Five reasons to visit Verona

This post is on the self-indulgent side.

For the last few months I’ve been armchair travelling with the best of them, and I’ve planned multiple adventures all across the globe.

The place that sparked these mass itineraries? Verona.

I first went to Verona several years ago on a day trip from Milan. My bus took hours to get there and by the time I arrived, it was heaving with other tourists and I could scarcely move let alone wander around to truly take in the sites. Ever since that busy and bustling day, I’ve wanted to go back and here’s why.

  1. Volunteer as a secretary of Juliet

Volunteering to be one of Juliet’s secretaries is on my travel bucket list. Like most people, I heard about Juliet’s secretaries thanks to the film Letters to Juliet.

The idea of plunging into a writing adventure in Italy is truly exhilarating. I would love nothing more than putting pen to paper and giving lovers legitimate advise on their heartache. I know I’ve probably romanticised this experience in my head. But who doesn’t romanticise travel? As long as I can incorporate travel and writing with a big bowl of pasta, then it’s all good.

2. Visit a Prosecco vineyard

When I lived in Italy, I was a poor student who spent her evenings drinking wine out of the carton (don’t hate me, hate my bank balance). I was never able to fork out and spend the day frolicking around a vineyard slightly tipsy whilst I learn more about the local grapes. Now I’m slightly older, visiting a Prosecco vineyard in Italy has gone onto my must-see list. I’ve specified Prosecco because it’s my preferred tipple, but any good vineyard will do – I’m not picky, promise!

3. Go to the opera

I’ve actually been to an Italian opera before at a theatre in Bari, but experiencing an opera in an amphitheatre is a whole different ball game and one I’m there for.

4. Wandering through Shakespeare’s inspiration

When I travel, I make it my mission to soak in all the literary sites. There’s a reason landmarks, coffee shops and street corners have inspired authors and to follow in their footsteps and feel an ounce of their inspiration always gives me the shivers. Verona is a bookworms haven and it’s largely thanks to William Shakespeare. Not only is Verona the sitting of the feud between the montages and the capulets, but the city also inspired more of Shakespeares plays including the Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Merry Wives of Windsor. As a literature buff, I’m dying to walk in Shakespeare’s Italian shoes and jot down a story or two myself.

5. A day trip to Lake Garda

Visiting the Italian lakes has been a dream of mine for yonks. A few years ago, I spent my New Years Eve at Lago Maggiore. It was a beautiful trip, but there wasn’t the time or a valid reason to drive for hours to visit Lake Garda. I know a day trip to Lake Garda is wishful thinking, it’s really a holiday in itself but if I was ever in the region, I would definitely carve up some time to see this lakeside.

I hope you enjoyed this slightly self-indulgent post. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post and you want to see more from me. I’d also like to know where you want to visit next and why?

Thanks for reading,

Hope

x

Five reasons Bari is the perfect Puglia hub

For those readers who don’t know, I spent a year living in Bari when I was a student. Not only does it offer the perfect lifestyle for an out of their depth Brit learning the lingo and the Italian way of life, but it was also a great base to plan another adventure. Cheap flights and coaches meant I couple explore other Italian regions. But before I embarked on my trips to Venice, Syracuse, Naples and Pisa, I used Bari as a hub for my trips across Puglia.  

Puglia is a southern region in Italy, which forms the heel of the Italian boot. One of the more lesser-trodden travel paths for tourists seeking an Italian getaway, Puglia has miles of serene coastline, cities filled with architecture and culinary surprises at every corner. 

To make the most of a Pugliese getaway, pack your bags and park yourself up in Puglia’s capital city, Bari. 

It’s steeped in its own culture 

An important Byzantine town, Bari has continued to flourish throughout the centuries and is the south of Italy’s most important city after Naples. 

Spend afternoon wandering around the labyrinth that is Bari Vecchia. Formed of tight alleyways, Bari’s historical centre is home to around 40 churches. 

Arguably the most famous is Basilica di San Nicola. Built in the Puglian-Romanesque style, its facade is striking. You’ll be equally impressed by the inside, which houses the remains of St Nicholas in a vaulted crypt. 

Grab an ice cream from Martinucci Laboratory (my personal favourite) as you soak in the architecture in Piazza Mercantile. 

At sunset, stretch your legs and take a walk along Bari’s lungomare and watch the colours of the horizon changes and the lamplight sparkle atop of the Adriatic. 

For a real taste of the Italian lifestyle, head to Bari during the festival of San Nicola. The streets are flooded with locals. Parades and food stalls line the streets and fireworks and flybys fill the air. 

Well connected to regional towns and attractions 

Puglia is packed full of historical towns and cities, which are a stones throw away from Bari. Arguably, the easiest way to travel around Puglia is via car. However, if like me, you can’t drive or just want to be more environmentally friendly, then you’ll be pleased to know that Bari’s public transport network is surprisingly well-connected. 

From Bari’s main train station, Bari Centrale, you’ll be able to jump on a train to Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Ostuni, Lecce, Alberbello and plenty of other towns and attractions. Next to Bari Centrale, is the private train company Ferrovia Appulo Lucane. From there, you’ll be able to jump on a train to Matera, Basilicata. 

Tickets are relatively cheap and you’ll be able to grab a return ticket for less than 2 euros. Be sure to book your tickets or arrive early to get your tickets as trains do sell out in Italian and you don’t want to be stuck with a slow regional service or no service after you’ve spent ages planning the perfect day. 

Polignano a Mare
A quaint but colourful side street in Alberobello

It has a beach 

The pane pomodoro in Bari may not be the most serene or picturesque beach in the world, but it’s a beach none the less. Grab yourself a peroni, a book and a beach towel and soak up the sun.

 If you fancy something more instagrammable and can’t drive to those sought after spots, then I recommend jumping on a train to Polignano a Mare where a stony beach is just a short walk from the train station. 

The food 

It’s the golden rule of holidaying in Italy, you must eat as much pizza, pasta and ice-cream as humanly possible. Apart from the holy trinity, Bari has a few other culinary tricks up his sleeve. 

First up is a personal favourite of mine, Panzerotti. Essentially, it’s a small calzone that is traditionally filled with mozzarella and tomato sauce and then deep fat fried. Make sure to grab one from a takeaway that is packed with locals.  

If you’re after your pasta hit, make sure to try some orecchiette. This ear-shaped pasta is local to the region. I recommend grabbing some of the fresh kind as a spot of pranzo. No trip to Italy is complete without a huge chunk of cheese, so make sure to try some freshly made burrata. It’s much better than the supermarket versions you find in the UK. 

Like the rest of Italy, sea food in Puglia is mouth watering. But if you’re after something fresh, get some octopus (polpo) it’s caught fresh off the coast and prepared in several ways. My favourite – the burger. 

The people 

When I first moved to Bari, I spoke absolutely no Italian. I tried making my way through a course on Duolingo but the stress really got to me. 

Instead, I did my very best to immerse myself in the language when I arrived and with the encourage of my friendly locals I managed to pick up a word or two. They were patient with my flustered ordering and around the food markets, store holders taught me some much-needed bartering lingo. In my experience, Italians are patient, kind and all-too happy to hear you fumble your way through an order. For me, the people made Bari and I can’t wait to head back soon.  

If you enjoyed this, then you might want to read my posts about: 

Thanks for reading! 

Hope 

How to spend a day in San Marino

Visiting the mountainous micro state of San Marino has been on my travel bucket list of years. As someone who can’t drive, it had been too difficult to get to when I lived in Italy on public transport.  But years later when I started planning my trip to Emilia-Rogmana, I knew this had to be top of my must-see list. 

From Rimini, travelling to San Marino via public transport is easy. Simply jump on a Bonelli Bus Service, the time table changes throughout the seasons, so I’d advise checking the bus times ahead of schedule. As you can’t book in advance, I would recommend heading to the bus stop early, to ensure that you get a seat (it got very busy when we were there!). Return tickets cost €10, so make sure you have some cash to hand. Once on board, the journey will take about one hour. 

This bus service is used by locals, so many will be hopping on and off while they’re going about their day. Personally, I enjoyed watching the day-to-day to happen. 

The bus stops outside the gates leading into the city of San Marino. Despite being at the base of the city, the views are already breath-taking, so make sure you soak in those sites.

Once you’ve taken your fill of pics, head into the heart of the city. The cobbled stone streets are steep, but undeniably picturesque.

The first attraction you’ll come across in San Marino Liberty Square, which houses the Public Palace. To take a wonder around the Palace, you’ll need to buy an entry ticket. You can get a multi-museum entry ticket for €10.50. 

Tip: Head around the museums when the sun is at its strongest, you’ll be thankful of the break.

Palazzo Pubblico and Piazza della Liberta
Basilica di San Marino

After a quick tour around the public palace, you’ll want to start taking in San Marino’s main tourist attractions: the three towers of Guaita, Cesta and the Montale. 

I would recommend setting the day aside simply for the first two towers. They are the largest two towers (you can’t actually go inside the third tower). You can pay for entry into just the towers, but if you want to visit the other attractions then I think the mule-museum ticket is worth the extra 5 euros. 

The climb up to the towers was quite steep but it’s very doable if you’re wearing the right shoes. Keep plenty of water on you too, there will be market sellers with water for sale nearer the towers, but the price will be extortionate, so it’s always a good idea to carry your own, and don’t forget your suncream! 

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to climb each tower and soak in the sites at the top of each one, your ticket is only valid for one visit, so make the most of your adventure. 

If you’re only there for a day, I’d recommend leaving in a little bit of time to shop, eat and drink. We had an almighty pranzo after we finished climbing the towers, and picked a bottle of spirit or two as a souvenir.  

Once you’ve had your fill of San Marino, you’ll need to queue for your bus ride home. Make sure you get there early as it’ll be just as busy as the morning rush. We grabbed ourselves a granita and cooled off while we waited, which gave us more time to soak in those views. 

Cost of the day:

  • A return bus ticket: €10
  • Multi-museum ticket: €10.50
  • Food (roughly): €25*
  • Total: €45.50
  • *You can spend as much or as little as you like on food and drinks, so don’t count this as an essential but more of a guide when you’re planning your own trip

If you liked this, then you may also like these posts:

Thanks for reading!

Hope

Disclaimer: I took this trip in 2018, when there were no covid-19 restrictions on travel. 

10 things to do in Lisbon

The yellow trams, domed cathedrals, grand plazas and picturesque hillsides of Lisbon have been attracting tourists to this Portuguese capital for decades.

In 2019, I was lucky enough to visit this capital city twice. For both trips, my itinerary was jam-packed full of attractions, food and drink. So here are just a few tried and test activities that you should consider on your next trip…

  1. Take a ride on tram 28

If you know me, then you’ll know I’m not afraid of using public transport abroad. It’s often a cheaper and better way to travel but in Lisbon, tram 28 has become a must for tourists. While the journey isn’t ground-breaking, it is after all a tram ride, the old-school style trams are rather sweet. To avoid the crowds, I’d recommend jumping on this tram from the Parça do Comércio and hopping off near the Castelo de São Jorge early in the morning. Maybe skip your hotel breakfast and head to a coffee shop packed full of locals near the castle instead.

2. Take a stroll around Castelo de São Jorge

Views from Castelo de São Jorge
Me exploring Castelo de São Jorge
Exploring Castelo de São Jorge
Views from Castelo de São Jorge

Towering dramatically over the rest of the city, this 11th Century castle provides a keen insight into Lisbon’s history. Wander around the ramparts and shadowed courtyards for spectacular views over the city’s rooftops. Again, heading here early is key. But I must admit sitting in the courtyard with a glass of vinho verde in the afternoon was very tempting.

3. Wander around Alfama

Alfama is one of Lisbon’s oldest areas. You’ll be delighted by quaint buildings and the culturally rich architecture at every turn. We found ourselves meandering into a wine bar.

4. Visit Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Torre de Belém in Belém

Situated 6km west of the centre of Lisbon, this district is a both whimsical and tranquil. As we were travelling on a budget, we didn’t have the cash to go around either. If you’re in the same boat and it’s sunny out, grab an ice cream and take a wander around the outside of these attractions. You’ll still be able to soak in the impressive architecture.

5. Head over to Sintra

It’s dewy woodlands, colourful castles and exotic gardens will make you think that you’ve fallen into a fairytale. A short train ride from Lisbon’s city centre, Sintra is another tourist hotspot. Once you’ve hopped off the train, you can chose to walk, or pay for a bus ride up to visit the castles. We chose to walk our way to the top. But if you’ve got cash to spare and your legs are sore, a bus ride never hurt. We actually arrived five minutes after the castles closed on New Year’s Eve, but the views were still stunning and so was the food we grabbed after.

6. Take in the views on the Rua Agusta Arch

Rua Agusta Arch

Maybe the views from Castelo de São Jorge weren’t enough for, or maybe you just wanted to see what this stone triumph has to offer, whatever the reason, the views are incredible. After you’ve climbed the spiral staircases, you’ll be at the best panoramic spot in town.

7. Eat a pastel de nata

This Portuguese custard tart is heavenly. I recommend grabbing one with an espresso for a light breakfast.

8. Take a bite at Time Out market

Time Out market

If you’re after some local Portuguese seafood (and beers), then Time Out Market has got you covered.

9. Drink at a rooftop bar

Aperol at Topo

Before I went to Lisbon, my friend recommend the rooftop bar Topo. Here, you can grab a drink and a bite to eat as you watch the sunset.

10. Take a shot of Ginja

A shot of ginja in Sintra

Once you’ve had one shot of this sweet cherry liqueur, you’ll want another. The A Ginjinha bar is the best place to grab a shot. I recommend asking for your first one ‘con frutta’.

Eight hours in Ravenna

A city famous for its intricate mosaics, Ravenna is an absolute must for any traveller exploring Emilia-Romagna. 

In a previous post, I explained why Rimini is an ideal travel hub for exploring this northern Italian region. It takes just under an hour to reach the former capital of the Western Roman Empire from Rimini. 

Before you head down to Rimini Central Station, I would recommend checking out train times and prices on the Tren Italia website. Usually, a return ticket costs just under €10, but prices can vary and trains can sell out too. So make sure you’re not the one boarding a 90-minute service. 

We arrived in Ravenna just as the sleepy city was waking up and made a beeline for a coffee and a pastry. 

Ravenna’s cobbled streets coming to life

Once we’d recharged our batteries, we headed down to the first of Ravenna’s monuments. Steeped in history, these monuments aren’t to be missed and for €12 entry into all five, you’d kick yourself for missing out. 

With our tickets purchased, we made a beeline for the Basilica di San Vitale. This 6th Century church exemplifies Ravenna’s unique architecture. From the outside, it’s red brick walls aren’t very revealing but inside it’s covered in a splendour of mosaics. This basilica was built as a tribute to the Emperor Justinian, whose face you can’t miss in Ravenna. 

The entry ticket
Basilica di San Vitale
Basilica di San Vitale
Inside the Basilica di San Vitale

Inside, the light is low and the temperature refreshing, if you’re trekking around on a hot summer’s day like us. One the walls, tiny deep green tiles are interlaced with gold and depict key scenes. Try to take in as much as you can because it’s truly a wonder to behold. 

Adjacent to the Basilica of San Vitale is another monument called Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. This mausoleum was built for Galla Placidia (the half sister of Emperor Honorius). Originally intended as her final resting place, it was never actually used for that purpose as the she died in Rome and was buried there instead. Despite this common misconception (I was none the wiser until I read a plaque), it’s still worth a visit. Of the five monuments, this is arguably the most unassuming from the outside but once you’re plunged into the depths of the tomb you are once again surrounded in breathtakingly intricate mosaics. 

From there, we took things at a slower pace and wandered around Ravenna’s cobbled streets and  grabbed some postcards for friends and family. 

Bicycles adorned the side streets of Ravenna
Away from the throng, an unassuming white statue

After a quick bite of bruschetta and a glass of wine, we headed over to the Battistero Neoniano. This is Ravenna’s oldest intact building. This Christian baptistry was built in an octagonal shape. Then, a Century later it was decorated with mosaics on the inside. The baptistery is filled with benches which means you can park your bum and really soak in the scene. 

Directly next to the Battiestero Nenoniano is the fourth stop on our tour, the Museo Arcivescovile e Cappella di Sant’Andrea. This Chapel of St Andrew is a hidden jewel and is actually inside the museum. It’s located on the museum’s first floor and it worth the hunt. 

Battistero Neoniano
Battistero Neoniano

Our final stop of the day was the Basilica of Saint’Apollinare Nuovo. Closest to the train station, we knew it made sense to leave this site for last. From the outside this basilica looks plain, but that brick exterior is hiding a treasure trove of wonders. Step inside and you’ll be amazed to discover more ornate mosaics. 

Basilica of Saint’Apollinare Nuovo

From there, we headed to the station and jumped back onto a train to our hotel in Rimini. 

While our day was short and sweet, I’m happy to say I ticked a travel a treasure trove of sites off my bucket-list.

Like with any trip, I always have a reason for returning and here are the three activities I’d do if I ever returned:

  • The tomb of Dante Alighieri. This Italian poet is famous for his contribution to Italian literature, most notably the Divine Comedy
  • I’d also try and head to the The Comacchio lagoons for a spot of wild flamingo watching 
  • Finally, if money was no object, I’d attended the mosaic making at the Art school, but at €750 a pop I don’t think I’ll be able to head there in a hurry. 

If you liked this, then you may also like these posts:

Thanks for reading, 

Hope 

Disclaimer: I took this trip in 2018, when there were no covid-19 restrictions on travel. 

A little bit of luxury in the heart of a city

Last week, I headed off on my first holiday of the year. We decided to take advantage of some cheap train tickets and headed up to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. As this was my first full week off all year, we opted for a little but of opulence and booked ourselves into a four-star hotel situated in the heart of the Royal Mile.

Location

Fraser Suites is a boutique hotel located in the heart of Edinburgh. Situated on St Giles’ Street, this elegant hotel is tucked

just around the corner of Edinburgh’s numerous heritage sites such as St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, the Museum on the Mound, the Writer’s Room and so many more.

It’s only a five-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley station, after a small clamber up the New Steps. This little route was ideal for us and our mighty rucksacks. Fraser Suites’ sand-stoned facade is easily accessible on several other transport routes too.

Arrival

Our train arrived into Edinburgh one hour before we could actually check-in, so we thought we’d try our luck and stash our bags at the hotel as this would leave us unencumbered to wander around the city freely.  As we made our way into the hotel, signs and posters were clearly indicated that guests needed to wear mask when moving around the communal areas. So, we pulled our masks from our pockets and were promptly greeted by a cheerful receptionist. There, we were told that we would be able to check-in early. After all the usual formalities, we were given our room keys, a map and an information pack inside a little envelope. Then, we clambered into a lift and made our way up to the fifth floor.

 

Our room

When we were planning our trip, we knew we wanted to stay in a room that had a kitchenette just in case we needed to cook in the evening because of Coronavirus restrictions. Once we’d found Fraser Suites online, we opted for a Classic Deluxe Room,  which came with a rather large bed (so much space), a comfy armchair (the dream reading nook), a desk area, a large bathroom and of course the kitchen area. The bathroom area included L’Occtaine en Provence amenities, which smelled heavenly. The room also include Wi-Fi access, a self-controlled heater, a safe and a TV for some much-needed bake off viewing.

 

The view

The most stunning feature of our room by far was the view from the room. The hotel itself is built on top of a hill, which meant we were promised stunning views from our window and they did not disappoint. From our room, we had sublime views of Calton Hill, which made me itch with exploration.

 

The facilities

We didn’t spend a lot of time in our hotel room – we never do – but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the facilities we did use. On our final day, we were able to leave our bags at the hotel’s left luggage facility. I was a but nervous this wouldn’t be offered because of the new coronavirus restrictions, but I’m so glad they kept this service going. As we were picking up our bags, I also used the toilets in the reception area, which were clean and filled with yet more L’Occtaine en Provence products. I didn’t get time to use the gym or eat food in the hotel, but from the snippets of conversation I overheard from the other guests, these services were more than satisfactory.

Fraser Suites is definitely on my list of hotels for my next trip to Edinburgh. But until that day comes, I’ll keep the memories.

 

 

 

An afternoon in Ely

As the world slowly started to bloom, my inner traveller self began to get restless. I wanted to explore somewhere new without jumping on a plane or travelling the lengths and breaths of the country. As I searched the web for ‘attractions near me’ that had feasible public transports, nothing seemed to emerge. Then, on a train back from my home town, I saw it. My new destination. It whizzed on by past the window but I know that’s where I wanted to go: Ely.

The following weekend, I recruited a friend or two and dragged them to this picturesque cathedral city to wile away the day.  We jumped onto a train from Royston and then changed train at Cambridge onto an Ely-bound service. Direct trains do run from Ely to London, but make sure to travel during quieter times. Including our train change, the whole journey took in the region of 40 minutes. When we arrived at Ely train station, we followed the deep blue one way stickers out towards the exit. Then, we meandered down to the riverside.

We already had one local site an in mind, the Peacock Tearooms. This traditional English tearoom was recommend as a must by one of our very close friends and it didn’t disappoint. It started life in 2004 inside the family’s own home. The business has now expanded and taken over the family’s kitchen and hall. They’ve even added their own B&B suites, which look so quaint and homely.

When we arrived, there was a small queue (the tearoom doesn’t take bookings, so turn up and try!). The wait wasn’t very long at all and the staff were very attentive. They had all the necessary Covid-19 restrictions in place such as hand sanitiser, track and trace and everyone was keeping their distance.

Once we’d jumped through these necessary hoops, we opted for a table inside. I wasn’t quite sure where to look first as I sat down. The tearoom was filled with homely touches. Cupboards were lined with books all about tea, shelves were filled with tea cups, tea tins and other pieces of bric-a-brac. Dry flowers hung from the ceiling with an argon oven and smog fridge tucked into the corner behind me. The tables were covered in perspex sheets with the menus popped underneath, it was a quirky touch and made the menu a conversation piece rather than a lonely scroll through a PDF.

The menu is packed full of sumptumous cream teas, heart-pumping coffees, and flavourful teas. As this was a birthday treat, I opted for the Peacocktail (try saying that five times faster). It’s the tearooms own recipe and contains gin, vodka, iced tea and a few other bits and bobs. The cocktails were also garnished with strawberries – yum! I’d love to head back and try one of their afternoon set teas. The website lists a choice of four and I already have my eye on the Peacocks Pink Perfection.

From the tearoom, we headed on over to Ely Cathedral via Ely market. This outdoor market was open and vibrant. It was joyous to see so many people peering over stalls, whilst staying safe. I meandered on over to a stall called Oriolo. A boutique of handcrafted jewellery and other accessories. The stall had an abundance of hand sanitiser to allow customers to try on rings. Now, I’ve been on the look out for some silver rings (particularly one with a turquoise stone or Celtic knots), so when I saw that they had a 2 for £30 deal on, I knew I had to nab some. I’d recommend shopping with your eyes and sanitise your hands before you find the right size. And yes reader, I bought two.

From there, we wound our way around the outside of Ely Cathedral. It’s a vast structure that dominates Ely’s skyline. The cathedral’s octagonal lantern tower is classed as one of the medieval wonders of the world. The cathedral is now open for visitors and tickets can be booked online, we decided to simply to walk around the perimeter of the cathedral, which is still a treat in itself.

I can only imagine how Ely would look in the heat of the summer with bright light shining through its markets and across its skylines. Until I can head back, my imagination will have to do. If you’re planning a trip to the east of England, maybe make Ely a pit-stop for a pint or two on the river at least.

Things I’d earmarked for my next trip:

Five reasons Rimini is the perfect Emilia-Romagna hub

The Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy stretches from the tips of the Alpine mountains all the way to the micro state of San Marino. Rich in its renaissance architecture, each city has its own splendours that deserve to be discovered. Just over two years ago, I spent six says wandering such sites. In that short time, I managed to explore Bologna, Rimini, Ravenna and San Marino. Each of these had been on my bucket list for a very long time, so imagine my excitement when I ticked them off. It was a tiring holiday with lots of ambition and one that could not have been completed if I didn’t have a hub to travel to and from. And for that, I picked Rimini and here’s why…

Easy access to Bologna Airport

I don’t drive. Sorry, I just can’t. I’m hoping to learn later this year but until then my travel is truly dictated by planes, trains, buses and my feet. As such, I’m a clinical planner and constantly ask myself: How will I get there? What time are the buses? Will that leave me enough time for X? Sometimes, this can be quite exhausting but trust me it certainly pays off.

To explore Emilia-Romagna, I knew I’d have to touch down in Bologna Airport. Now, you’d think the obvious choice would be to jump into a taxi and head to Bologna but not for me. I landed quite late in the evening (around 10pm) and had a 90 minute wait for my transfer to Rimini. Lots of airport websites work differently but most of them will have information on ‘getting to and from’ this is where I head to first. If the transport options are erratic, then I will normally curtail my plans. In my experience, Italian airports have always been well-serviced, so this hasn’t been a problem yet. For Rimini, I booked my coach with Shuttle Italy Airport. Their site is recommended on Bologna Airport’s own website. I booked my transfer when I booked my flights (I would always recommend doing this). I think the ticket cost me £15 for the 90 minute bus journey. I arrived at Rimini central train station in the early hours of the morning, only then did I jump into a taxi and go to my hotel.

Affordable and charming accommodation

The view from our balcony

Now, affordable accommodation may not always be the case. I found the prices accessible because I visited Rimini out of the main tourist season. I opted to go in May instead of the summer months. It might for my British bod that the weather was still warm but the hotel prices were at rock bottom prices. For my budget, I was able to nab a hotel with a swimming pool and a room with a balcony (when I visit Italy I love nothing more than grabbing a pizza and a bottle of wine and taking in those views on a balcony). When planning a trip, tourist seasons are always something to consider. School holidays and the sunny seasons will always shoot prices up but doing your research means you’ll be able to save some coppers!

 

Good public transport links to the rest of Emilia-Romagna

Rimini’s transport network was the main reason I was drawn to the city if I’m honest. I’ve already discussed why the transfer from Bologna airport to Rimini made sense but there are other reasons too. Firstly, Rimini itself is a highly walkable city. You won’t find yourself hopping one and off buses. Instead, you can use your feet and take in the city’s sites for yourself. Its walkability means you can get to the train station and bus depots without a hitch.

When I went, I knew I wanted to tick Ravenna and San Marino off my Italian bucket list, so that’s what I did.

From Rimini, I booked a train to Ravenna. Depending on your budget, there are a couple of options the slower trains are cheaper while the faster trains are naturally more expensive. I use TrenItalia to book all of my trains. You don’t need to book train tickets in advance on the website. You can just turn up on the day and buy the ticket from the ticket booth (I think I paid around 10 euros for a return trip). Although, it’s worth researching your trains a few days before you intend to travel and turn up early when you book your ticket as Italian trains do sell out.

San Marino is a little tricker to get to via public transport. There aren’t any options (that I could find from Bologna). However, Rimini does provide a bus service. I booked with Bonelli. Here, pre-booking wasn’t an option. To ensure my place on a bus at a reasonable time, I turned up at the bus stop early and queued. I’m really glad I do too, as there wasn’t enough room for everyone on the bus, so a few people had to wait for the next one. The trip costs 10 euros return and takes about an hour. For me, visiting San Marino is a must and I’d recommend hopping on this bus early on during your trip, otherwise you may be disappointed.

Rimini’s Roman ruins and other attractions

Rimini itself has so much to offer and I’ll write a post about it’s own attractions and delights very soon. In a nutshell, Rimini is littered with Roman ruins. They fill the streets and when you walk from one to the next, you’ll find bits of rubble cordoned off. There are larger Roman ruins such as the Augustus Arch and the Tiberius Bridge. If you’re not as into your history as I am, then there’s more to Rimini then its ancestors.

It’s by the sea!

I’m not sure my sub-heading needs further elaboration, but I’ll give it a go! Rimini’s beaches are renowned for their beauty. They stretch for more than 15km and pull in thousands of tourists each year. And, after a busy day taking in the sites, there is nothing more relaxing than a dip in the sea and a drink on the beach.

So there you have it, my reasons why you should consider Rimini as a travel hub for a trip to Emilia-Romagna.

Thanks for reading!

Hope

xx

Three off beat tourist attractions in Milan

Milan, Italy’s northern metropolis, is a global powerhouse of fashion, food, desgin, architecture and finance. Every year, millions of tourists flock into the city to climb the winding steps of duomo di Milano, to take in the light pastels of Leonardo da  Vinci’s last supper and dine out in the trendy waterworks of the Navigli.

I have followed such footsteps but on my second trip to Milan, I wanted to carve my own path. I scoured tourist information sites, read tripdavisor reviews and asked friends for recommendations because I wanted to sample something different. I wanted to go off the beaten path. And, away, I went

So where should you go to get away from your fellow tourists?

Here are my top 3 off beat attractions…

Casa Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni is a renowned Italian writer who is revered for unifying the Italian language through his works of fiction. The birthplace of this famous writer is just a stone’s throw away from Milan’s Duomo on via Gerolamo Monroe. The three storey town house is somewhat unassuming but inside bookish delights await inside.

It costs five euros to enter for a fully paying adult (and just three for a student). The museum itself has been recently renovated to give visitors to the museum the best possible experience. I headed to the museum on a Friday morning in September. It was quiet and the staff went above and beyond to make me feel welcomed. I knew a bit about Manzoni before I visited, which seemed to impress the staff. They even gave me some insight into the most interesting artefacts to cast my eyes over. The house itself has been transformed to appear as it would when it was occupied by Manzoni.

If you want to learn more about Italian culture, past the pizza and pasta that is, then I’d recommend a visit to Manzoni’s home on your next trip to Lombardy.

 

Civico Museo di Storia Naturale

Disclaimer: I’ve lost my museum pictures for this museum on a memory card somewhere!

This is Milan’s natural history museum and the oldest civic museum in Milan. I think like most people I have a thing about dinosaurs. I don’t know what it is but if there’s a dino skeleton in a museum, I have simply have to go. Located in the leafy grounds of a public park just off the cross Venezia, it’s worth a trek over just to have a meander through the park.

The museum itself is a red stone building that features six display areas. It was only three euros to enter the museum (for a student), and of course I made my way straight to the palaeontology department. Most of the descriptions and captions are written in Italian, so if like me you speak a bit of Italian, it’ll test your language know how. If you don’t speak Italian, you may struggle to know what it is you’re looking at but you shouldn’t let a language barrier stop you from taking in the museum’s collection. It’ll prove to be a highly informative hour or two. There’s also a coffee shop and a book store in the museum if you fancy resting your tourist feet but I’d actually recommend the coffee kiosk in the park for an early afternoon break .

 

Museo di duomo vicino

 

This museum is less off the beaten path and more right in the heart of Milan in the Royal Palace. I’ve always found this museum to be quite quiet even though it’s included in the duomo’s entry! It’s really a museum filled with sculptures and statues that are destined to be admired by adoring tourists. Personally, I love a wander around this museum when it first opens. It gives me the space and the time to drink in every sculpture and over the years, I’ve added some favourites to my list including the eagle.

When I went, the museum was split into two parts. The first was the sculptures and statues and the second was a temporary exhibition on religion and art. I’m not sure what the moving exhibition is now but I always find them to be extremely well curated and not one to miss.

So there you have it, my list of off the beaten path tourist spots to had to the next time you’re in Milan. What are your favourite spots in Milan? I’m always looking to add to my travel adventures.

Thanks for reading!

Hope

xx

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This novel popped up on my radar thanks to two people: my mum and Reese Witherspoon. My mum is an avid follower of Hello Sunshine, Witherspoon’s bookclub, and just an avid reader in general. And, when Where the Crawdads Sing was reviewed by Reese in September 2018, my mum added this hardback onto her Christmas list.

After my mum devoured all 368 pages, she loaned it to me. I’m embarrassed to admit that I let this bookgather dust on my shelves for well over a year.

Then, three weeks ago, I plucked it down from my bookshelf like it was Wheezy in Toy Story 2. Instead of putting up for sale in the yard, I read the first page. This simple action is one I regret not taking sooner.

Where the Crawdads Sing takes place in a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. The novel centres around the character of Kya, referred to by the locals as the Marsh Girl. She is isolated and distanced by the snobbery of a town who are quick to blame her for the murder of the handsome and popular Chase Andrews. Kya, however, isn’t what the town folk perceive, she’s intelligent, sensitive, interesting and has survived years alone in the marsh.

The opening few chapters of the novel flit between the past and the present. As readers, we grow with Kya and watch her through the lens of a guardian angel. We share her first memories, her every triumph and every heartache. Kya is the underdog outsider that every reader should cheer for.

This brings me onto one of the novel’s prominent themes – social pariahs and by extension outside judgement. Kya is ostracised by a town who doesn’t understand her, her family, or her knowledge of themarsh. There are some kind town folk who take pity on the young Kya and soon start to champion our young protagonist. These characters are Kya’s support network and are often few and far between.

However, other characters aren’t as open minded, they judge Kya because they don’t understand her, her home and her love of nature. But as characters minds slowly open, Kya lets more and more people into her world. Despite her increasing popularity, she’s constantly judged and profiled for the murder that takes place in the novel’s opening pages. Not only is Kya a well fleshed out character, her relationships are too, which makes this work of fiction became instantly believable.

Kya isn’t the novel’s only triumph, the setting of the novel is superbly articulated as well. Owens’ description of the marsh is exquisite. Whenever I read Kya wandering through the marsh and observing it’s wildlife I truly felt like I was there with her too. In the same beat, this immersion isn’t clunky or overburdened in the slightest.

Perhaps, this description is made more realistic thanks to Owens’ own childhood. As a young girl, she  explored nearby Oak Forests where she grew up and has already co-authored three award-winning books about her life as a wildlife scientist.

This chimed with an Elizabeth Gilbert interview that my mind often whirls back to, which I’m about to paraphrase: ‘fiction is the best place to write about your own experiences.’

Part of me believes Owens put snippets of her own memories of exploring the outside world into this novel. It could be these early experiences that help to drive the novel’s authenticity. Equally, I don’t think anovel has any more weight if the author writes through personal experience. I just think the parallels between Gilbert’s musings and Owens’ own work were striking.

This is a fast-paced whodunit. I didn’t want it to end and found myself savouring the final pages because I didn’t want to leave Kya and her world. For me, this novel is just some damn good storytelling. And, abook I’d recommend to everyone.

Thanks for reading & as ever I’ll speak to you soon

xx

Disclaimer: This review first appeared in my Newsletter the book report. Sign up here to read my next book review before anyone else.