Something To Declare: Rome, for Lent; Helpertext

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The Independent Travel

Destination of the week: Rome, for Lent

Six years ago, when British Airways' no-frills offshoot, Go, was born, the low-cost airline caused a sensation by offering flights between London and Rome for £100 return. At the time, a fare this low was revolutionary. Go has now been subsumed into easyJet (0871 750 0100; www.easyJet.com), which still operates the London Stansted-Rome Ciampino route. It competes head-to-head with Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) on the route, and you can find return flights for as little as £44 (Ryanair) and £46 (easyJet) for travel on less-popular midweek services.

For a sample weekend trip, flying out on the afternoon of Friday 19 March and back on the evening of Sunday 21 March, the lowest fare found this week was £131 return on easyJet.

Ryanair's cheapest seats were £144 - but for the same fare, you could fly on a full-service airline between Heathrow and Leonardo da Vinci, the primary airports for each city. Alitalia (08705 448 259; www.alitalia.co.uk) appears to have plenty of availability at £144. The best fare from British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com) on that route for that weekend is £169.

From airports outside south-east England, services are much more sparse, and fares higher: BA charges £194 from Birmingham and £267 from Manchester.

Over Easter, fares to Rome rocket. Flying out on Maundy Thursday and back on Easter Monday, you would pay £181 on easyJet.

Innovation of the week: Helpertext

Travellers who arrive in a strange city where they do not speak the language now have a technological solution to accelerate check-in. A new concept called Helpertext uses a touch screen to enable guests easily and quickly to find out information about the hotel services in their own language. It has been developed by specialists in translation and information technology to support travellers in foreign lands and help them to make the most of their trip.

The "strange city" chosen for the launch site is London; Helpertext is now operational at the Kensington Close Hotel (0870 400 9000, www.kensingtonclosehotel.com), aimed at foreign visitors to the capital. But the company (www.helpertext.com) expects to roll out the system worldwide, enabling British travellers to benefit.

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