7 Do’s and Don’ts in Italy

Want to get the most out traveling to Italy? Particularly if you’re planning on visiting the big cities and tourist destinations like Rome, Venice, or Florence, then check out these tips to have the best, most rewarding Italy trip possible!

Italy travel tip #1: Do build in time for R&R

Make time to enjoy the food in Italy!

Don’t forget to make time to relax (and enjoy the food and wine) in Italy!

No, not Raphael and Rome… rest and relaxation, of course! Believe us, we know: Coming to Italy is the trip of a lifetime, so it can be tempting to try to pack everything in. Accept that you can’t. Realize that even a lifetime of living in Italy wouldn’t mean you’d have seen all of the country’s incredible art, ancient ruins, or medieval towns.

So let go of the idea, for example, that if you’re spending two days in Rome, you “have” to see the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Castel Sant’Angelo, Capitoline Museums, Mouth of Truth, Circus Maximus, and the Borghese Gallery. (Although if you’re determined to pack as much into one day as possible, our “Eternity in a Day” tour is pretty much the most stress-free way to do it!).

Instead, choose which activities are most important to you. They might not even be the ones that everyone expects you to do. But whether it’s tasting top-notch Italian wines, people-watching on a piazza, or going in search of local artisans, your choice is just as valid as something “everyone” does. And we promise—when you let go of the idea that you have to do “everything,” your trip will wind up being much more relaxing and rewarding!

Italy travel tip #2: Don’t annoy the locals

In Italy’s top tourist destinations, locals are used to tourists. But that doesn’t mean travelers can’t make an extra effort to be respectful and understanding of the local culture. One thing we know is a pet peeve to many city-dwellers in Rome, Venice, and Florence? Tourists blocking the narrow streets and sidewalks by slowly walking shoulder-to-shoulder and being unaware that anyone (someone late to work, let’s say!) might want to pass them. Remember that not everyone in Venice/Florence/Rome is on vacation—an attitude that will make your interactions with Italians much more pleasant!

Italy travel tip #3: Do get off the beaten path 

Get off the beaten path—like in the Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

Of course, the major sights are major for a reason. But to get a real taste of “authentic” Italy, you need to head away from the crowds. We’re big fans of day trips and experiences, or even considering alternative destinations, that do exactly that. But even if you’re planning the classic Venice, Florence and Rome route in the middle of high season, you can get off the beaten path—it just takes a little more planning. Stay in the Cannaregio or Castello neighborhoods in Venice, or in the Oltrarno in Florence. Add off-the-beaten-path sights to your list of must-sees, like, in Rome, the Aventine keyhole or the Santa Priscilla catacombs.

Italy travel tip #4: Don’t fall into tourist traps

Piazza Navona is beautiful… but the restaurants on the piazza tend to be tourist traps!

Easier said than done, right? But if you keep certain tips in mind, you can avoid the worst of the kinds of touristy, inauthentic, overpriced places that can make your trip go sour. Whether in terms of shopping or dining, following tip #1 and getting off the beaten path always helps. (If a store or a restaurant is a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona or the Duomo of Florence, for example, it’s generally going to be catering only to tourists… and if you want to experience the “real” Italy, that’s not what you want!).

Avoid souvenir shops and consider seeking out a local artisan instead; even if the cost of your item is a little more, it’s much more lasting, and much more supportive of Italy’s locals and economy, than a made-in-China T-shirt. In terms of restaurants, steer clear of places that have hosts outside the door, places with tourist menus, and places that trumpet not having a cover charge. Here are other suggestions forhow not to get ripped off eating in Italy.

Italy travel tip #5: Do be aware of your belongings at all times

Like anywhere else in the world that receives millions of tourists each year, certain areas in Rome, Venice, and Florence are magnets for pickpockets. Even if you walk around with your purse unzipped and your wallet hanging out, you’ll probably be fine—but it’s not a risk worth taking!

In general, be particularly aware on the metro and the bus, especially when it’s crowded. Also keep your eye out at crowded tourist sights (the Trevi Fountain, for example), where pickpockets prey on those who are thinking about getting that perfect photo op, not on the wallet in their back pocket. When sitting at a café or restaurant, especially outside, don’t simply leave your bag on the ground next to you. But in general, always be aware of your surroundings and know where your belongings are—even when you’re, say, trying to get that perfect shot of the Rialto Bridge!

In terms of how to carry your money, zippered, under-the-shirt pouches for carrying cash are always the safest bet. Otherwise, men should carry their wallets in their front (not back) pockets, while women should use purses that zipper and have multiple zipped compartments inside. Backpacks and “fanny packs” are particularly vulnerable, even if your waist pack is in front.

Italy travel tip #6: Don’t expect Italy to work like places do back home

You came to Italy because it’s a different country. So, even if it’s sometimes different in ways that can be frustrating, embrace it! Remember that even the more negative-seeming aspects of the culture developed for a reason, even if it might not be immediately clear to you. And try to keep a flexible, positive attitude, no matter the situation.

Italy travel tip #7: Do dress appropriately, even if you’re not planning on visiting a church

You never know when you might happen past a church you want to pop into… like this one (Venice’s Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari!)

Yes, there’s a dress code for major churches, like St. Mark’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Basilica. But many other churches in Italy also are gems you’ll want to check out, and you never know when you might pass one. You’ll feel silly if you can’t because you’re wearing a spaghetti-strap tank top! In general, shoulders and knees should be covered for men and women. If it’s a boiling-hot day and you simply must wear less, make sure to throw a few scarves or a cardigan into your bag to carry around with you. Don’t try to “sneak in” in super-short shorts or a tube top; even if other tourists are “getting away” with wearing less into the churches, wearing appropriate clothing is the respectful thing to do.

Brussels, Belgium

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Beautiful Brussels Belgium

Wherever else you go in Belgium, allow at least a little time for BRUSSELS, which is by any standard one of Europe’s premier cities. Certainly, don’t let its unjustified reputation as a dull, faceless centre of EU bureaucracy deter you: in postwar years, the city has become a thriving, cosmopolitan metropolis, with top-flight architecture and museums, not to mention a well-preserved late seventeenth-century centre, a superb restaurant scene and an energetic nightlife. Moreover, most of the key attractions are crowded into a centre that is small enough to be absorbed over a few long days, its boundaries largely defined by a ring of boulevards – the “petit ring”, or less colloquially, the “petite ceinture”.

First-time visitors to Brussels are often surprised by the raw vitality of the city centre. It isn’t neat and tidy, and many of the old tenement houses are shabby and ill-used, but there’s a buzz about the place that’s hard to resist. The city centre is itself divided into two main areas. The larger westerly portion comprises the Lower Town, fanning out from the marvellous Grand-Place, with its exquisite guildhouses and town hall, while up above to the east lies the much smaller Upper Town, home to the finest art collection in the country in the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts.

Brussels is a wonderful place to eat: its gastronomic reputation rivals that of Paris, and though traditional meals in home-grown restaurants are rarely cheap, there is great-value food to be had in many of the bars. The bars themselves can be sumptuous, basic, traditional or fashionable.

If ever a city could claim split personality, it’s Brussels. French versus Flemish, historic versus hip, bizarre versus boring. Full of contrasts, contradictions and intrigue, this is a multicultural equation that goes much deeper than just red tape and Eurocrats. An historic heirloom is closer to the mark. And in an age where so much is already discovered, Belgium’s capital seduces as one of Western Europe’s unknowns.

 

Brussels is a city of fine food, café culture, Art Nouveau architecture and the surreal. Pull up a chair and join laissez-faire locals who value the city’s casual atmosphere. Watch money go down on swish Ave Louise or buy dried caterpillars just blocks away in Matonge, the capital’s African quarter. Some of the world’s most enduring images of surrealist art were created in the nondescript northern suburb of Jette. And the architecture ranges from monumental edifices such as the Grand Place to organic Art Nouveau façades and the EU’s real-life Gotham City.

Constant among all this is the quality of everyday life – the shopping’s great, the restaurants fab, the chocolate shops sublime and the pub scene extraordinary. For a long time Brussels didn’t go out of its way to impress, but its stint as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000 saw the city dusted and polished in a flurry that brought renewed life to historic buildings and decaying streets. A new spirit, just short of cockiness, emerged, flaming outside interest and inner-city regeneration. Nearly a decade on, Brussels is looking better than ever.

The city’s specialist shops are another pleasure. Everyone knows about Belgian chocolates, but here in the capital there are also sprawling, open-air markets, contemporary art galleries, and establishments devoted to anything from comic books to costume jewellery. Belgium is such a small country, and the rail network so fast and efficient, that Brussels also makes the perfect base for a wide range of day-trips. An obvious target is the battlefield of Waterloo, one of the region’s most visited attractions.

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Ponza & the Pontine Islands, Italy

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The principal island in Italy’s Pontine archipelago is one of the most naturally gorgeous and downright fun islands of Italy, and just far enough from the mainland to be an impractical destination for mass tourism. So much the better for those who do go to the trouble of making a trip here, because what you’ll find is a rare Mediterranean gem that has kept its Italian identity intact and undiluted. It’s not that Ponza is “undiscovered.” On the contrary, it’s a summertime escape that enjoys feverish devotion among the bella gente of Rome and Naples, who descend by the hordes here in July and August.


Going to Ponza is all about living and breathing il mare. You either own or rent a boat (small, easy-to-pilot motorboats abound), and you spend your days puttering up and down the coast, swimming in coves and grottoes that aren’t accessible by land, picnicking under the unrelenting Mediterranean sun, and developing a killer tan.

By sunset, everyone goes for the evening passeggiata on the same street and for a peritivo drinks at the same bars.


If you want to avoid the holiday scene altogether, just come in the gorgeous shoulder months of May, June, and September — locals will tell you this is when their island really shines.

Two other islands in the Pontine archipelago not served by regular ferry, Palmarola and Zannone are classic day trips from Ponza, each just 30 minutes away by boat.

To the west, Palmarola is an unexpected slice of Robinson Crusoe in the Mediterranean; its turquoise seas and splendid coves, evocative of pirates and castaways, seem like they’ve been transplanted from the South Pacific or the Caribbean. To the northeast, Zannone is a nature reserve with quiet hikes, dense forests, and wild sheep running free.
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Monaco~ It’s Top Attractions

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Monte-Carlo Casino and Opera House


Guardian of an ancient tradition, this Palace located in a unique setting upon the “Rock” of manaco, was built on the site of a fortress erected by the Genoese in 1215. Today the splendors of this Palace can be admired by all, such as its Italian-style gallery and its 15th century frescoes; its Louis XVth lounge all in yellow and gold, its blue room, a harmonious blend of glorious blue and gold; its Mazarin room covered with multicoloured wood-panelling; the Throne Room, decorated with an impressive Renaissance fireplace; the Palatine Chapel built in the 17th century; St-Mary’s Tower, built from the white stones of nearby La Turbie; the Main Courtyard and its 17th century Carrara marble double staircase.

This early XVIII century fortress, built on the northeastern tip of Le Rocher “the Rock,” is now used as a marvelous outdoor theater with a capacity of some 350 spectators in tiered seating built in a semi-circle. In this enchanting setting, high quality performances are given during the summer season.

Its military architecture, watchtower and the almost total solitude which can be found there, combine to give it a unique and particular charm. Its stage has been pleasantly arranged with a pyramid of cannon balls at its centre. The military architecture of the fort is emphasised by the pittosporum hedges which serve as protection as there is no parapet.

Monaco Cathedral

Monaco Cathedrale

Built with the stark white stones from La Turbie in 1875, this Roman-Byzantine-style building houses the burial places of past sovereigns, including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace.

From the interior design, you can admire an altarpiece by the Niçois painter Louis Bréa dating from 1500 as well as the high alter and the Episcopal throne of Carrara white marble. Pontifical services are held during great liturgical celebrations accompanied by the harmonies of a grand organ with four keyboards, inaugurated in 1976 the magnificence of which permits the organisation of outstanding spiritual concerts. From September to June every Sunday at 10am, mass is sung by the “Les Petits Chanteurs de Monaco” and “Cathedral Choir”.
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Monaco~ Many Casinos To Choose From..

 

History~ Le Casino de Monte-Carlo

History~ Le Casino de Monte-Carlo

Welcome to the world’s most prestigious Casino.

The main, projecting façade was completed in 1890.

Designed by French architect Jules Touzet (1850–1914), Officer of the Academy and a graduate of the School of Fine Arts of Paris, the building is enhanced by a wrought-iron awning and two pavilions crowned by domes covered in ceramics which frame the entrance.

From 1890 to 1892, the two turrets were adorned with clocks : one giving the time in Monaco, the other in Paris, whence “La Seine” and “La Méditerranée”, two statues by Italian sculptor Fabio Stecchi (born in Urbino in 1855 – died in Nice), a pupil of Pio Fedi (1816–1892) in Florence, then of Paul Dubois (1829–1905) in Paris. Stecchi first settled in Paris in 1879, then moved to Nice where he lived until his death. Two more statues by this sculptor adorned the façade in 1890, “Le Jour” (“Day”) and “La Nuit” (“Night”), but they were removed and destroyed by the artist himself.

The lateral façade (right) was uniformised in 1906 by architect Arthur Demerlé. A short, elegant balustrade runs along the top, interrupted by bronze sprites carrying torches and figures representing the four seasons.

François Blanc, then his wife Marie, and later his son Camille, called on the services of the best architects and artists of the late 19th century, including Charles Garnier, who had just completed the Paris Opera-House.
They all had a remakable feeling for the concept of spaciousness.
The vast rooms, in which each panel, each frieze were entrusted to these painters or sculptors, convey a feeling of unity through their impressive volumes. The choice of the paintings in each room reinforces this impression, as they are almost all an ode to beauty and the elegance of women. This evocation of women is very different depending on the painters and eras concerned, ranging from the rigor of the Atrium to the fantasy of the Salle Blanche.

Casino comes from “casina”, a small house for courtesans : the first was built in the town of Spa in Belgium in 1762. The casino portrayed here was inaugurated in 1863, a full century later.

The Casino de Monte-Carlo is like a jigsaw-puzzle. The main building dates back to 1863. Over the years, new rooms were built and added on to the main building, to meet clients’ requirements and offer the architecture that we know today.

Though the tale didn’t begin here.

In 1856, Prince Florestan entrusted Léon Langlois and Albert Aubert with the task of “building and running” an establishment which was to be named “Bains de Monaco” : its gaming rooms opened out to the Condamine.
There were very few visitors, as the only way of reaching Monaco consisted of taking the mule-path down from La Turbie or arriving by boat. By November 22nd, 1857, there were no longer any visitors, nor any employees.

Charles III decided to build the “Elysées Alberti”, the future “Casino des Spélugues”, which was then a wild plateau covered with olive-trees.
A road was built. The construction of hotels was completed. The neighbourhood became known as the “Golden Square” as early as 1863.

The Casino’s inauguration that same year was followed by its loss, as it was incapable of paying a player who had won 50,000 F, unless it gave him the Casino itself.

The Hôtel de Paris was inaugurated in 1864.

After making the fortune of Bad Homburg (that he left because its legislation changed and gambling was forbidden), businessman François Blanc took over the Casino and obtained exclusive operating rights for 50 years from the “Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle des Etrangers”.
He arrived in Monaco with a number of croupiers (which explains why some families in Monaco still have Germanic-sounding names).

In 1878, Charles Garnier transformed the Salle Europe, the Casino’s first gambling room, opting for sobre decoration. The allegorical paintings which have been preserved date back to the Casino’s restoration in 1898. One also finds frescos inspired by the seasons and the idyllic nature in Monaco, not forgetting the eight chandeliers weighing 150 kg, made of Bohemian crystal.

1868 : the steam train arrived in Monaco and the first of five “Cafés de Paris” was built, in the style of an Alpine chalet. It was called the “Café Divan” and offered billiards, a tobacconist’s and the “Parfumerie du Soleil”.

New buildings followed in its wake in 1882, 1890, 1897 (with its current name, in oriental style with a minaret and “Lézardière” terrace) and 1988 (10,000 m2, 500 slot-machines, 8 black jack tables, 6 American roulette tables, 1 craps table) and a restaurant seeting 250 guests, adorned with 16 stained-glass windows, 200 seats on the terrace, 100 seats in the “Parisienne”, 280 seats in the Salon Bellevue.

1869 saw a stream of some 170,000 visitors (Alexandre Dumas, Baron de Rothschild, Baron Haussmann, Jacques Offenbach, Prince Napoleon…)

1873 : Monte-Carlo was the only Casino still operating in Europe.

In 1878, Charles Garnier and the architect Dutrou rebuilt the Casino in only six months (the Atrium and Salle Renaissance) and the Opera-House was finished (in the Gallery, one could admire two landscapes painted by Jundt in 1879, the first a view of Roquebrune Cap Martin as seen from the Casino, and the other a view of the Casino seen from Roquebrune Cap Martin). 2,000 people came to gamble every week, including all the crowned heads of Europe. Sarah Bernhardt inaugurated the Opera-House.

1881 : construction of the Salle des Amériques, the former “Salle Garnier”

1883 : the gardens were laid out.

1890 : introduction of electricity.

1903 : addition of the smoking room and Salle Blanche. Visitors can still admire “Les Grâces Florentines” painted by Gervais who took inspration from the features of Cléo de Mérode, Lyane de Pougy and La Belle Otéro (centre).

Through a friend in the clergy, an Italian countess succeeded in having a gold Louis coin blessed by the Pope. She used it to gamble and won, then lost all her winnings including the gold Louis, which she never recovered. She tried to obtain another blessing, but her attitude had caused a scandal and she finally entered a convent.
The Prince of Nepal could only gamble 5 days a year and had the private salons kept open for the duration of these periods.
A South African gambler played the number of the psalm he heard sung at the Anglican church, and won at roulette. Seeing a new influx of worshipers, the Anglican pastor realized that they were playing the numbers of the psalms and avoided those lower than 36…

The bank went broke when the reserves of money at each table were all paid out. The table was covered with a mourning cloth and more funds were brought in.
Charles Wells broke the bank on several occasions in 1891. He played numbers lower than 10 and pocketed 1,000,000 gold francs. Song-writers in London wrote a song called “The Man who Broke the Bank in Monte-Carlo”. On his return, he bet on number 5 and left with 3,000,000 francs. The English still remember him well. Convicted for cheating, he was sent to prison but the mystery of his amazing success was never elucidated.

1906 : uniformation of the façade.

1910 : construction of the Cabaret on the site of the former terrace, and the Salle François Médecin (named after the Monégasque architect), also known as the Salle Empire because of its mahogany panelling engraved in gold. It was a private circle to protect high-rollers from indiscreet eyes. The paintings are by Armand Segaud.

The four Super-Privés were created : the Club Anglais, Salon Cuir, Salon Rouge and Super Privé Cabaret, where one could play European and English roulette, Black Jack, Punto Banco, Chemin de Fer.

The chamber music room named after Louis Ganne (conductor, 1862-1923) was inaugurated on December 31st, 1910. In 1948, it was transformed into the Cabaret for performances of “Comedia dell’Arte”.

1911 : Diaghilev, Nijinski, Chaliapine, Edward VII, Caruso and La Belle Otéro were all to be seen at the Casino… Louis II was also a regular patron of the Café de Paris.

1931 : introduction of slot machines with the “Liberty Bell”, invented by an American engineer.

1948 : inauguration of the restaurant Les Privés.

1988 : inauguration of the Train Bleu restaurant, named after the train which brought travellers from the north to the shores of the Mediterranean.

The Casino is a place for gambling, with the prestige and services of a museum :
- a croupier makes his living from the “pourboire gagnant” (initial stake)
- 37 numbers, just one winner, ie. 1/37 = 2.7

Entering the Casino de Monte-Carlo is not just a matter of trying one’s luck at the tables, but also, and above all, entering the legend of a unique place…


Monte-Carlo has been a legend for almost 150 years, and its Casino has been a cornerstone in its legendary success. Its architecture, history and the people who came here to gamble have all played their part in making the Casino de Monte-Carlo a myth in the eyes of the entire world…

 

Monaco’s most prestigious distinctive assets.

” It comprises 2 palaces and 2 deluxe hotels, 5 casinos , 60 conference and banqueting rooms, 33 bars and restaurants, 3 spas including Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo, as well as cultural and leisure venues including the Opera, the Salle des Etoiles, the Jimmy’z night club, the Monte-Carlo Golf Club and the Monte-Carlo Country Club

 

Le Casino de Monte-Carlo Today

Le Casino de Monte Carlo Today

The New Terrace Of Monte-Carlo

From now on, the prestigious setting offered by the Casino de Monte-Carlo is no longer imprisoned within its walls. It has been enriched with an additional decor : Monte- Carlo’s starry sky and the sea…

Summer 2011 will go down in the history of the Casino de Monte-Carlo. It now benefits from a vast terrace next to the gaming rooms, enabling players to benefit from American and European gaming tables in the open air, beneath the sky and facing the sea… They open out to a decor of palms and exotic plants offering players a unique and inimitable atmosphere.

From now on, you’re in just the right spot to grab your lucky star !

The New Monte-Carlo Terrace

      GAMES AND OPENING HOURS

                Table games

Salon Europe

30/40, European and English Roulette, Punto Banco.

     Open daily from 2 p.m.

Salons Privés
European Roulette, Chemin de Fer, Black Jack. Punto Banco :

Open thursdays, fridays, saturdays, sundays and bank holidays from 2 p.m.
Banque à Deux Tableaux : from 5 p.m.

30/40 : from 10 p.m.

Salle des Amériques

Black Jack, Craps, American roulette. Open daily from 2 p.m.

    Les Supers Privés

By request.

            Slot Machines

Atrium

Open daily from 2 p.m.

free admission ; minimum age 18.

Salle des  Blanche

Open daily from 2 p.m.

            Dress Code

In the gaming rooms : sensible dress is required. No shorts or flip flops allowed.

In the private rooms : after 8 p.m. every day, a jacket is required. No sport shoes allowed.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Entrance fee is 10 € per person, supplement of 10 € for the private rooms

Identity card is strictly required

Minimum age : 18

          Contact:
Address : Casino de Monte-Carlo – Place du Casino – MC 98000 Principality of Monaco

 

Casino Café de Paris

Le Casino de Paris Monaco

This is one of the most well-known places for meeting up and getting together in Monte-Carlo. Offering a very innovative concept with regard to slot-machines and a choice of American table games, this casino invites you on a trip around the galaxy.

    GAMES AND OPENING HOURS

Salon Grand Siècle :

Slot machines & Video Poker. Open daily from 4 p.m.

      DRESS CODE

No specific dress code applies

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

free admittance ;minimum age : 18

Address : Casino Café de Paris – Place du Casino – MC 98000 Principality of Monaco

 

Sun Casino Le Circus

Sun Casino Le Circus

Decorated on the theme of festivities and the circus, this Casino is paradise for fans of the latest American games.

    GAMES AND OPENING HOURS
      American games :

American Roulette, Stud Poker, Black Jack, Craps, One Deck Black Jack, Big Wheel, War Game, Three Cards Poker.

Open daily : from 5 p.m. on weekdays, 4 p.m. on weekends

      Slot Machines :

Roulette Club, Xtreme Derby, Fort Knox, Party Time.

Open daily from 12 p.m.

      DRESS CODE

No specific dress code applies, bearing in mind that this is a “trendy” place.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

free admittance ; minimum age : 18

      CONTACTS

Address : Fairmont Monte Carlo – 12, avenue des Spélugues – MC 98000 Principality of Monaco

 

Monte-Carlo Bay Casino

Monte-Carlo Bay Casino

Just a few paces from The Sporting Monte-Carlo is the Monte Carlo Bay Hôtel & Resort, in which there is a ultra contemporary designed casino, combining pleasure and comfort

    GAMES AND OPENING HOURS
    Slot machines only :

145 slot machines equipped with the. “ Ticket In / Ticket Out ” technology, unique in Southern Europe.

Open every day from 2pm to 2am

      DRESS CODE

Sensible dress wear required, bearing in mind that this casino is part of a luxurious resort.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

free admittance – minimum age : 18

CONTACTS
Address : Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort – 40, avenue Princesse Grace – MC 98000 Principality of Monaco

 

 

Top 10 Things To Do In San Jose, Costa Rica

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San Jose, Costa Rica has a wide variety of attractions, from butterflys to bullfights. Read on for information about the top ten…

You’ve flown into San Juantamaria Airport (SJO) in Alajuela and take a taxi or bus into San Jose to your hotel.  Once you’re ready to venture from your hotel room, here are a few suggestions:

1. Zoo Avenue

Zoo Avenue is a sanctuary for injured animals on one hand and a bird-lover’s paradise on the other. See colorful macaws, toucans and others from Costa Rica and around the world, mysterious owls, hungry raptors. There are also deer and monkeys and a good-sized crocodile. Time out: 2 hours

2. La Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles

Though destroyed in 1926 by an earthquake and rebuilt after, the basilica is still a very popular attraction. When Christianity came to Costa Rica, there were many devotees to the goddesses. Because of this, the Virgin Mary became very popular. The legend states that the statue of the virgin appeared miraculously on the site. Even if you aren’t religious, this is a beautiful church

3. Art

The art of Costa Rica is preserved in several popular museums.

First is the Museo de Arte Costarricense – known as el MAC – is home to the national collection of art which includes over 2,500 pieces. Sculptures, woodcarvings, and paintings can be seen here, as well as traveling exhibits from around the world. Then there’s the Galeria Ocelote. The Galeria was created to promote Latin American handcrafts. Shown here are textile designs, sculptures and ceramics among other things.

4. Butterflies

Costa Rica is home to an abundance of magnificent butterflies. Two gardens in San Jose will let you get up close and personal with these kaleidoscopic creatures. At the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, you can learn about the natural history of Costa Rica and see the living relationship between the butterflies and their surroundings. See also beautiful plants and hummingbirds. Stop by the gift shop for lunch, all things butterfly and fabulous coffee. Open 8 to 4.

At the Butterfly Farm, just south of Alajuala, you can walk through an enclosed garden while the butterflies flutter about. You’ll see up to 80 different types of butterflies as well as see the various phases of the butterfly’s life, from egg to caterpiller to cocoon. The cocoons themselves are displayed in the shimmering colors and movement that helps keep them safe from predators. Daily bus tours leave from many San Jose hotels and is included in the admission. 2 hour guided tour.

In addition to these two, there is also the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is an attraction that offers not only a huge butterfly garden (claimed to be the largest in the world) but takes you into the rain forest alongside the La Paz River to see orchids and hummingbirds and a series of waterfalls that are nothing short of breathtaking. La Paz may be a bit pricey, but it’s worth every peso. There’s a remarkable hotel here as well. Plan at least 2 to 4 hours to see it all.

5. Café Britt Farm

Coffee Break time? How about a trip to the coffee farm? Café Britt is one of the top coffees in Costa Rica and the company has an interesting tour at the farm 20 minutes outside of San Jose. From the plant to the roaster to the can, see all phases of production. And, of course, a trip to the coffee farm wouldn’t be complete without a taste. Differing qualities of coffee are there for you to try and there’s a gift shop and restaurant as well.

6. Lankester Gardens

Costa Rica boasts over 1000 varieties of orchids and there are over 800 here at Lankester Gardens in Cartago (30 to 40 minutes from San Jose by bus.) The gardens are administered by the University of Costa Rica and the goal is to preserve the local flora. Walk their well tended trails from sunlight to the shadow of the forest, seeing orchids in bloom everywhere. Give yourself up to three hours for this and don’t miss the gift shop.

7. Bull fighting

If you can call it that. Ticos play at bullfighting. Las Corridas a la Tica is a popular sport. No traditional blood and guts killing of the bull here, though. Ticos prefer to just tease el toro. It’s rather an enclosed running of the bulls as up to 150 toreadors improvisados ( improvised bullfighters) scramble to stay out of the bulls way. If the bullfighters are feeling particularly brave, they’ll slap the bull’s behind on it’s way by.

8. Volcan Arenal

Not technically in San Jose, but worth a day trip to see the one of the most amazing volcanoes in Central America. The night view is breathtaking as Arenal throws fireworks into the air.

9. Soccer

The soccer season runs from September to June and Ticos – native Costa Rican – are serious fans. Costa Rican soccer is as good as any in Central America and their national team has gone to the World Cup more than once. Games are usually on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and tickets range from $2 to $15. Better to pay more and get reserved seating in the shade.

The local team is Saprissa (affectionately called El Monstruo, or “The Monster”).

10. The sun has set and it’s time to party. Is there anything to do in San Jose at night?

Absolutely! Let’s face it, where there are tourists and college students – there is NIGHTLIFE! If you want to find out what’s going on while you’re there, where the local ex-pats are hanging out, pick up a copy of Tico Times and have a ball.

Gambling is legal in Costa Rica, so there is a wide variety of places to rid yourself of that pesky extra money. Play slots, poker, blackjack, roulette. Shoot craps. It’s all there for you.

There are discos, dance clubs, and bars aplenty in San Jose. Many of these will draw you to the dance floor with an intoxicating salsa beat. El Pueblo, an entertainment complex in the style of old Spain, offers a smorgasbord of places to try.

Just south of the University is a 2-block stretch called La Calle de Amargure (Street of Bitterness). While the name doesn’t sound inviting, it’s a haven for the suburbanites and college kids. Bars and cafes mixed with shops and bookstores. At night, the place hops.

Feeling a little more artsy than hanging with the wild bunch? Cool. San Jose has a great selection of theater and performing arts. Burlesque, modern dance, theater, symphony, and concerts all vie for your attention. Every March, the country hosts El Festival Nacional de las Artes and each night you will have an amazing selection of things to choose from.

Before you head out, though, a word to the wise. Because downtown San Jose is very compact, you can get pretty much anywhere you want to go on foot. Often, that’s the fastest way to get around. But street crime is a bit of a problem so be careful. Hang on to your purse – better yet, get a fanny pack. Don’t flash your jewelry or camera around. Better to be safe than sorry.

With its wonderful climate, rich growing jungles that are home to abundant color, both in plants and animals, and age-old culture, Costa Rica, particularly San Jose, is a great getaway.

Please Look at our upcoming tours page to take an amazing Costa Rica adventure with us http://www.playersclubtours.com/tours/

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Top Ten Most Popular Things to do in Costa Rica

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There are more things to do in Costa Rica than you’ll likely have days for. These are the most popular.

Canopy tours
Whether it’s a zip-line thrill ride, gondola, or naturalist educational trip through the treetops, canopy tours have exploded in popularity in the past decade.

Coffee tours
Before it was overtaken by tourism, coffee was the driving force of Costa Rica‘s economy. A tour of a coffee farm and processing facility is a great way to satisfy your curiosity about the source of your morning cuppa and get an introduction to Tico history and culture.

Surfing & Windsurfing
Costa Rica breaks are world renowned, and rightly so. Inland, Lake Arenal has constantly balmy water (66 to 71 °F, 19-21 °C), average wind speeds of 24 mph (40 kph), and an exquisite setting for windsurfers. Rental equipment and lessons for both types of board sport are available.

Volcano Watching
Arenal is the premier destination with its lava flows, fire belching, and rolling smoking boulders, but Poás and Irazú have their attractions as well.

Nature Cruise
The canals of Tortuguero, wetlands of Caño Negro, and mangroves of the Damas estuary adjacent to Manuel Antonio are the most popular places to sit back relax and let the boatman be your guide to bird and wildlife spotting.

Whitewater
As you might suspect in a country covered in rain forest that rises from one ocean to 12,000 feet and drops back to sea level in the space of 70 miles, whitewater abounds in Costa Rica. Trips cater to all ability levels and interests.

Beach
Sunning, swimming, surfing, sailing, scuba, snorkeling, and that’s just the S’s. Beach lovers might think that Christopher Columbus had them in mind when he dubbed this (or did he?) the land of the “Rich Coast”.

Nature Walk
This catchall category covers everything from a walk on a paved path to multi-night treks up the bed of a river to prime jaguar country. Most visitors to Costa Rica spend at least some time hiking through the rain and cloud forests or along the beaches.

Hot Springs
There are hundreds of hotsprings in this volcanic land and a couple of them have spawned spas. If you want to relax your tired muscles (or have a masseur relax them for you) hit the natural pools, then spend a night at Tabacón resort.

Waterfalls
Rainforests, mountains, and canyons add up to countless waterfalls and you can enjoy anything from walk up viewing platforms a few yards from a restaurant to strenuous hikes into secluded skinny-dipping pools.

Bird Watching
Everyone becomes an amateur birder as soon as they land in Costa Rica. You can’t help but notice the remarkable colors, calls and plumage, and you’ll find plenty of serious bird watchers and qualified guides to fill you in on the habits and natural history of the species you see.
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