For most of the year, Venice is gorgeous, but maddening: the finest squares, flanked by churches and palaces, are choked with people; while the tawdry side-industries that thrive on mass tourism diminish the appeal of the city and make a mockery of its nickname, La Serenissima.
In winter, though, the crowds melt away as the December mists confer the canals with an exquisite extra dimension. While Christmas and New Year are popular (especially with Italian visitors), travelling before midwinter's day and between early January and the St Valentine's Day weekend is richly rewarding.
If you have been to Venice previously only in summer, you get a chance to see the beauty of the naked city. Without the waterborne congestion caused by gondolas, you are better able to appreciate the fascinating ways in which the city copes with its unusual geography: everything from the post to funeral processions moves by water. And after the sun sets (before 5pm at this time of year), you will also meet its people, and discover a conviviality in the cafés and restaurants that gets submerged when the tourists take over.
Regardless of the time of the year Venice is one of the most beautiful places to visit. Search Bargain Villas for some fantastic deals on Venice villas and apartments.
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A former porter's closet measuring five square metres (55 sq ft) has gone on the market in Rome at £43,000
The property, which is being described as the world's smallest apartment, lies in the heart of the Italian capital, which has become one of the world's most expensive cities for property, but is barely large enough to contain a single bed.
The owner of the bijou property says he has been inundated with queries since putting it on the market a few days ago.
Presented as a "compact bedsit", it is located on Piazza di Sant' Ignazio, a picturesque square overlooked by an enormous Renaissance church.
One report described it as "little bigger than a wigwam" while Il Giornale, a daily newspaper, commented: "In Rome, people now live like rats".
The flat consists of a ground floor bathroom with a shower, sink and lavatory and a ladder leading to a sleeping platform just big enough for a single bed. There is a single window, but to open it you have to climb over the bed.
It lies just behind Palazzo Grazioli, the imposing mansion which is rented by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, as his private residence in the capital.
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Be quick though, with prices this good, they won’t last long.
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Le Marche (pronounced markay) is an Italian secret off the tourist track. A region of softly rolling hills, scattered with attractively walled hill towns, this agricultural area is often described as the "real Italy".
From the magnificence of the Ducal Palace at Urbino to the clear waters of Lake Fiastra, from the open-air opera festival in Macerata, to the Roman amphitheatre at Urbisaglia and the dramatic rocky coves and cliffs of the Conero peninsula near Ancona, Le Marche remains untouched by mass tourism, which is surprising for a region that offers the visitor such a rich mix of culture, history, fine architecture, beautiful countryside and long, sandy beaches.
If all this sounds like the type of holiday destination you'd love to visit why not book yourself a relaxing break at The Hideaway, Amandola.
Our nearby town of Amandola has a beautifully porticoed main square where you can sit outside one of the cafes & enjoy a coffee before wandering up through the old town's cobbled streets to view the stunning Monte Sibillini.
Hill top villages, churches, art galleries,museums, excellent restaurants, fantastic wines, markets and festivals. There really is something for everyone.
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