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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Travel Not “Loonie Business”

When Canadians are faced with a low dollar or recession, many things get put on hold such as that new flat screen, renovations, a new car, or investments. However, faced with long winters, travel is one thing Canadians not only refuse to give up but deserve. The only difference is that we become a little more concerned while we give our daily check to see how our Canuck buck is fairing against our U.S. counterpart. There are ways of taking the “penny panic” out of your vacation and still extend the value of your vacation when faced with a Loonie in decline.

While going off the beaten path and freedom of travel is always enlightening and rewarding it is advisable to avoid do-it-yourself trips with a low dollar as many hotels, cars, meals, tours and ticket attractions outside of Canada are based on the American dollar. By booking an all-inclusive package you are paying in Canadian dollars saving you unexpected costs in your destination and a fluctuating exchange rate. When booking your vacation, if at all possible try to pay in full at the time of booking as these locks in your price. 
However, by just putting a deposit down, you may still be subject to cost increases due to the falling dollar against foreign currency. 
All-inclusive resorts take away the cost shock of paying a bill locally in U.S. dollars as all of your meals, drinks, accommodation and many activities are prepaid for in Canadian dollars before you even board the plane.

Popular Caribbean destinations such as Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cuba have always provided excellent value for Canadian travelers and during times of financial instability, these destinations hold their value provided you are taking an all-inclusive option and pay with local currency as much as possible.

Not being limited to just fun in the sun, Europe is still a strong option since the Euro is also in a state of decline. Many Canadian operators have escorted packages to Europe which includes air, hotel, most meals and admission to attractions and side tours. By taking a fully escorted tour, you see all the sites and highlights of Europe without forking out extra for fuel and car rental charges.

Make this the time to take that exotic vacation. 
Have you ever dreamed of taking that trip to Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Brazil?, instead of putting it off because it’s too expensive consider that the Loonie is still strong with many of the currencies outside of the U.S. Of course getting there may cost more but locally your dollar will go further and not to worry…

Disney and the Vegas strip will still be here when you get back and the dollar starts to improve.

Do your research.  The tourism industry keeps very informed to currency fluctuations and when it starts to hit their wallets, they will start offering incentives to attract visitors and recover lost revenue. This could include free hotel nights, free attraction tickets and “at par” promotions. Although many of the promotions are during off peak travel dates, by being flexible, you can definitely stretch your travel budget and limit the effect of a weaker dollar.

Also by being flexible, you can always book last minute. When the departure date gets closer, rather than letting the plane go half empty, costs of packages and flights can be drastically reduced and these savings can more than offset any  increase locally in exchange rates. If you have limited flexibility, plan well ahead and take advantage of any Early Booking bonuses offered by tour operators but again try to pay in full as to avoid any future price increases due should they be necessary.

A low dollar is not a time to put off your travel plans and by contacting a 411Travelbuys travel professional; we can ensure you get the most for your travel dollar. 


Thursday, August 15, 2013

CRUISING THE WATERWAYS IN STYLE

Switzerland, France, Germany, Holland...

After extensive inquiries, Elaine and I discovered that more and more travelers were selecting river cruises as a popular travel choice for a relaxing way to see Europe. Alluring itineraries, extensive amenities, unique shore excursions and smaller groups persuaded us to select the Avalon Affinity ship from Basel to Amsterdam for our first river cruise.

After embarkation on our longboat from Basel Switzerland we set sail to the stirring music of Conquest of Paradise from the sound track of the movie ‘1492’- the story of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World which became our sail-away-song from each port of call.

Our compact stateroom was well designed with light wood finishes and floor-to-ceiling sliding windows affording views of the countryside and river life. It didn't take long to adapt to the rhythm of the cruise nor to engage in conversation in the dining room with its chatter like the swallows returning to Capistrano!  Open seating at 2, 4, or 8 table tops allowed us to mix and mingle for casual dining in a setting tastefully decorated in colours of taupe, chocolate brown and blue, silver leaf and dark woods. The bar lounge offered classic and long drinks with such names as Illusion and Snake Lady along with evening entertainment from a chanteuse to a classical string trio.

With a handful of excursions offered in each port, we set off this first morning in Strasbourg with a certified local guide. Noteworthy stops included the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame with its 30 foot high famous astronomical clock featuring a perpetual calendar, planetary dial, solar and lunar eclipses that chimes at noon with a crowing rooster. After a photo stop at Place Gutenburg with its namesake statue of the printing press inventor we continued on to the quarter of Petite France for a glass of Alsace wine and a beer brewed from the local Kronenbourg brewery. ‘Don’t miss the artisanal gingerbread shops’ someone quips ‘or the panoramic city view from the Musée D’Art Moderne rooftop café’.

The next day we stopped in Heidlberg  beholden to the mighty and famous castle ruins and home of the love musical The Student Prince. From the funicular we entered the castle forecourt to the richly decorated façade of the Friedrichsbay wing comprising of niches with statues - a veritable portrait gallery of emperors and kings from the house of Wittelsbach and others. Sections of the castle have been classified as- significant history, renaissance architecture, and the Hortus Palatinus with the ‘Father of the Rhine’ sculpture. Adjacent to the King’s Hall is the Fasbau with the Great Wine Barrel and ‘Porko’ the unofficial court jester to oversee the castle’s wine stock. Returning to the old town below, the Hauptstrasse leads from the Karlstor triumphal arch to the market place, the Church of the Holy Spirit reserved for both Protestants and Catholics  and Goethe’s  historic restaurant, the ‘Golden Hecht’ at the entrance to the medieval bridge. Among the art galleries and fashion boutiques we were particularly attracted to ‘Obra’–a shop of poetic objects and jewellery fashioned from resin in a range of vibrant colours.

The big joy of river cruising makes for friendly interaction and observing up close. Here in Mainz, we
visited the Johannes Gutenberg Museum with his 42 line Gutenberg Bible and demonstration of the printing process using moveable type and techniques employed by this inventor of printing. With some free time we sauntered to the Church of St. Stephen to see the stained glass windows of Marc Chagall with those unmistakable ultramarine blues he so favoured. During lunch we sailed through the locks to Rudesheim am Rhein a perfect example of a small Rhine Valley wine town. A miniature train conveyed our group into town to see the charming Siegfried Mechanical Music Museum with collections of self-playing music instruments from a delicate music box to the cacophony of a mammoth piano-orchestration demonstrated by the curator. Before returning to the ship we stopped by the Drosselhof  Stubchen beer garden seduced by their signature Rudesheimer coffee with brandy and whipped cream.

Downstream from Rudesheim to Koblenz is the dramatic Rhine Gorge designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1992. From the ship’s top deck with camera at the ready, we anticipated a 60 mile stretch of striking beauty with fortifications, vineyards and castles once used for the collection of tolls. Artists and poets like that of Lord Byron and Mark Twain captured the moment with the legend of ‘Loreli’, a 430 foot high cliff which caused ships to flounder by the treacherous currents.

We began our 6th day in Cologne with the buffet breakfast of blueberry pancakes and maple syrup, eggs to order, fruits, artisanal bread, pastries and coffee. Now fortified, our walking tour approached the city’s magnificent cathedral in the high Gothic style as the bells rang out from the soaring twin towers that dominate the river skyline. Inside, pillared stone walls, banks of flickering candles and stained glass windows shimmered in the light. Next to the cathedral is the famous Germano-Roman Museum but we chose the adjacent Ludwig Museum with its ‘brutal architecture’ to see the Picasso collection and retrospective exhibition of Saul Steinberg’s colossal mural commissions from the 1958 Brussel’s World’s fair. Returning to ship we couldn’t resist the shops for their Lindt chocolate confections, Eau de Cologne perfumes and taverns for a refreshing local Kolsch beer.

Sailing on to Amsterdam, we moored at the dockside by the train station of this sophisticated 700-year-old city. There is no better way to see the city’s classic architecture and quirky houses than a canal boat which was offered for our final morning and a choice of other options for the afternoon and evening- the Keukenhof tulip Gardens and the red light district.

‘You had better stop right now so I can snap a photo of you’ Elaine said as the cruise wrapped up its journey ‘and let the memory live again’.  

For your next European Cruise, Call  1 877 411 6359 or Click here, and get ready for the vacation of a life time

AMSTERDAM





From Golden Age to a New Renaissance...

With some 175 nationalities, Amsterdam seems to offer something for everyone with its 17th century canal district and quirky town houses with gabled roofs, cycle paths to cutting edge architecture, cool hotels and an eclectic culinary scene. As well there are scores of concerts, pre-eminent museums and legendary party scenes -one of which we witnessed with revelers dressed in orange to celebrate the Queen’s Historic Birthday abdication and her son’s induction King Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange.  How historic!

However one arrives in Amsterdam, my friend John suggested we begin in the Centrum (centre) at the railway station designed in the Dutch neo-Renaissance style, then along Damrack street, the conduit to  Dam Square with the Royal Palace, New Church, cafés, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, demonstration area and the white towering obelisk of the National Monument. And just behind the obelisk and  beside the NH  Grand Hotel Koninklijk, we located a narrow ally way and a 300 year old distillery gem ’Wynand Fockink’ with its tasting room and range of liquers and jenevers . (fore father to Anglicized gin) We stopped for a taste and a slurp!

For a brief respite we returned to the Singel canal and our Hotel Estheréa, an old-world luxury property of six 17th-century houses with its double library, bar lounge and breakfast room that offered menu of light lunches and dinner choices. Dark wood panelling, burgundy red carpets, cut-velvet damask upholsteries, silk draperies à la Jim Thompson, antiques and chandeliers set the luxurious interior décor. The bedrooms with silk coverlets and pillows, William Morris wall coverings and shuttered windows would also appeal to their five star guests.

With a friend’s recommendation we located the Huis Marseille Museum - two conjoined canal houses with spacious exhibition space dedicated solely for photography related to environmental issues and ecological concerns while other international galleries in the surrounding area also captured our attention. For lunch we grazed at the art deco inspired Café Americian Restaurant with its arched ceilings, murals, stained glass windows and the Arts and Crafts inspired leaded glass light fixtures. Leidsekade 97

On this sunny day we sought out another must-see, the Bloemenmarkt  (flower shops) on the Singel canal for flowers of every hue, a wide variety of bulbs along with every conceivable product related  to garden themes. A backdrop of the historic Munttoren (Mint Tower) houses the famous Royal Delft experience where we observed a master artist painting the iconic blue and white porcelain along with a showroom collection of Delft china tiles and earthen ware.

We then hurried on to see the famous ‘over-the-top’ Pathé movie Theatre or the 'Plum' as it was called at its opening in 1921. The 26 metre high architectural exterior is a mixture of styles known as the Amsterdam School of Art Deco and Jugendstil with a sumptuous interior of frescoed walls, ceiling designs in riotous colours, deco-like light fixtures and plush woven carpets. In its day stars like Marlene Dietrich would perform here but today it continues as an operational cinema.

Close by we peeked through a set of iron gates to a French-style garden of the 17th century Willet - Holthuysen mansion/museum entered off Herengracht 60. Among the many beautifully  restored rooms we noted the dining room  with its Meissen porcelain and chandelier over the table centre of fruits and sweets, the bedroom with the blue damask canopied twin beds  and the glass domed stucco and marble central stairwell with statues from the story of the Judgement of Paris. The furnishings are of the period but were not the original pieces.

After a full day of impressions and steps away from the Rembrantplein we chose to dine at Flo with a buffet selection of ‘fruits from the sea’ at the entrance leading to the bar within the  dining room, a  contemporary restaurant of dark woods, red velvet banquettes with green leather chairs and table cloth settings. A special menu inspired by seasonal asparagus included Asparagus fried in pastry, € 9.75, Roast lamb with asparagus €22.00, or grilled Dorado fillets, €22.00. With its calm interior sans music, classic service and reasonable prices, we’ll return again.

We now took a break with a half- day tour to Lisse passing fields of flowers in rainbow colours like a grand tapestry enroute to the Keuenhof (kitchen) Gardens.  We were transfixed with its perfection of garden design and colour combinations - a canvas of tulips and other Spring flowers, gurgling waterways and delicate shadows framed by a cloudless sunny day. A photographer’s paradise!

Returning to the Jordan area and on a more somber note we visited the Anne Frank House, now a museum with a story. It was the hiding place where Ann Frank wrote her diary with quotations, photographs, films and original objects to illustrate events that took place during the Second World War.

From Vondelpark it was but a stone’s throw to the Hollandsche Manege (live horse museum) and the oldest riding school in the Netherlands with as many as fifty-five horses. The riding hall entrance is off Vondelstraat 38 with a refreshment room upstairs, film presentation and opportunity to watch the riding lessons. Another city gem!

Whether an art connoisseur or one of casual interest, the Museumplein is understandably the diamond in the crown with three world renowned art museums heralded by sculptured red and white letters ‘I  AMSTERDAM’ reflecting in the plaza pool. After a ten year makeover the re - born Rijksmuseum opened with a new Asian wing and over 800 years of Dutch masterpieces.  Co-incidentally the Van Gogh Museum opened the day of our visit after its seven month face lift with the largest collection in the world of his impressionist paintings. Almost next door, the  Stedelijk Museum with its contemporary collection recently unveiled its new addition dubbed the ‘bathtub’ with its cantilevered roof over the interior restaurant extension. The world renowned Royal Concertgebouw concert hall is but a few steps away and walking distant to the quiet retreat of the Hortus Botanicus, the oldest botanic gardens in the world.

In one of the most historic locations in Amsterdam, a stone gate announces a former theatre inscribed with ’The World is a theater in which everyone plays a role” which is now the entrance to the Dylan, a luxury boutique hotel. We were privy to a private tour in a hushed atmosphere of restful colours, wood plank floors, butter-soft leather upholsteries and wood burning fireplaces. Bedrooms were an eclectic mix of minimalist four poster beds, oriental armoires and carpets. ‘Vinkels’ a dining room of contemporary design offered French cuisine while a secluded garden invited tranquility and escape from the cities’ dynamics. Keizersgracht 384

The Begijnhof  (Beguine Court) with entrance on Spui street is one more of Amsterdam’s hidden gems behind a walled courtyard of gardens and trees  where women once lived a spiritual and philanthropic life. Although we arrived at closing time we caught a glance of the houses and English church where a plaque inside explains the former rules and regulations. Very special!

Returning to the waterfront, the futuristic 'EYE' Film Museum is the newest attraction with its soaring architecture and ferry accessibility from behind the railway station. It is more a temple of cinema for classic films than a museum, however there is a permanent history of cinema, exhibitions, research centre, multimedia art installations and Eye Bar-Restaurant stepping down to an outdoor terrace.

Topping off the day we chose the neighbourhood side by side restaurants of Marius and Worst 171-173 Barentszatraat under the direction of owner and Chef Kees  Elfring. Marius is decorated in a French Provincial style and offers Mediterranean cuisine. Worst is open kitchen concept, copper table tops, large wine cooler and about fine wine and artisanal products sourced from private producers. We chose Chicken liver parfait €8, Blood sausage Lobster €15, Pieds de cochon with beans €15.  Lemon curd and meringue desert €6. paired with a glass of Gruner Veltiner  €3.5 climaxed the evening  with an outstanding dining experience of honest food and conviviality.

For your next Amsterdam Vacation, Call  1 877 411 6359 or Click here, and get ready for the vacation of a life time

Monday, August 12, 2013

NAPLES

A Diamond in the Rough...

In the shadow of Vesuvius, the Bay of Naples wraps around the Italian city of Naples, the dowager capital of the southern region of Campania. 

Of Greek 8th century origin, it is now a bustling city of extremes and visitor's perceptions of chaotic traffic congestion, lawlessness, gritty alleyways and slums. Herewith are many of the city's charms through the years with its cultural heritage of art, music, flourishes of baroque architecture and impressive monuments. 

While enjoying our morning croissant and caffe kimbo on the breakfast terrace of our Hotel Turchini, my colleague and I gazed southerly to the Royal Palace and then below to the Neptune fountain designed by Giovanni da Nola. Considered the finest in Naples, Neptune stands at the highest level with trident in hand while satyrs, sea monsters and dolphins ridden by putti sprout water into a small basin at the lower level.

From the reception desk of the Open Air Museum of Naples on Via Pietro Colletta we are prepared to explore the Art Trail of the centro storico (old city). Our introduction begins with the Piazza Gesù Nuovo and the monumental obelisk-like Spire of the Immaculate. Beyond is the 16th century Church of Gesù Nuovo with its textured grey façade of diamond shaped pipperno ashlar stone and majestic baroque interior of white marble and gold barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Within a few steps we encounter the 14th century Santa Chiara Church and Clarisse Cloister of white, azure blue and deep Naples yellow majolica ceramic tiles with benches of painted mythological scenes and twisted leafy floral ornamentation on the columns. Worth noting are the 17th century frescos painted under the perimeter arches as one approaches the museum and church interior with its tombs of noble Neopolitan families.

Moving among the grimy buildings of Via San Biago dei Librai, Via Benedito Croce and Via Vecchia Guidecca, collectively  known as Spaccanapoli, is the main promenade for tourists and numerous important sights designated by UNESCO as an historical protected area. Amidst the chaos, laundry flaps above like ghostly banners, radios blare and people shout, baskets of food stuffs are hauled from the street level to tenements above, while children play soccer and dodge the scooters. Herewith the famous artisan shops specializing in Christmas crèches and Pulcinellas-the loveable mascot of Naples… an area for all the senses… a moveable feast with the best pizzerias and patisserie shops in Naples. Indulge at Scaturchino for their pastries and decadent baba au rum while admiring the reclining Statue of Nile in the Piazzetta Nilo.

Not to be missed on Via Fora, the National Archaeological Museum contains the Farnese family collection bequeathed to the Bourbons. Famous are the classical antiquities from Pompeii and Herculaneum, the remarkable mosaics including the Battle of Alexander and the collection of statues including the life size statue of Artemius of Ephesus and the gold and silver collection.

Further north we travel by local bus to the Capodiminte National Museum in a wooded parkland setting. The gallery developed initially around the core of the Farnese collection bequeathed to King Charles Bourbon while later additions included the historical apartments, the porcelain room and ceramic collection. The inventory also comprises of the Armory, precious tapestries, masterpieces by Masaccio, Correggio and Lorenzo Lotto and numerous others far too many to document here.

For dinner that evening we chose the Trattoria Ciro by our hotel with its cheerful rustic interior, frescoed walls of panorama views of the Amalfi coast, beamed ceilings and traditional country chairs. A winding staircase with wrought iron balustrade led upstairs where waiters provide dinner service via a wicker basket on a rope to the pizza chef below and then raised upstairs when ready. Menu choices aside from pizzas consisted of handmade pasta with seafood, sautéed eggplant and smoked ricotta, lamb cutlets and vegetarian dishes from €7 to €14 for entrées.

Tying together the city’s geographic layout is the Via Toledo from the north and southerly to the Piazzas of Bovio,  Municipo and Trieste with the set piece of the Palazzo Reale, Theatre San Carlo, Galleria Umberto Primo and the Church of San Francesco di Paola in the Piazza Plebiscito. In the Piazza Trieste take time for a café and croissant in the 19th century Café Gambrinus, a popular ‘in’ café with its gilded Art Nouveau interiors patronized in the past by the likes of Oscar Wilde, celebrities and prime ministers.

Before meandering past the upscale shops to the Piazza Vittoria by the bay, take a tour of the San Carlo Theatre (1737-1816).The lavish interior is decorated with red and gilt ornamentation, seven levels of seating for three thousand spectators and an auditorium justly famous for its excellent acoustics. The ceiling is particularly important for its frescoes depicting poets with Minerva while the stage curtain portrays Homer and his muses.

To quote Goethe the 18th century German poet ‘See  Naples and Die’. What he meant was, you’ve seen the magnificence of Naples, there’s nothing else to see!’

For your next  Vacation to Naples, Call  1 877 411 6359 or Click here, and get ready for the vacation of a life time

Friday, August 9, 2013

Venice

A Favorite  Destination For  All The Senses... 
For many tourists , Venice is a 'three day town'- St.Mark's Square; Doges Palace; St.Mark's Basilica; St. Mark's Campanile; Rialto Bridge; Accademia Gallery; Ca d'Oro; Redentore Church; and the island of Murano.  But for travelers with more time, there are other gems to be discovered. 

For the most amazing way to see the extravagant display of buildings along the Grand Canal, my friend and I with cameras at the ready, sat on the open deck of the Vaporetto #1 line from the rail station to the Aresenale and back, all for the cost of a single ticket! 

We now felt prepared for our in-depth walk-about of the Cannaregio sestieri  (district) and begin our exploration with the 15th century  Ca’d’Doro Palazzo, one of the most famous architectural Venetian gems built for the Contarini family. The creamy pink façade with its delicate filigree fenestrations had been the inspirational setting for Act 3 of Ponchielli's opera 'La Gioconda' in its time and now adapted for the eclectic collection of the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti with paintings by Tintoretto and sculptures by Tullio Lombardo.

From there we happily lost ourselves among the maze of canals and cobbled stone streets until we reached the northern edge of the district and the 18th century baroque Gesuiti Church. The columned exterior belies the interior with its walls, podium, paving and pulpit swathed in white marble inscribed with a design of greyish green marble powder called Pietre Dure that appears as a simulated damask fabric. The effect was celestial, like the glow of the northern 'white nights.' 

Later we discovered under the famous Rialto Bridge between the San Marco and San Polo sestieri, the hide-away shop of Emilio Ceccato as the supplier of Venice’s gondoliers official shirts, scarves, sweaters and straw hats for the same price as the tourist knock offs. Naturally we left topped off with a straw hat!

Also close to the Rialto we checked out the Trattoria Alla Madonna, San Polo 594, a great Venetian restaurant with beamed ceilings, dark wood framed chairs, white table cloths and paintings by contemporary Italian artists. With its old world ambiance, this family - owned restaurant would appear to be a big hit with regulars and tourists alike where a bountiful selection of seafood choices are  presented on the tables ready to order. As the guests at the next table departed, they said 'try the Bolognese and Risotto with a Barolo wine' and 'Buon appetito!'

If antique and vintage markets are of interest, Venice's largest antique and vintage markets are held in the covered fish market by the Rialto bridge on the second Sunday and Monday of the month.

With some sleuthing we located the Campo San Benedetto and the Gothic palazzo of the  Fortuny House/Museum, the former atelier of Mariano Fortuny whose fabrics continue to be world famous. The museum is a testament to the artist's inspiration and fields of investigation of photography, textile design and painting along with a second floor library and works in progress. We were able to include the Diana Vreeland exhibition ‘the doyenne of fashion' as the museum is open only at the time of exhibitions.  

With further gems ahead in the Dorsoduro Sestieri, we peeked into the Campo San Polo Church to view Tintoretto's painting of the Last Supper, the Church of the Frari with some of Titian’s best work and then the Scuola Grande di San Rococo where Tintoretto decorated the interior.  Without missing a beat we strode on to the Ca’ Rezzonico Palazzo with some of the best preserved ceiling frescos and antique furniture in the city. It is worthy of mention that both poet Robert Browning and water colourist John Singer Sargent once lived among their elegant ballrooms and Murano glass chandeliers! 

From the Zattere vaporetto stop, it's easy to locate our hotel, the family-run Pensione La Calcina with its pink façade and green awnings. Breakfast was served off the lounge area with a generous buffet of savory food and homemade cakes while outside their floating La Piscina terrace restaurant offered a dinner menu of local specialties and a romantic view of Palladio's 16th century Rendentore Church. The hotel possesses a certain literary cachet as British author John Ruskin also holed up here when he wrote The Stones of Venice. Highly recommended.

Heralding a new day we walked westerly on the Zattere past the Gesuati and Squero di San Trovaso to see the famous gondola workshops and then continues easterly past the Accademia to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and her exquisite, unfinished Art Deco palazzo with a stunning collection of early 20th century works from cubism to surrealism. In the garden among the sculptures we noticed her modest burial plot 1898-1979 along with the names of her fourteen dogs.

The Ponte dell’ Accademia leads us to the San Marco sestieri and the Chiesa San Vidal now adapted as a concert hall for Venice's premier interpreters of Vivaldi played on 18th to 19th century instruments. With growing anticipation, we located the iconic Fenice Opera House with its columned street entrance and off to one side, the canal entrance for arrival by gondola. What style! After the fire of 1996 the opera house was rebuilt in the original architectural style and traditional gold and red interior. 'The colours are too bright' said the tour guide during the Opera house tour as he acknowledged names of a few operas that had been premiered here; Verdi's 'Ernani'; Rossini’s 'Tancredi' and Vivaldi’s ‘Orlando Furioso’. For more of the intriguing story of the fire and aftermath, John Brendt authored an enthralling book titled ’The City of Falling Angels.’ 

Some of the finest shops of luxury goods can be found in the San Marco sestieri for antique prints, Venezia le Stampe Turio;  Fortuny velvet and silk shawls, scarves and handbags, Venetia Studium; leather gloves, J.B.Guanti; soaps and scents Santa Maria Novella and for exclusive cut- velvet pillows and throws we admired the Bevilacqua boutique. And don’t miss one of our favorite finds-the Paolo Brandolisio Atelier close to Campo Giacomo where visitors are welcomed to his wood carving workshop where he crafts the traditional forcole (oarlocks) found on the gondolas. 

From gondolas to vaporettos to walking the cobbled streets of Venice we tapped into all the senses as we discovered not only priceless gems less frequented by tourists but impatient to  discover others and new destinations!   

 For your next Italy Vacation, Call  1 877 411 6359 or Click here, and get ready for the vacation of a life time