Top Viewed Tours of 2017

As we near the end of 2017, we’re taking time to reflect on another fantastic year and what an honour it has been to take so many of you on wonderful holidays.

And we’re thrilled that, with all the hard work of our teams at Leger HQ and, of course, our coach crews and guides out on the road, we’ve helped create incredible memories and a lasting impressions, as you voted us the Best Medium Coach Holiday Company for the second year running at the British Travel Awards.
But, we couldn’t round off the year without giving you the rundown of our most viewed tours on of 2017. So, without further ado, if you’re on the lookout for holiday inspiration or just wanting to know if your favourite tour made it onto our list, here’s what really caught your eye this year…

10. The Beauty of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore

The third largest lake in Italy, and the first of four Italian tours to make it onto our list. But it’s not just our customers who love Lake Como, it’s also a hit with George Clooney, Madonna and Richard Branson.
Lake Como

9. Picturebook Norway – Fjordland Spectacular

Our dream tour seems to be your dream tour, too. With our first departure sold out and our 2019 dates now on sale, the Norway effect is still in full swing.
Norwegian Fjords

8. Splendours of Paris

Paris is always a good idea, and it seems that’s something we can all agree on! The romantic capital city of France comes in at a respectable 8th on our list.
Paris 2017

7. All Quiet on the Western Front

A perfect WW1 Battlefields experience for first-timers and experienced travellers, 2017 has certainly captured your interest of visiting the Western Front.
Tyne Cot Cemetery

6. Lake Garda, Venice and Verona

The mighty Lake Garda, incredible Venice and the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, this is three world-class destinations in one impressive tour, we’re not surprised to see this tour make it into our top 10.
Venice 2017

5. Picturebook Italy

A Leger Holidays favourite, Picturebook Italy, of course, makes its way into our top 5. Well, a holiday visiting the best that Italy has to offer, it’s bound to happen.

4. The Wonders of Rome & Pompeii

Italy still seems to be a big hitter in 2017, but the Wonders of Rome & Pompeii comes out top of the Italian pickings. And it’s no wonder when Rome alone attracts around 7 – 10 million tourists each year.
Trevi Fountain, Rome 2017

3. Dutch Bulbfields & the Delights of Amsterdam

Tulip mania lives on! In 2017, the beautiful Dutch Bulbfields really caught your attention, or is it the visit to Amsterdam? Either way, a trip to Holland doesn’t get much better than this.
Dutch Bulbfields

2. D-Day Landings in Normandy

Taking the hypothetical silver medal in 2017, our D-Day Landings in Normandy tour narrowly missed out on the top spot. But, with the recent launch of our D-Day 75th Anniversary tour, could it snag the top spot next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pegasus Bridge

1. Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis

And with over 300 tours to choose from, for the third year running, our most viewed tour is our Nashville, New Orleans & Elvis Presley’s Memphis tour. Whether you’re an Elvis fan, a music buff in general or just fancy a visit to America’s Deep South, we seem to have got it right with this one.
New Orleans 2017
From everyone at Leger Holidays, we wish you a very happy New Year!

Chocolate Capitals of Europe: Our Top Spots for Chocoholics

Chocoholics rejoice! Easter is just around the corner and there are sugary treats aplenty lining aisles in almost every shop.

Hot cross buns, colourful candy and, of course, chocolate! It is one time of year you can be sure to get plenty of tasty treats to satisfy any craving.
Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, even chocolate dinosaurs are on offer this year and it sounds like chocolate heaven, doesn’t it?
But, we can do one better by combining your love of chocolate and your love of travel! Where are the best places to get your chocolate-y treats? Some places are synonymous with the sugary treat, but, here are our unexpected top spots to satisfy your sweet tooth all year long.


Well known for its picturesque vineyards, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that Tuscany is also home to what is known as ‘The Chocolate Valley’.
Based in a triangle formed between Florence, Pisa and Montecatini, the stunning Tuscan countryside is host to many gourmet shops and small factories producing some of the finest chocolate in Italy.
Some of the chocolatiers in the Valley offer cooking classes, factory tours and chocolate tastings so check in advance if you’re around one that offers these fun activities.


The Spanish were actually the first people in Europe to experience chocolate when it was brought back from South America and Barcelona is home to the first ever chocolate making machine that was built in the city in 1780.
There’s even a chocolate museum where you can learn all about chocolate, how it’s made and see some impressive chocolate sculptures and tastings, although we suggest you don’t mix the tastings with the sculptures, that probably wouldn’t go down too well.


Looking for some great chocolate in Germany? Well, Cologne is the place to be! Once the second largest supplier of chocolate, with the Stollwerck Chocolate company, you can be sure to grab a great bite in Cologne.
Head to the chocolate museum for all sorts of chocolate-y goodness from learning about the history of your hot chocolate to a rather impressive chocolate fountain.


Zurich ciy in Switzerland. Evening cityscape.
The holy grail of milk chocolate! In a country where more chocolate is consumed than anywhere else in the world (20lbs per person!), Zurich is the heart of Switzerland’s cocoa creations.
The home of the world renowned Lindt brand, one of the top destinations for a chocolate lover is the Lindt & Sprungli factory. Plus, there’s lots of free samples to try whilst you’re there.
The Bahnhofstrasse, also known as the most expensive street in Zurich, is host to some of the top chocolatiers in the world nestled in between the likes of Chanel and Armarni. Here you can pick up some delicious Champagne Truffles made with Dom Perignon champagne, butter cream and dark ganache. Delicious!


As the world’s gourmet capital, there’s no surprise that Paris also comes up trumps when it comes to chocolate too.
With dark chocolate being their speciality, Parisian chocolatiers are celebrated for making miracles from coco beans using original and high quality recipes.
With over 300 chocolate shops in the Parisian phone book, and host of the World Chocolate Master Championship, you can be sure to be in confectionery heaven in Paris.

Now, over to you, if you’re a chocoholic, where have you picked up the tastiest treat?

Famous Landmarks in Europe – Our Top Places to Visit

Europe is a world heavyweight when it comes to impressive landmarks, with just about every country packing a punch in the sight-seeing category.

Iconic structures you could pick out in an instant, architecture as old as time, but which are the best landmarks to visit whilst travelling through Europe? Well, we’ve picked out some of our top places to grab some picture postcard pics whilst visiting the continent…

The Colosseum

Oh, yes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And what’s more quintessentially Roman than the Flavian Amphitheatre?
While its history may be brutal, the Colosseum’s structure is one to behold, built of concrete and sand, in its day, it could hold up to 55,000 people!
It also takes the top spot as the most famous tourist attraction in Rome – well worth a visit.

The Eiffel Tower

One of Paris’ most visited attractions, the Eiffel Tower takes the top spot of most tourists visiting the City of Lights. And, with the stricture standing at 342 metres in height, it is hard to miss.
The tower actually welcomes around 7 million visitors each year which gives it the title of the most visited paid-for monument in the world.

Sagrada Familia

Whilst Barcelona’s impressive Catholic Cathedral still stands unfinished, you can’t deny that the Sagrada Familia is pretty spectacular.
Designed by architect, Antonio Gaudi, the cathedral has now entered its last phase of construction with the tallest of its new towers set to reach a whopping 172 metres!
After 133 years in construction, if you’re waiting to see the finished piece, it is on track to be finished in 2026 which will also mark the centenary of Gaudi’s death.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

One of Italy's most famous landmarks - The Leaning tower of Pisa
Poor foundations it may have, but if this tower was up right it wouldn’t be as appealing, right? This is one human error we can certainly be thankful for.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a tourist hotspot, and you can be sure to see hordes of people trying to get that one picture showing them propping up the tower, which can be an amusing sight in itself.
Now safely anchored into the ground, you can even take a walk up the tower and what a great thing to say you have done?

Brandenburg Gate

One of the best-known landmarks in Germany, Brandenburg Gate, is a symbol of peace that was built in the eighteenth century, and it’s certainly something to look at.
Originally, the designer’s concept for the gate was a ‘Friedenstor’, or victory arch, as we may know it. Through Berlin’s varied history it has also shared it existence as a political icon and a symbol of a divided city.
Luckily, we can now enjoy the Brandenburg Gate as a symbol of unity. It’s certainly a unique and memorable place to visit during your time in Berlin.

Ancient City Walls of Dubrovnik

Considered the most magnificent fortification monument in Europe, a walk around the walls of Dubrovnik are sure to be a highlight of your trip to this spectacular coastal city.
Stretching around the city, the walls reach over 2km in distance. So, if you’ve indulged in some of that delicious Dubrovnik seafood, it’s the perfect excuse to fit in a post-lunch stroll.


Landmark in Athens - The Acropolis
Mention an 80ft hill with a flat top and it may not sound overly impressive. Mention its name, and it suddenly becomes one of the most iconic monuments in Europe.
The Acropolis, especially the Parthenon, are by far the most characteristic sights to see in Athens – a must on any trip to the city.
It is considered to symbol the beginning of Western civilisation and the Parthenon was even dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, Athena, who is also the goddess of wisdom making it a real treat for culture enthusiasts and historians alike.

Duomo, Florence

The Duomo Landmark
It’s hard to miss the Cathedral of Santa Maria, or The Duomo as it’s otherwise known, as it stands high above the red-tiled rooftops that cover the stunning city of Florence.
The iconic dome proved somewhat of a puzzle to the people of Florence, as nobody actually knew how to build it.
It could have been divine intervention, or just good luck, as their prayers were answered by Brunelleschi, a goldsmith and clock maker.
Brunelleschi was the mastermind of the design and engineering miracle and is who we have to thank for one of Europe’s most impressive masonry dome.

Phew, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Are there any on our list that you’re longing to see? Let us know in the comments.

Europe's Most Romantic Cities

They say love is all around us but we just can’t deny that there are some places that just ooze that romantic charm. They have a certain je ne sais quoi, a heart-warming atmosphere and, lucky for us, these places are right on our doorstep.

Yes, it’s the stunning cities of Europe. Maybe it’s the unique architecture, the winding rivers or the mouth-watering cuisine, there’s just something that gets the butterflies of even the most cynical romantic fluttering away.
With Valentine’s just around the corner, you may just be thinking about what Europe’s most romantic cities may be. Wonder no more, you won’t even need your rose tinted glasses to feel this kind of love, here are our top 9 cities perfect for a romantic experience.

9. Verona

Starting off with the home of the most famous Shakespearian love affair, in at number 9 it has to be Verona. The setting of Romeo and Juliet, it’s certainly a city to play out a true act of affection.
Romeo? where for art thou? Right here. One of the most popular destinations is, of course, Juliet’s Courtyard where tourists will pose for a picture or two upon the balcony.
The city is so famous for love that countless letters addressed to ‘Juliet, Verona, Italy’ are sent every year, there’s even a team of volunteers dedicated to responding to these lovelorn love notes.

8. Budapest

Reaching over both banks the river Danube, Budapest is a sight to behold. Known as the Paris of the East, it really is a city of romantic beauty.
With stunning architecture from the impressive Parliament Building to the stunning Vajdahunyad castle, there’s plenty to see and do to kick start your romantic heart.
Steal a kiss on the chain Bridge or take a loved up selfie as you take in the sights from the castle district. With the allure of the Széchenyi Thermal Bath thrown into the mix, who could say no to Budapest?

7. Prague

Charles Bridge, Prague
With beautiful coloured buildings, gothic architecture and some amazingly great beer on offer, Prague may be under the radar when it comes to romantic city locations, but it certainly has a lot to offer.
The birthplace of Bohemia, from the love, locks bridge in the Malá Strana district, to the winding paths of Petri­n Park, you could easily fall in love with Prague.
If you’re in the city on the 1st May, a kiss by the statue of Karel Hynek Macha is said to guarantee your love will blossom. The tradition is related to the poem ‘May’ written by Mácha which starts, ‘Late evening, on the first of May—
The twilit May—the time of love.’
The tradition is so popular, Czech couples actually have to queue to steal their kiss with their beloved.

6. Florence

Italy really is home of the romantic heavyweights and appears once again with a firm favourite, fantastic Florence.
Bordering the Tuscan Chianti country, Florence really is packed full of the flavour of love. And, with almost a third of the world’s art treasures residing in Florence, it really can whet the whistle of the cultural couple.
Romantic strolls? It’s got them in abundance, the narrow streets of the city, the stunning Piazzas and, of course, the romantic River Arno.
To top it off,  the spectacular city views, dominated by the striking Duomo, really do set the scene for the perfect romantic trip.

5. Copenhagen

If you’re looking for some fairy-tale romance, Copenhagen has just what you are looking for.
The symbol of the city is the world-renowned little mermaid, created by Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen. Her statue even sits on a rock in the harbour – awaiting her love.
With quaint, cobbled streets, this compact city has the wow factor without being overwhelming. Take a stroll over to the harbour bridge and leave a love lock to seal your romance in stunning Copenhagen.

4. Vienna

With romantic sight-seeing opportunities and even a huge Ferris wheel to take it all in from above, you’ll certainly feel young at heart in Vienna.
White horses, imperial palaces, beautiful gardens and chandelier-lit coffee houses to enjoy, it’s almost like a scene from a romance feature film.
Take a horse and cart ride through the city and stop off at the beautiful Hofburg Palace, once the centre of the Hapsburg Empire, for a truly Viennese experience.

3. Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Put the Rome in romance, celebrate eternal love in the eternal city – do we need to go on?
Take a Roman holiday in the stunning city of Rome and feel love of colossal proportions.
Recreate the iconic love scene in ‘La Dolce Vita’ by sharing a kiss by the Trevi fountain, saunter down to the Spanish Steps or canoodle at the Colosseum.
The river Tiber is a hot spot for couples, with love lock bridges and a stunning view over the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, especially as the sun sets, that’s certainly amore.

2. Venice

The creme de la creme of Italian romantic escapes, of course, it has to be Venice.
There’s just something about the winding canals with stunning turquoise water, the gondola rides and with plenty of scenic piazza’s to explore, you’re not short of romantic strolls.
Enjoy the iconic view over the lagoon from San Giorgio Maggiore and tie up your trip in a truly romantic style.

1. Paris

Be still, my beating heart. In the words of Audrey Hepburn, Paris is always a good idea. Yes, it’s cliche, but you can’t deny the French capital the top spot.
Climb the Eiffel tower to take in panoramic views over the whole city, take a sail down the river Seine or take your love to the Louvre.
There’s a reason why this city is given the name ‘City if Love’, and it’s because it’s so easy to fall in love with Paris.
If you’re struggling to find the perfect Valentines gift this year, check out our gift guide, here.

Picturebook Italy: a snapshot of all things Italian.

From Venice to Rome, Pisa to the Amalfi Coast, despite never setting foot on Italian soil, there’s every chance you’ve already fallen in love with Italy. Despite only being a unified country for 153 years, it’s understandable how the boot of Europe attracts over 43 million tourists a year, making it the 4th most visited country in the world. Home to some of the most iconic cities, with a unique culture and first class cuisine featuring the some of the world’s favourite carbohydrates, with over 350 different types of pasta and after all, Pizza is one of few words understood all around the world, they’re doing something right.

Venice and Rome, both appear on many-a-persons bucket list, so here is our guide to some of the lesser known, but no less spectacular, splendours of Europe’s boot-shaped masterpiece, all of which you can visit on our popular Picturebook Italy tour.

Lake Garda

The largest lake in Europe and the most visited in Italy, with its beautiful shorelines and quaint villages, even for the Romans, Lake Garda was the luxury summer destination.
The town of Sirmione gives you the chance to visit the ruins left behind by this ancient powerhouse, including some inviting thermal spas.
You cannot miss the thirteenth-century Rocca Scaligera. Like something out of a fairy tale, you can head inside and take a look around, take in the sights of Lake Garda. Whilst Sirmione was once a town of great military importance, the only guarding of the fortress happening nowadays are the swans patrolling the moat of the castle, a great sight.


Heading into Medieval Tuscany, to the stunning city of Siena. Famous for the Palio run, where the various areas in which the city is divided challenge in other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city, the event also features in the James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’. This medieval Tuscan town is embroiled in an age-old rivalry with Florence, even tourists get involved, picking a side with their favourite city of the two to champion. Luckily, our tour heads off to both cities so you will be able to pick your allegiance before heading home.
In the heart of the city, the Il Campo is where to take in the true nature of what Siena has to offer. Sit back and enjoy the perfect espresso whilst enjoying Siena’s gothic architecture. The Italians consume over 14 billion of them each year so you can be sure they’ve perfected the art of coffee making.
Piazza del Campo in Siena

Sorrento or Capri

Whilst on the Amalfi Coast, why not visit beautiful Sorrento? Celebrity chef Gino D’acampo has said previously that it is the most romantic place on earth. However, if you’re not quite the romantic type, it could be worth noting that Sorrento is also home to possibly the best Limoncello you could find. Using the famous Sorrento lemons, you will find almost every shop filled to the brim with the famous citrus tipple.
Instead, you could choose to head off to the island of Capri where you can experience the beautiful Blue Grotto. A cave where an underwater cavity illuminates the waters and lights the walls with in a magical shade of blue, it takes its place proudly as one of Europe’s best natural wonders.
A highlight of the Amalfi Coast is the picture perfect views that have plenty to offer. With Mount Vesuvius dominating the horizon, one of only three active volcanoes in Europe. Interestingly, Italy is also home to the remaining two active volcanoes, Mount Etna and Mount Stromboli


Once home to the Godfathers of the Renaissance, the Medici family, Florence is also birth place of the nurse and namesake, Florence Nightingale. Even in modern day Florence captures the hearts of many, Dan Brown set his recent novel, Inferno in the city.
The famous Cathedral, Il Duomo, is most certainly worth a visit. Taking 140 years to build, you can climb the 463 stone steps to reach the cupola for a close up look of the Last Judgement painting that covers the inner dome. Or you can just enjoy the view of this beautiful city from a perfect vantage point.
Whilst appreciating the architecture, you can also admire the streets themselves, Florence was the first city in Europe to have paved streets.


The leaning tower, the mindboggling architecture seemingly defying gravity certainly is the focal point for many in this town. Funnily enough, the tower once leant the other way.
Shortly after building started, the fine soil started to give way. They continued by piling on stone work to counter-balance the lean only for it to slump in the other direction.
The Bell chamber that tops the tower is the only part of the tower that sits true after purposely being laid to incorporate the lean. However, the slight problems with the building work nearly 850 years ago has provided us with one of the most recognisable pieces of architecture in the world.
Pisa, Piazza dei miracoli.

Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands

Reaching over the border into Switzerland, Lake Maggiore certainly wouldn’t look out of place on a postcard. We stop off at the town of Baveno, the town famed for its pink granite. Used for numerous famous buildings around the world such as St Paul’s in Rome, Gallerica Vittorio Emanuele in Milan and even the monument to Christopher Columbus in New York City.
Hop onto a boat and head off into the lake to the Borromean islands, each with its own charms.
Isola Bella an elegant island with a 17th century castle, perfect for a budding historian. If you’re interested in a more laid back time, Isola Pescatore is the only inhabited island, with a quaint village featuring charming shops, cafes and restaurants. Isola Madre features 19th century English style gardens and a palace filled with Italian masterpieces and paintings, the islands as a group offer you a perfect snapshot of Italian culture.
Of course being topped off by the Rome and Venice visits, you’re sure to have the perfect Italian tour taking in much of what makes this country one of the most unique in the world. Check out our blogs featuring Venice and Rome coming soon!
You can get your cameras at the ready, our Picturebook Italy tour starts from as little as £849 pp for 12 days. You can view our full itinerary here.
Why not head over to our Facebook page and share your tales and experiences of this magnificent tour with us?

Florence: artistic treasures, amazing architecture and a rapidly-melting

The final city visit on our tour of the Italian Riviera, Tuscany and Rome was the Renaissance city of Florence, a city that was mentioned quite a bit in my art history lessons.

It was a warm and sunny day as we travelled into Florence, or Firenze as it’s known locally, heading firstly to a viewpoint high above the city. Florence sits in the valley of the River Arno and is surrounded by hills and mountains, and it was from the hilltop location of Piazzale Michelangelo that we were given an excellent view over the whole city with the rich terracotta dome of the cathedral’s mighty Duomo dominating the panorama. This is the shot that appears on many postcards so it’s the one to take for your album! Below us the River Arno ran past the pastel-coloured buildings and under the famous Ponte Vecchio which we could see over to the left.

Michelangelo's statue of David stands in the centre of Piazzale Michelangelo, looking over the city
Michelangelo’s statue of David (well, one of them) stands in the centre of Piazzale Michelangelo, looking over the city

At Piazzale Michelangelo, along with many people taking photos and posing for pictures for their album, there was a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David, one of the masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture. Apart from that, the square itself wasn’t much to look at – but we were there for the view and that was incredible! Once everyone had the photographs they wanted we headed down towards the centre to meet our guide who would introduce us to her city.
Florence was once surrounded by high defensive walls and towers, and the Tower of the Mint, (Torre della Zecca) which we walked past on our way into the city was part of those walls. This tower was once connected to a string of buildings which were powered by water, and one of these was the Florence Mint (Zecca fiorentina) where the city’s golden florins were made.

Torre della Zecca – Tower of the Mint
Torre della Zecca – Tower of the Mint

Our guide led us past the Mint Tower and along Via dei Malcontenti, a narrow street sandwiched between cream-coloured buildings. This was apparently the road that criminals were led along to the public gallows, and so it was given the name Malcontenti – ‘malcontent’ meaning unhappy.
After a while, after passing the Franciscan church of Santa Croce with its grand marble façade and weaving our way through the narrow streets of the city, we came out at the Piazza della Signoria, dominated by the huge bell tower; the belfry of the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace). This is the city hall of Florence and it was in front of the building that I spotted another reproduction of Michelangelo’s David, the most famous statue on the square. The real one, created in 1504, used to stand here but it was removed and placed in the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze.

The belfry of the Palazzo Vecchio
The belfry of the Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria…
Michelangelo's statue of David No.2
… and another ‘David’!

The square was buzzing with a great atmosphere – apparently it’s one of the most popular meeting spots for locals and tourists alike. Across from the city hall was the contrasting sight of designer stores being browsed by well-dressed shoppers and people strolling around trying to eat their colourful ‘gelato’ before it melted in the warm sunshine. Being a girl who doesn’t like shopping (yes, weird, I know!) I opted instead to join the gelato speed-eaters.
Frantically trying to keep the ice cream in its cone, I walked over to the large equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici standing just beside the city hall. Cosimo was famous for, amongst other things, the creation of the Uffizi which adjoins the Palazzo Vecchio and is now one of the most famous museums in the world, housing one of the greatest collations of art – most of it from the Renaissance period. Works by some of the greatest Italian artists are held here: names such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli and Giotto, again, names I remembered from the A-Level art classes of my school days. This was one place I would’ve loved to visit to bring to life all those paintings I’d studied in my text books… to see early works by Giotto; Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Caravaggio’s Bacchus; all images I still remember. But it was time to move on.

The statue of Cosimo I de' Medici stands proudly on Piazza della Signoria
The statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici stands proudly on Piazza della Signoria

Our guide escorted us along the busy pedestrian street of Via die Calzaiuoli, home to many designer and high street names, a pizzeria here and there and quite a few places to buy those all important ice creams. The sweet smell of crepes and waffles led us along the alleyway until it opened up to reveal the breathtaking Piazza del Duomo. A couple of hours earlier we’d seen the huge domed roof of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore from the hillside across the river. Now we were up close, and it was truly magnificent.

Arriving at Piazza del Duomo – the magnificent Giotto's Tower
Arriving at Piazza del Duomo – the magnificent Giotto’s Tower and the Duomo

Right in front of us was the huge structure of Giotto’s Bell Tower. The column stands at almost 300 feet high and amongst its green, pink and white marble and displays intricate scenes. At the top, our guide advised us, the tower has 7 bells. We decided not to join the queues waiting to climb the 400+ steps to the top for a closer look and instead took her word for it.

Giotto's Tower up close: the beautiful green, pink and white marble
Giotto’s Tower up close: the beautiful green, pink and white marble
Look at the detail!

The Dome itself, designed and built by Filippo Brunelleschi, is equally impressive. More than 600 years after it was constructed the ‘Duomo’, as it’s known, still remains the tallest building in Florence. The cathedral is also the 4th largest in the world – the first is St. Peter’s in Rome, the second, St. Paul’s in London and the third, Milan’s Duomo.

The magnificent 'Duomo'
The magnificent ‘Duomo’

A short walk through the network of bustling passageways took us to the oldest bridge in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio. I’d seen photos of this bridge spanning the River Arno and always thought it looked rather plain, so I wanted to visit it for myself and find out why this well-known landmark is so popular.
The Ponte Vecchio was once the only bridge across the River Arno and the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed by Germans during WWII. Since the 13th century there have been shops on the bridge. Originally they housed fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers and tanners – the waste from which created a rather unpleasant smell in the river, so much so that in 1593 it was ordered that only jewellers and goldsmiths would be allowed to have shops on the Ponte Vecchio, making the bridge a much cleaner and attractive place to visit. Today, the bridge is still lined with jewellery stores attracting hundreds – probably thousands – of visitors each year.

The Ponte Vecchio – the oldest bridge in Florence
The Ponte Vecchio – the oldest bridge in Florence

Approaching the bridge I saw the familiar sight of the construction and, even ‘in the flesh’, it struck me how ordinary it looked – a jumble of mustard and reddy-coloured buildings which looked as if they’d been stuck onto the main structure. As I got closer I could see just how ramshackle it appeared. Once on the bridge, however, it was a different story. The place had a great atmosphere and was brought to life by the crowds of people gathered around the stalls and the wares of the gold and silver smiths which twinkled in contrast to the dilapidated appearance of the bridge’s exterior.

Colourful 'add-ons' cling to the bridge
Colourful ‘add-ons’ cling to the bridge
Ponte Vecchio, on the inside
Ponte Vecchio, on the inside

So, I can now say that I’ve visited Florence’s oldest bridge. It hadn’t contradicted my view of it as a rather plain and uninspiring landmark and I think there are much more impressive places to visit in the city, but I’d seen it for myself. The visit to Florence had given me a good overview of the capital of Tuscany, a brief history of the city and some of its landmarks, and of the sights I’d like to return to – namely the Uffizi Gallery.
Leaving the Ponte Vecchio and walking back along the Arno river, our visit to the Renaissance city had come to an end; another place to tick off my ‘must visit’ list… and another place I’d have to return to, one day.

Have you been to Florence? Share your stories and comments with us here!

Why do people like to travel?

Everyone has their own reason for getting away – I have a full list of them – but whatever our reason for travelling in the first place, once we’re away our brain seems to take on those sponge-like qualities we had as a child.

We become more alert to things happening around us, to sights, sounds and smells we experience, which is why it’s common to come back from our travels with so many more memories than we’d have from the same period of time back home.

To experience world cultures…

Some people travel specifically to discover new cultures – they want to see the difference between their own culture and that of the people in the country they’re visiting. It’s intriguing to see the way other people behave in other parts of the world – just watching them go about their daily business can be a real eye-opener. It’s so easy to take things for granted in our everyday lives, and immersing ourselves in the culture of foreign parts can be quite fascinating.

Experience different cultures.
Experience different cultures.

To do something different…

Placing ourselves ‘in the thick of it’ really helps us develop a different perspective on life, opening our eyes, ears, mind – and our taste buds – to all the amazing things that are out there. Speak a different language – or at least try; eat a dish you’ve never tried before; take a ride in a horse and carriage; go to the ballet; take in a classical music concert; climb aboard a boat… there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be experienced.

Eat something different: Cevapcici – the local dish I tried in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Eat something different: Cevapcici – the local dish I tried in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Out of curiosity…

We’ve all read about places, seen them on TV, or heard others talk about them, but what’s it really like to be there? What are the people like? Are the buildings really as big as they look on TV? Does scenery really take your breath away? So why not experience these places for yourself – find out more about them, explore them further. Nothing will satisfy your curiosity quite as much as being there, finding all the answers for yourself.

It's true what they say: standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon really DID take my breath away.
It’s true what they say: standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon really DID take my breath away.

For fun, excitement and adventure…

People can sometimes be a bit wary of the unknown – things that are different to back home; afraid of change. But so much excitement and adventure can be achieved, just by doing something a bit different to what you’d normally do.

To escape every day life…

It’s not unusual to become a bit bored of every day life. The daily routine: bills to pay; shopping to do; a big project at work; meals to cook; clothes to wash; gardens to tend to… there’s no wonder so many people look forward to some ‘time out’ each year. It’s a time to switch off from everything back home; to be free from responsibility; to leave our worries behind. We all know that all those things will still be there when we get back, but for that short period of time, they don’t exist. It does us good to get away from everything for a while, and we tend to come back feeling much fresher and more positive (for a while, at least!).

Escape the daily routine!
Escape the daily routine!

To see the sights…

Those famous landmarks you’ve heard about… Rome’s Colosseum; the Great Wall of China; the Eiffel Tower; natural wonders such as the Midnight Sun in the Arctic Circle; centuries-old glaciers and thundering waterfalls; or amazing architectural feats like Florence’s Duomo; Pisa’s leaning tower and the vast Alhambra Palace… they’re on many people’s ‘tick list’ of places to visit in the world.

Florence: somewhere I'd always wanted to go.
Florence: somewhere I’d always wanted to go.

To meet new people…

On the trips I’ve been on I’ve met some wonderful and interesting people: travelling companions and people from the areas I’ve visited. People from different places sometimes act differently, have different beliefs and have many different stories to share. I love listening to people about their travels and places they want to go to: people who have many years of holidays behind them and others who are just starting to discover the world. And just as we are all individual, we all have different things we want to get from our precious time away.

What’s your reason for getting away? What type of holidays do you like? Share your holiday stories with us.