Hear the word `beautiful' whispered in 10 languages


Cheapest great experience

During the day, tourists pay for boats to take them into the Blue Grotto, on the Italian island of Capri. In the early mornings and late afternoons, however, the young, poor and aquatically- inclined swim through the mouth of the grotto for free. The Grotta Azzurra is a marvel; a sea cave filled with water that, by a miracle of reflection and refraction, glows a luminous, robin's-egg blue. After the last boat has left, the young travellers splash their way in, and the semi-darkness echoes with the sound of "beautiful" and "incredible" being whispered in 10 languages. Although it is a very short distance from the shore into the cave, only good swimmers should attempt this.

Best festival

The only division between the spectators and the participants at the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is a literal, and figurative, willingness to jump a fence. It is sort of like going to a rugby match and knowing that, if you have the stomach for it, you can walk out on to the pitch and play. La Fiesta de San Fermin, aka the Running of the Bulls, takes place every year from 7 to 13 July. The actual running of the six bulls and eight steers through the streets takes place every morning at 8am and lasts only three or four minutes. But the atmosphere of danger, excitement, and, finally, relief generated by the running lasts all day and all night, and powers a massive party that often lasts until the next thundering herd hits the street. If you go to Pamplona, go early. The Fiesta officially starts at noon on 7 July (get to Pamplona at least a day early) and the first running is on the morning of 8 July. Try to go during the week; impossibly large and drunk crowds make the weekend atmosphere a bit rough.

Favourite village at night

If there is a more beautiful village in Italy than San Gimignano, I have yet to encounter it. The vast majority of the town is still contained within its ancient walls, and since the entire town has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, it is likely to stay that way. There are a fair few tourists during the day, but when the sun goes down, and the swallows are skimming the streets at waist level, and the local families come out on to their balconies and porches to enjoy the cool of the twilight, one gets the feeling that things were not so very different 100, or even 500, years ago.

Best place to be penniless

The main beach in Cannes has two small public bathing areas at either end, and a large section of private hotel beaches in the middle. As soon as one crosses the boundary from public to private beach, by some miracle one's fellow bathers become much thinner, seem to be required to wear large amounts of gold jewellery about their wrists and necks, and also seem to darken by about three shades. Be that as it may, Cannes has a fine hostel within easy walking distance of the beach, and there are just enough cheap restaurants, bakeries and food stores to allow the non-wealthy to keep body and soul together. And the beach, the sun, the waterfront flower gardens and the Mediterranean are simply beautiful - no matter what one pays for a room.

Don't forget to bring

A lock and a chain to secure your luggage or backpack on trains. A spoon. A little flashlight to hang on your keychain, right next to the little Swiss army knife. A card with all of the international telephone access codes and country codes. A copy of the first page of your passport (leave one at home, too).

Do forget to bring

Too many clothes. Any shoe with a heel higher than 2cm. Preconceptions of any sort. Drugs of any sort.

fact file

Getting there

Fly to Naples for Capri, Madrid for Pamplona, Pisa for San Gimignano, and Nice for Cannes.

British Airways (tel: 0345 222 111) operates two flights per day to Naples, seven per day to Madrid, three per day to Pisa, and four per day to Nice. All flights depart from London Gatwick. Other companies offering flights to these cities include Alitalia (tel: 0171-602 7111), Air France (tel: 0181-742 6600) and Iberia (tel: 0171-830 0011).

Most people visit San Gimignano from Florence. There is no train service to the village, but there are fast and frequent coaches.

Capri can be reached most easily from Naples and many ferries and hydrofoils connect the island to the mainland each day.

Pamplona is a four-hour train journey from the Spanish capital, Madrid.

About eight trains a day run between Nice and Cannes. A similar number of trains connect Marseilles to the coastal resort, too.

Keep up with the latest developments in travel by subscribing to the free newsletter `Rough News', published three times yearly. Write to Rough Guides, IoS offer, 1 Mercer Street, London WC2H 9QJ. A free Rough Guide to the first three subscribers each week.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power