Venice, Italy – Tour of Venice

Venice is the greatest architectural repository in the world. All six sestiere of the city contain palaces and churches in the three most impressive styles Europe has produced: Gothic, Renaissance and the baroque. What makes Venice even more remarkable is just how many of these buildings there are. Palaces are crammed against each other and churches appear around every corner. However, Venice is also a city of squares (campI) which means that buildings are displayed to best effect in a series of leafy outdoor “rooms” that crop up one after the other. There are no long roads in Venice unless you count the Canal Grande, the city’s high street, but even that curves like a snake so that new vistas are continually revealed. The canals of Venice divide the city into many manageable chunks and turn what might otherwise be a narrow dark alleyway into a luminous border down which float shiny black gondolas full of camera- wielding tourists.

The city of Venice occupies a special place in history. It was the first great republic since Rome. It had an elected head of state (il Doge) and an insatiable appetite for both making money and then spending it on ostentatious decoration. At its zenith, it had the most powerful navy in the world and a virtual monopoly on European trade with the Orient. As it declined, Venice became a byword for decadence, a city-state addicted to gambling, sex and intrigue. It was always stylish even if it wasn’t always beautiful. Nowadays, even the scruffiest campus is still distinctly and proudly Venetian. Its citizens remain in their hearts a truly independent people.

In 1797, this ancient Republic was dissolved by Napoleon, in 1815 their city was handed over to Austria and in 1866 they were absorbed into the new kingdom of Italy. But the mindset of Venice remains entirely Venetian. The people speak their own version of Italian and they resent interference from the mainland. Recently Venice’s first female gondolier started working for a hotel. There was an outcry among the other intensely chauvinistic gondolieri, not so much because she was a woman, but because she was not from Venice. For the traveller, Venice offers far more than one trip can achieve. You could easily visit ten times before you see all that is to be seen, and even longer to work out how to get from one place to another on foot. Venice is a maze, but one jam-packed with amazing treasures.

Fortunately, certain essentials can be covered in a day. Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, the Campanile, the Ducal Palace, the view across the Basin of San Marco to San Giorgio and a trip to Caffe Florian are all in close proximity to each other. Then the real fun begins as you follow a route, decide to explore everything there is to see in one area, use the public transport system to hop between islands in the lagoon or work your way through a personal must-see list of churches, palazzi, scuole and museums. At every stage of the day Venice will tempt you with delicious possibilities, whether you want to snack, drink or enjoy a long meal, the way Venetians do.

This is a city that appreciates the good things of life. Simple rules will help you enjoy this part of your visit more. Avoid restaurants where waiters invite you in. Avoid eating or drinking anywhere along the main shopping thoroughfares (the Mercerie) and be aware that if you choose anywhere picturesque to eat that you’ll be paying for the view. That said, you will find that certain views are worth the extra euros. It would be a crime not to have coffee in Piazza San Marco at least once and the view along the over- priced Riva del Vin is worth the mark-up. The legendary Harry’s Bar is small and expensive but it has that certain quality, to be found in very few places, of being something really special. Much the same rule applies to shopping. The further from the main thoroughfares, the better the price, but you may want to buy a carnival mask from a stall on the Riva for the thrill of having done so.

Carnival (Carnevale) is one of the high points of the Venetian year. This city-wide party is a gorgeous re-creation of 18th- century Venice that should certainly be experienced once, but the city in February is inevitably crowded and over-priced. Summer is also crowded and prices go up during the International Film Festival and the Biennale, so think about visiting Venice out of season. Whenever you go, you will find a city that is unforgettable, one that has been drawing tourists since the Middle Ages and one of the few cities in the world that genuinely deserves to be called unique.

Get La Dolce Vita in Rome

Rome is known as the ‘eternal city’ and there is no doubt that its appeal to visitors – whether on educational travel excursions or just visiting for pleasure – is, indeed, eternal. It has attracted visitors for many decades and was always a stop of the Grand Tours that were popular from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It’s easy to see why visitors have flocked to this marvellous city, and these are just a few of the reasons.

Inspirational Settings

The Baroque beauty of The Spanish Steps is perhaps one of the iconic sights of Rome and it has been the backdrop to many of the great filmic moments of this city. The 1991 film, The Talented Mr Ripley, which was adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name, used the CafĂ© Dinelli on the Piazza di Spagna at the foot of the steps as a setting. Another great filmic moment was also filmed there, with Audrey Hepburn eating a gelato in Roman Holiday.

However, it’s not only film lovers that will be inspired by a visit to the Spanish Steps during their educational travel excursion; literature fans will be following in the footsteps of the English Romantic Poets Keats and Shelley. Both of these poets loved Rome and on the right hand side at the foot of the steps, at 26 Piazza di Spagna, you will find a museum dedicated to them. The house was the final home of John Keats, who died there in 1821 when he was 25. His bedroom is preserved as a shrine and a wonderful collection of artefacts is housed in the museum; there is also a library containing around 8,000 works. The Museum also has a bookshop, a gift shop and a small cinema where they show a film about the Romantics. There are also two beautiful terraces from which you can get great views of the area.

If you feel energetic enough to climb the steps, turn right at the top and follow the Via Crispi to the Porta Pinciana. Continue on and you can turn right into the Via Veneto, which was once known as the most elegant street in Rome. Unfortunately it bears little resemblance to the elegant thoroughfare used in Marcello Mastroianni’s film La Dolce Vita, but is still worth a visit with its faded glamour.

Many of the stars who used to film at the Cinecitta Studios hung out in the many hotels, bars and restaurants that were once here – Richard Burton and Audrey Hepburn among them. The stars have all moved on but you can still visit the studios where they filmed most of Federico Fellini’s films. Cinecitta was founded by Mussolini, as he was a strong believer in the power of cinema. The studios went on to make some of the epic classic films, such as Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. One of the more recent international films to be filmed there was Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. Students can visit the studios but bookings must be made in advance.

For film buffs or literary students, a visit to Rome during an educational travel experience will take them to the places that have inspired great work and where great works have been created.

Salt Lake City – This Is the Place Worth Visiting

“This is the place,” said pioneer-extraordinaire Brigham Young after months of exhaustive trekking across some of the country’s harshest terrain.

The “place” to which he was referring is now known as Salt Lake City. At the time though, in 1847, it was no more than a barren land where a band of fatigued Mormon immigrants found themselves after giving up all other worldly possessions for a chance to build their lives anew. One can only speculate as to the reaction of his weary followers. Surrounded by crackly sagebrush and barren soil, and in the midst of an uninhabitable lake, it must have taken a serious mind’s eye to foresee the grand metropolis that would ultimately prove to become a promised land for hedonists and ascetics alike.

My relationship with Salt Lake City is quite extensive. After all, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have found myself in this capital city of the Beehive State. And I must admit-I haven’t yet grown weary of it. Salt Lake City has been the intended destination for dozens of family road trips. It has served as a gathering place to meet up with friends and relatives. And most of my journeys elsewhere usually commence at Salt Lake City International Airport-the region’s predominant air hub.

Salt Lake City is an eclectic hodgepodge of modern and antiquated, fancy and plain, kitschy and virtuous. The city serves as the global headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet, only about half its residents classify themselves as such.

The city boasts wide thoroughfares crammed with shopping outlets and fine restaurants. The city center itself is quite small however, as most of the valley’s population is settled in outer suburbs. Its focal point is a grand LDS temple that serves as the landmark of the area. The rest of the city is made up of easily navigable gridded streets to the north, south, east, and west of the temple.

While only primed members of the LDS faith can enter the temple itself, the surrounding gardens and buildings are accessible to visitors. Full-time volunteer missionaries from over 40 nations are eager to share Mormon Church history, beliefs, and doctrine in 30 different languages on several customized tours around Temple Square.

Although downtown Salt Lake City is charming enough to hold its own against the likes of other major U.S. cities, it’s the easily accessible tracts of wilderness that alluringly entice visitors to Utah. The nearby mountains of the Wasatch Front act as a glorious bastion of perennial outdoor activities. The surrounding forests cater to all types-from penny-pitching tent dwellers to lavish five-star resort frequenters. And in the midst of it all lies Park City, Salt Lake’s frivolous little brother.

Ski resorts dot the landscape. In fact, there are four within an hour’s drive from the airport. Visitors and locals alike flock to the slopes every winter to experience what “Ski Utah!” claims to be “the greatest snow on earth.” And considering the sheer popularity of such resorts, “Ski Utah!” just might be on to something.

While the soft, powdery snow is the main enticement to Park City during the winter months, it’s not by any means the only draw. Each January the Sundance Film Festival showcases independent films from across the nation and all over the globe. During the festival, Park City transforms itself from a rustic winter village to a sensational Hollywood-esque bash. Glitz and glamour overtake rugged and wild.

After experiencing the many facets of Salt Lake City, most visitors find themselves seconding Brigham Young’s declaration. Salt Lake truly is “the place”-the place for fine dining, shopping, skiing, hiking, biking, meandering, and contemplating. So go for it. Visit Utah-and make it your place too.