UK weekly edition, Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Next month — July 13-15Milan, Italy: 40.80 pounds round trip

Fly Ryanair from London Stansted to Milan Bergamo.

Exploration of this fast-paced city should start at the Gothic Duomo. This grand cathedral is decorated with more than 3,400 sculptures and striking stained glass. The only way to really register the grandeur of this cathedral is to venture inside and visit the cathedral museum. Climb to the roof to enjoy a view of the city below and the Alps in the distance.

From there, you can travel along the pedestrian-only precinct of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Milan’s equivalent to “high street” where bars, restaurants, bookshops, cinemas and fashion stores can be found.

Farther along the route is Piazza San Babila, with more shops, and Via Bagutta, which is at the heart of the high-fashion district. Holidaymakers can explore shops there selling jewelry, home furnishings and clothing.

Take the side street Via Santo Spirito to number 10, once home to the Bagatti Valsecchi family, and now a museum with collections of 19th-century Renaissance art and crafts.

From there, you can make your way back to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous fresco “Last Supper.” Avoid the long queue by booking in advance at www.cenacolovinc

In three months — Sept. 7-9Rodez, France: 57.60 pounds round trip

Fly Ryanair from London Stansted to Rodez.

The Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral of Rodez with its impressive red sandstone bell tower reigns over this quaint town in the Aveyron section of France. At night, 500 projector lamps illuminate the cathedral revealing its hidden treasures and beauty.

Not to be missed is the Fenaille Museum in the heart of Rodez. Housed in a Renaissance mansion, this museum features a large collection of Menhir statutes. A few steps away is the Deny Puech Fine Arts Museum with collections of modern and contemporary art. Of special interest is the sculpture, “Integration,” adorning the museum’s gables.

An easy walk from there is the Haras National Farm, located in an old charterhouse, set among 2.5 acres of serene grounds and home to more than 50 retired studs, including a thoroughbred Arabian stallion. Visit the Rodez office of tourism or to arrange a guided tour.

In the evenings, you won’t find any wild nightlife with clubs and bars bursting at their seams, but tourists will be able to mix with locals in small, friendly bars. Don’t be surprised if you see locals hopping from one bar to the next looking for more conversation and the latest local gossip.

On Saturday mornings, stop by one of the open-air markets to sample the region’s special flavors.

Airfare prices include estimated taxes and are courtesy of the Web site Prices were verified as of Monday afternoon when Stripes UK went to press. Deals are not guaranteed to be available; restrictions may apply.

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