When planning Napa Valley travel, you should understand the key areas that make up the majority of Napa Valley. Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville/Rutherford, Yountville, and Napa are towns that offer winery tours, pleasant accommodations, and other activities that tourists can add to their Napa Valley travel itinerary. As Napa Valley is well known for its wine, adults will find plenty to do, but children may not be quite as thrilled.
Calistoga became popular in the early 1800’s when settlers discovered the amazing restorative properties of the area’s natural hot springs. From that day forward, tourists arranging their Napa Valley Travel itinerary, and who are seeking a little rest and relaxation, have flocked to Calistoga. Harbin Hot Springs is a non-profit organization that offers relaxing Napa Valley travel choices. At Harbin Hot Springs, guests can relax in any of the resort’s natural springs, attend artistic workshops, or stroll the 1700 acres of impressive landscape.
Located in St. Helena, Beringer Vineyards is California’s oldest winery in full operation. Founded in 1876, Beringer offers daily tours and wine tastings for a very affordable price. The vineyard is packed with lush landscaping and historic buildings. St. Helena is also a haven for antique shoppers. The area’s extravagant Meadowood golf course will appeal to the avid golfer. Couples needing a mix of activities on their Napa Valley travel itinerary will enjoy St. Helena.
Any movie buff knows the name Francis Ford Coppola. Formerly known as the Niebaum-Coppola Vineyards, Rubicon Estate in Oakville/Rutherford continues to produce top-notch wines. Rubicon Estate offers special estates throughout the year. The St. Helena Olive Oil Company is another “must see” on many Napa Valley travel itineraries. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are both produced daily and can be sampled in the retail section of the company.
Yountville, California is no more than one mile in length. Tourists love adding Yountville to their Napa Valley travel plans because the town can be seen by foot. Park your car, put on some comfortable shoes, and see the sites. Amazing architecture is only one of the rewards. France’s Moet and Chandon sister company, Domaine Chandon, is located in Yountville. Daily tours of the winery that specializes in sparkling wines are free. While a trip into the tasting room lets you enjoy a few samples.
In Napa, La Belle Époque remains a highly requested bed and breakfast. Romantics of all ages book rooms at this gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian months in advance. The Wineries of Napa Valley is a unique organization that offers samplings from many of Napa Valley’s wine makers. The Wineries of Napa Valley sells a wine tasting card that allows ten-cent initial samplings from each winery in the establishment.
Whether you are arranging a romantic Napa Valley travel plan or wanting to explore the world of winemaking, Napa Valley is a lavish option. Though the area can be a little on the pricey side, Napa Valley travel plans create a lasting memory.
You have just arrived in the Renaissance capital of the art world with a couple of days to spare, so where do you go and what highlights can you see in such a short time? This is the guide for you to get the maximum out of a short stay in Florence.
14:00 Now is probably a good time to familiarise yourself with the central city, if it’s late summer it will be beginning to cool down and hopefully the crush of the tourist crowds will be starting to diminish. The centre of Florence is easy to walk around as the streets are narrow and most are closed to traffic.
Starting off around the main station there is the Piazza Santa Maria Novella with the church that gives the train station its name. Opposite the church there is the Piazza Nazionale and a road which leads down to the Piazza del Mercato Centrale. Here there are a few market stalls selling leather goods, souvenirs and other items. The 2 famous buildings to see here are the Cappelle Medici and the San Lorenzo e Biblioteca Laurenziana.
15:00 You will see the Duomo before you reach the piazza it resides in as you walk down Via Borgo San Lorenzo. The squat building in front of the cathedral is the Baptistery, built on the foundations of a Roman temple. The golden doors facing the cathedral are replicas of an original set made by Lorenzo Ghiberti and regarded by Michelangelo as the “doors to paradise”. But the sight most visitors are bowled over by is Brunelleschi’s dome, the cap on the already impressive Chiesa Santa Maria del Fiori. Standing guard beside it is the campanile, or bell tower built by Giotto.
The view from the top of the Duomo is incredible on a clear day and well worth the trek to the top. Entry to the church itself is free but there is a charge to make the climb. You can also climb the bell tower but run the risk of the bells going off at some point and there is no lift if you need assistance to get back down.
16:00 Many of the original works that were used to decorate the exteriors and interiors of the baptistery, church and campanile are house inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, behind the cathedral, the museum rooms that catalogue the history of the buildings. There are many pieces by Michelangelo, including his Pieta that he partially destroyed, which was finished later by a student. The original baptistery doors are housed here along with Duomo plans from Brunelleschi, statues and bas relief’s by Donatello and others.
17:00 Walking down Via Roma you will reach Piazza della Repubblica, the edges are taken up with expensive hotels and even more expensive cafes. There are some stalls selling various touristy type things, including more belts, wallets and handbags. Keep walking down Via Calimara until you reach the loggia that houses more market stalls. Here you can test your skills at spotting a fake leather item although you don’t want to make this too obvious. Better still you can drop a coin from the mouth of ‘il Porcolino’, the bronze statue of a boar, and make a wish.
17:30 Looking straight ahead you will see what resembles a crowded street rising up at the end of Via Porta Santa Maria. This is actually a bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, the ‘Old Bridge’, which was the only one spared by the Nazis in WWII. The original shops were butchers, dropping their leftovers into the Arno below. The stench got up the Medici’s noses in the 16thC so much that Grand Duke Ferdinando I ordered them to move out and the more aesthetically pleasing goldsmiths to move in. This is also one of 3 bridges in the world to house shops.
18:00 Make your way back to the northern end of the bridge where there is a covered colonnade heading left alongside the river. This was built as a secret passageway for the Medici’s as they walked above the populace between the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace. At the far end of the walkway you can look back to see the rear of the shops as they overhang the river below.
Behind you is also the entrance to the Piazza Degli Uffizi, a three sided piazza filled with statues and busts of famous artists from over the centuries, and of course home to the world famous Uffizi Gallery. The collection inside is second only to that of the one held at the Vatican in terms of artistic significance. Giotto, Fra Angelico, Lippi, Botticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo… the list goes on. The gallery is closed on Mondays and needs at least half a day to get around, as well as to be booked in advance if you wish to view it in summer. The piazza is commonly filled during the summer with outdoor exhibitions, street artists and performers, mainly to entertain the long meandering line of tourists queuing up to get in.
Carry on through the narrow piazza away from the river until you reach Piazza Signoria. This wide open space is most recognisable by the statue of David, a copy put there in 1873 as the original had to moved inside the Accademia to protect it from the elements. Underneath the loggia is a collection of other famous statues including The Rape of the Sabines, Hercules and the Centaur Nessus, by Giambologna and Cellini’s bronze statue of Perseus.
The main space is overlooked by the rather imposing statue of ‘Il Nettuno’, the watery figure of Neptune standing at the opposite end of Palazzo Vecchio. Close by is the mounted figure of Cosimo I Medici and the bronze plaque that marks the spot where the priest Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in 1498. For the super sleuths there is a another sculpture to look out for. On the wall of the Palazzo Vecchio is the carved outline of a mans face. One legend tells that Michelangelo, in a fit of pique, was proving to Donatello he was able to sculpt great works of art, even with his hands behind his back.
18:30 Inside Palazzo Vecchio the entrance shows ornate ceilings and wall decoration for this building was once the seat of Florentine government during the 13th and 14th Centuries. For a fee you can view the opulent apartments upstairs that were occupied by Medicis and other notables as well as reach the battlements for another view out over the city.
The remainder of the evening can be best spent wandering the narrow streets and enjoying a meal from one of the many restaurants and trattorias. Later on there is the night life as many bars and clubs open up after 10pm and carry on until very early in the morning.
08:00 Florence is a tourist magnet all year round so an early start is essential if you don’t wish to spend countless hours queuing. A surefire way to avoid this is to part with a little extra cash in the busy summer months and pre book your tickets online or over the phone. You then pick them up at a designated time from the ticket office with your booking number. This way you can easily get to see the Uffizi and possibly another museum in the same day. To do this simply log onto www.firenzemusei.it or www.weekendafirenze.com or book through your hotel.
The Uffizi opens at 8.15am, closing at 7pm, with the artworks divided between a series of rooms all featuring a certain artistic style or period. The gallery is not restricted to just greats of the Italian renaissance but the collection also includes works by German and Flemish artists. To appreciate much of the work you would need to devote at least several hours to get round.
15:00 Either as an afternoon escape or a morning alternative there is also the Galleria Dell’Accademia, most famous for its prize possession, Michelangelo’s David, the original sculpture that stood in Piazza della Signoria. The 5m tall statue was carved from a single slab of marble which some tales relate as having a fault line running through it. Michelangelo was said to have found it at abandoned at the rear of the artisan school and decided he would use it to create a symbol of Florentine spirit.
The Accademia also has other well known statues, paintings and carvings by many artists on display, well worth an hour or two looking around.
For a plesant way to round off the day there is a walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo from the southern river bank, where you will find yet another copy of Michelangelo’s David, a bronze version overlooking the city. A great place to watch the city change colour at sunset and sometimes there are public events held in the piazza during the summer.
17:00 If there is still enough energy left to view one more church Chiesa di San Miniato al Monte is worth the extra effort. Situated in the parklands up behind Piazzale Michelangelo the exterior is one of the best examples of Tuscan Romanesque architecture while the interior is home to some extraordinary 13-15th C frescoes.
08:00 Depending on your time table you may have time for another set of museums or just a gentle stroll in the park. Head up to the Pitti Palace, another Brunelleschi creation for a wealthy banker that was eventually taken up by the Medici family. Inside are a series of museum rooms all dedicated to various items such silver, porcelain and renaissance clothing as well as more modern artworks from the 18th and 20th Centuries.
11:00 When the art intake has finally reached its limit there is respite in the shape of the Boboli gardens to the rear of the palace. Designed in the mid 16th C it contains typical grottoes and garden follies of the renaissance aristocracy. A chance to leave the narrow streets and tourist crowds for a while.
Your time in Florence is at an end but you may still have a chance to do a bit of that last minute shopping before bidding farewell to all the masters.
About the Author
Katy Hyslop has spent the past 6 years travelling, tour guiding and generally hanging around the European tourism industry. She is now based in Italy and in charge of keeping the crew under control at Plus. If you want to know more on what to see or where to stay in Florence click here.
Who knows what Sigismondo Malatesta, the famous 15th Century Lord of Rimini (and original ‘renaissance man’, as described by American poet Ezra Pound), would make of his city were he to return today.
Apart from the obvious differences between the renaissance city (many significant parts of which remain, for example Malatesta’s castle) and that of the 21st – i.e the presence of skyscrapers, electrically powered street lights, and the ever present motor vehicle – one thing would perhaps strike him above all, the move to the seaside.
In Malatesta’s time Rimini and its defences were decidedly inland, running around what is considered the centro storico today. Malatesta, on coming to power, embarked on a huge building programme, which included the famous Tempio Malatesta – the first, and one of the finest examples of neo-classical architecture in Europe – and his huge, and at the time thoroughly modern fortress, the rocca malatesta. His city, though, was built primarily on top of the existing city’s site – that is to say on the site of the Roman city of Ariminum, founded in approximately 286 B.C. Existing roman monuments, including the famous Ponte di Tiberio and Arco d’Augusto(which remain impressive monuments today) were incorporated into his city, all of which – even given the retreat of the sea over the centuries, were inland from the beach.
Strolling around today’s city, Malatesta would find, at least during the summer months, a gravitational pull towards the expansive sandy beaches that would probably puzzle him. In his day the notion of lying on the beach for the day, with an occasional swim to cool off, would have seemed particularly strange, if not downright dangerous. The beach was a place for brigandry and smuggling, away from the protection of the city’s defences. Let’s not forget, as well, that in Malatesta’s time cities like Rimini were often at war with neighbouring city states. Throughout his lifetime Malatesta was in continuous conflict with powers like his neighbour Federico da Montefeltro, Lord of Urbino, or indeed the Pope (Pius II, for example, excommunicated Sigismondo in 1460 declaring him a heretic). Sunbathing and sea bathing would not, perhaps, have been high on the average citizens’s priorities at the time.
So when did Rimini start to change, to become a town that is, for Italians (and increasingly tourists from around the world), synonymous with sun, sea, and sand? Professor Feruccio Farina, of the University of Urbino, in his fascinating study of the history of seabathing in Rimini – Una costa lunga due secoli (Panozzo Editore) – gives us a portrait of one of the first foreign tourist bathers to dip her toes into Rimini’s gentle waves. Her name was Elisabeth Kenny, and she was the young Irish wife of a Roman noble. She’s recorded as having visited Rimini in August of 1790 (over 300 years after the death of our Sigismondo), and stayed for over two weeks to benefit from the sea waves and air.
Magnificent, unique monuments. Streets that carry you back in time. In Spain you will find unique places where you will live art and history at each step. These are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Exploring them you will enjoy a privileged journey back in time, where you can discover Spain’s important cultural heritage.
There is lots to see in Spain. It is no coincidence that Spain is the country with the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Presented here in no particular order other than roughly north to south, you will discover outstanding examples of Spain’s rich, varied cultural treasures.
In each location you will find a beautiful “urban museum”, packed with history, offering a range of superb monuments in different artistic styles. Just one piece of advice: take your time. Take a relaxed stroll through the streets and let each city captivate you with its own special magic.
We start in the northwest in Santiago de Compostela. With its majestic Cathedral, it is the final destination for thousands of people who go on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route every year.
In the west central region not far from the border with Portugal, you will come to the historic city of Salamanca where you will find unique places like its University, one of the world’s oldest and its emblematic Plaza Mayor Square.
Further south along the Portuguese border, is Caceres with its amazing succession of historic buildings and palaces, especially when they are illuminated by night.
In central Spain grouped around Madrid are five more UNESCO Historic Sites.
Segovia has some of the best-conserved Romanesque monuments in Europe. You will be left speechless when you see its Roman Aqueduct, a truly stunning feat of engineering.
In Avila you will feel like a medieval knight – here you can imagine what towns were like in the Middle Ages. Its defensive wall is the best conserved in Europe and its Gothic Cathedral is Spain’s oldest.
Alcala de Henares on the road to Guadalajara from Madrid, is the model of a university town that was exported to Europe and America. Its University is not to be missed, of course, along with Calle Mayor Street and the house where Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, was born.
Toledo was a melting pot of cultures for centuries. Go on an adventure and search out the legacy of Muslims, Jews and Christians, who once lived together in these narrow city streets.
Cuenca’s unique historic center looks out over rocky canyon walls in the heart of the Cuenca mountains in the region of Castile-La Mancha. Its famous “hanging houses” are an example of architecture and nature in perfect harmony.
In southern Spain you will find the historic old town of Cordoba. Here you will see the splendour of ancient Moorish culture, with the Great Mosque – considered the most important Islamic monument in the Western World – being the prime example.
Not forgetting Ibiza in the Balearic Islands also has UNESCO’s prestigious designation: for its biodiversity and archaeological heritage. The same is true of the town of San Cristobal de la Laguna in the Canary Islands, whose architecture displays the origins of Latin American urban development.
In these Spanish cities, overflowing with art and culture, you will be sure to discover the pleasure of history. Enjoy!
You’ve booked your flight, made reservations at the hotel, got someone to bring in the mail and watch the dogs, what about the travel insurance? I know what you’re thinking, “I’m only going for two weeks”, “I’ll be fine I’m in great shape”, “other people get sick on vacation, not me”, but what if you’re wrong?
Thailand is known for being a bargain for westerners. Cheap clothes, food, hotels, entertainment, even the hospitals and clinics are cheap compared to the west and with some of the best doctors in the world. Contrary to what some people may believe Thailand has excellent health care. Even though Thailand is cheaper than the west in almost every category if you wind up in the hospital for a week or two it’s still going to cost you and it will be more than you bargained for.
If you need some stitches or you pick up a bad case of pink eye then a clinic can patch you up easily and the cost will be minimal…around 700 Baht – 1200 Baht ($20-$30) and thats including all the medicine you’ll need to take for whatever length of time. But if you have seriously problems and are admitted to a hospital then the bills start to rack up. Hospital room, medicine, diagnostics, and so on. Then you could be looking at 30,000 baht and up…you do the math.
Whereas travel insurance won’t be much help for the minor ailments it will certainly be worth the cost if something major comes up. On average for a two week trip most travel insurance will cost you $20-$30 which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. That amount will usually cover major medical, flights to your home country if it’s decided thats the best place for you, and most even have an added bonus that if you’re hospitalized for a week or longer they will have a family member flown to you.
Travel insurance can also cover trip cancellations, lost luggage, and a change in travel plans depending on what options you choose. You may not have a great vacation if you get sick but if you have to pay for it out of pocket as well then it’s sure to be a memorable trip and not for the right reasons.
I’m writing this because I came down with acute tonsillitis on my first trip to Thailand. Luckily a few trips to the clinic got me back into shape but it could have been bad and I wouldn’t have been covered as I didn’t even think about insurance.
The flight to Thailand is a long one if you live in the states (17 hours non stop from JFK International) Which will have you nice and dehydrated if you don’t drink a lot of water. The temperature in Thailand is HOT which can and will dehydrate you further if you don’t take care. Foreign food, foreign microbes, burning the candle at both ends, endless sight seeing, and a host of other things can and will come back to haunt you if you don’t take care. Even if you do take care to prevent sickness there is always the unexpected and in Thailand that could be anything from an over amorous elephant, a motorcycle taxi running you over and a host of other things just waiting for you around the next corner.
You may have great insurance in your home country but in most cases they won’t cover you overseas.
Find a good travel insurance and buy it for your trip no matter where you’re going or for how long!
About the Author
Born and raised in Baltimore Maryland I finally set out to discover the world in 2006. South East Asia has always been a beacon for me and Thailand its crowned jewel.
I write about my experiences in Thailand as well as the cultural aspects of being a foreigner in a foreign land. I blog daily about Thailand at: http://thailandlandofsmiles.com