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Tuscany in winter

Tuscany in the winter

Winter time is the very best time to appreciate the history and culture of Tuscany without the crowds. If you are staying for a short break the city of Florence is a must, however it is still almost invariably cheaper and easier to fly in to Pisa than Florence airport and take the train or a cheap bus transfer into Florence (about an hour). Whilst accommodation is cheaper in Florence during the winter, it is still expensive compared to the surrounding regions. If you are staying for more than a couple of days it is better value and more fun to rent a car and a holiday home in Pisa or one of the surrounding villages. Bear in mind the evenings are longer in the winter so consider renting a home with a real fire, and well equipped kitchen where you can try out your culinary skills with fresh local ingredients.

Between November and March it rains heavily in region, although rainy days are usually punctuated with fresh clear chilly days. Check the weather forecast regularly and be prepared to be flexible with your itinerary.


Florence

The Uffizi gallery holds one of the finest collections of paintings in the world. Book well in advance online and exchange your online voucher for a ticket at a separate booth before you join the queue. Allow a day for a first time visit. A cafe is conveniently situated half way round as your feet will need a break.

The Galleria dell'Accademia houses Michelangelo's David and a collection of other paintings less grand than the Uffizi, but still impressive. Again book well in advance online and exchange your online voucher for a ticket before you get into the queue.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral is free to enter. Check the opening times online in advance (no tourist visits are permitted during mass). Take the time to appreciate the unique grand exterior before joining the short tourist queue. The interior is surprisingly plain contrasting the grand exterior. Look up as you leave for the one handed liturgical clock. If you are fortunate the organist may be playing.

In addition to the Cathedral you can visit the Dome, the Bell Tower, the Baptistery, the Crypt and the Opera Museum for a combined ticket price of Ten Euros (At the time of writing the Opera Museum is closed for refurbishment). The Bell Tower and the Dome require the visitor to climb a lot of stairs. Since all must be visited within 24 hours for the combined ticket to be valid, start early and consider packing some provisions which you can eat in the square, since restaurants around the Cathedral are mostly over priced and aimed squarely at the tourist.

Museo Galileo

The history of science museum is a worthwhile visit although likely to appeal to the more technically minded and contains a vast collection of priceless ancient technical instruments in superb condition.

Ponte Vecchio

One of the most iconic sights in Florence; take some time to view the bridge from the side before you cross and appreciate the intriguing construction of the shops, dangling over the water.

Piazzale Michelangelo

If the weather is fine an impressive view of the city is available from Michaelangelo square. The Piazza is visible from the riverside. Cross one of the many bridges and the route is signposted. The walk is steep but should be possible if undertaken slowly by all by the most unfit. At the top is a viewpoint and café. If you are on a budget take your own food since prices are steep.

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Pisa

Pisa is famous for its tower but the accompanying Cathedral is much under-rated. Whilst the outside is less glamorous than the Cathedral in Florence, is it arguably more sublime and the inside is truly spectacular. Visiting the site on a clear evening is particularly romantic since the white stone glistens in the moonlight and since the site is not a throughfare like Florence, in the evenings it is almost free of tourists.

 It is possible to visit just the Cathedral for free, but if you have a bit more time you have options to visit four other monuments: Baptistery, the Monumental Cemetery, the Opera del Duomo Museum and the Sinopie Museum. You can climb the leaning tower for 18 Euros (book ahead) but you may feel that, given the price, viewing from outside is sufficient. The other monuments can be booked on a more reasonably priced combined ticket. Simply indicate at the office which monuments you wish to visit. The cemetery and the baptistery are particularly impressive.

The Jewish cemetery lies just outside the walls, a short walk from the Tower and is one of the most ancient burial grounds still in use. It is open Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons.

 On the other side of wall beyond the Cathedral site is a cluster of restaurants designed with tourists in mind. Unless you are truly famished, save your money for some of the excellent restaurants in the centre of Pisa, bear in mind however that most local restaurants have well defined opening hours - for lunch about 12-2 and for an evening meal from 7-10. Outside of these hours snacks are available but any meals served are likely to be aimed squarely at tourists.

Marina di Pisa

The Pisa Marina, set some distance from the town and best reached by car is deserted during the winter, although you will find one or two cafes and a restaurant on the front open at lunchtime serving local workers. On windy days the front is lashed with spectacular waves which, combined with the wide empty streets of attractive shuttered houses make it an atmospheric spot for contemplation.

Viareggio

Viareggio, Tuscany's seaside resort, holds a Carnival on diverse days in February and has a good range of clothes stores which make it worth a visit just for shopping, even in the rain. In January the sales are very aggressive and it is possible to get a bargain on quality winter wear since Italians want to look stylish even when wrapped up warm. The wide promenade is well populated even in the winter and a walk on the beach can be pleasantly bracing.

San Giuliano Terme

If the weather is truly awful, a day spent at the thermal baths between Pisa and Lucca is a good choice. You can choose from afternoon (30 euro) or evening sessions (40 euro), the afternoon sessions tend to be less crowded.

Basilica of San Piero a Grado

The church is held to be on the site where the Apostle Peter landed on his trip from Antioch to Rome and where the first altar on Italian soil was built. Numerous frescos can be seen inside. It contains a rebuilt altar to Saint Peter.

Villages

Take a drive through the villages of Buti, Calci, Cascina, Vecchiano and Vicopisano, situated a short drive from Pisa. Each has beautiful and ancient architecture. You can visit all of the villages in one or two days, but they are best seen in clear weather.

Cinque Terre

A day trip out of Pisa is the cinque terre, 5 picturesque costal villages, built into the hillside. The villages are unreachable by road – either take a train from Pisa, or park at La Spezia and take a train. It is possible to hike above the villages but only recommended in good weather. The whole area is a UNESCO world heritage site.

General tips for your trip to Tuscany in the winter:

-Check the weather reports regularly and plan inside and plan your itinerary accordingly.

-Wrap up warm and bring an umbrella

-Drink Italian thick hot chocolate which is truly superb.

-Remember that it will get dark early, so plan your evenings in advance.

-Bring a good camera

-Remember that good Italian restaurants tend to be open 12-2 and 7-10, anywhere open outside these hours is likely to be for tourists.




Earn extra miles rewards for your hotel bookings

Trip.com PointsPLUS has launched a joint-promotion campaign with 10 selected airline partners for the year-end promotion. During the promo period, members could earn extra miles rewards for their hotel bookings, more details as below:
 Valid: Live NOW - November 30th, 2019

Offer: PointsPLUS XMAS campaign




Terms and Conditions: 1. Promotion Platform: All Trip.com websites and mobile apps (Version 6.6 and above). 2. Booking Period: From Nov 1 - Nov 30, 2019; Check-out Date: No later than Jan 31, 2020. 3. To earn miles and points by booking an eligible hotel room, users must be a member of both Trip.com and a participating third party rewards program. 4. The membership number of the intended recipient of the third party miles and points must be a guest staying at the hotel and the name on their third party membership must match the guest name entered for Guest 1 on the hotel booking. In the event that the user's name or membership number is entered incorrectly, no miles or points will be awarded. 5. Only completed hotel bookings will be eligible to earn miles and points. Miles and points will not be earned for cancellations, modified bookings, no-shows, or chargebacks. 6. Miles and points earned will be credited to the user’s account within 6 weeks after the completion of their stay. 7. Miles and points earned with PointsPLUS may not be redeemed for cash and cannot be earned in conjunction with any other discount or promotional offer. 8. Your personal information may be collected and shared with our loyalty program partners as necessary for miles or points accumulation. 9. All bookings are subject to Trip.com terms and conditions. 10. Trip.com reserves all rights of final interpretation.

10 Helpful Tips on How to Safeguard Your Luggage While Traveling

10 Helpful Tips on How to Safeguard Your Luggage While Traveling

Imagine that you have had a successful trip but you cannot trace your luggage. You will feel devastated. When it comes to you and your luggage, you might not be able to tell when the two of you will disconnect whether temporarily or permanently. It can either happen from the moment you leave your car to the plane seat and back again. The feeling can be quite overwhelming, and it's, of course, the last thing you want to encounter.

As a traveler, you should take some measures to prevent loss, theft, delay or vandalism of your luggage. You don't have to be restless every single moment of your journey. You might find it okay to trust people, but you should not give them the chance of taking advantage of you.  Here are insights about the precautions you should consider.
•  Don't store precious and fragile items inside checked luggage

 Many airlines always state clearly in their Contract for Cargo, that they do not allow fragile and precious things in the checked baggage unless you buy from them a different luggage insurance package for your luggage which is quite expensive. Gather all your valuable items in your backpack luggage to avoid them breaking or eventually losing them to thieves. Objects that you must use while traveling such as medication should always be readily reachable. Toiletries, wallets, cash and your identification documents should be in a clear bag where everyone can see them. Therefore, they will not have the guts to tamper with them because you will know if anything is missing when you get to the other machines.


• Place your travel plan on top of your possessions inside your luggage

If you are in the middle of many destination journeys and want your lost bag to be sent to your next stopping place, having your travel plan inside your belongings will help the airline to know where next to ship your luggage. The airline will be able to get in touch with you while you are still traveling and send your luggage to your next stop.


•  For short distance trips, just travel with your carry-on luggage

 By packing your items in your Carry-on bags, you will not have any checked baggage. Therefore, you will not have to worry about it getting stolen, lost, or destroyed due to improper handling, and you will also not experience any delay before you receive them.


•  Elaborate your luggage with vivid identifiers

 Bright ribbons or belts help in ensuring that your fellow traveler does not mistakenly take your luggage. They are eye-catching, and the luggage handler will not leave them in the luggage carrousel. This way, the airline will not misplace your luggage.


•  Travel with well-maintained luggage


 Before embarking on a journey, always ensure that your luggage is in excellent condition.

1. All the wheels, zippers, and closures should be functioning correctly. When settling on bags, opt for one with zippers, handles, weight, and a substantial measurement which includes width, length or height. In case of rough handling, your bags will not fail.


2.  It is also advisable to carry along a duct tape to fix any damage caused by rough handling. A well-maintained suitcase will ensure that your valuables remain secure inside your luggage.


•  Avoid four-wheeled and plastic luggage


 Plastic suitcases do not get designed for long distance journeys. Unless you are traveling in a private jet, keep them out of mind as they crack during cold weather and get damaged whenever pressure from all the other bags in the cargo pit gets exerted on them. The four-wheeled suitcases tend to come crashing from the cargo pit as the cargo handlers push them out as they can move at high speed. To avoid damage, keep off this kind of luggage while traveling for long journeys.


• Consider shipping your luggage


 Instead of having your bags checked, you can opt to export them as this process is less costly. You can either pack your belongings by yourself or have them wrapped at the post office carefully. It is advisable to have the post office staff pack your belongings because they only issue insurance if they pack the stuff themselves. However, this is to protect themselves from fake claims by untrustworthy clients. When your belongings get carefully packed, even the most fragile will arrive in perfect condition.


•  Purchase luggage protectors

Due to frequent mishandling of luggage by the handlers, investing in luggage protectors which are usually a clear plastic sleeve will help in keeping your bags free from damage. It keeps people away from tampering with your luggage, and you will also know if someone tried to open your luggage. Some airports offer professional wrapping services, but of course, you have to pay a fee for this. You can either wrap your bags at home or have it done at the airport.


•  Keep your luggage simple


To avoid frequent issues like theft, choose a simple bag which does not get highly noticed.  People tend to think that expensive bags contain expensive belongings and get always targeted by burglars. You are not keeping up with any celebrity though; to avoid the headache of missing luggage, purchase a regular suitcase.


• Use a luggage tag both inside and outside


 Even the most durable cards get torn during luggage handling. You should keep a duplicate copy of the label inside your luggage.  If it goes missing at the airport, you will get required to prove ownership.


•  An important reminder! You should never put your landline number or home address on luggage tags for safety reasons. Instead, put your email address and cell phone number.

Majority of airport and airline employees are dedicated to their jobs and are quite honest. They do not have it in mind to tamper with your luggage. These are not the people you are focusing on while safeguarding your luggage. Some people have already figured out how helpless you are while traveling. Above is just the general knowledge on safety measures to take on your luggage. Always remember to put your valuables in an undistinguished location to avoid theft. With this vital luggage security tips, you can now secure what is more valuable to you and enjoy your trips without worry.

This week Top UK hotel and getaway deals!




This week Top UK hotel and  getaway deals!





Check out this weeks selection of top UK hotel and getaway deals!

Enjoy huge discounts on these amazing new UK hotel deals secured exclusively for our readers!

This list gets updated on weekly bases.


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Win a Trip to London: Up to 30% Discount on Rooms + Breakfast- Millennium Hotels
Get up to 30% discount on your stay with breakfast at Millennium Hotels and win a trip to watch an English Premier League in London. Use the given promo code to avail the discount.
Friday 50/50
Start the weekend with the Friday 50/50 offer at Malmaison, with rooms from only £50* when you spend £50 on dinner that evening in selected Chez Mal brasseries.
Winter Warmer

Come on in and enjoy a Starbucks Tall Hot Drink with a delicious cookie to warm your soul. Then relax and unwind with a 45 minutes of spa bliss including: - A divine heated hand treatment - A heavenly holistic scalp massage - A warming back massage Treat a friend… Buy this as gift voucher. Make a day of it… Include full use of leisure facilities with complimentary towel and robe use for just £10.

Weekend Offer, Up to 25% off + Exclusive Benefits - Millennium Hotels, UK, France & Italy
Stay at Millennium Hotel in the UK, France or Italy for a minimum of 2 nights between Thursday and Monday, and benefit from Millennium's exclusive Weekend Offer: 15% off The Flexible Rate (Additional 10% for My Millennium members), 15% discount in all Restaurants (excluding Room Service), Late Check-out, Complimentary High Speed Wifi,Gym & Spa access Subject to availability in the hotel

30% off – Stay Longer For Less at Thistle Poole
You can enjoy a 30% discount if you decide to stay with us for more than 6 nights and we’ll even upgrade you to an even better room and throw in a delicious free breakfast every morning. Great for the next time you’re in town and want to hang out a bit longer and catch all those amazing things you’ve been meaning to see.


A Guide to getting to Ko Chang

A Guide to getting to Ko Chang

Ko Chang is situated in the Trat province in Eastern Thailand. 'Ko Chang' (also called Koh Chang) translates to 'Elephant island'. The island is named for the shape of its landmass, which resembles the head of an elephant. Also referred to as the 'Maldives' of Thailand, Ko Chang is one of Thailand's most beautiful islands. It is known for its sandy beaches and wildlife. Prior to World War II, Ko Chang was relatively unknown in the Western world and was largely uninhabited. The island remains a peaceful and quiet location to this day, despite its growing appeal to tourists.

Why visit Ko Chang?

Unlike Phuket or Ko Samui, the other popular island destinations in Thailand, which tend to be bustling year round, Ko Chang tends to be largely tranquil, even in peak season. If you wish to bask in the sun with a cool drink in the lap of nature, Ko Chang might be the place for you!

Ko Chang is renowned for its jungles. Just some of the things you can do in Ko Chang include diving, fishing, tree climbing, sailing, jungle trekking and snorkeling. Ever wanted to swim with an elephant? You can do that in Ko Chang! If you prefer your holidays a tad more educational, you can take a class to learn Thai cooking or traditional massage. If you're feeling adventurous, you can rent a kayak and paddle through the canals in the mangroves into the magnificent Salakkok Bay.

Ko Chang has a large number of waterfalls and beaches you can relax at. Speaking of relaxing, there are several spas and resorts that provide soothing massages.

You can experience delicious and authentic Thai food at Ko Chang's many resorts and at its many villages.

How do I get to Ko Chang?

Ko Chang has no airport, so you'll need to catch a ferry from Laem Ngob. There are three piers in Laem Ngob which offer ferries to Ko Chang. It is recommended that you travel to the Ao Thammachat pier(Ko Chang ferry) since it is the easiest to get to.

Alternatively you can take the Centrepoint ferry from the Dan Kao pier. The Ko Chang ferry costs 80 baht for a one way trip or 120 baht for a round trip. The Centrepoint ferry charges 70 baht one way, and 100 baht for a round trip. Ferries run to and from Ko Chang every hour from 6 am till 7 pm. The journey by ferry is pleasant and takes around 30 minutes. Snacks and beverages are available at all piers.

You have several options for travelling to Laem Ngob -

By Air

Bangkok Airways flies two or three times daily from Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok to Trat airport. A round trip costs anywhere from 3200-4000 baht, depending on the season. Trat airport is a bare-bones facility with a few conveniences and some taxis outside. The flight takes around an hour to reach Trat airport from Bangkok. This is the fastest means to reach Ko Chang, but isn't very economical. This may be your only option if you wish to avoid a five hour drive or bus trip.

Laem Ngob is situated around 20 km away from Trat airport. You can get there via songthaew for around 300 baht or 50 baht per person. A songthaew is a vehicle similar to a mini-truck used for public transport in Thailand. They run at regular intervals. Once you reach Laem Ngob, you can ride the ferry to Ko Chang. Your hotel or resort may provide a pick up service from the pier. Otherwise you may take a songthaew to your destination.

By Bus

Two first-class express buses travel to Ao Thammachat pier in Laem Ngob from Bangkok's eastern bus terminal, one at 7:45 am and another at 9:45 am. The journey takes about 5 hours and costs 275 baht. A bus returning to Bangkok's eastern bus terminal from Ao Thammachat is available at 2 pm.

Alternatively, buses run between Suvarnanbhumi airport and Ao Thammachat at regular intervals from 6:30 am till 6 pm. A round trip will cost you around 400 baht.

If you are going to be travelling later in the day, you can also elect to travel to Trat. Buses run from Bangkok's eastern bus terminal to Trat every hour between 5 am till 11:30 pm. Buses to Trat are also available from Ko Samet, Rayong, Nakhon Ratchasima and Pattaya. From Trat, you can take a songthaew to Ao Thammachat.

Minibuses to Survarnabhumi airport, Bangkok are available from Khlong Son on Ko Chang. They leave from the island at 7 am and 5 pm. Another minibus connects to a large first-class bus in Laem Ngop, which you can catch from Ko Chang at 1 pm. All of these cost 400 baht, and hotel pick-up services may be offered for 50 to 100 baht, depending on your hotel.

Getting around in Ko Chang

White songthaews are available on the island's main roads most of the time. They are by far the easiest means of travelling within Ko Chang. Songthaews can cost anywhere between 50-200 baht per person depending on your destination, although you can attempt to negotiate prices. Please note that most songthaews operate on a shared basis and may not leave until full.

Vehicles are available for rent. Motorbikes, in particular are readily available and are a wonderful way to experience Ko Chang. Note that part of the roads in Ko Chang are poorly developed. In addition, some stretches of the road are quite steep and windy. So, we recommend against travelling via motorbike unless you are an experienced rider. A motorbike can be rented for around 200 baht per day. Mountain bikes and scooters may also be rented for around 100 baht per day. Please make sure you are provided a helmet with the two wheeled vehicles, since you may be fined by a policeman otherwise.

Please note that both of the piers that handle most of the ferry crossing traffic are on the east side of Ko Chang.

You can also rent a car or jeep for around 1500 to 2000 baht for one day, depending on the vehicle. Kayaks can be rented for 80 baht per hour or 400 baht per day. Most resorts or hotels in Ko Chang provide some sort of vehicle rental service.

Enjoy your trip to Ko Chang!


ALOT - A Lot Of Trips

A travel experience sharing website. Online travel journal. How to travel the world guide. Travel industry news. City break ideas. Food travel blog.