Wine Tasting Tour in Chianti

The Chianti region in Tuscany, Italy is world-famous because of the distinct wine it produces, but it is also one of the most beautiful spots in all of Tuscany.

The region offers “postcard-worthy” landscapes with splendid hills covered with colorful vineyards. The villages in the region are still dominated by traditional stone houses and small parishes. The area covered by Chianti is not well-defined because it is not an actual administrative region. However, the consensus is that the region covers the provinces of Florence until Siena. Valdarno and Val d’Elsa are the region’s bordering towns at the east and west respectively.

The wine-producing center of the Chianti region is called Chianti Classico, which is also the name of the famous Italian red wine that was first generated in this part of Tuscany. Chianti Classico covers the towns of Greve, Radda, Panzano, Castellina and Gaiole.

Key Places

Greve is a great place to eat local cuisine that compliments the rich taste of Chianti wine. Aside from wine bars and restaurants, this is also the site for the Wine Museum, which features about 140 wine variations. Castello di Vicchiomaggio is a castle complex just a few kilometers from Greve. The castle’s surrounding vineyard is a well-known producer of Chianti Classico wine. The management provides wine tasting tours upon request. Another equally interesting venue for a wine cellar visit is Castello di Verrazzano.

Panzano is a small but populous town that is not only popular because of its wine bars, but also for butcher shop called Macelleria Ceccihini that serves the Florentine steak. Castellina offers its visitors the exquisite experience of tasting their traditionally prepared salami together with wine. Commenda of S. Eufrosino is one unique wine bar because it is a former church built in the 14th century. The lovely towns of Radda and Gaiole are also filled with farms and wineries that are ready to provide a sample of their best wine, cheese and olive oil.

Planning the Tour

Tour operators based in Florence and Sienna regularly offer escorted wine tasting excursions to the villages and wineries. Tour packages typically include a hotel pick-up and drop as well as lunch. If you plan on going for an independent wine tasting tour, there are important things to consider:

*Chianti covers a big area. The train lines do not go through the key attractions in the region. Although bus operations are regular, you really need to manage your time according to the bus schedule. Thus, it may be difficult to go around and maximize time using public transportation. The best thing is to rent a car or motorcycle and go for a pleasant drive through the countryside.

*The wineries in Chianti Classico are usually tucked into the valleys. Such unique locations do not have extensive roads. Thus, most visitors are required to walk a considerable distance to reach the wineries.

*You do not need to be restricted to hotels in Siena or Florence, there is a good number of hotels and bed-and-breakfast lodges scattered around the municipalities of Chianti.

*Although some of the bigger wineries facilitate spontaneous tours, itís much smarter to contact the wineries of your choice and make an appointment beforehand.

If you are a wine aficionado, or just love to sip Chianti combined with great cuisine and beautiful Italian countryside, a wine tasting tour may be a great vacation experience for you.

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Partying in Ayia Napa

There is no better place to party in Cyprus than in Ayia Napa – the island’s dance capital. What was once an idyllic fishing village is now considered as one of the most popular vacation destinations on the island. During the day, you can head to the beach where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean. Come night time, enjoy the bubbly atmosphere at the city’s public square where you can party till the wee hours of the morning. There is simply so much fun waiting to happen that boredom is not a known concept in the area.

Since most visitors going to Ayia Napa are there to experience its legendary party atmosphere, the best time to go is from June to August. But, if you can’t keep up with the wild antics of college kids, it is best to visit between the tamer months of October to May when the resort town is less crowded.

The party is brought to the beaches of Ayia Napa during the day. It’s gorgeous white and golden sand beaches swarm with holidaymakers, many are content simply lying on the sand and broiling under the sun, some take advantage of the warm and shallow crystalline waters while others are engaged in all forms of revelry from daring bikini pageants to drinking contests.

Two of the most popular beaches in the area are Grecian Bay and Nissi Bay because they are closest to the town centre. Nissi is more crowded because it often hosts beach parties and outdoor concerts. If you are interested in water sports then the beach to seek out is Pantahou while those who are looking for dramatic natural sceneries will delight in the rock sculptures of Palaces beach. If you have kids in tow, the family-friendly beach of Makronisos is a perfect alternative.

Of course, there is no leaving town without experiencing its famous nightlife. The main square is definitely the place to go when partying in Ayia Napa. But don’t get there until after 11 pm because the area is practically deserted before that. The site begins to stir close to midnight and after the clock hits 12 o’clock the clubs and bars on site are all pulsating with music, excitement and high spirits that will surely keep you on your feet until daybreak.

Most bars either have arrangements with clubs or are actually owned by the same people and if you will in some of the bars you can buy-one-get-one-free on some of their drinks and will give you free entrance ticket to popular club Castle or Starskys.

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Treasures of Marsala

If you are entering Sicily via Trapani Airport, you might want to check out the nearby town of Marsala before you head out to the island’s more popular destinations.

True, this coastal town cannot compare to the attractions of Palermo, Agrigento and Castellamare del Golfo but history enthusiasts will delight in what it has to offer. It is not only a gateway to the archaeological island of Mozio and home to a valuable archaeological museum, it also boasts of the famous Marsala wine that wine-drinking visitors will surely enjoy.

Begin your tour of Marsala at the tourist information office located right smack at the town center, along Via XI Maggio. It is a must visit place not only for a map of local attractions but also for bus timetables that are valuable for scheduling trips to your next destination. It is also good to know that the town is located along the railway line of Palermo to Trapani, so it makes a practical and convenient take off point to the rest of Sicily.

From the tourist information office, proceed to the nearby Piazza della Republica, also known as Piazza Loggia. The towering Duomo stands proudly at the center, adjacent to the handsome Town Hall and surrounded by charming architecture. It is the ideal place to get a feel of the local atmosphere, take a seat at one of the cafes or restaurants opposite the Duomo, order a refreshing drink and watch people idle by.

By the color of the walls of buildings and balconies with hard iron, the square is very much reminded of the squares of Spanish cities.

You can then proceed to Porta Garibaldi and learn what role it played in Garibaldi’s historic feat. Take lazy strolls along the winding alleyways and discover impressive palazzi with ornate balconies. Be on the look out along the way for bars and wine shops where you can sample the famous local wine and perhaps, buy a bottle or two. Wine lovers can even take a tour of the town’s wine cellars along the wine road or the Strada del Vino Marsala. Of course, don’t miss the Museo Archaeologico where you can take a closer look at the ancient Phoenician Punic warship, antiquated artifacts, exquisite ancient jewelry, and the magnificent headless marble statue of Venus.

Each stay in Marsala, no matter how short it is, can not be imagined without visiting the famous “Florio” winery. Florio is one of the oldest wine companies in Marsala and the history of wine in this city is interwoven with the history of this company. The Winery was established in far-off 1833 by Vincenzo Florio, who was the first Italian entrepreneur to be passionate about the production of Marsala wine.

Nowadays the Marsala Florio production still occurs here, even though a part of the historical cellars have been restored and available to be visited by those who want to discover the world of this famous wine. The cellars are easy to reach and they can be visited all year round.

The tour begins with eight gigantic vats, made at the end of the 19th century and still used for ageing marsala, and continues through different rooms and numerous aspects of historical interest to the actual Cellar, where about 5.500.000 litres of Marsala are kept in silence and peaceful stillness.

Finally, no Marsala visit is complete without a side trip to nearby Mozia. Take a ferry to the island and begin your tour at the museum. The facility provides valuable information that will help you gain a better appreciation of the ruins and the historical significance of the area.

Some of the items on display include a vast exhibit of terracotta masks and funeral stele but the main attraction remains to be the 5th century Greek marble statue known as Giovanetto di Mozia or the Youth of Mozia. From the museum, bring along a copy of the island map and simply wander around. Follow one of the many footpaths, consult your map and you will soon have a pretty good idea of what the sprawling ruins represent.

Also, don’t miss the salt pans and their windmills on the shore of Mozia and do not forget to pass by Museo del Sale if you want to check out how a windmill looks from the inside.

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10 Reasons Why You Should Book A Holiday To Malta

Malta is a small island state in Europe, in the middle of the Mediterranean and is a popular holiday destination for many Europeans, mostly from the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and Holland. Tourists visit the island for various reasons and the island offers a variety of facets that will be of interest for most types of travellers. This article provides you with the top 10 reasons why booking Malta holidays is a great idea, not only for next summer’s holiday season but all year round!

10. The Maltese have their own language (‘Maltese’) but the country has two official languages, with the second official language being English. Malta was under British rule for 160 years, gaining independence in 1964, but leaving the Maltese with a relatively strong knowledge of the English language, although Maltese is much more widely spoken and is the mother tongue for the vast majority of Maltese. For English speaking tourists this means that communication is almost no problem, which is definitely a benefit when on holiday. Although at the moment the Maltese Lira is still the only valid currency, the Euro will be introduced on January 1st, 2008 and many retailers in tourist areas already accept Euros for cash payment.

9. Sports and leisure activities

Malta is a great location for a variety of sports, including hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, para gliding, wind surfing and yachting. Plenty of activities to keep you entertained, no matter the time of year. Most materials needed for these sports are available for low-priced rent and there are various locations on the islands where these sports can be exercised. Gozo is a particularly popular location for rock climbing, thanks to its steep cliffs, and mountain biking thanks to its quiet roads and excellent hill climbs.

Events, such as pop concerts and theatre shows, but also historical re-enactments such as In Guardia are popular among both tourists and locals and provide great entertainment for the whole family. Are you a fan of watching sports? Don’t worry about missing any big matches or events, satellite reception is widely used by the more popular pubs and there are plenty of appetizers and beer around to enjoy your favourite sports.

8. Getting around in Malta is easy and cheap!

Don’t you hate it when you go for a holiday and it takes you ages to get to the beach or to visit a few cities, museums? Don’t you hate it when it takes a whole day to take one excursion, when you waste so much time on travelling from place to place which makes you wonder whether it was even worth the hassle? If your answer is yes, then Malta is definitely the holiday destination for you. It takes less than an hour to get from one side to the island to the other and there’s such a high concentration of places of interest, beaches, holiday resorts and places for entertainment (restaurants, clubs, cinemas etc.), you’ll wish you’d have known about Malta earlier!
A lot of tourists decide to visit Malta a second time and sometimes more, simply for the reason that there’s just so much to do and to see, and it takes so little money and time to get around and spend quality holiday time.

7. Gozo offers a peaceful setting for your Malta holidays

Malta is not just about Malta. Yes, that’s right, The Republic of Malta also covers Gozo, which is Malta’s sister island and is said to be the island that Malta used to be a long time ago: rural, quiet and untouched. Gozo is a great place for a peaceful (family or couples) holidays, with beautiful beaches and countryside views. Visit the capital Victoria, with its Citadel in the centre: a fortified part of the village which used to offer the inhabitants of Gozo shelter against foreign invaders, similar to Mdina’s surrounding walls on the main island Malta. The seaside town of Xlendi is a popular tourist destination, offering a beautiful view of its bay surrounded by high cliffs. Ramla l-Hamla and San Blas Bay are beautiful beaches to go for a swim, one being larger and busier, the other being more secluded and more difficult to get to (steep hill descent) but much worth the effort.

As of recent, a shuttle bus service is available, taking you straight from the airport to the ferries in the Northern most tip of the island of Malta, making arrangements for a Gozo holiday a little easier to plan for.

6. Malta has a rich culture and heritage

Throughout the ages, the Maltese islands have seen various foreign rulers coming and going, and leaving behind their stamps on Maltese culture. As a result, Malta is soaked in culture and heritage and offers a large number of cultural and historical sites in very short distances from each other, making Malta a unique place in the world map of culture and heritage. Both in the Maltese language and culture remnants of Phoenician, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French and English invaders can still be found today and this melting pot of cultures is of interest to many tourists visiting the Maltese islands on holiday.

5. Good quality hotels and accommodation

Good quality hotels and self-catering apartments are widely available at very reasonable prices. Package deals are usually the way to go, but booked separately the cost versus quality of accommodation is very good. The main areas for holiday resorts are St. Julian’s, Bugibba/Qawra, and Sliema, which are all situated in the Northern part of Malta. Accommodation in St. Julian’s is recommended if you enjoy spending your nights going out but, being close to the nightlife hub of Malta, is not advisable for couples and family who are looking for peace and serenity. For those travellers, places like Mellieha and St. Paul’s Bay are much better places to stay.

4. Malta is an all year round destination

A flight from London to Malta takes less than three hours, but the difference in climate is huge. Mild winters and warm summers with an average temperature of 32C means excellent weather for both hot summer holidays as well as great holiday weather in winter, to escape from the cold back home. There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained all year round and for example hiking is a popular way of spending days out in the countryside in winter, enjoying the scenery and serenity. Most cultural and historical hotspots are open all year round, and although open air clubs don’t open during the winter months, nightlife in Malta goes on throughout the whole year.

3. Malta offers a great nightlife to complement your daily activities

Nights out on the town are a ton of fun, since Malta hosts a true clubbing hub that goes by the name of Paceville (St. Julian’s) and which offers a large number of clubs which are situated literally door to door and which play different genres of music to suit everyone’s tastes. Open air clubs, however, are what makes clubbing in Malta rather special. Spending your warm summer nights dancing to the latest club and trance anthems or smooth R&B and hiphop beats under the stars is just something else and a must do on your holiday to Malta.

2. Malta holidays now come with cheap flights

That’s right! Low cost airlines have found Malta and offer dirt cheap flights to the island outside of the high season and regular cheap flights in summer. These airlines offer flights departing from a select number of places in Europe, such as London, Dublin, Barcelona, Oslo, Stockholm, Pisa (Italy) and Bremen (Germany). Look for airlines the likes of Ryanair, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Clickair, but don’t forget to check Malta’s national airline Air Malta, which regularly offers low cost flights to a much larger number of European destinations.

1. Malta holidays offer more than any other Mediterranean destination

You could say that the top reason for visiting Malta is a combination of all other reasons listed above: There are a lot of different things you can do during your holiday in Malta and you’ll never be bored if you get the right info. Baking in the sun on the beach is great for relaxation after a long year of work or school, but most people would prefer adding a little variety to the time they spend on holiday. So if you’d like to go somewhere else besides the beach, why not visit on the many places of interest around the island? Visit the old capital city of Mdina, for example, surrounded by bastions and oozing with history and an ambiance you’ll never forget. Why not take a trip to sister island Gozo, with its serene country views and attractions such as the Azure Window, a rock formation sculpted by the sea.

Evenings will never be boring when you know where to go. There is plenty of choice when it comes to dining out, as quality restaurants can be found in most parts of the island. Wine bars and pubs are also popular in Malta and provide quality wines and both local and international lagers, beers and various popular brands of liquor. There’s plenty of opportunity for clubbing and open air clubs and parties are a must see if clubbing is your ideal night out.

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Crete, The cradle of European Civilization

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands.

Here, the visitor can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations ( Crete was once the center of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), which is currently regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe ), explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture.

History oozes out of every orifice of this ancient island – whether strolling around the old Venetian town of Chania with its magnificent fortress and lighthouse standing guard over the bay, or exploring the beautiful nearby port of Souda, with its marvellous Archaeological Museum housed in a 16th-century Venetian church and its endless side streets overflowing with craft shops and eclectic architecture reflecting myriad epochs.

Also, you can take a cultural safari around the Palace of Knossos, with its colourful frescoes, famous architecture and Minoan antiquities. Or head back even further in time, to Idaion Antro – the cave where, according to mythology, Zeus spent his childhood.

The extraordinary Cretaquarium, home to hundreds of marine species, opens up a wealth of other oceanic mysteries and marvels.

One of the most famous places to see on Crete is the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s largest gorge. This National Park is 18kms long with unbelievable natural beauty. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometres to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as “Iron Gates”), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (1,000 feet). The gorge is open for hiking from May through October.

And if that all sound far too active, there’s always the island’s endless array of sands, from Falassarna in the west to Vai in the east, complete with its exotic forest of rusling palm trees.
At Chania, you can bike through Venetian architecture to colourful markets awash with the natural bounty of Crete – a kaleidoscopic array of virgin olive oils, fruits, meats, vegetables and legumes. Or, for the ultimate cultural immersion, there is Rethymno’s colourful carnival.

Every year in Rethymno, for almost a whole month, the city plays host to a succession of fun-filled celebrations, bringing together locals and visitors who participate in this carnival because they love to enjoy every moment of their lives. You will see groups of people sitting together in traditional cafés (kafeneia) drinking “tsikoudiá” (raki), tasting Cretan titbits and thinking up “mantinádes” (folk couplet songs) on the spot.

The whole town becomes one big party; people work together in order to organise all the festivities that take place in Rethymno and the surrounding areas. The most important work is done by volunteers, people of all ages who freely contribute their efforts and come up with ever more innovative ideas for the festivities because of their passion for the city’s carnival. Each year the carnival celebrations has a different theme, the element on which the main theatrical act of the dance groups will be based.

What you can not avoid when visiting Crete is the Greek traditional cuisine. Tzatziki, Suvlaki or Gyros, are just a part of the menu on which the list is, of course, the famous Greek salad. There is a great chance you will eat it every day because it will be the best Greek salad you’ve ever tried.

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