10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain

10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Spain is a gorgeous country located on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula and blessed with diverse landscapes and cultures, beautiful nature, and charming beaches. Not shockingly, the third most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country goes to Spain. The reason behind this goes to the fact that many civilizations throughout history left a mark in Spain, from Greeks, Celts, Romans, Iberians, Phoenicians, Moors and Visigoths.

When it comes to finding a holiday beach destination, Spain should be an obvious choice with the most “blue flag” beaches awards in the world (590 Spanish beaches) and 3,000 miles of coastline. With so many great spots to choose from we’ve narrowed down some of the best. Below are 10 of the best beach and summer holiday destinations to visit in Spain.

Menorca

Menorca (Minorca) is one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and is known for its endless beaches. A few top beaches to check out in Menorca include Playa de Cavalleria, Mesquida cove and Cala Trebalúger.

The best things to do here besides having a beach day is to visit the town of Binibeca, explore the Menorcan vineyards, explore the tomb of Naveta d’es Tudons, or hike up Monte Toro.

You must explore the old capital Ciutadella, as well as the gorgeous city of Mahón (which is now the capital). Also, make sure to take a sailing trip along the Menorcan shoreline and/or enjoy a kayaking day around Es Grau beach.

Pregonda beach in Menorca
Photo 74519331 © Ignasi Such | Dreamstime.com

Majorca (Mallorca)

Mallorca (Majorca) is the largest of the Balearic Islands. It is famous for its beautiful coast, beach resorts, bays, coves, as well as Roman and Moorish remains and several limestone mountains.

Some of the best things to do on this island include visiting the capital Palma de Mallorca, shopping in Puerto Portals, as well as exploring some of the towns and villages such as Alcudia, Pollença and Cala Figuera.

A few of the best beaches to enjoy include Platja es Carbó, Platja des Carregador and Playa de Canyamel. Also, make sure to go on a cruise around the huge Calvia coastline and discover the beautiful cliffs and bays.

Mallorca Beach in Palmanova
Photo 92069506 © Fotoandvideo | Dreamstime.com

Ibiza

Ibiza is an archipelago of Spain located in the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the best Balearic Islands to visit. It is famous for its clubs and nightlife and is a destination where some of the biggest clubs in the world are located.

Other than partying, other top things to do in Ibiza includes exploring Dalt Vila (Ibiza old town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site), seeing the Ibiza Cathedral, and watching the sun go down at Cafe Del Mar.

A few of the best places on the island for relaxing on a beach or by a pool include Playa d’en Bossa, San Antonio, Talamanca, and Cala Comte. Also, you can have a relaxation day at the many spas and yoga retreats located around the island.

Beach in Ibiza
Photo 34287412 © Lunamarina | Dreamstime.com

Tenerife

Tenerife is one of Spain’s Canary Islands. It is home to a dormant volcano and Spain’s tallest peak, Mt. Teide (at 7,315m). The island of Tenerife has many beautiful sandy beaches and resort areas where you can enjoy great days on the beach. Top beaches include Playa de Las Teresitas, La Tejita, El Duque and Playa Jardín.

A few of the other best places to visit in Tenerife include cities and towns such as Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz, La Laguna, Garachico, as well as nature spots including Mount Teide and Anaga Rural Park, an impressive 35,800 acre Biosphere Reserve.

Other cool places to relax (and swim) is Lago Martiánez which is a huge open-air swimming pool, and also Siam Park, a fantastic water park which will be sure to give families a great day out.

Teresitas beach in Tenerife
Photo 180488250 © Boarding1now | Dreamstime.com

Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is another of the Canary Islands and the second-largest. It is popular for its sandy beaches and great all year warm weather, as well as scenic cliffs, and coves. Some of the top beaches include Morro Jable, Matorral, Cofete, Costa Calma and Cotillo. Also be sure to visit the pretty Lobos Island located just north of the main island and is a protected natural area.

A few of the other top things to do include exploring the sand dunes at Corralejo Natural Park, seeing the Calderón Hondo volcano, and visiting the old town of Betancuria.

While in Fuerteventura enjoy water sports such as surfing, waterskiing, and windsurfing. You can also enjoy a whale and dolphin-watching tour in Fuerteventura (preferably in June).

Fuerteventura - Morro Jable Beach
Photo 80921953 © Elena Krivorotova | Dreamstime.com

Lanzarote

Also part of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is known for its gorgeous weather, volcanic landscapes, resorts, villas, and beaches.

While there, make sure to visit the Timanfaya National Park for its scenic landscapes, explore the Jameos del Agua caves, and see the unique cactus garden, Jardín de Cactus. Some top beaches to enjoy include Playa del Papagayo, Playa Flamingo, Playa Francesa and Playa de Mujeres

Also, make sure to check out the natural outdoor swimming pools (formed by the sea) which are found around Lanzarote’s eastern and southern coasts. The pools can be found in Punta Mujeres, Cueva del Agua (Los Cocoteros), and Los Charcones.

Beaches in Lanzarote
Photo 203561979 © Miguel Tamayo Diaz | Dreamstime.com

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is located off northwestern Africa (and part of the Canary Islands). The island is characterized by its rural and mountainous landscapes. The true sand colour in Gran Canaria is black due to the volcanic origin of this island.

On the island can find large sandy beaches such as below as well as other highlights such as Roque Nublo rock and Pico de las Nieves (1,949 m). You should also explore the Maspalomas dunes (a protected natural research), wander around the botanical garden “Jardín Botánico Viera y Clavijo”, and visit the fishing village Puerto de Mogán.

Gran Canaria island is popular for its water sports such as yachting, windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving, and water-skiing.

Beach in Gran canaria
Photo 131272343 © Ingus Kruklitis | Dreamstime.com

La Palma

La Palma is yet another of the Canary Islands, known for its craggy, forested terrain and volcanic landscape with volcanoes like Teneguía and Cumbre Vieja located there.

Some of the coolest things to check out are the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, Roque de Los Muchachos (for stargazing), and the capital city of Santa Cruiz de La Palma. Also visit places such as  Los Llanos de Aridane, Fuencaliente and Villa de Mazo.

Some beaches in La Palma worth seeing include Bajamar Beach, Los Cancajos beach and Puerto Naos beach.

La Palma, Spain
Photo 214681032 © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Sitges

Sitges is a beautiful town on the coast of Spain’s Catalonia region close to Barcelona. It is famous for its gorgeous sandy beaches, bars, nightclubs, and promenades surrounded by beautiful houses and big mansions.

A few of the best things to experience in Sitges besides having a relaxing beach day, include wandering along the Passeig Maritim (a scenic walk), visiting the Museu Cau Ferrat, and exploring the beautiful Garraf Natural Park.

Stiges beach, Spain
Photo 215945701 © Nataliavo | Dreamstime.com

Málaga

Málaga is a city located on Spain’s Costa del Sol. It is known for its luxurious resorts, hotels, its beautiful yellow sandy beaches and its many museums. It is famous for being the birthplace of the great Pablo Picasso.

While in Malaga, a few historic highlights to see include the La Alcazaba fortifications, the Roman Theatre, Málaga Cathedral and Castillo de Gibralfaro. Also visit the Museo del Vidrio, Ataranzas Market, Parque de Málaga and of course Picasso’s museum.

A few beaches for relaxing in the sun includes Playa de la Malagueta, Playa Peñón del Cuervo and Playa de la Carvajal.

Nerja Beach in Malaga
Photo 90300370 © Valery Bareta | Dreamstime.com

Barcelona

Although not a typical beach destination, Barcelona has on its shores a wonderful stretch of beach which is perfect to relax upon after exploring the highlights and gems around the city. Also along the beachfront, you’ll find bars and restaurants where you could spend your day on the beach before moving into the clubs at the end of the day for a fun night out.

Barcelona of course isn’t just about its beach and serves as a great destination for a city break, where you’ll find incredible historic landmarks to explore as well.

Barcelona Beach

Summary

Spain is definitely a dream destination for a beach and summer holiday. It is blessed with fantastic sandy beaches, perfect weather, delicious food, vibrant nightlife, friendly people, and gorgeous wide coasts. Consider some of the places above which will guarantee you the time of your life and a wonderful time in Spain.

10 Best Day Trips to Take from Rome

10 Best Day Trips to Take from Rome

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Rome is a great place to be for many reasons. Not only is Rome the eternal city with its stunning buildings and monuments, priceless art, and delicious cuisine, but it is also central and close to many of Italy’s other gems.

Below, are 10 of the best day trips to take from Rome, perfect for adding incredible experiences when you are in the eternal city. These places are breathtaking and will surely present you with the authentic “La Dolce Vita” vibe that you are seeking.

1. Amalfi Coast & Positano

The Amalfi Coast is a massive 50 km spread of coastline in the Campania region. If you are driving there, you will get to enjoy some gorgeous scenery of its villas, terraced cliffs, charming gardens, lemon fields, and great beaches. You can also go to the Amalfi coast by taking the train to Salerno which is a beautiful place worth stopping for a few hours to check out.

The Amalfi coast is famous for its massive grapefruit-sized lemons that are the main ingredient for the popular Limoncello drink which you, of course, must try. The best part about the Amalfi coast is that it is home to the photogenic Positano village.

Positano was a former fishing village and is now the go-to romantic holiday destination for its luxurious and scenic hotels, colourful buildings, and delicious restaurants. Discover Positano on foot and witness its beautiful and small art galleries, its cute little shops, restaurants, and the famous Santa Maria church. You can also enjoy The Path of the Gods “Sentiero Degli Dei” hiking/walking trail.

2. Turano

Lago di Turano is beautiful and almost looks unrealistic. It is so gorgeous that it has been used several times as a film location during the filming of “The Patron” movie starring Lucio Dalla. Turano is just 1 hour & 20 minutes away from Rome by car. You can also reach it using a special bus that goes to Rieti.

All you need to do when you arrive is spread a picnic blanket and just enjoy the view of the mountains surrounding the turquoise-coloured lake, all while eating some fresh pizza prepared by the artisanal bakeries nearby. Turano lake is a great location to tan and then cool off with a dip in the beautiful lake. You can also check the delicious restaurants located in Castel Di Tora nearby.

Location: See on Google Maps

3. Naples and Pompeii

Naples is located in southern Italy and is one of the most unique destinations close to Rome and is also the birthplace of pizza. While in Naples, check Galleria Umberto I, Saint Carlo theatre, Naples Cathedral, Capodimonte royal palace and museum, the National Archaeological Museum, the veiled Christ at Cappella Sansevero, and Castel dell’Ovo.

Later, have a walk along the beautiful Piazza del Plebiscito, and Spaccanapoli (street) which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and enjoy the traditional pizzerias and pastry shops, the historic monuments, and churches in this gorgeous city.

One of the most famous attractions in Naples is Mount Vesuvius, which is a still-active volcano that destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii (the most famous archaeological excavation site in Italy). Take a train from Naples to see the incredible ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii is approx 17.3 miles (28 km) from Naples and would take you around 30 to 40 minutes to reach.

View of Naples in Italy

4. Sorrento

Sorrento is a city with beautiful sloping terraces decorated with cultivations of oranges, grapevines, lemons, and olives. It is a gorgeous city that overlooks Naples’s bay, the great Vesuvius volcano, and the islands of Ischia, Capri, and Procida can be seen in the far distance.

You can reach Sorrento by using a bus from Rome. Buses depart each day from Roma Tiburtina station. You can also reach Sorrento by taking a train from Naples. You could also explore Sorrento through a tour such as seen below.

While in Sorrento, take a walk along the old town centre and Piazza Tasso where you can find great shops, cute café’s, restaurants, and many bright yellow local limoncello shops. You can also enjoy a great beach day in the unique beach clubs. These are built on decks out into the water.

5. Capri

Capri is definitely a dream destination. The Island of Capri is located just a few miles from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The only way to reach the island of Capri is by sea. If you are coming from Rome, you need to take a train to Naples and Sorrento (usually takes 1 hour on the fast train) where ferries depart from. During the summer months, there are also ferry routes from Positano, Ischia, and Salerno. You can of course also take a tour (see below).

The island is divided into two municipalities: Anacapri and Capri. The centre of Capri town is about 150 meters above sea level while Anacapri is at a higher altitude. There are also two villages directly on the coast: Marina Grande and Marina Piccola.

While in Capri, have a boat tour around the island and discover the quaint Blue Grotto. You can also, go up Mount Solaro with a chairlift to see a breathtaking view from the top. Check out the Sphinx at Villa San Michele, which is a villa built by Axel Munthe, a Swedish physician and writer. This villa has one of the most scenic views of Capri. Later, have a stroll in the centre of Anacapri where you can go shopping for unique clothing and gifts. At night, cool off in the “Piazzetta” with a drink and dinner in the amazing restaurants around.

6. Florence

Florence is Tuscany’s capital and is a dazzling place and also within reach of Rome. You can easily reach Florence by a comfy train ride from Rome which are 162 miles apart. If you want to reach there in less than 2 hours, use the available high-speed trains. Florence is a picturesque place and home to several famous art pieces and architecture from the Renaissance era.

While in Florence, you must check the iconic Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze), The Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia, Giardino Bardini and Piazzale Michelangelo. Have a stroll in Florence’s center and enjoy the central markets and Piazza Santo Spirito where you can find fresh pastas, pizzas, truffle bars, delicious wines, and leather shops.

7. Bracciano

Bracciano is a small quaint town in Lazio. It is located only 50 minutes away from Rome by car and 1 hour by train. The town is famous for its volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano, with its black, sparkly and smooth sand. The lake is surrounded by beautiful medieval towns, lush green mountains, and great architecture.

Bracciano also has a famous palace, Castello Orsini-Odescalchi which is known for holding the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The lake is besieged by charming aperitif places where you can have drinks with some delicious local food. You can also have a nice lunch or dinner inside the town away from the lake.

Location: See on Google Maps

8. Tivoli

Who knew that a 3-euro train ticket from Rome can take you to this little haven called Tivoli? Tivoli is a small town in Lazio located 1 hour and 25 minutes away by train and 40 mins away by car from Rome.

While in Tivoli, make sure to visit the 16th-century Villa d’Este famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its plethora of fountains. The Villa is now an Italian state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This villa is one of the most beautiful villas you can visit.

Do not forget to check The Temple of Vesta, Villa Gregoriana, Hadrian’s Villa and Rocca Pia. Head to Via delle Cascatelle, a walkway surrounded by the amazing views of waterfalls that cascade in the northern part of Tivoli.

9. Sperlonga

Sperlonga is the perfect getaway since in a way it resembles a little Greece. The vibe is amazing, and the water is crystal clear. Sperlonga was awarded a Blue flag status for high water quality and standards. You can immediately feel that you are far away from the stress of the city.

How to get there? Take the regional train headed to Naples from Roma Termini station and then get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the Piazzoli bus for 20 minutes to Sperlonga (€1.50 bus ticket – note the price may change). While there, enjoy a relaxing beach day with some cold prosecco and then have lunch at the many tasty and fresh seafood restaurants.

10. Anzio/Nettuno

Anzio and Nettuno are only 10 minutes apart and are easily reached from Rome’s termini station in 60 to 70 minutes.

How to get there? One train per hour leaves from Termini station, stopping first at Anzio and then at Nettuno. Anzio was also awarded a Blue Flag status for its high-quality waters.

While in Anzio/Nettuno, enjoy a great beach day and then have a stroll in the centre where you can find many local products made fresh daily. You can get a delicious panino (sandwich) with fresh mozzarella di bufala for just 5 euros.

Summary:

If you are planning to visit Rome over the summer, then these day trips will guarantee you the trip of a lifetime. Rome is not only a great place to be because of its beauty and perfect temperature, but it is also blessed to be close to many of Italy’s “bucket list” destinations and which are crazy beautiful. So, when planning your trip to Rome, you must try and include these day trips on your list!

10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in France

10 Best and Most Beautiful Places to Visit in France

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Almost 90 million people visited France in 2018 and it is one of the world’s most visited travel destinations. The Louvre which is located in Paris is also the most visited museum in the world with 9.6 million people paying a visit in 2019. These huge numbers can be expected given the amazing country that France is.

France has a very distinct landscape; from beautiful beaches on the southeast coast, lavish agricultural lands, gorgeous forests, towering archaic mountains and extinct volcanoes. It also has Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc, standing at a massive 4,810m tall! If you are planning to visit France, then keep reading as we suggest 10 beautiful places you must visit.

1-Etretat

Étretat is a town on the north coast of France in the region of Normandy. It is known for its outstanding rock formations carved out in its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille, which is a pillar rising from the sea like a needle. The massive white cliffs of Etretat have encouraged many artists like Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet and should inspire you too.

While in Etretat, walk up to the top of the cliffs to have a bird’s eye view of the coast, caves, and the arches in their shining glory. While on top, visit the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde which is hovering high above the surrounding area. Also, explore the village centre which is small and can easily be navigated by walking. You must try the refreshing cider since it is a local specialty and enjoy the charming galleries, boutique shops, and the delicious food at the French restaurants.

Etretat coastal town in France

2-Nice

Founded by the Greeks and later a retreat for 19th-century European elite, Nice was named after the Greek goddess Nike. Nice has attracted many writers, composers and artists who got inspired by the unique views it offers. Nice is one of the best places to go in Europe for its museums, galleries, perfect climate, great cuisine, and beautiful coast.

When in Nice, check the huge 7 kilometres long Promenade des Anglais which stretches from the airport on the west to the Quai des États-Unis on the east. Also, visit the Vieille Ville, Nice Cathedral, Parc de la Colline du Château, Cours Saleya Market, and Parc Phoenix.

Beach in Nice France

3-Colmar

Colmar looks like a charming place out of a storybook and is an old town with cobblestone streets along with medieval and early Renaissance buildings in the Grand Est region of northeastern France. The town borders Germany and is on the Alsace Wine Route which has local vineyards that specialize in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines.

While in Colmar, visit the picturesque old town square, Place de la Cathédrale, Unterlinden museum, museum Musée du Jouet (Toy Museum), and Koïfhus (Ancienne Douane). Also, visit the beautiful churches like the Eglise des Dominicains, Eglise Saint Martin, and Saint Matthieu Church. Finally enjoy a stroll along these beautiful quartiers; Krutenau, Quartier des Tanneurs, and Quai de la Poissonnerie.

Colmar, France at sunset

4-Paris

Paris is a must-visit destination since it is the lavish and rich capital of France. A fun fact is that Paris was actually a Roman city called “Lutetia” in historic times. Paris now receives millions of tourists each year because of the incredible attractions on offer.

While in Paris be sure to visit the historic Louvre museum, the Tuileries gardens, the Sainte-Chapelle chapel, the Paris catacombs, Notre Dame cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, and of course the Eiffel Tower. If you have time then also have a little picnic along the Seine River followed by a stroll along the Champs-Elysees.

Me 🙂

5-Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the beautiful capital of the Alsace region in eastern France and holds the formal seat of the European Parliament. It is situated on the border with Germany which gives it its unique characteristics and Franco-German culture and architecture.

Strasbourg is crossed by the Ill river and is made up of numerous islands, where the most known is the Grande Île (“Large Island” in French). This has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. So, make sure to visit this unique island first and check the famous Strasbourg cathedral (cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg), which is a symbol of the city and the oldest Gothic cathedral in the world. Also, check the 4 medieval churches, St. Paul’s church and several palaces (Palais Rohan) from the 18th century which are located here.

Later, take a stroll in the famous Gutenberg, Kleber, and the Broglie Squares. Also, check The Petite France area, and witness the beauty of the covered bridges (“Les Ponts Couverts de Strasbourg”) and the Vauban Barrage (Vauban Dam).

Museums in Strasbourg are numerous, including the Strasbourg historical museum, the Alsatian museum, and the Zoological museum. If you come in Christmas you can enjoy the Strasbourg Christmas Market. Finally, another way to enjoy Strasbourg is by taking a boat tour on the canals or a bike tour.

Strasbourg in France at sunset

6-French Alpes

The Alps is a huge mountain range in Europe and spreads over 1,200 km across France and seven other countries. These include Slovenia, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, and Austria. The French Alps are the parts of the Alps mountain within France, located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions. The French alps is perfect for skiers and nature lovers and is surrounded by the most charming natural scenery in Europe, huge mountains, magical lakes, waterfalls, and magnificent forests.

While there, check the Chamonix Valley at the foot of Mont Blanc, Annecy, Vercors Regional Natural Park, Grenoble, Aix-les-Bains (internationally renowned spa town), Val d’Isère, Evian-les-Bain, and Megève. Also visit Val Thorens and Portes du Soleil Ski Area which are great for ski holidays and a perfect place to revel in the gorgeous Alpine scenery.

Views of the mountains of Tignes ski resort

7-Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is a gorgeous tidal island in Normandy visited by more than 3 million tourists each year. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and many of its buildings are protected in France as historic monuments. The island will take you on a trip back to the Middle Ages where the whole island is a pedestrian zone with stone buildings dating back to the 13th – 15th centuries.

While there, visit the popular Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre, and La Chapelle-Saint-Aubert. The island is tiny so make sure to walk around its fairy tale streets and also visit La Grande Rue which is a street filled with cute little shops, charming cafés, and restaurants, as well as “Chemin des Remparts” (Ramparts Pathway) to enjoy the magical views.

Views towards Mont Saint Michel

8-Corsica

Corsica is the 4th largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Cyprus, Sicily, and Sardinia. It is located between the west coast of Italy and the north coast of Sardinia. Corsica was sold to France in 1768. Corsica has more than 200 beaches and also very mountainous terrain with its tallest peak being Monte Cinto (2,706m).

While in Corsica, you must enjoy a lovely beach day since this island is known for its clear turquoise waters and gorgeous sandy beaches. Some of the top beaches are Calvi, Bodri, Loto, Palombaggia and Santa Giulia.

A beach day would also be perfectly paired with a snorkelling adventure. Some of the recommended beaches for snorkeling are Roccapina, Rondinara, Loto, Palombaggia and Marinella. You must also check the charming hilltop villages like Pigna and Sant’ Antonino, which is the oldest village in Corsica. Get lost in the cobbled streets and alleys and enjoy the beautiful vibes of the island.

You can also enjoy a boat tour around the island and discover more villages; the pretty village of Girolata is solely accessible by sea or a narrow path down the hills.

Corsica beach in France

9-Versailles

When in Paris be sure to take a train to Versailles which is remarkably close; approx 20 km from the centre of Paris. Versailles is a city known for the Château de Versailles and the gardens of Versailles which are among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and must be on the top of your list to check out. Make sure to see the hall of mirrors and the Royal Chapel in the Château de Versailles.

Other things to see include Grand Trianon, the Versailles Royal Opera, the Versailles Cathedral, Notre-Dame de Versailles, and Petit Trianon park. Finally, enjoy a stroll around Versailles and enjoy its cute markets.

10-Provence

Provence is a region of France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. It is famous for its varied landscapes, from the Southern Alps to rolling vineyards, olive groves, charming lavender fields, and wonderful pine forests. Provence is perfect to visit any time of the year as it is one of the sunniest regions in France and has approximately 300 days of sun a year.

While in Provence, check out the famous lavender fields at the Abbaye de Senanque, the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the Roman City of Nîmes and the famed white horses and cowboys of the Camargue.

Make sure to visit the Village of Gordes, the archaic town of Vaison-la-Romaine, the Mercantour National Park and the Vallee des Merveilles. Provence has some delicious wines too, so while in the region enjoy the delicious wine at the vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which is a medieval village where the Château des Papes overlooks beautiful lavender fields.

Nearby the old Port of Marseille, which was since the 6th century BC one of the most ancient trading hubs in Europe. Provence also has a set of wonderful national parks. Such as the Parc National des Calanques and the Verdon regional park where the renowned river canyon (Verdon Gorge) runs for 25 km through the park.

Provence in France - Lavender Fields

Summary

France has so much to see and is one of the best all-year destinations in Europe. If you are looking for a charming and fairytale vacation, then France is the place to be. When in France, you can come and enjoy the wonderful scenery, the gorgeous snowy mountains, the crystal-clear beaches, the quaint villages, the interesting museums and artwork, and delicious food and wine.

Lebanon Road Trip Guide 2021: A 1-Week Itinerary Through All the Highlights

Lebanon Road Trip Guide 2021: A 1-Week Itinerary Through All the Highlights

With just an area of 10,452 square kilometers (4,036 sq mi), Lebanon is a country that you must visit. Lebanon is actually the oldest country name in the world, remaining unchanged for over 4,000 years. Recently, National Geographic declared it as one of the world’s oldest countries.

When you think of the middle east, you usually tend to imagine a desert. However, Lebanon is the only Arabian/Asian country that does not have a desert but actually has a huge seacoast from North to south, 16 rivers, 13 nature reserves, 28 protected forests, 17 natural sites, and even some islands. Lebanon is charming and would only take 1 week or even less to discover its beautiful places and popular locations! 

I will present a guide to a 1-week road trip in Lebanon.

  • Day 1: Beirut
  • Day 2: Jounieh / Jeita / Byblos
  • Day 3: Batroun / Chekka
  • Day 4: Anfeh / Tripoli 
  • Day 5:  Bcharré and the Qadisha Valley
  • Day 6: Baalbek / Aanjar
  • Day 7: Marjaayoun / Saida / Tyre

*This article was originally written for A World To Travel (www.aworldtotravel.com)

You can find the rest of the article here: https://www.aworldtotravel.com/lebanon-road-trip-itinerary/

7 Top Reasons to Visit Rome

7 Top Reasons to Visit Rome

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

By the early fourth century ancient Romans developed a road network of 53,000 miles where each Roman mile was about 4,800 feet and marked by a milestone. This gave birth to the saying “All roads lead to Rome”, and all roads must lead you to Rome for your next vacation! Rome is an all-in-one destination; filled with art, history, architecture, beauty, food, and sunshine. This makes Rome an all-year-round destination; it is always a good idea to visit Rome.

I love living in Rome because whenever I walk in its streets, I feel like I am taking a trip back in time; it is called the eternal city for a reason. Rome is a destination you must visit in your lifetime and is a destination that is perfect for your bucket list.

Here are 7 top reasons to visit Rome.

1. The beautiful weather

Rome is blessed with milder winters compared to the rest of Europe. Temperatures dropping below zero is exceedingly rare; the last time it snowed in Rome was February 2018 (at time of writing). This makes Rome a year-round destination, where you can pick any season and just come for a vacation. In summer, Rome is generously warm with beautiful weather and clear skies. Even in winter, Rome is great to visit as it looks gorgeous under the rain but is still warm enough and enjoyable to walk around the city. Another advantage is that in the winter months of December, January, and February the queues at the popular attractions and museums are at their shortest.

If you are looking to avoid the summer crowd and extreme heat, then early Spring or Autumn are great times to visit Rome. For me, September is my favourite time because the weather is still warm, the air is crisp, the tall trees start to turn into a lovely orange and the atmosphere becomes cosy and romantic.

Altar of the Fatherland in Rome
Photo 106147997 © Alkan2011 | Dreamstime.com

2. The food and aperitivo

Roman (Italian) food is the perfect example of “simplicity is key”. Italian food is prepared with few ingredients but sure makes a cuisine that is full of taste, flavour, and character. Italian cuisine focuses on fresh ingredients from local products which you can taste with every bite. The food is not only delicious but is also affordable where the average cost of food in Rome is €40 per day and the average meal in Rome should cost around €15 per person. This depends of course on your spending and eating habits. Breakfast items are generally a little cheaper than that of lunch or dinner.

Some of the best foods to try include supplì, fiori di zucca, fried baccalà, tagliere di salumi e formaggi, carciofi alla romana/ alla giudia, pizza al taglio, carbonara, cacio e pepe pasta, and trapizzino.

My favourite part of the day is the pre-dinner or Aperitivo (aperitif). The aperitif is an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink that is usually served with potato chips, nuts, olives, breads, and cheeses, or sometimes it comes in the form of an unlimited buffet. All this can add up to only 5-10 euros depending on the area. In the centre, the aperitivo is generally more expensive than the rest of the areas. The aperitif usually starts around 6.30 pm and lasts till 8 pm (prior to covid restrictions).You may also like:Delicious Food and Drinks to Try in Italy

3. The fresh desserts and pastries

Breakfast in Italy is usually a cappuccino and a pastry, which tends to vary by region. In Rome, delicious croissants (Cornetto) filled with Nutella or jam or even served plain are enjoyed alongside a cappuccino or regular coffee. I love to dip my cornetto in a warm cup of coffee; the taste is irresistible.

Some of the desserts you can find in Rome are the Maritozzo which is a sweet bread roll filled with whipped cream typical of the Lazio region where Rome is.

Other desserts are of course a good homemade gelato served all year long and found in almost every corner! You can always enjoy a gelato walking around on your sightseeing day. Other compelling desserts you can find in roman pastry and dessert shops include ricotta cannoli, tiramisu (which literally means pick me up), pastiera Napoletana, biscottis, and crostata ricotta e visciole.

gelato in Rome
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4. The art,culture,architecture,and history (the trip back in time)

Modern Rome has hundreds of fountains and more than 900 churches which makes the roman culture one of the richest cultural heritages in the world. Rome is the birthplace of one of the most important ancient civilizations and boasts a huge collection of artwork, galleries, museums, old villas, and palaces. Rome’s role in history has been so vital that UNESCO included its city centre in the World Heritage List. In its centre, you can find the well-kept ruins that date back to the Roman Empire, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill.

Rome is a piece of art by itself; you can see famous pieces of art (for free) in churches, on the streets and in the buildings. For example, the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is a remarkable site in Rome where it harbours a treasure trove of Baroque and Renaissance art. Not only does it have sculptures by Bernini, but also paintings and frescos by Caravaggio and Raphael. Another good example is the Contarelli Chapel in the Church of St. Louis of the French (San Luigi dei Francesi) and the Basilica Papale di San Pietro.

San Luigi dei Francesi is a small church that inside has the astonishing Contarelli Chapel. This chapel has an in-situ triptych about the life of St. Matthew by the Baroque master, Caravaggio. Moreover, walking down the streets of the Vatican, you can of course notice the Basilica Papale di San Pietro which is the most famous work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. It was designed by Michelangelo, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Donato Bramante, and Carlo Maderno.

One amazing fact about Rome is that it is home to huge parks that still have ancient ruins. A park that I cherish most is the Parco degli Acquedotti  which exhibits the extraordinary aqueducts that still stand there to this day.

5. Its size

Despite Rome being one of the most popular cities in the world, it is not overly big. It is small enough that you can see most of its tourist attractions on foot in a day or two. For example, the popular Colosseum is 2 minutes away by foot from the Roman Forum, 6 minutes away from the Palatine Hill, 12 mins away from the Capitoline Museums and Piazza Venezia, and 25 mins away from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. Rome is also blessed with its connectedness as there are many timely metros and trains that can take you anywhere you want to go for a small price.

Roman Forum - Ruins
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6. It’s fairly close to the beach

Rome is very central and close to many of Italy’s beautiful seacoasts and beaches. If you are in Rome during beach weather and would like to take a break from the crowd of the city, you can easily do a day trip to a beach, 1 to 2 hours away by train or car.

Some of my favorite beaches are Anzio, Santa Marinella, Santa Severa, Sperlonga, Fregence and Ostia Lido (30 mins away by metro). You can enjoy a day sitting at the many public and free beaches and then have lunch/dinner at the various restaurants and enjoy a sea view. Fried calamari and Spaghetti alle Vongole are my favourite summer dishes to eat along with a cold artisanal beer or a delicious Aperol Spritz cocktail.

Sperlonga Beach
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7. It’s close to beautiful lakes

Not only is Rome close to charming beaches but it is also close to some gorgeous lakes. I always appreciate the lakes around Rome due to the lavish-green mountains and the quaint medieval towns surrounding them.

If you feel like surviving a hot day in Rome and having a dip in refreshing waters, consider heading to these lakes that are between 1 to 2 hours away from Rome: Lago di Turano (seen below), Lago di Bracciano, Lago Albano, Lago di Nemi, and Lago di Bolsena.

Lago di Turano
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(Summary): Are you convinced?

Rome has it all, and if you have a solid plan you will get to enjoy all of these: art, architecture, culture, history, food, wine, endless gelato supply, beaches, lakes, charming towns, huge parks, museums, and some sunshine. Also, the good thing about Rome is that you can eat pizza and pasta with no guilt as you will be burning it while walking around the beautiful city!

I hope I have convinced you to start making a plan to head to Rome soon. I can list 100 reasons on why you should visit Rome but instead here are just 7 that are pretty convincing! Go ahead and give it a shot, you will thank me later!

Beaufort Castle: A Crusader Castle In Lebanon

Beaufort Castle: A Crusader Castle In Lebanon

I visited the Beaufort Castle this December when I was back home in Lebanon. Beaufort Castle is now one of Lebanon’s most famous landmarks.

Entrance Fee:

The entry fee is 7000 LBP.

Opening Hours:

Monday8AM–7:30PM
Tuesday8AM–7:30PM
Wednesday8AM–7:30PM
Thursday8AM–7:30PM
Friday8AM–7:30PM
Saturday8AM–7:30PM
Sunday8AM–7:30PM

Location:

Beaufort or Belfort Castle, known locally as Qal’at al-Shaqif or Shaqif Arnun, is a Crusader fortress in Nabatieh Governorate, Southern Lebanon, about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to the south-south-east of the village of Arnoun. It is a 1.30 hours drive from Beirut.

The Name:

Its Arabic name Qala’at al-Shaqif means “Castle of the High Rock”. The castle was named bel fort or beau fort (French for “beautiful fortress”) by the Crusaders who occupied the castle in the 12th century. Despite the external ruin, the inside of the castle is well preserved. 

Brief History:

There was a fortification on the site before it was captured by Fulk, King of Jerusalem, in 1139 and construction of the Crusader castle probably began soon after.

Saladin captured Beaufort in 1190, but 60 years later Crusaders re-took it. In 1268, Sultan Baibars finally captured the castle for the Islamic forces.

It passed once more into the hands of the Arabs and in 1610 prince Fakhredin II of Lebanon, strengthened its fortifications and made it a storehouse for his treasures. It was largely destroyed by Jarkass Pasha. In 1629, Emir Fakhredin II asked for its reconstruction and restoration from the Grand Duke of Florence.

Beaufort provides one of the few cases where a medieval castle proved of military value and utility also in modern warfare, as its late 20th-century history shows.


The Magical View

The Beaufort Castle overlooks the Litani River, which flows past it on the east. The castle offers amazing panoramic views of southern Lebanon and northern Palestine. 

View from the top


Calcata Vecchia: The Town Of Witches

Calcata Vecchia: The Town Of Witches

According to an ancient legend, on days and nights when there is strong winds, in the narrow alleys of Calcata, it is possible to hear the singing of the old witches. Not only that: it is also said that this ancient village was in the past a place of ceremonial & ritual magic.

Calcata is best known for it being the home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, & aging hippies who started living in its abandoned houses and caves to live far from civilization and technology. The New York Times described it as what “may be the grooviest village in Italy”.

 Photo: Alamy

It is hard to believe that Calcata is only a few minutes drive from Rome:

Calcata (locally Cargata) is a village hanging onto a volcanic cliff in the province of Viterbo (region of Lazio), located 47 kilometres (29 mi) north of Rome, overlooking the valley of Treja river. Its history dates back to almost 3,000 years where the presence of human life in the area can go back to prehistoric times.

In the 1930s, the town was condemned by the government for the fear that the volcanic cliffs, the ancient town was built upon, would collapse. Then, in the 1960s, the artists and hippies saved the day and repopulated Calcata by purchasing the houses and restoring the ancient town. This lead the government to reverse its condemnation order.

There was a festival during our visit

How To Spend Your Day In Calcata?

1. Discover every nook and cranny 

Calcata’s medieval architecture is well visible on the churches and the civic buildings. Walk around to discover the artistic and colorful houses surrounding this town. Calcata is a place where time has definitely stood still!

2. Buy some homemade products

Calcata has a lot of little shops that sell homemade jams and chocolate spreads (they also do food tastings)! Make sure to check the bakeries and try their sugar/butter biscuits and desserts.

Also, this town is known for being a “Halloween attraction” and so you can find handmade masks stands that are to die for!

3. Lunch at my favorite: La Terrazza Sul Treja

This restaurant serves great traditional Italian cuisine with the most amazing view of the village! The portions were generous and the dishes extremely tasty.

Start your lunch by ordering the “tagliere di salumi e formaggi” with a local bottle of red wine! The Pappardelle al cinghiale seen in the picture below is recommended.

4. Check the Treja Valley Regional Park 

The Treja Valley Regional Park lies in the surroundings of Calcata. The park is a protected natural area in Lazio, established by the regional law in 1982 and makes a great place for hiking & horse-riding.

Spoleto: A Day In A Medieval Paradise

Spoleto: A Day In A Medieval Paradise

Spoleto is a “hidden-gem” in Umbria, Italy surrounded by vast green hills & rich vineyards. Spoleto became a Roman colony in 241 BC and has successfully repulsed an attack by the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, in 217 BC . It later became important because of its strategic location on the Roman artery Via Flaminia and its great role in the Gothic wars. 

Walking around Spoleto’s narrow streets and enjoying its landscapes is enough to make you feel you are back in the Medieval Era.

Below are the top sights and activities to check when visiting Spoleto:

1. Duomo di Spoleto (Spoleto Cathedral )

The church is an example of Romanesque architecture and was built from the second half of the 12th century after the city had been devastated by Frederick Barbarossa‘s army.

The most striking feature is this Byzantine-hieratic mosaic portraying Christ giving a Benediction by Doctor Solsternus (1207). The latter kept calling himself an outstanding modern artist with nothing else known about him and this being his only known work. It would take half a century before the mosaics in Roman churches would surpass his style.

2. Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri

Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of Towers) stands on 10 pillars built on the foundations of a Roman aqueduct at a height of 262 feet (80 meters) and offers a splendid panoramic view of the city.

3. Rocca Albornoziana (Castle of Spoleto)

After checking the Ponte, head to Rocca Albornoziana which is a fortress that stands on Colle Sant’Elia, towering over the vast Spoleto valley. Its construction started in 1359 and it belongs to a series of fortresses whose construction was ordered by Pope Innocent VI to re-affirm the Pope’s authority in central Italy.

4. Lunch Essentials

After the long walk up to Ponte delle Torri & Rocca Albornoziana, a lunch is a must. Enjoy a home-cooked meal at “Trattoria Del Festival” located in the center (Via Brignone, 8, 06049 Spoleto PG, Italy).

5. Teatro/Museo Romano di Spoleto

Teatro Romano (Roman Theater) located inside the monumental complex of Sant’Agata, is a theatrical building dating back to the 1st century BC. The theatre was damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake and got restored in the ancient times.

The monastery of Sant’Agata now houses the National Archaeological Museum of Spoleto and the theater is used for concerts and shows.

6. Basilica of Sant’Eufemia

Sant’Eufemia is a Romanesque-style, Roman Catholic basilica church. The church is dedicated to Saint Euphemia of Chalcedon. It is a great place to take some artistic pictures.

7. Catch a movie at Sala Pegasus

This movie theatre/exhibit was the former church of San Lorenzo, currently called Sala Pegasus. In 1972, some restorations made it possible to transform it into how it looks today!

It was dedicated to Saint Lawrence, a Syrian monk, bishop and local martyr who died in 576. Saint Lawrence is said to be the “illuminator” for the miracles related to healings from blindness.

8. Have a walk & grab a coffee at Vincenzo Art Cafè 

Enjoy the end of the tour with a warm cup of coffee or tea. The art café looks great on the inside and has delicious sandwiches and snacks you can grab.

Then head to Piazza del Mercato and enjoy a great stroll around the piazza!

Summer Bucket list: Top 5 Beaches to Visit Near Rome

Summer Bucket list: Top 5 Beaches to Visit Near Rome

If you are looking for a summer stay-cation, consider these beaches below which are all within reach from Rome:

The first 3 beaches introduced are considered blue flag beaches. The Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) which dictates that a marina, beach, or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its stringent standards; “excellent” water quality and waste management, recycling, the presence of lifeguards, the extent of its pedestrian/ bicycle paths and green areas.

1. Anzio/Nettuno (blue flag)

Anzio and Nettuno are only 10 minutes apart and are easily reached from Rome’s termini station in 60 to 70 minutes. How to get there? 1 train per hour leaves from Termini station, stopping first at Anzio and then at Nettuno. Make sure to support the local shops: mozzarella di bufala dell’Agro Pontino (Anzio) is a must-try. The cheese is freshly made every day where you can get a delicious and rich panino for just 5 euros!

2. Sperlonga (blue flag)

Sperlonga is the perfect getaway since in a way it is like a little Greece. The waters are so clear and the vibe is amazing. You can instantly feel that you are far from Rome and away from the stress of the city. How to get there? Take the regional train headed to Naples from Termini station and get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the Piazzoli bus for 20 minutes to Sperlonga ( €1.50 bus ticket)

5. Sabaudia (blue flag)

Sabaudia is know for its beauty and the boundless coast where you can easily find public and private beaches. How to get there? Take the Cotral buses from Rome’s Laurentina metro stop (line B) to Piazza Oberdan in Sabaudia. Then take the bus which runs along the local coastline.

3. Santa Marinella/Santa Severa

These 2 beaches are 15 minutes apart by train. They are just an hour away from Rome and thus formulate a great day trip. These 2 beaches are surrounded by wonderful scenaries where Santa Severa has a great vista of Castello di Santa Severa . How to get there? There are two trains per hour leaving from Termini station for S. Marinella station and the journey takes about one hour.

4. Fregene

Fregene is a great place to enjoy a beach day and the party life. There is also a wide selection of family-oriented restaurants and aperitif places. How to get there? Cotral buses depart from Rome’s Valle Aurelia metro stop (line A) and the journey takes about one hour.

Summer Bucket list: Top 4 Lakes to Visit Near Rome

Summer Bucket list: Top 4 Lakes to Visit Near Rome

As much as I like going to the beach, I always appreciate the lakes around Rome due to the beautiful and lavish-green mountains surrounding it. If you feel like surviving a hot day and having a dip in refreshing waters, consider these lakes below which are all within reach from Rome.

1. Lago di Turano

Lago di Turano looks unrealistic. It is so gorgeous that it has been used several times as a film location during the filming of “The Patron” starring Lucio Dalla. All you need to do when you arrive is spread a picnic blanket and just enjoy the view while eating some fresh pizza prepared by the artisanal bakeries nearby.

2. Lago di Bracciano

Lago di Bracciano is a volcanic crater lake and is the eighth largest in Italy.The lake is surrounded with beautiful medieval towns where the medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace is actually famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Other villages that lie along the lake are Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano. The lake is surrounded with cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with delicious local food.

3. Lago Albano

Lago Albano is the lake located in the Castelli Romani (Castel Gandolfo). The pope’s summer residence is actually located at Castel Gandolfo, a charming town with amazing views of the lake below. Nearby towns include Ariccia, a town famous for its porchetta and Marino, best known for its wine festival that takes place each October. For dinner, go to one of the restaurants with the view of the lake. I recommend Ristorante Pagnanelli (1882) which is one of the oldest restaurants I have been to (P.S. order the sparkling wine).

4. Lago di Nemi

This lake is a small and eventful lake which derives its name from Nemi, a town located above the lake and known for its wild strawberries; the town hosts a strawberry festival at the end of spring each year. Nearby lies Genzano di Roma which hosts a magnificent flower festival (the annual infiorata), a three-day flower festival in June that coincides with the religious holiday of Corpus Christi, 60 days after Easter.