What bloggers are saying about the new Marco Polo Pocket Guides

We launched our new series of Marco Polo Pocket Guides in 2018 and it has been wonderful seeing the positive response to the new updated guides. Here is a sampling from our favourite (travel) bloggers and what they are saying about the new Pocket Guides:

Jam and Clotted Cream

Devon and Cornwall guide:  “What I like about the guide –
It’s very family focused, containing lots of useful hints and tips on things to do with children. The ‘Great Places for Free’ section of the guide gave me some new idea’s for free days out and free activities to try – always handy as 3 children can equal a lot of money!

The guide contains a large pull out map as well as several road maps in the back of the guide, making orientation easy.

As a food blogger I’m always drawn to food and drink elements of guidebooks. Marco Polo didn’t let me down, with a comprehensive section on ‘local delicacies’ including stargazy pie, pasties and of course the famous cream tea – jam first obviously! Throughout the guide there are also insider tips on lovely cafe’s and restaurants to try. I love the fact they picked up on Woods Cafe in Cardinham Woods. They sell the most amazing homemade cakes…and pulled pork rolls too. Another one of our favourite family days out.” Read the full post here: jamandclottedcream.co.uk

SarahFunky

Photo credit: sarahfunky.com

New York guide: “While traveling the world, I always used Marco Polo guide books in all destinations. I’m pretty much obsessed with them! If you’ve never been to NYC, I recommend picking up a Marco Polo guidebook before you arrive. In addition to good suggestions on entertainment, food & drink, shopping, and sightseeing, they also come with a great interactive app, and a pull out map. Plus, the photography in the book is stunning!” Read the full post here: sarahfunky.com

The Wandering Quinn

Photo credit: thewanderingquinn.com

Rome guide: “…after 2 days of seeing the sights, both on my own and on a tour I felt like I needed to see a side of Rome that wasn’t so touristy. I wanted to get under the skin of Rome a bit more, so on my last day I visited Trastevere and with the help of the New Marco Polo Rome Guide I explored a greener and quieter side of Rome which included Trastevere, Gianicolo Hill and the River Tiber. Despite the rain (apologies in advance for the grey photos), I had such a good time and I’m so glad that I ventured over the river into this area of Rome. — I found the New Marco Polo Rome Guide really helpful and are a few other short walks in there too that I would definitely do if I go back to Rome, plus its filled with information!” Read the full post here: thewanderingquinn.com

Sophie Cliff

Photo credit: sophiecliff.com

Barcelona guide: “Sam and I both remarked that it was really good fun to “get lost with a purpose” and that’s exactly how following this discovery tour felt – there was no marching from one location to the next, instead we got to take each destination at our own pace and amble around some areas of the city that were totally new to us.

Each of the new Marco Polo pocket guides come with 4-5 perfectly tailored discovery tours that help you get off the beaten track, and I think they may be my new favourite way to discover a different side to a city. We’re already trying to decide which one we might follow when we visit New York later in the year!” Read the full post here: sophiecliff.com

Hand Luggage Only

Photo credit: handluggageonly.co.uk

Malta & Gozo guide: “A few weeks ago, the gang at Marco Polo Guides asked if we wanted to try scouting out some of their tips on our next trip (which piqued my interest straight away). Using their Malta and Gozo guide we decided to search for some of the ‘insider tips’ on the best things to do in Malta.

Suffice to say, I’m a real sucker for insider tips… Essentially, anything that means I get to make the most of my time on the islands (like those insider tips featuring some of the lesser-known spots in Malta and Gozo) is an opportunity I’ll always jump at while travelling.

After a little bedtime reading of the guide, I found a heap of recommendations that actually ended up saving my bacon on a few occasions. The tips on parking rules (i.e. how no parking or no stopping isn’t really shown with signs but instead with just the lines on the floor – which is totally different to back home in the UK) really helped and saved me a whole lot of unnecessary spend.” Read the full post here: handluggageonly.co.uk

Cornishbirdblog

Photo credit: cornishbirdblog.com

Devon and Cornwall guide: “There were no surprises for me, the guide includes everything that you would expect (speaking from a Cornish perspective), you’ll find all the most popular, picturesque and must see places but I was delighted to find some added extras too.

I particularly liked the Discovery Tours section towards the back of the book, this can be used as is or with the Free Touring App. These tailored routes help you to explore the region by guiding you from one awesome destination to the next. They also include details on cost and how long it should all take you. Some of the routes last a couple of weeks others are just a fun packed day trip.” Read the full post here: cornishbirdblog.com

Find our full range of guide books and maps here on Amazon.

What is your favourite Marco Polo travel guide?

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo’s Top 5 Easter destinations for 2018 + GIVEAWAY

Easter is only two weeks away, and there is still time to book a last-minute trip to catch the first April sun in one of Marco Polo’s favourite Easter holiday destinations! Don’t forget to check out our Spring giveaway at the end of the post, for a chance to win 5 Marco Polo Pocket Guides of your choice and a FujiFilm Instax Mini 9 camera!

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

ROME

Rome is perfect for a true Easter experience. Easter can be one of the busiest times to visit the Eternal city, but in recent years many people have taken advice not to visit at Easter, so there are plenty of hotel rooms to be had at reasonable prices. To hear the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica ring on Easter Sunday is an unforgettable experience. Those not too keen on the spiritual can benefit from free access to all of Rome’s archaeological sites and museums, as the first Sunday of the month falls on Easter Sunday this year. Though do be sure to pack your umbrella, as April tends to be one of Rome’s rainier months.

SRI LANKA

Not willing to risk the rain in Rome? Then why not head over to Sri Lanka? April is one of the best times to visit Sri Lanka, as the peak tourist is winding down before the monsoon season’s arrival in May. Sunshine, warm weather and beaches – not to mention the beautiful nature and fascinating wildlife – make sure that nobody misses the chocolate eggs. Whether you decide to stay in one place, or travel around the island, Sri Lanka will not disappoint.

VIENNA

Vienna is a great destination for an Easter break. While many locals head for the ski slopes, the city caters to those who stay – or arrive – with a multitude of Easter markets, chocolate and rabbits everywhere. Visit the Schönbrunn Easter market for some beautiful handcrafted souvenirs or take the children to the Prater area for some fun including the famous giant ferris wheel. Don’t forget to try Osterpinze, a local bread like pastry eaten during the Easter holidays.

CAPE VERDE

Another guaranteed destination for sun is Cape Verde. The archipelago off the coast of Africa is a perfect alternative to the more familiar Canaries. The weather is a lovely and warm, and April is the ideal time for whale-watching. Also, there are some lively Easter festivities to be seen, as the locals ring in the Easter Sunday with a big party.

BARCELONA

If a six-hour flight is not your thing, Barcelona is a good choice. Sure, the museums and shops have slightly awkward holiday opening times – mainly on Easter Monday – but there are still places that cater to the tourists. Be sure to check out the main Easter parades and processions on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday you should stay in the vicinity of the Barcelona Cathedral – not to be confused with Sagrada Familia – for a true Barcelona Easter experience.

GIVEAWAY GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

To celebrate Spring, Marco Polo is organising a giveaway! We are giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Pocket Guides of your choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 camera to one lucky winner, chosen at random.

How to enter?

Simply share the story of your most memorable Easter / Spring travel moment in the comments below. You can earn more chances to win by liking our Facebook page and by following our Twitter and Instagram accounts and by letting us know in your comment that you have done so.

The competition is open from Thursday 15 March 2018 until Thursday 29 March 2018 at 12:00 GMT. We will contact the winner personally via email using the email address used to leave the comment so make sure to check that it is spelled correctly!

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promotion is open to UK & European residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and their immediate families of Marco Polo, its agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
  2. To enter, simply comment on the blog post. Additional chances to win may be acquired by liking the Marco Polo Facebook page and by following the Marco Polo Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the entrant has done any of the mentioned actions, it should be stated in the comment.
  3. This competition will commence on 15 March 2018 and all entries must be received by 12.00 GMT on 29 March 2018. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, posted late, misdirected, and incorrect, garbled or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid.
  4. No purchase necessary, however internet access is required.
  5. The Prizes: 1 x prize winner will receive 5 Marco Polo Pocket Guides of their choice and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 camera (RRP £64.99).
  6. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if a winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The winner will be liable for all costs and expenses not stated relating to claiming or partaking of the prize.
  7. The promoter may substitute the prize for a prize of an equal or greater value if, for any reason the original item is unavailable.
  8. By entering, winners agree that if they win they will participate in any reasonable publicity arranged by The Promoter or its agencies.
  9. By entering the promotion entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms & conditions and by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The Promoter or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize.
  11. The Promoter or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of The Promoter or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.
  12. The Promoter reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering or to have tampered with the operation of the promotion or the Marco Polo website, or to be acting in violation of these terms and conditions.
  13. To the full extent permitted by law the Promoter will not accept liability for any loss, damage, injury or death arising from this promotion beyond its reasonable control. The Promoter is Marco Polo Travel Publishing, Pinewood, Chineham Business Park, Crockford Lane, Chineham, Basingstoke, RG24 8AL

Marco Polo’s Top 5 Romantic Destinations + GIVEAWAY

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about the big romantic gestures, and what better way to show your love than by taking your significant other on a romantic getaway. We at Marco Polo have decided to share our top 5 romantic destinations with you and to spread the love, we are also giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Pocket Guides:

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam may not seem like a romantic destination, but there is a lot of love in this Dutch city. A stroll down the canals, hand in hand with your love, while the locals cycle by, also often hand in hand. Or take a canal cruise and snuggle on the boat while you take in the beautiful 17th century sights.

Oh, and don’t forget to treat your love to a bunch of tulips at the Bloemenmarkt!

BALI

Bali is without a doubt a romantic getaway destination: the beaches, the views, the sunsets, what more could you ask for? The island is a perfect couple’s paradise! For those wishing to splurge, check out the AYANA Resort and Spa in Jimbaran for first class luxury! For those looking for luxury on a budget, this can still be found at Keraton Jimbaran Beach Resort with its own private beach!

While you’re on the island be sure to check out Sanur for its relaxed vibe, Ubud’s rice paddies and in the north: Lovina to do some dolphin watching!

Venice Marco Polo Guide

VENICE

The canals, the gondolas, the gorgeous historical buildings – Venice is full of romance! It has been the setting of many a love story, and one of the most famous ones is the tragic love story between a fisherman and a mermaid. All that is left of their love is a stone heart that is said to bring eternal love to those who touch it, so make sure to take your own love there.

For the best view of Venice, check out Ponte dell’Academia, also known for the many love locks attached to it. Just don’t leave yours there, the locals will not appreciate the damage done to the historical bridge.

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

LAKE GARDA

The beautiful Lake Garda, with mountains in the distance, makes for a stunning scene for the couples seeking an active vacation. Visit the historical harbour of Sirmione, go hiking in the nearby mountains and end your day in one of the area’s excellent Italian restaurants, or watch the sun set into the lake on the beach.

NEW YORK

With all the romantic comedies set in New York, it would be hard to argue why New York does not belong on this list. It is the perfect urban setting for your very own love story. Exchange kisses on the top of the Empire State Building, take a stroll in Central Park and re-enact your favourite romantic movie scene in the city that never sleeps.

*****

GIVEAWAY

To spread the love, Marco Polo is organising a giveaway! We are giving away a set of 5 Marco Polo Pocket guides to one lucky winner, chosen at random.

How to enter?

Simply share the story of your most romantic travel moment or your favourite romantic destination in the comments below. You can earn more win-chances by liking our Facebook page and by following our Twitter and Instagram and by letting us know in your comment that you have done so.

The competition is open from Wednesday 14 February 2018 until Tuesday 20 February 2018 at 12.00 GMT. We will contact the winner personally via email using the email address used to leave the comment so make sure to check that it is spelled correctly!

Good luck! 

Terms and Conditions:

  1. The promotion is open to UK and EU residents aged 18 or over, excluding employees and their immediate families of Marco Polo, its agents or anyone professionally connected with the promotion.
  2. To enter, simply comment on the blog post. Additional win-chances may be acquired by liking the Marco Polo Facebook page and by following the Marco Polo Twitter and Instagram accounts. If the entrant has done any of the mentioned actions, it should be stated in the comment.
  3. This competition will commence on 14 February 2018 and all entries must be received by 12.00 GMT on 20 Febryary 2018. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for any entries that are incomplete, posted late, misdirected, and incorrect, garbled or fail to reach the Promoter by the closing date for any reason. Entries via agents or third parties are invalid.
  4. No purchase necessary, however internet access is required.
  5. The Prizes: 1 x prize winner will receive 5 x Marco Polo Pocket Guides: (£7.99 each).
  6. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if a winner is unable to use the prize as stated. The winner will be liable for all costs and expenses not stated relating to claiming or partaking of the prize.
  7. The promoter may substitute the prize for a prize of an equal or greater value if, for any reason the original item is unavailable.
  8. By entering, winners agree that if they win they will participate in any reasonable publicity arranged by The Promoter or its agencies.
  9. By entering the promotion entrants confirm that they have read and agree to be bound by these terms & conditions and by the decisions of the Promoter, which are final in all matters relating to the promotion. Failure to do so will result in the forfeiture of the prize. No correspondence will be entered into.
  10. The Promoter or its agencies accept no responsibility for any loss or damage suffered through acceptance of the prize.
  11. The Promoter or its agencies will not be responsible for the non-inclusion of entries as a result of technical failures or otherwise, including any such failure which is within the control of The Promoter or its agencies. Proof of submission of entry is not proof of receipt of entry.
  12. The Promoter reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any person it finds to be tampering or to have tampered with the operation of the promotion or the Marco Polo website, or to be acting in violation of these terms and conditions.
  13. To the full extent permitted by law the Promoter will not accept liability for any loss, damage, injury or death arising from this promotion beyond its reasonable control.

The Promoter is Marco Polo Travel Publishing, Pinewood, Chineham Business Park, Crockford Lane, Chineham, Basingstoke, RG24 8AL

Where to go in 2018? – Marco Polo Staff Picks

Choosing your travel destination can be difficult, as there is the whole wide world to choose from. Many of us are planning our 2018 travels at the moment, so we thought we would ask around our office for some ideas, and some Insider Tips. Here are Marco Polo’s Staff Picks for your 2018 travels:

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

Photo credit: Ian MacDonald

LAKE GARDA

“Lake Garda is my favourite holiday destination, it has everything – the weather, the views,
the food, the wine… did I mention the food and wine?

My tip for Lake Garda: Have your first espresso immediately after getting off the autostrada
(motorway). Stop at the car park after the first hairpin bend coming from Nago heading for
Torbole and enjoy your first cup of coffee, your first aperol or your first ice cream (at the bar
on the other side of the road). The view to the south is breath-taking.”

– Ian MacDonald, Managing Director

Dresden Marco Polo Guide

DRESDEN

“Dresden city exudes a magical aura. When the morning sun glistens on the Elbe River and
highlights the silhouette of the Altstadt, even the residents of Dresden catch their breath.

As one of the most popular travel destinations in Germany (the city welcomes around
ten million visitors every year, and this figure is on the rise) it impresses its visitors
with monuments, art and culture. Yet, it is the Elbe River that defines the city’s
mood. It winds its way through the town in broad curves, passing vineyards, stately
castles and homely beer gardens, and lined by the broad Elbwiesen meadows, which
are unlike anything to be found in other large European towns these days. People meet
here to sit around camp fires, eat picnics, go for a walk, ride their bikes
or relax in the sand and watch the clouds go by… why not join them?”

– Andrew, Sales Representative for London and the South Coast

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

“This is hardly a hidden gem, but after travelling around Asia for two and a half months,
this place is the one I still dream of. Angkor Wat is simply the most stunning thing I have
ever witnessed in my life. It’s no exaggeration to say it took my breath away. Make sure
you allow plenty of time to explore the temples. The best way is by tuk-tuk; hire a driver
for the day. Or if you’ve brave enough you can rent a moped or bike – but prepare to sweat!!

Whilst in Siem Reap be sure to check out Pub Street and the Night Market. Restaurant wise
– I’d recommend New Leaf Eatery and Genevieve’s, both of which are non-profit organisations,
so you can enjoy your meal knowing you’re supporting a great cause!”

– Hayley, Digital Marketing Manager

Photo credit: Alison Floutier

CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP & SAN DIEGO

“If you’re on Highway 5 heading south from LA to San Diego, add an extra hour to your journey time to allow a stop in San Clemente. It describes itself as the ‘Spanish Village by the Sea’ and would be so easy to dismiss in your charge south to the San Diego. But an hour here, taking in the ocean views and gorgeous Spanish architecture is well worth your time. Insider Tip – you’ll see the big Starbucks sign from the 5. Use this for navigation but stop at the Zebra House Coffee Shop. The best coffee you’ll experience in California and if you strike lucky, the walls can be laden with beautiful artwork from local artists.

Coronado, the spit of land that juts out from San Diego, is Paradise with a capital P. Everyone knows it for ‘The Del’, the grand Victorian Hotel Del Coronado graced by US Presidents and Marco Polo staff alike! It’s a beautiful beach to while away a few hours and then take your sandy-self to the Babcock and Story bar on the ocean front to sip a perfectly ice cold beer and imagine Marilyn Monroe filming Some Like it Hot on the beach just in front. If you can tear yourself away, a drive round to Point Loma is well worth the view looking back across the Navy base, the principal home port of the US Pacific Fleet, and see the hotel and the whole of this gorgeous peninsula.

Insider Tip – the finest Mexican food and eye-wateringly wonderful margaritas can be found just across the road and a world away from the tourist hub of The Del. Hidden behind a row of shops, is the fantastic Miguel’s Cucina. You need to find time to linger here.”

– Diane, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

Marco Polo Guides Lisbon Largo Trindade Coelho

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

LISBON

“Ah, where do you start with Lisbon? I think I’ll have to start with food – freshly caught seafood including prawns the size of your fist and Bacalhau, a local speciality! You can’t leave without trying a Pastel de nata – a Portuguese egg tart. The most popular place to try them is Pasteis de Belem, but they’re sold all over the city. Not forgetting the wine – Portugal produces some excellent wines! Including the famous Port and Madeira, of course… but they’re found all over the country. In Lisbon, the local delicacy is a sickly sweet but surprisingly delicious liqueur called Ginjinha. It’s made from cherries and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a whole cherry in the bottom of your cup! The best places to try it are A Ginjinha near the famous Rossio Square or Ginjinha Sem Rival.

Alfama is my favourite area in Lisbon, I could wander around there for hours. And you must visit Castelo de São Jorge, Rossio Square and the beautiful Cathedral: Se! My other tip is Belem… which is a little out of the city, but worth a visit… and if you have time, take an excursion to Sintra. You won’t regret it!”

– Petra, Sales & Marketing Manager

BOSTON

Boston is ideal as a stand alone city break or as a good starting point for trips further afield in the New England area. Hotels can be ridiculously expensive so we tend to go for the better priced boutique B&Bs. Seafood is plentiful and just about everywhere from cafes, pubs to restaurants offer lobster and their famous Clam Chowder on their menus and at such good value.

For sports fans you have everything covered, The Boston Red Sox Baseball stadium where you can take a guided tour, the TD Gardens for Ice Hockey and Baseball and Patriots Place for the current Superbowl Champions, the New England Patriots for American Football and The New England Revolutions for Soccer. This is further afield and requires a train journey but great to get to see small town America as you travel by.

Boston and the New England coastline is brilliant for spotting whales and from the harbour you can easily book day trips on the many tours they offer. Duck Tours are great to get your bearings and get the low-down on the city from a local driver and they all end up on the river which is one of the best places to view Boston. Their Aquarium is right on the harbour front and worth a visit.”

– Julie, Office Manager

UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS

“Amsterdam is one of those destinations that everyone has to see at least once in their life, but my tip for anyone visiting Amsterdam for more than a day or two is to leave the city. It may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a lot more to see in the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. One such place is Utrecht, one of the oldest cities in the country. It’s only 20 minutes away by train, but Utrecht is still a bit of a hidden gem for most tourists.

There are canals, just like in Amsterdam and many other Dutch cities, but the canals in Utrecht have a unique feature: the canal side docks. Once used for loading trade goods, today there are countless restaurants that host their terraces on the docks.

The Dom tower is the main landmark of the city, an old church tower from the 15th century, which you will be able to see in the horizon almost everywhere in the city. The cathedral is also worth a visit, as is the old courtyard with its flowers and a maze. Entrance is free, though a small donation at the door is always appreciated.

If you are hungry or thirsty, there is plenty that Utrecht can offer. My personal favourite for a quick, inexpensive snack is the Vietnamese streetfood restaurant Kimmade, on Mariastraat. It’s a tiny little place, with seats for around 10 people, but the food is excellent. For drinks Neude is the place to be, especially if it is sunny. The square will be packed with tables and chairs and this is where the locals will be. Order a beer and a portion of fries – or bitterballen if you are really feeling the local vibe, and enjoy.”

– Senja, Social Media Assistant

What is your pick for 2018?

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo Pocket Guide relaunch

Calling all trailblazers! Marco Polo has never been one to follow the crowd: since we burst onto the scene in 2012 and turned the travel publishing world upside-down, we have been pursuing a quest to create the best travel guide possible ever since! And now we are launching 30 ground-breaking new look pocket guides for 2018!

DISCOVERY TOURS

Along with all the regular content updates you’d expect from a relaunch – the guides also contain a new Discovery Tours chapter:

• Each book has 4 to 5 exciting, specially tailored tours helping readers get behind the scenes and head off the beaten track.
• The perfect planning tool – each tour has an overview box detailing the start and end points, distance, plus timing and costs involved – all the information an explorer needs at a glance!
• Each tour is plotted on an overview map highlighting the start point and final destination for easy orientation.
• A detailed flow chart with pictograms clearly shows the way – including distance indicators, sights to explore, views to enjoy en route and plenty of Insider Tips for
relaxing stops along the way.

FREE TOURING APP

Free touring app! The Discovery Tours are also available as an app – simply download any of the tours from the web link / QR code featured in each guide. The ultimate navigational tool to enjoy stress-free sightseeing.

NEW LOOK COVERS

Ground-breaking new look covers bring the guides bang up-to-date, so you won’t need to be shy about looking like a tourist! Fresh, simple, cool – the split line typography is designed to make you look twice and the bright colours will get you in the holiday mood!

INSIDER TIPS

The guides with Insider Tips! Showing the main sights in detail simply isn’t enough for modern-day travellers. Marco Polo specialises in getting you off the beaten track! Why follow the crowd when you can make your own path?

NEW TITLES

Relaunch titles available Jan 2018: Amsterdam, Bali, Barcelona, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Corfu, Costa Brava, French Riviera, Hong Kong, India South, Italy, Lake Garda, Mallorca, Malta & Gozo, Mauritius, Montenegro, Munich, New York, New Zealand, Rome, Sardinia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tenerife, Venice, Vienna.

Plus 4 brand new titles: Japan, Peru & Bolivia, Salzburg & Surroundings, Santorini.
All priced at £7.99.

ORDER YOUR MARCO POLO POCKET GUIDES NOW.

Let Marco Polo show you hidden gems, lesser-known locations and stunning viewpoints where you can make memories to last a lifetime. Brush shoulders with the locals, eat the food that Grandma makes and seek out unique experiences at every turn.

Be a traveller, not just a tourist!

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 23: Sicily Christmas bonfires

It’s Day 23 of our Advent Calendar and Christmas is almost here! Today we are headed to Sicily, to discover how Sicilians – and other parts of Italy – keep warm on Christmas Eve. Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

 

SICILY CHRISTMAS BONFIRES

We have already featured one Italian Christmas tradition, but there are so many lovely traditions that we could do a whole Advent Calendar of Italian traditions alone. However, we will do just one more: the Christmas bonfires in Sicily, and other parts of Italy. For Italians Christmas is still very much a religious celebration, and the Christmas bonfires have a religious background as well. Traditionally, the bonfires would be a part of large Nativity plays, meant to keep everyone – and most importantly the baby Jesus – warm. Nowadays most villages, towns and cities have a large bonfire on the main square on the evening of Christmas Eve, kicking off the festive period.

And really, is there anything nicer than a roaring bonfire in the darkest and coldest period of the year?

CHECK OUT THE GIVEAWAY

Buy the Marco Polo Sicily Spiral Guide.

Something to say? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 3: Italy La Befana

It’s Day 3 of our Advent Calendar and the first advent Sunday! Today we are travelling to Rome to meet a figure we would be more likely to associate with Halloween rather than Christmas… La Befana! Did you miss our first two posts? Check them out here and here.

la befana vien di notte by Zia deda, on Flickr
la befana vien di notte” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Zia deda

ITALY LA BEFANA

La Befana is the Italian Christmas witch who brings presents to all the good Italian children and lumps of coal to the naughty ones. La Befana is said to ride a broomstick through the air on the eve of the Epiphany, entering houses through the chimney and leaving her presents in the socks left out by the children. Though depicted as dressed in rags and covered in soot, la Befana is actually an excellent housekeeper and if the family leaves her a little token, usually a glass of wine and a local treat, she will even sweep the house with her broomstick.

While la Befana is celebrated throughout Italy, the Christmas witch has a special place in Rome. On Piazza Navona there is a popular market every year, selling candy, toys and sugar charcoal. It is even said that la Befana will appear on the market at the midnight of January 6th, though beware, the legend also says that whoever sees la Befana will get a thwack from her broomstick!

CHECK OUT THE GIVEAWAY

Buy the Rome Marco Polo Spiral Guide 

Rome Spiral Guide

Have any comments? Tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

That Florence Feeling

Find out what makes the city tick, experience its unique air – just like the Florentines themselves.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS

A climb up the Duomo or Campanile is rewarded by a panoramic view of Florence but if this is too strenuous there are other options. You can enjoy a wonderful view of the city and the Piazza della Signoria from the rooftop terrace of the Uffizi cafe and the bar in the La Rinascente department store offers a bird’s-eye-view of the Piazza della Repubblica and a close-up of the cathedral complex. In summer you can spend Thursday evening surrounded by stunning views when visit the rooftop bar of the Hotel Minerva (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella 16; www.grandhotelminerva.com) for their aperitivo buffet.

FLEA MARKET ANTIQUES

If you are patient and keep your eyes open, you might find something of interest at one of the stalls at Florence’s flea market, the Mercato delle Pulci, on the Piazza dei Ciompi. When palazzi and villas are sold most items go to Pandolfini, Sotheby’s or Christie’s, but some fine objects do find their way to the flea market. In any case, it’s always fun to browse.

COOL RESPITE FROM SUMMER’S HEAT

On warm summer days, as in times past, Florentines travel up to Fiesole where they sit in the bars and restaurants on the tree-lined piazza and enjoy the cooler air. In July and August the beautiful Roman amphitheatre hosts popular ballet, theatre and concert performances as part of the Estate Fiesolana (Summer Festival).

STREET FOOD ALLA FIORENTINA

Dishes such as bistecca alla fiorentina may be famous but for Florentines the humble panino al lampredotto is a firm favourite. Lampredotto is tripe that has been simmered in a broth and is then tucked into a freshly sliced roll; the roll is then wrapped in a piece of grease-proof paper – and Buon appetito! The street stalls, or trippai, are usually always on the squares and street corners of the city centre. The locals know them, love them and vote for the best one every year – and it is perfectly acceptable to be caught with a tripe roll in your hand even if you are wearing your most expensive Armani outfit.

ALL THE TASTES AND SMELLS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

The food hall of the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo is a true culinary paradise. Here, everything is closely inspected, squeezed, turned upside down – no matter whether it be fresh fish, truffles, bistecca, Parmesan, ham, pheasant, suckling pig or fruit and vegetables. You can just take in all the sights and intoxicating aromas or, better still, taste the fare at Nerbone where the locals put their purchases down next to their bench and tuck in – just as they have been doing since 1872.

OASIS OF CALM

Retreat to the magical Boboli Gardens on a hot summer day and take a relaxing wander through its cypress avenues lined with statues, past the Casino del Cavaliere manor house and explore fanciful grottoes, splashing fountains and ornamental pools. A short visit to a spa, such as Soul Space (Via Sant’Egidio 12, 055 200 17 94; www.soulspace.it), is another good way to take a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city.

MADE IN ITALY

It need not be an entire outfit; even the tiniest little handbag from one of the top designers will delight! Via de’ Tornabuoni in the west of Florence is a prime shopping street for fashions, shoes and accessories.

COSY CORNERS

The Oltrarno has a magic all of its own with its little artisan workshops and narrow side streets. There are still some small corners that have remained untouched by tourism and the tiny Piazza della Passera is one of them. The Trattoria 4 Leoni is located on the spot where there has been a pub since 1550. Here, you can still enjoy your meal in an authentic Tuscan ambience, even though when you now eat outdoors on the piazza, modern sun awnings provide your shade.

 

Buy the Florence Marco Polo Guide.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

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What bloggers are saying about Marco Polo Guides

Our travel guides are often found in the hands of travel bloggers and who better to put them to the test! Here is what a few of them had to say about Marco Polo Guides:

Heels in My Backpack

Photo credit: heelsinmybackpack.com

Rome Spiral Guide: “It’s difficult when you’re visiting somewhere for the first time and only have a short amount of time to experience it. How are you meant to prioritise what to do? Should you just hit the big time high profile sights? Try to go off the beaten path?

Well this is the predicament I was in when I visited Rome last month. My Anchored cruise was departing on the Sunday and I decided to fly in on the Friday night so I could enjoy a full Saturday of Rome goodness. So essentially I needed to experience Rome in a day… I mean I know Rome wasn’t built in a day so presumably it would be difficult to see it all in a day, right?

Enter my brand new and shiny Marco Polo Spiral Guide to Rome.

To maximise my time, I thought I’d try out one of their ‘Perfect Day’ itineraries to make sure I was making the most of this glorious day.

And it really was glorious, it was 33 degrees celsius on this particular day. Not the ideal temp for walking around in the boiling sun all day, but hey, I went with it.
There are several day itineraries in the guide but I decided to go for the ‘Ancient City’ variation. Mainly because it included the Colosseum and I’m basic like that. But also because it looked like it had a good mix of the big sights I had heard of and under the radar gems.” See the full post here: heelsinmybackpack.com.

The Sunny Side of This

Photo credit: thesunnysideofthis.com

Brussels Pocket Guide: “My favorite parts of their guide were the Do’s and Dont’s of Belgium (particularly the driving laws of the city), the useful phrases section both in French and Dutch, and their Discovery Tours suggestions. For this review we did a little bit of a mix and match of their Discovery Tours section, given that we had the baby with us and we wanted to go around by public transportation.

We were also very relieved that the restaurant suggestions all come with the place’s schedules. Restaurants in Brussels are usually not open on Sundays, and only open during lunch time or dinner (ex. 12-2, and 6-9pm). Luckily, the park we visited had a festival that particular weekend and it was filled with food trucks!” Read more on thesunnysideofthis.com.

Sophie’s Suitcase

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

London Spiral Guide: “I had a lovely 48 wandering London and used my trusty guide to keep me heading in the right direction and I came across so many lesser known shops, cafes and restaurants because of this. Marco Polo Travel Guide books trump other equivalent maps because each time the book mentions a place, whether it’s a cafe, bar or landmark, it also makes sure it references the map co-ordinates too so that you can find the place super easy. BINGO!” See the full post on sophiessuitcase.com.

Photo credit: sophiessuitcase.com

Paris Spiral Guide: “We also sat down with a cup of tea and planned the next 48 hours of our lives, in beautiful Paris! I don’t know why but I hadn’t really asked for tips and tricks from the internet and instead was relying solely on my new Marco Polo Travel Guide to get us from one spot to another.

As we were only going to be in Paris for 48 hours we circled the places we really wanted to visit, and then crossed a few others off the list that we would save for another trip. We mapped out our route for the days and used the book to find out opening times, entry prices and how we would get there.” Read more on sophiessuitcase.com.

Tara Povey – Where is Tara

Photo credit: whereistara.com

Dublin Spiral Guide: “If it’s your first time in Dublin, especially if you’re just visiting for a weekend, you might feel a bit overwhelmed about where to begin and how to really make the most of your time to experience the best that the city has in store. Never fear. Marco Polo and I are here to help you out. Marco Polo, you ask? The famous explorer? Well, kind of – The Marco Polo Dublin guide, stuffed to the gills with useful information. It’s a real gem when it comes to maximizing your time and planning your trip. Each part of the city is handily dealt with in separate sections. It’s easy to see at a glance which attractions are close to each other, how to get to them, and where to find great food without going out of your way. Navigating and finding your way around has never been easier.” Find out more on whereistara.com.

Alice – Teacake Travels

Photo credit: teacaketravels.com

London Spiral Guide: “There’s just so much to see and do around London! You could spend months and months here without barely scratching the surface. Yet, when time is so short, we need to get to the point!

What if you want to do something different, like that time I set out to discover the street art scene in Shoreditch? What if you want to see a different side of London, hangout in places that you won’t find in most guidebooks, see the city’s charmingly British eccentricity and hit up some of the most weird London attractions?

You could spend hours searching for tidbits online or alternatively arm yourself with my advice and a copy of the Marco Polo London spiral guide.

Divided into sections for different parts of the city, each chapter has a handy map and suggestions on how to maximize your time, leaving you able to discover the different parts of London with ease. There’s also terrific digestible recommendations for places to eat and drink in here, to stop you feeling overwhelmed from all the wonderful dining options in London!” See the full post on teacaketravels.com.

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That Lake Garda Feeling

Discover what makes Lake Garda as appealing as it is and experience its unique flair. Just as the locals do, with Marco Polo’s insider tips:

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

The first espresso after leaving the autostrada

Stop at the car park after the first hairpin bend coming from Nago heading for Torbole and enjoy your first cup of coffee, your first aperol or your first ice cream (at the bar on the other side of the road). The view to the south is breathtaking.

Racing through tunnels like James Bond

The Gardesana Occidentale that runs down the western side of the lake from Campione to Riva passes through at least a dozen tunnels which even inspired 007’s motive scouts. Bond & Co. spent two weeks filming for Quantum of Solace on Lake Garda. That may only have resulted in a brief moment in the final film – but what a couple of minutes!

Trip on a paddle steamer

A trip across the lake on the ‘Zanardelli’ or the ‘Italia’ – two paddle steamers built in 1903 and 1908 respectively – is a must. The ‘Zanardelli’ operates in the north; the ‘Italia’ in the south. The locals love being out on the lake too, albeit generally in their own sailing boats. Alternatively you can hire a little motorboat with 40hp even if you don’t have a driving licence.

Torbole at half-past-six

When the first rays of sunlight peak over Monte Baldo the lake is already full of brightly coloured sails. When the wind is right, the windsurfing cracks are out on the water by this time, speeding along or showing off their tricks. Distance fans race back and forth along a 2km (1 1⁄4 mile) stretch between Torbole and Riva as if on a conveyor belt. Time and again. A wonderful spectacle to watch.

A view of the lake and pasta at half-past-seven

In the evening, when the colour of the lake changes from a brilliant silver to a soft gold in the light of the setting sun, sit back and enjoy an aperol or a ‘Hugo’ before your evening meal on the Gardesana Orientale at least once during your stay and watch the sun go down – either on a pontoon in Torri del Benaco, a balcony in the ‘Belvedere’ in Marniga di Brenzone or right on the water with a view of the castle in Malcesine on the Lido di Paina.

Sunday evening on the beach

Lots of Italian families head for the lakeside in July and August although it is often said that it is firmly in the hands of the Germans – which, considering the number of tourists who flood to the lake every year, is hardly surprising. However, when the Italians descend the situation changes noticeably. Tables, chairs and sun umbrellas appear early in the morning and airbeds are pumped up. After a long, hot day, family get-togethers start at around half past seven in the evening with barbecues, vino and a huge variety of antipasti. And some of the fathers may have had a successful day’s fishing. You may even be invited to a glass of something by your neighbours.

A day in a deserted village

A 30-minute walk along a donkey track from Marniga di Brenzone will bring you to Campo. An artist has set up his easel, sheep are grazing nearby, a donkey is standing motionless in the blazing sun. Campo dates from the 11th century and is a quiet, solitary place albeit run down now. Hardly anyone lives here anymore as most people have moved away: no roads, no future – but a wonderful atmosphere.

A night in the Limonaia

The view of the bulbous lower end of the lake is simply stunning and the edge of the infinity pool merges optically with the water on Lake Garda 300m (985ft) below. You may be able to find a more exclusive place to stay in Lago, but nowhere is as beautiful as in “Lefay’ – the holiday resort above Gargnano that will give you that perfect ‘lago’ feeling.

Buy the Lake Garda Marco Polo Spiral Guide.

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

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