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.

Wild, Wild West Rockies – Telluride Offers Visitors Year-Round Outdoors Adventures

We got a taste of the Rocky Mountain spirit when we first arrived at the tiny Montrose Junction Airport, about an hour and a half’s drive from our destination of Telluride. As my spouse and I loaded into the shuttle, I reminded our driver that we had requested a child car seat.

“Here’s what we’ve got,” he said, handing me a tattered booster seat.

“This is actually a booster,” I told the driver, trying not to sound too much like an LA diva. “My son is only two. He needs a car seat with a harness to keep him in.”

“No worries. This is Colorado. He can join us for a drink later if he wants,” the driver said with a laugh as he heaved our bags into the back of the van.

OK, it was time to let loose. I strapped my son into the booster with the lap belt and held him in with an arm across his chest. “Here we go. We’re in the Wild West now,” I told him as his eyes lit up looking at the magnificent mountain peaks surrounding us.

Onward and upward we went up the icy windy roads to Telluride, an old mining town that has become a winter wonderland for skiers and a year-round playground for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers and lovers of the great outdoors.

We had dreaded the trip to Telluride because we had booked late and couldn’t get a direct flight from Los Angeles, so we had a plane change in Salt Lake City, and a road trip through the mountains. All with a cranky two-year-old toddler. But our layover was short, made more bearable by a children’s play area at the SLC airport, and our driver regaled us all the way to town with local gossip, so before we knew it, we were there — and was it ever worth the trip.

Right away we felt welcome in the lobby of the Peak’s Resort. In front of us was the hotel’s Great Room, a splendid oversize living room of rustic leather and cowhide sofas, lounge chairs and ottomans. Guests in zipped-down ski gear were unwinding after a day on the slopes, warming themselves in front of a huge, crackling fireplace and enjoying beverages from the bar and casual dining from a menu of burgers, grilled cheese and hot dogs. It felt like home, only with a dozen suntanned, outdoorsy looking strangers lounging about.

Just through the grand foyer was the Peak’s spa, a world-class facility a full fitness center with state-of-the art cardio room, Cybex machines, a yoga studio and even a rock-climbing wall. The spa also offered massage, mani-pedis, tanning, sauna, Roman tubs and a eucalyptus inhalation room. None of that mattered to our toddler, but he could hardly contain his excitement to see not one but two heated pools and an indoor water slide. No wonder the resort was selected by Parent’s magazine as a top 10 family winter resort.

We checked into our room, and just as the hotel’s Web site had promised, our room indeed had a fabulous view, as does every room at the hotel. From our balcony we saw endless snow covered trees up to the mountain peaks. To our left we could see the ski slopes, with the chair lifts floating up to the mountain top. We couldn’t wait to get out in the snow.

It was our toddler first time in the white stuff. We bundled him up in his snow suit and headed out to explore the town. We hardly got past the hotel lobby doors when he bounded into the snow outside the doors where he made his first snow ball, snow man and snow angel. He was in snow heaven.

A three-minute walk from the Peaks we found ourselves in the Mountain Village plaza, a cute collection of boutiques and restaurants with an ice skating rink and bonfire pit. We followed the brick walkway of the plaza and directional signs everywhere to the base of the slopes. Truly a ski-in ski-out resort, snow bunnies bounded all around us, skis propped on their shoulders, walking directly out of their hotels and onto the snow to step into their skis and hop on the lifts.

At the base of the mountain, known as “the beach,” we caught the free gondola for a ride into the town of Telluride. A true delight for a toddler — and adults — the gondola whisked us up into the air and high over the trails where we watched skiers and snowboarders whoosh by underneath us. We learned that the gondola is the only free transit of its type in the US. It takes visitors and locals back and forth over the mountain at 11 miles an hour, all day from 7 am until midnight, from the town of Telluride to the Mountain Village Plaza, with an optional stop midway at St. Sophia Station, where Allred’s, the town’s premier fine dining establishment, is perched at 10,000 above sea level for the best food and best views in town.

Other than the gondola, another indispensable mode of transportation we discovered was the plastic toboggan. We learned the hard way that holding a 30-pound kid on your hip or even in a backpack carrier across icy walkways can be hazardous to everyone involved, so we got a tip from a local the best way to get around town with a toddler in tow was to literally tow him. We picked up a small sled and some twine to make an extra long pull cord at the local ACE Hardware. I was the best $16 we ever spent.

Dragging our little one behind us, we set off to explore the many adorable shops, galleries and restaurants. The town itself defines quaint. The the snow-covered streets are lined with story-book cute chalets and small independent boutiques. A couple local snowboarder girls who we shared a gondola cab with informed us that Telluride does not permit chain stores, so you will never see a Starbucks or Pottery Barn or any of the stores that populate Every Mall USA littering the landscape of this purist town. How refreshing.

We stopped for lunch at the charming TPK Bistro where we had a delicious and surprisingly reasonably priced lunch of Panini di Italian prosciutto ham and fontina cheese and Stromboli di pollo, served by a friendly and gracious wait staff, who seemed genuinely happy to serve us. Perhaps one reason the servers were so attentive was the fact that we were the restaurant’s only guests, at 12 pm.

Despite excellent food, great service and an ideal location on Colorado Avenue, a central thoroughfare, the eatery was empty, as was much of the town. This was partially due to the flagging economy which brought fewer visitors this year, and also partially because the ski season was nearly over, but according to locals, even during peak season the town is never over-run or crowded, as say Park City, Utah, during Sundance, which can be a bear.

Likewise, the Telluride gets two thumbs up for eschewing commercialism, which has nearly ruined Park City, which must have resembled Telluride before the film festival overtook it. Hopefully Telluride will not head that way, despite the fact that it also hosts the Telluride Film Festival each fall which continues to grow in popularity and rivals Sundance in the quality of films it features, such as Sling Blade, Brokeback Mountain and Slumdog Millionaire, which all had premiere screenings at Telluride.

While there are plenty of cultural scenes in town, including theaters and music venues, the main attraction of Telluride remains the great outdoors, where visitors can enjoy all sorts of activities year round, from fly-fishing and horseback riding to paragliding and hot air balloon rides.

Of course, the snow skiing is legendary, and after a few runs down the slopes it is clear why. Owing to the location of the resort nestled in a box canyon, the weather is ideal for snow and snow making. The snow was perfect. No ice, groomed, packed powder, and I had the trails almost to myself. It was absolutely the best skiing I had ever experienced.

While downhill skiing is why most winter tourists come to Telluride, the resort offers a host of other snow-capades, including cross-country and Nordic skiing, heli skiing, dog sledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling. The latter was the adventure of choice for us, and on our final day we headed out for a snowmobiling tour with Telluride Snowmobiling Adventures, thanks to a few hours timeout arranged by the Peaks Resort with a local nanny service.

Our friendly guide, Sam Haury, suited us up with warm boots and goggles, and we hopped on our machines and sped off in the freshly fallen snow high into the mountains. Sam stopped along the way to give us an educational tour of the historic spots, such as the Alta Ghost Town where miners and their families once lived.

We also learned that Telluride was the first in the world to have electric street lights (a week before Paris) thanks to the world’s first hydro-electric power plant built in 1904 to power the Smuggler-Union Mine. By the end of our two-hour tour, we not only truly appreciated the beauty and history of Telluride, we were expert snowmobilers, flying over whoop-de-dos and winding our way around curves through snow-covered forests with ease.

Our adventures in Telluride were a blast, though our four-day visit was much too short to do all that we wanted to do during our stay. But just because the snow will be melting soon, that won’t stop us from returning in the near future, because as the locals kept telling us, “You can always come back, and the summer season is even better!”