Best known for being the place of Napoleon’s exile in 1814, Elba is the biggest island of the Tuscan archipelago and Italy’s third-largest island, after Sardinia and Sicily. It’s also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park. It has so much to offer: there are pretty beaches, good diving, charming towns, dramatic historic fortresses and great food. Lying less than 10 kms from the mainland, it’s easily accessed by a frequent and efficient ferry service from the mainland town of Piombino, as well as its own airport. Elba is a true natural paradise, with crystal clear turquoise waters, green landscapes and hills, plus beautiful flora and fauna, all surrounded by well-preserved coral reefs.
A century ago, the Cinque Terre were simply five fishing villages on an unforgiving, incredibly rugged stretch of the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy. With modern transport came tourism, and now hordes arrive daily to experience it all: the startlingly vibrant colour of the Mediterranean, the wildly rugged coastline, scenic hiking tracks and the tiny towns tucked into the dramatically steep valleys.
Situated high above the flat plain of northern Picardy, is the medieval city of Laon, known as the ‘Montagne Couronnée’ (the Crowned City). It sits isolated atop a 100m high limestone rock, surrounded by the low, flat plains below. The high town, encircled by 8 kms of walls and formidable gates, is France’s largest protected historic centre. The town’s crowning glory is the early 12th century Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon, visible for kilometres in every direction. It’s one of the earliest and greatest Gothic monuments in France.
The City of Lille in the north of France is one of the loveliest in the country. Although largely unknown outside France, Lille has so much to captivate the visitor. From a beautiful historic quarter, much of which is pedestrianised, to great food, excellent shopping possibilities, and an enormous number of cultural attractions. Two of these are Art Deco gems, located outside the city in the suburbs of Roubaix and Croix, just a quick metro or tram ride from the city centre.
Capital of the Hautes-de-France region, Lille may be France’s most underrated city. Recent decades have seen the country’s 4th largest city transform from an industrial powerhouse into a vibrant and highly attractive cultural and commercial hub. Lille offers a beautiful old town with magnificent French and Flemish architecture, renowned art museums, a wide variety of great shops, outstanding cuisine, and a lively atmosphere thanks to a large population of university students and some 1600 designers in its environs. High speed direct trains from Paris and Brussels and 1½ hrs on Eurostar from London, makes Lille an easy choice for inclusion in a European itinerary.