18 December 2009
I'm stuck in Venice for another 24 hours after my Easyjet flight to Gatwick was cancelled due to snow (the outbound flight didn't take off). So hoping the weather is better tomorrow.
Anyone else stranded by Easyjet cancellations: you can rebook on their website by clicking 'Manage bookings'. The Easyjet 'travel disruption' links and lists of cancelled flights weren't updated or working well - the first confirmation of flight cancellation came via the Venice airport website, the second on the Gatwick website, with still no Easyjet announcement. However, in the 'manage bookings' section of www.easyjet.com my flight was already displayed as 'disrupted' and it was actually very quick and easy to change my flight (and free).
There'll be high water in Venice tomorrow morning so I'll be off to the airport early to avoid the need to drag my suitcase through floods.
The sun's shining in cold Venice, so I'll make the most of another day here.
New from Italy Heaven: trialling the use of Twitter: http://twitter.com/italyheaven - do 'follow' if you're interested in updates on Italy, new additions to the Italy Heaven website, or random reports from Venice and my travels around Italy.
8 December 2009
- The Guggenheim shop (on the canalside outside the gallery) has a good range of art gifts, cool novelty items and books. I liked the souvenir Venice mugs (more stylish than you'll find in a tourist shop), a black-cat-shaped neck pillow, and groovy accessories.
- Signor Blum - stocks brightly-coloured wooden building-block models of Venice landmarks, magnets, mobiles and other gifts for children. (in Campo San Barnaba, vaporetto stop Ca' Rezzonico).
- Viziovirtù - good for posh chocolates; and they have a chocolate nativity scene in their window (vaporetto stop San Tomà)
- Murano glass - on the island of Murano you can purchase some of the costly glasssware produced on the island - if you're confident about packing fragile items, a set of elegant wine glasses would make a very special present. Not all local glass products are bulky: a few years ago I bought glass beads on Murano and made necklaces for my friends.
- 18th-20th December - a small antiques and handicrafts market in Campo San Maurizio, good for unusual or one-off gifts.
- Gondolier calendar - available from news-stands and tourist stalls, this photographic collection of Venetian gondoliers could make a good present for a female friend.
- Caffe Florian is Venice's most famous cafe, and -at a price - you can take a piece of it home for friends and relatives. Inside the entrance is a desk where you can buy coffees, teas, chocolates and china.
Sadly, the Christmas markets and events organised in previous years are not taking place in 2009. However, the shops above make a good starting point for Christmas presents. If you run out of space in your suitcase or forget anyone, both Venice airports (Marco Polo and Treviso) have shops selling souvenirs and a good choice of food gifts like wine, chocolates from Caffe Florian and olive oils.
30 November 2009
When the water is this high it isn't possible to get far around the city without wellington boots. Those who'd arrived in town unprepared had to splash in shoes, go barefoot, clamber along walls, or hope to pay over the odds for wellies or plastic shoe-protectors. Rather than sit it out for a few hours, I waded off to see the sights and take photographs.
The scene wasn't as dramatic as last year, when even residents were taken by surprise and I saw marooned tourists perched on the top of benches, waiting for the water levels to fall. Still, there were interesting sights, including the many Venetians who went about their everyday Monday morning business in boots or waders. The binmen wheeled their rubbish carts through the floods; policemen and women supervised the duckboards by St. Mark's; a grandmother carried a child to school on her back through the water; a group of Jewish men posed on chairs in the middle of St. Mark's Square.
After a couple of hours only the lowest-lying areas - like St. Mark's Square - were still underwater. We've more high tides forecast, but tonight's is only moderate and tomorrow's is expected to be 115cm - wellies still advisable, but much less drama.
> My article about acqua alta, debunking some of the dramatic news stories
> My journal of the historic flooding of December 2008
12 October 2009
Italy is prone to conspiracy theories - which often turn out to be justified by genuine conspiracies, as in the case of Serie A match-fixing - and the suspicion is that the Riace Bronzes will finish up in one of Rome's vast museum collections, with mere copies being sent back to Reggio.
I witnessed for myself this summer the pride of the people of Reggio Calabria in their archaeological museum; as several bus passengers contended to offer me directions. The bronze statues are the most important historic and artistic objects in the whole of the Calabria region. Although they may not receive as many visitors as they deserve, the area will lose an important tourist attraction, while Rome hardly needs additional exhibits.
> Reggio Calabria
> A travel itinerary down the coast through Calabria and Reggio
10 October 2009
I have just added a new feature to the website: suggested travel itineraries in Italy. These are ideas to help the independent traveller plan an interesting tour, and include maps. They are all based around public transport, meaning that a hire car is an option, not a necessity. So far I have created four itineraries:
> Classic tour: Rome ,Florence, Venice
> Art and Architecture of the Veneto
> South to Calabria - from temples to volcanoes
> Puglia and Matera
Italy has so many great destinations which are still under the radar for most travellers. I hope these itineraries will provide a starting point for explorations of the country, and will offer new and interesting suggestions to holiday-makers. More will follow.
I'm writing this post from Venice, which is in the grip of huge thunderstorms. The last week has been really varied here.
The Good: Up until yesterday there was still warm afternoon sun to enjoy - I sat outdoors by canals twice, eating lunch in the sunshine (the best was pumpkin gnocchi with smoked cheese at the Osteria ai Artisti). Now Autumn has arrived and the temperatures and tourist numbers are dropping.
The Bad: Yesterday it was reported that there have been mosquito-borne cases of West Nile Virus in Venice and other north-eastern towns - so it becomes more important than ever to cover up and avoid bites. Visitors have been told not to donate blood for four weeks after a stay in Venice or the other towns concerned.
22 September 2009
The offer is a good chance to book a pre-Christmas break, or to investigate a new Italian destination. The deal also includes internal flights between Italian cities.
> Italian airport guide
31 August 2009
> My photo gallery of Padre Pio images
> Repubblica: Scampia, sequestratati 400 kg di droga
trovato arsenale sotto statua di Padre Pio
> Padre Pio (Wikipedia)
24 August 2009
The newest article on Italy Heaven is about Maratea, a lovely village in the Basilicata region. Maratea is on the coast, but is high above sea level and it makes an unusual holiday destination. You can walk up the hill above town (where there is a giant statue of Christ the Redeemer), sip an aperitivo in the elegant village piazza, explore historic alleys... or catch the bus down to the sea to potter around a port or splash about on a small beach.
I visited Maratea as part of a southern tour which will be fully online shortly. Destinations added so far, connected to each other by train, are: Paestum, Palinuro, Maratea. The website also contains a new section, Photo Galleries, which will feature collections of images of some of the places and themes featured on Italy Heaven.
> Maratea photo gallery
and a good article about Maratea from the Guardian, earlier this year: Absolutely Fabio's (apparently Cannavaro is a visitor)
29 July 2009
As usual, I was quite appreciative of the vegetarian sandwiches offered by BA on my flight from London to Venice last night. Now I learn that the nervous airline is to scrap food on flights after 10am lasting less than two and a half hours - in other words, many of their UK to Italy flights. It sounds as though drinks and tiny snacks are still on offer... although there have already been reports suggesting that free alcohol, too, is under threat.
Bizarrely, BA doesn't appear to be offering the option to buy food, either - so if you board without a stash of food in your hand luggage, you're doomed to two hours of hunger.
Although BA are obviously desperate to save money, this seems rather counter-productive to me. Those of us who choose BA over budget airlines do so because of the relative 'luxury' on offer. Flying Venice - London, BA flights generally cost slightly more than Ryanair. Factoring in the more convenient airports, the generous baggage allowance and the calm atmosphere make BA competitive. For those of us used to Easyjet and Ryanair, being brought free food and drink in our seats seems both convenient and decadent. Without that extra perk, the budget airlines might start to seem a better option again.
Flights affected are likely to include services from London to Venice, Milan and Rome (2 hours 25 minutes). On a recent flight from Catania (3 hours 25 mins), I was impressed by the mini-meal I received (photographed). Obviously this length journey rated above the simple sandwich option but below a hot meal. The simple 'wrap' sandwich, I noted, contained 40 different ingredients including 10 E-numbers.
BA's stinginess starts on Monday, so I'll have to remember to fill up on cheap pasta at Marco Polo Airport before boarding my return flight to London.
12 July 2009
> Full UNESCO list for Italy, with links to articles
25 June 2009
Where, just a plane, coach then ferry journey from the UK, could you see dolphins, climb an active volcano, swim in the sea, enjoy a fine meal of local products and relax by a harbour sipping sweet wine.. all in the space of a day? The answer is the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily, close to the 'toe' of Italy. From thermal mud-baths to sophisticated hotels, from traffic-free solitude to lively bars, from flowery footpaths to barren lava-slopes, the seven inhabited islands offer a whole range of holiday options. The peak summer season is busy but outside July and August you'll find affordable prices and plenty of peace and charm.
> Read our new feature on the Aeolian Islands
I visited the islands a couple of weeks ago on a long tour of southern Italy. More new destinations, travel tips and a journal will follow on Italy Heaven, as well as an extended section for the seven Aeolian Islands: Lipari, Stromboli, Vulcano, Panarea, Salina, Alicude and Filicudi.
23 June 2009
> The Times: Berlusconi's Italy shows a strange type of feminism
20 February 2009
> Venice Carnival photos 2009
> About the Carnival
4 February 2009
If you are looking for romantic ideas for Valentine's Day, why not book a short-notice trip to Italy? It is Carnival time in Venice, and hotel prices are high... but the atmosphere should be very special. We've just published a new page, Romance in Venice, with insider tips for romantic places to stroll and share special moments. For more ideas on romantic breaks or honeymoons, try our Romance in Rome and Romantic Italy suggestions.
3 February 2009
> Guardian: Ryanair: £30 charge if you can't fit duty free in your hand luggage
> Ryanair: Cabin baggage allowance
> Ryanair: news item including the threatened £30 charge
8 January 2009
Ryanair flights for two people from London Stansted to Treviso (a 50-minute bus ride away; €20 for two return tickets) departing Monday morning and returning late Wednesday evening:
£171 for two (includes taxes but not hold baggage or credit card charges)
Superior double room for two nights in the good 3-star Hotel Antiche Figure on the Grand Canal (close to the Treviso Airport bus stop): €398 (at today's exchange rate, £358)
Total cost for flights, hotel & bus transfer: for 2 people: £547
Be romantic, have an adventure and beat the winter blues!
Want cheaper accommodation? Or something smarter? Other hotels with availability for those dates include:
Hotel Rigel (3-star on the Lido): €58 per night
Ca' Alexander B&B: €100
Hotel Campiello (really nice 3-star): €110
San Clemente Palace (5-star on its own island): €231
Palazzo Abadessa (one of Venice's best): €225
Hotel Luna Baglioni (5-star close to St. Mark's): €275
(price given is per night, for a double room)
For Venice lovers - here's a picture of snow on gondolas in Venice, today.