Italy Travel Guides for Backpackers

Beyond Trevi and Colosseum: Rome like a Local

Rome – the Eternal city – is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 7 million travelers visit the metropolis at the Tiber each year; most of them just stay for a short trip spending their time between the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps and the Vatican and complaining that it is ‘such a touristy place’. Italy’s capital however has so much more to offer. If one dares to take a look at things that lie beyond the typical attractions, Rome is a young, exciting and colorful city full of people actually spending their everyday-lives in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Orange Garden and its little brother The Orange Garden close to Circo Massimo and the area Testaccio offers an incredible view over the Tiber, the picturesque neighborhood of Trastevere and the Gianicolo hill, overlooked by the copula of St. Peter’s. Especially during sunset the panorama of the Eternal City is breathtaking and the place has been on the list of secret tips for years now and it is not so secret anymore. Not only tourists roam the place, it has also become one of Rome’s most popular spots for newly-weds taking their wedding pictures. So, having a picnic or a bottle of good Italian wine during sunset does not only offer one of the best views over the Eternal city, but also the endlessly entertaining spectacle of watching young couples fully dressed-up navigating trying to get a picture without crowds of tourists and not ruining their spotless white dress, while also pretending to have the time of their lives. Those who like it a little bit quieter and less touristy only have to go a couple of meters up the hill and they will find another garden. It does not have the same old walls surrounding it or the beautiful orange trees, but the view is almost the same and most tourists completely ignore this place situated perfectly between the famous Orange Garden and the even more famous keyhole. Speaking of which: waiting in line for the keyhole is not worth it, except for saying that you actually did look through it. You get almost exactly the same view as from the two gardens – you simply have to wait about 30 minutes for it. Garbatella – a small Italian town in the middle of the capital Away from the crowds in the city centres, but just as enchanting, the quarter Garbatella is easily reachable by hoping on Rome’s metro line B. Built in the 1920s to bring the charm of a small Italian town in the countryside to the big city, Garbatella has lost nothing of its appeal. Nowadays it is a popular neighbourhood for left-wing activist groups and young families. Just stroll around the little alleyways and discover a completely different side of Rome that most tourists miss out on! Villa Ada – Borghese’s big, overlooked stepsister Of course, Villa Borghese is stunning and if […]

A tour around Bergamo: a local’s guide

When I get asked ‘where are you from’, and I reply Bergamo, Italy, the comment is: ‘upper town or downtown?’ (Respectively, in Italian, called Città Alta and Città Bassa). Maybe you don’t know, but Bergamo is divided into two parts. Upper town The old part is the upper town, surrounded by walls built in the XVI century and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017. In a warm and autumn day, having a walk around the walls is regenerating. You can admire Bergamo’s downtown and if you are lucky, you can see the skyscrapers of Milan. How to reach the Upper Town Bergamo’s walls are the first thing I advise you to visit. If you come out of the railway station, you can see Città Alta in front of you. What you have to do is walk towards them or take the bus (line 1) to reach the top quicker. Use Google maps, you will easily find the bus stop. If you want to walk for a while, but then you get tired, after 15 minutes walking (just follow the main street, it’s all straight) you can take the cable car for 1.30 Euro. In two minutes, you will be in the heart of Città Alta. Where to eat in Città Alta Ice cream shops, bakeries, vintage, and handmade clothes shops, souvenirs shops, restaurants and more is all you can find in Città Alta. Keep walking along the main street of the old town called via Gombito, which is very characteristic and open your eyes. Bgigi Gusto Italiano This place will cuddle you with handmade Italian food. If you decide to taste it, you can take a seat outside in the street: the atmosphere will make you feel a real Italian master. You can have a look at Tripadvisor to get you to stay. Location 58 This is a restaurant and a bar. It will enchant you with its cocktails and jazz music. This place is all about mixology and good food, perfect for relaxing after a long walk. They serve some Cantucci cookies with an after-dinner cocktail: delicious! Birreria di Città Alta If you prefer a beer, you can look at the opposite side of the alley. Dark wood is the main characteristic of this place. You can seat outside on a bench sipping a good draft beer. Piazza Vecchia, the square This is the main spot where Città Alta shows its beauty: the Cathedral of Bergamo and the bell tower deserve a visit. In Piazza Vecchia, many restaurants and bars offer Italian specialties. You can enjoy a cup of Espresso or an Aperitivo sat in a table in the square. Aperitivo is an Italian habit consisting of an alcoholic drink, in general Spritz, combined with some snacks, like olives, slices of pizza, cheese, and ham cold platter. It’s the perfect match before dinner. Papageno Drink&Food Take Via Colleoni to continue the visit of Città Alta’s old town. I recommended this place for beers, too. They don’t have […]

A Complete Guide to Procida, An Island in the Bay of Naples.

Capri is the most famous island in the Gulf of Naples, precious and charming but, to be honest, a way too touristic. If you are looking for a more relaxing and picturesque spot, Procida is your place. In its 4,26 km2, you will find stunning views, history, amazing people and delicious food and I assure you, it will be love at first sight!   How to reach Procida: There are daily boats everyday running between Naples and Procida. The timetable depends on the season, but you can check it on the web. You can take two different kinds of boat: the Ferry, traghetto, from Calata di Massa (1h) or the Hydrofoils, Aliscafo (about 30/40 min) from Molo Beverello. The prices depend on the departure time and the kind of boat.   How to move inside Procida: The island is quite small, and it is possible to walk from a side to the other, but it’s slightly hilly, and due to the hot temperature, it can become quite hard. That’s why I highly recommend using a bike, for sure an electric one! I used E-Bike Procida, they bring it to you wherever on the island (for 24H I spent €20). You can find some rental also in Marina Grande, or you can ask your host, they usually have some recommended places, and they can provide you with a better deal. You can also use public transport: there are four bus lines which cover the whole island and all start and end in Marina Grande. The last option will be to take a taxi, which is quite expensive in my opinion, considering that you could walk everywhere in more or less 30 min.   What to see in Procida I love getting lost into the places and discover every hidden corner, so my suggestions it’s: rent a bike and ride this small paradise. For sure, during your visit you cannot miss: Terra Murata: The highest part of the island where you can find the old town and a dismiss prison. This place is a must-see during your stay in Procida, here you can have a great view of the Corricella and visit the Monastery of Santa Margherita. Borgo Vascello: a medieval “borgo”, where to get lost and discover the colourful houses and magical narrows La Corricella: the old fishing village with its charming and pastel-coloured houses, probably the most beautiful part of the island. Marina Grande: it’s the first postcard you get when you arrive on the island and the main harbour. Here you can find restaurants, bars, beaches. Chiaiolella: one of the other harbour of Procida: beautiful view and restaurants Isolotto di Vivara: a protect naturalist area. It is the smallest island of this gulf and is the rest of an ancient volcano. The visits are restricted, and you need to book before on the website of the town hall. Belvedere: the road which connects Marina di Chiaiolella to Marina di Corricella it’s called by the locals “Belvedere” (beautiful view), going down this street you will have the possibility to have some breathtaking views on Capri and Sorrento Coast. Beaches: Procida offers some great natural beaches within to choose: Chiaia, Cala del Pozzo Vecchio, Ciraccio, Ciraciello,..On this last two you […]

is Pisa a city worth visiting?

The first time I was in Pisa was on a rainy March when I was 18 years old. I remember that for arriving at this great touristic city I took a train in the city of Florence, Florence was a hub for me where my hotel was located. Pisa is a city located in the Tuscany area, Tuscany is one of the 20 areas that compose the wonderful country of Italy. I guess you have heard about Tuscany, probably is the best well know area of the whole Italian peninsula. On a map you will see that Pisa is in the north of Rome and in the south of Milan, we can say that this little coastal city is in the middle of the road between the two main cities of Italy, which ones are Rome and Milan. How to arrive? If you live outside Europe and you visit Italy you will arrive at the international airports of Milan Malpensa and Fiumicino in Rome, the airports of these two main Italian cities offer intercontinental flights to North America, Far East, and Australia. Once you arrive at one of these two airports is pretty easy to catch a domestic flight to the airports of Florence called “Peretola” or to the one of Pisa called “Galileo Galilei”. Despite being the city of Florence most important city than Pisa however, we must say that the International Airport of Pisa is more important than the one in Florence. Pisa airport has two runways and receives more international flights. It is important to say that both airports besides receiving domestic flights are also internationally linked with the many European cities. Therefore is not necessary to arrive in Milan or Rome, you can arrive at any main European city and from there took a direct flight to Pisa or Florence. It is also important to say that the train is also available to reach the city of Florence and Pisa directly from the airports of Rome and Milan without having to take a domestic flight. As you can see in one way or another reaching to Pisa is pretty easy. In the city of Florence, the main train station is called in Italian “Santa Maria Novella”, from there a normal train (not high speed) to Pisa takes around 1 hour of travel time. When you arrive at Pisa the train station ideal to go down and visit the famous leaning tower is called in Italian “Pisa Centrale” or in English “Central Pisa”. This train station is not only the ideal for knowing Pisa downtown and the main attractions in the city but it is also the main train station in the city. Corso Italia. After I get out of the train station “Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II” showed up in front of my eyes, this square link the main train station with “Corso Italia”, “Corso Italia” is the main pedestrian boulevard in downtown Pisa, this is a street of forced passage to visit all type of nice […]

City Break – Walking around Torino

Once an industrial city and way before the first capital of Italy, Torino surprises with its elegance, breathtaking architecture, historical imprint and definitely a strong cultural vibe. It is the capital of the Piedmont region, situated in the north-west part of the country. Must say that before my first visit I was a bit sceptical – I did not want to spend too much time in yet another big city. However, even if in the middle of a metropolitan city as Torino, you will love its parks and gardens, and then there is the river Po that brings a most romantic atmosphere at night and a fresh breeze during the day. Of course – then there are the stunning peaks of the Alps – where you sometimes find yourself gasping at. You will be overwhelmed a bit by Torino’s many art galleries, museums, churches, palaces and theatres. It is basically walking the streets and getting surprised by the multitude of architectural styles, from Baroque to Rococo and Art Nouveau. The fact is, Torino is quite the place for a photographer – since you feel you want to catch the mix of old and new, the elegant wide streets as well as the small and narrow ones with coffee places and lots and lots of character. Hence, I can only say that Torino has a bit of something for everyone, so let’s start exploring. Palazzo Reale & Mole Antonelliana So, situated in a central position in Torino, the Palazzo Reale is a symbol of power and overlooks the wide Piazza Castello. You simply cannot miss it – and the wide-open space gives a bit of a reminiscence of the city’s grandiosity. Talking about missing, you ought not to leave Torino before actually visiting the Mole Antonelliana towers, the icon of the city. Originally a Jewish Synagogue, the building is housing now the National Cinema Museum, and, in case you did not know, it is the highest museum in the world! Egyptian Museum Of course, I don’t want to be too boring here however, I believe the Egyptian Museum to be a must-see as well, of course, given that you will completely allow an afternoon to be able to explore it in depth. It contains huge amounts of artefacts and displays and it is said to be the most important museum of Egyptology after the one in Cairo. Porta Palatina Following the museum, you would be surprised to know that Porta Palatina, one of the many ruins that stands still in Torino nowadays, is the most well-preserved Roman gateway in the world (from the 1st century). Situated in a pleasant park, you would enjoy sitting on the grass and admiring its grandiosity. Ancient Cafes of the City Caffe San Carlo is probably one of the places where history was written. Founded in 1842, it was a patriotic meeting place during Risorgimento(1815- 1861), the period when Italy was fighting for its independence. Not surprisingly, later on, it kept its atmosphere among artists and literary […]

Italy: Milan and surroundings – places of interest and lifehacks

When we hear the word “Italy”, we, first of all, represent Venice, Florence and the capital — Rome. For many people, it is a secret that in Italy there is another capital. It is the “fashion capital” Milan. And the North of Italy, where this city is located, is no less worthy of a visit than the cities known to all. So you’re in Milan. First, solve the issue with transport. Lifehack: if you come to Milan for a couple of days — buy a ticket for 48 hours (8.25 euros). If you have 8-10 days, the best option is Settimanale 2×6 (weekly pass valid for any 6 days of one week -10 €). It allows you to travel twice a day – in the morning to the center of Milan or to the station, in the evening — back. Milan cathedral Now start conquering the “peaks” of Milan. The first of them is the Grand Milan Cathedral. It is the only Catholic Church built of white marble and the fifth largest Cathedral in the world. It can accommodate up to 40,000 people. On the roof of the Cathedral 135 spires — a stone forest! La Scala Theatre Very close to the Cathedral – La Scala theater. The building in which it is located is not striking. But La Scala is the most famous Opera house in the world. It is believed that tickets to La Scala are very expensive (stalls — 300 euros) and it is almost impossible to get here. But! Lifehack: Every day, two hours before the performance in La Scala, they begin to issue standing tickets. Reserve – 140 tickets for 11€. Wait your turn, fill out the form. Tickets are sold at the box office before the performance upon presentation of the questionnaire and passport. Last supper The most famous “top” of Milan – “the last supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. Executed in 1495-98, the fresco still adorns one of the walls of the refectory Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. Because of Leonardo’s experiments with a colorful layer of the fresco is gradually destroyed, so hurry to see it! It is recommended to take care of the ticket a few months before the visit. I did not succeed — too many people wanted to! But! Lifehack: the Church is open to the public from 7:30. If you come to the earliest session, there is a chance to buy a ticket directly at the box office of the Museum refectory. I did it! Shopping in Milan And now it’s time for shopping because you are in the “fashion capital”. Another “top” of Milan is “fashion Square”. It is formed by four streets — Montenegro, Manzoni, Della Spiga and Corso Venezia (a quarter of boutiques for every taste, only very expensive). But! Lifehack: Corso Buenos Aires in Milan – the shopping street of middle-class brands (Zara, Benetton, Gap, Calzedonia, etc.). There are also children’s clothing stores (DPAM, Prenatal, Original marines), and perfume and cosmetic (Sephora). Where […]

Italy: Bergamo — the secret heart of Lombardy

If you are in the North of Italy, in Lombardy, and you want to feel its spirit, then do not limit yourself to visiting Milan. Very close to it (less than an hour by local train), at the foot of the Alps, you will find the ancient city of Bergamo. Opposite Bergamo train station — the bus station with a tourist office. Here you can take a map of the city. Bergamo is divided into the Lower (New) and Upper (Old) town. The Old town is located at an altitude of 380 m above sea level. So, if you are not attracted to walking uphill (about 5 blocks, 15-20 minutes), use the funicular (1.25 euros). Two of its trailers lift up to 50 people at the same time to a height of 85 meters at an angle of 52%. The length of the path is about 240 meters. Old Square     The funicular will take you to the square of Shoemakers, which gives rise to 6 streets, a fan diverging on all sides. One of them, via Gambetta, will take you to the main square of the Upper town — Piazza Vecchia ( Old Square). In the corner of the square, the highest tower of the city stands — Civil (56 meters). Here the signal bell still rings a hundred times every night in memory of the times when all the city gates were closed for the night. In addition to the bell in the tower and there is an elevator, so to explore the panorama of the city it is quite possible to use. In the center of the square – a fountain with sphinxes. The water is potable, that heat is very important. The riddle about this fountain: both of its sphinxes look at the town hall, although in opposite directions. Guess? In Bergamo two town halls: their facades are located opposite each other. In the Old town hall before the justice was administered, and the City Council met in the New town hall.   Cathedral square Inside the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, you can come through four side entrances, two of which are called “the gate of the white lions” and “the gate of the pink lions” (columns of portals are on the sculptures of white and pink lions). The facade of the chapel of Colleoni adjoins the church from the North-West. It is fully lined with multi-colored marble slabs which form complex patterns. Inside the chapel is decorated with sculptures, paintings, frescoes, gilding. And opposite the front door is a sarcophagus of Colleoni – carved marble, with a huge number of decorative elements. Two museums If you continue to move, soon a little to the right you will see another square (Piazza Cittadella) with two museums — Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences, where some of the exhibits can be touched. And right at the entrance, you will meet a giant dinosaur. Opening hours of both museums: April-September: 9.00-12.30 and 14.30-18.00 on […]

Around Napoli in One Day

Italy is a wonder and I say that because of its historical heritage, arts and culture, spectacular cities, dream-like beaches and imposing mountains. I say that also because yes, Italy is undoubtedly a complex country that definitely made its mark. You probably might not know but it actually has more historical sites than any other country in the world! From the Nordic Piemonte, Aosta Valley,  down to the coastal Liguria, Toscana, Puglia, Calabria and Campania – it is a real spectacle to actually observe how the different dialects, cuisine and ways of living are joined together into such an enriching Bouchet. Out of all these, I definitely had to drop some lines about the one and the only – Napoli – the third biggest city and also a place that is so close to my heart.  I promise you should consider paying a visit! It is a bit like they say about India – you either love it or hate it – as it still holds a strong connection with Mafia, high criminality and chaos – but there is much, much more than that. Therefore, below I will share some of the main things I have enjoyed the last time I was here. Mount Vesuvius and the National Archeological Museum Mostly wherever you go in Napoli, you cannot miss the imposing Mt. Vesuvius and immediately Pompeii will come to mind. Definitely worth a visit for itself, when I visited Pompeii I was actually blown away by its silent and shocking imprint. So keep that in mind, and when in the city, you can go visit the National Archeological Museum, where all the treasures from Pompeii are in the exhibition. Probably one of the most impressive museums of this kind. Royal Palace It is basically the moment when you find yourself in this big piazza where lies the Royal Palace – a museum and historical touristic site which makes you want to stop and to internalise everything. It is a place of encounter where street music, jogglers and photographers gather – to catch the grandiose place where prominent rulers of Napoli have resided. Castel Sant'Elmo Did you know that in ancient times, Napoli used to be called 'the city of the seven castles'?  There is Castel Nuovo, Castel Sant'Elmo, Castel Capuano, Castello del Carmine, Castello di Nisida, Forte di Vigliena and finally, the romantic Castel dell'Ovo. You wouldn't have expected that from a city like Napoli, would you? But of course you will not have time to see them all if your stay will be short, so I recommend you see the Castel Sant'Elmo, a fortress overlooking the city built in medieval times. Inside is the Novecento Museum, but also where cultural events and art exhibitions take place.  This is the place if you want to have the picture-perfect shot of the city – and just for you to know, if you are not interested in the events or the museum, you can easily explore its terraces and walkways free of charge! […]

The Dolomites: Northern Italy's incredible mountain range

The rugged Dolomite’s Mountain beauty This indomitable mountain range in the north of Italy is spectacular; a place where nature, adventure sports, jagged peaks and pretty mountain villages mix with diverse landscapes. Breathtaking beauty arises from the 250 million-year-old history of well-preserved geological formations. In 2009, the Dolomites were named a ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’. An alpine house in the green meadows in the Dolomite’s Cortina d’Ampezzo Driving from the south, we entered the foothills passing through a tangle of tunnels which bypassed towns and small lakes; until, with gasps of delight, we reached our destination of Cortina d’Ampezzo sitting at 1,224m (4,016ft). Manfred, a former mountaineer, was very excited because he had not been in the European Alps for over 40 years. Driving through the villages on the way up to Cortina d’Ampezzo   Cortina d’Ampezzo from our hotel room Cortina d’Ampezzo housed the 1956 Winter Olympics and from our hotel the view of the mountains across the valley and the large cable car moving slowly along its wires was magnificent. A festival atmosphere, where chatter and laughter rolled out of the restaurants and bars into the streets, pervaded the town centre at the conclusion of a five-day international tennis tournament.   A hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo leading to a narrow street A church in Cortina d’Ampezzo We ate pizza after enjoying the shops, one of which had several boxes of local funghi for sale. From the balcony of the pizza restaurant in Cortina d’Ampezzo Local funghi from the Dolomites region – Porcini’s and Chantarelles Local funghi from the Dolomites region – Porcini’s and Chantarelles Bottled preserved Porcini Funghi in a shop in Cortina d’Ampezzo Peaks, green valleys and stunning vistas! Cyclists on the road to Passo di Falzarego above Cortina d’Ampezzo, Dolomites The following morning we drove out of town and into the open meadows of the very steep, winding road toward the Passo di Falzarego which sits at 2,117m (6,945ft). Reaching the pass about mid-morning there were already a lot of walkers, climbers and sightseers enjoying the day. The restaurant at Passo di Falzarego 2117m, Dolomites We took the 5-minute cable car ride up ‘Lagazuoi’ passing by sheer cliffs and hikers on the walking track. Here you can sit in the cafe and enjoy the awe-inspiring view or climb a path up to a cross on the craggy tops where the view is just as magnificent at 2,800m (9,186ft). A pictorial map at the cable car Lagazuoi, note the cross, Dolomite’s View looking down from the cable car up to Lagazuoi, Dolomite’s Our destination is on the top right, The cross on Lagazuoi, Dolomite’s These views into the green valleys below, ‘the moonscape’ beneath sheer bluffs of ‘Tommaselli’, and the incredibly high peaks and mountains in the far distance provided a vista as I have never seen before. With great enthusiasm, we walked up to ‘the cross’ which sits at the edge of precipitous cliffs and marks the high point above Lagazuoi. At the cross on Lagazuoi […]

3 Days in Rome: the Eternal City

If you’re reading this chances are that you will be in Italy this summer! Visiting a big chaotic city like Rome could be disarmingly, there so much to see that you don’t know where to start. And mostly you don’t want to miss anything! But the truth is..you cannot see it all! Not in one trip at least, i have to tell you that! I never met a roman who have seen it all.. so don’t be discourage and take in as much as you can of the italian culture while you’re in the Eternal City.  Besides the classic itineraries, you can try to live the city like a local would do. These suggestions are great for a first, a second or a fifth time in Rome! Even for people who live here. Day 1: a walk through the city centre Start your day in Piazza di Spagna. Wherever your accommodation is located, you can easily reach Piazza di Spagna with the metro (Line A). Enjoy the famous steps and the multitude of people from all over the world that crowd the capital of Italy in the summer. After a photo break, take Via dei Condotti and from there go toward the Vittoriano, known as the Altare della Patria, magnificent monumental complex.   You can go in for free, and visit the museum part of the building, and with a ticket, reach the roof top, and enjoy a great great view! Now it’s time for the big star, the Colosseum. There is a reason if it’s the first thing that came to mind when you think of Rome. You take Via dei Fori and get to the Colosseum for a pit stop. If you take the steps on the right facing the metro stop, you can get to the perfect photo location!!  [Pro Tip: Bring your reusable water bottles!! Summer heat is really strong in Italy, and Rome is not an exception. Right in front of the metro stop “Colosseo” there is a filtered water station where you can fill them up. You’re welcome!] Trevi Fountain is a must as much as the Colosseum if you ask me! Of course it’s always full of people, tourists and locals too! If you want to throw the coin, expect some line!! Now you’re probably ready to go home, but not before having some gelato! Take the alleys that lead to the Pantheon, there’s plenty of good ice cream shops. Get back to Via del Corso until you reach Piazza del Popolo, and take the metro back at your staying from there (Line A – stop Flaminio) Day 2: Explore Tivoli’s Villas When in Rome, most people don’t think about the surroundings. So for the second day I recommend a tour of Tivoli’s Villas.                                              There are 3 of them ..and all gorgeous! Get your day started with Villa Gregoriana, the most “wild” one. If your into hiking/light trekking, this one is […]

Why You Should Visit Trapani, Sicily

Trapani is often overlooked in favour of Sicily’s capital Palermo but it is getting increasingly popular as a tourist destination. It is well served by Trapani Airport with regional flights on budget carrier Ryanair making this is an excellent base to explore western Sicily. Follow my journey to discover the cradle of civilisation that is Sicily. What To Expect “Mi Scuza! Non-capisco Italiano. Parla Inglese?”, is one of few Italian sentences I memorized by heart. Except this time, it was not directed at a waiter or retail assistant but instead at a group of raucous youths. These youths have never seen a foreigner in their village yet in my attempt to communicate with sign language, we transcend language and cultural barriers. With a group of loquacious youths for company, our conversation went from football, basketball to the colour of my blue contact lens (like why are my eyes blue! Or green! Perhaps both!). I admire the Italians incandescent love for life and despite the language barrier, I ended up with an invitation to a football game, an experience which reminds me how travel constantly breaks and defies stereotypes. Understanding Sicily: Beyond Mafia and Cultural Stereotypes One of my most vivid travel memories goes back to my one-month stay in Trapani, on the west coast of Sicily. Cultural stereotypes dictate that Sicily has a negative connotation often associated with mafia in the impoverished southern Italian region. The result of which is that danger lurks around every corner amidst crumbling infrastructure often seen in developing or third world countries. Often labeled as uncivilised, rough and aggressive, my experience with Sicilians challenged a deeply entrenched misconception and left an indelible impression on me. How To Get to Trapani and Accommodation For the uninitiated, Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest Mediterranean island, just off the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’, separated by the narrow Strait of Messina. It has a rich and colourful history, having been conquered by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthiginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spanish and French that lends to the indomitable spirit of Sicilians, which depending on how you see it can be both infuriating and inspiring. The easiest way to get to Trapani is to fly into Trapani Airport, which is served by Ryanair or Alitalia. However, for more regular flights, I would suggest Palermo Airport, which is located about 35 km from Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. From Palermo Airport, there are several ways to reach Trapani – the cheapest option is direct bus shuttle (approximately 1 hour 10 minutes). Alternatively, the express shuttle sharing is costlier but offers more comfort in 8-seater minibuses from Palermo Airport to Trapani Harbour. If budget isn’t an issue, there is always the option of private car or taxi transfer. Sickle-shaped Trapani is founded by Elymians and located at the foot of Mt. Erice in Sicily where an intriguing past is reflected in a crossroad of cultures from architecture to language and cuisine. There are plenty of B&B and boutique […]

Five Things You Must Know About Italy

  Deciding to move to Italy for a year was not an easy choice since well, I have to admit that I haven’t been steady for the past six years. Been travelling and exploring for quite a while, so after having a study experience in Poland for half a year – I must say I started to see that understanding the language of the place where you are about to spend a couple of months is a definite must. Let alone the fact that Polish is not the easiest language to learn hehe. That is why, when having to decide among countries such as Sweden, England, Spain or Slovakia – I decided for Italy instead. The reasons are many, so besides the language (and the notorious Italian sign language deserves a completely separate section of course), there are some I had and some I discovered on the way (and some reinforced). Here are just a few of them… Coffee – Coffeeshops – Coffee Culture One of the habits I stand by the most, even when I travel, is actually a good coffee.  I transformed this habit in a routine that I celebrate each day – so I kind of repeat that old Italian movie scene where I open the windows (without the Pavarotti song on the background though), get the sea breeze deep into my lungs and sunshine on my face, do my workout and then I jump directly in the kitchen and make the most amazing coffee at the moka machine. The taste is special since here I have discovered so many other types of coffee I never heard of – and the fact is – wherever you go, in the most forgotten village, I assure you that you will be treated with a decent coffee! Enjoying a good coffee in a rustic, cosy coffee shop is something I will never say no to, and here the amount of bars and cafeterias is simply astonishing. Best Oranges Ever Since we are talking about pleasant moments in life, I should start by reminding you that Italy is the second biggest exporter of citrus fruits in Europe (after Spain) and this is not out of chance. The Sicilian oranges are my all time favourite, with their shades of red or dark orange (suggestively called ‘arcobaleno’ which means rainbow). I have to add that generally, Italians definitely hold their breakfast sacred and I have met very very few of them that do not like coffee (and mostly they were out of Italy – coincidence you’d say :P) – a moment when one would feel weirded out – What? An Italian not to like coffee? What kind of an Italian is that? (: Therefore, the orange juice is a definite add on, along with the classic cornetto/ or croissant and one coffee out of the rich variety there is on offer.   Olive oil and wine – elixirs for a longer life When talking about the Mediterranean cultures, we should add the olive […]

Citta del Tufa: Stunning ancient Etruscan heritage

Guide book in hand at Pitigliano, Citta del Tufa, Tuscany, Italy Triangle of ancient Etruscan towns Settling into our vacation in Southern Tuscany was a pleasure and a delight. Staying at the beautiful hilltop town of Monticello, we ventured south of Monte Amiata towards the border with Umbria and the triangle of ancient towns in an area called the Citta del Tufa (interchanged with Tufo). The Etruscans have left their mark on the landscape with a particularly rich repository of their heritage. Picturesque Pitigliano and neighbouring settlements of Sorano and Sovana house the Etruscan necropolises where you can visit archaeological museums and explore a network of the mysterious Vie Cave (sunken roads). Amazing hand cut Vie Cave (sunken roads) Sovana, Citta del Tufa, Italy Where did the Etruscan’s come from? It is not known for definite where the Etruscans originated from; however, they formed communities on these rocky volcanic outcrops from around 5-9th BC onwards. They also lived in other parts of Italy, and reports from DNA testing suggest they may have come from Egypt or the Anatolia area of Turkey. It is also believed they may just be ancient Italians who came under Roman Rule.  But one thing is for sure, they built amazing cities and communities! Back street Pitigliano, Citta del Tufa, Italy Detours and first sightings A detour took us through Radicofani where the view over the valley to Monte Amiata and the surrounding countryside was nothing short of breathtaking. Driving on, we sighted Sorano with expressions of ‘wow’ and passed below this deep sand coloured ancient town nestled between the high cliffs. We continued on towards Sovana where vineyards caught our attention as we drove via deep carved out canyons on the road that snaked down towards the valley below. Sorano, from below the town, Citta del Tufa, Southern Tuscany, Italy Vineyards near Sovana, Citta del Tufa, Italy First stop: Pitigliano Pitigliano Narrow steps to the balcony over the cliff, Pitigliano We arrived at Pitigliano about 9km south-west of Sovana where we wandered the cobbled twisting streets following the contour of the rocky landscape. We passed beneath arches and traversed narrow steep steps to the parapets where we viewed the jaw-dropping precipices that give rise to views of the valley floor and the forested areas far below. On the balcony, Jewish Quarter, Pitigliano This original and very old part of Pitigliano was, for a very long time, a Jewish quarter housing about 400 people; however, the number of residents diminished due to World War II. Narrow street in Pitigliano The area contains shops, bars, and restaurants which were once the houses of the locals and are built into the Tufa (porous volcanic rock). We enjoyed a satisfying lunch of nettle stuffed ravioli with shaved truffle in a shaded outdoor area before returning to Sovana. Restaurant sign in Pitigliano   Nettle Ravioli with shaved Truffle, Pitigliano restaurant. The restaurant for lunch in Pitigliano   Tourists in a square, restaurant at the end where we had lunch, Pitigliano […]

Where to eat in Florence Italy

During my first clinical experience I had the privilege to learn about physical therapy at an inpatient rehab facility outside of Florence Italy. During my 10 week stay I frequently went into the city of Florence to sightsee, shop and try various types of Italian food. Despite the small size of the city, Florence is a clean and beautiful place with many delicious places to eat fresh Italian food, relax, sit down and enjoy a drink. The restaurants I visited consisted of various pubs, pizza shops, smoothie and sandwich shops, local bars and markets. Three places which I found to be unique, worth the money and what I recommend trying are Moyo, Osteria Santo Spirito, Tinos Café, Gusta Pizza and the Mercato Centrale Firenze. Moyo Moyo is a cocktail bar and restaurant located in Santa Croce Firenze, just east of  the Ponte Vecchio bride  and north of the Arno River. For the dinner menu Moyo offers an aperitivo special consisting of a purchase of one 10 euro cocktail or up which includes access to their buffet. Their drink menu had many options with their most popular cocktail of choice being an Aperol Spritz. The buffet consisted of popular small plate Italian appetizers such as caprese, arancini, tomato bruschetta, prosciutto, cheese with crackers, and pasta salad. The dinner portion of the buffet included chicken breasts and wings, spaghetti with olive oil, gnocchi, and meatballs. Moyo has indoor and outdoor seating with colored lights on the inside and popular upbeat music. The atmosphere is directed towards the young adult population. My favorite food at the buffet was the chicken breasts and wings along with the caprese. One reason why I enjoyed Moyo was not only the laid back and friendly atmosphere but also how fresh and warm all the food from the buffet is. Moyo is a fun place to relax, socialize and enjoy a fresh drink along with the all you can eat buffet. Osteria Santo Spirito Osteria Santo Spirito is located on the left corner in the Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence. It was a warm summer day with a 30 minute wait for lunch. While my friends and I were waiting outside the waiters gave us glasses of champagne as an apology for the wait. I was impressed with their customer service and dedication to make sure every customer whether eating or waiting was content. When a table was available and I was looking over the menu I decided to try the most popular item on the menu called “gnocchi gratinati al formaggi morbidi al profumo di tartufo”.  This popular dish consists of potatoe gnocchi and tomatoes in a soft cheese truffle sauce. Out of the 11 weeks I spent in Italy and the many different gnocchi I tried, the “gnocchi gratinati al formaggi morbidi al profumo di tartufo” is still the best ghocchi Iv’e had. Anyone who enjoys gnocchi along with a creamy sauce I would recommend ordering. This restaurant is a classic Italian tavern with a variety […]

Around Monte Amiata: A touch of rural Tuscany

Monte Amiata from Montepulciano Quintessential Tuscany Leaving the beautiful village of Monticchiello, in the heart of the ‘UNESCO world cultural landscape’ of the Val d’Orcia Siena region, we made our way to the old volcanic lava dome of Monte Amiata. Our drive took us through the quintessentially beautiful countryside for which Tuscany is well known. Sunflower fields, golden grain swaying in the warm but gentle breeze making patterns on the fields, and rolled bales of hay presented a relaxed vacation feel to the countryside. The breathtaking scenes combine on a colourful canvas which includes small villages dotted among the rolling hills, quaint old stone houses, and modern Tuscan style farmhouses up cypress tree-lined avenues. Tuscan countryside, farmhouse and hill town on way to Monte Amiata Shadows from Cypress trees line the driveway to a farmhouse in mid-evening near Monte Amiata, Tuscany, Italy Rural scene, Tuscany with Olive and Cypress trees and harvested fields Monticchiello Picture pretty, this small hilltop town where we stayed for several days captured our hearts. Said to be more than 1000 years old, some of the best views of the surrounding countryside towards Montepulciano and the nearby hilltop town of Pienza can be seen from the viewing point just outside the town walls main gateway. Twisting roads, Cypress trees and rolled hay bales in Rural Tuscany near Monticchiello Pienza from across the valley from Monticchiello, Tuscany, Italy Inside the walls, the town is alive with restaurants, outdoor visual art displays, stylish accommodation and the locals enjoy gardens of colourful potted plants. The town square becomes an outdoor theatre for concerts starting late on the warm summer nights and an atmosphere of joyfulness pervades this town we made as our base for discovering Southern Tuscany. Monticchiello Tuscan food in Osteria La Porto Restaurant Monticchiello Art exhibition in the olive grove in Monticchiello Potted colour on the doorstep of a house in Monticchiello Wire sculpture exhibition in the square, Monticchiello, Tuscany, Italy Passing Pienza Close by Monticchiello is the turnoff to the town of Pienza, the birthplace of Pope Pius II (elected Pope in 1458). Fashioned into a renaissance city starting in 1459, in 1996 it became a UNESCO world heritage site. A visit to this town is a must to view the renowned architectural monuments in the Piazza Pio II square, along with enjoying the wonderful local Tuscan cuisine. Rural Tuscany beneath Pienza, Italy   The Cathedral (Duomo) in Pienza’s Plazza Pio II, Tuscany, Italy   The ceiling of the renovated Cathedral in Pienza, Tuscany, Italy   A scale model of the Piazza Pio II buildings in the museum in Pienza, Tuscany, Italy   A stone plaque to Pope Pius II in the museum, Pienza, Tuscany, Italy   Local cheese and other produce for sale in Pienza, Tuscany, Italy   An old colourful plant lined street in Pienza, Tuscany, Italy The forested drive to Monte Amiata The whole area has inspired many poets and artists, and the cypress trees added a touch of special magic to the […]

7 Things You Did Not Know About Genova

  Some of you might know already that I have been living in Genova for almost a year now. Before deciding to move here, I have travelled throughout Italy quite a lot and the thing that felt different here was the impression it left upon me from the first moment. As generally understood, Italy is mostly about history, art and beauty – while here I saw a  city of contrasts. Among the multitude of cultures and influences, the contrast between the noble and the outcast, the luxurious palaces and the anti-system street-art and social activism, the sea and the mountains, walking its streets sometimes transported me far away – just to be drawn back by the smell of coffee and the delicious taste of pesto. I have decided to stay and get indulged into its perfume- and months later, I am sure to say that I am not regretting it.  Let us explore together and mostly, let me share my experience – so far – of this beautiful seaport of the Italian Riviera. Main Seaport of Italy It is true, not the Italian city per excellence – since definitely, one that goes for a trip to Italy would choose among Rome, Florence, Venice, Bologna or even Naples. Thing is, Genova has quite a story to tell, and unless you have been here to walk its streets, eat its delicious food and breath its sea-breeze, you will not understand what it has to offer. Not many know that it is the most important seaport of Italy – and forms, together with Milan and Turin, the 'Industrial triangle'. On top of that, it is the place where the first modern banks emerged (indeed, the one in Sienna being the first). That means that a lot of noble families have been residing here – hence the luxury and the palaces.   Unesco World Heritage The most charming parts of the city are the old town and the seafront! The old town of course because of its colours and smells, its red light district and public display of illicit substances *and services* – this whole mix creates the vibe of the city and renders it unique. You either love it or you accept it (this is not India, nope!). You would be amazed by the diversity of people walking its streets – its strong African vibe it is felt even in the nightlife as well as the cuisine and shops. Then, there are lots of Asiatic people – such as Bangladeshis and Chinese, South American (broadly from Peru and Ecuador) as well as Albanians and Russians. Whether you hear Arabic, Mandarin or Wolof, nothing will take you by surprise. Then, of course, the number of cafes, restaurants with ethnic specificity is unbelievable, so you will never get bored. Top Figures Well, besides the bankers, the top noble figures which I bet you have no interest in – on top of the list should be mentioned the world-renowned explorer Christopher Columbus (his house due to various […]

Discovering some of the best panoramic views in Calabria

Italy has a hidden secret rich in history, panoramic views and natural beauty.  This secret is Calabria. Yet to be discovered by many. Once you see what it has to offer, you will not want to leave. Scilla is the jewel of Italy and a place of legend and beauty When I saw this picturesque village for the first time, I was absolutely spellbound by its natural beauty, colours and deep blue sea. It is located close to Reggio Calabria in Italy. I could not wait to explore this delight. I was full of joy when walking around and discovering its narrow streets and little houses with window boxes and walls displaying the most beautiful flowers of Calabria. The houses all seemed to be standing next to each other in pretty rows and high above the cliffs. I then headed down to the seafront and onto the most beautiful beach. I was mesmerised by the wonderful panoramic view of Ruffo Castle, one of the most beautiful views in Italy.   Chianalea and its typical restaurants on stilts I recommend visiting Chianalea. You need to follow the promenade towards Ruffo castle where you will see a covered walkway. Beyond the rock where the Ruffo castle proudly sits, you will see many colourful fishing boats moored and a very narrow road will take you to a panoramic area where you can catch glimpses of the sea alongside the many characteristic restaurants in this street. Here it is worth stopping for lunch to taste the local speciality sword fish and admire the view or have dinner with the most incredible purple sunset. Most of the restaurants are built on stilts and overlook the sea where according to legend, Ulysses managed to escape the deadly sea creatures Scylla and Charybdis.     Palmi and its amazing sunsets Palmi is not so far from Scilla. It is also located on the viola coast (purple coast) which is renowned for its incredible sunsets. I decided to go early evening so I could experience this spectacle. The centre is very pretty but what really caught my eye was the public park. It was so well kept, the meeting point for the locals in the evening. What I did not expect was for the park to lead me to a wonderful panoramic viewpoint where I could see almost the whole of the viola coast. I waited patiently to view this sunset which so many locals recommended me to do. I was overwhelmed by the colours in the sky as the sun started to set. Shades of yellow then orange and at last those eagerly-awaited hues of purple.   The famous rock of Pietragrande Pietragrande is located near Catanzaro lido and Soverato on the “costa degli aranci” (coast of the oranges) in Italy. There is a rock jutting out of the water, hence the name of the little town surrounding it. To reach the seafront, you can start from the top of the town just off the motorway and […]

The Amalfi Coast: Experience Southern Italy

Amalfi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with cultural and historic significance. Small, pretty and colourful towns sit neatly on dramatic cliffs, offering scenic coastal views. It’s also very romantic: from the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean sea and colourful towns tucked into the steep hills; to the classic music concerts held at Ravello (if you’re a fan of Wagner, check out the annual outdoor concerts); to the delicious, authentic pizzas (try pizza al taglio) and gelatos; to the chic fashion boutiques (visit Positano); to the homely, traditional pottery and other mementos you can pick up to remember your trip to this magical place. It was mid April when I traveled with my Italian partner to meet family in the beautiful coast of Amalfi. We realised only when we got back from the trip that had we gone just weeks later, the weather would have been perfect. Although we encountered cold winds and overcast days during our one-week trip, we had one of our best holidays, owing to the shimmering turquoise sea on sunny days and the rich culture, food and colours of southern Italy. Preparing for your visit The best time of year to visit the Amalfi  is in blossoming Spring! (May-June) If you go earlier, you will get grey, grey skies and cold weather, and who wants that? If you go in spring or early summer the flowers are in bloom, spreading their scent and vibrant colours far and wide. What to pack Good walking shoes are a must. Gear up for a lot of walking, especially if you want to explore the string of towns: Amalfi, Atrani, Maori, Minori by foot, which includes walking down narrow cobbled streets and along winding roads that overlook lemon and orange gardens above the sea. Not to mention climbing up and down steep flights of stairs daily! Pack light cardigans and jackets in case you’re outdoors and it gets chilly. You’ll also want to pack a good outfit for going out. Bring an umbrella that fits in your handbag, if you’re going in April especially – it rained sometimes during our trip. Where to stay We stayed at a homely, family-run B & B and were picked up at the Naples airport by the owner. Our bedroom had a stunning view of the bluest of seas. We enjoyed breakfast of freshly squeezed juice and warm croissants on the little balcony overlooking the sea. I highly recommend Pio’s B & B: ‘Eva Rooms’. Like all places in Amalfi, there is a great deal of staircase climbing as Campania is a hilly region. Getting Around Bus rides, boat rides and tours expand your reach to must-see places like Positano, Capri islands, Ravello. And if you have the time, extend yourself to Pompeii, Sorrento and Naples as well. We didn’t have the spare time to go beyond Amalfi coast, but have heard so much about these historic cities. Speaking of missed opportunities, we nearly made it to the blue grotto, but the weather that […]

The best hiking routes in Italy: Dolomites, Como, Camogli, Amalfi

Simple, but very scenic routes throughout the Apennine Peninsula – no more than one day is required to go there and back! In Italy, a lot of great places for hiking. Choose the best among them – not an easy task even for an experienced traveler. The website WhyGo Italy turned to Madeline Javar, who worked as a guide on hiking routes in this country for several years, with a request to choose five best tracks. If you are going on a trip to Italy and love hiking, you should set aside at least one day for this activity. The routes listed below require from two hours to a whole day and at least initial walking skills. All of them intersect with well-known and larger tracks, but there is practically no crowded. Routes are presented from the very north to the southernmost.   1. The track “Ville de Pan” in the Dolomites This route offers beautiful views of Marmolada – one of the most famous peaks of the Dolomites. One of the main advantages of hiking in this region is the cable cars operating all year round, so even those who do not like hiking can go up and see the stunning mountain scenery, and then just as easily go down. In addition, there are restaurants in the mountains, in which there are rooms in case there is a desire to stay overnight. The route starts in the city of Canazei, at the Belvedere lift (coordinates: 46.474175, 11.774638). The journey on one way takes three hours. It is necessary to descend the mountain for 430 meters and rise – 120 meters. The highest point reaches 2,450 meters above sea level. The track is well marked; It is one of the most popular in the Dolomites due to the views of Marmolada. Along the way, there are at least five restaurants where you can have lunch. Important: they only work during the season, from July 20 to September 25. Book a place in the opening hours of the lift is not necessary. The route ends at Fedaya Lake. If you do not want to go back on foot, you can get back to Canazei by bus. In the summer they drive often enough. However, it is important to note that after the end of the lift, the frequency of their flights is greatly reduced, so that it is better to go on the route at the beginning of the day. After 16-17 hours, it will be more difficult to return to the city – to the extent that you have to take a taxi.     2. Greenway Road, Lake Como Along the shores of Lake Como, there are many excellent routes, but the ten-kilometer Greenway road is one of the most popular due to the views that open along the way. On the Italian Lakes website you can see a nice, but unfortunately rather a small map of the route. Greenway is a well-marked road on the west bank of […]

Visit Italy’s San Marino, the World’s Smallest Country

If you’re planning a trip to the Mediterranean, or Italy, then definitely take a road trip through to San Marino while you’re there – the world’s smallest, and oldest, country. For the most part, San Marino is an unexplored gem in the middle of the Italian countryside, often ignored, overlooked, or visited just for the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the capital city. About San Marino San Marino is officially known as The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, and it’s one of the most intriguing countries in the world. Something of an enigma thanks to its off-the-beaten-track status and lack of tourist traps – for the most part – San Marino is completely landlocked by Italy, and benefits from the amazing Mediterranean weather of that region. In fact, the country once belonged to Italy, gaining independence in 301AD – making it the oldest surviving sovereign state ever. In fact, it was founded during the 4th century by a saint of the very same name, once a stone-mason fleeing from Dalmatia because of the religious persecution that pervaded the medieval time period. The capital city, Città di San Marino is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, complete with beautiful arches, ramparts, and the picturesque, famous slopes of Mount Titano. The capital is the most touristy area of the country, and outside of this, there are sweeping fields and countryside, with countless villages set amongst a backdrop of fairy-tale lakes and forests. Top things to do in San Marino Rocca Guaita One of the three notable peaks overlooking San Marino, Rocca Guaita is the most famous, first constructed during the 11th century. The three towers all combine to form part of San Marino’s flag, and Guaita is typically considered in the same round trip as Torre Cesta – which is home to an interesting museum about the traditional weaponry of the country. Climbing to the top is well worth the hike, with views across miles of land – all the way to the Dalmatian Coast. State Museum of San Marino Not only the world’s smallest country but San Marino is also the oldest – plus it’s managed to stay safe from hordes of tourists, having recently won the title of “least visited country in Europe”. The city has barely changed since its original conception – and you can see that history played out in the State Museum, with artifacts and information that dates back to the 5th century BC. In fact, some of the exhibitions hold objects from the Neolithic Period, as well as ancient Etruscan and Roman items, and paintings and artwork from the 1600s. Watch the changing of the guard A summer tradition in San Marino, the changing of the guard takes place multiple times a day during the months of June-September. The ceremony takes place in Piazza della Liberta, with the guards dressed in dark green double-breasted jackets, red trousers complete with a green stripe, hats with red pompoms, and even white gaiters. Museum of Curiosities Definitely one […]

Practical tips for traveling in the Amalfi Coast and region

The Amalfi Coast and the cities nearby were my favorite place to visit in Italy, the perfect combination of good food, beautiful beaches, and a bit of culture and history. There are so many things to do and see there and besides saying that it so worth it going, I’m giving you a few practical tips: Transportation The main way of moving thru the cities is by train (Naples to Sorrento) and by bus (Sorrento to Ravello). The train is very good and cheap to go to one city to the next, so if you are in Naples and want to go to the Amalfi Coast, the train is your best option to get to Sorrento. To visit Positano, Amalfi and Ravello there is a Bus, “Hop In, Hop Of” style: you pay one ticket and the bus passes by all the cities and you can get out and then come back or go to the next city. The ticket is valid for the full day. If you decide to rent a car, be aware that the road has many sharp curves, it looks really dangerous so be careful. And try to go up or down a hill with a Forniculare, a kind of train that goes up and down steep inclined slopes, just because it’s so different and so fun. Food Like any city in Italy, food must be in your plans. I recommend eating all the Neapolitan Pizza you can and for dessert the famous Gelato (Italian’s Ice Cream). Beaches Be aware that in every city there will be private and public beaches, and although the private beaches are bigger and prettier, there is no reason not to go to the public ones. The ocean is incredibly blue, and the water has a nice temperature, at least during the summer. Most of the beaches are made of small stones instead of sand, which can be a bit sore but at least you will not get out dirty by the sand. Pompeii The city that was buried by an intense rain of ashes during an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius is open for visitation. You can go to Pompeii by train either from Naples or from Sorrento. Even if you are traveling with a short budget, try to set aside enough money to buy the guided tour thru the city. All aspects of the city and the civilization’s history are amazing, and if you don’t hire a guide you will miss a lot of the history. Capri Another main stop is the Island of Capri. To get there you need to go on a ferry. There are a few ports and I went thru the one located in Sorrento. It’s okay to just spend the day there, but you also can stay in one of the hotels on the island. If you want to visit the Blue Grotto, you will need to arrive early and pray for the tide to collaborate, if the tide is too high it will […]

A day trip to the ruins of Pompeii from Naples

Pompeii is one of the most important and famous part of Italy’s history. The city is situated at the bottom of the Italian volcano which is called Vesuvius (Vesuvio in Italian). Nowadays Pompeii is divided into two parts: the ancient one is the ruins after the eruption, while the modern one is placed under the hill. In the past Pompeii was one of the ancients cities of the state. It was big and rich, thanks to the trade with the Greeks, but the volcano erupted and covered all the city with its inhabitants. It was a shock for the people who lived in the city because they didn’t know that “Mount Vesuvio” was a volcano. The experts found a letter of a merchant in which he describes very well the disaster and the days after it. Lava and ashes covered all the places around the volcano, included Pompeii, and a lot of people died in their houses. The experts started to digged out the ancient ruins of the city which were buried that day. All the things, houses, bodies.. everything has remained the same as in the past. Hence, the museum of Pompeii ruins is literally the old city which has been excavated, and to see them you have to walk among the streets of the city: it’s like a huge archaeological outdoor site. There are people that are constantly working to discover new pieces of the city under the rubbles, for this reason, every year there are news and particular expositions in the two little museums inside the ancient city. For instance, the last year (2018) was found an inscription in charcoal which dates the event on 24 of October of 79 a.d., two months after what we believed until then. How to get to the ruins of Pompeii from Naples by train I went there during my trip to Naples. Pompeii is just 40 km from there so I take the train from the central station which in Italian is called: Circumvesuviana Napoli – Sorrento. The easiest way to get to Pompeii is the train cause you have just to go to the central station and that’s it. The bus is always late and I strongly advise against drive in Naples: they are crazy, there is no parking and you risk to bruise the car every time. There is a train every half hour. The train is very old but the positive side of this is the view from the windows during the travel. To go to Pompei you have to get off the train at the stop called Pompei villa dei misteri. Tickets: how much they cost and where to buy them At this point, I walked for 5 minutes and I arrived at the main entrance of Pompeii: Piazza Anfiteatro. There are three entrances to the ancient part of Pompei ( Piazza Anfiteatro, Porta Marina, Piazza Esedra), and there you can buy the ticket to start the visit. I arrived there at 10.00 and there was […]

Best things to do in Palermo besides visiting churches!

Of course, Italy is known for its beautiful churches and architecture, but for me, visiting buildings all day would get boring after a while. If you agree, continue reading and I will tell you what else you can do in the city of the godfather. I am going to help you to find the best markets, food and places to relax!   1. Mercado delle Pulci Most of the markets in Palermo are about food and groceries, for tourists and also the locals. If you are looking for antiquities and old books or you just like to rummage through all kinds of things, you should visit the “Mercato Delle Pulci”, which is a nice flea market with different stores, build from corrugated iron around trees. It is not crowded at all because not many tourists find their way to this strange place. It may take some time to buy something because you first need to find the seller, who is probably somewhere playing cards with other locals! Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 8:30-18:00; Sunday: 8:30-13:00   2. Orto Botanico The botanical garden is an amazing place to relax from all the walking in the city. With many different trees and flowers, it makes a great place to spend some time far from traffic and stress. There is a small entrance fee, but if you like nature it’s totally worth it! If you still don’t want to return to the city center, you can visit “Villa Giulia”, a public park right next to the garden or go to the ocean, which is also just a few minutes away. Opening times: Monday to Sunday: 9:00-19:00 Price: 10€   3. Giardino Garibaldi If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee of the botanical garden, you could visit the “Giardino Garibaldi”. A public park, way smaller, but you can see the majestical ficus trees, which reminds of a magical forest! Opening times: Monday to Sunday: 8:00-18:00   4. Street art If you like art, you will be amazed, by all the graffiti and paintings you will find on the streets of Palermo. Don’t always stay on the main streets and pay attention to your surroundings and you will see many different artworks!   5. Markets If you want to spend less money or just like markets, there are two names you should remember: “Mercato Ballarò” and “Vucciria”. There are some other markets, but these two are really close to the city center. Mercato Ballaró Instead of going to restaurants every day, you should try Palermo’s street food! On the markets, you can get many different traditional Sicilian dishes from “Stigghiola” to “Pane con la Milza” or you buy groceries like the locals and cook something yourself! Opening times: Monday to Saturday: 7:00-19:00; Sunday: 7:00-13:00   Vucciria “La Vucciria” is in the old town of Palermo and it has everything from antiquities to street food. The center is a little square with street food and restaurants. It’s definitely worth a visit if you like […]

Ancona travel guide: An Italian pitstop worth visiting

Situated on the eastern coast of Central Italy is the small port town of Ancona, whose name is ancient Greek for elbow given its interesting shape and location on the Adriatic sea. For many tourists who arrive at its famous port, this ancient city is often just a travel pitstop on their way to explore other parts of Europe. But take it from an American expat who lived in this capital city of Italy’s Le Marche region, there is so much more to explore below the surface and many reasons to stay and visit. Why visit Ancona: Top attractions Chances are if you’ve heard or traveled through Ancona, you arrived by train, by ferry or even docked with a cruise ship for a few hours. You may have even arrived at Aeroporto delle Marche, which lies about 30 minutes from Ancona’s center and is the largest airport in the region. So you’re in a new town, unsure of your surroundings and are wondering what interesting things there are to see, eat and explore. Where to shop in Ancona Our tour of Ancona starts in the city center, a short five-minute walk from the port, a 10-minute taxi or bus ride from the train station, Stazione di Ancona. The main shopping corridor in Ancona is Corso Garibaldi, the old town’s hub for shopping and people watching. Strolling along this pedestrian-friendly promenade, you’ll find familiar shops like Zara, Max Mara, as well as high-end designers like Gucci, and sprinkled in are some unique Italian boutiques. Where to eat in Ancona   Fresh gnocchi at Rosa food Along the main Corso and near Piazza del Plebiscito (also known as Piazza del Papa) are also several restaurants and cafes where one can sip a midday espresso or have a refreshing Aperol Spritz. Best spots to grab lunch or dinner in the center include: La Degosteria Caffe Giuliani Rosa Food Mazzini 62 Rosticceria Gelato from Rosa Food If you visit during the summer, take advantage of eating alfresco and grab an outdoor table under an umbrella. You’ll get to savor a wonderful meal and enjoy some people watching at the same time. Dining tips in Ancona Something to note if you decide to stop at the other local eateries in Ancona, Italians tend to adhere to meal times so don’t be surprised if some restaurants are closed before noon and after 2:30 p.m., and don’t reopen again for dinner until 7 p.m. Don’t despair, there’s plenty of cafes where you can grab a panino or enjoy a snack. Oh, and when possible, always make a reservation. Must see places in Ancona Chiesa San Francesco From above: Duomo of San Ciriaco, Parco del Cardeto Between the northern end of Corso Garibaldi and the port is Piazza della Repubblica anchored by the Teatro delle Muse, the city’s performing arts center. Go up the inclined road to the right of the theatre, pass the popular nightlife spot Piazza del Papa, and make your way to Piazza San Francesco. […]
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