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STA Travel Blog

England: Meet Your Match

Unless you’ve been living in a crisp packet, you’ll know that we’re officially in the midst of football fever. Our boys are over in sunny Brazil doing us proud (well, trying to) and we’re here in the not-very-summery-but-at-least-it’s-not-raining-today UK wishing we were with them. It’s all very well watching the football in a beer garden but who wouldn’t rather be in warmer climes right now? So we thought we’d take a peek at England’s first three challengers: Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy. We might be in battle with their football teams right now, but boy are these some awesome places to visit.

Uruguay

Obligatory football facts

  • AKA: La Celeste (The Sky Blue)
  • Coach: Oscar Washington Tabarez
  • Times they’ve won the tournament before: twice

Much more interesting facts

  • Uruguay is the second smallest South American country
  • Its landscape consists of mostly low grasslands, perfect for cattle ranches
  • It has one of the highest literacy rates in South America
  • One third of the population live in the capital city, Montevideo
  • The national language is Spanish
  • A chivito is a traditional Uruguayan sandwich made with slice steak, ham, cheese, eggs and mayonnaise
  • One of the most popular meals is barbecue

In recent years, this South American country has been pulling in the tourists big time and it’s no surprise. With its beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine and party vibe, Uruguay – often called the Switzerland of South America due to its peaceful political climate – is a brilliant holiday spot for anybody looking for something a little different. Head over during their summer (December to March) for highs of up to 33 degrees, and pay a visit to capital city Montevideo and its beautiful Old Town. If you’re after sea, sun and sand, check out the beaches and fishing villages along the Atlantic Coast.

Costa Rica

OBLIGATORY FOOTBALL FACTS

  • AKA: Los Ticos
  • Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
  • Times they’ve won the tournament before: Zero

Much more interesting facts

  • The Clay Coloured Thrush is the national bird of Costa Rica
  • They have one of the highest life expectancies in the world at 77
  • There are seven active volcanoes
  • Costa Rica boasts 130 species of freshwater fish, 220 species of reptiles and 850 species of birds
  • Over 25% of the land is dedicated to nations parks and wildlife reserves
  • The Tempsique River Bridge in Costa Rica was a gift from Taiwan
  • If you like to be by the water, you’ll feel right at home in Costa Rica thanks to its 801 miles of coastline
In 2012, Cost Rica was named the happiest country on the planet, and who could resist that? So it’s no wonder this beautiful country’s tourist trade has exploded in recent years. Lush and green with rainforests and national parks, it’s a nature lover’s paradise, but there’s also loads on offer for adventurous types, too. ‘Superman’ canopy tours, rainforest treks and hikes through nature reserves are all up for grabs, you know, for when you’re bored of looking at that stunning scenery and lounging on one of the country’s 300 beaches.

 

Italy

OBLIGATORY FOOTBALL FACTS

  • AKA: Azzurri (The Blues)
  • Coach: Cesare Prandelli
  • Times they’ve won the tournament before: Four

MUCH MORE INTERESTING FACTS

  • Vatican City is an independent state within Italy
  • Italy has a population of over 61 million people
  • Pizza is said to have been invented in Naples in the 1860s
  • The average Italian eats half a pound of bread a day
  • The Italian wolf is their unofficial national animal
  • When McDonald’s opened in Rome in 1986, foodies stood outside handing out free spaghetti to remind everyone of their Italian culinary heritage
  • There are more earthquakes in Italy than anywhere else in Europe

It’s no secret that Italy is a beautiful, diverse country with incredible food, stunning art, wonderful classical music and some of the most famous architectural landmarks in the world. Err, excuse me while I book my flights… Anyway, everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – needs to visit this amazing country at least once, though each city is so different and completely worth seeing that you’ll probably need to go back a few times. There’s the capital Rome, overspilling with history – pay a visit to The Vatican if only to see Michelangelo’s amazing handiwork. There’s the region of Tuscany (including Florence, Siena and Pisa) where you’ll taste some of the best food of your life and take in some fantastic views. Then of course there’s Venice, the Valentine’s capital of Europe, with its romantic canals, and breathtaking piazza nicknamed the ‘drawing room of Europe’ by Napoleon.

We’re really just scratching the surface here; all three countries have untold amounts to offer, whether you’re a foodie, culture vulture, thrill seeker or just want to chill out in the sun with a glass of wine (I’m that one). So when you’re watching the football, blame us when your mind starts wandering to sun, sea and sand.

Fancy packing your bags and heading off to Uruguay, Costa Rica or Italy? Well we don’t blame you. So book your flight, plan a tour or two and give us a shout if you need any help!
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