Thanksgiving in ItalyIf you’re considering a visit to Italy during the Thanksgiving break, here are two options:

• Spend Thanksgiving Day and night in the lovely autumn hills of Tuscany on a two-day trip organized with the Naples USO. The cost is 197 euros for adults and 135 euros for children. It includes round-trip bus transportation from Naples, one nights’ accommodation with breakfast, a Thanksgiving Day dinner, wine tasting in the wine town of Montalcino, visits to the medieval towns of San Gimignano and Siena and services of a group leader. For details, call DSN 626-5713 or 629-4904 or see the Web site at

• The Gourmet Italia cooking course from Nov. 27 to 30 is so popular this year that organizers have added an extra class, which still has openings. The course in the Asiago Plateau in northwestern Italy focuses on the healthy Mediterranean diet and is taught by professional Italian chefs. The cost is $595 per person, double occupancy, and includes nine hours of cooking courses (three each day), three nights’ accommodation in a four-star hotel, all meals, guided visit to a winery, opera concert, diploma of attendance, apron and booklet of recipes. For those who would like to stay fit, the hotel has a wellness center and offers Nordic walking lessons (not included in price).

For details, e-mail; its Web site is

Heavenly Lake ConstanceThose who want a weekend of peace and quiet during the Advent season can slip away to the Hotel Haus St. Elisabeth on Lake Constance, Germany. The three-star-hotel-equivalent convent guesthouse is offering a three-day package called Silent Winter Days on the Lake from Fridays through Sundays through March 31.

The cost depends on the category of room, with prices for a double ranging from 155 euros to 173 euros per person (123 euros to 213 euros for a single). The price includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfast buffet, welcome from the sisters of the Hegne Convent, five-course candlelit dinner in a restaurant, with transportation and entrance to the thermal baths.

Other packages are available throughout the year. Find more details at

Best BetsChristmas is right around the corner and Europe’s seasonal events are beginning to light up the dark winter months. Vienna’s Christmas markets are opening this weekend, as are the traditional German market in Leeds, England, and Valkenburg’s grotto market in the Cauberg caves in the Netherlands. Already under way are a Winter Village with ice-skating on Amsterdam’s Beursplein and a cheery world of Christmas markets, Santa Claus and pixies in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark. London will illuminate Regent Street on Nov. 20 with holiday lights. For a full list of markets in Europe, see the Nov. 27 travel section.

BELGIUM: This weekend, choose from 180 beers from 50 Belgian breweries and beer firms in the second annual Brugge Beer Festival. Visitors can sample the brews by buying a tasting glass at the entrance for 3 euros and tokens for 1.25 euros for samples. Eight top chefs (four each day) will demonstrate how to cook with beer and how to make special dishes to accompany beer. The festival will be in the city’s historic tower and belfry from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Details at

FRANCE: Once a charitable hospital begun in the 15th century, the Hospice de Beaune (also known as the Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune) in the town of Beaune is a popular tourist site in Burgundy wine country. This year, the annual charity auction of its best vintages will begin at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. It will put 544 barrels (228 liters in each) on the block for bids by professionals and the public (bids can also be made online). The sale of one of these wines, the President’s Barrel, will benefit charity — a generous sum considering the price can range from about $4,900 to $7,730. Even if you can’t afford to bid, there are plenty of other activities during the weekend: tastings at wine estates and houses; entertainment, marching bands and a folklore parade. Details of the auction at The Beaune Web site is

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