Last weekend the new James Bond Movie Quantum of Solace opened in the UK and I for one was first in the queue. Not only to see Daniel Craig return as the ruthless but emotionally damaged 007, but to soak up the gorgeous locations that we have come to expect from a Bond movie.
After the obligatory opening car chase through the marble quarries of Carrera, where Michelangelo sourced the marble for his masterpieces, the action moves to Siena in Italy. Against the backdrop of the annual Palio horse race, Bond chases the villain through the underground passages and over the terracotta tiled roof-tops of the city.
Later the action moves to Bregenz in Austria where the Summer music festival is in full swing, and Puccini’s Tosca is being performed against the backdrop of a giant winking eye on the open air stage. Suffice it to say that Bond is more interested in identifying his adversaries in the audience than enjoying the music.
If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of James Bond here’s the information you need to get there, although sadly the camera crew will be long gone.
Siena is a walled medieval city, set among the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany, not far from Florence. In the centre of the city is the semi-circle shaped Piazza del Campo, where every July and August, the Palio horse race takes place. The horses are raced bareback around the Piazza, each one running for the honour of a different Contrada or neighbourhood. Passions run high and anything goes – the first horse to complete the three laps, with or without their rider, is the winner. If you can’t make it for the Palio, there’s plenty to see in Siena for a long weekend. Art lovers will find many beautifully decorated churches to visit. But when you’re all frescoed out, you can climb the Campanile for a 360 degree view of the town, wander round the pedestrianised centre or watch the world go by from a café terrace overlooking the Piazza. Don’t forget to bring back some Panforte, the local cake made from dried fruit and nuts flavoured with spices and honey.
Bregenz in Austria is set on the shores of picturesque Lake Constance (or Bodensee in German), close to the borders with Switzerland and Germany. There’s plenty to keep you keep you busy along the lake, whether it be beaches, cycle trails along the lakeside promenade or boat trips across the lake. Then climb the hill to wander the old cobbled streets of the Oberstadt or Upper Town or take the cable car to the top of the Pfänder mountain for a fantastic view over the town and countryside. The Music Festival takes place in July and August, with performances on a floating stage on the lake. Opera lovers should book now for the 2009 season of Aida, but you can also take a guided tour of the opera house and grounds during the festival season.
Getting there from the UK
You can fly with Ryanair from London Stanstead to Friedrichstafen (35 min by bus) or Zurich (1.5 hrs by train) with a number of airlines.