21 February 2017

Venice Marco Polo Airport Lounge (BA passengers & Priority Pass)

Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) has a couple of business lounges. British Airways Club Europe passengers and Silver and Gold status BAEC members are entitled to use the Marco Polo Club Lounge. The lounge is also open to Priority Pass holders, and anyone can choose to pay for admission.
Inside the Marco Polo lounge, early 2017

At the time of writing the lounge is operating at about half its previous capacity while refurbishments are taking place. Staff told me that this is expected to finish by April or May 2017 (be prepared for an over-run - this is Italy). Currently the lounge is very busy; lots of chairs crammed into a small space, almost all of them occupied when I last visited. Prior to this temporary reduction in size, there was a much bigger U-shaped space including an area with workstations, and access onto a terrace with views over the runway and lagoon. There was a shower and an additional pair of toilets.

The lounge has free wifi and a fairly decent cold buffet, with rolls (meat and vegetarian), little pizza squares, fruit and tiny desserts. Not the equivalent of a proper meal, but enough to substitute a meal if you pile your plate high, which many guests do. If you want a cheap hot meal, the self-service restaurant on the upper floor of the terminal is a decent choice. Customers using the lounge can help themselves to non-alcoholic drinks including a range of fruit juices (including that delicious pear juice available in Italy). Alcohol including Prosecco is freely available on request, along with hot drinks. Staff wait behind the buffet tables to serve drinks.
Mini desserts

I've been using the lounge for years, and I'm quite fond of it. I hope the new developments return its former spaciousness - plans (below) include quiet areas, a 'winter garden' and a re-opening of the outdoor viewing terrace. While not the most lavish lounge anywhere, it's better than others I've visited in Italy. There are usually helpful staff on duty and the food for the last couple of years has been quite a good selection.
Future plans

Finding your way around the airport

The lounge is airside, on an upper floor. After clearing security, take the escalators near the windows (the right-hand escalators) and follow the signs. Note that BA's lounge-entitled customers are also able to use the priority lane at security. BA's usual check-in desks are just to the left of the security queue; the priority lane is alongside.

There is still a lot of building work taking place at the airport; the overall result should hopefully be a significant improvement. A new moving walkway connecting the terminal with the jetties for ferries and water taxis is now open, which saves a 10-minute walk.

View from the lounge: British Airways arrival
> Venice Marco Polo airport (more from Italy Heaven)
> Marco Polo Club Lounge (airport website)
> My Venice guidebook

3 January 2017

Italy ideas for 2017

If it seems that 2016 been a year of ordeals and calamities, and you're wanting to get away from it all in 2017, this is a good time to start thinking about holidays. I'm always a bit surprised at this time of year to discover how many travellers are already planning trips as far ahead as November. But, of course, the further ahead you book, the longer you have to look forward to your holiday - and the best choice of accommodation will be open to you.

Here are some suggestions for destinations in Italy for an escapist idyll in the next twelve months. If you choose, you can switch off your internet connection and forget the rest of the world while enjoying sunshine, views, peace and - naturally - hearty Italian food. These are places I've visited in the last couple of years and loved, plus one or two highlights from past research trips.

The best time to visit Italy for a sunshine holiday without crowds is outside the peak Italian season, which runs from late July to the end of August. If you can get away in June, early July or September you'll find cheaper prices and quieter destinations.


Escape to an island

I always recommend escaping to islands. I love Italian islands; they're safe, charming, authentic and picturesque. Three lesser-known destinations are:

Panarea in the Aeolian islands, which is chic and idyllic.
Panarea



Ustica, a ferry-ride from Palermo, which has a more down-to-earth charm and a lovely coastal footpath.
Ustica



Capraia, off the coast of Tuscany, where you can explore empty countryside and the ruins of a prison colony.
Capraia



Hole up by the sea

Italy has loads of lovely coastal destinations, some famous and others kept secret by their fans. For 2017, why not consider a resort which offers something a little different?

Marine del Cantone, which I visited last year, is a hidden shingle beach near Positano and Sorrento but completely different to either, with a few restaurants, a shabby-picturesque air, and some lovely footpaths nearby.

Marina del Cantone at Easter

Caorle, north of Venice, is a small, traditional beach resort (mostly Italian and German-speaking visitors) which offers a beach, access to the Veneto's art towns, plus unusual lagoon scenery and cycle rides.

Caorle

Cefalรน in Sicily is my permanent top recommendation for a beach resort, with history and art as well as seaside  - a grand Norman cathedral with famous mosaics, a small museum, ruins - and the option of excursions by train to Palermo and by sea to the Aeolian islands.


History, art and sophistication

If you're interested in history, one fascinating holiday project would be to explore the archaeological sites in and around Naples. I've only started on this myself; there is a lot to see, from the famous Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the cave of the Cumaean Sybil and the underwater city at Baia. Naples also has one of the very best archaeological museums in the world.

Herculaneum

The classic destinations for a sophisticated city break in Italy are Rome, Venice and Florence - all three of them everything you'd expect and more - while the more adventurous might choose try Naples or Palermo for foodie experiences and a more edgy vibe.

The Pantheon by night, Rome


Stay somewhere different

It's not just trying a new destination that can offer a fresh holiday experience - why not try a different kind of accommodation? If you normally stay in hotels, try out the local life in a city centre apartment or surround yourself with art in an eccentric B&B. Holiday flats I've enjoyed include the New Venice Apartments, Sorrento Apartments, Maison Giulia apartments in Rome and Casa Vittoria in Taormina. You can wake up when you want to, shop in markets, feel like a local, and relax in privacy.
Maison Giulia studio apartment, Rome

Alternatively, if you usually stay in self-catering or budget accommodation, you could consider splashing out on a seafront hotel for a change of pace. In 2016 I upgraded myself to five-star hotels a couple of times, for a few nights of my travels, finding good places to stay with special outdoor spaces and grand views which became part of my holiday experience in the way a budget room rarely can. These hotels would be lovely for a couple or family - but they're actually very good for solo travellers too. With plenty of attentive staff and public areas where you can sit unbothered to work or read, and elegant bars where you can relax in a comfortable and safe environment without heading out, these more expensive hotels have a lot to offer. Neither the Grand Hotel La Favorita in Sorrento, nor the Miramare e Castello in Ischia were cripplingly expensive (5-star hotels, but not the astronomically-expensive kind) and I'd recommend both of them, and especially their roof terraces.
Grand Hotel La Favorita, Sorrento

Hotel Miramare e Castello, Ischia


More ideas

You can find loads more holiday ideas on www.italyheaven.co.uk, including my list of the best seaside resorts in Italy. And you can follow Italy Heaven on Facebook, and Twitter for new ideas, 2017 Italy travel photos and website updates.

Happy travels in 2017!