Category Archives: Europe

Italian Summer Travel

For a summer getaway, there are few places better than the Italian seaside. Great food, prime weather and small, picturesque towns welcome visitors from around the world.

Everyone knows about the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Venice. But to beat the crowds, summer like a true Italian and head to one of these smaller, more intimate beach towns.

1) Marettimo

italian summer travel

The first in a series of secret summer destinations, The Telegraph explored the island of Marettimo, off the coast of Sicily. With just one hotel and no cars, Marettimo is a true escape.

2) Livorno

italian summer escapes

A favorite of locals, Livorno offers some of the best beaches in Central Italy. Rocky beaches from Antignano down to Rosignano welcome sunbathers and adventurous swimmers. Adjacent beach towns boast boardwalks, where visitors can grab an espresso, gelato or a quick bite to eat.

3) Maremma

italian summer escapes

Another Tuscan favorite, just south of Livorno, Maremma offers the perfect variety of activity for a beach town. There are long beaches to relax on, seaside villages to explore, lush Tuscan hills to climb and the famous Saturnia natural thermal springs.

4) Sanremo

italian summer escapes

Sanremo, a Ligurian resort town known for its casino, sits on the Italian Riveria, just miles from the France-Italy boarder and nearby French Riveria towns like Nice and Monaco. The medieval town center, gardens and harbor offer plenty of activity and some of the best seafood in Italy.

5) Camogli

italian summer escapes

A tiny fishing village on Portofino peninsula, Camogli offers a reprieve from fast-paced life. Also situated on the Italian Riveria, near Genoa, this charming town would make a great, authentic getaway, or a stop along a tour of the Riveria.

6) Bari

italian summer escapes

For a more urban feel, head to Bari, the capital of the Puglia region in southeastern Italy. Bari is a large, urban seaside city with a castle, historic center and plenty of beaches to experience the Adriatic Sea.

These are six wonderful destinations to visit. Call us today to book your next vacation at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com

Roman Forum: Most spectacular ancient complex

Considered as among the important religious and historic destinations on Earth, the Roman Forum is the site of several superb edifices that are from the times of the 5th century B.C. to 7th century A.D. It is a complex where the historic events complement the ancient religious beliefs. Originally, the site of the Roman Forum was a market in the early 6th century B.C. It was only in the times of the Republican period that it attained sculptural attention to build temples and other public monuments. Later, a majority of these edifices were then converted into holy churches.

Roman Forum tours

But as usual, anything not permanent when tries to reach the sky has to fall on some day or the other and the same holds true for this Roman Forum too. It saw its downfall in the Middle Ages when it was set to ruins and the monument stones were stolen for other great edifices. Sadly, the area finally turned out to be a cow meadow.

Although there are many monuments here that are worth a watch, but due to lack of time, I asked my guide to take the tour of the important and most remarkable ones. You too can do so by paying the admission fee of €9.

The Arch of Septimius Severus, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, is from 203 A.D and is seen at the west end.It was made to mark the Septimius’ successful invasion of the lands today known as Iran and Iraq. Even today, the arch holds its adorning reliefs of fighting scenes. One more arch is visible on the Palatine Hill, which is known as the Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito) that was built in 81 A.D. Perched in a bit raised way at the Roman Forum’s entrance, the arch marked the ransack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The reliefs of the Roman troops grabbing the treasures of the Jewish temple are seen on it even today.

Arch of Septimius Severus

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine dates back to 310 AD and is a giant structure of brick that was once the home of the famous figurine of Constantine and a public court when the Emperor Maxentius and Constantine used to rule. The Column of Phocas (608 AD) denotes the cruel act of the awful Byzantine king who slew Emperor Maurice along with his five sons. Consequently, Phocas was given a death sentence just after two years of its construction. This column exhibits the Corinthian style and was made from the Proconnesian marble.

Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

Now, it was the turn of one of the top draws at the site – the Decennalia Base of the 4th century A.D. This is the rebuilt version that stands besides its original location in the Rostra. This one along with the four more honorary columns commemorates the first trip of Diocletian to Rome after 20 years of his rule. While it was built from monolith pink Aswan marble, its sides are greatly decorated with superb marble reliefs. The side facing us boasts a medallion that states “Happy Tenth Anniversary of the Caesars.” The left side depicts a parade of Roman senators, while the right shows a scene of pig, sheep, and bull being sacrificed. Lastly, the rear facet indicates the monarch’s sacrifices been performed after crowned by a winged Victory.

The small and round Temple of Vesta gained its popularity due to a holy flame that denoted the permanence of the Roman state whose care was taken by the Vestal Virgins. Just close to this shrine is the House of the Vestal Virgins – the place where the young priestesses used to stay to monitor the sacred flame. Its rectangular structure still bears a few women statues even today. The selected virgins were supposed to take care of the temple for 30 years of which each 1/3rd part was reserved for learning, doing the duties, and teaching the new ones respectively. If at all they fail, they used to be punished severely. For instance, if virginity was lost, she was cremated alive or if the flame somehow blew, she was being beaten badly.

Temple of Vesta

The Temple of the Dioscuri from the 5th B.C. is actually famous as the Temple of Castor and Pollux. As the name suggest, it was devoted to the immortal Pollux and mortal Castor – the twin sons of Leda who was the consort of Zeus (Jupiter) as per the Greek mythology. Its three columns are still visible today.

The round Temple of Jupiter Stator from the 4th century B.C, also known as the Temple of Divus Romulus is fortunately fully unbroken. Check out its earliest bronze doors from the 300s A.D. You might not be allowed in the temple, but view its discovered interior from a glass wall nestled at the Santi Cosma e Damiano church.

The Temple of Saturn from the late 5th century BC was the home of treasures. Seen at the west tip, it was where the public treasury was preserved. The temple was also the venue of famous festival of Saturnalia held in December. Currently, you can see its eight columns standing on travertine chunks.

Ready to visit the Roman Forum? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com 

Roman Baths: Sacred and artistic ancient marvel

In the nation of England, there is a city called Bath wherein you can take a tour of these sacred Roman Baths. Well, I think the city must have got its name because of the presence of these ancient Roman Baths. It’s quite logical to think so, right? This time on my trip to England, I decided to soak in the holy waters of the Roman Baths at Bath, which are very well maintained.

The entire complex of the Roman Baths was found at some time in the 18th century. The present mesmerizing Georgian edifice that you see today dates back to this century. Currently, these ancient Roman Baths encompasses the relics of the Temple of Aquae Sulis, a pretty museum of relics, and the Roman baths below the lane level of this new city, which are fed by the holy hot spring. The latter one indicates as to why these Roman Baths at Bath are regarded as holy. Erected by the Celts actually, the temple that resides besides the springs was devoted to the goddess Sulis. It was believed that she was the Roman Goddess Minerva. It was on this name that Bath in the ancient days wancient Roman Bathsas actually called known as Aquae Sulis that means the waters of Sulis. This thought is even hold today and it is believed that the goddess still continues to bless the people via her miraculous powers of healing that is experienced while drinking the mineral-rich waters of the spring. Remember the second name of Bath that is Aquae Sulis as many still refer the town with this name.

Exceptionally and unbelievably, the waters of this spring boast a temperature of 460 degree Celsius, which augments by 1,170,000 liters daily, which is regarded as the miracle of the gods obviously not to be seen anywhere else. This Sacred Spring is nestled at the northwest tip of the baths and it supplies water to the water pool of the 12th century, which is known as the King’s Bath surrounded by the Georgian building. As a tourist, sip the hot mineral water from the fountain of the Pump Room. Besides an amazing taste, it is thought to hold the healing powers.

Coming to the ancient Roman Baths, kindly note one thing that they are not safe for bathing because the water passes through the functioning lead pipes of Roman times. However, if you wish to bath, then take yourself to the opulent Thermae Bath Spa. The Temple of Aquae Sulis Minerva is also worth a visit, which is a typical shrine that once used to hold the statue of the goddess. Upon excavations, only a gilded bronze head was found, which is now in the museum. The Roman Baths Museum is the house of many interesting artifacts including the offerings that hold a myriad of objects given to the spring in the honor of the goddess. These objects include over 12,000 Roman coins, curses on the lead rolled sheets with messages to make it reach to the spirit of the goddess who is believed to be dwelling in the spring, and metal pans with ‘DSM’ – ‘Deae Sulis Minerva’. Well, you will be interested in knowing that the coins here form the largest collection of its kind in Britain.

From the shrine of Aquae Sulis in the Roman Baths at Bath, an adorned and rebuilt pediment can be seen where a face image with beard resides. This stone image is called the Gorgon’s head indicating the goddess form similar to those of the other water gods such as Neptune. However, the overall appearance is of the sun representing the soaring temperature of the spring. Flanked by the leaves and victories, the helmet and owl at the base symbolize the liability for battle as well as knowledge of the goddess.

Timings

Mar to Jun: Sep and Oct: 9 am – 6 pm; Jul to Aug: 9 am – 10 pm; Nov to Feb: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm with the last admission before 60 minutes of closing time

Cost: £9 including the audio guide; £12 with the Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms with the valid time of seven days

Ready to visit the Roman Baths? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, a masterpiece and the pride of Italian architecture was built over a whopping 177 years.This magnificent construction took place in three stages. As early as the year 1173, saw the beginning of the construction of the first marble floor consisting of engaged columns.

Then after a period of five years, came the twist in the tale. While work was in full swing on the third floor of the tower, the unusual happened. The tower began to sink into the foundation. A weak unstable foundation only three meters in depth was the culprit. But history had its mind set on the completion of the glorified tower. And hence almost a century the work on the tower was abandoned as the province of Pisa was busy engaging its neighbors in the battlefield. And so time healed and so did the soil of the foundation, which only great stronger with time elapsed.

As construction resumed in the year 1272, steps were taken to stabilize the permanently tilted structure. The floors built then onward had one side taller then the other.’Giovanni di Simone’ was the architect of the tower. The construction of the seventh floor was completed in the year 1319. Tommaso di Andrea Pisano is credited with the addition of the bell chamber to the tower in 1372.He effortlessly blended the Gothic elements of the bell chamber with the Romanesque feel of the tower. There are seven bells in the bell chamber. The bells reflect the seven musical notes. In 1655 the largest of the bells was incorporated. The fifth bell is older then the bell chambers itself and used to ring on the Easter Day.

Leaning tower of pisa
Even today the structural strengthening of the tower is an ongoing progress, considering the historical heritage of the Tower of Pisa. Controversy surrounds the original architect of the Tower of Pisa, with many big names contesting the title. Recent studies however hold ‘Diotisalvi’ as the architect of the Wonder Tower. The Tower of Pisa stands tall at a height of 58.36 meters from the foundation. There are 296 steps to reach the top of the tower.

Galileo Galilee the famous astronomer and scientist is said to have dropped two canon balls from the Tower. He hence demonstrated the relation between mass and speed at the historical setting of tower of Pisa. The Nazis discovered the importance of the Tower during the World War 2. During the World War the monumental Tower gave strategically advantage to the Nazis who used it as a Observatory post.

Leaning Tower of Pisa tours

In the year 1987 the Tower of Pisa was acknowledged as the UNESCO World Heritage site. The Tower of Pisa was also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Tower stopped titling in May 2008 when engineers stabilized the structure. It is now said to be stable for another 200 years.After all the applause and envy, came some dressing down. Many German churches challenged the structure for its tilted pride. Last month, June 2010, the Leaning Tower of Pisa lost its crown of the most tilted man-made tower. The Guinness World Records pronounced the Capital gate Building in Abu Dhabi, UAE as the World’s Furthest Leaning Tower made by man.

The leaning tower of pisa

Ready to visit The Leaning Tower of Pisa? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com 

Incredible Cities Of Germany – Part-II

Germany

Dusseldorf is the hub of the German fashion industry and the most expensive of all the German cities. It is an attractive city known for its brimming nightlife at Altstadt, cleanliness and urban culture. Explore the globally famed and elite shopping avenue of Königsalle, with its eastern section comprising of eminent fashion labels, plush shopping centers like Kö-Galerie, Sevens and Stilwerk amongst several others. The western section comprises of several top notch banks thus essaying the fact that money is being earned on one section and used up on the other section.

Medienhafen, the revived old harbor is a vastly modish section teeming with bold architecture, eateries, bars, clubbing spots, hotels and hi-tech offices. At the Andreaskirche church, the spiritually inclined can enjoy the weekend organ concerts while admiring the sights of twenty-two magnificent sculptures of apostles and several biblical notable figures with capricious stucco embellishments.

Germany city

Located behind an heaving glimmering black disguise, is the fascinating K20 museum with its walls abounding with relics from the post WWII era along with works of art of chosen few eminent artists.

Altstadt, aptly dubbed the longest stretching barin Europe with numerous pubs, bars and foodie joints, the famed dance area of Bilk quarter. Amongst notable hip joints is Anaconda, Ballermann 6, Club bizar, Club Natasha.

Hamburg, the second largest boom town in Germany is famed for its harbors  The splendid canal shave garnered it the accolade of ‘Venice of the North’. The Hamburg cemetery is the biggest in the world.  One can explore the pristine Wittenberge Beach, taking a stroll through the attractive Blankenese district with its narrow alleys, quaint houses set on top of slopes overlooking the Elbe river. A must visit during late October is the Hamburg Film Festival. Hamburg has great eateries like the Suellberg, the Freudenhaus that offers German food in the infamous Reeperbahn red light district, Die Schwaebin for its fine Southern cuisine among others. One can explore the magnificence of the Hamburg Kunsthalle Art Musuem and the Maritime Museum or experience the Hamburg ballet considered best worldwide or the Hamburg opera.

Germany 

St.Geog is believed to be Hamburg’s key scene for gays and lesbians with several gay clubs, cafes and shops. The yearly Christopher Street Day parade commences from Lange Reihe. A worth visit to the Hafen City, a 380 acre spanning redevelopment zone that is a reclamation effort of the much ignored industrial waterfront on the Elbe River. Other places of interest are the St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Neuer Wall Shopping, Old Tunnel, the Hamburg City Hall and the Chilehaus office structure.

Ready to visit Germany? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com 

Incredible Cities Of Germany – Part-I

cologne

An incredible history and culture with nearly sixteen states each with its unique chronicles, makes Germany a wondrous place to visit.

Cologne is the oldest city in Germany, swiftly metamorphosing into the fine art capital of the country. Cologne has many splendid looking cities, historical monuments of significance, great tongue-teasing gastronomic delights and the Kolsch beer to sample. Cologne has the famed carnival, many open air concerts in Ringfest and theTanzbrunnen where one can park oneself on the Rheinterasse and sample the fine music for free. One can also take a train trip down to the Museumsmeile located in Bonn for some great concerts. The quaint town of Bamberg is a charming place to visit.

dresden bei nacht

Founded in 1206, Dresden is a known World Heritage Site, art aficionados can revel in the wide ranging array of the best museumscathedrals and palaces to be found in all of Germany, with the Frauenkirch being the key archaeological attraction there. The Baroque style architecture is quite pre-dominant in Dresden with the Baroquish manner dome of the Frauenkirch that is the biggest protestant building worldwide and the magnificent architecture of Altstadt and Neustadt forms.

Frankfurt, the consummate financial hub of the country, is great for day trips through the vivacious neighborhoods dappled with several sidewalk cafes, lively street markets bursting with fresh produce and a host of festivals. One could feast out at one of the three guard towers, the Eschenheimer Turm  that are located left from the city defenses from 1425. Prior to the war, Frankfurt had the second largest Jewish community in Germany that dated back to 1150, and has one of the largest and ancient Jewish burial grounds.

frankfurt skyline

Worth visiting places are Stadel Art Museum, Liebig Haus, Musuem of Modern Art, Goethe’s birth home, Alte Oper, the 1180 built Staufen Wall, the Klein Market Hall, the Romer along with close to 50 parks and dozens of museums that are sight for sore eyes.  A visit to Wurzburg, Old Town and the Limburg an der Lahn located between Cologne and Fankfurt are ideal stopovers. The famed palace of Mespelbrunn and the Wertheim located on the Main River can be visited en route to Rothenburg.

Ready to visit Germany? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com 

Breathtaking Barcelona Spain Travel Guide- Part II

castell de montjuic fossat entrada barcelona catalonia

Barcelona is an overwhelming feast to all the senses and an entirely different world of inconceivable shapes, vibrant huesserpentine streets and a lot more to be discovered.

Barcelona has the grandest castles in all Europe. The 370-year old Montjuïc Castle is a 173 metres high fortification atop the Montjuïc hill proffers splendid views of the city and the Barcelona port. It was once apolitical jail and site for ghastly executions during the reign of the tyrant Franco at the time of the Spanish War who also aided in the construction of the Military museum. There are huge cannons surrounding the statue of a naked woman paying tribute to the premier California governor, Gasper de PortolaVerdant vegetation encircles the bastion with an archery range located adjacent to it.

font magica del montjuic 

Other prime places of interest in Montjuïc are the Magical Fountains, the Catalan National Art Musuem or MNAC and the Olympic Stadium. The spell bounding musical magic fountain with its overall lighting and water spurts is best enjoyed after dusk with the best views from outside the MNAC museum located atop the Montjuïc Mountain that houses relics from primeval era to the 19th century.

poble espanyol courtyardhalf

The Spanish Gothic styled small quaint village of Poble Espanyol de Montjuic built in 1929 comprises of more than a hundred structures with varying sections depict the model authentic village lifestyle of different areas in Spain. It is the famed venue for the Flamenco Show where one can revel in the ardour and melody of Spanish Flamenco. There are numerous dedicated craft shops and a museum to explore.

zoo                        

The Barcelona Zoo is world renowned for being the abode to the once existent sole confined albino gorilla. It has wide-ranging animals on display including the sights of dolphins giving performances. A host of activities for the kiddie brigade like picnicking spots, eatery, electric cars, horses and a ride on a mini train is sure to perk them up. The IMAX Cinema just a hop away from the Zoo is the ideal place to view deadly jaws in action in 3D and then see the real thing in the zoo close by.

Ready to visit Barcelona? Call us today at 877-229-6008 or 757-229-6008.

Visit us on the web at www.vipleisuretravel.com