12 Hidden Treasures in Rome

12 Hidden Treasures in Rome


12 hidden treasures in Rome

Rome is full of so many ‘must-see’ sights it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  For those people planning to spend an extended time in the Eternal City or on repeat visits here are 12 hidden treasures in Rome which will take you beyond the normal tourist spots.  There are many more than 12 but this is a good starting point.

  • Jewish Quarter – Jewish Ghetto.  One of the most vibrant and beautiful neighbourhoods.  As well as great food and great shopping the area resonates with its history  Jewish history in Rome dates back to the 2nd century BCE.  Visit the Great Synagogue of Rome and the Jewish Museum with its collection of artifacts, documents and photography spanning over 20 centuries of continuous habitation in this quarter.  You’ll also find the Teatro Marcello, resembling a mini Colosseum and the Portico di Ottavia, one of the four gateways to the Jewish Ghetto.
  • Testaccio This working class neighbourhood may not be the most picturesque but for ‘foodies’ it boasts an abundance of great food, history and character.  The market is a food-lovers destination and a great place to shop and eat. Rome’s old slaughterhouse is home to a branch of Rome’s Contemporary Art Museum (MACRO) and Monte Testaccio, a large, man-made mountain dominating the neighbourhood was created from the shards of an estimated 53 million terracotta pots.  Testaccio market is just down the road from our next recommendation so you can do both in one morning.
  • Protestant Cemetery The resting place of poets Keats an Shelley or as its officially known, the non Catholic Cemetery for foreigners described as ‘one of the finest places in the world to be buried’. A charming and contemplative spot, far removed from the noise and chaos of central Rome.  Located next to the Pyramid of Caius Cestius and accessible by Pyramid Metro Station.
  • Porta Portese Market  This flea market is a great place to find vintage clothing and given the quality of Italian fabrics and design they’re likely to be in very good condition.  It’s open each Sunday morning in Trastevere.  There’s also an excellent English bookshop located close to the central square which is another good reason to visit
  • Villa Doria Pamphili A 17th century villa in the largest landscaped public park in Rome.  The Borghese Gardens teems with people most of the year now so these gardens offer a perfect alternative when you just need some time out or a great spot for a picnic.


Designing A Perfect Small Group Tour

Designing A Perfect Small Group Tour

A perfect small group tour

Designing a perfect small group tour requires a different focus from other group tours where seeing as much as possible with as large a group as possible in a limited time frame is what’s usually on offer.   Lots of early morning starts, queues on to coaches and more queues to see sights.   Trying to move through busy streets in an unwieldy group following a guide.

When designing a perfect small group tour, on the other hand, any number beyond 10 is already too large for comfort. An unhurried itinerary with a longer stay in each location is the order of the day.  Depth rather than breadth of experience becoming the focus.  A perfect small group tour combines group activities in the companionship of like-minded individuals with free time to cater to personal interests and reflection.

The chosen destination needs to lend itself to providing something beyond the ordinary tourist experience.  An opportunity to engage with artisans and producers and taste local food and wine.  Be invited into   local village homes, villas and palaces and enjoy after hours private visits to museums, galleries and archaeological sites.


PARIS Hidden Treasures

PARIS Hidden Treasures

As Audrey Hepburn so aptly said ‘Paris is always a good idea’.

For those of you who have visited Paris before and worked your way through the usual ‘must see’ sights then this list if hidden treasures is compiled just for you.

After all, who would visit Paris just once.

Buttes Chaumont Park – for one of the best views of Paris

buttes chaumont2
Located in the 10th Arrondissement it’s one of the largest and original green parks in Paris. From its highest point it has views across Paris to Sacre Coeur and the Montmartre district. With its waterfalls, caves, suspended bridge, exotic and indigenous trees and numerous birds congregating around the artificial lake it makes a wonderful spot for a picnic and a great location to take an iconic photo of Paris.

Picpus Cemetery – The largest private cemetery in Paris


If you blink your miss the cemetery located as it is between a nondescript entrance along a small out of the way street in the 12th Arrondissement.   In 1794 this quiet local neighbourhood garden was used for a series of mass graves for the hundreds of victims of Mme Guillotine set up a few blocks away in what is now the Place de la Nation.

The Picpus cemetery also houses the burial site of General Marquis de Lafayette, one of the true heroes of the American Revolution. The American flag is allowed to be flown over the grave in recognition of his importance.

Musee Nissim de Camondo – A magnificent private home


A private home located at 63 rue de Monceau in the 8th Arrondissement commissioned in 1911 by the fabulously wealthy Parisian, Moise de Camondo. The house has been preserved in its original condition and contains French furniture and objets d’art secured by this passionate collector.   The home was originally to be inherited by his son. However on his death in an air battle during WWI the home was bequeathed as a permanent memorial.   Tragedy continued to afflict the family with the deportation to Auschwitz and subsequent death of his daughter and her family.

Cour du Bel Air – a Belle Epoque Hidden Passage

cour du bel air

Hidden away off the trendy Fauborg Saint-Antoine in the 12th Arrondissement dozens of passages and courtyards with ancient ateliers create a rural village in the heart of Paris.In the 18the Century town planners created a labyrinth of hidden passages across Paris and some like Cour du Bel Air remain to be enjoyed.

Edith Piaf Museum – a small evocative and intimate homage to the little sparrow.


Located in the 11th Arrondissement, this small privately run museum is located in 2 rooms of the private apartment still occupied by, Bernard Marchois, a lifelong fan. Open by appointment only you’ll discover a small and unassuming collection of personal items and mementos of the singer’s life and work. There’s an intimacy about the experience rare in a museum.

Bois de Boulogne – home to the Frank Gehry designed Louis Vuitton Foundation Gallery and Cultural Centre

Frank Gehry building paris

There was always a good reason to visit the Bois de Boulogne but since the completion of this building there’s another compelling reason to include it in your itinerary.
Opened in 2014 the building features a number of glass sails made up of over 3,500 laminated glass panels. Each panel is unique and specifically curved to the shapes drawn by the architect, Frank Gehry.
The building is home to a range of exhibitions and live cultural events.

Chateau and Bois de Vincennes – the largest public park in Paris

bois de vincennes
Located on the eastern edge of Paris is the largest public park created by Napoleon III.   The Chateau de Vincennes was the original residence of French Kings until Versailles was built. For the following 300 years it was used as a prison housing amongst many others, the Marquis de Sade before becoming a fortress and latterly a place of national remembrance of the historical service of the three French armed forces.
In 2010 the Chateau was re-opened after major renovations.

Cercle International de L’Arc – a welcome awaits those who want to practice their linguistic skills

cercle international
A ‘drop-in’ style conversation room which has been running since 1957.
The meeting room is located in a basement behind St Germain de Pres in the 6th Arrondissement and is open every weekday afternoon.
An annual fee of 10 Euros will entitle you to join any of 5 or 6 conversation tables where volunteer French native speakers act as moderators. All ages, levels and nationalities are welcome and you can stay as long as you like.   A great way to practice your French conversation and meet some fellow travellers and ex-pats.

What have I missed?   Feel free to add your favourite spots to the list in the Comments section below.

Finding the Right Travel Insurance

Finding the Right Travel Insurance

Travel insurance has become an essential packing item for travellers, but finding ‘the right one’ is not always so simple. There are various travel insurance policies you could purchase and each may offer different benefits and apply different exclusions.

“Travel insurance can provide cover for emergency expenses and provide you with 24/7 access to professional emergency assistance, so it’s worth considering carefully before you go on holiday,” said Dean Van Es, the CEO of travel insurance company Fast Cover. “Not all policies are created equally, but with a bit of comparison you’ll be sure to find a policy with cover that suits your needs.”

Finding the right travel insurance policy for your next holiday can be made much simpler when you understand some of the key components and how they may apply to you. Here we breakdown some of those components to help you on your search!

Can anyone buy travel insurance?

Some travel insurance companies will impose an age restriction, meaning they will not provide cover if you’re over a certain age. However there are travel insurance companies which can provide cover for travellers of all ages. Of course, policy prices can be more expensive for older travellers when compared to younger travellers. Compare a few policies according to the benefits they offer and the price and you’ll see where you can get the best deal.

Consider cover for pre-existing medical conditions

Pre-existing medical conditions can refer to any condition you’ve previously been diagnosed with, are currently being treated for, or have symptoms of. A range of travel insurance companies provide cover automatically for some pre-existing medical conditions. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, food intolerances and osteoporosis are among conditions that some travel insurance providers automatically cover. Other conditions, such as cardiac conditions, may not be covered automatically. You might be able to pay an additional premium to cover the condition, or complications related to the condition may be excluded from cover.

Check your cover for precious items

Keep in mind that sub-limits may apply to the cover for luggage offered in a travel insurance policy. If you have precious jewellery, specialist medical equipment or valuable electronics which you are travelling with it is worth checking whether these items can be covered by your travel insurer or by your home and contents insurance.

Activities you can be covered for

It is easy to forget that cycling or hiking are considered activities that you may need cover for in your travel insurance policy. Many travel insurers provide cover for a range of activities automatically, including bicycling and snorkelling. If you plan on a more adventurous activity or sport, double check that you’ll have cover just in case something does go wrong.

cycling in ferrara

When to purchase travel insurance

You can purchase travel insurance up to the day you head off on your holiday. What’s important to keep in mind is that if cancellation cover is a benefit on your policy, it can provide you with cover for the deposits you’ve put towards your holiday long before you leave. If you purchase travel insurance with cancellation cover weeks or a couple of months before you leave, you can have cover in place for lost deposits if you or a relative becomes sick or injured and you can no longer travel.

Comparing policies for the best deal

The best deals may take a little time to find! You can use comparison websites as a start to find a range of companies which will provide you with cover. Have a look at the policies offered by a few so that you know the one you choose provides you with the cover you need.

12 Point Travel Checklist

12 Point Travel Checklist

A quick 12 point travel checklist before you leave for your next overseas trip.  A little pre-planning before you leave can save a lot of stress when you’re far from home.

  1. Always check the expiry date of your passport before departure and leave a copy with a trusted friend.
  2. Check with your travel insurance providers their policy in terms of pre-existing illnesses or conditions.
  3. Be aware of any public holidays in the countries you’re visiting that coincide with your visit.
  4. Credit cards vs debit cards – the debit card is generally the best option.
  5. At international airports and in some countries when you purchase an item using a credit or debit card you will be asked if you want to pay in local currency or Australian dollars.  Go for the local currency and avoid double dipping on exchange charges.
  6. Advise your bank and credit card providers of your travel plans – which country and when and they will be more easily able to advise you on any dodgy looking charges.
  7. Pre-book airport transfers and sight-seeing tickets and skip waiting lines and take advantage of discounts offered for pre-purchase of these services.
  8. Check which charger adapters you’ll need in each country and purchase a set of global adaptors or individual adaptors.
  9. If you are planning to make local calls purchase a SIM card when you arrive.  For global roaming be sure to receive alerts on costs as you go.
  10. Learn the basic good manners words for the country you’re in and check on any cultural issues in terms of dress and behaviour.
  11. If you’re an independent traveller and would like to experience a place in more depth – join the walking tours and discover sites like eatwith.com where local cooks and chefs host small groups for dinner in their own homes, or take a cookery class which includes a pre-class walk around the local food markets.
  12. Don’t sweat the small stuff – you’re on holiday – take your time – be polite – just breathe and remember how lucky you are to have the opportunity to travel and explore the world.

Book your place

Boutique small group tours vs independent travel

Boutique small group tours vs independent travel

A proudly independent traveller for several decades I’ve recently discovered what I’ve been missing.  Having just completed hosting a BYS group to Greece I followed up with a trip alone to a new destination for me, Romania/Transylvania.  My  light bulb moment.

In Greece, the coach was there to meet us every time we needed to move from one place to another. Equally, the local guide was on hand to not only provide relevant and entertaining insights into places and events but also to direct us to the best restaurants and cafes for our free time.

In Romania, by contrast, I spent a good part of each day working out how to get from A to B and navigate the public transport system. Not to mention taking pot luck on my restaurant choices.  I spent precious time delving into guide books and online searches to  try and understand what I was seeing and put it into context.

Independent travel can be fun, as the unexpected as well as the unplanned often deliver the most interesting and memorable experiences.  However, few of us, even retirees, have the luxury of the extra time and money necessary to travel in this way.

It’s just heaven when the hard work is done by someone else and you can dedicate your time to embracing and enjoying each destination in full.

Time is just too precious to waste on less than stellar experiences and ordinary food.

Big Yellow Suitcase boutique small group travel aims to deliver a perfect balance between group activities and free time to explore alone or with newly made friends.  We’ll take care of all the more frustrating aspects of travel leaving you free to relax, soak up the ambience and focus on the delights of the destination.

Solo travellers will enjoy the comfort of a queen size room without being hit with an expensive single supplement charge.  We’ll stay longer in each place with less packing and moving.   Take a look at the destinations and unique experiences on offer  in 2019 and 2020 and join us and experience the BYS delights of travel for yourself.

boutique small group travel tours transylvania

Adelaide Holiday Expo

Adelaide Holiday Expo

Don’t miss Holiday Expo in Adelaide this weekend 13/14 February.   If you’re still to book your travel for this year or looking for ideas for extensions this is one not to be missed.  There will be special deals on offer which are exclusive to this Expo so if you miss the Expo you’ll miss out.

Big Yellow Suitcase brochures will be available on the Savenio stand and Lucy and her team will be offering a very special deal on this year’s tours.  If you really can’t make it to the Expo then call in and see Lucy at her office at 115 Jetty Road, Glenelg.

It’s not too late to book for our tours to Puglia in May, Sicily and Malta in June.  Combine these destinations which run consecutively and you will have 3 weeks of the perfect exclusive small tour experience. Avoid the tourists and enjoy a leisurely immersion in what these three magical destinations have to offer.

For more information about location and opening hours for the expo go to www.adelaideholidayexpo.com.au


Detour-ism – a perfect way to travel

Detour-ism – a perfect way to travel

There are banner signs along the freeway in Sydney with the heading Detourism.  I have no idea what’s being promoted as I never get past the headline. I read it as Detour-ism which is something that I entirely embrace although some would possibly see it as an affliction.

“I’ll just walk a bit further and see what’s around the next corner”.

“I’ll just drive down this side road and see where it leads.”


Detourism-02The unplanned and unexpected have invariably provided the highlights and best memories of my travels.

They’ve also played a pivotal role in the way the Big Yellow Suitcase experiences have been designed.   No rush, there’s always the time and opportunity for those of us for whom ‘Detour-ism’ is what makes the difference between a good journey and a great one.

I am excited about all the places we visit but the little village of Ajijic in the colonial heartland of Mexico is my favourite place to indulge in ‘Detour-ism’.  There’s a treasure around every colourful corner.

12 Top Packing Tips

12 Top Packing Tips

Here are my 12 Top Packing Tips to remember before you embark on your next group tour.

1. Choose the lightest, most durable suitcase you can find with 4 wheels for easy manoeuvrability and do what the Italians do and chose a lovely bright colour – so much easier to spot on the carousel.

2. Before you start packing check the baggage policy of all the airlines you’re flying with. Not just the international leg but any other smaller or budget airlines you might be using for short haul flights. Don’t get caught with an overweight bag or discover at check-in that your ticket price didn’t include check-in luggage. You might be allowed 30kg on your long haul flight but only 16kg on short haul links.

3. Make a list of everything you think you need to take with you. Set it out on the bed or the floor and then reduce it by 1/3. Don’t carry things you only think you might wear – stick with your comfortable favourites. You can always buy something extra – charity stores are great for this purpose and you won’t need to feel guilty if you abandon the item before coming home.

4. Roll or fold? – the juries out on this one. If you roll you’ll fit more in but folding clothes together will probably result in less creasing. Be aware that many traditional and character hotels around the world do not provide or permit in-room ironing as it’s a fire hazard and laundry services can be slow and expensive.

5. Colour co-ordinate. Stick with two colours, ie, navy and white for summer and black and white for winter and pack scarves to add colour. This way you won’t need to pack half a dozen pairs of shoes of various colours to match outfits. Are you listening ladies?

6. Wear your walking shoes on the plane – they’re bound to be the heaviest item although it can be a hassle at check-in when you have to remove them at security.

7. Only pack enough underwear for 7 days and wash as you go. I find the hotel shampoo the best option.

8. Decant toiletries into small plastic bottles or buy travel size items.

9. Always pack a sarong which can double as a shawl/skirt/dress or cover-up.

10. Pack for layers – these days you can never be sure what the weather will do. 11. Never check essential or valuable items carry them with you and that includes any medications you might need. Stuff happens and you don’t want to be caught short.

12. If your luggage doesn’t turn up remember to keep your cool and always be polite. Chances are your luggage will arrive and be delivered to your hotel so much faster if you remember that the person behind the counter wasn’t personally responsible for the problem and probably really does want to help.

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