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Europe

Destinations, Europe

A day trip to Assisi

This was the first time (killing time synonym) I didn’t do any research on a place I’m going to visit. It was just (definition just in case) a place that we wanted to check out on our way to Itri, so we booked a hotel, sat in the car and drove almost 7 hours to this amazing place, charming and romantic town.

There are 8 parking lots around (find a way around) the city of which 3 are close to the town gates , just a few minutes from the key monuments of Assisi. The prices are around 12 € a day. Also check with your hotel because some of them do provide parking or have deals with city parking. Do not try to park inside of the city (it is only for residents).

The first thing you will notice is a lot of holy souvenir shops, I mean a LOT, or even pictures on the wall, and then, you realize, you are in the town of Saint Francis. I must say probably one of the best examples on how to promote the towns history and its strong religious heritage. Even if you are not Catholic, non-religious, you will feel connected to the humble St. Francis.

It’s such a peaceful town. There is something about those stone roads and those medieval walls, and flowers on each doorstep that will make you fall in love.

Our hotel Sorella Luna ( http://www.hotelsorellaluna.it/en/home-2/ ) is located right above the most photographed house in Assisi and just just a few minutes away from The Basilica of St. Francis. I would highly recommend this hotel for its great location, the beautiful rooms and décor, and a staff that would go above and beyond to make your stay more pleasant.

You are in Italy so know that a lot of shops, restaurants and bars will be closed during lunch time which is between 1pm-7pm. I don’t like it but I do respect the Italian way of living.

So as we walked around to be able to see as much as we can in a day, Mr. G. stumbled upon this osteria called Osteria Piazzetta dell’ Erba (http://www.osterialapiazzetta.it/en/ ) and they were just prepping the restaurant for dinner time. Since he is more familiar of the Italian life he made a reservation for 7pm and he was soooo right, as the place was packed already at 7.30. The food was to die for, every detail in all of the chef’s meals were amazing and the price was very affordable. A wonderful staff, creative cooking and one of the best meals we had during our stay.

Spaghettoni with truffle carbonara

Things to see

Basilica di SanFrancesco is composed of two churches built one above the other. The lower one has the St. Francis tomb and The Upper Basilica frescos show his life. Stained glass windows are amazing, but you are not allowed to take pictures.

Basilica di Santa Chiara, Italian Gothic church

Rocca Maggiore ; a medieval castle from 12th century with a beautiful panoramic view. The majority of the sites are free, but not this one, and I have to be honest and say that the price does not match the offer. The castle offered nothing as far as exhibits, but it is worth it for the breathtaking views of the city.

Piazza del Comune

Planning this trip:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes . It’s not easy to walk those stone roads so be prepared to climb a lot of steps and hills.
  2. Since you will visiting a lot of churches dress accordingly; use good taste.
  3. Plan your lunch or dinner knowing that the restaurants and bars are closed between 1pm-7pm, not all but most.
  4. Majority of the sites are free , Rocca Maggiore is 6 €
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Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Firenze… my secret love affair
Europe

Firenze… my secret love affair

I fell in love (apple of eye meaning) again. Honey, I love you… but it surprised me, swept me off my feet, I wasn’t expecting it …I have to be honest and tell you the truth ! It’s Firenze!!

That is the perfect description how this city makes you feel, in love. Butterflies and all. Everything you see; architecture, art, cathedrals, museums, streets, brings you back to Florence’s medieval and Renaissance age. It overwhelms you. If you can see only one place in all of Italy choose Florence! Not Rome, Venice, Napoli….it has to be Florence. Actually you should see it more than once (Mr.G. hint, hint ).

Choosing the right time (killing time synonym) of year to see it is unnecessary. Every time is a perfect time. Or maybe if you are trying to save some money keep your eyes open for that one week of the year (usually some time in spring) when admission to state museums is free of charge. It changes every year so it is hard a plan a trip. One date that does not change is 18 February (in honour of the last of the Medici family, day that Anna Maria Louisa died). On that day all state museums are free.

I would also recommend getting a Firenze Card (www.firenzecard.it €50). It’s valid for 72 hours, it covers admission to 33 museums, villas and gardens, and unlimited use of public transport (which you will not need because you’ll walk and feel the city). One thing about this card that I didn’t like is the fact that it only allows one admission per museum. Some of the places are just (definition just in case) impossible to see in one visit, like Uffizi Gallery. Or you can see it in a day but then you only have 48 hours to see everything else and there is sooooooo much. There is also Friends of the Uffizi Card (www.amicidegliuffizi.it ; adult €60 or for a family of 4 €100) which is valid for a year, and it covers 22 museums and unlimited entries. You might say; why should I get a card, I’m not going to see all the museums, gardens or cathedrals. Entrance for Il Grande Museo del Duomo is €15, Boboli gardens €10, Uffizi gallery €12.50, Santa Croce €8, Santa Maria Novella €7.5 ….so you do the math. Depending on what you want to see, choose your card and save some money.
Firenze is small and best way to see it is on foot. All the major sights are within walking distance. Avoid using a car because Italians are crazy drivers (don’t get mad but you are) and parking is an impossible mission. There is some private parking garages (€20/day), and check with your hotel if they offer a parking spot. Santa Maria Novella train station is in the city centre, 10 min walk to Duomo!


I researched what to see and where to stay weeks before our trip and I would change my mind daily because I didn’t want to miss anything.
We stayed at Hotel Croce di Malta (www.crocedimaltaflorence.com ). We choose it because its decorated like works of art from the 15th and 16th century, for its location (between Arno river and Santa Maria Novella railway station) and a beautiful panoramic rooftop terrace (open in spring and summer). Before you book any hotel based on a terrace check if its open. This was a second time I didn’t do that and of course we again kissed the closed door. But it didn’t ruin our stay because everything else was immaculate, service, breakfast table, cleanliness. It also has a swimming pool, free wi-fi, restaurant… Prices for a room are around (find a way around) 100 €/day.

When it comes to places to see we decided on :

Uffizi Gallery – be prepared to wait in the line for tickets, sometimes for hours (we did 2) and take an audioguide. Four hours of cruising through amazing art collection arranged in 45 rooms. Yep, a lot of masterpieces. Botticelli Room, Leonardo Room, Michelangelo…..Don’t miss the view of the river Arno and Ponte Vecchio from the short glassed-in corridor on the second floor.


Duomo – the city’s most iconic landmark. Gothic cathedral with green, white and pink marble. It took 150 years to complete and just the architectural beauty of it and the colours ….wow! Climb the spiral steep staircase if you are not claustrophobic or in flip flops. I mean that! You will have to make a reservation when buying tickets to climb Dome because they only let few people at the time. When you start climbing you’ll understand why. Even I got nervous at one point and a guy in front of was panicking. When you reach balustrade at the base of the Dome pause and look at the amazing seven round stained-glass windows. At the top of the climb you will be rewarded with breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view. Take some time to admire the one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.


Also at the Piazza del Duomo check the oldest building in the square, Baptistery of San Giovani (octagonal form). Three sets of bronze doors illustrate Biblical stories. Santa Reparata, Giotto’s Bell tower and Opera del Duomo Museum are also a must.

Basilica di Santa Maria Novella and its Museum has some amazing masterpieces. Cloister of the Dead is very impressive.


Ponte Vecchio – first documentation of a stone bridge here dates from 972 ! Floods swept it away in 1177 and 1333 so the bridge that you see now was built in 1345. Lots of jeweller shops which reminds of Venice and Rialto bridge.

Giardino di Boboli – behind Palazzo Pitti there is this lovely example of Tuscan garden. Great place to have a picnic or get lost in beautiful alleys.


We wanted to see the Basilica di Santa Croce, burial place of many famous Florentines like Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli… Unfortunately it was closed do to some unfortunate circumstances (as we found out a Spanish tourist was killed when a piece of the ceiling fell on his head).


Piazzale Michelangelo has spectacular city panorama view. After 15 min of uphill walk through serpentine paths from Arno, you’ll reach a square with copy of David statue and full of souvenir stalls. To me, it wasn’t a very nice or well maintained square, but it was worth it for the view.

Where to eat

First thing I say to everyone asking me where to eat is; AVOID TOURISTY PLACES !! Yes, I know they might be cheaper or convenient but the food really usually sucks! Try something local, something that says Firenze, you can have pizza or a sandwich at home. Here you have to try Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak). It’s not cheep but biting into a huge 1.5 inches of soft, tender, full of flavour beef is just heaven. We tried it at Ristorante Buca Poldo near Piazza della Signoria.

I also recommend Trattoria Mario; historical restaurant that follows the tradition, no advanced reservations and no credit cards.
If you are in the mood for fresh homemade pasta try Le Fonticine. As equally attractive option as many restaurants is enoteca – wine bars serving tasting platters of cheese, cold meats, salads and desserts. We found a great one La prosciutteria, near Uffizi Gallery. It’s like being invited to a locals house for lunch; lot of people having fun, yelling, eating great food and having a glass of good wine.
As they say, for Italian ice cream is an art, so find Amorino. Not only it looks amazing, it tastes amazing.


I’m still in love with Firenze. I think about it every day. I count the days to see her again. Oh my love…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Rimini beach and San Marino
Europe

Rimini beach and San Marino

Being a Croatian (country of a thousand islands) I have huge standards when it comes to beaches and clean sea. We have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You name it and we have it: sandy, rocky, stone (big or small ones), ones that you can only get to by a boat, secluded …. Even more beautiful is our sea. Transparent, crystal clear and most important clean! So I have to say, on first sight, I wasn’t impressed with Rimini which is known for 15 km long and 200m wide sandy beach. We came late at night after a long 6 hour drive from Rijeka and decided to walk the promenade. At one part of the lido the smell of sewage was so bad that we almost vomited, not kidding you. Thank God we were tired and decided to sleep over it and take a look at it the next day.

We stayed at L´ Hotel, elegant 3 star hotel located 20m from the beach. Large rooms with private balconies and wellness corner (heated pool, Turkish bath and Finnish sauna, massage room). They have 2 parking lots (8€ a day) that you can use and also provide bicycles (first three hours are free, then its 10 € per hour).  I was surprised by the way they designed the rooms, actually the shower. First time (killing time synonym) I saw a shower outside of the bathroom. They put it in the room and divide it with a glass door.

Breakfast looked more like a dessert table. I counted ten different types of croissants, pancakes, cakes…it looked compelling, but I enjoyed ham and cheese and a good cup of cappuccino.

Rimini beach is long, wide, sandy and commercialized. It´s divided in to establishments called Lido. Each one is numbered and has a name, like #85 La Playa (special discount for the guests of our hotel). They have to maintain the area and they provide (for a fee) some kind of service and facilities (sun loungers, umbrellas, changing cabins…). Depending on how much you want to pay, you can get a simple lounge or you can have Jacuzzi facilities, gym equipment, a snack, un aperitivo… For the price of 18€ we got two loungers, an umbrella, a snack and a drink.

Some parts of the beach are free, with toilets and lifeguards, where you can put your own beach towel.

So I have to say we did enjoy the beach. It felt nice to relax, have a glass of Mojito, while listening to a DJ jamming. Italians know how to have a good time.  No “smell” of sewage, thank God.

There are many small restaurants along the beach that are open not only at day time, but also in the evening . We chose to play it safe and decide on a restaurant that everybody recommended and we loooved it! “Carlos” restaurant and pizzeria is a place I would definitely go again. There fish is to die for, we ate there for three nights in a row.  That’s how good it is. Open since 1969 they advertise it as “a sea on your plate”.  Make a reservation because the place is booked almost every day.  Staff is more then friendly, they go over to fulfill your every request. Our waitress, from Argentina (Alijandra) always had a smile and never once during our three visits did she not make us feel like old friends. We had almost every meal on the menu (be careful because the portions are huge) and loved each one. Spaghetti vongole, mixed grilled fish, caprese salad, shrimp cocktail, lobster…..I can still taste their amazing fish soup !

Just 30 min drive from Rimini there is the old principality, San Marino, capital of Republic of San Marino. It´s third smallest state in Europe, after Vatican and Monaco and world oldest republic. It sits on the mountain (Monte Titano) so the view of the surrounding towns and Adriatic coast is really breathtaking.

 

Finding a parking spot is not easy.  They do have a couple of parking lots, but definitely not enough, especially if you decide to go there on a weekend. We used P11 (8€ for whole day-not bad at all) because it´s close to the cable car (Funivia) which you can use to get to the top. Price for a round trip is 4,50 €, per person or you can just (definition just in case) walk.

You can get 4 types of access card to see some major sites of San Marino:

  • red card (valid for the visit (idioms dictionary) to only one museum – 4,50€)
  • orange (valid for entry to two museums of your choice – 6,50€)
  • green (reduced price – for only one museums for groups of more then 25, groups of students, children aged between 6-12 and adults over 65 – 3,50€)
  • purple – (pass to visit all State Museums and its valid for 10 days – 10,50€)

Free entry is for children under the age of 6, for people with disabilities and their companions, or you can be lucky like us and come to visit on 7 of July which was IX anniversary of San Marino becoming a part of the Unesco World Heritage List so the entrance was free.

Opening hours are from 8am-8pm summer time and 9am-4:30pm winter time.

You can see most of it in one day. Three Towers are a must. First two you can enter. There is no entrance for the third one. You can only see it from the outside. Lot of Museums to check out, like: State Museum, Museum of the Emigrant, Vampire Museum, Waxworks Museum, Museum of Curiosity, Torture Museum, Museum of National History, Ancient Weapons…

Public Palace is the building where official ceremonies take place and it´s also main institutional and administrative seat of San Marino. Guards of the Rock are the one responsible for guarding the Palace and they have very distinctive red and green uniforms.

Beautiful cobblestone streets and will bring you back to medieval times. Winding roads that go up and down the hill connect all the major sites. My advice is wear flats or comfortable shoes. Some parts are walking paths through the woods like the one between Second and Third Tower. Don’t worry about food and drink because you can find food stands, bars, restaurants on every corner.

Try to get there early in the morning to avoid crowds and to find a parking space. Take your time, admire the view from the top and have a homemade ice cream at “L´Alchimista Gelateria”. Live the Italian Way!

 

 

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VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
VENICE – a weekend getaway
Europe

VENICE – a weekend getaway

I´ve been lucky to see Venice a couple of times. WOW ! It´s definitely a city you don´t want to miss. Adventure, culture, food… It´s probably on every bucket list so no matter what time (killing time synonym) of the year you choose, have patience to wait in lines and walk in the small alleys. To me, it´s the most romantic place I´ve seen so grab your partner (or do it by yourself , because you are worth it) and prepare to be dazzled.

How to get around (find a way around) Venice

If you are going by a car the cheapest and closest car park to the center of Venice is Venezia Tronchetto. It´s 21 € per day and opened 24/7. It´s located close to Vaporetto, boat stop, which will take you to the famous San Marco square. I love (apple of eye meaning) to walk around as much as possible so we always use the People mover (1,50 € single ride) to reach Piazzale Roma. There you will find a ticket office for water bus lines, Actv, which operate as the water ferry network for Venice. And now, welcome to not so cheap Venice ! A single ride is 7 €, it´s valid for 60 min and only in one direction. I would recommend buying daily passes if you are going to use vaporetti a lot (1 day: 20 €, 2 days: 30 €, 7 days: 60 €), but remember Venice is a walking town and everything is reachable by foot. Ok fine, there is also Murano and Burano, two islands that you should see, but I´ll tell you about that later. We used an app Orari Autobus & Vaporetti ACTV to find the line that we needed or to check on a timetable.

Where to stay

If this is your first time in Venice don´t go cheap (if you really don´t have to) staying in Mestre is nice but don´t you want to really experience Venetian life, to feel the romance, to watch gondolas and listen to the gondoliers sing? To be awaken by loud Italians opening their stores or having there first cappuccinos?

We stayed at Hotel Bonvecchiati, NH Collection Venezia Palazzo Barocci and Best Western Plus Quid Hotel Venice Airport. First two are in the heart of Venice and definitely expensive (around 300 $ a night ) but worth it ! Amazing views, food, location…. Third one, Western Plus, is in Mestre and the price is around 150 $. Don´t get me wrong, Western offers almost the same quality, the only thing that is missing is you don´t have that feeling of being in Venice. It all depends on your wishes and your budget of course.

What to see

Somehow we always stayed for a weekend getaway. For us that was enough but feel free to go crazy. Have a city map with you because you can easily get lost despite the signs of major attractions on every corner. We got lost couple of times, being smartasses  as we are „we map the lost“ ( lost the map), that´s what you get sightseeing after a couple of glasses of wine !

 

Piazza San Marco, one of the most beautiful square in the world. There you´ll find Basilica di San Marco, a symbol of Byzantine Venetian history and it takes an hour to see it, depending on the time of year. Remember there will be lines to enter. Also climb Torre de L´Orologio if you want to see Venice from above.

Palazzo Ducale, headquarters of Serenissima Republic also worth seeing. Pray for nice weather or you´ll literally walk on water. The square gets flooded as most of Venice when it rains. If you look across the canal you´ll see Santa Maria della Salute, beautiful white baroque church.

Ponte dei Sospiri is one of the most famous bridges after Rialto. The legend says  lovers will be granted eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset, under the Bridge .  The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment, but in reality, the prison was for petty criminals and no executions awaited them.

Rialto is probably most photographed sights in Venice. It´s the oldest bridge over the canal, currently under renovation.  Early in the morning is the best time to walk across the bridge and see the shops and market.

Two islands that I mentioned before and shouldn´t be missed are Murano and Burano. Take water bus lines 41 or 42 from San Zaccaria stop, near Piazza San Marco. It takes around 45 min. They call Murano the Glass island. Check numerous presentations of how Venetians make glass for more then 700 years. Their creations, creativity and knowledge is amazing ! Mr. G. surprised me with a beautiful glass rose. Your better half would love a gift/souvenir from here. Trust me !

There is so much more to see in Venice, this is only what I would recommend if  it´s your first time. I´m sure every church, bridge or museum deserves attention. Venetians don´t hate me for mentioning only these top sights. We will see more of Venice I promise, cause it has a special place in our hearts.

When you decide to sit down, relax, have a drink , lunch or just (definition just in case) some coffee take off the beating path, avoid all those tourist places that are overated.  Simply ask a local Venetian where would he take his wife for a nice dinner. Because he knows those  places are worth visiting. That´s how we found are favorite restaurant . Not telling you the name, becouse it won´t be our hidden treasure anymore.

You will be impressed by this city, no doubt.

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Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth
Europe

Vatican Museums, indescribable beauty and wealth

There is no words, none… nothing can prepare you for the beauty you are about to see in Rome. I was speechless and I always have something to say ! You are surrounded by masterpiece after masterpiece of every possible art you can imagine. From renaissance every great artist left a piece of his genious work like the Last Judgement by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel, Raphael´s Transfiguration, Gallery of Maps, Gallery of the Statues….. Check there site (idiom site) www.museivaticani.va  and decide what do you want to see because it´s impossible to see it all .

The biggest museum in the world, which means the biggest waiting line in the world, (not joking), but don´t let it discourage you. I would recommend guided tours, they offer them on every corner. You will pay a little bit more  (cca 50 € for an adult, students 45 €, children 41 €) but that way you´ll bypass the waiting line, you´ll get the most of it since they are 4 hours long and lessons of history and art are worth every moment. Just so you know, you are not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel.

I can´t describe you every single piece of art, I hope my photographs will show just (definition just in case) a glance of beauty hidden in this amazing museums and to inspire you to take this trip and leave as a completely different person.

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