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A local's guide to virtual Venice

Venetian photographer Giacomo Cosua takes us on a tour of La Serenissima, through films, music, books, podcasts and virtual reality

Tiziano Scarpa’s Venice is a Fish captures beautifully the elusive, poetic mood of our enigmatic city. Neither guide nor history book, it is perfect to read before a visit, because turning the last page, you already feel you have a relationship with the city. Then it is just a question on arrival of forgetting about the usual sightseeing and getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways. I read it when it first came out, discovering many unknown things about my home town.

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‘I live alone at sea. Here's how to be happy in isolation’

Our lives have changed radically but we can adapt, says a former Guardian journalist who has lived solo on a boat for three years – and learned to love it
Living alone in the wild

‘I want to reassure people,” I announced grandly on Instagram the other day, “that it’s easier to change behaviour than you think.” With anxious friends facing a massive change of life in the face of coronavirus, I wanted to spread some calm.

The reason I’d started dispensing “wisdom” like some nautical soothsayer was that I gave up a much-loved job at the Guardian three years ago to pursue a simpler life on my tiny sailboat. I ended up crossing the Channel to France, sailing down the Atlantic coast to Portugal, into the Mediterranean, through Spain and Italy to Greece. It’s the slowest life imaginable, travelling at walking pace, completely immersed in nature. I sleep freely in secluded bays, by white beaches, fish and octopus swimming below me. I’ve sailed with dolphins and whales, woken to horses galloping on deserted beaches in southern Italy, and anchored by castles and cathedral-like cliffs. It is magical and it is nourishing.

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Naturalists flock to Chris Packham's DIY 'Springwatch' on Facebook

The presenter’s daily Self-Isolating Bird Club draws on wildlife footage caught by enthusiasts on mobile phones in their gardens. Packham calls it ‘Dad’s Army makes TV’

Lockdown day 10 in south-east London. A loud rhythmic tweeting is emanating from the cherry plum tree in my back garden. A great tit? Blue tit? I catch a glimpse; too small for a great tit, not as colourful.

I don’t know my birdsongs beyond the basics, but I remember a friend imitating calls to coax birds nearer so he could identify them. I have an idea and grab my phone and Google “coal tit song”. I press play and the rival tweeting produces instant results. Hopping from branch to branch towards me a delightful but agitated coal tit emerges and alights on a branch barely two metres away (I think it knows). Is it angry or amorous? My exhilaration at our proximity turns to doubt and guilt – I’ve used gadgetry to disrupt the natural world. What was I thinking? The coal tit flies off, its song tinged with irritation.

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How well do you know the foods of the world? Take our national dish quiz to find out

Are you hot stuff or just cold leftovers? Find out in our food and travel quizathon

A francesinha (frenchie) is a speciality of Porto, Portugal (pictured), but what is it?

A crisp, almond-flavoured biscuit for dipping in a fortified wine

A meat-free version of a croque monsieur, with grilled cheese and a fried egg

A hot sandwich filled with ham, sausage, cheese and steak

A long loaf of bread, like a sourdough baguette

Eating sushi in its homeland is a highlight of a trip to Japan, but which of these is a vital ingredient in sushi?

Nori seaweed

Vinegared rice

Raw fish

Daikon radish

"Spice bag" – a mix of chips, chicken, red and green peppers, chilli and onions – was voted 2020's favourite takeaway dish in which country?

New Zealand


Sri Lanka


Warming, spicy goulash is the national dish of Hungary, but which of these ingredients was not in the original medieval recipe?




All of the above

Bobotie, a dish of minced meat, spices and dried fruit with a baked-egg topping, is a national dish of which country?


South Africa



Roti canai, flatbreads with spicy dal, originated in India, but which country has particularly taken them to its heart?





Pastilla, the Moroccan filo pastry pie, is traditionally made with which meat?



Chicken liver


It can look a little like carpet underlay, but injera bread is perfect for scooping up spicy stew and vegetables in which country?





Traditional French pot-au-feu is usually made with which meat?



Wild boar


It sounds like something to do with car maintenance, but "oil down" – another stew, this time of chicken, breadfruit, dumplings and turmeric – is the national dish of which country, also knows as the Spice Isle?





A future pleasure might be strolling around a Greek island harbour devouring a gyro from a stall. What sort of street food is it?

A doner kebab

A hotdog

Fried chicken

A crepe

Now as popular as pizza in Russia and neighbouring states, cheesy khachapuri bread comes from which country?





The gloriously named larb is a dish of cold minced meat, but where does it come from?





The popular British Cornish pasty bears a striking resemblance to the national dish of which country?





Which of Italy's popular pasta shapes does not feature in the photo below?





Ackee and saltfish is enjoyed all over Jamaica, but what is ackee?

A fruit related to the lychee

A root vegetable, like a starchy turnip

A sour berry grown on the island's high-altitude slopes

A hard grain cooked to a pulp then fried

Fettuccine alla papalina is the national dish of which diminutive nation state?

San Marino



Vatican City

Smelling so strong it can make the unwary gag, hakarl is months-old fermented shark meat from which country?





Poutine – chips with cheese curds and gravy – is a trending junk-food option. But where does it come from?





Which of these ingredients is not regularly used in popular Peruvian dish ceviche?




Thinly sliced rare beef

16 and above.

How many holidays have you cancelled this year?

11 and above.

Good show – time to explore a few more exotic takeaways perhaps?

0 and above.

How long have you been in lockdown?

6 and above.

Just a Tesco meal deal for you

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Trekking to Everest base camp – by climbing the stairs at home

Virtual expedition team ascends 5,364 metres over five days in indoor mountain climbing challenge

April in Nepal usually means thousands of trekkers trudging up to Everest base camp. This spring the mountain is free of crowds but the trekkers are still trudging – up stairs, back steps, even up ladders in a virtual push to reach an altitude of 5,364 metres. Led by trail runner Rory Southworth, a team of about 30 climbers will reach their target this evening after five days of climbing.

Southworth decided to organise a group challenge after receiving positive feedback online for three solo hikes during the first week of lockdown. “I did Snowdon on my bottom step; Ben Nevis on the seven stairs down to my garden; and ran up the hill at the back of my garden 29 times to scale Scafell Pike. For this challenge, I wanted to bring people with me on the journey. There was a lot of negativity among the outdoor community about being confined at home and I wanted to give people a reason to exercise indoors.”

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A new form of house music: Berlin clubs livestream DJ sets

It may be under lockdown but the techno capital is still banging – in kitchens worldwide, as Berlin clubs unite so fans can party at home

With bars, nightclubs and restaurants closed to slow the spread of Covid-19, nightlife in Berlin, was expected to come to a halt. But no, the beats are still thumping. The city’s premier “virtual club” is now in session.

United We Stream is a collaboration of about 40 clubs and several other nightlife businesses in Berlin. Every evening at 7pm (6pm UK time), DJ line-ups are live-streamed from the city’s nightclubs. And people worldwide are tuning in to get a taste of Berlin’s world-famous techno parties from their kitchens and living rooms.

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20 of the best travel films

From Rome to the Amazon, in these 20 films stunning locations play a starring role – and they’re all on now at a laptop or TV near you

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10 of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours

The originals are out of reach for now, but you can still see world-class art – without the queues or ticket prices – with an online tour of these famous museums

Art lovers can view thousands of paintings, sculptures, installations and new work online – many in minute detail – as well as explore the museums themselves. There are various platforms: from interactive, 360-degree videos and full “walk-around” tours with voiceover descriptions to slideshows with zoomable photos of the world’s greatest artworks. And many allow viewers to get closer to the art than they could do in real life.

So, take a break from the news, enter full-screen mode and start your art adventure in sunny California …

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10 of the best travel books

We may not be able to venture far right now, but these travel books, from classics to comic travelogues, take us on journeys around the world
Share your favourites in the comments below

Recent reports suggest the now-quiet canals of Venice are at their clearest for 60 years, with swans spotted in recent days. The city, of course, has always had a touch of fantasy about it. “Venice is a cheek-by-jowl, back-of-the-hand, under-the-counter, higgledy-piggledy, anecdotal city,” writes Jan Morris in this 1960 masterpiece. “She is rich in piquant wrinkled things, like an assortment of bric-a-brac in the house of a wayward connoisseur, or parasites on an oyster-shell.” The book pens a portrait of a city thick with atmosphere and stuffed with history, conjuring an intoxicating sense of place with Morris’s trademark wit and wisdom.

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10 virtual tours of the world’s most famous landmarks

They’re closed for now but you can still take an interactive online tour, to gaze over the edge of Machu Picchu and marvel at the Pyramids from every angle

10 of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours

Many details of how the Inca site was constructed are still a mystery. Built in the Andes at 2,430 metres above sea level around AD1450, Machu Picchu was created without wheels or animals to transport the huge stones up the mountainside. A series of 360-degree images on YouVisit’s virtual tour explore various areas of the site. The tour also includes a voiceover guide with information on the architecture, history and resident alpacas. For a bird’s-eye view, head to Air Pano for stunning interactive images, including from the summit of Machu Picchu mountain.
Guardian Travel’s Will Coldwell accompanied the Google Trekker team when they mapped Machu Picchu in 2015

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Trans-Siberian Railway: a view from Moscow to Vladivostok – a photo essay

On a 9,288km journey inspired by the centennial anniversary of the railway’s completion in 1916, photographer Annie Ling captures life onboard the Trans-Siberian Railway, and beyond the carriage window

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