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A Whirlwind Tour Of Fabulous Florence – Italy In Springtime


Florence was the third and final leg of our three cities/six night trip to Italy in March, having spent two nights in fascinating Bologna and prior to that, beautiful Verona.

As before we travelled by train and treated ourselves to 1st Class, having booked fixed-time tickets at the best prices before we left home. Florence is just a 40 minute ride from Bologna.

Arriving around 11am we again left our bags with the Left Luggage service at the station – 6 Euros per bag for 5 hours – and walked the few minutes into the city centre. Florence was even busier than Bologna, and whilst we overheard a taxi driver complain that it was quiet, to us it seemed crazy busy and people were queuing everywhere.

We were only here for 2 days and hummed and hawed about buying the Firenze Card. It’s expensive at 72 Euros for 72 hours, especially when we could only use 48 hours’ worth and you can only visit each site once. Having said that, it did mean we could jump the queues and this really helped on our whirlwind trip. On balance despite the price I’m glad we did it.

Top tip: Don’t even think of turning up at the major sites without pre-booking your tickets or you will be very frustrated. Book restaurants in advance too, even if it’s just an hour ahead, or you may be disappointed.

Top tip: We were advised by my son’s girlfriend if you can watch the series Medici on Netflix ahead of your trip it really helps to set the scene and to understand the history and power of Florence. It really helped us appreciate the overwhelming wealth and power this city once had.

Top of our shopping list in Florence were a new leather purse and leather gloves. But reading ahead of time we knew to be wary that we got authentic, locally-produced goods. Leather items were everywhere, so much fake and not local leather so beware. Our plan was to seek out authentic, long-established businesses in Florence.

Madova gloves

Leather Cellerini wallet

My mum loves her leather gloves from Madova, and I adore the wallet you can see above – every time I take it out it makes me smile and reminds me of our amazing trip to this stunning part of Italy.

This time our Airbnb apartment was really central and in a fabulous 16th century building near the Victorian indoor market, which is another must see. From our top floor apartment we could see the Doumo.

One evening we enjoyed a performance of the Three Tenors, and even as only moderate opera fans we felt it really added to our experience of this stunning city.

Enjoying ourselves in Florence

I could say how awesome the Uffizi Gallery is or Florence Catherdral, Piazza del Doumo, The Academia, Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio… but you will know that from your guidebooks. The sheer amount of delights and opulence ends up blowing your mind, so take time to just sit and absorb the atmosphere. Find a little cafe with access to the river on the south side of Ponte Vecchio and people watch over a glass of wine or two.

As our six day tour came to an end, we took the Aerobus to the airport from outside the train station. It’s efficient, quick and cheap – buy tickets at the station or on the bus.

* Prices correct as at March 2017


Posted by Helen –

My Guide To The Best Of Bologna, Italy, In Springtime


Bologna was the second stop of our three cities/six night trip to Italy in March, which also took in Verona and Florence.

After two nights in the beautiful city of Verona we were off to Bologna – less than an hour away by train. Having booked fixed-time tickets before we left home we got the cheapest rate, and so treated ourselves to 1st Class. 2nd Class is perfectly nice and similar to at home in the UK. However in 1st Class they offer free newspapers, drinks and snacks. The four Italian women sat nearest to us enjoyed the Prosecco at 9am very much!

We arrived in Bologna around 11am and left our bags at the station whilst we went out to explore the city. The left luggage at the station offers a great service – for 6 Euros you can leave your bag for 5 hours, or for 15 Euros they will even deliver it to your hotel or apartment.

It was then about a 20 minute walk to Piazza Maggiore, the heart of the city. This is a bigger, bustling and much more touristy city than Verona. We were immediately struck by the dramatic medieval architecture. And there are some 22km of covered walkways which means you can pretty much walk anywhere avoiding the worst of the weather.

Bologna streets with Medieval architecture

After a stop at the tourist office in Piazza Maggiore for our Bologna Card we set off to explore. The Bologna Card was 22 Euros for two days and comes with added extras. We opted for the free walking tour the following morning – and I must say that this was excellent, and far more than we expected. Unlike most walking tours, we could go into all the attractions because we had all bought the Bologna Card. It was a great tour lasting around 3.5 hours and we got to see all the ‘must see’ sights of Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore

The medieval heart of Bologna is compact enough to walk around. We explored the antique market, lusting at the chandeliers. But the towers in Bologna have no lifts, and with around 450 steps we took the option to admire from the street!

Bologna towers - no lifts!

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb apartment in a quiet residential street about 20 minutes from the station and Piazza Maggiore. For us it was the perfect location.

My Favourites In Bologna

  • Hidden canals: until we arrived here we had no idea that Bologna once had more canals than Venice – about 60km of them – but that over the years they have been covered over; visit Via Piella to get a taste of what the city would have looked like in medieval times.
Hidden canals
  • The whispering walls of Palazzo del Podesta, just behind the tourist office on Piazza Maggiore, where if you stand facing the wall in one corner of the intersection at the centre and someone else faces the wall of the opposite corner, say something and you can hear it through the walls. Honestly, you need to try this to believe it!
The Whispering Walls
  • The food market of Quadrilatero, the medieval area next to Piazza Maggiore with shops that have been in operation since Roman times; how amazing is that?!
Quadrilatero Market

We prolonged the experience by having a delicious lunch of local cheeses and meats, with wine of course, at one of the delis in the market. Top tip: Get there early or be prepared to queue.

Lunch in the Quadrilatero food market
  • We bought: Parmigiana Regianno 60, which our walking tour guide told us was the best quality; rich syrupy balsamic vinegar; and spiced salami.
  • Neptune’s fountain was being renovated when we were there and was covered in scaffolding and plastic sheets. However, we got a guided tour around the scaffolding to the top of Neptune’s head. It was a unique experience, and with just a small party allowed at any one time we got to see and hear a lot about the history. It would have been a shame not to have seen this iconic part of Bologna.
Neptune's Fountain - being renovated
  • Tagliatelle Bolognese; well when in Bologna you can’t not try this can you?
  • Cocktails at Le Stanza; a former church now a beautiful bar/café.
Cocktails in Le Stanza cafe


* Prices correct as at March 2017


Posted by Helen –

10 Tips For Visiting Verona, Italy, In Springtime

Verona in springtime

Pre-Trip – Packing and Planning

For our Italian three cities (Verona, Bologna, Florence) six night trip in March we were travelling out with only carry-on luggage. Flying with Easyjet means, ladies, your handbag has to go inside your cabin bag unless you have Speedy Boarding or Easyjet Plus.

However as our flight home was with British Airways we had the flexibility of checking a bag on the way home if we wanted to buy any delicious Amerone wine (speciality of the region around Verona and extremely expensive at home).

To travel in I wore:

  • Black jeggings
  • Polo neck
  • Coral cashmere jumper
  • Long black boots
  • Warm waterproof coat

And I packed:

  • Black jeans
  • 2 polos
  • 2 jumpers
  • 1 shirt
  • Arche boots
  • Pashmina
  • Underwear, PJ’s, toiletries

Honestly this was enough.

Steve wore:

  • Black jeans
  • Polo shirt
  • Jumper
  • Jacket
  • Shoes

And packed:

  • Trousers
  • 1 jumper
  • 5 shirts
  • Underwear and toiletries

My Top Tips

What a beautiful city Verona is. The Arena, very like the Colosseum in Rome but somehow lovelier, sits at the heart of the old city and Piazza Bra. Piazza Bra is where you can people watch over a coffee or glass of wine, be mesmerised by the fountains or just relax – it is a great meeting place. Oh yes, and it’s the home of Romeo and Juliet.

Things Worth Knowing:

1. The “Areoport” bus stops right outside Verona’s small airport. For 6 Euros you get a speedy ride (15 minutes) to the centre of Verona where the bus stops outside the railway station. Don’t bother to buy your bus tickets at the machine in the airport; whilst you are trying to the bus may well leave, and it’s quicker to buy them on the bus.

2. At train stations across Italy there is a good left luggage service, which was great for us as we arrived hours before we could check into our Airbnb apartment. Well sign-posted, and it’s not lockers where you need coins but a manned service where you can pay by card if you want (6 Euros for 5 hours).

3. The toilets on the corner of Piazza Bra are really clean and modern but with a uniquely quirky style to them. Cost 70 cents.

Toilets on the corner of Piazza Bra

4. Our 48 hour Verona Card (cost 22 Euros) saved us a lot of money and time. You can buy this at any of the sites as well as at Tourist Information points.

5. Piazza Del Erbe: act like a local; dress up warmly even if the sun is shining (to the locals this is still chilly spring weather even if it feels hot compared to where you have come from), sunglasses on (obligatory when in Italy), and an Aperol Spritz in your hand. Even the shop windows have style.

Even the shop windows have style

6. At Torre dei Lamberti near Piazza Del Erbe pay the one Euro to use the lift rather than walk the 400+ steps, you won’t regret it! The views were stunning.

View from Torre Dei Lamberti

7. Tipping is optional and not expected; how refreshing!

8. Everywhere in Verona the beauty of the buildings, the bridges, the river are breathtaking. We walked over Ponte Pietra, the oldest stone Roman bridge in Verona and just for pedestrians, to get to the Guisti Gardens and Teatro Romano – both worth the walk.

Guisti Gardens and Teatro Romano

9. A visit to the Arena made me wish we were there for the opera in the summer; to experience the Arena full of energy must be as close an experience as the Romans would have enjoyed as possible. Ah, maybe someday.

Roman arena

10. Our favourite meal, and amazing value with wine to accompany each course, was at Café Monte Baldo. On a Friday night it was crammed full of locals, so ensure you book or you will be disappointed.

Caffe Monte Baldo

* Prices correct as at March 2017


Posted by Helen –

A Holiday To Peru – An Insider’s Guide

Peruvian village

Latin American expert Mark Rolfe of Latin Odyssey gives us his guide to making the most of a holiday in Peru.


A holiday to Peru is an unforgettable journey into a mysterious and diverse world. It contains 28 of the world’s 31 climates, so any holiday here will involve a well-packed bag of clothes! Its land mass includes fertile valleys, Andean peaks, Amazon rainforest, coastal plains and a barren desert known as the Altiplano, which is home to indigenous Indians that still preserve their ancient tongue of Quechua and Aymara.

If that was not enough to entice you then it is also steeped in a fascinating history. Little is known of the pre-Inca civilisations that once ruled this land, though we do know the Incas incorporated these beliefs into their own and in doing so, they created the most powerful empire in Latin America.

Peruvian ladies in traditional dress

The Incas built an empire that stood the test of time and what now remains are monuments of the past, places where you are left in awe of their achievements. The best known site is of course Machu Picchu, but to understand the Incas you need to delve deeper and to visit sites such as Ollantaytambo, Phuyupatamarca and Pisac, each of which is a window into another world.

To help you plan a holiday in Peru, here is a brief guide on the best way to travel around the country as well as a brief synopsis on the main areas of the country…

The best way to travel around Peru is in an anti-clockwise direction from Lima – same as outlined below. The reason for this is that these destinations are lower, and hence allow you to acclimatise to the altitude gradually. It is also the best way to see the Inca world as the majority of the pre-Inca ruins are here as well, so you end with Machu Picchu which is an obvious highlight.

Not really worth any time, though if you get stuck here for a day then its colonial quarter is worth exploring, but it’s really an entrance and exit city.

A lovely colonial town overlooking two 6,000 metre volcanoes. Located at 2,300 metres so perfect for acclimatising – you only get altitude sickness (called Soroche in Peru) over 3,000m. Definitely worth two nights here and spending time visiting the main plaza as well as the Santa Catalina monastery and Juanita museum.

Peruvian stall selling handmade bags and hats

The Colca Canyon
The deepest canyon in the world. The area is littered with small adobe villages and hot springs. Good for short walks into the canyon, cultural interaction as well as a really good chance of seeing condors. You can be driven from here up through the Andes to Lake Titicaca.

Lake Titicaca
We feel this area has become very touristy in the past few years, though the island of Taquile in the centre of the lake is worth exploring as the inhabitants still live like they did in Incan times. The highlight is the 10 hour train journey to Cuzco which goes across the Peruvian Altiplano and has some spectacular scenery. The train is also brilliant, serving a three course lunch and with a viewing platform at the back as well as a perspex roof.

The Sacred Valley
A perfect place to stay put for three or four days. The area has some outstanding Inca ruins, colourful local markets and is also the heartland for activities such as walking, trekking, white water rafting, horse riding and bike riding.

Machu Picchu
Not much to say here as pretty self-explanatory!  The trick to seeing these magnificent ruins is timing and trying to avoid the busiest times of the day. You need to do this as a two day/one night trip, spending the night at the small town of Aguas Calientes located at the bottom of the ruins. There is also the four night Inca trail if you wish.

Machu Picchu

A beautiful colonial town with cobbled streets, artisan shops, stunning plazas dominated by colonial churches, museums, Inca ruins and excellent local restaurants – you will want to try the guinea pig here! I recommend at least three nights.

The Amazon
One of the easiest places in South America to access the Amazon as it is a short one hour flight from Cuzco followed by a 40 minute motorised canoe to your lodge. To give you an idea, if you went to the Amazon in Brazil you’d have a five hour flight from Rio followed by a four hour transfer by road and motorised canoe. Manage expectations here as due to the density of the foliage you will always hear more than you see.

Top tip: Travel at the beginning of a season. You may get a few days of rain but most places will be free of tourists, enabling you to interact more with the locals.

Young Peruvian girl, and a llama

A holiday to Peru is one that you will remember forever, so make sure you do it the right way.  We’ve been there, a lot, which means we can create holidays of a lifetime.


Mark RolfeWritten by Mark Rolfe, founder of South American travel specialists Latin Odyssey.

Latin Odyssey was founded in 2002, created to fuse Mark’s extensive insider information with a desire to help others discover this breathtaking region.

It is one of the most varied, biodiverse parts of the planet – and Mark’s focus on smaller, intimate hotels and lodges ensures that you have full exposure to everything that each location has to offer.

The Coatigan – The On-Trend Choice For Warmth And Elegance

As the winter chill really begins to set in, there’s a new style trend on the high street that will give your wardrobe an immediate seasonal lift: The Coatigan.

You might have heard of it referred to as the Sweater Coat; the Coatigan is a cross between a coat and a cardigan and is currently the must-buy fashion item in the UK. They’re stylish, cosy and crucially, they’re designed to suit all shapes and sizes.

Coatigans are great for layering on extremely cold days and are ideal for those ‘it’s-cold-but-not-cold-enough-for-a-jacket’ days. If you have a city break planned, coatigans will add warmth and elegance to even the most modest of packing and they’re perfect for day-to-night outfit transitioning.

I’ve searched the high street to bring you my favorite selection of Coatigans on the market. They’ll keep you warm, streamline your figure and add a style statement to any outfit. You can wear all of them with anything from jeans and flats to a maxi dress and heels.


Alfani Colorblocked Open-Front Cargidan by Macy'sAlfani Colorblocked Open-Front Cargidan by Macy’s

This beautiful black waterfall-effect coatigan with statement lapels will add immediate glamour to any outfit.

Selected Darla Knitted Coatigan with Belt by ASOSSelected Darla Knitted Coatigan with Belt by ASOS

We love this rust colored merino wool coatigan. The perfect way to stay stylish and warm.

Kimono Coatigan by New York & CompanyKimono Coatigan by New York & Company

This elegant grey kimono coatigan is extremely flattering and would look good worn day or night.

Arrowhunt Women's Solid Lapel Sweater Coat by Amazon UKArrowhunt Women’s Solid Lapel Sweater Coat by Amazon UK

A chic camel shawl coatigan to up-style your wardrobe.

Selected Siva Knitted Coatigan by ASOSSelected Siva Knitted Coatigan by ASOS or
Amazon UK

This geometic block color coatigan is a modern and stylish choice.

French Connection 3D Knitted Coatigan by ASOS French Connection 3D Knitted Coatigan by ASOS

This 3D knitted Aztec-design coatigan is a real statement piece.

Style & Co. Faux-Sherpa-Collar Coatigan by Macy'sStyle & Co. Faux-Sherpa-Collar Coatigan by Macy’s

I love this sheep-skin effect coatigan with its feature collar.

Colour Block Print Cardigan by Marks & SpencerColour Block Print Cardigan by Marks & Spencer

A beautiful block print option from the British high street.


Anna ShawWritten by our resident style expert Anna Shaw, founder of Dress Yourself Well.

Anna is a London-based Image Consultant who specializes in promoting confidence through looking your best. Having traveled the world extensively she can advise on how to build a stylish travel capsule wardrobe that suits your body shape and coloring.

If you would like Anna’s help with selecting your own pesonal travel wardrobe please contact us with details of your trip.