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Q&A


By Ilona Kauremszky


Q: My wife & I and two friends are travelling to Italy shortly for a road trip. We'll book accommodations when we get there. Do you have any suggestions on websites or good travel books that I can use to get some ideas on accommodations, restaurants and sightseeing? Cities include Venice, Pisa, Florence & Rome. I'd appreciate any help you can give.

A: Italy is a bastion of history, fine foods and the latest fashions. So, wherever you roam around this boot-shaped country that dips into the Mediterranean, you'll be sure to experience what many rhyme off as "Viva L'Italia." Spring happens to be one of the best times to vacation in Italy. Fewer crowds, bearable climate and best of all, a better chance to stand in shorter queues so you traipse through the Uffizi in Florence and spot Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Leonardo's unfinished Adoration of the Magi housed there.

My favorite haunts in Florence include a walk across the beautiful Ponte Vecchio that crosses the Arno river where a hub of meandering streets curl and entwine leading to the Piazza Santo Spirito. You can load up on a Tuscan lunch of pasta and insalada with a mezzo litro of Chianti in any one of the trattorias, proceed up the slopes to the Piazzale Michelangelo where a statue of David hovers high.

Be prepared to snap photos of the stunning panoramic views. Besides being blessed as the birthplace of the Renaissance, this city of the Iris, the city's symbol, also basks in honoring Michelagelo's David. It's the only city in the world to house three. You can see the original in the Galleria Dell' Accademia.

Like many European cities, travel information booths are located in the train station and are manned by knowledgeable information officers who can give you the skinny on accommodation availabilities and planned events as well as tours. So be sure to load up on brochures and make inquiries at the earliest.

If you wish to do some preplanning before you reach your final destination, the Italian Tourism Office has a variety of traveller info packages you can obtain when you contact them via the web at www.italiantourism.com or by phone at (416) 925-3870 or 416.925.4882. Some of my favorite guidebooks are Insight Cityguides. Their publiciation "Rome," is visually stunning and is packed with travel information. The Access guidebook series, "Florence, Venice & Milan" provide handy maps, location listings and a tight description on what's to see along with an idea on price.

For the "everything-I-want-to-know-before-I-get-there-but-don't-want-to-break-the-bank," feeling, I always pack my Let's Go Italy, which is chock-a-block of info on the best attractions for the budget conscious.

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