Summer on the beach: the Italian Riviera

It’s got glitz, it’s got glamour, and it’s got some of the best seafood you’ll taste in the whole of Italy. Sarah Barrell reveals how to get the best out of a holiday in Liguria

Motorways: not generally a favourite with summer-holidaying families. Yet the road running along Liguria’s coast, from the French border to Tuscany, offers views that are almost reason alone to visit this, the “Italian Riviera”.

Narrow gallerie (tunnels) shuttle you through craggy mountains that plunge with an urgent grace down to the sea. Blink and whip your shades back on as you pop out of the end of each tunnel to be repeatedly dazzled by glimpses of sparkling azure bays, with terracotta-roofed buildings piled high up the mountainside. It’s so impressive even wilting children in the back seat will “oooh” and “ahh”.

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City slicker: A guide to Genoa

A new film is about to put this Italian port in the spotlight. Sarah Barrell offers a guide to the sights for new, and returning visitors.

This underrated port is about to become a film star. A new thriller, simply entitled “Genova” and starring Colin Firth, uses the winding alleys and gothic atmosphere of this Ligurian city to great effect and puts the spotlight on its rich 16th and 17th-century architecture.

Genoa is a city defined by its port: a working hub for vast cruise boats and cargo containers. The old town climbs directly out of this watery, industrial heart, a glorious, vertiginous mess of medieval buildings piled up against the base of the steep Apennine mountains – it’s no surprise Henry James described it as “the most winding, incoherent of cities”.

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Stay The Night: Thalassa, Paphos

Sun, spa and an ancient Cypriot ruin all to yourself.

Boutique hotel: a phrase that’s become so elastic in definition that if it were stitched into underwear we’d find our drawers round our ankles. The Thalassa, while not quite displaying utter bare-faced cheek, is not, by the original definition of the concept, boutique.

It’s not small or unique: it has 58 rooms and suites all decorated with identical colours and standard mid-range hotel furnishings. There are no special design features, save lilac-painted cornicing to ward off evil spirits (as Cypriot folklore goes) and you won’t be overwhelmed by its architectural beauty: from the outside it looks more like a car park than a hotel.

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Does Cyprus know where to draw the line?

Independent on Sunday travel section

The recent election of a president on an election ticket could herald a new era of tourism for the island, says Sarah Barrell

Since travel restrictions were eased in 2003, it has been possible to travel across the Green Line that slices Cyprus in two. A hop across this notorious border now involves no more than a stamp on a piece of paper, an act unimaginable for an entire generation of Cypriots who have lived in this divided society since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek-backed military coup.

Yet, while crossing is easy, onward travel still has its practical problems. Will this all become easier following the election of Demetris Christofias as the President of Greek Cyprus on a ticket of ending the division?

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Rich pickings in the orchard of Europe

It’s close to the Costa Blanca, but it remains a deeply Spanish little city, says Sarah Barrell.

Murcia is only a short drive from the Costa Blanca, yet feels far removed from the tourist crowds.

This compact, quietly confident Spanish city, surrounded by mountains, welcomes its few visitors with an elegant pedestrian centre, 18th-century architecture and superb restaurants serving food straight from the surrounding huerta de Europa (orchard of Europe).

The Telegraph Travel section:

Postcard from… Mykonos

The Mykonos wallflower: a lesser-known species of Cycladic flora, with bright, gaudy petals and showy blooms. Drab in appearance and prone to wilting.

Three days after stepping onto Mykonos’s shimmering sands, I was ready to leave; the living, sighing embodiment of the maxim, you’re never more alone than when in a crowd. And in a crowd of near-naked, amphetamine-addled, touchy-feely friend-seekers, this was a crushing realisation.

Either way, it was not something this backpacker had bargained for. Having spent the best part of three summers travelling the archipelago, seeking out its every hedonistic enclave, Mykonos seemed like a sure thing: the valedictory end of the party pilgrimage.

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Wash your cares away: taking a salt bath in Biarritz

The French have put faith in the curative powers of salt water for generations, believing it can heal everything from back pain to cellulite. Sarah Barrell takes the plunge in Biarritz

Therapy, by its very definition, is meant to be therapeutic: the restoration of mind and body administered by gentle healing hands. Whisper the word at a meditative pitch to conjure images of essential oils, massage and gentle soul-probing on soft cushions. But as I signed in for a thalassotherapy session on a chilly morning in the French coastal resort of Biarritz, it became apparent that somewhere along the line the “feel better” factor had got lost in translation.

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