THE BEST ART SHOW IN THE WORLD: An artistic scape to the Venice Biennale

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Two years ago I decided to visit the Arts Biennale in Venice and it was great! So I wanted to come back to see this year’s edition.

The Venice Biennale is a paradise for art lovers. There are two main sites, Arsenale, a massive exhibition space with room after room of all sorts of contemporary art from all over the world; and Giardini, an open garden with pavilions from many different countries. There’s also lots of art all around town.

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Because we had visited Venice before, we decided to stay at this lovely place in Arsenale. It was the best decision – we were close to the city centre but not in the middle of the tourist crowds.

We decided to visit each of the main venues on a different day (last time we needed to see both on the same day and it was definitely too much).

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We visited Arsenale on our first day there, which was good as it is the most intense of the two places. Then we visited the different country pavilions in Giardini on our second day, when it was sunny and just generally lovely.

The rest of the time we spent waving at boats going by our window, or drinking delicious Aperol Spritz by the canal.

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Isn’t life grand?

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: The Arts Biennale happens on odd years from May to November. Flights from London aren’t particularly cheap so book in advance.
  • Tickets: Tickets to the Biennale cost 25€, including entry to Giardini and Arsenale (you can visit those on different days on the same ticket).
  • Stay: We stayed at this amazing place which we found on Airbnb. There are lots of good places around, so pick an area and go from there. We stayed in Castello which is very close to the Biennale but also only about 15 minutes from San Marco square.
  • Food: The first time I visited Venice I wasn’t massively impressed with the food, as everywhere looked like a tourist trap. This time it was much better, mostly because we weren’t staying in the city centre. Da Paolo was a good choice for our first dinner. We also stopped at Osteria alla Tana, which is a great affordable stop just outside Arsenale – perfect for relaxing after hours of walking around the many exhibits. But just by venturing a bit further from the city centre it is possible to find nice restaurants.
  • Do: Aside from the Biennale, Venice is a beautiful and iconic place to visit. But it can be quite touristic too – from the busy San Marco Square and Rialto Bridge to the expensive gondola rides, it can all get a bit much. But the Doge’s Palace is beautifully decorated with paintings by Titian, Tintoretto and many more, so it’s definitely worth a visit. And a walk around San Polo is a great way to see a more authentic side of Venice.

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I’m already looking forward to going back in 2017!

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FINDING TIME WHEN THERE’S NO TIME: Travelling when you have a 9 to 5 job

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There are lots of people out there who have left it all behind to travel full time. Sometimes I wish I were one of them. But I’m not. I work in an office, and fit my little adventures around my job.

I definitely wish I had more time to travel aside from the 25 days I get as a holiday allowance. But I still make the most of it. I travel on a Friday after work and commute back on Monday morning (thank you, Eurostar!); I make the most of bank holidays (even if it means paying extra to travel); and I always make sure I have my next holiday to look forward to (Venice, I can’t wait to see you again!).

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After a couple of years of a lot of travelling and a lot of working, I think I managed to find a good balance. I’m not (yet) quitting my day job to go travelling full time, but I am making sure I visit amazing places as often as I can. And when things get a bit stressful in the office, I remind myself that another short break is not too far.

Travelling gives me a broader worldview, and helps me regain energy when I’m tired. Working in an office makes me a very organised traveller, and a practical one too. Weirdly, these two activities end up complementing each other.

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I’m sure there are lots of others travellers fitting their adventures around a 9 to 5 schedule (I know a few of them).

Just make sure you fit some travelling in your busy schedule!

TRAVEL READING: 3 sites to inspire new trips

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When I’m not travelling, I’m thinking about it. I spend a lot of time reading about places, discovering new destinations and making sure I make the most of my upcoming trips. Here’s a selection of sites that I like:

  1.  Flygirl: This is a new travel blog by Jezebel (a great blog which gives me hours of fun). It features funny and amazing tales about travelling, focusing on women. The perfect distraction!
  2. Revealed Rome: Italy has been on my mind a lot recently, and this blog about Rome is great. It gives you the insider’s view, and it has lots of features about food. Yum!
  3. Sawday’s: This website focuses on accommodation, but it’s not like other hotel search sites. There you will find the most amazing places, the kind of accommodation that you can plan a whole holiday around. For when you need a relaxing break.

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Do you know any inspiring travel sites?

UNDER THE SHADOW OF THE VESUVIUS: A visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum

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I always wanted to go to Pompeii, so I jumped at the chance when my mother said she was going there. I was staying in Rome, so we woke up early in the morning to get on the fast train to Naples.

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Pompeii and Herculaneum are such unique sites to visit. You get a clear grasp of what life looked like 2,000 years ago, so it’s no wonder that people are fascinated by these places.

Herculaneum:

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Our first stop was Herculaneum, which many say is better than Pompeii. I can’t help but agree – overall Herculaneum provides a much better experience to the visitor.

On the day I visited, unfortunately there was a massive (and very disorganised) queue, so it took us two hours to get in. But when we finally got through, it was worth it.

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Herculaneum is only partially excavated, so it’s not very big. As you walk around the many narrow roads, you get a chance to explore little houses, big villas, local food shops and more. There are many great details of beautiful frescoes, mosaics and patios.

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And because of the way Herculaneum was hit by the eruption of the Vesuvius, you even get to see bits of preserved wood (which is not available in Pompeii).

Pompeii:

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We then got the train to Pompeii, where we managed to get in straight away. Immediately we were struck by how big it was, with large monuments and a spacious square, from where you reach narrow roads full of houses. It really is an impressive archaeological site!

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Again there were similar architectural features, but not as many places were open to the public (often you can only see inside the buildings from the outside).

But Pompeii was absolutely rammed with hordes of tourists everywhere, which made the experience much less enjoyable. I’m glad I got to see Herculaneum in more detail first!

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: I went as a day trip from Rome, taking an early train to Naples. From there you can hop o a crowded train to Pompeii (which takes 30 min) or Herculaneum (16 minutes) – these are quite cheap and regular.
  • Visiting the sites: Combined tickets to both sites normally costs 20€, but I happened to go on the first Sunday of the month when it’s free (I’d avoid that option as this is one of the reasons why it was so crowded). There are also lots of excursions departing from Naples.
  • How long you need: Ideally you need a few hours in each site. Pompeii is really big, so you can probably spend a whole day there (if you have the patience to battle the crowds for that long!).
  • Weather: I went in May and it was already quite hot, so it’s definitely best to avoid the summer months.

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RUINS AND SPAGHETTI: 1 busy day in Rome

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I had one day in Rome before going to Pompeii, so I had a packed agenda. I went there in March, so this time around I wanted to cover a few specific things which I hadn’t seen before.

Ara Pacis:

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Ara Pacis is an altar dedicated to Emperor Augustus commemorating peace in Rome. This impressive display was moved from its original site and reconstructed within a beautiful modern building by the American architect Richard Meier, which is an interesting approach as most Roman monuments are displayed in the open where they originally were.

It was very nice, but a bit expensive at 14€ for the entry.

Domus Aurea:

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Another impressive display is the Domus Aurea, a palatial building built by Nero. This is currently an excavation site, so you can only visit on weekends and you need to book in advance. You get a detailed walking tour through the massive and impressive structure, a really great to way learn more about Roman architecture.

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Churches:

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Along the way we stopped at two churches (there are lots of very impressive ones in Rome) which had Caravaggio displays: Santa Maria del Popolo and San Luigi dei Francesi. A great way of seeing art outside of museums.

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The rest of my time in Rome I spent walking around the many beautiful sites, from Piazza Navona to the Colosseum. Everywhere you look there’s something to see!

Food:

I also had time to discover some nice places to eat, as you always do in Rome.

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Verso Sera is a nice wine bar serving great food. It is located just outside Campo di Fiori, a nice square with a popular market which is a great place to go for dinner.

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Another nice restaurant was La Taverna dei Monti. I was quite tired and hungry when I got there, but left happy after eating a hearty plate of gnocchi. It is located at Via del Boschetto, which again had lots of nice places to eat.

Yum!

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You can see my tips on how to do plan your trip to Rome here.

THE BEST GELATO IN ROME: 4 of the best places for a treat

Gelato is always a highlight of my trips to Italy, so in my last visit to Rome I did some research and tried a few of the best. Here are four great places for the perfect gelato stop:

1. Tre Scalini

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This place is famous for its delicious chocolate tartufo, a frozen ice cream dessert. And it was really good indeed. Tre Scalini is located at the heart of the very touristy Piazza Navona, but the tartufo is worth battling the crowds (and the 10€ it costs).

2. Venchi

Venchi is famous for its delicious chocolate, but in their shops you can also get gelato (they even have shops at the airport so you can have one final treat just as you board the plane). I tried hazelnut and fiordilatte (simple milky ice cream which is perfect if you like traditional flavours) – creamy and delicious!

3. Giolitti

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Giolitti is a nice cafe not far from the Pantheon, with amazing pastries and a salad bar on display. But it’s mostly popular for its great ice cream. I tried lemon (refreshing and juicy) and Disaronno – yum!

4. Della Palma

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Della Palma serves over 150 flavours of gelato, which is not normally a deciding factor for me as I tend to stick to the basics. But this really is an impressive display, and you can spend quite a while trying to settle on the perfect combination of flavours. I had creamy pistachio and lemon – both just so delicious! I’m not sure, but this place my actually be my favourite!

I didn’t have time to visit all the places in my list, which also included Fatamorgana, San Crispino and Carapina – another reason to go back!

Where are you going for the perfect gelato break?