23 September 2014

Selva Val Gardena – the crown in the Sella Ronda ski circuit



The Sella Ronda is one of the most famous ski circuits with 24 km of terrain that can be skied in either direction around the vast jagged Sella Massif mountain, and many of the resorts are connected from here. It provides lift-linked access to the valleys of Alta Badia, the Val di Fasse region and the Val Gardena area, including Selva Gardena, home to the annual World Cup Downhill races.

Selva itself is undoubtedly one of the most famous and popular villages in the Alps. The stunning and often dramatic scenery of the Dolomites combined with relatively easy access, has meant this resort should be on the shortlist of anyone wanting a real Italian ski holiday.


Selva is a long roadside village in a spectacular setting of the Val Gardena. Part of the charm of the valley is that is that it is steeped in history; visitors can enjoy a skiing holiday with modern facilities but where traditional life and customs still exist.  For many years, the area was part of Austria, and it still retains its Tirolean charm today as German is more widely spoken than Italian. Expect to see lots of traditional wood crafts and quaint mountain huts!


You won’t feel isolated here as there is a lot to explore; Santa Cristina, the next village down the valley, almost merges with Selva and further down the valley is Ortisei, the main town of Val Gardena, set beneath the distinct Alpe di Siusi area.

Hitting the slopes



In terms of skiing, you are spoilt for choice; Selva is great for snowmaking (when required) and offers excellent slopes with a real mixture of open and wooded areas.

Beginners can expect some seriously good nursery slopes; the blue runs in the Plan de Gralba area are gentle, quiet and perfect for getting up to speed. The village nursery slopes below the Dantercëpies gondola are excellent; spacious and convenient and perfect for adults and children alike.


There is plenty of fast cruising available to intermediates with some great long red runs and some challenging runs for expert skiers. The Val Gardena World Cup piste, the Saslong, is one of several steepish runs from Ciampinoi and one not to miss!

Eating out and having fun



Selva Val Gardena has a wide range of restaurants that offer both Austrian and Italian dishes, the quality is very good and many are great value too. The mountain restaurants are a real treat; think lively and character filled huts with warm, traditional fare.


Although not a real party town, Selva does offer quite a good apres-ski scene. There are some seriously good bars; one with an outdoor DJ, others offering live music and there is a nightclub for those looking to party until late. At the same time, it’s very easy to find a quaint pub and mix with the locals.

An all-rounder



All in all, Selva is a great all-rounder. There is a huge amount of skiing to do, and in several areas. Many come to ski the Sella Ronda but it is equally possible just to stay in Selva and its surrounding resorts without feeling the urge to venture further. There are some wonderful quaint restaurants and a real warm and traditional feel about the place. Those looking for a genuine Italian ski getaway and a blast of nostalgia (but with all the mod cons…), should look no further than Selva this season.


How to get there

Innsbruck airport – 1hr 30
Verona airport – 2hr 20
Bergamo airport – 3hr
Venice airport – 3hr 15

Accommodation


Holiday Homes in Italy offers a great selection of accommodation in Selva Val Gardena from a Residence Hotel to some great self-catering apartments – all within easy reach of the town and ski lifts.

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22 September 2014

Top Italian resorts for early snow


With summer over and winter fast approaching, many are itching to get those ski boots out of the cupboard. The ski season may seem a while away but there is no reason to drag it out and wait until peak season in Feb. Early ski in Italy is possible in a number of resorts, so those looking to get away for a pre-Christmas break will not only find uncrowded pistes but some great snow, cheaper ski passes and low apartment rental prices.

For those looking for a fabulous ambience with many pre-Christmas festivities, a laid back atmosphere and some fabulous snowsure resorts with beautiful scenery, then Italy is for you!


Bormio - For those owning a Bormio season pass, they have the possibility of being able to ski one more month than on the other ski resorts of the Alps. The ski area of Bormio has this great quality that enables people to advance the opening thanks to the high altitude, the freezing temperatures and the excellence of the snow making system.

Read our Bormio resort guide

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Selva Val Gardena in the Dolomites offers spectacular and varied slopes within one of the most famous ski domains in the world, the Sella Ronda. The village has traditional style and is blessed with altitude and superb snow conditions.

Read our Selva Val Gardena resort guide

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Gressoney is located in the Monterosa Ski area, which has an extensive network of pistes, pretty villages and outstanding scenery. It is often blessed with excellent early and late season skiing and plenty of wide uncrowded pistes.

Read our Gressoney resort guide

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18 August 2014

Autumn holidays in Italy; smart prices, less crowds and plenty of sunshine


Most tourists visit Italy predictably in the high season months of June, July and August.  You also have to remember that millions of Italians themselves staycation in Italy (can you blame them?) mostly during August. Even September in Italy these days but towards the end of September and October really is a magical time to visit!


Visiting outside of peak season will bring lots of benefits to the potential visitor. Prices for a start are significantly lower and can range from 25% to 50% less than high season – you can normally cherry pick your choice of self-catering villa or apartment with ease.  The weather tends to still be good in September and often well into October in many regions – it can drift easily into the late 20’s in most places but obviously cooler in the mornings and evenings and becomes a little more unsettles to add even more drama to the beautiful landscape. A refreshing change to the often stifling heatwaves of July and August.


Visiting Italy in the autumn will often help you to discover the real regions; visiting historical hamlets and villages without the midsummer crowds, and driving on quiet country roads with crisp blue skies can really be a joy.


Another benefit is the fantastic food. Italian food is always wonderful but during this period, many areas will boast festivals and start harvest season showcasing their local produce.

In terms of activities, it is also perfect for a game of golf and other activities of interest such as sailing and diving, horse riding and fishing.

Where to visit

Autumn is fab all over Italy but here is our pick of areas:

Lake Garda – We love the lakes but they can get so crowded over summer with too many campervans heading down from northern Europe. Once the Italians are back to work and the high season families have scattered, Garda becomes elegant again and a real joy to navigate around.


Tuscany – One of our favourite places like many others but autumn really is a joy here are the roads are not congested and you are not surrounded by tourists at every turn. You can really see the true Tuscany and sample some of the wonderful food and wine.



Sardinia – Most would think of visiting earlier but the weather often holds out. What then remains is a beautiful island; tranquil, endless sandy beaches and enough space to find your own piece of paradise.



Sicily – similar to Sardinia, this island really shines in autumn. You will probably find some of the best weather all over Italy in Sicily in autumn, where the locals will often swim in the sea into November. A truly magical place.



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4 August 2014

Italy for the kids – family holidays in italy



When planning a child-friendly holiday that will suit the whole family, there really cannot be a better destination than Italy. There is so much to see and do making it one that suits any age.


Go self-catering


The best and most economical way to see Italy, especially in a family, is to rent a self-catering apartment or villa in a country area for a week.  Even though the accommodation comes with a kitchen, it doesn’t mean you need to use it as there are an abundance of restaurants but often being able to have the familiar snacks and food on hand will contribute an enormous comfort factor for your children.


Not only do you have plenty more space renting a villa or apartment in Italy than taking hotel bedrooms, this type of self-catering holiday offers you privacy and freedom.  There are no schedules or timetables for meals and you can come and go as you please. And, not forgetting, there is no morning urgency to secure a lounger or your place by the pool as the pool is all yours and private; perfect for relaxing or keeping your children safely entertained.  Kids can watch early morning children’s programs on television (they don’t seem to notice which language cartoons are in) and Mums and Dads can have that after dinner quiet time, all in peace and privacy.


For people travelling with young babies, it is worth putting a used pillow slip or blanket in with your packing to provide the comforting smell and feel of home, even if the property is provided with a cot or crib.
Whichever part of Italy you want to see, the regions are jam packed with things to do and experience - you will be spoilt for choice! Each night when you return to the same place and each morning when you wake up in the same beds, your children will relish the familiarity.

The whole family will find it more relaxing to be in the country with day trips to the city rather than the other way around.  Most accommodation comes with a swimming pool or at least a garden or terrace, so cultural excursions can be balanced relaxation time back at the accommodation.

Eating out


Meals in restaurants are much more fun than the UK; most Italians love children and will bend over backwards to welcome them and it is not frowned upon to take children out to a restaurant, piazza or bar in the evening. Over the summer, Italian children often stay up late as there is no school.
Many country restaurants also have lovely gardens or spacious piazzas where the children can play within eyesight, whilst the parents finish their wine.

Culture vultures

One of the biggest challenges for any parent is how to get a dose of city culture. There are guide books for older children (such as those by Dorling Kindersley), which provide simple low downs, suggested itineraries and lots of pictures and diagrams that will help the children to better understand things in a visual way.

Hitting the beach



Italy offers some of the best beaches in Europe and it has always played a major role in The Blue Flag awards given by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), which assesses the best beaches and marinas through strict criteria such as water quality, environmental management, safety and services provided close to or within the beach area.  Italy was assigned 248 blue flags in the last year alone!


The beauty of many Italian beaches is that the ‘lido’-style beaches are perfectly family friendly. Each beach normally offers facilities in terms of a bar, showers and toilets. There are lifeguards on hand and even better, many have fenced off play areas for children.


Our recommended areas

Whilst we believe that Italy is completely family-friendly, we have selected our top 3 family-friendly areas:



1. Lake Garda – the largest lake in Italy. This is a great all-round family destination. You have beautiful towns like Torri del Benaco, Garda, Bardolino and Lazise to welcome you, plenty of space for relaxing strolls on the lakes side and sunbathing on the small nice beaches.  You can hire bikes, try watersports or a bit of fun for the families, there are amusement parks like Gardaland, Caneva and Movieland on the doorstep.


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Antica Fabbrica
Try Antica Fabbrica - lovely residence with pool and mountain views. The residence also offers many activities including tennis court, table tennis, bowls court, volleyball/Football pitch and a playground for the younger children.


2. Sardinia – if you are looking for a pure beach holiday, Sardinia ticks all the boxes! Sardinia is very family friendly and you will certainly see a lot of well equipped "lido" style beaches, where children can play safely with plenty of activities to keep not only the children happy but adults alike! Sardinia’s beaches have won many awards and have featured highly in International Magazines.


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Villa Daisy

Try Villa Daisy - great for families; pool, garden and walking distance of a beach...


3. Tuscany – dotted with vineyards and olive groves, this destination is perfect for a more rural back-to-nature type countryside holiday. Neighbouring Umbria and Le Marche will offer a similar experience but for its sheer beauty and popularity, Tuscany offers offering spectacular scenery, authentic cuisine and a great splash of culture for the parents. The children won’t be bored, you can still take a day trip to the beach, there are water parks and lots of activities like cycling and horse-riding.


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Toscana beach
How about The Toscana beach resort? A beautiful property surrounded by nature with 3 pools (including childrens pool), sports facilities and miniclub for children.

30 July 2014

Time for Trapani in Sicily

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West Sicily is an ideal location for an unforgettable holiday; immersed in nature, history and tradition, this area boasts amazing sunny beaches, islands surrounded by turquoise waters, breathtaking views, ancient villages and archeological sites.


Trapani on the far Western corner is the perfect location for a holiday in Sicily and a great point to explore western Sicily. The town itself is famous for its lively historical centre with its boutiques, restaurants, cafès and bars.  This is an ideal place to soak up the traditional Sicilian atmosphere and watch the world go by. Its restaurants are well-known for producing excellent cuisine, including many fish dishes.


Trapani also benefits from being positioned on the Tyrrhenian coast, which offers magnificent marine scenery and areas of outstanding beauty. From the beaches of Castellammare del Golfo and San Vito Lo Capo, to the rock formations of Scopello, the Zingaro nature reserve, and the islands of Levanzo, Marettimo and Favignana, the area is simply stunning! All around Trapani you can find unique fishing villages, where you can experience an unspoilt and authentic Sicily.


The road from Trapani to Marsala (where the well-known liqueur is produced) passes through a characteristic landscape of salt pans and windmills, which have become world-famous postcard scenes. Further south lies the town of Mazara del Vallo with its fascinating historical centre.


This area is diverse and Arab influence can be seen on the island of Pantelleria, known as the ‘Black Pearl of the Mediterranean’, and the temple of Segesta and the archaeological park of Selinunte, are a must-see.


All in all, Trapani is quickly becoming a wish list destination. It doesn’t have the crowds and tourism of Taormina or Cefalu’ but offers a real slice of Sicily and comparable charm. The coast is wonderful and there are so many villages and so much history to explore.


Although this is an ideal for a relaxing holiday, it would be a real shame to miss architectural and historical treasures on Trapani’s doorstep.

How to get there


Trapani has its own airport, Vincezo Florio, with various connections around Europe but it is less than an hour to Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino Airport by car and with both bus and train connections, getting to Trapani could not be easier!

Accommodation


Holiday Homes in Italy offers a great selection of holiday rentals in Trapani from apartments in the centre of Trapani to villas with pools in Trapani. Take a look at a few of the gems in and around the area;

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