Wed, Oct 10, 2007 - Page 13 News List

Hot deals for cool vacations

The summer tourist season is over and the harvest is just beginning, a time when Europe is less expensive, crowded and hot, but still has many cultural events


What most tourists happily don't miss - and shouldn't - are the nearby Sabatini Gardens along the Royal Palace's northern facade (9am to 9pm). Cypresses, magnolia, cedars and boxwood, punctuated by the gleaming white sculptures of long-forgotten Spanish kings, know no season and are ready for the masses whenever the mercury rises, which it often does in December, with temperatures often going up to 15°C.

Prague: beyond opera

Though mainstream music fills the Czech capital all year, autumn is the time for the avant-garde to shine, with several festivals supplementing the usual operas and orchestras.

From the first day of fall through Nov. 18, the Strings of Autumn ( offers a kissing cousin of the long-running Prague Spring concert series, but more diverse in taste. The program stretches this year from the American jazz violinist Regina Carter to the Portuguese fado vocalist Ana Moura.

For cutting-edge tunes with visual accompaniments, check out Music on Film - Film on Music (, from Oct. 18 to 22) for music-themed movies from around the world. Run by John Caulkins, an American resident of Prague, Moffom, as the festival is known, shows more than 70 documentaries, musicals, concert films and videos. This year's special focus on Russian films includes a live performance by the Beth Custer Ensemble during a screening of the 1929 Soviet silent comedy My Grandmother.

Through Oct. 21, more unconventional acts perform noise and electronic music at the Stimul Festival ( Among them will be the Japanese sound performer Keiji Haino, the American experimental hip-hop group Daelek, the Italian duo My Cat Is an Alien, and the pioneering English guitarist Fred Frith.

In the middle of all this is Prague's Bollywood Film Festival from Oct. 11 to 14 (, a long weekend of movies, music and food from the Subcontinent.

With several new high-end addresses, Prague has no shortage of excellent lodgings, though the most suitable for avant-gardists might be the high-tech Hotel Icon (, which opened this spring. Rooms, which start at US$170, come with a keyless "biometric" safe, a Skype phone and an iPod jack, so you can mix your own offbeat selections between events.

Rome: sit, sip, eat

Fall in Rome - especially October and early November - inspires a decidedly languorous take on life. So find a cafe, order a glass of fruity Vino Novello, the new wine that will be officially released at midnight on Nov. 4, and plan to stay awhile.

There are plenty of places to sip wine on the lively Campo de Fiori, but just around the corner, at L'Angolo Divino, you'll find a quiet, well-stocked wine bar where one can indulge in more serious tasting.

There are other ways to satisfy one's taste buds in the fall. After the August calf-birthing season "comes new milk and with it ricotta Romana," explained Cesare Lopez, the president of the consortium, Consorzio Ricotta Romana DOP, that ensures that this local product follows precise standards. You can savor the creamy cheese year round (it's particularly good with honey, he suggested), but in November, production starts anew.

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