The picturesque village Lucca in Tuscany

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Set just a few short miles off Tuscany’s coast is the city of Lucca.

Like most of the towns and cities in Italy’s Tuscany region, this city has ample charm and beauty to offer its visitors but is best known for its fantastically preserved Renaissance-era city walls.

The town is actually quite unique in that the city centre is still surrounded by these walls and a large open space that separates the old city from the more modern parts that have grown around it.

Suffice it to say, the historic centre is the most popular attraction for visitors, and there are numerous old churches and other structures to see here.

Getting to the City

Lucca is set just north east of Pisa and is well connected to both Pisa and Florence by road.

If you’re visiting from overseas you can make use of Pisa’s International Airport which is the main gateway for Tuscany.

From here it’s just a 20 minute train ride from the railway station attached to the airport, or rent a car from all the major car rental companies and drive the short distance yourself.

To find out which airlines fly to Pisa International Airport take a look at our main Pisa page here >>.

Where to Stay

There are over 125 places to stay within the city, the majority of which are actually unrated and include boutique guest houses, villas surrounded by Tuscan countryside, and B&Bs.

If you prefer the more luxurious and personal levels of service reserved for 4 and 5 star hotels, don’t worry, there are some of these here too!

The two 5 star hotels are both set within historic buildings that exude charm.

Locanda L’Elisa is more suited to visitors who want to feel like they’re in the heart of the country, but just 5 minutes drive from the historic centre.

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Hotel Noblesse benefits from a central location, right in the heart of Lucca, making it perfect for anyone wishing to be in the centre of it all.

When to Visit

Tuscany is known for its hot and relatively dry summers and Lucca is no exception.

Being quite close to the coast the city is slightly cooler than some of Tuscany’s inland cities, making it pleasant even during the hottest month, July. Average highs are a little under 30C at this time.

Rain is fairly steady across the year, dropping to its lowest in July and August, and rising to peak levels in October and November, so these are two months to avoid.

Things to See and Do

As mentioned above, the main landmark of the city is its walls; beautifully preserved, the walls are definitely something you should take time to see.

While the city grew, the walls were left intact and once they no longer served a military purpose they became a popular place to walk.

You can walk the entire circumference of the old city on these walls – it’s a distance of around 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) and is a great way to orientate yourself to all the other major sights.

These major sights include the city’s cathedral, Duomo di San Martino, that was built from 1063 by Bishop Anselm who later became Pope Alexander II.

The campanile (bell tower) is the original as is the apse, while other parts of the church date from later times.

Be sure to climb the many steps to the top of the Guinigi Tower as the top holds several surprises.

The view over Lucca is spectacular for starters, but it’s the garden on the top of the tower that’s really surprising! Called a hanging garden the tower roof holds a number of mature trees.

There are many churches to see around the historic city, and other sights include the Ducal Palace, and the Roman amphitheatre.

Cortina d’Ampezzo

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Fashionable Ski Resort, Italian Style

Many of us think of Italy as being a destination for the world’s most fashionable people, so it’s only fitting that one of the world’s most fashionable ski resorts should be here!

Set in the heart of the Dolomites in Northern Italy, Cortina d’Ampezzo is a beautiful place filled with beautiful people.

While it may not have as many 5 star hotels and Michelin starred restaurants as Courchevel, Cortina is still a destination for the elite and is considered to be Italy’s most fashionable ski resort.

It hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and has starred in several blockbuster movies including For Your Eye’s Only, and The Pink Panther.

 

A hot Nightlife

Here you’ll find a fabulous “après-ski” scene and lively nightlife. Bilbo and BLV Room are the city’s hottest clubs. You’ll also find 8 discos that are open until dawn.

 

Where to Stay

There are over 50 places to stay in Cortina listed on booking.com, and this includes two 5 star hotels, and eighteen 4 star so there’s plenty to choose from at the luxury end of the scale.

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Take the Grand Hotel Savoie for example; a luxurious hotel right in the heart of the town which has stunning mountain views, and it’s an elegant and historic building restored with all the modern conveniences.

Book now

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The Cristallo Hotel Spa and Golf is the second 5 star hotel in town and it was the first 5 star luxury hotel in the Dolomites.

The hotel is just outside town but guests can make use of the free shuttle to and from the centre, while enjoying the slightly quieter atmosphere surrounding the Cristallo.

Book now

 

Getting to the Resort

You can quite easily drive in to Cortina as the roads are good and remain clear most of the time.

Being in the valley the resort area is not as high an elevation as some ski resorts so the road doesn’t get as much snow as others would.

If you’re flying in, Venice is the best option for international arrivals and you can drive from there or catch a train to Pieve di Cadore, about 35 kilometres out from Cortina and then get the dolomitibus the rest of the way.

Larger map

 

Facts Cortina

Inhabitants 6300
Longest pist 7,5 km
Black runs 14
Red runs 30
Blue runs 34
Highest 2930 m  (The “Forcella Staunies”, chairlift from the Cristallo area)
Lifts 450

 

Dining in the Valley

Cortina and the surrounding valley features some wonderful restaurants. There is over 70 restaurants in the town, including the restaurant at the Cristallo Hotel which is renowned as one of the best in the valley.

As you would expect, many of the restaurants serve gourmet cuisine with the prices to match though there are many affordable restaurants in the resort too.

In town you’ll find everything from starred gastronomic restaurants to cozy pizza places. Do not miss the authentic wine bar Enoteca Di Vino Brio or Villa Sandi.

Son Forca, in the ski area Cristallo, has a lovely sun terrace and their gnocchi is wonderful. Best Pizza is said to be at Il Ponte.

Try the affordable restaurants Croda Café, Cinque Torri or Ariston, some of the most popular places in Cortina.

One advantage of dining in Cortina is that there are great restaurants on and off mountain so if you travel on the cable cars you’ll not only get access to great skiing, but great restaurants too.

 

Read about more ski and alp resorts:

 

Villefranche-sur-Mer – The Quieter Alternative to Nice

Villefranche-sur-Mer – The Quieter Alternative to Nice

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The small town Villefranche-sur-Mer is just east of Nice so if you stay in this town you get the best of both worlds – easy access to the city of Nice, yet a quieter atmosphere.

Its bay is one of the deepest in the world so it’s often frequented by some of the world’s largest cruise liners, though be aware that when a cruise ship is docked the small town can get very crowded!

Even so, Villefranche-sur-Mer beats Nice for its nice coarse sandy beach, and it has some excellent restaurants and nice shopping.

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Attractions in the city

The old harbour and old town are among the most popular attractions. Being relatively small the old town is easy to explore on foot.

It and the harbour haven’t changed much over the last couple of hundred years so there’s a great atmosphere to enjoy here among the historic buildings.

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Dark Street (Rue Obscure)  is a specific landmark to look out for, which is a passageway under the harbor front houses and dates back to 1260.

The Citadel, built in 1557, serves as the town hall and inside there are several museums to visit too.

Villa Leopold is located in the hills above Villefranche-sur-Mer and it’s been known as the most expensive house in the world.

It was once the home of King Leopold II of Belgium.

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And then there’s the beach – a natural crescent shape with course sand that easily beats the hard pebbles you’ll find on Nice’s beach.

All in all Villefranche-sur-Mer  is a great alternative to the busy atmosphere in  Nice



Hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Many hundreds of hotels to choose from in the neighboring city of Nice but you can easily stay right here in Villefranche-sur-Mer too.

We found a great 4 star hotel,  Welcome Hotel  which is on the waterfront right by the center of town and has many rooms overlooking the scenic Cap Ferrat Bay.

There are several very good 3 star hotels in Villefranche-sur-Mer too, in addition to a few more basic 2 star offerings.

If you can’t find one that appeals, try hotels in Nice instead.

An overview of hotels in Villefranche sur Mer >>



weather French Riviera

Weather and climate

The climate of Villefranche-sur-Mer is very much the same as Nice, which, in short, is warm and sunny.

You’ll find the hottest temperatures are in July and August and across the year you can expect around 2,700 hours of sunshine, even in the usually grayer winter months of the year.

How to get there

Being so close to Nice has its advantages – getting to Villefranche-sur-Mer is quick and easy from the Nice Cote d’Azur Airport which is just 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the west.

You’d have to drive through Nice from the airport, but it’s a very nice drive along the seafront and a good way of checking out some of the sights of Nice along the way.

Parking can be problematic in the tight streets of Villefranche-sur-Mer so if you are arriving at the airport consider travelling in to Nice and then taking a train directly to Villefranche-sur-Mer station, right in the heart of the town.



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Lemon Festival in Menton, France

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Colours in Roussillon, Provence

roussillon

Roussillon is about. 50 kilometers from Avignon in Provence at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse and is surrounded by a beautiful countryside.

The village is considered one of the most impressive in France. One tip is to take a day trip here.

Find accommodation near Roussillon, you have close to some of the most interesting villages in Provence. For example, Aix en Provence and Avignon.

Roussillon in France

As soon as you arrive this village, you will be fond of its atmosphere. Take time to stroll around the picturesque maze of streets.  At the top of the town, you get a great view of the countryside.

red cliffs in Roussillon

Red cliffs and artists’ paradise

Roussillon is known for its magnificent red cliffs and quarries. The red, yellow and brown hues against the blue sky makes this a magical place.

Many artists have obviously fallen in love with this place: Jean Cocteau, Carzou, Buffet, Ambrogiani, to name a few.

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Galleries and restaurants

As in most places in Provence, just enjoy and relax. Here are several art galleries and studios to visit, and a number of excellent restaurants with really good food.

Directions Avignon to Roussillon. Click for larger map

Luxury hotel Provence

View from La Bastide de Gordes & Spa

Tips for comfortable accommodation in Provence, and near Roussillon

There are many great hotels for relaxation. Make sure you get one with an outdoor pool, so you can cool off after a hot day in Provence 🙂

An example is La Bastide de Gordes & Spa (picture above)

More hotels near Roussillon here

Read more / Book now

Read more about Provence and French Riviera

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