A Surprising Visit to Tuscany

Siena, Italy

My name is Mike O’Neill and I am from Boston, Massachusetts. This year I got a chance to grab some few extra days off work and decided that it was time for a holiday that I have been hankering for. Vacationing in the US would not do it for me so I decided that a trip to Europe will be something interesting to do, since I never had do luxury of going backpacking in my younger days. It was something that I needed to do but decided that in my years choosing a single location will be enough. So by carefully choosing the area of my visit I made my choice to visit the area of Tuscany in Italy. Being an architect myself, a mix of both pleasure and interest was to see some of the prime architecture which was unique to this region. The bonus of the trip was the relaxing atmosphere and that characterized the Tuscan region.

Trip to Tuscany

I managed to arrange a direct flight to Florence and arrived at the Florence Airport Amerigo Vespucci. I arranged to come first to Florence which was the prime spot of whole of Tuscany. I decided that besides Florence the cities of Pisa and Siena where the most interesting ones to visit in this area and equally the places where I can get the most amount of fun.

I first thought that staying in some sorts of a hotel would satisfy my staying needs but soon realized that many of the hotels were overbooked or did not offer the conditions I asked for or needed. And I also did not manage to find a stay in the cities in the designated periods of my visit. But my problems were resolved when I found this short term accommodation site where I managed to find private accommodations in all three cities which suited my needs. I arranged for a five day stay in Florence in a flat by my own, managed to score a studio rental in Pisa and a private room with a wonderful family in Siena.

Palio in Siena

Palio race in Siena

Palio race in Siena. Image from Flickr

The Tuscan region is widely regarded as the birthplace of renaissance with its capital of Florence being the center of it. My intention was to spend as much time as I could browsing the city of Florence as the taking strolls through its streets suited me and enabled me to see as much of the city as I could. Luckily my apartment was near the city center and I was able to see all of the major sites that I hoped for seeing. Most of the historic part of Florence and its major sights were is in walking distance from each other and enabled me to walk every day and examining and seeing everything that I wanted to experience. Among my favorites were the Giotto’s Tower and Palazzo Vecchio which truly fascinated me. The idea was to end my trip to Tuscany by seeing the city of Pisa and ending my trip with a bang and the sight of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But it just so happened that Siena provided me with an unexpected event that I shall cherish forever. Of course I got to see the symbol of the city, the Siena Cathedral built in Romanesque-Gothic style which is situated in the central part of the city but I also had a chance to experience the Palio which was an event or rather a horse race that many locals waited for each year to see. The family I stayed with explained to me the Palio was a traditional race which signified a battle between the contrade or the different city wards of the city.

Siena, Tuscany

Siena, Tuscany. Photo from Flickr

They quickly explained to me that the wards were so competitive that it did not matter for you to win the entire race as long as you managed to beat the rival ward in the race. I was situated in the “unicorn” ward so I took membership in cheering the local squad so to say. I was astounded when I saw the Piazza del Campo, where the race takes place, as it was laid with sand and prepared for the race. I immediately noticed the heavy and dangerous curves which the riders had to overcome while racing and was immediately taken aback when the locals explained that not all of the riders manage to complete the race as many of them fall down during it. All in all, it was a thrilling experience and a race which lasts approximately 90 seconds was a thrill ride all the way and the icing on the cake was that “our” district managed to win against the rival district since their rider fell of the horse in the last lap. The unicorns perhaps did not win the race but managed to achieve their own victory this year. My last stop was the city of Pisa and something that I imagined to be the prime experience of my trip with the Leaning Tower of Pisa was nothing compared to the race I saw in Siena. Of course I had fun in Pisa but my memories always took me back to the Palio and the amazing race that I witnessed here. Pisa was my last stop and I grabbed the flight from the Galileo Galilei International Airport back to the US and completed my journey which unexpectedly turned to be the best experience of my life and it all turned from a mere and relaxing sightseeing tour.

Although the overall trip to Tuscany was a blast the highlight was the Palio of course. I promised the family that I was staying with that I shall return next year the cheer on the unicorns and hopefully get a victory in the race next year. They promised that they will save the room for me where I stayed in and besides being able to see and experience a wonderful tradition and a part of their culture I made some friends along the way as well.

Explore Sardinia With Me

Hi dear travelers, my name is Gregory van Winkell and I work as a graphic designer for a computer game company called Guerilla Gems. I live in Amsterdam, since my work is located here and put in long hours and do not have enough time for myself. Some would say that working for a computer game company is a dream job and that everyone who works in the gaming industry has loads of fun. But the true side of this is that we work hard as everybody else does and in some cases even harder. But this year I finally found some space for myself and when the opportunity knocked on the door I grabbed it immediately. I finally got some time off work and a holiday trip arose for me to visit Sardinia. Since I haven’t visited that part and heard so much positive things about it I immediately jumped at the opportunity and decided to visit the Italian island of Sardinia.

Cagliari, Sardinia

Cagliari, Sardinia

About Sardinia

Sardinia is an island belonging to Italy. It is located in the Mediterranean Sea with the closest land masses being the island of Corsica and the Apennine peninsula. It is actually proclaimed as an autonomous province of Italy with the capital city being Cagliari. As Thomas Ashby said “Sardinia is one of the least known of the larger islands of Europe, but it is also one of the most interesting,” and this notion is very true actually. The history of the island is very peculiar and mind boggling. If you want to look into that you are set on a adventure of your own, but for now I shall only mention that it ranges from the prehistoric period and the landmarks and certain historical points date back from different ancient and medieval parts of the past, giving the island a unique personal brand. Other greater towns beside Cagliari here are Sassari, the medieval town of Alghero and Bosa as well. The island is most famous for its Megalithic building structures, which are also known as being called the nuraghes, which are found all over the island. The most popular one, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site as in found out on my trip, is the Su Nuraxi di Barumini.

How to reach Sardinia

I manage to find a flight to Sardinia with a connection in Germany. I found a flight from Amsterdam, changed flights in Frankfurt and landed safely in the Cagliari-Elmas Airport. I found a really cheap flight and it did not take too long and it gave me enough time to find out as much as I can about the entertainments and fun stuff that I could do in Sardinia. As this was a rather sudden decision for me to go here on a holiday I had to do most things on a fly. But the relaxing flight gave me enough time to learn something about the island and its cities and it was the main reason for me to choose to arrive at the capital of Sardinia so I can arrange my trip from there on. I also had a chance to arrive on Sardinia via a ferry boat, but that would mean coming to Italy and taking a ferry from there to the Porto Torres which seemed interesting but I decided it would take me a lot of time and more hassle to do so.

Porto Torres

Porto Torres

Accommodations in Sardinia

Since decided to see as much of Sardinia as I possibly can and do and see as much of the interesting things this island had to offer in needed to find a stay within each of the cities I needed to spend time in. This was very hard if you use a hotel room as you needed to make an extensive booking arrangement. But as I found out though the short-term-renting.com, where I ultimately found my stays, it was easier for me to use private short term rentals which allowed me a better arrangement and even spared me some money in the process. The thing is that you can find and rent other people’s homes here. So upon arrival I stayed in a comfortable flat in Cagliari which I rented all for myself. While for a sightseeing tour of Alghero I stayed within a shared housing for two nights which was within an enormous house with other travelers and in Sassari I booked a private room with a local family which gave quite favorable conditions for my stay and even offered me a bed and breakfast arrangement as well.

What to do in Sardinia

Sardinia offered me many adventures and I got the experience many wonderful things on my trip. Firstly, the city of Cagliari is a true cultural haven, the true examples of this are the Santuario e Basilica di Bonaria, Bastione di Saint Remy and Chiesa di Santa Maria. I also managed to visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale as the price of addition was very cheap. But the best part was enjoying some fun in the sun on the Poetto beach. And a dinner in one of the restaurants in the Old Town where I heard that the best restaurants of the city where situated, and the rumors were actually true. Sassari was also very enjoyable as I managed to see many of the sites it proposed, like Archeological site of Monte d’Accoddi and the Pisan City Walls which used to surround the city in the 13th century. Here I also managed to catch the local basketball game when the local club Dinamo Sassari played their game and enjoyed a truly wonderful Sunday afternoon. For my two day trip in Alghero I got to do some Scuba diving, climbing and mountain biking and was perhaps the best part of my overall visit to Sardinia. It was also the end of my trip and I grabbed the flight out of Alghero airport and ended my adventure in Sardinia with a smile on my face which lasted the whole week when I got back home to Holland.

Passport, Visas and Documents for Brazil

The FIFA World Cup 2014 is currently taking place in Brazil. This famous  men’s football world championship is scheduled to end on July 13. However, the conclusion if this sport’s world event does not give you the excuses not to visit Brazil anymore.  If fact, Brazil is currently preparing for another big event which will be staged  here – the Olympic 2016.

So if you already preparing your Brazil adventure, find out if you need Visa and other documents to enter the world’s fifth largest country and the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world! It’s nice to learn some basic Portuguese words too!


Here’s a simple rule when it comes to visa requirements for Brazil. If your home country requires Brazilian nationals to secure a visa, then you will need one to enter Brazil as well.


Visa Exemption

At the time of writing, passport holders of the following countries/jurisdictions are exempted and does not require a visa to go to Brazil up to 90 days either for tourism or business purposes. Read more »

Coffee Festival in Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines

Do you want to attend an extraordinary fiesta in the Philippines? Well, the Coffee Festival held every December 11 to 16 at Lipa City is just right for you. It is a suburban uptown, tourist destination, just 2 hours travel, 11o kilometers and south from Manila by land. Being the coffee granary of the Philippines, their brand of coffee is labeled as the “Kapeng Barako.” Pure and non-instant, this type of drink tastes like heaven to Filipinos and Foreigners alike. It also carries a robust flavor and pungent aroma that is why natives call it as “matapang” or tough.

coffee festival philippines

During the 19th century, the Philippines was named as the 4th largest coffee manufacturer across countries. The festivity is a usual one (1) week thanksgiving rites to coffee, which is the main product of Batangas, a province having thirty-one (31) municipalities and three (3) cities within vicinity. The main dialect spoken there are: Filipino, Batangueño and English. Filipinos are known for being hospital and foreigners are very much welcome to join them in their festivals. Read more »

The Best Transportation Option To and From The Airport in Phoenix AZ

I wrote a several and sometimes lengthy comments to my friend when I saw her status on Facebook that she’s about to board an airplane going to Phoenix, Arizona. So I thought to share my comments to her here in our World Travel and Vacation site so other readers looking for the same direction can benefit from it.

What caught my attention was when she’d asked on her FB status on what is the best Phoenix airport transportation option going to and from the Sky Harbor International Airport. I know it’s her first time to set foot in Phoenix so I simply replied to take the METRO light rail since it’s the most economical way to travel between the airport and downtown Phoenix. However, she replied that she’s with her colleagues, 13 of them and they will attend a business conference in Phoenix Convention Center a day after their arrival. My assumption at first that she’s travelling all by herself.

To make it more  challenging, among her 13 colleagues,  the 4 of them are coming from different directions which mean they will arrive in other terminal.

Instead of taking the METRO light rail I suggested to my friend to rent a van that can accommodate all of them and just tell the driver to pick up her colleagues who are arriving in different terminals. I’m a bit familiar with the different transportation options in the area because our big family had a tour  some years ago and we rented an SUV (passenger van)  that brought us to see the magnificent  rock formations in Sedona.  There are other transportation options such as taxicabs and even private limousines that can be hired directly  from the airport if you really don’t want to take the METRO light rail.

Anyway, after I’ve posted my suggestion on my friend’s FB status page, I didn’t receive any reply from her right away  which was unusual because we were like chatting at that time. I was just hoping that she had read my latest comment which was to rent a van for their group.

She later told me the reason she was not able to reply was because it was already time for her and her colleagues to board the airplane. She commended my suggestion was a brilliant idea because their experience has been positive. The driver of the SUV they rented acted as their tourist guide while on their way to the hotel. Plus, the driver even recommended them to visit Sedona which they actually did right after their business conference. The group even requested for the same driver when they had their tour. As a matter of fact, not only they enjoyed their first visit in Phoenix but they also had a blast in touring Sedona because their driver was so knowledgeable.

I guess they had so much fun with their driver because they requested the same driver on their way back to the airport for their departure flight.

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