Competition between Eurostar trains and airlines to European cities has brought down fares for other modes of transport, too. Eurolines (01582 404511) has cut its coach fares to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris to pounds 44 return; night services cost an extra pounds 5. A Euro Explorer ticket taking in all three capitals is currently priced at pounds 78.
Malta has a new tourist office, at Malta House, 36 Piccadilly, London W1V 0PP (0171-292 4900). You can stop off on the island on the way to destinations around the Mediterranean; Belleair Holidays (0181-785 3266) has Air Malta flights from Glasgow, London and Manchester to Sicily, for example, for pounds 250 including tax.
Rome plus almost anywhere is the unusual offer from City Escapades (0181-563 8959). The company sells short breaks in Europe, and has come up with a neat arrangement allowing travellers to "pair" the Italian capital with Barcelona, Budapest, Istanbul, Lisbon, Madrid or Prague. All flights are with Alitalia. A night in Rome plus two in Istanbul, staying at three- star hotels, costs pounds 403 in high season.
From Tuesday, the Last Judgement frescos in the cathedral in Florence are finally unveiled after 15 years of restoration. Numerous packages to the city are available: two nights including B&B, flights and a guidebook cost pounds 309 through Citalia (0181-686 5533). Air UK (0345 666777) flies from Stansted to Florence for pounds 159 return, including tax.
From 1 August, foreigners planning to enter Russia for a stay of more than three months will be legally obliged to "prove" that they are not carrying the HIV virus, which can cause Aids. Diplomats are exempt. Other travellers have to produce a certificate stating that they have taken a test for HIV which gave a negative result. At present it is not clear how assiduously the new law is likely to be enforced.