Smart Travels—Europe with Rudy Maxa
#101: Naples and the Amalfi Coast
Deep in the heart of Italy, Naples is the ideal launching point for exploring some of the
country’s great historic treasures. We marvel at the ancient city of Pompeii and the devastation of Mount Vesuvius and we trek across a still-active volcano. Then we move
on to stylish Sorrento, where we sample luscious gelato and hop a ferry to the isle of
Capri. We drive the thrilling Amalfi coast to take in spectacular views, and further south
we visit Paestum, home to the best Greek ruins outside of Greece. Tips on Capri’s
funicular and Pompeii’s train.
Rudy is in the city where all roads lead - Roma. We begin in ancient Rome - the Forum,
Palatine Hill, Colosseum, and Baths of Caracalla. Then we explore modern Roman life
on the streets and in cafes, pizzerias and gelaterias. We detour to another country,
Vatican City, then shop along the Corso and relax at the Piazza di Spagna. Rudy's pick
for best city walks are a tour of the historic center and a stroll in shady Trastevere. Tips
on getting around and places for tasty snacks.
Join Rudy as he surrenders himself to the charms of magical Venice. We tour the famous
sites - Piazza San Marco, the fairy tale Basilica of San Marco and the Rialto Bridge.
Rudy also shows us how to escape the crowds by visiting the neighborhoods of
Dorsoduro, Cannaregio and San Polo. Along the way, he takes us for a rousing drink at
the city's oldest wine bar, on a dreamy gondola ride and to a traditional Venetian mask
shop. In search of hand blown glass, lace and the birthplace of Venice, we journey to the
lagoon islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. Tips on how to navigate your way round
this watery city.
#104: Genoa and the Italian Riviera
We’re off to the Italian Riviera seeking la dolce vita in one of the world’s most romantic
places. With death-defying cliffs and beaches that shimmer like jewels, the Riviera is as
stunning a coastline as anywhere in Europe. In the port town of Genoa, we tour palaces
for a taste of old-world elegance and dine on world-class pesto. Then we head south to
the famous resort of Portofino and the sea cliff towns of the Cinqueterre. Finally, we
battle vertigo at Pisa’s leaning tower. Tips on using train passes and finding addresses.
In this glorious city, rich in art, Rudy brings the Renaissance to life. We visit the great museums - the Uffizi, Bargello, and Accademia, as well as the landmarks of the Renaissance - the Duomo, Bapistery and Giotto's Tower. Rudy's tip for beating the crowds is peaceful Oltr'arno on the other side of the river. An excursion outside of town leads to a Medici villa, a sleepy Tuscan town and a museum with inventions by Leonardo da Vinci. Tips on shopping and how to buy quality leather products.
#106: Hill Towns of Tuscany and Umbria
Castles, vineyards, walled cities and a fierce medieval rivalry that lingers today - we're out for an adventure in the Italian hill towns. Our base is dramatic Siena, home of the intensely competitive Palio horse race. From Siena we explore the multi-towered town of San Gimignano, watch grapes being harvested at a winery and drop in on the cheese festival in Pienza. Then south to Rudy's secret pick - the haunting hill towns of Pitigliano and Sovana. In Umbria we discover Etruscan tombs, visit the home of St. Francis of Assisi and pick up some pottery in quaint Gubbio. Tips on driving through the maze-like streets of a hill town and finding a place to stay.
Sun, olive trees and cicadas - we're in the heart of France. With our base in the sleepy town of St. Remy, we make forays into the villages, countryside and cities of Provence. Driving tours of the Alpilles and Luberon regions take us to the red rock village of Rousillion, the lavender ensconced Abbey of Senanque, and the picture perfect village of Eygalieres. We also take in the delights of Provence's cities, Arles, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. We end our adventures with a dip in the Mediterranean at the seaside village of Cassis. Tips on how to rent a vacation home in France and enjoying the many summer festivals.
Rudy escorts us through Paris, the city of style, art and pastries. We experience extraordinary art - the Impressionist collection at the Musee D'Orsay and the garden sculpture at the Rodin Museum. Then we hit the sites from Notre Dame to the Pompidou Center to the Eiffel Tower. We stroll through the parks, markets and cafes in this city where everyday life is art. Rudy leads us to intimate neighborhoods such as the Marais and its lovely Place des Vosges, the bohemian Latin Quarter and artistic Montmartre. Tips on riding the Metro and shopping for the essentials - bread, cheese, ham and pastries.
London is a city that has come close to ruling the world. With a legacy that includes Shakespeare and the Beatles, London seems to have an endless capacity to reinvent itself. Here, we sip tea and savor traditional sights such as Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard. We pop in to see where Charles Dickens penned Oliver Twist,
and get a bird’s-eye view of contemporary London from the new London Eye
observation wheel. Finally, we check out cutting edge artwork at the newly opened Tate Modern Art Museum. Tips on using cell phones and cash machines.
#110: Out of London
The countryside outside of London echoes with storybook images. Around every
hedgerow are mythic castles, ruined abbeys and prehistoric monuments. This time, we
leave London and stop at Hampton Court, where Henry VIII wooed Anne Boleyn. We
gaze on Oxford’s dreamy spires and browse in the real Alice in Wonderland’s candy
store. Next, we pay a visit to Jane Austen’s house, puzzle over the mysterious megaliths
of Stonehenge, and pursue tales of Camelot in the royal city of Winchester. Tips on living
in England and visiting country pubs.
#111: Brussels and Belgium
For centuries, Belgium has been a sophisticated hub for gourmets and connoisseurs. In
true Belgian style, we treat ourselves to superb chocolate and sample first-rate beer.
We indulge our senses with folk music and Bruegel paintings, and investigate the
people’s passion for comic strips. Then we drive to breathtaking Bruges, a medieval city suspended in time. There, we cruise the canals, admire intricate handmade lace and pay
homage to a Michelangelo masterpiece. Tips on hearty Belgian cuisine and lace making.
#112: Amsterdam and the Netherlands
The country of the Netherlands inspired the Dutch masters and became a powerhouse that
conquered the sea. We bicycle to Amsterdam’s great art museums to see the works of
Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Then we climb to the attic where Anne Frank and her family
hid from the Nazis. Later, we prowl windmills and check out Amsterdam’s infamous red-
light district. Next stop is the Hague, home to the International Court of Justice. Finally,
we peek at the delightful city of Delft where we learn techniques for making world-
renowned china. Tips on riding trolleys and buying Delftware.
#113: Copenhagen and Denmark
Join Rudy in the wondrous kingdom of legend and fairytale - Denmark. Here Vikings
plundered and Hans Christian Anderson spun children’s stories. In cozy Copenhagen, we
splurge on pastries, visit the Little Mermaid and dance till dawn at Tivoli Gardens. On a day trip to Roskilde, we check out three incredibly well preserved Viking ships. We
ride horseback through the Danish countryside, stroll through writer Karen Blixen’s
gardens, and storm the moat at ―Prince Hamlet’s‖ Castle. Tips on canal rides and museum passes.
#201: Athens and the Peloponnese
While Athens sprawls, its historic core survives. After climbing the majestic Acropolis,
rowing the Plaka, and cheering Greece’s best folk dancers, we take some easy trips
outside the city. We make a pilgrimage to the famed oracle of Delphi and tour a beautiful
medieval monastery. Then it’s off to the Peloponnesian Peninsula, where we scope out
Nafplion’s charming port and visit the epic ruins of King Agamemnon in the ancient
capital of Mycenae. Along the way, we investigate local superstitions and sample tangy
specialty treats. Tip: Finding great Greek food, traditional and contemporary.
#202: Greek Islands
On the Greek Islands we get familiar with the ferries as we island-hop the Aegean.
Sun-drenched, upscale and exotic, Santorini sits on the rim of an ancient, but still active,
volcano. At one end of the island, the archeological site at Akrotiri uncovers a city frozen
in time by the volcano's eruption 3,600 years ago. The island of Naxos offers serenity, a
low-keyed pace and bargain accommodations. Its massive marble quarries and kouros
sculptures were the toast of ancient Greece. We catch some R&R on trendy Mykonos,
and then head to sacred Delos—an uninhabited island covered entirely with ancient ruins,
and the place where the great god Apollo was born. Tips: Discovering little off-the-
#203: French Riviera
From Nice to St. Tropez, we drop in on the hot spots along the Mediterranean's famous
Cote d'Azur. Based in lively Nice, we visit the local beaches and superb modern art
museums featuring works by Matisse, Picasso and Signac. A short hop up along the
winding Grande Corniche leads to wealthy Monaco. Then it’s on to glamorous Cannes
and the lively beaches at Juan le Pins. In stylish St. Tropez, we visit the prettiest beaches
and tour the colorful town. Inland, we make our own perfume in Grasse and explore a
medieval hill town. Tips include renting a car, and accommodations.
#204: France’s Burgundy and Loire Regions The Burgundy region boasts top French wines, romantic canals, Romanesque churches
and some of France's most renowned cuisine. We base in the small town of Beaune and
learn about its history of winemaking. From the vineyards of the Côte d’Or to the
culinary delights – we discover the exquisite taste of Burgundy. The city of Dijon and the cathedral at Vezelay add artistic treasures to the Burgundy experience. For the second
half of our trip, we head for the Loire Valley and chateaux country. From our home base
in Amboise, we visit the famous chateaux, including magnificent Chenonçeau, and
François I's overwhelming Chambord. Tips include touring wine country, discovering
smaller chateaux and ballooning over the Loire.
With world-class cultural sites, dynamic new architecture and unstoppable energy, Berlin
is a city on the move. We visit the museums – the ancient treasures of the Pergamon and
the Egyptian museum, German Expressionism at the Neue Nationalgalerie and the newly
designed Jewish Museum. From dynamic Potzdamer Platz to the stark reminders at
Checkpoint Charlie, we feel the past and see the future in Berlin. Our base is the
luxurious and historical Hotel Adlon. Even shopping in Berlin brings history with it—we
shop and snack at the fabulous KaDeWe department store. An outing to Potsdam takes in
the Prussian past. Tips on touring this historic city, and best beers.
#206: Munich and Bavaria
Munich's lively Marienplatz pulses with outdoor cafes, shoppers, street musicians and
happy tourists. At the famous Hofbrauhaus, we sample Bavarian beer and kick up our
heels with Schuhplattler dancers clad in lederhosen. Next stop is the Residenz, the family
palace built by the Wittlesbachs, who ruled Bavaria for more than 700 years. Just
outside of town, a sobering visit to Dachau concentration camp reminds us of the dark
side of Germany's past. Then, we move on to lighter vistas—a trip into the mountains takes us to "Mad" King Ludwig's fairytale castle Neuschwanstein and on an exhilarating
luge ride. Tip: Finding Bavaria’s best beer gardens.
#207: Salzburg and the Lakes District
In musical Salzburg, we focus on Austria's easy approach to life. We visit the city's grand
cathedral, take a funicular up to Europe's greatest medieval fortress, and shop along fine
Baroque streets reminiscent of Mozart's time. We visit the house where the young
Amadeus was born and where he composed his first masterpiece. Investigating the
sumptuous palaces of Salzburg’s prince-archbishops, we discover some ―secret‖ passions.
Then we relax in Austria's woodsy "Sound of Music" land, the Salzkammergut Lakes
District. We soar high into the mountains to tour magical ice caves and then stroll little
spa towns where Europe’s crowned heads once ―took to the baths‖. Tip: Best bargain for
seeing lots of sights in a short amount of time.
#208: Vienna and the Danube
Habsburg palaces, coffee houses, Strauss waltzes…all are symbolic of Vienna.
Visiting elegant Schoenbrunn Palace, riding in carriages, sampling luscious apple strudel
and listening to Mozart concerts, we see that Austria's capital still lives its elegant, proud
past. We get a behind-the-scenes peek at how exquisite china is made at Augarten,
Europe’s second oldest porcelain manufacturer. For a change from urban to countryside, we cruise down the Danube past vineyards and castles, stop at the dazzling Melk Abbey,
and sample "new" wines—unique young varieties special to this part of the world. Tip: