The north of Italy has an abundance of riches for the visitor, and it’s almost impossible to make a list of top favourites. There’s the sublime beauty of the various lakes, the glories of Venice, and numerous small Renaissance cities to choose from. We’ve spent many wonderful trips exploring these Renaissance gems over decades, and they all have their own unique character and attractions. Recently, we re-visited the beautiful city of Ferrara, a little over 110 kms south of Venice. We hadn’t been there for years, and thought another visit was well overdue.
We revisited Venice a few weeks ago for the first time since COVID shut down the world for travellers. Venice has been one of our top favourite cities for many decades, and this was to be our 4th Biennale, so we were interested to see what changes had occurred to La Serenissima since our last visit. Would it still be magical, or a crowded nightmare now that the world has re-opened for travel? We were keen to find out.
We had been walking past this enormous complex for years speculating about when it might re-open, wondering if we’d ever get to visit it one day. Imagine our surprise and delight when we saw the enormous posters announcing its re-opening in the metro stations on our first day back in Paris! It was still closed on our earlier visit in April, with no hint as to when it would re-open. This is arguably the most important, and certainly largest, of the numerous new projects in the city that have been completed since COVID hit. No longer dark and rather gloomy, the newly renovated library buildings are a triumph of light and welcoming spaces. There’s such a wealth of wonderful new sights to discover in Paris, and the historic Bibliothèque Nationale de France is surely the jewel in the crown!
This district of Paris is one of the most historic and fascinating in the city. Nowadays, it’s known for hip boutiques, quirky art galleries, great cafes, restaurants and fresh food, a couple of delightful squares, and some of the best museums in the city. Although its origins were far from auspicious, it’s a place we always head to for all these attractions and much more. It’s an enticing melange of ancient and traditional plus contemporary and slightly quirky, making it one of the most interesting areas in Paris.
There are dozens of outdoor markets in Paris, at least two in each of the city’s 20 arrondissements. Probably the largest, and many argue the best, is the fantastic Marché Richard-Lenoir—more commonly called the Marche Bastille, held Thursdays and Sundays along the grand Boulevard Richard Lenoir, just north of the Place de la Bastille. The focus is the wonderful range of foods grown by local area farmers, quite a few of which are certified organic growers. As though that were not enough of an attraction, there are beautiful flower stalls, and vendors with a wide range of merchandise, ranging from small kitchen gadgets to African artefacts and fashion. Most of the crowd will be eager local shoppers with shopping trolleys and dogs in tow, rather than hordes of tourists.