Top three Italian city breaks for romantics

You could be a couple that loves nothing more than a relaxing holiday by the pool and an evening stroll into a quiet town, or you could be a mountain-biking, adrenalin-fuelled pair who want to live every day to the max. No matter who you are, Italy will have everything you need for the perfect romantic break – here are just five cities that should have you falling in love all over again.

1. Venice

Floating down the canals of this ancient city on a gondola as you’re serenaded, with a glass of champagne in hand – what could be more romantic than that? Venice has proved itself to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, with stunning architecture, quaint backstreets and quirky street performers on every corner. The main attraction you’ll want to fit into your weekend can be found around the famous Piazza San Marco, the principal public space of the entire city, and the perfect place to grab a coffee and some lunch after a stroll down the Grand Canal.

To the east, you’ll find Saint Mark’s Basilica; this certainly can’t be easily missed, as it dominates the square with its opulent design and imposing Italo-Byzantine architecture.

This has to be seen to be believed; given the excessive use of gold, a status symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century it has been known as Chiesa d’Oro, or the Church of Gold.

2. Rome

This is a city for couples who love life a little busier; you’ll be bustling your way through the streets on a mission to see as many of its historical landmarks as possible, but luckily, Rome is an easy place to get around on foot if you plan your route in advance. Start off in the heart of the city and visit the magnificent Colosseum, where warriors of the past fought to the death. Then, head for the grand pillars that guard the Pantheon; built in 118AD, it is still one of the best-preserved of all Rome’s ancient buildings.

While you’re in Rome, you’ll want to check out the many regular street markets, peruse the many shops and pick up some souvenirs. Just make sure that you leave some time to indulge in one of the local past times; Rome Opera Tickets have a full schedule of all the shows, concerts, ballets and operas held throughout the year.

3. Lake Garda

This destination is definitely made for couples who just want a bit of rest and relaxation. Surround yourself with picture-perfect mountain backdrops, sun bathe by the shore and take a dip in the crystal clear lake to cool off when you’re ready. If you do fancy a taste of adventure, there are tonnes of walking trails and cycling routes that will help you make the most of your time there, and lead you both to some truly spectacular picnic spots. There are plenty of lake-side restaurants and bars for your evening stroll out too, where you can just watch the sun go down.

Where would you go for a romantic city break?

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5 Hidden gems of Spain you should add to your travel list

Gorgeous beaches, bustling cities, vibrant nightlife, cultural prestige — Spain has it all. It’s little wonder that Spanish ports are some of the most popular stops on Mediterranean cruises. If you’re planning a Mediterranean cruise trip round Europe this year, take a look at some of these enchanting destinations to add to your itinerary:

Almeria

There are two reasons why visiting Almeria should be a top priority on your next Mediterranean trip. Firstly, the climate is enviable even by Spanish standards, and secondly, Almeria is an idyllic escape from mass tourism. If you love Spanish beaches but loathe the throngs of people, this is the place to find an unspoilt stretch of sand.

The city’s landmark feature is the ancient Islamic fortress, La Alcazaba. It looks down over the city centre from its hilltop perch, and you can spend hours wandering its gardens and rooms to get a glimpse of Almeria’s past.

Alicante

Perhaps you know Alicante more as a tourist hive and party destination. But look beyond the resorts. The city is a meeting place of civilisations and time periods —you’ll find lively nightlife and modern amenities side by side with buildings that are hundreds of years old.

Wander the streets of the old town, visit the 18th century town hall and dine on traditional Spanish food. The Explanada de España, a mosaic-tiled promenade, is a popular part of Alicante and merits a stroll to soak up the atmosphere. There’s a particular buzz about in peak season.

Palma

Mallorca’s capital is teeming with history and stunning sights. The city’s architecture is similar to what you’ll find in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter. Two must-see marvels are the cathedral, designed by Gaudí, and the 14th century Castell de Bellver. The latter is a circular castle and you won’t find one like it anywhere else in Spain.

Gibraltar

You’ll no doubt be familiar with Gibraltar because of its famous rock, which you can scale by cable car to enjoy not only spectacular views, but also the caves and tunnels of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. The rock is also home to Barbary macaques which roam freely amongst the visitors — but keep an eye on your belongings, because they’re notorious pickpockets!

Huelva

Huelva may lack the historic landmarks of Spain’s other ports, thanks to a catastrophic earthquake in 1755, but don’t let this put you off. The city is modern and vibrant with plenty on offer. If you enjoy tapas, there’s nowhere better to be – tapas bars line the streets, but we’d particularly recommend El Picoteo on Pablo Rada.

Spain’s coast is glittering with treasures, and with such variety on offer, its ports are the best places for your perfect Mediterranean holiday.

Got another favourite Spanish coastal city? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Travel Bags

How to choose the right bag for your travel needs

Sore backs from heavy rucksacks, blistered hands from pulling along suitcases, general frustration at having to stay with your baggage when you really need to pee – packing and carrying around luggage is never considered a perk of travelling, but it needn't be stressful either!

If you choose the right type of bags and luggage for your holiday or city break, you'll appreciate arriving at your destination with your belongings intact. Let's consider what equipment to choose when packing your clothes and accessories for your holidays.

How long are you going for?

If you're going for a weekend trip, stick with a carry-on sized bag or suitcase. It really is a case of “small is beautiful” in this situation! Go for something no longer than 45 inches in width and length – a general rule for most airlines. Disclaimer: you should always double check your airline’s luggage size and weight guidelines, just to be sure! You might even want to consider a duffle bag if you're serious about packing light – these are easy to cart around and to squeeze into tight spaces.

How are you getting there?

There are of course lots of restrictions and added costs when it comes to flight luggage, so it's important to research these before booking anything. There's a lot more freedom when it comes to rail or ferry services, so consider these if you're only making a trip up or down the country. Also, if you're travelling alone, bear in mind that you're going to have to look after your own luggage the whole way. You don't want to be weighed down with a man-sized suitcase that won't even fit through the toilet doors, if you're desperate for the loo!

What does your itinerary look like?

The luggage requirements for a month's exploration in the rainforest are going to be different to a week on a Greek island. You need to be seriously savvy when choosing a rucksack for your travels, investing in something that's going to give you the comfort, space and reliability that you need. Beach holidays just require something on wheels that's going to hold your swimming gear, beach towels and flip flops!

What's your budget?

Just think of what you could save on checking in luggage if you manage to streamline your packing. Avoiding excess fees could probably leave you enough for a nice meal out, followed by a cocktail or two, even in Northern European countries. Maybe not Norway, though!

Are you taking anything valuable?

If you're choosing to take a suitcase, consider both hard and soft options. Hard suitcases will protect your belongings, including anything valuable in there. But soft suitcases more often than not weigh less, and you can tuck them neatly into tight spaces. There are also many items that you may only be able to take on in checked luggage.

Be sensible when it comes to packing and you'll have fun while travelling without being dragged down. Do you have any advice to add? Leave a comment below…

 

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