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New hotels, restaurants opening all over Italy

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Holidaymakers planning Rome tours and other travel pursuits in Italy this summer will be able to make use of a number of new hotels, restaurants and other establishments opening across the country.

The national tourist board announced details of a host of new developments, including the four-star Hotel Homs in Rome, which was recently renovated to provide new facilities including the Vuda champagne bar.

Another recent addition to the capital’s offering to tourists is the Il Cuoco Nero restaurant in the Salario quarter, which was opened by respected Italian chef Maurizio Santin.

Further north, the Chianti area of Tuscany will this summer host the opening of Castel Monastero, a new country house resort with facilities including a restaurant bearing the name of Gordon Ramsay.

Milan’s culinary scene will be improved with the opening of the new Home Delicate restaurant, while in Perugia holidaymakers will be able to visit the Alla Posta dei Donini spa.

The Art Newspaper recently released an annual ranking of the world’s cultural institutions which named the Vatican Museums in Rome as the sixth most popular museum last year with more than 4.4 million visitors.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19107084-ADNFCR

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Approval granted for ‘unique’ Tate Modern development

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Southwark Council has granted planning permission for a development at London’s Tate Modern that will add a striking new building to the gallery.

Designs created by international architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron will see the oil tanks of the former power station in which Tate Modern is situated used as the basis for the new structure.

Announcing its approval of the project, Southwark Council said the proposed building will be "an extraordinary and unique addition to London’s townscape" that will offer further regeneration benefits to London’s Bankside area.

Tate director Nicholas Serota said: "We are delighted that Herzog & de Meuron’s revised plans have been granted approval by Southwark Council. We look forward to creating one of the most exciting cultural buildings in Europe which will bring direct benefits to Southwark and London as a whole."

Coming at an estimated cost of £215 million, the development is scheduled for completion in 2012.

From June 12th this year, travellers on London tours will be able to head to Tate Modern to see Futurism, the first major exhibition of futurist art in Britain for some 30 years.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out of the city to see Stonehenge.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19107062-ADNFCR

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Visit some of Europe’s leading museums for free

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People taking culture and sightseeing tours across Europe next month will have the opportunity to visit some of the continent’s most high-profile institutions absolutely free.

The Nuit des Musees initiative sees museums and galleries all over the continent welcome visitors for free for one evening, with most opening from dusk until the early hours of the morning.

May 16th will be the date of the 2009 edition of Nuit des Musees, which this year will be celebrating its fifth anniversary.

Institutions set to take part in the project this year include Cosmo Caixa in Barcelona, the Museo Sorolla in Madrid, the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence and the Musee Charlier in Brussels.

France will be one of the biggest participants in Nuit des Musees, with major attractions including the Pavillon de Vendome in Aix-en-Provence, the Musee d’Aquitaine in Bordeaux and the Louvre in Paris expected to be involved.

The Louvre was recently named by the Art Newspaper as the most visited museum in the world last year, ahead of the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other institutions.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19105587-ADNFCR

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Try a taste of Times Square

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Times Square, one of New York’s most famous tourist attractions, will be even more alive with activity than usual on June 8th when it hosts its annual outdoor food festival.

Taste of Times Square is one of the city’s most popular public events, showcasing the best food on offer at the area’s leading restaurants.

As well as sampling mouthwatering cuisine, people on New York tours who make it to the festival will be entertained by street artists and other local performers who will give shows on three stages.

Those who really get into the spirit of the occasion will be able to take free dancing lessons before strutting their stuff all evening long to music provided by a live band.

Taste of Times Square is attended by thousands of food lovers and partygoers every year, who gather on West 46th Street between Broadway and Ninth Avenue, an area that includes New York’s Restaurant Row.

Times Square is one of New York’s iconic locations, famous for its ball-dropping ceremony held every New Year’s Eve.

New York – From the dizzy heights of the Empire State Building to the serene Central Park, New York has it all!ADNFCR-1652-ID-19105113-ADNFCR

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Cape Town to host Funny Festival

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Stand-up comedy fans will be able to incorporate some top-class entertainment into their Cape Town tours this year as the city hosts the Vodacom Funny Festival.

The event will be held at the Baxter Theatre Centre in the iconic South African city from June 15th to July 19th.

Audiences will be introduced to the leading performers in the local comedy scene, including Marc Lottering, described as "Cape Town’s favourite son", who will act as master of ceremonies.

Other acts taking part in this year’s festival include female comic Tumi Morake from Johannesburg and physical comedy duo Gamarjobat, who will come to South Africa all the way from Tokyo.

The British comedy scene will be represented by the Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue, who have already made a name for themselves in clubs across London.

As well as familiarising themselves with the creative culture of the city, visitors to Cape Town can get to know the local wildlife by going cage-diving with great white sharks or taking part in a whale-watching tour.

Cape Town – From the wine route to the game parks there is so much to see and do in Cape Town.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19104961-ADNFCR

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Check out AC/DC on Barcelona tours

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Rock and roll fans will be provided with some unmissable and unforgettable entertainment during Barcelona tours later this year when the legendary AC/DC bring their world tour to the city.

The veteran rockers have been touring the world since February to support the release of Black Ice, their first album in eight years, last October.

Barcelona’s Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys stadium will be the venue for the show on June 7th.

Belgrade (May 26th), Athens (May 28th), Lisbon (June 3rd), Madrid (June 5th), Paris (June 12th) and many other destinations will feature on the band’s tour before it finally comes to an end at Glasgow’s Hampden Park on June 30th.

AC/DC have now been rocking for more than 30 years and have been responsible for creating some of the most recognisable songs in modern music, including Highway to Hell, Back in Black and You Shook Me All Night Long.

Music fans taking Barcelona tours this year may also have the opportunity to see U2 in concert when they play at the Nou Camp stadium on June 30th and July 2nd.

Barcelona – Wonderful Gaudi architecture and a cosmopolitan atmosphere have made Barcelona Spain’s most popular city.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19103284-ADNFCR

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Brits ‘showing more interest in long-haul destinations’

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Travellers taking adventure tours and other trips abroad this year look set to head to long-haul destinations in greater numbers, according to a report by M&S Money.

The company’s currency statistics for the first quarter of the year show that destinations outside the eurozone are steadily increasing in popularity, led by the popular summer hotspots of Egypt and Turkey.

Sales of the Turkish lira and the Egyptian pound have increased by 46 per cent and 20 per cent respectively compared to the first quarter of 2008, according to the M&S Money statistics.

Orders for the Icelandic krona have risen 32 per cent year-on-year, while increasing interest has also been registered in the currencies of Mexico, South Africa and Kenya.

James Yerkess, M&S travel money manager, said: "The falling value of the pound in the past year means that holidaymakers are looking around for resorts where they are getting more for their money.

"Brits still want to enjoy a holiday, but they are being more selective about where they go."

M&S Money recently released a survey showing that more than a third (36 per cent) of British travellers consider the strength of a country’s currency before booking their holiday.

Active and Adventure – Air Activities – Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter ride over New York or a serene hot air balloon ride over the Australian outback.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19102981-ADNFCR

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Louvre ‘world’s most visited museum in 2008′

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The Louvre in Paris was reportedly the world’s most popular museum in 2008, attracting more visitors than any of its counterparts around the world.

Research by the Art Newspaper revealed that 8.5 million people visited the famous cultural institution last year, placing it ahead of London’s British Museum, which welcomed 5.93 million guests.

The Louvre was ranked the top museum for the second year running, while the British Museum moved up from the fourth place that it achieved in 2007.

Another leading London attraction, Tate Modern, was ranked in fourth position in the popularity list for 2008, while the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art completed the top five.

Rome’s Vatican Museums were the sixth most popular institution last year with 4.44 million visitors, while the National Art Centre in Tokyo was the highest ranked museum outside Europe and the US.

The most famous piece of art that people on Paris tours can see in the Louvre’s collection is the Mona Lisa, while the British Museum boasts Egyptian sculptures, the Rosetta Stone and other treasures.

Paris – Enjoy the view from the Eiffel Tower or see the Mona Lisa in the "city of light".ADNFCR-1652-ID-19102253-ADNFCR

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Check out some speedboat racing in Venice

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Holidaymakers in Italy will be able to incorporate some high-octane sport into their Venice tours this spring at the city’s annual Raid Pavia-Venezia event.

This popular speedboat race is scheduled to come to Italy’s famous aquatic city on May 31st this year.

Raid Pavia-Venezia sees vessels varying from top-of-the-range speedsters to vintage boats racing along waterways from Pavia, in northern Italy just south of Milan, to Venice on the north-east coast.

The competition is an inclusive event, inviting participation from anyone with a full FIM/UIM licence.

Italian speedboat racer Dino Zantelli currently holds the record for the highest speed achieved during Raid Pavia-Venezia – an impressive 203km per hour set during the contest held in 2005.

People planning to enjoy some slightly more relaxing activities during their trips in Venice can take a gondola ride along the city’s picturesque canals or sample some famous Italian cuisine in a Venetian restaurant.

Venice – Fall in love all over again on a Gondola ride on the Grand Canal and lose yourself in the grand St Mark’s Square.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19100783-ADNFCR

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Books ‘the most valued travel item’

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Travellers consider a good book the most essential item to take on holiday, according to a survey by flight search engine Skyscanner.

A poll on the company’s website found that nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of people consider books a crucial part of a holiday, followed by an mp3 player (22 per cent).

Perfume or deodorant and a laptop or personal digital assistant also appear important to travellers, gaining 14 per cent and ten per cent of the vote respectively.

Rob Innes, head of marketing at Skyscanner, said: "The humble paperback is the ultimate travel accessory. It’s a low cost, no-tech form of entertainment that you can take anywhere – from the beach to the bar. You don’t need to worry about books getting lost, stolen or damaged, or that your battery will die mid-flight.

"Books can also be exchanged with fellow travellers, giving you some entertainment currency. iPods and laptops are great for music and films but their high value means they can be more of a burden when travelling."

The flight search engine recently revealed the destinations that customers have been showing an interest in ahead of the Easter holidays, with London taking the top spot.

Rome also appeared in the top ten, along with Barcelona, Paris and Dublin.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19100029-ADNFCR

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