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What to See in Florence, Italy May 6, 2008

Filed under: Travel & Leisure — gervmaine @ 4:18 pm
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It may be small, but Florence contains a quarter of the planet’s UNESCO world heritage sites, which can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. With this ratio of classics per square meter, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit — so don’t try.

Florence's Duomo

Florence’s Duomo: If you only see one sight in Florence, make it this.

A good starting point is Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo (Piazza del Duomo), which dominates the city’s skyline. Climb up the inside of Brunelleschi’s 15th-century dome and admire the views from the cupola.

If you only visit one museum, pick carefully. For sculpture, head to the Bargello (Via del Proconsolo, 4; +39 055 2388-606; http://www.firenzemusei.it). For art, it has to be the Uffizi Galleries (Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6; +39 055 2388-651; http://www.firenzemusei.it).

But not all of Florence’s wonders are indoors, so take advantage of the clement weather and cross the Roman Ponte Vecchio Bridge, famous for the jewelry shops that line it, to the Boboli Gardens. Take a picnic and climb up to the top of the gardens, congratulate yourself on escaping the crowds and admire the view.

If you only have time for a flying visit, check out the unbelievable ice-cream colours of Michaelangelo’s tomb in Santa Croce church (Piazza Sta Croce); when you’re done, pick up some impeccably made leather purses from Scula del Cuoio, a leather school next door (Piazza Santa Croce, 16; Tel. 055-244-534; http://www.leatherschool.com).

Take a trip back to the middle ages by listening to San Miniato’s Benedictine monks sing Gregorian chants during vespers at Florence’s oldest church, which dates back to the 11th century (Via del Monte Alle Croci, near Piazza Michelangiolo; Vespers at 16.30 summer and 17.30 winter).

If you are looking for something more offbeat, try the Museo La Specola (Via Romana, 17; +39 055 228 8251) a zoology museum where you can find eerily accurate wax models of corpses, a multitude of stuffed animals and other Victorian museum curiosities.

 

Trip Tips: Save Time and Money May 1, 2008

Filed under: Travel & Leisure — gervmaine @ 8:09 pm
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Whether you’re looking for the next airfare finder or trip-planning tool, here are seven sites we love.

TripIt

BEST FOR: ORGANIZING TRAVEL DETAILS

A tidy, paperless way to keep track of everything from flight reservations to OpenTable dinner plans, this site extracts travel details from the booking confirmations that you forward by e-mail, then organizes them all on a private Web page. Bonus: it automatically adds trip-specific SeatGuru tips, weather reports and Google Maps.

Momondo

BEST FOR: SEARCHING FAR AND WIDE — FAST

When the price tag is paramount, try this Denmark-based aggregator, which swiftly scours more than 450 sites — including major booking engines, national carriers and no-frills airlines — to unearth cheap flights to destinations around the world.

Tripology

BEST FOR: ARRANGING TRICKY ITINERARIES

This matchmaking service assesses your wants, needs and interests with an online questionnaire, then matches you with a savvy travel agent. It scans a global network of more than 6,000 independent experts to find three who’ll be able to coordinate your complex route.

ExpertFlyer

BEST FOR: GETTING THE INSIDE SCOOP

With real-time seat maps for more than 100 carriers, this site will help you find what’s available the next time a cancellation leaves you stranded at the airport. (Basic subscription is $4.99 per month.)

Yapta

BEST FOR: WATCHING FOR PRICE DROPS (AND SCORING REFUNDS)

This site keeps tabs on fare fluctuations before and after you book your flight, so you can get any applicable credits or even cash back from the airline if the price drops. Caveat: Refund policies apply only if you book directly with the airline.

Mile Maven

BEST FOR: MAXING OUT YOUR MILES

Updated every day, this simple but comprehensive database links to limited-time offers for bonus miles. Covering hundreds of carriers and millions of different routes, it’s easy to search by airline, frequent-flier program or city.

OrbitzTLC Traveler Update

BEST FOR: CHECKING FLIGHT STATUS AND DELAYS

Along with a color-coded map providing arrival and departure delay details at a glance, this veteran site’s latest feature relays advice straight from fellow travelers, who send updates in real time — by text-messaging from their cell phones — on security lineups, traffic jams, cab queues and more.