Tag : italy

3 days in florence

3 Days in Florence

Florence is without any doubt one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Composed of nearly half a million inhabitants, it is situated on the banks of the Arno River at the foot of the Apennines and it enjoys an enormous physical and cultural influence. This is perhaps the city that is home to the greatest artistic treasures of Europe, including museums, palaces and churches. This cultural wealth is largely due to the explosion of artistic and architectural activity that Florence enjoyed during the Renaissance (between 13th and 15th centuries) and continues to embody to this day. Florence attracts over one million tourists a year.

3 days in florence

Are you planning a trip to Florence this summer? When you’re planning a short break like this, indulge in airport parking while you’re away, to keep your trip as straightforward as possible. If you’re flying from th UK, there are loads of opportunities to save time and money, varying from Cardiff airport parking to Belfast International airport parking! Your car will be safe and you won’t need to pay a fortune for the privilege.

It is practically impossible to explore all the wonders of Florence in a short period of time. However, if your time here is limited, here is a 3-day itinerary that will allow you discover what’s best in Michelangelo’s city.

The first day:
Start your day with the inevitable architectural trio formed by the Duomo , the baptistery and the campanile. Spend part of your morning discovering the many treasures in the Museo dell’Opera .
Leaving the Piazza del Duomo, head to the Museo di San Marco and get whisked away by contemplating the sublime frescoes by Fra Angelico.
Take a lunch break on Piazza San Marco before visiting the Accademia Gallery, which is located just two steps away. Here you can admire Michelangelo’s original David from all angles, but do not forget to contemplate his Slave as well, also an admirable work of art.
Stroll along the side of the Piazza della Repubblica and dream a little in front of the luxury boutiques of the famous Via Tornabuoni.
Go to the terrace of San Miniato to watch the sunset over the Tuscan capital before taking your aperitivo in the district of San Niccolo, where you will enjoy a very bright and un atmosphere.

Florence Italy

The second day:
Arrive early morning at the Galleria degli Uffizi to enjoy the finest Italian paintings and get swept away by the works of Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael and others.
Have your lunch break in the neighbourhood in order to get in shape for tackling the Museo del Bargello (the National Museum of Sculpture), where you will discover the early work of Michelangelo.
In the evening, relax in one of the cafés of Oltrarno, particularly in the district of San Frediano. If you still have enough strength after a busy day, you will be able to discover the charm of Florentine nights.
The third day:
Leave the historic centre to discover the most popular district of Florence: Oltrarno. Off of the beaten track, it’s your turn to improvise! Here are a few places not to miss.
Piazza di Santo Spirito is a must see because of the stunning church of Santo Spirito and the Pitti Palace Palatine Gallery with gorgeous full of Renaissance paintings.
Make a short stop in the Boboli Gardens nearby and explore the charm of Italian gardens. In the evening, go see a concert in a church or wander the streets and indulge in some exquisite Florentine cuisine on the terrace of the numerous trattorias in the area.

Categories: Blog, Inspiration

basilica of st peter

Top Italian city breaks for culture vultures

Do you listen to every kind of music genre going, from folk to jazz? Do you know your Caravaggios from your Canalettos? Is your favourite actor Mark Rylance rather than Brad Pitt or George Clooney?

If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ you can rightly call yourself a culture vulture – someone who has a great interest in the arts, bordering on the obsessive.

basilica of st peter

This probably means that beach resorts in the Balearics aren’t exactly your cup of tea when it comes to choosing a summer holiday destination. Instead, it’s highly likely that you’re someone who seeks out cheap city breaks where you can make the most of the museums, galleries and sightseeing on offer.

In that case, I can’t recommend Italy more highly. Nowhere in Europe indulges culture vultures more readily, and in Rome, Verona and Venice you’ve got a great selection of attractions covering art, music and literature.

Read on for a guide to what cultural treats you can expect to find there, and then visit Monarch.co.uk for some great deals on your accommodation.


The Italian capital is something of a culture vulture’s nirvana. With spectacular architecture harking back to the times of the Roman Empire; world-class art galleries such as the Galleria Borghese featuring paintings by Raphael, Titian and Rubens; numerous theatres putting on operas and plays; and a famous coffee culture, Rome will keep your busy for days on end.

Often art and architecture are fused in breathtaking style, such as at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, where Michelangelo created his almost impossibly intricate ceiling and walls frescoes, including The Last Judgement, on a grand scale.


Verona is a place where English and Italian culture combine thanks to the legacy of a certain William Shakespeare.

Bring his most famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, to life by visiting Juliet’s balcony, Romeo’s house and Juliet’s tomb, before experiencing a performance of the play in the spectacular 15,000-seater Arena di Verona, one of the world’s finest venues. The atmosphere there is truly magical – enough to give you goosebumps.

Aside from Shakespeare-related points of interest, Verona has a number of fine museums and beautifully designed buildings.


While Venice is most famous for its narrow canals and pretty bridges, it also has a fine array of attractions that can please even the most ardent culture vulture.

It is, of course, another of Shakespeare’s favourite locations, with both Othello and The Merchant of Venice set in the City of Water. But it has also been the inspiration for countless other writers, from Casanova to Thomas Mann.

And it’s not just writers who put Venice on the map. The Venetian state used to be called “the Republic of Music” and it was also a leading centre of art.

Today, this legacy is enjoyed at the Palazzo Ducale Museum, where you’ll find paintings by Tintoretto and Titian; Teatro La Fenice, where you can experience a full-blooded Italian opera; and, every year, when the city also hosts the world’s oldest film festival. During this prestigious event, screenings taking place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi.

As you can tell, whichever one of these cities you pick for your next getaway, you won’t be disappointed.


Categories: Blog, Bucket List, Inspiration, Travel Tips


Plenty to see and do in Sorrento

The Italian coastal town of Sorrento has loads to offer visitors. Its stunning looks and abundance of culture and activities make this location ideal for breaks in the sun. It may not be one of the most well-known destinations in this Mediterranean country, but it is arguably one of the best.


From its magnificent cliff top position, Sorrento looks out across the water to Naples and Mt Vesuvius. As a beach destination, harbour hotspots like Marina Piccola and Marina Grande are popular for some shoreside tanning and for anyone who ventures a few minutes down the Amalfi coast, beaches like Nerano deserve their reputation for secluded beauty.


For something a little more adventurous on your Sorrento holidays, visitors can head to the Futuro Mare diving centre. Divers of all abilities are catered for and, once a week, the centre organises a night dive to show off the underwater world of the Neopolitan Riviera after sunset.


Sorrento makes a great base for exploring the surrounding area. To the north of the town there are the sobering yet fascinating sights of Pompeii, while out in the bay you’ll find the island of Capri, just a 20-minute ferry ride away.


In the town itself, venture to the town’s historical centre to get the best of the shopping and dining. This runs from the seafront through narrow streets to the main commercial area. Pick your way through beautiful handmade sandals, tablecloths and pottery. Meanwhile, there are also plenty of gastronomic delights on offer, including almond and lemon cakes, jams and localgelato.

In terms of nightlife, the street cafés and bars of the old town come alive in the evening, and there are plenty of terrace bars and romantic piazzas to choose from. Popular options include The Kiosk Bar and Guarracino Fruit Bar, as well as the Tarantella shows (Italian folk music and dancing) at the Fauno Notte Club.


Thanks to its location, Sorrento enjoys plenty of warm sunshine. From as early as April, spring is underway and even at other times of year holidaymakers can enjoy days that have a high-summer feel. What’s more, booking outside of the midsummer season can save budget-conscious travellers quite a bit of cash. Whenever you go, this coastal town is well worth checking out.

Categories: Blog, Inspiration

Top 5 Towns in Tuscany 3

Top 5 Towns in Tuscany

Understandably, Tuscany holds a special place in the hearts of most who visit it. One of the great pleasures of a Tuscan holiday is exploring different towns and finding the one you like most. Of course, the best way to do so is become more intimate with a place by settling down for a while in a villa. Here are our top five recommendations for places to love in one of Italy’s most romantic regions.

Top 5 Towns in Tuscany 11. Lucca
Surrounded by city walls thick enough that locals jog and even cycle on top of them for their daily exercise, Lucca is a large and important historical center. It has grown to over 90,000 inhabitants, but still feels much smaller and more traditional than Florence. People come here to appreciate Lucca’s many beautiful churches, the Torre Guinigi that has ancient oak trees on top, and excellent coffee bars.

2. San Gimignano
The City of Beautiful Towers earned its nickname with 14 spectacular torres that form a unique, pastoral skyline visible from the surrounding countryside. No cars are allowed within the city walls, which encompass almost all of the town’s 7,000 residents. The result is, as you might guess, a perfectly peaceful and romantic medieval-feeling atmosphere of winding cobblestone streets full of traditional restaurants, farmer’s markets, and bakeries. It’s definitely not to be missed.

Top 5 Towns in Tuscany 23. Siena
Perhaps most famous for the annual Palio di Siena horse race, this medium-sized Tuscan city has a lot to offer. Its huge, fan-shaped central piazza, where the race takes place, is an excellent place for people watching, and conveniently enough the people of Siena are some of the best to watch. Its status foremost as a university town gives it a distinctive and quirky flavor that has resulted in the proliferation of unique bars, cafes, and galleries. Of course, there’s no lack of history here either, with more than enough cathedrals, towers, and more.

4. Cortona
Did you read or watch Under the Tuscan Sun? Then you already know a bit about Cortona. Many expats now call this hill town home, and with good reason—it’s one of the best places where you can still enjoy the slow pace of Italian life. With its great views, nature walks, cafes, and more, this is a perfect place to settle down for a while. Many find that once they come, they can’t leave. The city retains much of its ancient history, and is surrounded by Etruscan walls more than 3000 years old.

Top 5 Towns in Tuscany 35. Florence
You can’t visit Tuscany without at least stopping in Florence. While it may be a bit overrun with tourists coming to see Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Galleria (which is worth the visit, trust us), Florence remains one of the prettiest Renaissance cities in the area. Check out the Baptistery, the Duomo, Medici Palaces, central piazza, and endless museums to get a sense for the historical nature of the city. This was (and still is) one of Europe’s great centers for arts and architecture.

Inspired to learn more? You can find out more about Tuscany and start planning your dream holiday now.


Categories: Bucket List, Travel Tips

How to Do Venice on the Cheap

Venice, Italy – one of the most romantic cities in the world, but be warned it doesn’t come cheap!

Venice is made up of 118 islands all connected by a compelling network of bridges and separated by world famous canals.

things to do in venice

Situated along the marshy Venetian Lagoon, Venice is notoriously prone to flooding but this does not detract from the fact the city is listed as a World Heritage Site. Visitors flock to the city, many of whom find cheap apartments in Venice, to take in the impressive canals and take a ride in the iconic gondolas.


Venice is also listed as one of the most romantic cities in the world, in part thanks to the gondola rides along the immaculate canals. Yet the city offers more than just that, it is possibly to do Venice on the cheap. For culture vultures, a Venice museum pass will allow entry into nine sites of note, ranging from the Murano Glass museum to Doge’s Palace.


Of course St. Mark’s Basilica is top of many visitors’ wish lists, and luckily for the budget-conscious travellers it does not charge an entry fee. As with many cities the best bargains are to be found by simply wandering. A maze of streets and alleys hold hidden treasures and Venice is no exception.


But for those who don’t like the sound of walking, Venice also has many discount passes offering combinations on transportation and sights. Getting lost in Venice is relatively easy but it’s also great fun. Friendly locals will often be happy to show you the way to your next attraction and there are colourful direction signs painted on many walls.


Buying 12 or 24-hour tourist tickets for both individuals and families saves money, while for those visiting for a longer period of time can purchase three or seven-day tickets. These can be used on water buses and land buses.


Using the gondolas (Traghetti) to cross the Grand Canal is time efficient, there are only three bridges crossing the canal but seven pick-up spots for those wishing to catch a gondola.


Finally the last tip is to take to the elevator to the top of the bell tower in the Piazza de San Marco. It offers the best vies in town and if you’re lucky enough, or just good at planning, you may be able to coincide your visit with the ringing of the vast bells, just inches above your head.


Categories: Blog, Bucket List, Inspiration, Travel Tips

Top 3 Venice Adventures on a Budget

#1 Vaporetto Tour

Save yourself a small fortune on a Gondola ride and take advantage of the floating public transport. Costing a mere €18 for a 12-hour travel card instead of the gondola’s €80 for half an hour, this is a much more economical way to travel along the canals. Take the number 1 vaporetto route for a scenic tour of the city as it takes you up and down the Grand Canal, stopping in each of the six sestiere or neighborhoods.  Even better, take the tour at night for a romantic atmosphere to rival that of those big spenders on the gondolas!

venice pics

Venice Carnevale

Culminating on Shrove Tuesday, Venice Carnival is an annual 10-day event to celebrate the history and culture of the city, originating from its victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia, Ulrico in the year 1162. This makes the beginning of February an exciting time to visit the floating city. Keeping in tune with Venetian traditions, masks and period dress is a very important and prominent feature of the carnival. The ornate designs and materials used to make the masks showcase the skill and intricacy needed in their creation and why Venetian themed mask balls have become so popular! The carnival of course a free spectacle and always packed with entertainment and food, an ideal time to visit and stay in an Oh-Venice apartment to really make the most of your time there.

venice carnival

Basilico San Marco

Situated in the Piazzo San Marco, this cathedral is the most famous of the city’s churches and arguably the most beautiful in the country. With its floor-to-ceiling mosaic walls made of gold, bronze and an assortment of stones, it is a symbol if Venetian wealth and power, making it an unforgettable site for all visitors.  An extra bonus being that there is no fee to tour the main part of the basilica, or to book and entry time online to avoid queues unlike many other famous churches that don’t have patch on the basilica!


Categories: Blog, Inspiration, Money, Travel Tips

Fixed up Abroad: 5 Countries with the Highest Quality Healthcare

The UK receives a great deal of attention for its universal, tax-funded healthcare system. Through nationwide contributions, the government is able to provide greatly reduced rates for its citizens on procedures ranging from cardiac and pulmonary surgery to tummy tucks and laser eye treatments in manchester. That being said, on a global scale, if you’re looking to travel abroad for an operation, it helps to have options. The UK’s healthcare system is truly fine, but surprisingly, the World Health report has it listed in spot #18. Fortunately for the European traveler, the top five are all in western Europe.

5. MaltaBecause Malta is an island, it already has a tourism-minded attitude. The hospitals have an elegant atmosphere and are staffed with US- and UK-trained specialists. Its small size makes medical facilities easy to access, and it boasts no waiting lines. This also means it doesn’t take long to get to the beach and unwind after the procedure.

4. AndorraThe big perk of visiting Andorra is that it does not require citizens of the USA, Canada, UK/EU and Australia to procure visas for visits up to 3 months. That makes it an excellent place for major surgery requiring longer recovery periods. Also, considering Andorra has the highest life expectancy in the world, you can imagine they’ve got something right.

3. San Marino

Not only does the Most Serene Republic of San Marino have the distinction of being the third smallest country in Europe, but it also has the third best healthcare system in the world. It can be an excellent alternative if you find yourself by the Adriatic coast and have trouble finding a hospital. That being said, you may not need to visit San Marino if you’re already in…

2. Italy

Apart from having one of the best healthcare systems in the world, Italy also may be one of the nicest places to convalesce after your procedure. The Mediterranean climate and relaxed lifestyle (not to mention the food) make this an excellent place to combine healing with fun.

1. France

After centuries of cultural rivalry with the UK, France has pulled ahead in healthcare. Combining public and private healthcare funding, France offers substantially lower prices than much of the rest of Europe, one more reason to smile in this romantic country. They’ll help straighten that smile too, if you want.

Categories: Travel Tips

Naples Italy

5 Italian Towns You Must Visit

Italy is the home of the pizza, the Colosseum, the friend of the friends and some truly beautiful towns. From Naples in the south to Milan in the north, these are 5 Italian towns you must visit.

Naples Italy

Would visitors flock to Pisa if it weren’t for the famous Leaning Tower? Yes, but not in the huge numbers which flock there presently. While the builder may have been ashamed of his creation, the lean in the Leaning Tower is what puts Pisa on the map. However the tower was starting to lean a little bit too much, so restoration work commenced to stabilise it – luckily for visitors there numerous cheap flights to Pisa.

Naples has a bad rep, the friend of the friends aka the Mafia have the city in a vice like grip. Yet visitors to the southern city are highly unlikely to be bothered by them. Instead visitors will experience Italian culinary culture at its finest, for Naples is the self-proclaimed home of the pizza.

Naples may have its pizza but Milan has fashion. Milan is home to some of the most famous designers in the world. Yet there is more to Milan than fashion, unless you venture there during Milan’s famous Fashion Week, museums, churches and Leonardo’s canals all make Milan a must visit Italian town.

Florence is the capital of Tuscany and a beautiful city. Famous for its history, Florence was declared UNECSCO World Heritage Site in 1982. With Florence famed for its artistic and architectural heritage, it’s no surprise the Renaissance is a huge draw for visitors. The city contains many world-class museums and art galleries, such as the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi Gallery. Florence continues to influence in the world art and culture.

Palermo is the cultural, artistic and economic capital of Sicily. And it’s no surprise it is also the most visited city on the island. The city’s rich history and thriving art scene attracts numerous tourists. The fine Mediterranean weather combined with gastronomy and restaurants, along with Palermo’s Roman, gothic and Baraoque churches and palaces are all attractions for visitors. Walking Palermo’s city walls are an excellent way to explore this fascinating and vibrant Mediterranean city.



Categories: Blog, Travel Tips