We have all wondered where those photographers get those stunning postcard prefect pictures of Italy, but wonder no more. Italy is full of stunning views, whether you are atop an active volcano or looking out from the bell tower of a gorgeous sun bleached church. The best part about these views is that you don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture them. Try to head to these vantage points either early in the morning or at dusk to capture the perfect photo, or leave the camera at home and just enjoy the beauty. Either way, here are six beautiful views in Italy worth checking out.
6. Bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
It is well worth it to fork out the few euros for the elevator ride up to the 60-meter high bell tower, which offers incredible views of Venice. It is actually located right across the street from St. Mark’s Basilica, which features long line-ups and a pricey 10 euros to ride up its bell tower. Instead head to this church and monastery for uncrowded views of the entrance to the Grand Canal, the dome of Santa Maria Salute and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. This 16th century church is worth visiting on its own, with its brilliant white marble that gleams above the blue water lagoon.
5. Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence
What is visiting Florence if you cannot manage to get that sweeping panoramic that includes both the stunning city and the mountains. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a square that offers just that. To get here, visitors will walk uphill along a beautiful tree-lined street, or take a taxi/bus if you aren’t feeling like walking. The square is dedicated to Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo and has bronze copies of some of his marble works found elsewhere in Florence: the David and the four allegories of the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo. The view from here is simply stunning, capturing the heart of Florence from Fort Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni and the bridges crossing the Arno and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Florentia.
4. Amalfi Coast
It is hard to narrow down a most beautiful view when it comes to the Amalfi Coast, as there are just so many. But if you feel like strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trails, you will find some of the best views along the Sentieri degle Dei trail. You will see down the coast all the way to the tip of the peninsula and on a clear day you can eve see Capri a stunning island home to the Blue Grotto sea cave. It’s no wonder that this trail’s name is actually ‘Pathway of the Gods’. If hiking isn’t on the agenda another great place to take in the views of the coast is Villa Rufolo, a villa located in the historic center of Ravello, originally constructed in the 13th century. The views from the villa take in the stunning coastline and the sea, and all that is will cost you is $5 euro.
3. Janiculum Hill, Rome
It is one of the only places you can capture the entire city of Rome in one spot and visitors here will capture panoramic views of the city, including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps and St. Peter’s Basilica. Janiculum Hill is located just across the river from the centro storico and choose to either hike up the hill or take one of the buses. It is the second tallest hill in the contemporary city of Rome and was believed to be the center for the cult of the god Janus, thus earning its name as Janiculum Hill. It has been home for water mills, the site of a memorable battle and a place of worship. Now it is a spot where locals walk, a park where children play and the best place to see Rome in its entirety.
2. Mt. Vesuvius, Bay of Naples
It is one of the most explored and well-known volcanoes on earth, due in large part to when it blew its top in A.D. 79 and destroyed the ancient city of Pompeii. This volcano has had no shortages of explosions, including the most recent one in 1944 but that still doesn’t keep locals and tourists from heading to the top to see the epic views. A hike around the crater’s lip will give views of Naples, its sweeping bays and Pompeii. While up there make sure you listen closely as you can heard the occasional cascade of rocks tumbling into the crater. Observe whisps of smoldering steam and take a moment to remember that this all mighty and powerful volcano will most definitely erupt again in your lifetime.
1. Corniglia-Vernazza Hiking Trail, Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre aka Five Lands are the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in Liguria. The best view is the main hiking trail between Vernazza and Corniglia where visitors are treated to gorgeous views of the seaside and Vernazza. While the views are spectacular, hikers should be warned that this is no easy stroll. Much of the path here is steep with sheer drops to the sea below and the journey is made by hundreds of tourists each summer. There is another option that offers almost as spectacular of views. Start from Vernazza on the number 2 trail towards Corniglia and near the beginning of the path make sure to turn around. Here is where you will get that picture postcard view of Vernazza. Try to come here in the morning, as later in the day the sun will be straight in your camera lens.
More people than ever before in history are exploring beyond the boundaries of their own country to take in the incredible beauty the world has to offer. In fact, tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with over 1.1 billion people traveling internationally in 2015 alone!
While travel certainly has many economic benefits, such as providing people with jobs, it also has some negative impacts as well. For these 10 natural wonders and historic sites, the swell of tourists has begun to threaten their long-term preservation. If we’re not careful, we could destroy these precious places for good.
10. Venice, Italy
It’s no secret that Venice is sinking, and the hordes of tourists that flock there each year certainly aren’t helping. During peak season, the picturesque floating city can see upwards of 80,000 tourists per day, making it so overcrowded that some of the main tourist attractions become inaccessible. And many of these tourists are brought to the city by cruise ships, whose traffic threatens the waterways and historic areas they travel through.
9. Great Pyramids, Egypt
Of the original Seven Wonders of the World, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. At the current rate of deterioration, however, it—along with the Sphinx other pyramids at the historic site—may not be around for much longer. Many decades of mass tourism to this area of Egypt has led to irreparable damage to these ancient structures, and any attempt to restore them has only led to further destruction.
8. Roman Colosseum, Italy
The grandeur of Rome’s Colosseum is certainly not what it was when it opened in the year 80 AD. Almost 2,000 years of wear and tear has not been kind to the structure, nor have tourists, who have been caught moving or stealing stones and graffiting the remaining pillars. Although the site is now mainly piles of broken stone, it is a historic site from which there is still much to be learned and needs to be preserved and respected as such.
7. Stonehenge, United Kingdom
The still-unexplained phenomenon that is Stonehenge draws many thousands of tourists each year. They have, unfortunately, caused quite a bit of damage to the prehistoric stones by chipping away at them, and restoration attempts have not returned them to historical accuracy. Several busy roadways that are located in close proximity also threaten the area.
6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Proudly displayed on Cambodia’s flag, this ancient temple boasts classical style Khmer architecture and is one of the country’s top attractions. While money from tourism is used to restore the structure, it is one of the leading causes of its damage. Not just from foot traffic either; graffiti has been found on many of the walls. Unless the government takes action to limit tourist traffic, this World Heritage site could be destroyed beyond repair.
This once-remote location is no longer quite so. The rise in cruise ship traffic has increased water pollution, threatening the continent’s coastline and the species that inhabit it. Fortunately, the Antarctic Treaty has limited the number of people on-shore to 100 at a time, and ships that carry more than 500 passengers are not allowed at any of the landing sites.
4. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Since being featured as a private paradise in the 2000 film The Beach, the Phi Phi islands of Thailand have become a bucket list destination for many. The pristine beaches and clear water of these virgin islands may not last for much longer, however, as the rise in tourism has attracted resort developers. It seems as though Thailand is serious about preserving their land though, as another popular tourist island, Koh Tachai, was recently closed indefinitely to tourists in order to allow the environment to rehabilitate.
3. Great Wall of China
Although it once stretched more than 5,000 miles, over the years approximately two thirds of the Great Wall of China has been destroyed. This is largely due to the thousands of tourists that walk, vandalize and graffiti it each year, but also because of environmental erosion and sections being torn down to make way for development. A lack of government funding for protection of the Great Wall mean these factors will continue to threaten it in future.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
Located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the ancient Inca village of Machu Picchu is truly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder it tops many people’s bucket lists. But such a massive influx of visitors has threatened the preservation of this ancient archaeology; UNESCO has even considered placing it on their list of World Heritage in Danger. The country’s government currently limits the number of tourists to 2,500 per day, but even that may be too many to prevent irreparable damage.
1. Galapagos Islands
The incredibly diverse ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands is what helped Charles Darwin develop his Theory of Natural Selection, but it is incredibly fragile to outside influence. So much so, that UNESCO placed the location on its World Heritage in Danger list in 2007. In order to preserve the land and its wildlife, many tourist restrictions have been put in place—including the requirement that a licensed guide accompany all visitors of Galapagos National Park.
Italy is truly one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, offering a geography boasting incredible landscapes- from the icy Alps to the volcanic craters to the turquoise waters. Along with incredible scenery, this country is filled with history, medieval towns, and more UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites than any other country. Dine on traditional Italian foods, indulge in the finest of wines and take in incredible sites. Italy is a place to be visited twice, once before kids and once with kids and the following eight places should all be done before you are toting around the wee ones.
The fashion capital of the world is best discovered without kids in tow, for obvious reasons and the time to get there and shop is now. This seething metropolis at times can seem brash and soulless but underneath that lies serious history and beauty. Visitors should count on visiting the grand Gothic Cathedral that lays at the heart of the city, La Scala one of the best Opera Houses in the world, the ancient shopping gallery- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Brera Art Gallery. There is no shortage of museums, churches and historical monuments to be found in this city, along with a slew of incredible restaurants and accommodations. Shop, eat, catch a football game or attend one of the many exhibitions that take place throughout the year; whatever it is you do, enjoy it sans kids.
The gorgeous island of Sicily is one of Europe’s most alluring destinations, the eternal meeting point between East and West, Africa and Europe. The varied landscape here with sea, mountains and volcanoes makes for a stunning backdrop for outdoors activities. Visitors here will be privy to plenty of diving, swimming, climbing and hiking. The ancient cuisine here will make any foodie happy, as the chefs still depend on island-grown ingredients including shellfish, tuna, hazelnuts and almonds, and play with these ingredients to create timeless recipes with creative flairs. Wander through the rubble of ancient columns, through the breathtaking Concordia temple and palace walls as you discover the history of this incredible island. Best done without kids, this is one place in Italy you must get to.
6. Cinque Terre
Made up of five small fishing villages, Cinque Terre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 and offers some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet. This is a place that is rooted in history with the oldest village, Monterosso dating back to AD 643. Much of what remains in the villages today date back to the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and parish churches. Explore the villages by train or foot, as cars were banned over a decade ago. Expect long walks with breathtaking views, eccentric shops, quaint B&B’s and superior wine and food. The main draw here is the landscape and there is an abundance of hiking trails throughout the villages, as well as a number of beaches throughout.
5. Amalfi Coast
If you are looking for a more road trip style vacation before you have kids, there is only one choice when it comes to Italy, and that is the Amalfi Coast. Considered to be Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline the landscape is full of towering bluffs, pastel colored villages, luscious green mountains and expansive vista over the sparkling turquoise waters. Aside from the sheer beauty you encounter here, the Amalfi coast is home to a slew of superb restaurants and hotels, as well as being one of the top spots in the country for hiking. Don’t miss the coastal towns of Positano and Amalfi, which are the two favorites. If you are looking for romance stop into the most romantic and beautiful small town in Southern Italy, Ravello, a city blessed with lush gardens, unforgettable views and a beautiful history.
This city of flowers is located in Italy’s Alps, a breathtaking landscape of snow-capped peaks, clean air and luscious green. The city itself sits only 1,000 feet high and is often referred to as the Shangri-La of Italy with its sunny microclimate and leafy boulevards. Visitors come to this city for it’s incredible spa hotels, wonderful organic farmers markets and spectacular wine. Head here during the International Wine Festival in early November for a chance to try local stars as well as vintages from around the world. Explore medieval castles, ride the aerial tramways, dine on sausage and beer from street stalls, meander through the Merano Promenades or simply soak your troubles away in the abundance of spa centers; whatever it is you choose to do, do it now before you have little ones in tow.
The region of Tuscany is full of great things to see and do, without kids of course as dragging them to renaissance towns and art galleries surely won’t be any fun for them. There are plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore in this region including Siena, a beautiful medieval town worth exploring. This region is truly postcard material with its gently rolling hills, golden wheat fields, silver olive groves and hilltop villages. Spend your days hiking, cycling, visiting the islands off the south coast or simply sipping a glass of wine with your significant other. Explore the historic churches, chapels and monuments that make up the breathtaking city of Florence and choose from the simplest of accommodations or boutiques so chic you can even choose your own sheets.
A city full of history, fine art and great food screams for a child-free visit and this is one city you need to get to before having kids. This internal city is one of the world’s most beautiful and inspiring capitals. Much of your days in Rome will be spent wandering historic sites, immersing yourself into the culture and idling around the city streets. When the sun sets and the temperatures break here, that’s when the real party starts and let’s be clear; this is no party for kids. The fashionistas descend onto Rome’s cafes and restaurants and then later head to the famous late-night clubs and bars. Think freshly ground coffee in the mornings, five-star dining in the evening and gorging on pizza at neighborhood diners.
This city seeps with romance, from the romantic gondola rides through the canals to drinking wine at the open-air cafes that fill the sidewalks. It screams child-free with its impressive dining options complete with plenty of Prosecco, Venice’s signature drink of choice. Bringing kids here really isn’t recommended, as there is lots of walking, plenty of adults-only dining and just not really that many interesting things to see or do as a kid. Venice thrives on mystery and awe, a place where marble palaces disappear into the fog, where labyrinth like streets fill the city and where cathedrals beg to be discovered. There are no cars or roadways here, just canals and boats and narrow alleys and small squares, with hidden treasures at every turn. The perfect place to explore sans kids.
The world we live in is gorgeous and often awe-inspiring. Given that fact, it’s little wonder that many artists throughout the years, in many different places and cultures, have tried to capture just a little bit of that beauty on their canvases. From the natural to the man-made, there is no shortage of vantage points that have inspired—and continued to inspire—us to create memorable works of art. Here are 9 masterpieces that are almost as breathtaking as the real thing.
9. San Giorgio Maggiore (Monet)
San Giorgio Maggiore is one of Venice’s islands, so it should come as little surprise that it’s been the subject of a painting or two. Venice is regularly cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to a combination of architecture and natural endowments. The island’s most recognizable feature is the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th-century church. The building’s silhouette certainly dominates Claude Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore by Twilight, an Impressionist work completed between 1908 and 1912. The painting was started during Monet’s only trip to Venice. Even more than a century later, you can visit Venice and experience this precise view for yourself, with the sun setting over the water and the buildings of San Giorgio Maggiore silhouetted against the darkening sky.
8. Lander’s Peak (Bierstadt)
Albert Bierstadt was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, but immigrated to the United States at an early age. Soon determining to become a painter, Bierstadt returned to Europe to study art. In 1859, he joined an expedition led by Frederick W. Lander, a land surveyor. They traveled west from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, Bierstadt sketched and painted many majestic scenes of the American west. His 1863 piece The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak is based on one of the sketches he made during this expedition. The painting depicts Lander Peak, a summit of more than 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) located in the Wyoming Range; the peak is one of the highest in the area. Although Bierstadt’s painting isn’t true to nature, Rocky Mountain landscapes like Lander’s Peak are breathtakingly beautiful and popular with photographers and tourists alike.
7. Lake McArthur (MacDonald)
J.E.H. MacDonald was part of the Group of Seven, a famed group of Canadian artists working in the early part of the 20th century. The Group of Seven tended to have a nationalistic bent and painted many iconic scenes of the Canadian wilderness; at least 2 members were also war artists capturing Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Beginning in 1924, MacDonald traveled west annually and produced many works featuring the Rocky Mountains, which dominated his later works. Lake McArthur, Yoho Park was painted in 1924, the year of MacDonald’s inaugural trek west. Yoho National Park was the second national park in Canada and forms part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site with several other parks. The Lake McArthur Trail, an 8-kilometer circuit, will take you to the north shore of the lake—which looks much the same today as it did in 1924.
6. Cotopaxi (Church)
Frederic Edwin Church, like Albert Bierstadt, was a member of the Hudson River School of landscape painting in the 19th century. Like Bierstadt, Church painted grandiose landscapes. Whereas Bierstadt painted the American West, Church was lured in by South America; many of his works feature Andean landscapes, inspired by 2 trips to Quito, Ecuador. While his most famous work is The Heart of the Andes, his 1855 painting Cotopaxi is perhaps a truer depiction of a South American landscape. The work shows the volcano Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes and the second-highest summit in Ecuador. As of 2015, Church’s 1862 painting depicting Cotopaxi smoldering away might be more accurate—the volcano, one of the most active in Ecuador with 87 recorded eruptions since 1534, has entered a new phase of activity and is under constant monitoring since an eruption of ash on August 14 and 15, 2015.
5. Autumn Mountain Shadow (Guan Tong)
Guan Tong lived more than 1,000 years ago, during China’s Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. A painter of the Northern Landscape style, he lived in Chang’an (Xi’an) and was no doubt inspired by the mountainous terrain that surrounded him. Autumn Mountain Shadow is perhaps the most famous painting attributed to Guan Tong and while it’s difficult to discern the precise place that he was painting, there are hundreds of similar views of the rugged northern mountains in and around Xi’an. A barely visible path in the painting is reminiscent of many of the winding trails near Xi’an, especially those about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of the city, near Mount Hua. Mount Hua itself is similar to the landscape Guan Tong depicts in Autumn Mountain Shadow, and many tourists today visit Mount Hua for its ancient, sacred sites and temples, as well as its breathtaking views.
4. Staubbach Falls (Bierstadt)
Albert Bierstadt painted much of the American West, but he also painted plenty of European landscapes as well; one of his first exhibits featured a large canvas of a Swiss landscape. Bierstadt studied in Europe and later traveled widely there, making many sketches and paintings in his signature grandiose style. Among his Swiss landscapes is this 1865 piece, entitled Staubbach Falls, Near Lauterbrunnen. The waterfall is one of Europe’s highest unbroken falls, descending about 1,000 feet into the valley below. Located in the Bernese Oberland, the Falls are a popular site in Switzerland, along with the iconic peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau in the east. The Falls are about 1 kilometer from the village of Lauterbrunnen, which lies at the bottom of one of the deepest valleys in the Alps.
3. Grand Canal, Venice (Canaletto)
Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was born in Venice in 1697. He spent most of his life there and took up his father’s line of work: painting. Much of his early artwork was painted “from nature,” rather than in the studio, a technique he returned to in his later years. In his later works, he painted grand scenes of Venice’s iconic canals, including the Doge’s Palace. His 1738 painting The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola depicts the Grand Canal as it was—and, perhaps surprisingly, this is a scene that remains remarkably similar even today. The buildings still bear a likeness to those depicted in Canaletto’s work, a testament to Venice’s enduring local flavor. And, of course, gondoliers are still a common sight on the waterways of this iconic city.
2. Futamigaura at Dawn (Kunisada)
During the 19th century, Utagawa Kunisada was one of the most prolific masters of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. His works were incredibly popular, although they have been overshadowed since by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Today, Kunisada’s work is becoming more recognized. Although he was more known for prints of popular actors and pretty girls, he also produced landscapes and seascapes like Futamigaura at Dawn. Completed around 1830, the print depicts Sakurai Futamigaura, a scenic place north of Itoshima. Known as the “Married Couple Rock,” the feature is two large rocks about 150 meters from the beach. The rocks have been joined together by a shimenawa, a sacred Shinto rope used to ward off evil. The shimenawa at Sakurai Futamigaura is 30 meters long and weighs approximately one ton. Although Kunisada painted the area at dawn, Sakurai Futamigaura has become renowned for its sunsets.
1. Roman Campagna
The Roman Campagna is a low-lying area that surrounds Rome. In ancient times, it was important in agriculture, but was abandoned during the Middle Ages. Many Roman ruins dotted the landscape. The Campagna became one of the most painted landscapes during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a trip to the Roman countryside to paint was considered part of the European Grand Tour. Today, however, much of the Campagna has been built over; the spaces that remain are clustered along the Appian Way. Today you might see the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella or the Circus of Maxentius as part of your own Grand Tour. Another popular subject is the Ponte Nomentano, which is now in a pedestrian-only park within the city. The bridge’s medieval tower was popular for painters and a visit to this scenic spot may want to make you paint—or at least take a photo.
Since 1962, the suave secret agent known as Bond has been thrilling cinema-goers with his climatic action sequences, high-tech gadgets and steamy romance scenes. Everyone loves a good action movie (after all, these films have been in production for over 50 years) but one of the best parts of any 007 film is seeing all the magnificent scenery on the screen as Bond tours around the world chasing evil villains. But did you ever wonder where exactly were these amazing films shot? In fact, these beautiful locations do exist in real life. Here are 15 amazing real life locations featured in the Bond films:
15. Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese, Austria
Aston Martins. Designer suits. The rugged beauty of the Austrian mountains in the background. High stakes espionage never looked so good. In Spectre, follow James Bond (Daniel Craig) on his globetrotting adventures across Europe. As he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy, he finds himself at Altausse Jagdhaus Seewiese for a daytime spy rendezvous. The historic mountain cottage is nestled in a small village with a stunning backdrop of the Austrian mountain range. Dating back to the Triassic and Jurassic periods, the hills of the quaint mountain town are dotted with houses for postcard perfect surroundings. The cozy log cabin is a favorite spot for hearty food and beer with a view of the waterfront and surrounding mountains. A bit of fresh mountain air, a high-speed chase through the forest, and a snack at this gastropub is the perfect combination to keep 007 in top form.
14. Blenheim Palace, United Kingdom
As 007 suits up and jet sets his way across the globe, he stops by the Blenheim Palace in hot pursuit of dangerous villains. In Spectre, he dodges bullets and combats criminals at the Blenheim Palace, an Oxfordshire country house in the United Kingdom. Built in the early 1700s, the palace is a rare example of English Baroque architecture and is considered one of England’s historical treasures. Over the centuries, it has been home to dukes of Marlborough, a prestigious group of aristocrats whose family still owns the revered palace. Plan for an unforgettable day in the English countryside at the World Heritage Site, which consists of an impressive 12,500 acres of grand estates, gardens, and ancient forests. While touring the exquisite and well-preserved grounds of the palace, get ready to imagine the dukes and ladies of the Old World sipping top shelf brandy in the parlor while the butlers and maids did the dirty work.
13. Vauxhall Bridge, London
In the world of high stakes espionage, James Bond (Danile Craig) returns to his old stomping grounds of London in his latest feature Spectre. In between high-speed chases and sniper rifle shootouts, we catch a glimpse of the historic Vauxhall Bridge, a steel and granite arch bridge situated along the River Thames. Built in 1906, the historic bridge stands out with its original ornate detailing and bright red color. Often used in establishing shots for films set in London, the bridge is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before 007 gets entangled in a deadly spy tryst. Formerly known as Regent Bridge, Vauxhaull Bridge still retains its early 20th century splendor and continues to serve as a main artery of London’s highway system, carrying the A202 over the Thames.
12. Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Follow in the footsteps of the legendary 007 as he suits up for a dangerous mission in Casino Royale. First stop is the historic Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, Italy, for a spy meeting and deadly combat, because in the world of espionage, anything could happen. In this case, the setting is the ancient and revered water city that contains some of the world’s best-preserved buildings, including the San Giorgio Maggiore that dates back to the 16th century. While Bond gets entangled in a deadly showdown with international criminals, the cherished church sits in the background with its unique Renaissance architecture. Get ready to travel back in time to the Old World in a city that still retains its original magnificence of centuries past. Venice is also rare in that it is one of the few remaining walking cities in the world.
11. Kaiserbad Spa, Czech Republic
Set in a world of backstabbing, deadly combat, and death-defying stunts, James Bond (Daniel Craig) heads to the heart of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic for the final showdown at Casino Royale. Standing in for the exterior of the high-end gambling palace is the Kaiserbad Spa, the lavish and opulent former spa that is considered the crown jewel of the historic village. Although it is now closed to the public, it is worth seeing its preserved neo-Baroque architecture up close on a stroll down the nearby Goethova stezka and Marianskolazenska near the Tepla River. Once inside the high stakes casino, Bond has one chance to take down Le Chiffe as he hedges his bets on the poker game of a lifetime. In this deadly game, Bond either wins or dies, but for travelers to the spa town of Karlovy Vary, it’s a leisurely stroll through a charming old-world village.
10. Venetian Lagoon, Italy
After completing his death-defying mission in Casino Royale, James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows up with M (Judi Dench) with his latest espionage intel while cruising around the Venetian Lagoon on a luxury speed boat. Travelers to the historic water city of Venice, Italy can opt for a more traditional tour of the famous lagoon in an authentic gondola ride. Making up part of the Adriatic Sea, the enclosed bay stretches from the River Sile in the north of Venice. Visitors have the option of booking a tour of the Lagoon or making their own trip in a rented speedboat. Another option is hopping on a cheap water taxi mostly filled with locals who work or live on one of the islands. With hundreds of islands in the Lagoon, get ready to explore the glass-making center of Murano, the cemetery in San Michelle, and the colorful painted houses of Burano.
9. Grand Hotel Pupp, Czech Republic
In the next generation of the Bond Franchise, 007 (Daniel Craig) puts on his best dinner tux and gathers his high tech spy gadgets for the final showdown between Le Chiffre, a deadly arms dealer. In Casino Royale, the dangerous mission takes him to the historic spa village of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. In between combat with deadly assassins, the luxurious old world Grand Hotel Pupp stands majestically in the background. Dating back to 1701, the hotel is a unique example of neo-Baroque architecture in all its well-preserved splendor. Today, the luxury hotel offers vintage style opulence and world-renowned spa treatments in the heart of the popular spa village. After some rest and relaxation, wander around the historic town full of ancient gems like the famous hot springs, the Thermal Spring Colonnade, and Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Bond may fight dirty, but he does it in style.
8. Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Top secret missions, spy rendezvous, exotic locales. Looks like James Bond is back to take out some deadly assassins in Casino Royale, the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise. Along the way, he makes a stop at the Santa Maria della Salute, a well-preserved historic landmark. Situated in the celebrated water city of Venice, Italy, the Roman Catholic Church dates back to 1681 and is quite an impressive structure with its domed ceilings, intricate and opulent Baroque details, and exclusive works by Titian, a celebrated artist of the Italian Renaissance. Designed by Baldassare Longhena, the church was built as a dedication to Our Lady of Health in the desperate hope that it would end the devastating outbreak of the plague. Although the holy structure didn’t curb the deadly disease, Venetians continued to pray and offer sacraments to the saints on the steps of the magnificent Santa Maria della Salute, the gem of Venice.
7. Big Ben, London
For international secret agent James Bond, London is spy headquarters in the 1964 Goldfinger, a classic of the blockbuster franchise. As 007 (Sean Connery) gears up for a risky espionage mission involving an international criminal conspiracy, the Big Ben is featured in a daytime establishing shot. One of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of London, Big Ben is the nickname for the clock situated at the north end of the Westminster Palace. Established in 1858, Big Ben holds the honor of being the world’s largest four-faced chiming clock. The best way to get an up close look of the clock tower is a walk on the footpath of Westminster Bridge where you’ll get a breathtaking view of Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and the Lambeth and Vauxhall Bridges nearby. It might be a classic from the 60s, but the historic icons still retain its original splendor.
6. Fontainebleau, Miami
In the classic 1964 Goldfinger of the James Bond franchise, the first scene opens up to a sky view of Miami Beach and an establishing shot of the Fontainebleau, one of the most iconic and recognizable hotels in the world. Established in 1954, the hotel has seen stars like Jackie Gleason, the Rat Pack, and other celebrities throughout the decades come through its doors, lounging in swanky jazz clubs and oceanfront cabanas. In the 50s, Miami experienced an economic boom and quickly became the Hollywood hotspot for celebrities on vacation. The hotel has also been featured in several movies, and in the case of Sean Connery’s 007, he’s busy getting some massage action with a cute blonde, and with the pool and a martini close by, of course. After a cocktail and a swim, Bond is ready to talk shop with Felix before suiting up for his next mission.
5. Swiss Alps, Switzerland
Channel your debonair spy swagger and head for the hills, literally. In Spectre, Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself speeding in his vintage Aston Martin along winding roads of the Swiss Alps in pursuit of deadly international criminals. After arriving in Zurich by train or a direct international flight, hop in a rental car and head to the Klausen Passis, the first large alpine pass and also the passageway directly into the heart of the Central Alps. Another benefit of the Klausen Pass Highway is that it isn’t typically busy, just a few locals, driving enthusiasts, and the occasional suave secret agent. Once inside the Alps, get ready for breathtaking scenery, including ancient forests, and granite plateaus and peaks typical of the Swiss Alps. Along the way, there are several waterfalls, which are the most powerful in the spring and early summer.
4. Barbican Center, London
Set in the glamorous but deadly world of international espionage, 007 (Daniel Craig) makes a stop at spy central in London. In Quantum of Solace, the Barbican Center is featured in a daytime establishing shot right before James Bond meets with his MI-6 handlers for intel on his next mission. Standing in as the main office of the Secret Intelligence Service is the Barbican Center, a major cultural venue located on Silk Road. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra, plus several art galleries, theaters, a concert hall, and cinemas, the Barbican Center is a popular hotspot for upscale shopping and entertainment. One of the largest culture centers in Europe, it is easy to spend a day and evening filled with films, concerts, and art exhibitions that are offered almost every night of the week.
3. Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama
Standing in for the Andean Grand Hotel and the setting of James Bond’s showdown is the Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama, a popular building in San Felipe. As he battles deadly assassins with spy gadgets and designer suits, you might catch a glimpse of the San Felipe neighborhood in a high-speed chase sequence in Quantum of Solace. Housed in a white colonial style mansion, the institute is located in the old courthouse and is responsible for promoting arts and culture of the Republic of Panama. The building is also home to the Anita Villaluz theatre, a popular space for film exhibitions and performances relating to the history of Panamanian tradition and the voices of the future. In the case of 007, it’s just another day of espionage in paradise.
2. The Langham Hotel, London
Get ready to enter a deadly world of the elite class and James Bond in hot pursuit of criminal masterminds. In Golden Eye, Pierce Brosnan has a license to kill but first he needs a relaxing evening with a femme fatale. In this case, he finds himself at the Langham Hotel in London, one of Europe’s finest historic hotels. Since 1865, the grand hotel has attracted royalty, celebrities, and high-class villains of 007 fame. Feel like an English aristocrat in the same hotel where Charles Dickens, Prince of Wales, and high society of the Victorian era flaunted their wealth and prestige. If you’re feeling especially extravagant, splurge on The Sterling Suite, an opulent palace fit for a king.
1. Regent Street, London
In the mid 90s, the Bond franchise was still going blockbuster with non-stop action, and Golden Eye (1995) was no exception. Follow Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond as he tracks down an international criminal conspiracy on a high-speed chase through Regent Street, a major shopping area in the west end of London. He’s driving his BMW 73 at lightening speed but visitors can take a more leisurely stroll to get a closer look at the streets bustling with locals or tourists who are busy shopping or lounging in stylish cafes. Close by the Picadilly Circus and Oxford Circus underground stations, the historic neighborhood dates back to the early 1800s with its well-preserved Georgian architecture as a magnificent piece of old London. Although it took a few centuries to break ground, the result was Regent Street and its stately elegance of Neo-Georgian style.
Technically we are all in places that are about to change drastically. There are many remote idyllic, places being threatened by climate change that face melting glaciers or catastrophic flooding. But then so does Miami. Whether it’s rising sea levels, desertification, torrential monsoons, melting glaciers or ocean acidification, climate change is rapidly altering the landscape of our planet and perhaps about to destroy some of the world’s legendary vacation spots. Then there is the traditional destruction inflicted by human error and downright imbecility. More hotel rooms, spas and golf courses are part of the inherent contradictions of tourism increasing accessibility means increasing degradation. There seems to be no solution to that equation. We will be one of the last generations to see some of the Earth’s most cherished places. Here’s our list of 20 places to see before they vanish to climate change, over development and encroachment. It’s a survey of various sources from CNN to MNN (as in Mother Nature Network), at the same time being quite conscious of the other contradiction that advising more people to visit already vulnerable sites is farther contributing to the degradation. Perhaps you can solve that moral quandary by designing am environmentally sensitive visit. Or contribute to conservancy groups that are fighting to save them.
20. Gozo, Malta
CNN has this theory that once a foreign city is featured in a blockbuster movie, it takes a hit from an influx of curious tourists. Gozo, population 37,000 is a short ferry ride from Malta. Its website proudly proclaims its natural beauty, its “tortoise-like pace” and amazing history. Gozo means ‘joy’ in Castilian, so named at its founding in 1282. Last year Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt shot their latest film “By the Sea” there. Directed by Jolie, it appears to be a drama about an artistic couple’s fading marriage with Gozo subbing for France. CNN warns that “There are few better advertisements for a destination than a good movie,” and expects hordes of Brangelina fans to disturb the tranquility in search of the places the couple tried to rekindle their romance.
19. St. Kitts
With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is passing under the spell of the Evil Trinity of tourism; Big name hotel chains, golf course designers and marina builders. It is being done in the name of sustainability which may be easier to do environmentally that in preserving the spirit of a place heading to over development. When they open the world’s first edible golf course, you know the gimmicks have just begun.
18. The Seychelles
National Geographic rates the beach at Anse Source d’Argent as the best in the world. One of nature’s most convincing versions of paradise. The beauty of the pink sand, the coral reef sheltered by massive granite boulders brings many beach lovers to this archipelago of more than a hundred islands in the Indian Ocean but the water rises relentlessly, the perfect beaches are eroding and its coral reef, like others around the world is being degraded. Barring some miraculous engineering innovation or divine intervention, many of the islands could be lost in the next 50 years.
17. The Athabasca Glacier, Canada
With its relatively convenient location in mid-Alberta between Banff and Jasper National Parks, The Athabasca Glacier attracts more tourists than any other on the continent. It is also the largest ice field between the poles. It’s a kind of frozen tributary of the massive Columbia Ice Fields. But with ice fields north of 90, as old hands call the Arctic, the Athabasca at 52 degrees north latitude is in for The Big Melt. Parks Canada estimates it’s receding up to ten feet a year. At this rate maybe too far gone for the next generation to experience.
16. St. Helena
In its own way, St. Helena is an exotic destination. A volcanic speck of 50 square miles in the middle of the south Atlantic, it is the definition of remote, 4,000 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. Let’s face it, after Waterloo, the British were not about to exile Napoleon in Paradise. Part of its cache is that getting there is a challenge, by the Royal Mail ship St. Helena from Cape Town, Walvis Bay or Ascension Island. It’s somewhat for bird watching and its rugged terrain protects well preserved Georgian buildings. After Longwood, Napoleon’s home after 1815 (now a museum), the island’s biggest celebrity draw is Jonathon the tortoise, age 180 and going strong. The British have sunk the better part of half a billion dollars into an airport for the tiny island to open early in 2016. For that chunk of change, expect more than the usual 3,000 or so visitors soon.
15. Taj Mahal, India
Even the great frescoes of the Sistine Chapel dulled with age and the emission from centuries of candle smoke and neglect. But they were inside the walls of a building in the First World, whereas the Taj Mahal is neither. The whole point of the spectacular tribute to an Emperor’s late wife, is its pristine whiteness indicative of the purity of their love. But the air quality in India’s major cities is worse than the horrific pollution levels of Beijing. Fading to yellow or rust is not just a cosmetic downgrade it degrades its very meaning. An ornate mausoleum of white marble, The Taj Mahal is the sparkling jewel of Muslim art in India. Built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favorite wife, The Taj currently has more than 3 million visitors a year and the heat, foot traffic and toxic air are beginning to undermine the building’s structural integrity. It’s not hard to see a lengthy shutdown for restoration in the near future, not to mention banning people from going inside.
14. Dead Sea
There is the old joke that someone says he’s so old he remembers when the Dead Sea was only sick. Sadly that’s no longer just a joke. It is being sucked dry by the water-desperate countries around it who are helping themselves to the water in the River Jordan, the sea’s main source. It has shrunk by a third in size and scientists fear if the rate of attrition continues, the intensely salted water some claim has medicinal qualities, has maybe 50 years of life left.
13. The Galapagos Islands
Truth be told Europeans have been abusing the Galapagos since the late 19th century when pirates used it as a base to launch their raids. Darwin didn’t arrive until 1835 to begin on what would become The Origin of the Species 25 years later. Now there are pages of tours echoing the name of his ship The Beagle. The islands are threatened by too many people. Too many insensitive people acting reprehensibly to degrade this natural treasure to take the greatest selfies and poach plants and animals (not necessarily at the same time.) The prognosis is much better than many other sites however because the ecosystem, while delicate, can still be saved by limiting if not stopping altogether, the onslaught of tourists. So if it’s on your bucket list…tread lightly.
12. Glacier National Park Montana
In fact, anything with the word “Glacier’ in its name or title may be at risk, barring some miraculous reversal in climate change, the effects are well documented. They are living on borrowed time, the more temperate the climate the more critical the patient. The number of glaciers in the stunningly beautiful Glacier National Park on the Montana-Canada border has shrunk by 75% in the last century. Pessimistic estimates say the glaciers and the ecosystem that depends on them could be gone by 2030. The good news if you’re into dark humor; the surfing in Montana is about to improve dramatically.
11. South Australia
One of those areas facing the climate change double whammy, coastal flooding and interior desertification the Australian government has studied and published many daunting studies on the effects. Rising sea levels will threaten hundreds of miles of beaches and the lovely city of Adelaide will be put at risk. The soaring temperatures and absence of rain in the interior will challenge some of the most renowned wine growing regions in the world, including the Barossa and Clare Valleys. While the region accounts for only 7% of Australia’s population, it is also responsible for half of the $1.3 billion in wine exports. Unless you are entertained somehow by catastrophic flooding and drought, best to go soon.
10. Greek Islands
There are 6,000 islands from Aegina to Zaforas in the Ionian and Aegean seas off the Greek coast. Only 227 are inhabited and only 50 have airports. Traveling between them has always been a question of taking leisurely ferries with shall we say occasionally regular schedules. Until now after a Greek airline has announced to connect another 100 by seaplane. As always accessibility is a mixed blessing. The islands of Crete, Skyros and Pelion are first on the list with more to come as early as year’s end. Book accordingly. Unless you like crowded beaches, then this is your lucky year.
9. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
The famous falls are twice the height of Niagara with a fraction of the tourists. At least until the new Victoria Falls International Airport, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia, border opens in the fall of 2015. It’s being built to handle what pilots call “Heavy Metal”, wide body A340’s and Boeing 777’s and their human cargo. It will be a huge boost for the tourism sector in the long-suffering country. The five regional airlines that used the old airport will be joined by British British Airways, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Emirates, and Kenya Airways, just to start.
8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean
An idyllic place. Everything you wish for in a Caribbean destination. And less, without the crowds, partiers and such. Beaches rank among the best in the world, coral reefs provide diving that’s to die for, it’s care free relaxation in a setting almost too beautiful to be true. But it’s always been a bit of a schlep to get there by connecting flight. The new $250,000,000 Argyle International Airport , will come with direct flights to North American and European cities increasing capacity by at least 400%. Plus it is upgrading its port infrastructure to bring in more cruise ships whose environmental record has been somewhere between bad and wretched. The good news for would-be visitors is that the airport is behind schedule for those who would like to have the island experience before it gets paved and up go the condos.
Lake Nicaragua is a scenic, unspoiled place with coastal towns lost to time and lots of fishing spots locals love. It has been fast-tracked to the environmental critical list by a crazy ambitious $50 billion Chinese-backed project to build a canal three times the length of the Panama Canal from the Pacific to the Caribbean Sea and hence the Atlantic, in the process trampling through prized lakes, wetlands, coral reefs and any number of delicate ecosystems in Central America and the Caribbean. The Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences warns “this canal would create an environmental disaster in Nicaragua and beyond. Tourist visits have soared since the construction started.
6. Papua New Guinea
There is an automatic exoticism to the south Pacific and in the case of Papua New Guinea, it’s enhanced by its status as one of the last truly unexplored places on earth. The government has expressed a “wish” to maintain the rarely seen villages as the basis for its society. It’s a nice gesture, but at the same time they’re expanding the almost non-existent tourism infrastructure starting with cruise ships and with them a fading chance to experience a land not far removed from first contact.
5. The Alps, Europe
The mighty Alps are facing an uphill battle they can’t win. The evidence is incremental but unmistakable. The temperature, even on peaks over 10,000 feet has been steadily rising. The elevation at which snow falls and accumulates is falling. Towns and cities dependent on skiing for their livelihoods are taking strong measures to lower local CO2 emissions, but climate change scientists say the effects of climate change could hit hard by 2040. So maybe the problem will be solved by then, it still leaves you at least 25 years to book, but after that forget the skies and take hiking boots and sunblock.
4. Venice, Italy
Like the famous writer Mark Twain, reports of the death of Venice have been greatly exaggerated. The magical kingdom of canals and Renaissance masterpieces has been written off many times before. But the severe flooding it has long suffered has become deeper and more chronic. When you can stop on your way to St. Mark’s and, bend down and catch fish with your bare hands, the fat lady may not be singing but is definitely warming up. The prognosis: the only people to see Venice past the 22nd century are likely scuba divers and snorkelers. However, the city has miraculously hung tough before. It may not be clear just how just yet, but surely no expense will be spared to save one of the greatest treasures on the planet.
3. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Another long running natural disaster that could have been easily mitigated by sustainable practices. The fabulous reef has been assaulted not only by climate change but by human stupidity. Higher water temperatures and its older foes of pollution and acidification from ever rising carbon dioxide emissions are killing off the corals at an alarming rate. More recent threats are damage caused by the development of Australian ports to export coal to China, thereby contributing to more CO2, hence more damage to the reef and its $4 billion in tourist income. A whole new enemy has emerged as well in industrial overfishing which doesn’t directly damage reefs around the world, but destroys the fish stocks that are part of its ecosystem. The wonderful reef in Belize is facing the same threat of death by coral bleaching.
Oh the irony. According to CNN, the son of Che Guevara, the iconic Marxist guerrilla leader, has turned out to be quite the entrepreneur, launching a motorcycle tour company for the biking crowd to see the island from behind their choppers. With the easing of American travel restrictions, the fabric of the island is in for rapid change for the less impoverished though not necessarily better. Not to revel in other’s poverty but the anachronism of the island frozen in a time warp by antiquated Communist central planning was part of the charm, like the famous 1950’s vintage vehicles constantly repaired and rebuilt out of economic necessity. The wonderful beaches are already popular and if there are bikers, the massive cruise ships won’t be far behind. Hemingway’s Havana is already on borrowed time.
Expect to see more headlines like this one from the BBC: “Should tourists be banned from Antarctica?” It’s feared that Antarctica is shedding up to 160 billion tons of ice annually and rising. The biggest threat to the ice cap is warming temperatures, not humans. Less than 40,000 people visit every year and only a quarter of them actually go ashore. Tour companies abide by strict international guidelines to limit human impact but those guidelines are voluntary. That human impact may be minimal, but any additional pressure on an increasingly vulnerable ecosystem is critical. There will be many more calls for restrictions to follow the BBC’s warnings. It won’t disappear in a century but trips to see it may be extinct long before.
Libraries are those unique cultural institutions that combine art, history and innovation to create a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to indulge in the pursuit of knowledge and exploration of literature. For book lovers, there are few things that compare to wandering amid stacks of a historically or culturally significant building and finding a rare volume of their favorite author or an ancient text pertinent to human history. Luckily, the major libraries of the world that house such exquisite collections work hard to keep them preserved and accessible to the public, and out of the hundreds of worldwide options, we’ve narrowed down the 15 institutions all literature lovers must visit at least once in their lives.
15. Royal Grammar School Chained Library, Guildford, England
The headmaster’s study in Guilford’s Royal Grammar School is home to one extremely unique feature—an original chained library. The custom of chaining books originated with the idea of providing public access to valuable and important texts by affixing them to shelving in public places, an idea that eventually became the predecessor for the modern library system. This particular one in Guildford, England is one of the last remaining chained libraries in the world and houses a collection with works dating back to the 15th century, and most notably, two early editions of Newton’s Principia.
14. Austrian National Library, Vienna, Austria
As the country’s largest library, the Austrian National Library is found within Hofburg Palace in Vienna and houses upwards of 7.4 million items. The acquisition of holdings dates back to the Middle Ages, with the permanent home at the Hofburg Palace constructed in the early 18th century, and now containing the largest collection of contemporary literature and research materials in Austria, as well as several unique collections, archives and museums. The most notable of these is the collection of Maps, one of the most comprehensive in the world, which today includes 295,000 maps, 45,000 geographic-topographic views, 700 globes and over 80,000 atlases and books of a technical nature. Also impressive is the library’s holding of manuscripts and rare books, a collection comprised of over 500,000 printed materials organized into incunabula (pre-1500s), works from the 16th to 19th centuries and items of rare, valuable and bibliophilic importance.
13. Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto, Canada
This library houses the University of Toronto’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, the acquisition of which started in 1955 under the direction of Chief Librarian Robert H. Blackburn (largely sourced from the University’s main library). The department didn’t have a permanent home until 1973 when Thomas Fisher’s descendants donated their personal collections of Shakespeare and various 20th century writers, accentuating the growing collection’s need for a designated space. The building is now home to Canada’s largest publicly accessible selection of rare books and manuscripts, consisting of over 700,000 volumes including several medieval manuscripts and a set of Pyne’s Royal Residences which was presented to the University by Queen Victoria.
12. Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
Located at the University of Dublin, the Trinity College Library holds Ireland’s largest collection of literature and is home to one of the country’s biggest attractions—the incomparable Long Room. Built between 1712 and 1732, the Long Room measures over 65 meters in length and contains the institution’s 200,000 item collection of rare and early edition manuscripts and novels, including the world-famous Book of Kells and one of the last surviving copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Also interesting to see are the marble busts of famous writers and philosophers that adorn the room, the highlight of which seems to be the one of Jonathan Swift created by Louis Francois Roubiliac.
11. Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janiero, Brazil
Brazil’s Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura, known in English as the Royal Portuguese Reading Room, must be visited as much for its unbelievably stunning interior as for its extensive literary collection. Housing the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal itself, the library was built from 1880 to 1887 in the Neo-Manueline style (Portuguese answer to Neo-Gothic architecture) designed by lead architect Rafael da Silva e Castro. Today, the library houses over 350,000 rare volumes spread over three levels, topped with a wrought iron chandelier and stained-glass skylight, making it a must see for anyone who appreciates both literature and 19th century architecture.
10. Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Connecticut, United States
Currently closed for renovation (it will reopen in September 2016) the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University houses one of the world’s largest rare book and manuscript collections. Completed in 1963, the building’s geometric architecture and innovative translucent marble “windows” allow a unique method of filtered lighting to illuminate the interior of the building while protecting its precious contents—thousands of rare manuscripts, papyri and early edition novels. The library is also home to various other literary collections acquired by the University, as well as several temporary and permanent exhibits; amid these treasured displays you can find an early printing of the Gutenberg Bible and Audubon’s Birds of America.
9. St. Catherine’s Monastery Library, South Sinai, Egypt
This Greek Orthodox Monastery, officially known as The Holy Monastery of the God-trodden Mount Sinai, and unofficially as Santa Katarina, is the oldest inhabited monastery in the world with origins predating the Middle Ages. Though it is worth the visit just to admire and stand in a structure that has witnessed 17 centuries of history, exploring the monastery’s cultural inheritance is a truly unique experience. Housing an extensive collection of Christian art, the site is also home to a library of over 16,000 ancient texts, including hand-written manuscripts on papyrus and scrolls, early printed books and an archive of ancient documents. While the majority of the works found here are written in Greek and are religious in nature, the library also houses a number of educational works such as lexicons, medical texts and travel accounts. Most notable holdings include several pages of the Codex Sinaiticus (4th century manuscript of the Holy Scriptures) and especially of interest for classical literature lovers, first editions of Homer, Plato and the Comedies of Aristophanes.
8. Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, United States
Planned, funded and brought into being by Henry and Emily Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library currently holds the world’s largest collection of William Shakespeare’s work, and is a must see for anyone who is a fan of Renaissance literature. Up until the building’s opening in 1932, the Folgers worked tirelessly to provide the American people with the best possible selection of the poet’s works, and personally took on all of the responsibilities involved with bringing their dream to life, including acquisitions, location scouting and structural planning. Today, the couple’s gift continues to expand, and now (in addition to the Shakespeare) houses an impressive collection of other Renaissance books, manuscripts and art, as well as being home to a world class research facility and numerous public outreach programs.
7. Alexandria Library, Alexandria, Egypt
Opened in 2002, this new Bibliotheca Alexandrina on Egypt’s northern coast is committed to replicating the ancient versions legacy as a universal center for culture and learning. While this was originally regarded by many as an impossible task, the library has managed it, becoming a hub in Alexandria not only for literature, but for performances, art, and special events. A stunning example of modern architecture, the library complex consists of a main reading room (which has the capacity to shelve eight million volumes) and four smaller libraries—a children’s library, youth’s library, multimedia library and braille library. Also on the premises are a planetarium and several museums that exhibit everything from ancient artefacts to antiquarian texts, including a copy of the only known scroll that remains from the city’s ancient library.
6. National Library of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy
This beautiful library in Venice’s Piazza San Marco was constructed in the mid 1500’s after Cardinal Bessarion 1468 literary donation demanded a designated library building. The two level structure, officially called the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana was designed by Jacopo Sansovino and features Doric-style arches on the ground floor and Ionic friezes and sculptures on the second, as well as decorative artworks by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto, among other. The library is also among the oldest in the country and houses one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of classical literature and historic works. With holdings that comprise upwards of a million total items, among the library’s most treasured pieces are two manuscripts of the Iliad (5th and 6th century) and opera scores and sonatas by Francesco Cavalli and Domenico Scarlatti, respectively.
5. Russian State Library, Moscow, Russia
With a history dating back to 1862, The Russian State Library is the country’s national library and houses the 5th largest literary collection in the world, containing over 17.5 million books. The institution also holds a renowned collection of maps, as well an extensive amount of specialized items such as journals, sheet music, sound recordings and dissertations. While obviously home to the largest selection of Russian literature in the world, the library also houses foreign works represented in over 247 languages, which comprise approximately 30 percent of the building’s 43 million item collection. The building itself is also an interesting site, with construction more or less completed by 1945, it is a perfect example of Soviet Neo-Classical architecture and offers an insightful contrast to other libraries of this magnitude.
4. New York Public Library, New York City, United States
Not only is the New York Public Library a city landmark and popular tourist attraction, it is also an extremely important part of the worldwide literary family. With a collection of over 53 million items, the library is the 4th largest in the world, drawing around 18 million annual visitors. Originally founded in 1895, today’s main branch at Bryant Park was opened in 1911 with over one million volumes consolidated from the Astor and Lenox Libraries. The institution has since expanded to include 88 neighborhood branches and four resource centers, servicing approximately 17 million people and offering over 67,000 free programs yearly. Visitors to the main branch, located in Manhattan`s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, can admire the beauty of the building’s Beaux-Arts architecture and interiors and explore the collections in the General Research, Manuscripts and Archives, History and Genealogy and Rare Books Divisions (among others). This building is also home to some of the country’s most significant historic documents, including Columbus’s letter about the New World (1943) and George Washington’s original Farewell Address.
3. Vatican Library, Vatican City
Among the many culturally significant things to see in Vatican City, the Vatican Library is no exception. Officially established in 1448 (though acquisition began much earlier) in the Vatican Palace, the current collection tops 1.1 million items and includes ancient manuscripts, codices, classical Greek and Latin texts, and perhaps the most impressive selection of incunabula (text printed in Europe prior to 1501) in the world. Though holding a vast amount of religious texts, the library’s holdings are actually extremely diverse in scope, with notable pieces ranging from the oldest known Bible (Codex Vaticanus) to letters from Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn.
2. Library of Congress, Washington DC, United States
Established in 1800, with the doors of the current building opening to the public in 1897, The Library of Congress in Washington DC is the 2nd largest library in the world, housing upwards of 158 million items. Now a national monument, the building is one of the world’s foremost research centers home to 36 million printed materials in over 460 languages as well as over 69 million manuscripts. It is also here that you will find the world’s largest selection of films, sound recordings, sheet music and maps, in addition to the most extensive holdings of rare books on the continent. Along with this amazing collection of literature, the building itself is also worth the tour, showcasing magnificent Beaux-Arts architecture with interiors and reading rooms featuring fine art, marble halls, carved hardwood, and of course, the incomparable central stained-glass dome.
1. The British Library, London, England
This jaw-dropping institution contains an astounding 625 km of shelving to house its 170 million+ item collection which includes over 300,000 original manuscripts (both ancient and contemporary) and 60 million patents. With figures such as these, it is no wonder that the British Library is the largest in the world, and attract over 16,000 daily visitors. The main building, located in St. Pancras in London, is England’s largest public building constructed in the 20th century and consists of over 112,000 square meters spread over 14 floors. Along with the unparalleled collection of books, maps, newspapers and musical scores, the library is home to one of the world’s most comprehensive selections of literary treasures, including the Magna Carta, The Times first edition and the audio recording of Mandela’s Rivonia trial speech.
Getting engaged is a huge deal. Not only are you agreeing to spend the rest of your life with someone (which is no small undertaking), the engagement itself will be a story that will be told over and over again for the rest of your lives together. And every good story has to have not only great characters (in this case the future bride and groom), but a great setting to start it off on the right page. So to help create the plot of your fairytale story, here are some memorable spots in which to get engaged.
10. Siesta Key -Florida, United States
Siesta Key beach is known to be one of the best in the world, with its temperate waters, signature white sands and miles and miles of beach to walk. Siesta Key is also known to have some of the best sunsets in the world. Take your beloved for a stroll on the beach at sunset and pop the question against the fiery night sky.
9. Kylemore Abbey -Connemara, Ireland
Another castle to consider for the prince and princess in one of their most romantic moments. Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland. This castle has numerous restored rooms and six acres of walled Victorian gardens. There are sweeping views of the rolling Irish countryside. Think fresh air, a pastoral setting and history in which to chart your future.
8. The Jefferson Memorial -Washington, D.C., United States
Getting engaged is no small feat, and perhaps surrounding yourself with meaningful words and history will enhance the depth of the commitment and of your love. Engagements at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. are popular. After a stroll around some Washington landmarks, pop the question in the cradle of history, with thoughtful passages about rights and freedom taken from the Declaration of Independence upon the walls.
7. Venice, Italy
Again, it may be cliche, but Venice straight up just oozes romance. This city of waterways has amazing architecture, deep history, and a laid-back vibe that gives you time to pause and savour the moment. Floating in a gondola would no doubt make for a memorable proposal- but to make it even more romantic, have your gondolier stick to some of the side canals, for a more intimate moment.
6. The Pitons, St Lucia
The Pitons are black volcanic mountains, and provide a majestic backdrop for any engagement. If your partner is outdoorsy and enjoys fancies a hike, a proposal with a view atop one of the Piton spires could be a step in the right direction toward a ‘yes!’. If you are a little more sedentary, the Pitons themselves can be viewed from various locations and hotels around the island.
5. Quebec City -Quebec, Canada
With its European flavour, cobblestone streets and romantic bistros that line the street, this walled city is the epitome of romance. There are a few good spots to seek out for your proposal. The Joan of Arc Garden, located within the Plains of Abraham, with its numerous, vibrant flower beds is a popular spot. Another idea is at the Chateau Frontenac. This historic hotel has rooms with amazing views as well as boasting amazing, classic architecture.
4. Neuschwanstein -Schwangau, Germany
Want a romance with a fairy-tale ending? Start your marriage off with a proposal in a real-life castle. The Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th century castle located in Southwest Bavaria in Germany. This popular castle ushers through some 6,000 visitors every summer. Why is it so romantic? It’s the inspiration from an actual fairy tale: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty fashioned their castle after Neuschwanstein. We’d say this proposal spot is definitely fit for any princess!
3. Central Park -New York City, United States
Any season will do for a romantic proposal in New York’s iconic Central Park, but the fall provides a pretty backdrop, with loads of trees tipped in vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. Pack a picnic and go for an afternoon stroll or even a horse-drawn carriage ride. A couple of the most popular proposal spots? The Bow Bridge or the Carousel at 46th St.
2. Paris, France
It’s a little bit cliche, but Paris really is the city of love. There is something indefinable in the air that communicates romance. The more obvious places to get engaged centre around the Eiffel Tower, either in a hotel with a view or at the Tower itself, or along the banks of the Seine River. Given the romance vibe in Paris, you could propose literally anywhere and have it be meaningful. Want something a little different, but with a spectacular view? Climb the 300 steps up to the dome in the Sacre Coeur Basilica, in Montmartre. The climb is a little daunting, the view is incredible.
1. Santorini, Greece
This group of small islands is one of the most scenic areas in Greece, and is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Europe. Santorini is actually perched on the rim top of an active volcano. The topography of this area creates some spectacular hillsides and cliffs, which provide wonderful views of the clear seas below. It’s also famous for show-stopping sunsets, which will create the perfect backdrop to pop the question.
Sometimes, watching old films with scenes of celebrations creates the longing to have been a part of a time when exquisite balls held in elaborate palaces were the norm. Luckily, many modern events exist that evoke those same feelings of grandeur and high society, but the luck stops there because not everyone can be best friends with Anna Wintour, married to Kanye or in a position to shell out five figures for a ticket. So, for those of you who have a taste for the more glamorous things in life, and as an added bonus, would love to combine them with your love of travel, here are five incredible annual society balls that anyone is welcome to attend.
5. Bal Viennois de Montreal, Montreal
This incredible event, which has all the makings of a traditional ball including tuxedos, ball gowns, debutantes and live-orchestras, has been held annually by the Austrian Society in Montreal for the past 50 years. Held each November in the city’s Hotel Marriott Chateau Champlain, the ball is a celebration of Viennese culture and the preservation of the Viennese Ball tradition. It doesn’t disappoint in the glamour department either, providing guests with an elaborately themed atmosphere (this year’s theme is Die Fledermaus), a gourmet five course dinner, a steady stream of champagne, prestigious entertainment and stellar door prizes (the 2014 prize was a trip to Prague). Guests must submit to a dress code and proper dancing etiquette, and can enjoy this evening of old world fun for prices ranging from $150-200.
4. Concordia Ball, Vienna
This Austrian ball, which was originally conceived as a celebration of the journalistic organization known as Concordia, has a history dating back to 1859. Revived in the 1960s, the event is regaining its past splendor, and is now held annually in June at Vienna’s City Hall. The majestic building is the perfect backdrop for this glamorous evening, which historically has been attended by royalty and high artistic and political society. Today, the event is still attended by notable international figures, but is open to anyone who wants to don black or white tie, waltz to a live orchestra and celebrate culture into the wee hours of the morning. Tickets are also reasonably priced, with entrance to the ball costing 95 euros (this price increases if you want to attend the gala dinner).
3. Bonbon Ball, Vienna
The sweetest society ball on the planet (literally), the Bonbon Ball takes places every February and celebrates—you guessed it—the candy industry. With a history dating back to 1949 when the event was known as “Sweet Night” the ball has become known for its fun and mostly informal atmosphere (well, compared to other Viennese Balls; dress code is still in effect) and is the only annual event of this kind to take place in Vienna’s historic Konzerthaus. Grab a ticket to this event and indulge in a program centered around confectionery delights and take your chances at being crowned “Miss Bonbon” (yes, it’s a thing).
2. Saint Valentine’s Grand Masquerade Ball, Venice
As an event part of the Venice Carnival, The Grand Masquerade Ball is a unique chance to dress up in elaborate costumes, don a mask and pretend to be someone else for a while. Held in a beautiful private Venetian Palace on the banks of the Grand Canal, attendees are transported to a fantastical world of theatrical performance, candlelit gala dinner, live music and elaborate after-dinner parties. Tickets start at 500 euros and promise an evening of sumptuousness and decadence equivalent only to the parties held by the Venetian nobility throughout history. For those on a stricter budget, the Venice Carnival also hosts a number of smaller balls, namely the Mascheranda Grand Ball and the Carnival in Love Ball which range in price from 150-250 euros.
1. Le Grand Ball, Vienna
This here is the crème-de-la-crème, the best of the best and the indisputably most glamorous and authentic ball to be found in the world today. Held on New Year’s Eve in Vienna’s Imperial Palace, the Hofburg Silvester Ball, known colloquially as Le Grand Bal, is the country’s most notable celebration. This spectacular event has ticketed entry (ranging in price from 70-470 euros) and includes a spectacular program of a one-of-kind opening ceremony, live musical and theatrical performances, traditional dances accompanied by a full orchestra and a late night DJ hosting a disco into the early hours of the morning. The food and drink scene is equally impressive, with the ball including a four course gala dinner, various buffets, lounge areas and the famous coffeehouses of Viennese ball culture. The dress code is of course strictly observed, as is the traditional dancing and social etiquette. For anyone looking for an excuse to wear black tie and ring in the New Year at one of the world’s most glamorous parties, Le Grand Ball is definitely worth the trip.
Rich in history, bursting with culture, dripping with marvelous architecture, full of life; this is Venice. Loaded with marvelous museums, historical buildings and located just a short ferry ride away from several wonderful islands there is no shortage of things to see and do here. From the bustling fresh seafood markets to the authentic restaurants tucked away in corners to the delicious coffee; you won’t go hungry in this city. Gondola tours, ghost walks and panoramic views of the city from the top of a bell tower are just a glimpse into what you may discover in Venice. Hop aboard as we discover ten things to see and do in this magnificent city.
10. Take a Gondola Tour
When one mentions the city of Venice it’s hard not to immediately think of those iconic gondolas. Although they are full of tourists and not as romantic as the movies make them out to be, your trip to Venice wouldn’t really be complete without one. Choosing the right person to take you out can make all the difference and getting a recommendation when you are in the city is the best choice.
Whether you choose to ride through the Grand Canal or your gondola takes you through the smaller canals and rivers it is truly an experience you can’t get elsewhere. The views of the aged buildings with the ornaments stuck in the walls, the architecture that exists, the crumbling foundations of the waterlogged structures, the intricate designs of the doorways; these are what make the gondola tours so incredibly remarkable. Don’t bother booking ahead for a tour as there are an abundance of operators wherever you choose to take your gondola from. For a more traditional way of crossing the water, try your hand at riding the traghetto where locals stand up as they cross from one side of the canal to the other in a small transit gondola.
9. Explore the Rialto Markets
Often described as a visual feast, the Rialto food markets will have any foodie salivating as you explore the fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood. Set your alarm to wake up early and watch as the barges arrive at dawn and the vendors start to assemble their stores. Most of the shops close up by noon so getting here early is a must as by 8am shop owners are already busy haggling and bargaining with customers. Work your way from left to right after you have crossed the Rialto Bridge to maximize your experience at the markets.
The Erberia Market is the vegetable market which you will encounter first bursting with colour and variety with the freshest produce available to purchase. Feel free to bargain with the vendors but remember to pay them a fair price. The next market you will happen upon is the fresh fish market; also called the Pescheria. Watch as the sellers toss the fish to one another having fun while doing it as you enjoy marveling at the variety of seafood choices. Spend the morning at the markets and get a sense of the true culture of Venice.
8. Dine at an Authentic Restaurant
Traveling to Venice without finding one authentic restaurant hidden in the many nooks and crannies of this beautiful city would simply be a travesty. You will have no problem finding plenty of eateries catering to tourists, often at high prices and with lower quality food. The real test is to find where the locals eat. Luckily we are here to help you with that. Stepping off the main roads and entering into the side streets is where you will find the best of the best.
Osteria ai 4 Feri is one place you will find authentic Italian food in a lively atmosphere that is full of locals. The handwritten daily menu is in Italian so bring along that dictionary and try to make a reservation the day before as it does fill up quickly. The favourite in this local eatery is the fresh seafood. Just a stone’s throw away from a very busy tourist area is All’Arco; one of the best bacari around. Luckily this well loved place is still unknown to most tourists. The food is to die for, the staff are all family and the patrons speak the beautiful Venetian dialect. Step away from the busy streets, ask a local for a recommendation and experience true Italian cuisine in the city of Venice.
7. Head on a Ghost Walk
Venice at night is full of mystery, romance and if you are a believer; plenty of ghosts. The rich history of the city includes ancient cemeteries buried beneath the grounds, secret passageways, haunted houses and “The Street of Assassins”. Many visitors choose to join a guided walking ghost tour which combines the tales of intriguing ghost stories with a lesson in history of the city. Most tours depart from the Rialto Bridge where an experienced guide will meet you and take you on a 1-2 hour ghost walk.
For the really brave souls that want to venture out on their own there are a few “haunted places” that even the tour guides won’t take you. Head to Casin degli spiriti in the north where the literal translation is “house of souls”. Legend has it that this palace is cursed from years of religious sects coming to invoke spirits and demons and a suicide by a famous painter along with a discovery of a sunken body in a trunk, all of which have contributed to its “cursed” reputation. Ca Dario on the Grand Canal is perhaps the most haunted house in Venice and is known to locals as “The House of No Return”, as all of its owners have been cursed, died or been severely injured. The chain of bad luck began in the 15th century and continues to this day with many horror stories from each owner. If you dare, it is often for sale. Whether you are brave enough to venture out and discover these haunted places in Venice; well that is really up to you.
6. Campo del Ghetto
Campo del Ghetto or the Jewish Ghetto is the area in Venice in which all Jewish people were forced to live from the 16th-18th century and is now a quiet area rich in history and definitely worth a visit. The history of this place is what makes it so unique; surrounded by water with only two entrances manned by Christian guards keeping the inhabitants safe and segregated, the Jewish people remained here until 1797. Today the ghetto is an open space surrounded by tall buildings that house synagogues on the top floors; as in the past, Venetian laws forbade the separate building of synagogues.
The Museo Ebraico is where you can get tickets for the guided tour of three of the synagogues; each one hidden in the top floor of a building. The Museo also highlights centuries of the Jewish culture with Hanukkah lamps and Torahs along with handwritten wedding contracts in Hebrew. Make sure to stop by the two Holocaust memorials that are placed on both sides of the Casa di Riposa building. Visiting the Campo del Ghetto in Venice is a great way to spend an afternoon strolling through history.
5. Day Trip to Burano or Murano
Just a short ferry ride away, a more expensive water taxi away lays two great islands that are worth a visit when in Venice. Popular for different reasons; Burano is full of colourful houses and lace makers where as Murano is famous for its centuries of glass blowing. We don’t suggest trying to fit both places in one day but give them each a day in order to explore their entirety. Both islands are truly unique and a great way to escape the busy streets of Venice.
Burano has an interesting history of the colourful buildings that line the waterways. Families used to paint their houses in order to show where their families quarters ended and the neighbours began; as well as painting them as bright as possible so they could be seen from the sea. Local fishermen provide the freshest of seafood to the local eateries so you can be assured if you choose to eat on this island you will not be disappointed. Make sure to stop into one of the authentic lace shop where you can find women inside stitching away. Murano offers visitors amazing glass blowing demonstrations and galleries housing thousands of original pieces as well as its own Glass Museum.
4. San Rocco (Scuola of St. Rocco)
Any visitor to Venice that appreciates art must make time to visit the Scuola of San Rocco and its amazing collection of paintings by painter Tintoretto. There are two buildings on site to enjoy, first the Scuola which was designed as a “great school” by a group of Venetian aristocrats. The building is open daily for tours and admission includes an audio guide. The carved wood walls, the painted ceiling, the stunning works of art and the mirrors that are provided so you can view what is above you is just a taste of what you will discover inside.
The church next door is named after Saint Roch who is known as the patron saint of the sick. Visitors can view the glass tomb in the church where his body is encased. Breathtakingly beautiful, less touristy than the main streets of Venice and a quiet place to appreciate art and tranquility makes San Rocco a great stop while in the city.
3. Ride to the top of Campanile di San Marco
Campanile di San Marco or as you may know it as the bell tower of St. Marks has stood for just under a century, or over a thousand years; depending how you look at it. The original bell tower collapsed in 1902 and the structure that stands there today was completed in 1912 and is an exact replica of the tower. The five bells used to convey five different messages and are still rung today; but only to maintain tradition rather than as a means of communication.
The way to the top is by the lift that whisks you up in one fluid motion, stopping at the top to let you out into the viewing area. Prepare yourself for the most epic views of the city from this vantage point. The roofs, the water, the harbor, the mountains and the square can all be seen from this 360 degree view. Spend as much time as you want atop this tower taking photos and marveling at seeing Venice from a whole new perspective. The cost; 8 euro’s at time of publication which you’ll agree is a true steal once you are on top and taking in the magnificent panorama.
2. Tour the Palazzo Ducale
The Palazzo Ducale also known as Doge’s Plaza is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture that spans an impressive three blocks. This huge palace was once a place of government, a palace for Duke Federico III da Montefeltro and a prison. Touring this palace can take several hours especially if you fully immerse yourself into the incredible art, fascinating architecture and interesting history that await you here.
Keep your eyes peeled for the world’s largest oil painting that is housed in the Great Council Hall and is described as a dynamic dark piece of art. Point your eyes toward the ceiling in the Senate Chamber to view the magnificent works of Tintoretto. Dare to walk across the bridge of sighs where prisoners often caught their last glimpse of freedom before heading into the prisons. And don’t miss out on the secret itineraries tour where a guide will take you through hidden passageways, private apartments, torture chambers and into the rooftop prison.
1. Piazza San Marco
You didn’t think we had forgotten about the infamous Piazza San Marco did you? We decided to save the best and arguably the most important place to visit when in Venice for last. The public square of Venice, the centerpiece of social, religious and political matters, the drawing room of Europe; there are so many different names for this important centerpiece in the city. Dominated by the magnificent St Mark’s Basilica, the incredible marble decoration and arches and the four horses; this is one area everyone visits when they come to the city.
The floor is thick with pigeons, the air smelling of rich coffee, and the sound of different languages fill the space as tourists from all over the world make this a stopping point on their journey. A magnificent pedestrian only space where students lounge over books, tourists sip Prosecco at outdoor tables and beautiful monuments and buildings tower over you. Take in the sights and marvel at all this city has to offer.