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Bella Italia: best from a rented holiday home

Italy’s mainly in the news for its government debt, but travellers find the land of the lira has got more expensive since it lost a few zeros and went with the Euro.

The trouble is there’s so much to see and do in Italy that it would be unthinkable not to visit. The cities of Venice, Florence and Rome rank amongst the world’s best travel destinations and are much too good to miss.

Cut the costs by staying in a rented apartment or booking through a website that cuts the costs of Italian Hotels but still book your trip. Here are some good reasons why.

Cast off your car for a visit to Venice. This city is one to get lost in, with ancient buildings latticed by narrow alleys and winding canals: there are stunning views everywhere you look. The waterways are always busy, with builders’ gondolas moving materials to restoration projects, wholesalers delivering pasta and olives by boat, and public vaporetti ferrying passengers along the main arterial canals for their day at the office.

Venice is a place where atmosphere is everything. This is a city built in the Middle Ages and improved in the Renaissance, birthplace of Vivaldi and at the heart of Italy’s maritime empire that stretched right across the Mediterranean. Once you’ve explored the historic city centre take a ferry across to some of the other islands nearby: Murano is world-famous for glasswork, while Burano is famous for lace.

Venice is not the best city in Italy for restaurants: the ones on the main tourist islands tend to be expensive. Brace yourself for a particularly hefty bill if you order a drink from the tables on St Mark’s Square. This is one place where you can save a lot by renting your own apartment: by catering for yourself you’ll save easily enough to charter a gondola for the ultimate romantic drift down Venice’s atmospheric waterways.

By the Renaissance Venice’s fortunes were already fading. The ultimate city to explore Italy’s artistic legacy is Florence. Surrounded by the rolling hills of Tuscany and set around the beautiful Arno River this is the major centre for Renaissance art and architecture. The government buildings, dating back to Italy’s city-state era, are grand and imposing, countless galleries display the country’s finest art and the lavishly-decorated churches are testament to the power of religion in what was, at the time, Europe’s dominant civilising culture.

Florence is another place where your own rented apartment is a great asset to any visit. In the summer months the city can get very busy, and a stylish air-conditioned refuge from the crowds can be very welcome. Choose a property with views of the Arno and you’ll be ideally placed to sip a glass of prosecco as the sun sets over Italy’s most beautiful city.

History goes back further in the ‘Eternal City’: Rome. This was the heart of the Roman Empire that stretched across Europe and the Middle East at the time when Christ was born, and the past is on open view round every corner. There are too many highlights to list, but if you just had one day here the Coliseum, where gladiators once fought, and the Vatican City, home of Catholicism, are two notable sights. A better idea is to rent a private apartment and give yourself a week or so to stroll along the Spanish Steps, loiter on medieval cobbled streets and take in some of the country’s finest restaurants. The Romans think their city is the best place in the world to live and it has to be admitted they might be right.

Just because prices are rising it would be a mistake to miss a visit to Italy: it’s just too good an experience to miss out. If money is an issue avoid overpriced hotels and restaurants. Renting your own holiday apartment in Rome will allow you experience Italy as the Italians do, joining each evenings passagiata before retiring to your home from home to dine as a family. Italy, at an Italian pace.

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