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Guided Tours Vs. Luxury Travel Vacation Packages

So, you have decided to book a luxury vacation. It is time to call your travel agent. The first question most travel agents will ask you is “Are you interested in a cruise, a tour, or a travel package?” You know that cruises are not for you, but what about a tour? And what exactly is the difference between a tour and a travel package anyways? With different definitions and inclusions, it is important for any traveler to be informed enough to make the best decision for their unique needs.

Definitions

When you are considering booking a tour for your luxury travel vacation, keep in mind that “tour” implies several things. First of all, a tour is usually guided, and consists of a group of other tourists. A vacation package is usually considered a combination of flights, transfers, hotels and car rentals. If you so desire, you may add on minor excursions that are usually with a group or guided.

Pricing

A tour is usually a really good deal. You get to stay in the nicer hotels of the areas, and in most situations, it is usually more than one hotel. All your transportation is included, such as to and from the airport and transportation to all the local sites and tours. All the attraction tickets are calculated into the price, so you will not have to pay entry fees to art museums or shows. There are additional tours and excursions that can be purchased, but usually at a reasonable price. Most tour packages will also include some meals. With your luxury travel vacation package, all that is included is the cost, fees and taxes of your air, hotel and car rental. Sometimes there are special availability of free breakfasts of a city tour, but this is not the norm.

Destination Studies and Personal Preference

So when does it benefit you to book a tour verses a vacation package? That really depends on the destination and your personal preferences. If you are planning to vacation in a place like Rome or Paris, there is so much to see and do that travelers are better off being escorted to the sites and having most of the entry fees included in your price. But if you wish to visit these cities to simply bask in the incredible ambience, and you don’t have an interest in touring the “big attractions”, then a luxury travel vacation package is for you. You would not want a guided tour of Jamaica or Hawaii. Chances are you just want to bask in the sun and relax. Consider where you are going and what you want to do on your vacation. For more information on luxury travel vacations visit http://www.amtvacations.com.

Now that you know the facts, the time has come to make a decision. Looking at the definitions, a tour and a luxury travel vacation package each offer something different. They are each priced a bit differently, and have different inclusions. So it comes down to you and where you are going. Chances are your travel agent can steer towards the best choice for your travel needs, but now you know why and you can make the decision for yourself.

Top 5 Places to Visit Around Alicante by Hire Car

Alicante City is a treat for the senses it has so much going on that it would be impossible to see all of it. The city is a cosmopolitan, bustling place with every thing you would expect and more, giving you a great place to explore on holiday. However the surrounding area of Alicante is outstandingly beautiful with a few hidden gems thrown in as well, the best way to explore this area and have your own holiday adventure is to hire a car. To get you started here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

The Village of Guadalest in the province of Alicante is regarded as one of the best days out and most rewarding places you could visit. Surrounded on three sides by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta Mountains it’s a hidden oasis of outstanding natural beauty and heritage. The Village sits perched on the edge of a granite mountain with fantastic views down the river cut valley.

The drive to the village is part of the adventure, as the twisting road takes you around some tight hairpin bends over some narrow passes which give the best views of the surrounding mountains. Guadalest was built by the Moors and as soon as you reach the village it becomes obvious why they considered it such a valuable location. The castles and buildings look like they grasp the cliffs and the smallest breeze may cause them to fall. So steep are the cliffs and peaks on which they sit they are virtually unconquerable and they gave the Moors a fantastically hidden strategic strong hold.

Access to the old village is through a stone cut tunnel called the ‘Portal de San José the hole through the mountain was cut some 1,300 years ago and is still the only way in. once your eyes adjust you’ll feel as if you have been transported back through time to a long gone medieval era. Stone cut houses, churches and castle remains are all on offer to be explored and investigated.

If you can make sure you arrive early, you will avoid the crowds and catch the first castle tour at 10 am. It starts off with a walk through the dungeons, a great to keep the kids entertained, the tour explains the village’s history, takes in the look out points and winding paths and takes you to parts of the castle you might have otherwise missed.

A slightly more macabre museum is the Medieval Torture Exhibition, it’s not all gruesome methods of doing away with people it seems the Moors had ways of ridiculing their law breakers instead. For instance drunks who may have spoken badly about their king were made to stand in a barrel, where upon the locals filled it with all of their rubbish and bathroom waste!

For a refreshing stop on your way back escape the heat and take a dip at the bracing Les Fonts de l’Algar. (Algar Waterfalls), near to the village of Callosa d’en Sarria. The falls are a series of tumbling weirs and large water pools starting off quite shallow and slow running but they get deeper and faster as you work your way up the valley. Swimming is allowed all the way up but remember that the current in the narrower pools can be very strong, make sure you have a chuckle at the people struggling to swim against the flow before you jump in.

Helpfully a winding path has been added along the route making the entire series of crystal blue pools accessible to everyone, at the top there are even showers and restaurants or places to have a barbeque.

The Cuevas del Canelobre are a series of caves located only 24 kilometers from Alicante, The inner most cave boasts the highest vault ceiling of any cave in Spain. More like a cathedral than a cave it’s a beautiful place to observe some of the best examples of stalactites and stalagmites in Europe. The sheer scale and vastness of these natural caves simply can’t be imagined so jump in your hire car and experience this wonder for yourself.

The enormous rock formations are stunning and the caves have unique acoustic properties which can’t be re-produced. On certain dates concerts and music festivals are held within the caves. Because they maintain a very low temperature it’s the perfect place to see a beautifully eerie performance in complete comfort.

After all of this history and culture one of the best ways to keep the children entertained is to take them to the relatively new Terra Mitica theme park. Built in 2000 the park promises to take you back in time as you adventure through any one of their 5 areas. Divided into Ancient Egypt, Rome, Iberia, Greece and the Islands each has its own theme and rides based around these ancient cultures of the area. Think Alton towers with a cultural twist but definitely with out the bad weather.

The Pantheon in Rome – Intelligent Architecture

There are few buildings in the world today that have survived the ravages of time so well as the Pantheon in Rome. This is mainly due to superior engineering. The Pantheon has often been copied, sometimes equaled but never surpassed, it had more architectural innovations than most modern buildings. This makes the Pantheon really extraordinary since it was built around 125 AD under the aegis of the emperor Hadrian.

Superior engineering

The plan is simple enough: a circular enclosure aside a rectangular entrance. The entrance sports a classic Greek portico of granite columns topped by a triangular pediment. There are three ranks of the 39 ft Corinthian supports, eight in front and two sets of four further in leading to the main rotunda. A rectangular section joins the portico to the rotunda.

Even though this design seems very simple there are a lot of signs of superior engineering. A few examples may be;

* The giant concrete dome topping the cylinder forming the major component was so well designed and built that no similar type would stand up under its own weight.

* The dome is 142 feet in diameter, while the oculus at the peak is over 25 feet of that total. It stands as a result of its unusual composition, outstanding engineering and brilliant construction.

* The oculus in the center – the opening through the top. It decreases the overall weight and serves as a ring that distributes stress around its circumference. Imagine, by analogy, how difficult it is to crush a bicycle wheel. It also serves to admit light to the interior. And rain, too it must be said, though the floor is an early example of slanting the floor toward drains.

* The dome’s tapering steps provide yet more evidence of the mastery of craft displayed by the dome’s designer. It’s 20 feet thick at the base, 7.5 at the oculus and composed of heavier material at the bottom, lighter as it rises. That doesn’t seem so remarkable until one considers that many architects a thousand years later ignored this simple idea.

This is just a few examples of great architecture and engineering, there are many more.

The Pantheon was built without modern machines or tools

It is remarkable that The Pantheon even today, nearly two thousand years after it was constructed, is as stable as when it was first built. It is almost beyond understanding that the Romans could build this structure without the benefit of modern machines or tools. Nor did the Pantheon engineers have the advantage of modern transportation methods. All the materials were floated down the Tiber and moved to the site by man and animal on carts of the period.

Almost no restoration

Though its enormous bronze doors have been restored many times, no major structural work has ever had to be undertaken. This is all the more remarkable given the marshy land on which the structure is built.

By contrast, observe there have been several decades-long projects to preserve the Leaning Tower of Pisa, owing in part to the soft ground in parts of the site. The Parthenon in Greece, though a great building, was a virtual ruin 2,000 years after its birth.

The Pantheon in Rome was first converted to a church during the 8th century and continues to serve that purpose today. In fact, the building has been in continuous use since first being built.

The Pantheon in Rome has been copied several times, two notable examples are;

* The British Museum Reading Room

* The Thomas Jefferson Rotunda at the University of Virginia in USA

When visiting Rome be sure to spend some time with this extraordinary building. Presumably you will not be in Rome to often and you can simply not loose this oppertunity to see some great architecture.

Tomorrow – Small Vacation Rentals!

When we build an Internet business, we naturally wish to become a large-scale, global company. But, do you feel more comfortable in an overcrowded mall as one of hundreds of faceless customers– or as a valued guest in a cozy shop? Do you like your specific needs to be as important to a salesperson as his own?

The less business you have, the better are your chances of success. Sound unrealistic? Well, here are the facts:

The smaller your region, the better your customer service.

You probably remember surfing the net, looking at hundreds of vacation rental sites. Was destination important to you or, did it make no difference? Personally, I can’t imagine that someone would search for just some kind of property somewhere in the world.

I see a difference between Sydney and Rome and prefer sites dedicated to specific destinations. Why? That’s easy. It’s because I like the individual attention I get. If I have questions all of my questions (even about the color of the walls in the bathroom) will be answered with care and in detail. Plus, I can get information about which banks have the best exchange rates, where the best eats are and, well, about anything and everything a traveler wants to know about really.

The network does not replace live interaction.

Even the most informative web pages can not replace live interaction, when you get specific replies to your specific questions. You should read the web page to find the info you need. We all value our time and prefer to talk to a live person and get an immediate reply. Multi-user portals are simply unable to achieve that close interaction between a web site owner and web site visitors, whereas small web sites can.

As a web-site owner, you will gain negotiating skills. These will show you are trustworthy, and help you to succeed in the rental business.

Tenant details are invaluable.

If you have been in the business of leasing or renting real property for several years, you’ll have quite a database of tenant and owner contacts. Storing every detail about them can help you regain them as clients. Before the high season begins, send them a newsletter about a new option, discount or benefit for your website visitors and include a brief reference to their family. For instance, tell them how cute those twins, John and Jack, were, who ‘decorated’ your wallpaper with their creative paintings last year, or, ask about their little dog Sparky, who misused your flowerbeds and lawn.

Your tenants will appreciate your attentions and will make early reservations. You could hardly expect that at large vacation rental portals.

“Closer” money.

If you charge property owners for listing their properties on your small vacation rental website, it’s easier for you to collect payments from them. Local transactions are easier, faster and more secure than payments from all over the World at international vacation rental web portals.

Document your financial relationships.

Operators of large vacation rental websites have owners from different countries with different local laws, so it is hard to control all the agreements and negotiations between property owners and tenants, but a small vacation rental website dedicated to one specific country or region shows more professionalism and generates more trust if it offers rental agreements prepared on behalf of property owners and guests.

If you operate a website dedicated to one region, you can compose legal documents valid for your region and appropriate for your owners and guests. Such rental agreements should describe the most likely disputes that can arise between owner and guest: furniture and fixture damage, insurance, guest and owner responsibilities, abandonment, payment schedule, etc. People feel more comfortable when their financial arrangements are backed up by legal documentation.

The smaller your region, the more income opportunities you have.

Would you like having more happy clients, who naturally turn to positive testimonials and word-of-mouth advertising? The owners of small rental websites can cooperate with local service providers and get good commission from this cooperation. For instance, they can agree on discounts with souvenir shops and hand out discount coupons to their guests. Discount coupons issued specially for a specific villa or house work best. The same can be done with restaurants, car hire and yacht rental services, etc. This will no doubt contribute to generating interest and building trust on your vacation rental website.

VIP attitude is more important than VIP house.

Even if the house for rent is not the essence of luxury, you may win your client’s favor with your professional demeanor and attentive attitude. I have seen dozens of examples in which good attitude has compensated for the shortcomings of a property. Remember: you lease impressions, not properties.

Be Sincere.

Last but not least, the guiding principle for the owner of a vacation rental website is to really want to make people happy. Your main and sincere wish should be to make a guest’s stay as good as possible. Making a profit depends on this. You need to listen hard to what your guests are saying. Remember that when a guest rents house for his vacation, he wants a break from work and day-to-day worries. He does not want his vacation to be clouded by trivial inconveniences. Love your owners! Love your guests! Love properties!

Tiber River Cruise: A New Way To Visit Rome From Its River

Since the end of the jubilee of Rome held in they year 2000, the majority of Rome, in cooperation with the Coast guard of Fiumicino, agreed that the river of Rome, the Tiber deserves more attention for its historical importance.

In fact since that year it has been inaugurated to the boat entrepeneurs the competition to apply for licenses and permissions to perform cruises on different parts of the tiber.

As many people do not know yet, not all the Tiber river is navigable, for the presence of marble steps, remains of old roman bridges and other hidden treasures like lead anchors.

It’s so weird to see how Rome is no more noisy when you go down the travertine steps to join a cruise tour. In fact the white marble walls to protect the city of Rome against the floods from the Tiber river were built during the period of the unification of Italy at the end of the 19th century. These shields are long 6 miles and provide in assuring the security of the city against bad weather and insisting rain.

That Rome was indebted, if not for its origin, at any rate for its importance, to these commercial and strategical advantages of its position, there are accordingly numerous further indications, which are of very different weight from the statements of quasi-historical romances. Thence arose its very ancient relations with Caere, which was to Etruria what Rome was to Latium, and accordingly became Rome’s most intimate neighbour and commercial ally. Thence arose the unusual importance of the bridge over the Tiber, and of bridge-building generally in the Roman commonwealth. In this sense, then, certainly Rome may have been, as the legend assumes, a creation rather than a growth, and the youngest rather than the oldest among the Latin cities.

The tiber is also the third biggest river of Italy after the Po and the Adige that flows in the romantic city of Verona.

The river of Rome has also a very important island, the Tiber Island ( isola Tiberina ) that has the shape of a boat because it remembers the transportation by boat of the sacred animal ( a snake ) and of the worship of the god of the healing Aesculapius from Greece in the IV century BC. The scholars says that this animal jumped off the boat and settled in the Island as signal for the Romans of the place where they had to built the sanctuary dedicated to the god of the healing.

Today this famous Island is connected to Rome with two roman bridges of the II century BC which allow pedestrians to cross very easily the side of the jewish synagogue with Trastevere.

Cruising the tiver river today means to visit three parts of Rome:

1- from Ponte Marconi to Ancient Ostia, famous roman colony and strategic salt harbor for the roman ships arriving from the mediterranean sea;

2- From Ponte Risorgimento until the Tiberina Island with the possibility to see also the bridge wanted by the same pope who built the sistine chapel, sistus IV

3- From ponte Umberto cruising to the northern districts of Rome, with the possibility to admire a wonderful panorama of the dome of saint peter’s basilica designed by Michelangelo in the renaissance period.

Your Holiday in Italy:venice, Rome, Turin

Venice

Venezia, La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, the Most Serene Republic of Venice is the city of canals, churches and palaces that captures the hearts and minds of all who visit. Venice is home to wonderful tourist destinations famous the world over – St Mark’s Square, Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs – but the true joy of Venice is found just wandering around and finding architectural and artistic wonders around every corner.

Transport:getting there and getting away

Venice is served by two airport, Marco Polo and Trevino. Transport into the city is by bus or from the latter by water bus.

Trains terminate and depart from Santa Lucia train station on the west side of Venice. The station fronts the Grand Canal where water buses (vaporetti) or water taxis are available.

Cars and coaches arrive on the far western edge of Venice at Piazzale Roma. There are no roads in Venice so from here on it’s by boat or on foot. Venice is the World’s only truly pedestrian city and walking is a serendipitous adventure of discovering vistas in the magnificent urban landscape.

Ships arrive at the Stazione Marittima.

Water buses are best for longer trips and for visiting the islands. There are also the more expensive water taxis. Gondolas are really just for short romantic hops and having your photograph taken.

Climate

Summer is hot in Venice. Temperatures average 27°C but high humidity results in a close, uncomfortable atmosphere. Sometimes, hot sirocco winds sweep in from the south. January and February are the coldest months with temperatures ranging from 0-7 C. Snow is rare owing to the city’s lagoon location. Spring is fresh and clear though rainfall can be heavy. Mists are common in late autumn.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Venice hotels

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

Venice has the character of a stage set so its many festivals are spectacular.

* The first event of the year is the Regata delle Befana held on 6 January.

* The next month sees the major event in the Venetian calendar namely Carnevale,

which is a masked and costumed extravaganza.

* May sees the Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension) which celebrates the Sposalizio del Mar (Wedding with the Sea).

* The arts fest is held every odd-numbered year in June in the Giardini Pubblici.

* Festa del Redentore in July features a regatta and fireworks festival.

* The Venice International Film Festival is held from late August into September

Turin

Turin has been called the European capital of Baroque due to the style of many of its palaces and churches. In many ways Turin differs from the typical Italian city. It exudes a strong French influence with its broad boulevards with white buildings. With the Po River flowing through the city, and the Italian Alps standing in the distance, it’s a place of great charm.

Transport:getting there and getting away

By plane

Caselle Airport lies north of the city and is connected to the city by bus and taxi. Turin is also easily reached from Malpensa airport.

Turin has two main railway stations, Porta Nuova and Porta Susa. The former is for long and mid-range trips the latter mainly for local trains.

Turin has an efficient public transport system of buses and trams and an underground line was opened for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The City of Turin has recently established a network of bicycle paths throughout the city.

Climate:

Turin is gloomy with rain and fog in the winter temperatures tending to remain single digit. The summer months between May and September are milder though rain is still common.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of Turin hotels

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

* April sees the Festival Internazionale di Film con Tematiche Omosessuali is a five-day international gay and lesbian film festival.

*Cioccolatò in early March is a two-week celebration of cocoa. Turin see cocoa tastings, sculpture competitions and stalls around the city centre.

*Salone Internazionale del Gusto is a five-day festival of food and wine held biannually. The event is international in flavour with traditional producers from around the world showcasing and selling their wares in a giant street market.

Rome

Steeped in history and rich with monuments famous the world over – the Vatican, the Colosseum – Rome stands as a captivating symbol of history and culture.

Transport:getting there and getting away

Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) airport is 16 miles southwest of the city with the Stazione Termini direct train running hourly into the city. The main bus station is located outside the Stazione Termini. Buses run from 6:00 a.m to midnight with some all-night services. The Rome Metro service has two lines, both of which go through Termini. It runs from 5:30 a.m to 11.30 p.m. and 0:30 on Saturdays.

Climate:

The climate is mild with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. However July and August can be oppressively hot, November is often rainy, and December to February can be chill.

Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resorts

Check on the internet for the range, location and cost of hotels in Rome.

Events:what’s on and what’s hot

*Holy Week (Easter) is time when Catholics from all over the world arrive on pilgrimages to visit the city’s churches and to hear the Pope at the Vatican. On Good Friday a procession of the Cross goes from the Colosseum to Capitoline Hill.

*The Estate Romana (Roman Summer), is at the heart of Roman social life from June to September. It’s a time when the city reverberates to free concerts, street theatre and outdoor cinema.

*In September museums, galleries and shops stay open all night from 20:00-08:00 on the occasion called Notte Bianca (white night). It’s also a time of free concerts and other happenings all over the city.

Vacation Rentals in Tuscany and Umbria

Visiting the Tuscany and Umbria border Region

South eastern Tuscany meets its smaller neighbour Umbria, on Umbria’s north eastern border. The border area of Tuscany and Umbria in Italy is a wonderful place to stay as the visitor is able to visit the many cities and towns of the two regions while staying in one of the most picturesque areas the world has to offer and enjoying one of its greatest cuisines. The area is largely rural, the main crops are sunflowers, maize, olives, vines and tobacco which is being phased out. Modernity has been slow to reach this area and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, many visitors feel as if they had stepped back in time 30 or 40 years. Staying in this area you are within 90% of UNESCOs world art treasures: Rome and Florence are within two hours drive and one must not forget the important art works of nearer towns such as Arezzo, Siena, Perugia and Assisi. Apart from their art treasures these towns are places everyone enjoys visiting. All have their own architectural delights and meandering lanes and interesting shops and restaurants. Also worth visiting are the Tuscan towns of ; Cortona and Sansepolcro and the Umbrian towns of Gubbio,Citta di Castello, Todi and Orvieto. Lovers of ceramics will also want to visit Deruta which produces some of the finest majolica.

Wine lovers are also in for a treat as many great wines are found in this area. Although Chianti is not strictly on the Tuscany Umbria border it is only a short drive. The brunellos of Montalcino and Vino Nobile of Montepulciano are found in this area.

There is a wide choice of accommodation available for those wishing to come to this area of Italy. “Agriturismi” offering either self-catering apartments or B&B type accommodation have sprung up everywhere. A popular choice for the visitor to this area of Tuscany and Umbria is to rent a self-catering villa, farmhouse or apartment through a rental agency. With a rental agency one can be sure that the house or apartment has been properly scrutinised and is priced fairly to reflect its quality, situation and accessibility. Farmhouses, villas and apartments with or without swimming pools are all available. If one wishes to stay in a country property in this area car hire is almost essential. Public transport in the rural areas of Tuscany and Umbria although reliable, is sparse. Most villages have a bus service once a day, relying upon this creates a lack of flexibility. Many of the farmhouses and villas for holiday rental are on hillsides a good walk from a main road. Often vacation rental houses in Tuscany and Umbria are reached along gravel roads or “strade bianche” . City inhabitants are often alarmed at these gravel roads but after the initial drive along them the nerves are soon overcome.
Please visit www.tuscanyumbria.com to find a rental property for your holiday in the Tuscany or Umbria regions of Italy.

Hiring a Car in Northern Cyprus

To many people on holiday, hiring a car is the ideal way to get around. It is certainly true these days that here are many places in the world where this is no longer the case. Trying to drive (and more to the point, park) a hire car in the majority of large, European cities is no pleasure at all. Some cities, such as Paris, Rome and London, are a positive nightmare for drivers and trying to find somewhere to leave a car in these places takes up far too much time. However, in southern Europe and particularly the Mediterranean countries, public transport is patchy and renting a car offers the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to explore. Northern Cyprus definitely falls into the latter category and the experienced traveller here considers a hire car effectively an essential part of any holiday to north Cyprus. Northern Cyprus car hire is relatively straightforward and anyone with a standard European driving licence will have no problems. Best of all, as far as anyone from the UK is concerned, the rules of the road in north Cyprus are all but identical to the UK, traffic signs are more than a little familiar and thanks to the island’s British heritage, they drive on the left. As with any part of a holiday, a little forward planning will pay dividends. There is something of the standard Mediterranean mentality around the island, so although your car is almost certain to be properly prepared, it is vital to book in advance, especially during busy times of the year, and equally important to make sure your booking is properly confirmed. As yet, none of the major, international car hire companies have a presence in north Cyprus, so all the companies offering cars are smaller concerns, often family run or connected to a particular hotel or tour agent. From May through to October, local demand for cars is high and if you leave it until you arrive, you run the risk of not getting a car at all, never mind getting the type you had in mind. As far as traveller’s tips are concerned, firstly make sure you find a reasonably good map before you go on holiday. Maps of Northern Cyprus are few and far between and it is certainly not unusual for one not to be supplied with your car. Getting lost on holiday is fun and you will find the locals incredibly friendly, but directions may be difficult to follow and there are certain to be times when you want to actually get somewhere on time! Petrol is comparatively cheap and there are a reasonable number of garages in built-up areas. However, petrol stations in rural areas are infrequent. If you are planning a longer journey, or a day out touring, you should really fill up with petrol before you set out. In Northern Cyprus, self-service garages are effectively non-existent, so you will always find that someone comes out to serve you. Generally, their English is excellent and a small tip is an appreciated gesture. Roads in Northern Cyprus are fairly un-crowded, though the towns of Kyrenia and Nicosia can be quite busy during normal commuting times. Country roads are often all but deserted, but do watch out for wild donkeys and tractors. Driving manners are generally good, especially by Mediterranean standards, but you will come across some very slow driving, especially in the countryside. Just remember you are enjoying a holiday, so relax! Most roads are in surprisingly good condition and well-surfaced, even in isolated places. However, there are quite a lot of mountain tracks and unmade lanes around. Every type of hire car is more than capable of tackling virtually any road, but do please beware of sand and beaches. Every car hire company in north Cyprus will regale you with tales of having to retrieve cars from beaches – or worse, not being able to! Four-wheel-drive vehicles are no better in this respect and by far and away the best advice is to find somewhere solid to park and to walk down to the sea. And a final, vital tip. If you are travelling any time between April and October, air-conditioning is absolutely vital. Temperatures, especially in the inland plains of Cyprus, can reach extremely high in the peak months and a parked car acts like a mini oven in these conditions. For this reason, although they might be tempting, the good advice is to steer clear of convertible jeeps and the like. They might be pleasant when it’s warm, but parking one in the sun means you will come back to find seats that are too hot to sit on and controls that are too hot to handle! In Northern Cyprus in particular, public transport is very thin on the ground and taxis are relatively costly (though cheap by UK standards). With a little forethought and some careful planning, hiring a car in north Cyprus is a perfect way to travel and get to see the most of this beautiful country.

Cultural Italy – Jousting of the Saracens

Jousting of the Saracens, is one of the most popular events is the Arezzo area. This is an annual jousting tournament where the men-folk of the local area, get kitted out in armour, mount up and joust in the hope of winning the coveted prize of the Golden Lance. In 2008, this festival will be taking place on Saturday June 1st and there is another later on in September.The whole town goes all out for this event with flag-bearers, trumpeters and people in medieval costume filling the streets. The origin of the festival are shrouded in mystery but it is known that there were tournaments held as far back as 1260! In more recent times, instead of jousting one another, the target has become to hit the shield held by a rotating puppet called the Saracen, so easy feat.To learn about other events in Italy you might enjoy reading one of our other car hire Italy blogs, dont forget that the best way to see Italy is by car rental. Italy is an excellent country to explore for it contains history, culture and some of the finest weather on the continent, so why not check out our car rental Italy options and give Nova a go. How to get there: Arezzo is located in nearly the exact middle of Italy. It is only 75kms southeast of Florence and about 200kms north of Rome. The city is located just off the A1 which runs between Florence and Rome, so if you are travelling between these two cities you could possible drop in and take a look around. If you arent around during the festival, then you could always make a visit to the local churches that feature frescoes of 12th-century crusaders.

Driving experiences while vacationing in Italy – Part 2

We had to drive in Italy. Due to time constraints, driving enabled us to maximize our options and flexibility. Having recently experienced driving a stick-shift on the left side of the road along clogged, convoluted Welsh country lanes, my spouse and I thought nothing of renting a car in Italy. However, after exchanging three different, apparently salvaged, cars and our rental company at Rome’s international airport, we approached the Autostrada with a bit of trepidation.

Italian freeways were slick. Not only was the signposting on the Autostrada effective although somewhat intermittent but easy to interpret from a multilingual perspective. Miniature cars whooshed by us, their drivers pushing the limits of their cars’ engineering specs. We were not alone in our quest for sunshine which, no doubt, could be found just over the rise of the next hill demarcating the southern Tuscan border. Traffic police were conspicuously absent.

After piercing the southern tip of Tuscany, our lurching stomachs heralded the fact that we were in one of the world’s great gastronomic meccas. Our first foray into Tuscan-style’ eating involved a stop at an exit along the Autostrada leading to San Gimignano, where we ate crispy American-style’ nibbles at a restaurant housed inside a freeway overpass. Those greasy spoon/convenience shop/gas station/restrooms were life-savers, especially when traveling during siesta’ in rural areas.

Temporarily sated, we snaked along the highway leading to San Gimignano, via Poggibonsi. The highway was smooth and, again, well-signposted, so we did not encounter any confusion until we hit the town of Poggibonsi. Poggibonsi, although it is a nice, industrial town, seemed to want to trap us in its swirling vortex, as we found ourselves stuck there on more than one occasion. Like threading a needle, we doubled back and re-routed several times before we successfully passed through the eye of town and scored the road to San Gimignano. Our confusion stemmed from the combination of several roundabouts in close proximity, as well as inconspicuous signage on a couple critical turns. The roads themselves seemed to conspire against travel to one of the jewels in the Tuscan crown.

Throughout the rest of Tuscany, however, we encountered very little driving difficulty. Obviously, medieval village roads are claustrophobic for even the smallest vehicles, so we parked outside city walls and strolled in. Tuscany is also quite hilly, and we consistently under-allocated the time required to reach our destinations.

All told, driving in Italy afforded us the flexibility to visit many places, such as wine shops, chocolatiers, and Etruscan ruins, that we may not have otherwise been able to access. Other intrepid, road-savvy wanderers should not hesitate to hit the Autostrada!