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Best Small European Cities

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There's no rule that says you can only visit the big cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona on your first trip to Europe. Bergen, Bruges, and Basel await!

Castle Towns and Places
Europe Travel Spotlight10

Off to Rome!

Monday April 21, 2014

rome italy, rome picture, rome night picture
In a few hours we'll be streaking off to Roma on the Frecciabianca. We're staying in an apartment in the Prati neighborhood, northwest of the Vatican and just outside the boundaries of our Rome Map. It's a district that offers a real slice of Roman life, slightly less expensive hotels and apartments, and is a bit less convenient for excursions to Rome's center. We'll be testing and reviewing quite a few tours of Rome, including the vaunted after-hours Vatican tour. If you see us in a gigantic golf cart, slow rolling in the city, well, that's part of the deal as well.

Rome is always exciting; for me it's the best of the Italian big three. I can't resist the thin-crust pizza, the Roman ruins, or the unique character of each neighborhood. Follow this blog for our Roman adventures, or sign up for our free newsletter.

The Giro d'Italia Starts in Northern Ireland

Monday April 14, 2014

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This year the Giro d'Italia, the world's second biggest bike race (and the one before the Tour de France), starts in Northern Ireland. The three days they spend there will take them through 426.7km of northern Irish countryside before heading off for the region of Puglia to start the Italian part of the Giro.

The race should be fun to watch. In case you need some facts about it, The Belfast Telegraph offers up the interesting: 25 days until the Giro d'Italia - and here's a fact for every one of them.

Art in the Countryside

Friday April 11, 2014

montestigliano, water colors
Ever think about painting the Tuscan countryside? I hadn't. But you can. We're at Montestigliano, a farm estate in the province of Siena, where groups come to paint, taste wine and olive oil, and learn, as we will later this morning, how to forage for herbs in the countryside. There are also opportunities to practice dolce far neinte, the sweetness of doing nothing.

That's my painting in the foreground. I need practice making my cedars straight, but in a couple of years I'm sure I can produce a salable work.

Ballooning Tuscany

Tuesday April 8, 2014

tuscany ballooning
The landscape of Chianti in Tuscany has enchanted visitors for centuries--long enough for the storied land to have acquired the nickname "Chiantishire", referring to the foreigners from less gentle climes who flocked there.

To want to see this land from the wicker basket of a balloon held aloft by mere blasts of hot air is a natural, at least for Phileas Fogg types who have an eye for (small) adventures.

We recently took one of these contraptions on a short flight along the Pesa River. Pockets of fog along the torrente lent mystery to the patchwork of vineyards, orchards, forests and family farms. At the end there was bubbly, as old Phileas might have expected.

You should do this. Here's how (with pictures): Ballooning Tuscany.

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