24 JANUARY 2011

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A380 introduction details for Korean Air

Korean Air has announced that its A380 launch schedule between Seoul and Tokyo and Hong Kong will start on 1 June.  The tickets are now on sale.  AERBT reported in its issue of 10 January that the airline will become the first carrier to offer the upper deck solely dedicated to a Business Class offering.

The daily utilisation of the aircraft includes a 10:30 departure from Seoul/Incheon, to Tokyo/Narita and then an evening/overnight service to and from Hong Kong.

The airline will gradually expand its A380 service to Bangkok in July, once the second A380 arrives.  The third A380 will launch to New York from August, and fourth A380 to Los Angeles in October.

The airline’s A380 will have a total of only 407 seats making it the least crowded of all A380s.  On the lower level there is 12 First Class seats 301 Economy Class seats with 94 Prestige Class on the upper deck.  Korean Air has ordered 10 A380 aircraft with the first five to be delivered by the end of 2011 and an additional five by 2014.

Separately Airbus has announced its 10,000th order with a firm contract from Virgin America for 60 A320s, including 30 A320neo aircraft.  This is the first firm order for the A320 new engine option. www.airbus.com www.koreanair.com

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Basel arrives for bmi but Glasgow may go

British Midland International (bmi) is to serve Basel from both Heathrow and Manchester from the start of the summer season 27 March 2011.  The routes will be operated in partnership with Swiss, and offer three flights per day on weekdays between Heathrow and Basel, with two services on Saturdays and Sundays, and a daily weekday flight between Manchester and Basel.  Both airlines are owned by Lufthansa.

Services will be flown by bmi using an Airbus A319 aircraft offering a Business Class and Economy cabin.  The airline faces stiff competition, the route already served from London by BA (Heathrow), Swiss (London City) and easyJet (Gatwick).

In the meantime bmi is known to be reviewing its loss making UK domestic services with all eyes on the five times daily Glasgow route said to be the most likely for the axe.  This could open up the airport to an operation from London City both British Airways and CityJet offering frequent flights to Edinburgh but not its rival Scottish city. www.flybmi.com

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CityJet finally "connects" at LCY

Travellers to and from Ireland have now at last a proper fast connecting facility at London City Airport a service expected to attract passengers from alternative gateways. 

Following an initiative by CityJet, passengers on a through ticket from any of the 15 possible European connections on the airline at London City can check-in at the departure airport, and also their luggage, in the knowledge that they will be met by a representative of the carrier at a new designated stand just before immigration at City Airport.  They will then be personally escorted through a new ‘fast track’ arrangement and straight into the departures lounge and if necessary, the gate.

Both airline and airport are claiming that this is now the fastest connecting procedure of any major airport in Europe (a claim hard to dispute – Editor) with 30-minute connecting times easily possible. www.londoncityairport.com www.cityjet.com

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Expansion for Travelodge in the UK

Travelodge, which claims to be the UK’s fastest growing hotel company, is to build 35 new hotels (3,667 rooms) this year boosting the company’s estate to 495 hotels and 35,841 hotels.  It has also announced an increase in its growth targets and plans to operate 1,100 hotels totalling 100,000 rooms by 2025. 

Over half of the Travelodge hotels being built this year are situated in major UK cities.  There are eight hotels being built in London, with three opening this year – this will mean Travelodge will become the largest single hotel brand in the capital this spring.

Three hotels are under development in Birmingham, one at the NEC and two city centre locations (Carrs Lane and Bullring).  In Manchester Travelodge is opening at the MEN arena and at the University.  There are also city centre hotel openings in: Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Hull, Lancaster and Liverpool.

Under construction is a new Travelodge in Valencia (Spain) offering 116 rooms and sited close by the airport.  The company is known to be considering the construction of two new additional hotels in Barcelona and Seville. www.travelodge.co.uk

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Nigerian fares go global

Arik Air, the Nigerian airline, tells AERBT that its domestic fares are now available for sales in the UK through Amadeus (1A), Galileo (1G) and Sabre (1S) global distribution systems. (see last week's AERBT)

Customers can purchase e-tickets for connections from Arik Air’s Lagos and Abuja hubs to 16 domestic points within Nigeria, including Calabar, Kano, Port Harcourt and Warri.  The airline currently operates a daily schedule from Heathrow T4 to Lagos with a two-class Airbus A340 and five times weekly service to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, this route flown by a Boeing 737-800, also two-class. www.arikair.com

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Shangri-La at Singapore

Singapore’s Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort, has re-opened after completing a 10-month, extensive refurbishment.  The resort, which is the only beachfront hotel in Singapore, now offers additional room options that are designed specifically to suit the different needs of the traveller.

Rather than picking from a traditional room category list, guests with children can choose to check into a larger family room instead of having connecting facilities rooms, and honeymooners can ask to stay in the Panorama Room, which offers romantic views of the South China Sea.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sentosa Resort features seven dining options.  Corporate guests can look forward to holding meetings in newly refurbished function rooms, each featuring intelligent lighting systems, soundproof double walls and the latest audio-visual equipment.  With an eye for family business Cool Zone is the largest children’s club provided by a hotel in Singapore.

Sentosa is located 15 minutes from the main shopping and business district of Orchard Road and 25 minutes from Changi International Airport.  Shangri-La’s other properties in Singapore include the award winning Orange Grove Road, and the Singapore Traders. www.shangri-la.com

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Unite members vote for BA strike

British Airways faces yet further industrial action later this year after some cabin staff who are members of the Unite Union voted in favour of strikes.  The actual numbers make for interesting reading with union members now said to be only 10,200 out of a total complement of 13,500.  5,751 were in favour of walking out, that is 43% of the cabin crew.

In what is seen as a deliberate attempt to unsettle senior management Unite chose last Friday (21 January) to announce the figures, a “rest day” for both British Airways and Iberia shares, with IAG Plc, the combined operation, due to start trading on the London and Madrid stock markets today.  The company is hosted in London with Willie Walsh and his retinue based in the Compass building on the Bath Road actually overlooking the northern runway.

The airline has said that if a strike takes place it would expect to operate 100% of long haul and most European flights at Heathrow, as well as full schedules at Gatwick and City airports.  In the last rumpus volunteer staff and leased in aircraft and crew kept the schedules operating.  The overall effect this time around should be less with the public not so wary when looking at commitments far ahead, knowing that fares will rise unless booked and the alternative carrier not acceptable. www.ba.com www.unitetheunion.org.uk

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AND FINALLY: The hand on the wheel

A guy was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a very dark night and in the middle of a storm. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him. Suddenly he saw a car coming towards him and stop.  Without thinking about it he got into the back seat, closed the door and then realized there was nobody behind the wheel!

The car started slowly but as he looked ahead he saw a curve coming his way. Scared, he started to pray begging for his life.

Suddenly just before the curve, a hand appeared through the window and moved the wheel. Paralysed in terror he jumped out of the car and ran!

Wet and in shock, he came to a pub and started telling everybody about his horrible experience.

A silence enveloped when they realized the guy was serious.

About half an hour later, two fellows walked in the same pub.  They looked around for a table when one said to the other, "Look John, that’s the guy who got in the car when we were pushing it."

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COMMENT: Common sense at last.

Last week London City Airport was given the final go-ahead to expand from a current maximum of 90,000 movements a year to 120,00 following a High Court hearing.  At virtually the same time London Mayor Boris Johnson called for a new airport to be built in south-east England after a report said Heathrow was losing out to European rivals, reigniting the debate on London's airport capacity. 

The London City news is good for the capital and all the businesses that now rely on the airport.  It is a victory for common sense and Newham Borough Council who were initially opposed to the whole concept but now give the airport vital help.  The expense and aggravation of the hearing was caused by yet another minority group who gained funds (and media coverage) for a protest that had no foundation in law. 

Currently 10 airlines serve 35 destinations at the former docklands airport.  A one-third increase in movements gives scope for real expansion.  No investment in terms of extra taxiways is required.  The airport’s record year was 2008 with 3.3m passengers and 83,922 actual movements.  For the future a doubling of passengers is quite possible.  In time the 50-seat turboprops that were initially the foundation of the airport will be replaced by 70-seat prop jets and also 100-seat jets.  The management has a wish-list of new airports to add as destinations.  

"The capital's airports are full, our runways are crammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act," Mr Johnson said last week after the report was published.  "We need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK."

An imaginative scheme, that for a third short runway at Heathrow was hastily scrapped for pure political reasons after an exhaustive public enquiry that gave the go-ahead when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government took office in May.  What a waste of money and effort.

The Mayor’s aviation advisor Daniel Moylan, a banker, says that a new airport should be built in the Thames Estuary and that Heathrow allowed to become a secondary point to point airport.  Tell that to Mr Johnson’s past constituents in Henley, his former seat when he was Member of Parliament.  The area is dependent on Heathrow. 

Mr Johnson’s current focus is the London Mayoral election of 2012, once again up against Ken Livingstone.  Mr Livingstone, to his credit, was party to the bid that secured the Olympics to London, only for the ultimate prize, of carrying the Olympic flag out of Beijing, undertaken by Boris.  Ken would love to win in May 2012 and play host to the world.  Logic will go out of the window as they both make their play to the electorate over the next 15 months for the glory of being the London chief in July 2012.  Sadly the airport issue will be moribund.

The London City Airport expansion is good news for the air transport industry and the country.  

Whilst the Thames Estuary scheme is fine in theory, in practice it is a non-starter for all sorts of reasons. 

In March the Government will issue a “scoping document” as part of an air transport review in 2012.  More waffle.  Fortunately London is still the clear leader in attracting business travel and tourists but is gradually losing out, now serving 157 airports compared to Frankfurt’s 235 and Paris Charles de Gaulle’s 224.

London City is good news.  Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted it’s no news that aggravates.

The air transport industry wants to know where it is going now. 

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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Air New Zealand buys into Virgin Blue

Virgin Blue has a new shareholder, Air New Zealand.  ANZ has notified the Australian and New Zealand Stock Exchanges that it has become a substantial shareholder in the carrier, as part of a planned acquisition of a shareholding between 10% and 14.99%.

“The investment in Virgin Blue is part of Air New Zealand’s strategy to develop scale and reach in this region.  The Tasman alliance with Virgin Blue was the first step in this strategy.  This investment cements the emerging relationship between our two airlines and demonstrates the confidence we have in Virgin Blue both as an entity and as a partner for Air New Zealand,” said Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe.  He confirmed that there is no intention to make a takeover bid for Virgin Blue in which the UK Virgin Group has a 26% shareholding.

The decision to buy the shares was backed by the NZ Government, which is a 75% shareholder.  "We think there are opportunities for us to extend our relationship with Virgin," Mr Fyfe told a press conference in New Zealand.  "Assuming we can get competition approval, it may allow us to accelerate development of some long haul routes." www.virginblue.com.au www.airnz.co.nz

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Boeing sets 787 first delivery for third quarter

Peyton Place used to be the “never ending story” for those old enough to remember the series on TV. 

Sadly the Boeing 767 Dreamliner has entered the same phase, although Boeing now says it expects first delivery to ANA in the third quarter of this year.  The new delivery date reflects the impact of an in-flight incident during testing last November and includes the time required to produce, install and test updated software and new electrical power distribution panels in the flight test and production aeroplanes.

“This revised timeline for first delivery accommodates the work we believe remains to be done to complete testing and certification of the 787,” said Scott Fancher, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 project. “We’ve also restored some margin in the schedule to allow for any additional time that may be needed to complete certification activities.”  Boeing expects that all six flight test aircraft will have returned to the programme very shortly.  The 787 order book remains at around 850. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Danish capital to Dubai

Emirates is to add Copenhagen to its network from 1st August  with a daily Airbus A300-200 operation in a three class layout.  It will be the airlines 27 destination in Europe.  It is the third new route announced by the airline for 2011, following Basra on 2 February and Geneva on 1 June.

Emirates was created in 1985 and is now the largest carrier in the Middle East with a fleet of 146.  These include 53 Boeing 777s, with 49 on order, and also 15 Airbus A380s, with 75 more due.  The airline likes to pride itself that it employs representatives from around 120 nationalities. www.emirates.com

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Gatwick to Shannon

Aer Lingus is to introduce at the end of March a new daily service between Shannon and Gatwick, a route that other carriers have operated previously. 

Aer Lingus Director of Communications, Declan Kearney, said: “This new daily service will provide Aer Lingus customers with the first early morning flight from London to the Shannon region.  It will complement the existing London Heathrow service, which operates three times daily, broadening the choice for business and leisure travellers in and out of the Mid-West region.”  From London the Gatwick flight is the earliest by Aer Lingus to Shannon.

The introduction of this new service brings to nine, the total number of destinations served by Aer Lingus from Shannon Airport, with services to Boston, Heathrow, New York and Paris, and Aer Lingus Regional services to Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Manchester. www.aerlingus.com

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Palmair goes off into the "hangar in the sky"

Bournemouth Airport will be without one of its regular sights this coming summer, a Palmair branded aircraft.  Owner Bath Travel is scrapping its tour operator Palmair arm after being what it calls “swamped by Ryanair”.  The very long established travel company returned its last Palmair aircraft to a leasing company last autumn, but had planned to continue by sub-chartering seats on Thomson Airways flights.

Palmair Flightline was created in 1993 operating a BAe 146 aircraft.  Upgraded aircraft were acquired in 1999 to reflect increased demand for capacity from Bournemouth and for the introduction of longer range routes.  Until winter 1999 services were operated by Flightline, using a single BAe 146-300.  In 2003 Palmair carried 75,000 passengers.  In 2004 the company operated scheduled passenger flights to 10 European airports, and day trips to 25 European cities using European Aviation Boeing 737-200s and, with the demise of that company in 2008, 300 series aircraft on the Astraeus AOC (Air Operator’s Certificate). www.bathtravel.com

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Singapore Airlines to South America

Barcelona is the latest destination for Singapore Airlines who will introduce a three times per week service on 28 March.  The flight then goes on to Sao Paulo in Brazil also offering that city for the first time.  Scheduled times are 13hrs 30mins to Barcelona, the second leg 11hrs 30mins with a three-class Boeing 777-300ER the operating aircraft.

In order to market the route out of Brazil and Spain there is a codeshare agreement in place with Star Alliance partner Spanair.  Iberia offers an alternative routing via Madrid and there are various options using Middle East airports and Frankfurt and Paris.  Trade and tourism between Asia and South America is seen as a strong growth area for the future. www.singaporeair.com

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Wyndham into India (and China too)

India is the target of Wyndham Hotels following a year of rapid growth in Asia with six Wyndham branded hotel openings in China and another seven under construction.  Wyndham claims to be the world’s largest hotel company with nearly 7,200 hotels and nearly 606,000 rooms in 65 countries under 12 brands.

Located in India’s capital city of New Delhi, the 394-room Wyndham New Delhi Dwarka Hotel is currently under construction and is scheduled to open in April 2011.  It is located 4kms from Indira Gandhi International Airport.  Facilities will include full-service Indian and multi-cuisine restaurants, nightclub, swimming pool, spa, fitness and business centres and 14,000sq ft of flexible meeting and banquet space.  In addition, a luxury shopping mall will open alongside the hotel. www.wyndhamworldwide.com

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767 number one thousand is on-line

Boeing has started final assembly of the 1,000th 767 aircraft, a 767-300ER (extended range) passenger model for All Nippon Airways (ANA).  The 767 entered airline service in 1982 and in 1985 initiated twin-engined transoceanic operations.  It is often compared to the Airbus A330 which followed over 10 years later, with 744 delivered to date.  Both aircraft have had a much extended production life due to delays with the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 series respectively.  Much depends on a US Air Force tanker order as to which plane will be the eventual best seller.

The 1,000th aircraft is scheduled for delivery next month.  ANA, a long-time Boeing customer, has taken delivery of 89 767s since placing its first order in 1979. 

Boeing will use the 767 as the platform for the NewGen Tanker if it wins the Air Force KC-X Tanker competition.  That contract award currently is scheduled for early this year. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Airbus hits record deliveries

A320 output led the way last year as Airbus powered a record number of 510 (2009: 498) commercial aircraft deliveries to 94 customers (of which 19 were new).  These included 401 A320 family, 91 A330/A340s and 18 A380s.  The essentially Toulouse-based division of EADS booked 644 commercial aircraft orders including 452 A320 series aircraft, 160 A330/A340/A350 XWB which it now calls Family aircraft, and 32 new orders for the A380.

At 2010 year end, Airbus’ commercial order book backlog was 3,552 aircraft equalling six years of full production. 

The A330-based Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft achieved civil and military certification in 2010.  Five are flying with a further four undergoing conversion.  Delivery took place of the first two MRTTs to the Royal Australian Air Force. www.airbus.com

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City airport remodelling nearly complete

London City Airport irregular visitors will probably be perplexed upon entering the terminal building realising that something has changed but not actually putting a finger on it.  In fact the atrium has been filled in and the expanded first floor area produced will be mainly used for what the airport describes as “a full-flow and much improved security area”.  The work is expected to be completed next month.

The reason for most passengers not noticing the work, except for the obvious construction where a new staircase is going in, is that the actual check-in area and Costa Coffee facility has not altered at all.  Last year the car hire service desks were moved out of the building and now reside in self-contained offices opposite their own dedicated parking area, but covered from the terminal building itself. www.londoncityairport.com

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Delhi Airport adds a transit hotel

Langham Hotel Group has embarked on an expansion campaign in India with new properties in the city of Lavasa, Western India for 2013, later this year a Langham Place in Pune, and opening in the first quarter 2011 the 93-room Eaton Smart, New Delhi Airport Transit Hotel.

The Eaton Smart, New Delhi Airport Transit Hotel is located inside Terminal 3 of the new airport building.  Passengers with valid tickets are able to check into the 36-room domestic wing or into the 57-room wing in the international terminal after customs controls.  The property offers modern rooms for a minimum slot of five hours allowing guests to relax before and after a flight.  Guests are able to reserve the Aqua Pods in which to freshen up while allowing access to the hotel’s services and facilities.

Services include the Essentials Spa and a fully-equipped gymnasium allows guests to work out and re-energise.  The property features a high quality all-day café dining restaurant serving freshly-prepared international comfort foods and local culinary favourites.  New Delhi Airport Terminal 3 handles around 34m passengers a year. www.langhamhotels.com

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MEA to join SkyTeam

Middle East Airlines (MEA), the national carrier of Lebanon, will sign an agreement on 28 February to officially start the process of joining SkyTeam in 2012.  First established in 1946 and using de Havilland Dragon Rapides, the airline has seen more ups and downs than most, headquartered in that most beleaguered of cities, Beirut.

MEA has continued to improve its products and services to customers ever since it successfully concluded a thorough restructuring plan, destined to modernize and restructure the airline.  Key elements of this plan include aircraft renewal and rationalization, increasing the density of its European, Middle East and West African network and improving product quality and consistency.  It currently operates an all Airbus fleet of 11 A320 series aircraft and four A330-200s.

SkyTeam has made significant progress in attracting new members.  In 2010 China Eastern (and its daughter company Shanghai Airlines), China Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Aerolíneas Argentinas all confirmed their future membership.  Recently Saudi Arabian Airlines has become the first member from the Middle East to announce its joining plans.  Adding MEA as the second member from this region complements the network offer to SkyTeam customers and illustrates the continuing global expansion that SkyTeam accelerated last year. www.mea.com.lb

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Ryanair in Barcelona threat

Barcelona’s relationship with Ryanair could be short lived after the Dublin-based carrier lost a case in the local commercial courts which ruled that the airline’s €40/£40 boarding card reissue fee is unlawful. 

The carrier is appealing on the grounds that all passengers agree at the time of booking that they will check-in on-line, and print off their own boarding cards at least four hours prior to the scheduled departure of their flight.

The airline says that should this ruling not be reversed on appeal, then it will dispense with the boarding card reissue fee altogether, and passengers who arrive at the airport without the agreed pre-printed boarding card will not be able to pass through security or board their aircraft.

The court's argument is clearly that Ryanair has entered into a contract to carry the passengers and that if the said passenger is on the airline’s manifest that is confirmation that the contract is in place.  There is actually no need for a boarding card with identification via a passport.  Clearly one side has to back down. www.ryanair.com

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Stockholm gets new waterfront hotel

Rezidor Hotel Group has opened its new flagship hotel in Sweden, the Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, Stockholm, with direct connection to the Waterfront Congress Centre – one of Scandinavia’s largest facilities for meetings and events.

The property has an ideal location, within walking distance of the Arlanda Express rail link to the airport and the central railway station.  Within close proximity to Stockholm’s business district, shopping, Gamla Stan, the Royal Palace and the City Hall.

The hotel’s 414 rooms offer views of the Riddarfjärden stretch of water and the City Hall.  Three suites are situated on the top floor with panorama windows, the largest with 74m² of floor space, consisting of a bedroom with a king size bed, bathroom with a round bath tub, living room with a sofa suite, dining table and a television, and a separate guest toilet.  All rooms and suites feature Radisson signature services such as free high speed internet access.

The property offers 24-hour room service and a fully equipped gym.  The next door congress centre has 14,000m² of floor space, including a 3,000 capacity auditorium.  It also includes a 2,000 guest ballroom. www.rezidor.com

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ON TOUR: Florence

The introduction last week of a daily (except Saturday) service by CityJet to Florence from London City Airport is expected to open up one of Europe’s most fascinating cities not for only those who now habitually use the docklands airport, but with the airline’s new flight connections service also for passengers from Dublin, Edinburgh and Scandinavia. 

The great advantage at the Italian end is that Florence Airport is just on the outskirts of what is not a very large city (350,00 population), a 20-minute taxi ride to the centre.  The airport reflects the size of the metropolis and is small and user friendly.

With one or two exceptions Florence is without any multi-national branded hotels, and most of the properties are relatively small in the Italian tradition.  The inaugural party stayed at the two-year-old Four Seasons, an amazing 116-individual suite property 15 minutes stroll from the main downtown area and sited in an 11-acre park.  Built around the vestiges of two adjoining Renaissance palaces it is worth a visit on its own. 

Florence has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.  Tradition has it that it was established by Julius Caesar in 59 BC but it is probably far, far older.  In 774 the city and Tuscany was conquered by Charlemagne.  From about the start of the second millennium its golden age began to emerge.  In 1301, Dante was sent into exile from here (commemorated by a plaque on one of the walls of the Uffizi).  For a time it was one of the richest and wealthiest of European cities, a Republic with republican virtues.  The Medici family emerged as patrons of the arts commissioning works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli.  What you see today is the result of competition between various families and hierarchies in trying to build the biggest and best.  For a short time (1865-1870) it was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. 

One of the problems at the present time is that Florence does not have a visitors card covering all the major museums which is something the excellent local tourist board is working on.  Our recommendation is to take one of the two competing open top hop-on hop-off bus tours when first arriving in order to get a feel for the place.  The local guides and foot tours are excellent with fine English and a deep knowledge of the city’s fascinating history.  One can hire a bike and for those a little more adventurous, a Segway.  The state run museums offer free admission for those over 65 but you do need to show a passport.  If you are visiting in the summer try and book your museum visit in advance.  The place gets very busy.

The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence.  This massive, gothic fortress-palace is impressive overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its 100-year-old copy of Michelangelo’s famous David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi.  It is one of the most significant public places in Italy.  The actual David itself is housed in the Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno, founded in 1561 with patronage of the Medici by Giorgio Vasari, Agnolo Bronzino and Bartolommeo Ammannati, three of the central artists of Mannerism. 

Michelangelo was born in Florence and produced his early work in the city.  At the age of 21, and with the end of the Medici era, he was financially persuaded to move to Rome.  He died their after a long and productive life in 1564 aged 89 and whilst that city wished to offer itself as his final resting place his wishes were fulfilled and he is buried in the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross), the principal Franciscan church of Florence.  It lies to the east of the central area close by the National Library, another magnificent building but dating only from 1935. 

Another name know to many in the 21st century from even before Michelangelo is Niccolò Machiavelli, whose prescriptions for Florence's regeneration under strong leadership have often been seen as a legitimization of political expediency and even malpractice. Commissioned by the Medici, Machiavelli also wrote the Florentine Histories, the history of the city.  He lived from 1469 to 1527.

The Uffizi Gallery is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world.  In 1560, Giorgio Vasari built the palace for Cosimo I de' Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates.

The massive cathedral church, called the Duomo, was begun in 1296 but its elaborate neo-Gothic façade was not added until towards the end of the 19th century.  The adjoining bell tower offers an unique view of the city and the surroundings.  There is usually a long queue and it has 414 steps.

At the heart of the city, in Piazza della Signoria, is Bartolomeo Ammanati's Fountain of Neptune (1563–1565), which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still-functioning Roman aqueduct.

Florence is the city of Gucci and for shoppers it is heaven starting at the market of San Lorenzo.  Eating is another popular Italian occupation and here the choice is vast.  However you dine it needs a Chianti.
 
In a short review it is impossible to mention everything regarding this iconic city, suffice to say that all the following either lived within its environs or were closely involved.  Boccaccio, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, Roberto Cavalli, Dante, Donatello, Galileoi, Guccio Gucci, Machiavelli, Catherine de' Medici, Michelangelo and Emilio Pucci.  And many others too.  Building after building has its connections.  Four nights is really needed and there is the rest of Tuscany to visit too.

www.italiantouristboard.co.uk www.firenzeturismo.it

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