40 years of military occupation of the indigenous peoples of the Holy Land.

It was at an Olive Trees Foundation for Peace meeting, that I met a Catholic woman who showed me a photo first published by the Florida Catholic in 2000; a photo that irrevocably changed my life.

Photographer Debbie Hill, captured three year old George [it is his photo that adorns the banner of my website] of Beit Jala, a once peaceful Christian village a five minute car ride from downtown Bethlehem, the morning after the Israeli army destroyed his sanctuary.

Israeli forces had retaliated against a few hopeless militants who had infiltrated George’s neighborhood to snipe across the way into the illegal settlement/colony of Gilo, about a mile from the top of the hill not far from George’s home.

The shrapnel that blew apart the wall of George’s bedroom read ‘Made in USA ‘ and was delivered via American made Apache helicopters.

The second I saw George’s eyes, in that photo, my heart said “DO SOMETHING!”

What could I possibly do I wondered, but I did make a copy of the photo, put it in a frame and placed it upon the altar [a bar high table] in the upper room of my home. Dozens of times a day, I stop and gaze into the eyes of that little boy of Bethlehem and wonder what it will take to end the insane cycle of violence in the Holy Land; which is in pieces-bantustans.

When I met George for the first time in June 2005, I vowed to him that the rest of my life would be dedicated to doing all I could to help bring about the end of the occupation of Palestine.

Of course I had no clue as to what I would or could possibly do, or how much of an ‘impossible mission’ I had promised a little child of Bethlehem. But, every morning I wake up and wonder what I can do today in the pursuit of peace and justice; equal human rights for all, for that is the only way Israel will ever be secure.

A month after my first return home from occupied territory, I put up my website and became a civilian journalist; which is best understood as one who goes out of their comfort zone to report for the benefit of we the people, without orders or censorship from editors or paychecks from conglomerates.

The first civilian journalist may well have been Rachel Corrie, the altruistic young American and volunteer with ISM/International Solidarity movement who was run over and killed by the weight of a Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, four days before America bombed Baghdad.

Rachel and other NONVIOLENT activists had spent hours protesting against the demolition of the home of a pharmacist with five children in Gaza. The Corrie family has sought but has yet to receive justice; an open Congressional investigation and admission of accountability by the Caterpillar Company which continues to reap profits from manufacturing products that further the military occupation of Palestine.

On February 7 2003, Rachel wrote:

“…no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality…Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown…When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting…at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done…I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees – many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, ‘Go! Go!’ because a tank was coming. And then waving and [asking] ‘What’s your name?’

“Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just aggressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away…There is a great deal of concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza”. Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope you will start.”[1]

It was the events of THAT DAY we call 9/11 topped off by President Bush’s advice a few days later to we the people that we should all go shopping if we wanted to help, that drove my curiosity to learn “about the consequences” of USA foreign policy in the Middle East.

Being a Christian, I also was driven by the need to forgive, love and do good to my ‘enemies’ that led me to connect with the interfaith non-profit OTFFP/Olive Trees Foundation for Peace during the summer of 2003.

I connected with the OTFFP after reading two oped’s published in the Orlando Sentinel written by the Palestinian Muslim and American Jewish Co-Founders of the OTFFP regarding the need for open dialogue that recognizes, respects and empathizes with the pain of the other; for when that happens, anyone of good will, will be moved by compassion to do something to alleviate the pain of the other.

The OTFFP organization united American and Israeli Jews, Christians and Muslims after THAT DAY we call 9/11 to literally extend the olive branch of peace to all the cousins in Father Abraham’s family in Israel Palestine by providing the funds to purchase fruit bearing trees on both sides of The Wall. So far, 30,000 have been rooted.

After a few phone calls and emails to the OTFFP organization, I committed to attend a Sunday afternoon OTFFP meeting in south Orlando following the final third of my first year of weekend retreats for students in a two year formation program for Spiritual Director’s.

During 2002-2003, I participated in a central Florida, Episcopal-Methodist Formation Program for SD/Spiritual Director’s/SD’s. SD’s are not counselors or therapists, but are centered and prayerful people who have learned to listen with their hearts to any other speaking of their struggles with God.

I knew going into the program that I would NOT be hanging out a shingle as an SD, I was drawn to be there for the curriculum; studying the saints and various ways of prayer. That is also when I began to write creative spiritual literature.

But on a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2003, after concluding my final weekend retreat I attended my first OTFFP meeting and my life was irrevocably changed, and it began that morning during a guided meditation.

The workshop leader instructed my class to close our eyes and breathe deep and slow as she invited us to enter into a long corridor with many closed doors; and then, she went silent. Immediately, I imagined myself skipping, jumping, dancing and running past miles of closed doors as I headed to the end of that long corridor. I was aware of, but not interested in any of the closed doors on my right and left. I headed straight ahead although it was a while before I saw the enormous cathedral sized double doors at the very end of the hallway. As I approached the wooden doors they slowly opened into the inner space and I could see trees and mountains. After crossing the threshold, I realized I stood upon a mountain top and I could see for miles. There were people of every color and creed, in diverse dress and all were at rest and in peaceful harmony under those trees.

When the workshop leader interrupted my reverie, I did not want to leave that mountain top. I also had no clue if I had a glimpse of heaven or a possibility for this world, but as I was on my way to meet some of the Olive Trees for Peace people I thought that had something to do with my imaginative meditation.

I was the first to arrive at Dr. Diab’s home for the meeting, and on that Sunday I was the only Christian in a room filled with American Jews and Palestinian Muslims. I was in awe of all of them as I prayed, “Jesus Christ! Will you look at all these Muslims and Jews doing exactly what you commanded your followers must do; forgive, love and bless ones enemies. Imagine when all we Christians do it too!”

It was that fateful day that led me to travel two hours every Tuesday afternoon for many months in order to listen and write down Dr. Diab’s memoirs, with the intention that it would be for his grandchildren.

But, being an Irish story teller, dissident and spiritual creative, I had no control over the six fictional characters that welled up within me and who began to converse with Dr. Diab during the days that followed our Tuesday meetings. Not until I completed, KEEP HOPE ALIVE did I even realize that my ‘imaginary friends’ also represented six different ways to intuit, love and serve God.

KEEP HOPE ALIVE is also an historical fiction based on the memoirs of a 1948 Palestinian Muslim refugee who became an American citizen with Top Secret Clearance during the Cold War and founded the non-profit interfaith Olive Trees Foundation for Peace as a positive response to THAT DAY we call 9/11.

Because of my connection to the OTFFP, I journeyed the first time to occupied territory in June 2005. I wrote down everything I experienced, felt in my gut and wondered about. I went places I had never imagined existed and I did things I never thought I would or could; such as leaving Ramallah for Jerusalem late at night with a driver I did not know and who only spoke Arabic.

That morning, I rode along with Dr. Diab and his driver to Ramallah from Jerusalem, and witnessed the Wall in full frontal, brutal view. On my left was a thirty foot high wall of concrete; on my right, only rows of bankrupt businesses.

“Financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families’ sole livelihood for generations.” [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Page 43, Jan/Feb. 2007]

Dr. Diab and I had an appointment at the Palestinian Authority’s compound, where Arafat is now buried.

We met with Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to President Abbas who informed us, “We have lost more than 1.1 million fruit-bearing trees in Palestinian territories. Trees are about food, the environment, and life. Ancient trees have been demolished by tanks, and we thank the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace for addressing the need to replace them and rebuild the faith of our people. Palestine has always been tolerant to people of all religions. The Jews came here out of Spain along with many Arabs — and then came Zionism. When one wants to take over another, war happens. President Abbas is a very bad politician; he does not lie! He is ready to move on from the past. We have quit crying over our losses; we must move on. Live and let live is the motto of this administration. We can not carry on a battle; it must stop. Peace can only happen with peace, not force. President Abbas has promised, ‘We will do whatever it takes to show the world we want peace.’ We need America to help us. The best thing would be for Americans to come and see the truth of the situation for themselves. I encourage Americans to come and see the Wall; it has nothing to do with security, but everything to do with grabbing water and more land. When Americans understand the real situation, things will change for the better. The humiliation at the checkpoints is beyond belief. It can drive anyone to desperation. We condemn all terrorism, but resisting occupation is necessary.”

After that meeting, Dr. Diab set off for his home village in the Galilee and I explored Ramallah with a friend who was born and lives there. Just before midnight, my friend walked me through the checkpoint to where the cabs waited. I cringed when I saw the watchtower’s small window lit up, and I considered how easy it would be to be shot at and never see it coming. The ground was rocky, uneven, and littered with debris and the only light was from the moon.

My friend bargained with a cabbie in Arabic and I marveled that I, who hated to fly before 9/11 and with absolutely no sense of direction at all, who only speaks and understands English, was traveling alone through occupied territory without any fear at all.

After two weeks of traveling through Israel Palestine with ten other Americans connected with the OTFFP, I remained alone in Jerusalem for the following three days and once again, my life was irrevocably changed.

On the third Tuesday in June of 2005- six days before I returned to the USA- after an excruciatingly painful day in Hebron, I crossed paths with Vanunu for the first time.

In April 2005, two months before my first trip to Jerusalem, I turned the TV on that had last been tuned onto the History channel. They were broadcasting a show called, “Sexpionage” all about Russian female spies and one from the Mossad.

The very first clip that ran before my eyes was of Vanunu being transported to his closed door trial depicting his inspired move to write upon his palm: “HIJACKED” and the Rome flight number he had been on. That was followed by a clip of Shimon Perez in 1986 stating that Israel would never be the first in the Mid East to possess nuclear weapons.

Then, a black and white photo of a bearded, unkempt and disheveled Vanunu filled the TV screen and I thought his eyes looked just like George’s of Beit Jala’s, and again, I heard in my heart:

“Do Something!”

I did email Vanunu after that show to thank him for what he had done in 1986 and to let him know that I and nine other Americans would be in his territory in two months and we would like to take him to dinner or lunch. But, just days before that trip, a Palestinian American warned me not to contact Vanunu as Israel had denied him the right to speak to not just foreign media but also ordered him to not speak to any foreigners at all.

Only because a friend from Ramallah happened to be in Jerusalem on the third Tuesday in June 2005, and invited me out to dinner, did I venture out again. I had no hunger for food after my day in Hebron but as we walked towards the Old City and neared St. Georges Cathedral where Vanunu had been living, I asked my friend if he knew about Vanunu. He recalled hearing about Vanunu’s release from prison in 2004, but he did not know Vanunu was a Christian who had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish home but rejected the faith at 14 years old.

As we entered the courtyard, Vanunu was on his way out to a meeting and a few minutes difference and we would have missed him completely.

Instead I was startled by his physical presence, for I had imagined Vanunu to be dark eyed and much taller than I at 5’4″. Vanunu is not much taller or heavier than I, but what knocked me for a loop were his light green-blue eyes that immediately reminded me of the eyes of an old woman I met in 1998, who irrevocably changed my life.

Her name was Bernice and I crossed paths with her for the first time just a few weeks after I began visiting someone at a local nursing home. As I walked down the hallway, Bernice called out, “Help me. Help me.”

I had been a registered nurse for twenty-five years and when ever I hear someone ask for help, I am compelled to do something, or at least try. All Bernice wanted was for me to change her position, for she was completely paralyzed. From a distance I thought her eyes were dark, but as I approached her, I was startled at how light green-blue they were. That day was the beginning of my now ten year nursing home ministry, and although I have no clue what color Jesus’ eyes may have been, in that moment, I sensed/experienced the presence of The Other; that mystery we call God, for lack of a better word. Crossing paths with Bernice was the first time I had known a visceral, intuitive experience of the presence of God within another. It happened for the second time in the courtyard of St. George’s Cathedral in 2005, during the chance crossing of paths with Vanunu, who inspired me to do something I had not yet imagined I would or could.

During our third meeting, while Vanunu was telling me about growing up in Marrakech, Morocco he asked me if I had ever seen the “Dorothy Day” movie, “The Man who Knew Too Much” for the beginning scenes were shot where he grew up.

He meant to say Doris Day, but in that moment I realized my childhood dream of being Brenda Starr had matured, for Vanunu’s slip of the tongue was the catalyst for me to begin to imagine following in the footsteps of Dorothy Day, the 20th century socialist muckraker who became a Christian and a voice for the voiceless in her newspaper The Catholic Worker, which persists today.

Dorothy Day understood that, “Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing……Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers.”

During my travels through occupied Palestine and after listening with my heart to the people who shared their stories with me, I asked everyone, “How can I help? What can I do to try to be a peacemaker?”

Everyone responded, “Tell our stories.”

Dorothy Day and Rachel Corrie told the stories of the oppressed. They both are dead, but as long as I can do something and have breath, I too will tell the stories as I try to be a peacemaker by seeking justice; equal human rights for all, and persist to hope for the best.

Might you do something too.

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/mar/18/usa.israel

Italys Art Of Good Living

Italy is mostly perceived by people as a country full of style which, only its own panache can match in the taste of good life. The food here is created with a desire to serve the very best of Italy. Kitchens in every part of Italy tries to outsmart, one another by introducing fresh recipes each time, comparatively being tastier than the other one. Their passion and zeal, for life is what that drives the Italian people. In Italy life is lived with so much zest, unlike any other place. Italy has its own ritual of modern day mating. Italian boys can be seen flaunting in their open top sports gear cruising by the street, looking cool, and roaming around in a desire to catch the any girls eyes. Girls getting dressed to the nines, pretending not to notice anything, drinking coffees in their designer dresses. This trend continues endlessly. In this region of Italy you can find a comfortable Italy vacation rental without any difficulty. Vacation in Italy is known as the fourth most popular holiday destination in the world. To this culturally diverse city the tourists flock annually. Majorities of diverse holidaymakers fly to Rome and rush for the Colosseum. The Hollywood movie Gladiator has brought an impression of real life. Many soldiers were thrown to the lions den with no mercy in 80 AD. This arena was then became the graveyard for these brave soldiers. The Vatican, technically not a part of Italy, lies within the walls of Rome. In fact it is the smallest country and an independent state. St Peter’s Cathedral is considered by all as the finest Renaissance Church of Christianity. It is a wonderful piece of architecture. Though one may have to compete with large crowds, the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is another must see piece of art. One should beforehand book ones visit so as not fall in trouble competing with large crowd. Overlooking Perugia is captivating small town of Assisi. Assisi sits high up in the mountains. Rocca Maggiore a 14th century fortress that was once regarded as a sentinel guarding this beautiful city. If one can negotiate the religious pilgrims then this place is worth watching. Also this is the place where St Francis was born. In the north part of Italy is the beautiful city of Milan. Milan is renowned for its exquisite shopping and fashion businesses. In fact the oldest shopping mall of the world the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is in Milan. Biblioteca Ambrosiana is among the most important libraries of European culture. It has Leonardo da Vincis sketches and copious documents of drawings and books. Italys richest architecture is the combination of these art pieces. Tourist feel that they get the best Italy vacation package here.Vacation in Italy, is a good place to start your vacation. You can start your vacation planning selecting Italy vacation rentals and popular itineraries, choosing from a wide range of Italy vacation packages. You may further customize it to suit your requirements and conveniences. You can view some of the most beautiful places in Italy dating from the period of the Etruscan , Rome & Venetian merchants.shttp://www.italy-vacation.com

Cheap Airl Tickets – Flying On A Shoestring

1. If you fly frequently, consider joining a frequent flyer program.

Frequent flyer programs can offer long-term discounts, so don’t always buy the cheapest ticket. Once you factor in the free tickets that you eventually qualify for, you could end up saving money. This is an especially good strategy for those who often fly overseas – how many trips to Singapore would it take to accumulate enough frequent flyer miles to get a free domestic ticket?

2. Check the airlines’ own websites

Don’t restrict yourself to the major airlines. Some regional and national carriers offer cheap airfare. China Airlines, for example, might offer cut-rate airfare to Beijing.

3. Check the online travel agencies

Expedia and Orbitz are among the most popular. Travel agents purchase air tickets at a discount by buying in bulk from the airlines, so they can often offer you cheaper rates than the airlines.

4. Be flexible.

Cheap airfares are often available only on certain days and require you to stay a certain minimum time.

5. Try the small agents in ethnic enclaves.

If you live in a big city and want a ticket to Japan, for example, go to Little Tokyo and check out the small agencies. If you want to go to Rome, check out Little Italy. I have purchased round trip tickets from Los Angeles to Tokyo for as little as US$500.

6. Book in advance.

Tickets booked in advance are normally cheaper than last minute purchases.

7. Buy from an air courier service.

Air courier services are companies that buy your luggage allowance in exchange for discounted tickets. Although they are the cheapest tickets available, they are usually reserved for international travel. Please note, however, that you may only bring carry-on luggage.

8. Become a student.

An International Student ID Card will get you lots of places cheap.

9. Offer to pay your way aboard an unregistered cargo plane by cleaning toilets and mopping the deck (bring along a parachute and you can stop anywhere you like – for the very adventurous only!).

Travel destinations: Rome, Italy – Part 12

ROME

My first yearnings for Rome began when I was sixteen. I became closely associated with an Italian family from Reggio Calabria. I was drawn to their natural warmth of manner and admired their stoic qualities and most of all their strong family feeling. Migrating to Australia would not have been easy. They encountered language difficulties and often racial discrimination. I listened to their stories about life in their village and the beauty of the mountains and sea, and I drank in the music and emotion of their Italian language. I bought Italian records, watched Italian movies and even studied the language. You could say I was devoted to the Italian culture by the time I saw the romantic film, “Three Coins in the Fountain,” and the theme song became a hit. I made up my mind that one day I would go to Rome.

__________

As the taxi sped along the motorway from Rome’s Fiumicino airport my heart sank as we passed miles of modern housing development flats and industry. It wasn’t until we were approaching the city itself that I became absolutely enthralled by the sight of a great, ancient, Roman wall. I had never seen anything so massive.

I gripped the seat while the taxi driver forged on among a mass of mopeds and small cars all vying for position on the congested road. The sight of immense monumental buildings transfixed my gaze and helped to take my mind off the impending danger of the traffic.

The taxi pulled into a lane way to park and the driver pointed to the hotel around the corner. Heaving heavy cases, my friend and I negotiated the pedestrian crossing through a maze of people to find the hotel entrance was off the street, down a passageway, then up an elevator to the third floor. The manager greeted us half heartedly. He was obviously irritated because our presence was interrupting his viewing of the soccer on the television. Ungraciously, he gave directions to where we would find our suite.

Tired, after early morning flights from a Greek Island I had been loathe to leave, my first impression of Rome was disappointing. Faced with the greyness of old buildings, roaring traffic and a hotel room that was dim and poky after the luxury of our island accommodation my spirits were low. But after a short rest we ventured out, determined not to waste a moment of time as there was much to see. We headed for a highly decorated church building across the

More Flights To Mexico

Consistently ranking as one of the top international destinations for U.S. travelers, Mexico has seen steady growth in airline and tourism options in recent years. American interest in Mexican resorts and spas has grown in tune with Mexico’s long-term tourism plan, a focus that contributes over $12 billion dollars annually to the nation’s economy. In fact, Mexico has become so popular with travelers that Cancun now ranks third behind London and Rome in international air bookings placed at a popular online travel site.

During the past six months, both major airlines and low-cost carriers in the United States and Canada have expanded service to several cities and resorts in Mexico by adding flights to existing routes and launching new services. As a result, Mexico’s 20 million annual visitors, over 80% of which come from the U.S. and Canada, can expect to see better rates and increased options for airfare and vacation packages.

At the forefront of this expansion into the Mexican air travel market is Frontier Airlines. With plans to launch round-trip service between Denver and Guadalajara in December, Frontier will now offer flights to eight of Mexico’s premier resort destinations. Having established a “secondary hub” in Cancún that services seven U.S. cities, Frontier has afforded American tourists increased access to the city’s unique resorts and spas. The carrier offers nonstop flights between Cancun and all seven of its U.S. cities.

In recent months, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has begun offering new non-stop services to several Mexico resort destinations such as Acapulco, Merida, and Ixtapa from Atlanta; Mazatlan from Salt Lake City; and Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco from New York’s JFK.

Just this year as well, United Airlines has added services from Chicago to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, in addition to a popular route between Los Angeles and Cancun. In all, United now has 16 distinct routes to Mexico from the American mainland.

Even smaller carriers like Alaska Airlines have greatly expanded their offerings. Alaska’s flight capacity to Mexico has grown by 22% in recent months, with most flights originating in the Pacific Northwest and California and traveling to Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.

Many carriers have also introduced seasonal flight services for the winter months. American Airlines’ new weekly non-stop service from JFK to San Jose del Cabo in the Baja California region will be offered from Dec. 16 to April 9, 2007. For their part, Northwest Airlines will add several seasonal routes from Midwestern cities to Acapulco, Manzanillo and Ixtapa.

Much like their American counterparts, Mexican airlines are also making travel more accessible with expanded flight offerings. Aeromexico and Mexicana already operate daily routes between New York’s JFK and Mexico City, while Mexicana and its low-fare carrier, Click, will begin service from Baltimore to Mexico City and Miami to Cancun. Flights within Mexico have also increased, making it easier to visit multiple resorts in one family vacation.

Even Canadian airlines are getting in on the action. Air Canada has added 25 additional non-stop flights per week, bringing the carrier’s total to 61. Included in the new routes are services from Toronto to Cozumel and Ixtapa and Montreal to Mexico City. Sunwing Airlines has begun offering flights from Montreal and Ottawa to Acapulco and between Toronto and Cozumel.

Most importantly, this trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping as airlines, travel companies and the Mexican government continue to lure American and Canadian tourists. Currently, affordable flights and vacation packages aren’t difficult to find, a fact sure to further increase interest in Mexico as an international travel destination. Perhaps it can be said that there has never been a better time to plan that Cancun family vacation or romantic getaway to Puerto Vallarta.

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Italian Air Travel Booking Tips

The cost of flying within Italy is often comparable to the cost of train travel, although be sure to include the expense of getting to and from the airport. When flying out of Italian airports, always check with the airport or tourist agency about upcoming strikes, which are frequent in Italy and often affect air travel. The work stoppages are called by trade unions over contractual disputes, and can also ground or delay flights to and from Italy operated by several European carriers, including British Airways and Air France.

Things to Think About when booking

When you book, look for nonstop flights and remember that “direct” flights stop at least once. Try to avoid connecting flights, which require a change of plane. Two airlines may operate a connecting flight jointly, so ask whether your airline operates every segment of the trip. You may find that the carrier you prefer flies you only part of the way. Check web sites to find more booking tip, to check prices and to make online flight reservations.

When flying internationally, you must usually choose between a domestic carrier, the national flag carrier of the country you are visiting (Alitalia for Italy), and a foreign carrier from a third country. National flag carriers have the greatest number of non stops. Domestic carriers may have better connections to your hometown and serve a greater number of gateway cities. Third-party carriers may have a price advantage.

On international flights, Alitalia serves Rome, Milan, and Venice. The major international hubs in Italy are Milan and Rome, served by Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines. American Airlines flies into just Milan. US Airways serves only Rome.

Alitalia and British Airways have direct flights from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports to Milan and Rome. From Manchester, British Airways has daily flights to Milan and Rome. Smaller, no-frills airlines also provide service between Great Britain and Italy.

EasyJet connects Gatwick with Bologna. British Midland connects Heathrow and Milan. Ryanair, departing from London’s Stansted Airport, has daily flights to Milan, Rome, Pisa, and Venice. Meridiana has two or three direct flights each week between Gatwick and Olbia on Sardinia in summer, and daily flights to Rome and Florence throughout the year. From its hub in Brussels, Virgin Express files to Milan, Catania, and Rome.

Alitalia connects Canada and Italy. Air Canada flies to Munich for connections to Rome, Florence, and Milan via Lufthansa. Qantas flies from various cities in Australia via Bangkok, arriving in Rome. Alitalia and New Zealand Air fly from Auckland to Rome with a stop in London. Another option if you’re coming from Australia or New Zealand is Thai Airlines, landing in Rome via Bangkok.

When buying tickets for flights within Italy, on Alitalia and small carriers such as Meridiana and Air One shop around for the best deals. Tickets are frequently sold at discounted prices, so check the cost of flights, even one-way, as an alternative to train travel.