7 Top Reasons to Visit Malta

7 Top Reasons to Visit Malta

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

Malta is a beautiful archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea located between Sicily and the North African coast. The country is of the world’s smallest with an area of 316 km2 and a population of around 500,000 people. An interesting fact about Malta is that most of its people can actually speak fluently 3 languages: Maltese, English, and Italian. This is due to the fact that Malta was occupied by so many nations.

Despite Malta being slightly isolated, there is proof to suggest that civilizations have been residing in Malta since the early Neolithic period (5000 BC). Malta is a beautiful place to discover and here are seven top reasons why you should visit the country!

The Great Weather

With 300 days of sunshine, the sunny and warm weather of Malta is one of the good reasons that drive many tourists to visit. The daily average of sunshine is 12 hours in summer and around 5 to 6 hours in winter. Malta is an all-year-round holiday destination; the winter season is mildly cold, and the summer season is perfectly sunny.

Its Beaches

Malta is blessed with gorgeous cyan blue beaches with the best ones situated along the Northern and Western shorelines. Malta’s beaches are known to be extremely clean and of great water quality. The top beaches to visit are Mellieha Bay (the island’s biggest beach), Dwejra Bay (located in Gozo and with natural pools), Ġnejna Bay (a more peaceful beach), Golden Bay (seen below), Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, and the dreamy Blue Lagoon.

Its Islands

While in Malta, you can have the chance to do “Island Hopping”. This Maltese archipelago is made of three main islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. You can easily reach from Malta to Gozo and Comino by a ferry which takes 25-minutes for both and costs around 5 euros (subject to change).

Malta is the largest island and the commercial, cultural, and administrative centre. Gozo is the second-largest island and is usually more rural and is famous for its crafts, fishing, and agriculture. Comino is the smallest and largely less inhabited than the other islands with only one hotel available. Comino is also the location of the famous Blue Lagoon where you’ll find stunning azure water and perfect for a refreshing dip.

The Unique Cuisine

The Maltese cuisine reflects its history where many different influences like Spanish, French, Italian, British and other Mediterranean cuisines are present in the dishes. This makes Maltese food incredibly unique.

The food that you must try while in Malta are the traditional Rabbit stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek), the local Gbejniet (Maltese Cheese), Aljotta (Fish Soup), Zalzett Tal-Malti (Maltese sausage), the traditional pastizzi (savoury pastry), Ftira Ghawdxija (Gozitan Pizza), and Timpana (baked macaroni). As for desserts try the Imqaret (Fried Date Pastry).

Its Affordability

Malta is a great place to visit on a budget. It is affordable because the prices in Malta are usually 20 percent less than they are in mainland Europe. This percentage includes food, hotels, transportation, cruises, water activities and even the flights to Malta itself.

The Rich History

Malta is blessed with 7,000 years of rich and amazing history which you will notice during your trip. There is a large number historic artefacts, monuments, architecture, and ruins to check out while exploring. This archipelago has been ruled by many nations including the Normans, the Arabs, the Aragonese, the Carthaginians, the Phoenicians, and the Romans. What is fascinating is that the oldest megalithic temples in the world are located in Malta, where they are actually older than Stonehenge (a historic landmark in England).

The best historic sites to check in Malta are Mdina, which is an architectural landmark dating back to 4,000 years ago and the Saluting Battery located in Valletta. Also, make sure to check St Paul’s Catacombs, Hal Saflieni Hypogeum (prehistoric underground burial chamber), Rotunda of Mosta, Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary, and St John’s Co-Cathedral. Some of the history-rich villages to check out are Ta’ Qali Crafts Village, Sliema, and Popeye Village.

Its Small Size

Malta’s small size makes it easier to explore and discover as there is less area to cover making it faster to reach any destination you want. Even going to the islands can take less than 30 mins. For those staying a while then you should be able to discover all the main attractions in less than 10 days.

Malta used to have a railway and a tramway in the past but not anymore. Despite the fact, Malta is still well connected; you can get around Malta by public transport which is usually by bus or taxi. There are about 80 routes on the Maltese islands, running daily from 5:30 a.m. to 23:00 p.m.

Summary:

Malta is a great place to visit when you are on a budget and dying to go for a vacation on an island. Not only is it cheap, but it is also a dream destination for beach and sun lovers. What makes it a unique destination is that despite its size, this place does not fail to shock with its many monuments, artefacts and rich history. When in Malta you will not only get the chance to discover its history but also enjoy its delicious food, friendly people, rich culture, beautiful beaches, and charming islands.

The Island of Capri

The Island of Capri

Capri is definitely a dream destination that I had the pleasure visiting and exploring during the warm month of August. In this post, I will share my Capri experience along with the top-recommended places and activities to do there.

The Island of Capri is located in the Gulf of Naples off the southern coast of Italy, just a few miles from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. The island is 10.4 square kilometers in land area.

1. Reaching Capri

The only way to reach 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. For most of the year, vehicles are prohibited from embarking on the island, with the exception of residents and taxis.

The island is divided into two municipalities: Capri and Anacapri. The center of Capri town is about 150 meters above sea level while Anacapri is at a higher altitute. There are also two villages directly on the coast: Marina Grande (where the port is located) and Marina Piccola.

2. Getting around

During my trip, I decided to rent a moped (70 euros for 2 days) which made it easier to reach wherever I wanted. Moreover, there are frequent buses or taxis that you can use in case you decide not to rent a moped. Taxis can cost around 25- 30 euros from Marina Grande to Anacapri.

The bus routes are:

  • Capri – Anacapri
  • Capri – Marina Piccola
  • Capri – San Costanzo (Marina Grande)
  • Anacapri – Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto)
  • Anacapri – Faro (Lighthouse)

3. Activities

  • The Blue Grotto (Grotto Azzurra):

It is a sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri. You can swim inside the grotto and discover the magic; the light passing through the underwater cavity creates a charming baby-blue reflection that illuminates the cave.

Above the grotto, their is a cute bar (and the only bar) where you can leave your things and go swimming. Having drinks at this place is recommended as it is lays high on the cliff with a breathtaking view.

Blue Grotto Bar
  • Chair lift of Monte Solaro

Monte Solaro is the highest point on Capri. The lift is in Via Caposcuro in Anacapri, near Piazza Vittoria.

On the lift, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the splendid views of the Gulf of Naples with Vesuvius , the Gulf of Salerno, and Anacapri in the background.

  • Villa San Michele

This Villa is the life’s work of the Swedish physician and author Axel Munthe (1857–1949). It is surrounded by an impressive garden, which recently won the prize as Italy’s most beautiful private park. Behind it is the Barbarossa mountain that Axel Munthe turned into a sanctuary for migratory birds.

Villa San Michele houses an important art collection. The majority is of Roman, Etruscan or Egyptian origin, many are sculptures such as the fabled 3200-year-old sphinx.

  • Gardens of Augustus

If you are looking for a shortcut to enjoy Capri’s views but don’t have time to hike, then the Gardens of Augustus can solve this problem. From there you can spot the famous attractions like the Marina Piccola, Via Krupp and Faraglioni. The gardens are beautifully terraced, romantic and multileveled.

Entrance to the Gardens of Augustus will cost just 1 euro and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from March till November.

  • Marina Grande
Marina Grande

Marina Grande is the first thing you see when you arrive to Capri by sea and is one of the most interconnected areas on the island. This town is a charming one with vast green surroundings and scenic landscapes all around. You can spend time discovering this town by walking around, having some lunch or dinner and enjoying the gorgeous beaches there.

  • Marina Piccola

If you are looking for a less busy town and relaxing location, then Marina Piccola is the place to be. You can have a relaxing beach day while sipping drinks at the beach or enjoying a nice cup of coffee from the many cafe’s and restaurants around. Marina Piccola also a offers a great view of Faraglioni and houses the popular Siren’s rock.

  • Piazza Umberto

The Piazza Umberto is also known as La Piazzetta and is one of the main centers of Capri. This place seems to always be busy in summer and is great for a nice stroll around, shopping, and having drinks.

4. Food!!

These are my restaurants suggestions:

  • Materita
  • L’ Angolo del Gusto
  • Ristorante e Pizzeria Verginiello
  • La Rosticceria Capri Pasta
  • Gelato at Buonocore

Summary:

Italy is blessed with great food, landscapes, history, architecture and beauty. It also houses a great deal of dreamy island getaways just like Capri. Capri is definitely the place to be if you are looking for a place to have a relaxing and dreamy vacation where you can enjoy a night at a beach-view hotel, delicious sea food, jaw-dropping sceneries, along with a relaxing beach day filled with sunshine and happiness.

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Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

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

Whenever you think about a dreamy and romantic destination, Italy always seems to pop up in the suggestions. This is because Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not only is Italy beautiful but it is home to the most delicious cuisine, famous art, great culture, trendy fashion, and timeless historical monuments.

Italy is visited by millions of tourists every year and is one of the most visited countries in the world. The Bank of Italy estimated that tourism in Italy produces directly more than 5% of the GDP (Italian link). Moreover, Italy encompasses 55 World Heritage Sites making it higher than any other country in the world. If you are planning to visit Italy soon, make sure to visit these amazing cities below. Here are some of the beautiful cities to visit in Italy.

Rome

Rome is a city that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. This city is in itself a museum; walking around Rome is enough to take you back in time and give you this great overwhelming feeling. In Rome, you will casually see the huge Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, and the Roman forum, just by taking a stroll. Most of the famous landmarks are close to each other where you can discover each one on foot or by taking a tram.

While in Rome, visit some of the famous squares such as Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, St.Peter’s Square, and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps). Also be sure to visit the pretty Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Piazza Navona fountain), Arch of Constantine (near the Colosseum), Altar of the Fatherland (Piazza Venezia), Castle Saint Angelo and the Palatine Hill.

Rome has over 900 churches, with a few of the most remarkable ones including Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. Do not forget to finish your day with a delicious Italian dinner and gelato anywhere in the city.

@katy.terroz

Matera

In Matera, it is all about caves; you can eat, sleep, shower, and drink in a cave. This place is extremely beautiful and has incredibly unique landscapes that makes it a special destination in Italy or even in the world. The history of Matera is crazy because this place was thought of in the past as the place of poverty, diseases where its people resided in these caves without sources of water, or electricity. Matera is a source of pride for Italy as it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts a great number of tourists each year.

The first thing to do in Matera is to discover it on foot and enjoy its unique and mesmerizing structures and hidden alleys where houses and churches are carved in stone and located in caves. Some of the historical things to see are the Palombaro Lungo, Duomo of Matera, Santa Maria de Idris Church, and Madonna delle Virtù. Make sure to check out the amazing Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario (cave house) and the Matera Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.

Matera is also known for its great hike to Parco della Murgia. The hike is very scenic and adventurous as you have to cross bridges and climb up some rocks. The view at the top is priceless; luscious greenery and mouth-dropping bird’s eye view of Matera.

Matera at sunrise
Photo 46630474 © minnystock | Dreamstime.com

Palermo

Palermo is the capital of the island of Sicily and was known as the “Kingdom of the Sun”. Sicily is actually the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Palermo is a warm and gorgeous island surrounded by a green mountain range. In Palermo, you can have a fantastic beach experience (Mondello Beach) where you can enjoy several water activities like Parasailing. Also, make sure to check the churches and chapels of Palermo, such as Palermo Cathedral, Capella Palatina, Martorana (Cathedral of St. Mary of the Admiral) and San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

The largest Opera House in Italy is actually located in Palermo and is known as Teatro Massimo. Sicily is also known for its delicious and cheap fresh food and markets; so, while there make sure to visit the markets of Ballaro, Cap and Vucciria which are located in the centre. Other things to look out for are the Palermo Archaeological Museum, Fontana Pretoria and the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs. 

Palermo Cathedral exterior
Photo 24914602 © Ionut David | Dreamstime.com

Florence

Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region and is known to be home to several famous masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. When in Florence, have a walk and check out the following squares:  Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. Make sure to visit the gorgeous churches and cathedrals such as Florence Cathedral, Basilica of Santa Croce, Baptistery of St. John, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the church of Santa Maria Novella.

Florence is home to many famous pieces of art and museums. So, do not forget to visit the Da Vinci Museum, Galileo Museum, National Museum of Bargello, Archaeological National Museum, Casa di Dante Museum, and the dreamy Boboli Gardens.

It’s also worth noting a popular Florentine and Tuscan dish to try which is “Pappardelle Al Ragù Di Cinghiale”, a pasta dish with sauce and wild boar meat.

Florence skyline at sunset
Photo 44736988 © Rudi1976 | Dreamstime.com

Bergamo

Bergamo is a charming city located northeast of Milan, in the region of Lombardy known for its historic Venetian walls. While in Bergamo, hop on the old funicular to the old town (Citta Alta seen below) and stop to discover the beautiful squares of Piazza Matteotti, Via XX Settembre, and Piazza Vecchia.

Bergamo is known for its beautiful churches and cathedrals so make sure to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Colleoni Chapel, San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, the Baptistery of St. Mary Major and the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro. Other things to watch out for are the Museo di Scienze Naturali e Archeologico, Rocca Museum and Museo Donizettiano.

From Bergamo, you can enjoy a trip to the famous San Pellegrino Terme (Bergamo Alps), known for the production of the natural San Pellegrino sparkling water.

Citta Alta, Bergamo
Photo 137877493 © Krajinar | Dreamstime.com

Catania

Catania is also located in Sicily and is an archaic port city on the east coast. Catania is located at the base of Mount Etna which is an active volcano. There are actually guided tours to Etna where you go to the foot of the volcano and discover the area around and end the day with a sunset over the Volcano.

Catania has some amazing squares that you must check out on your walks, including Piazza del Duomo where you can find the city’s symbol: The Elephant’s Fountain, and Piazza dell’Universita where you can find Palazzo dell’Universita and the Palazzo San Giuliano. Behind the elephant fountain, you can find the great Catania Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Agatha.

There is a street (Via Crociferi) in Catania dubbed “the Church Street” since you can find several famous churches along it. Other things to visit include Villa Bellini, Catania Roman Theatre, Ursino Castle, Museum of Contemporary Art of Sicily, and the Catania Museum of Cinema.

St Agatha Cathedral of Catania, Sicily
Photo 77533511 © Evgeniy Fesenko | Dreamstime.com

Venice

When you hear the word Venice, you may immediately think about the gorgeous canals, colourful facades, beautiful architecture, and dreamy gondola rides. Venice is indeed a fairytale place to be as it is a small and compact city that has it all. When in Venice, visit the famous landmarks like San Marco Campanile (the tallest structure in Venice), St. Mark’s Square, Gallerie dell’Accademia, and Doges Palace. Make sure to take a boat or gondola ride along the beautiful Grand Canal and discover Venice from the waters.

Also, visit the town of Murano (island town) where many famous sights like the Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus, and the Palazzo Da Mula are located. Do not forget to check the churches of St. Mark, Santa Maria Assunta, and Santa Maria della Salute. Also nearby is the picturesque Burano which is just a little bit further than Murano and easily accessible through water taxi or a tour.

Venice Night

Parma

Parma is a university-city located in the Emilia-Romagna region, famous for the delicious and vastly used Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. So, if you are all about cheese and ham, Parma is the place to be. You can visit the “Parmigiano Reggiano Factories” and take a tour to uncover the elaborate art behind the Parmesan cheese making. During the tour, you will see how the cheese is made and stored, followed by a cheese and local wine tasting.

Other “un-cheesy” things to do in Parma are several. Visit the Piazza del Duomo where you can find the Parma cathedral, and the Baptistery (1196 by Benedetto Antelami). Other churches to visit are St. John the Evangelist Church, the Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata, Santa Croce, and the Baroque church of Santissima Annunziata.

A few other highlights include Teatro Farnese, Teatro Regio (Royal Theater), Palazzo della Pilotta, the National Gallery, Parco Ducale (the Ducal Palace), and Castello dei Burattini.

Piazza Duomo in Parma
Photo 71635093 © Sergey Dzyuba | Dreamstime.com

Cagliari

Cagliari is the capital of the beautiful island region of Sardinia. Cagliari is actually called “Casteddu” in Sardinian language, translated to mean castle. Sardinia is a dream destination due to its cyan crystal-clear waters, amazing nature, and great warm weather. While in Cagliari, take a stroll in the historical medieval center including Villanova, Castello, Stampace, and Marina. In the center, you will get to indulge in the beautiful scenes of churches, domes, palaces, and towers.

Later, visit the great churches located in Cagliari; Nostra Signora di Bonaria Basilica, the Santa Maria Cathedral (Cagliari Cathedral) where you can find the crypt which stands as one of the most fascinating places to see in the center. Also, make sure to visit the Roman Amphitheater of Cagliari, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Palazzo Viceregio, the Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria, and Palazzo Civico. You can also enjoy a beach day at the Poetto beach followed by a wildlife hike in Parco di Molentargius, which is situated next to the Poetta beach.

Cagliari in Sardinia
Photo 961304 © Noel Marc | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

Italy is a great place to be in any season or time. It is blessed with everything from beauty, nature, landscapes, history, weather, culture, cuisine, and great architecture; it is a place for everyone. The cities mentioned are wonderful escapes; home to the most delicious food, most famous artists and architects, historic landmarks that stood time, endless beaches, great activities, and gorgeous natural landscapes. These will make any trip a “great vacation”.

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10 Top Things to See and Do in Monaco

10 Top Things to See and Do in Monaco

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

Monaco is the second smallest country in the world after the Vatican and the most densely populated; with an area of 2.02 sq. km and a population of just over 38,900 (2019). What is even more interesting is that more than 30% of Monaco’s population are millionaires! Monaco is a gorgeous place nestled on the French Riviera blessed with natural beauty, great weather, gorgeous beaches, lush mountains, palm trees and beautiful architecture.

Although really small, there are some great things to see and do in this tiny country! Here are 10 recommendations on the top things to see and do when visiting Monaco.

Palais du Prince

The prince’s palace in Monaco is the official house of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco which was constructed in 1191 as a fortress and is located high above Monaco. You can enter and tour the palace when the prince is not there. You can usually tell if he is there by the flag in the major tower which is raised to indicate that the prince is there.

Some of the things to check out while at the palace includes the Italianate style gallery, the Blue Room, the Throne Room, and the Palatine Chapel. At the palace, you can also see the daily changing of the guards taking place at 11.55 am.

Monaco Palace
Photo 79180537 © Ryhor Bruyeu | Dreamstime.com

Jardin Exotique

Jardin Exotique is a beautiful Mediterranean botanical garden that opened in 1933 and covers 3 acres. This garden is situated on a cliffside located in Fontvieille with great views overlooking the ocean.

This tropical garden is incredibly unique as it has over 7,000 species of plants. The garden is filled with luscious green exotic trees, cacti, succulents, flowers where you can even find an assortment of plants from Africa and Latin America.

Jardin Exotique in Monaco
Photo 206098389 / Jardin Exotique Monaco © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Salle Garnier)

Something you must check out are the shows at the Opéra of Monte-Carlo which is an opera house that is part of the Monte-Carlo Casino. It was constructed in 1878 and portrays a grand scene where the performance area is wrapped with vibrant red and gold decorations, beautiful frescoes, and sculptures.
So, if you feel like catching a great opera show, a musical concert, or a spectacular ballet, then make sure to visit this fantastic opera house.

Opera de Monte-Carlo
Photo 33601387 / Monaco © Lucian Milasan | Dreamstime.com

Fort Antoine

Fort Antoine is an outdoor theatre that used to be a military fortification (fortress). It was constructed in the 18th-century and got demolished in 1944 later to be rebuilt in 1953.

Now, Fort Antoine is a go-to “under the stars” theatre that offers plays, concerts, films, special performances, and shows during the summer months.

Fort Antoine in Monaco
Photo 216800495 / Fort Antoine © Michel Peres | Dreamstime.com

Moneghetti District

The Moneghetti District is one of the richest districts in Monaco and famous for its luxurious villas, perfectly shaped gardens, and gorgeous terraces. The walk leading to the district is a great venture by itself as the roads cut into the cliffside; so be careful if you have vertigo.

In the Moneghetti district, you will also find “Parc Princesse Antoinette” which is famous for its 100 years old olive trees and its miniature golf course.

Musée Oceanographique

Musée Oceanographique is an oceanographic museum and a public aquarium with neo-baroque style located in Monaco. It first opened in 1910 and is situated on the side of an 85 m tall cliff.

The museum is unique for its collections of more than 350 species of marine life and wildlife creatures from seahorses, jellyfish, starfish, turtles, sharks, rays etc. The museum also houses a great exhibition of marine-related pieces like animal skeletons, model ships, weapons, and items made from mollusks, pearls, and shells.

Display at Oceanographic Museum in Monaco
Photo 206096781 © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Larvotto Beach

Larvotto Beach is the only public beach in Monaco and is actually a man-made beach! It was built following World War II and is now a must-visit location with clear waters, a volleyball court & a scenic seafront.

After a long day discovering Monaco, head to Larvotta beach the next day and enjoy a relaxing beach day. You can find many nice bars and restaurants where you can have refreshing drinks and delicious dishes.

A view of the beach in Monaco
Photo 43320360 / Monaco © Aleksandar Todorovic | Dreamstime.com

Monaco-Ville (Le Rocher)

Monaco-Ville known as Le Rocher (the rock) is the oldest district in Monaco standing high on a 62-meter cliff, where the residence palace of the ruling Grimaldi family is located. You can reach Monaco-Ville in two ways; an elevator or by walking up several ramps and stairs.

The way up to Monaco-Ville is filled with beautiful scenes and dazzling views. Make sure to wander along the roads and alleys of Monaco-Ville where you can find vibrant and colourful buildings and architecture from orange, pink and yellow. You can also find several restaurants and amazing bars with great lively vibes.

View from Le Rocher
Photo 121364757 © Sphraner | Dreamstime.com

Monte Carlo Cathedral

The Monte Carlo cathedral, also known as “Saint Nicholas”, is the main church in Monaco located in the old town. Its construction started in 1875 and got finalized in 1911. The church is incredibly beautiful with Roman/Byzantine style; a splendid high altar and the Episcopal throne made from white marble.

The church has two organs where on feast days and during religious events, you can listen to the brilliant and peaceful music made by the organs. Some worth-checking paintings found inside in the church are paintings by Ludovico Brea (1500) and François Brea (1500-1505).

The outside of Monte Carlo Cathedral
Photo 82293593 / Monaco © Pigprox | Dreamstime.com

Monte-Carlo Casino

Monte-Carlo Casino goes back over 150 years when it was opened in 1863. It is one the most famous casinos in the world where movies like Iron Man 2 and Golden Eye had scenes shot. This casino is beautiful and very luxurious and certain clothing is required to visit; such as no sports shoes, shorts, or flip flops. One crazy fact is that Monaco’s own citizens are forbidden to gamble or enter the casino’s gaming rooms.

If you are looking to do some gambling for fun and want to have the Monaco gambling experience, just put 5 euros in one of the slot machines and enjoy. If you win, you can collect the money right away!

Note: always take care in casinos to ensure you know your limits and don’t spend beyond your means.

Monte Carlo Casino at night
Photo 27280823 / Monaco © Kasto80 | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

Monaco is a magnificent tiny country overflowing with beautiful gardens, colourful buildings and architecture, as well as historical monuments, gorgeous beaches, gardens, and interesting museums that are definitely worth seeing. If you are looking for a straight-out-of-the-movies luxurious holiday, then Monaco should definitely be a top choice!

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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.

Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

*This article was originally written for travelmagazine.co (www.travelmagazine.co)

Rome is obviously a terrific place to be! Not only is Rome the eternal city with its breathtaking buildings and monuments, marvelous art, and legendary cuisine, but it is also central and close to many of Italy’s traveler gems.

Below I will present 5 unique and charming places that are less than 2 hours away from Rome. These sites are less touristy than the rest of the recommended places and so you will get the chance to have the authentic and local Italian experience!

1. Spoleto

Spoleto

Spoleto is a “hidden-gem” in Umbria, Italy surrounded by vast green hills and rich vineyards. It is 1.40 hours away from Rome. Walking around Spoleto’s narrow streets and enjoying its landscapes is enough to make you feel you are back in the Medieval Era. When in Spoleto, make sure to check the town’s popular attractions: Duomo di Spoleto (Spoleto Cathedral), Ponte delle Torri, Rocca Albornoziana (Castle of Spoleto), Teatro Romano di Spoleto, and Basilica of Sant’Eufemia.

If you have time, catch a movie at Sala Pegasus; a movie theatre/exhibit that was formerly the church of San Lorenzo. After, head to Piazza del Mercato and enjoy a great stroll around the piazza with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

2. Calcata Vecchia

Calcata Vecchia

Calcata is just 50 minutes away from Rome and is known as the town of witches. It is best recognized for being the home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, and 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”.

Calcata’s medieval architecture is well visible on the churches and the civic buildings. So, make sure to walk around and discover the artistic and vibrant houses surrounding this town. Also, check the Treja Valley Regional Park which 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 and horse-riding.

3. Sperlonga

Touring Sperlonga

Sperlonga is the perfect summer getaway since in a way it looks like a little Greece. It is around 1.50 hours away from Rome. The waters are crystal clear, and the vibe is amazing. You can instantly feel that you are far from Rome and away from the stress of the city.

When you arrive, start your day on a public beach and enjoy the amazing sunshine and sceneries. Later, head to the many local restaurants and enjoy a delicious and fresh “spaghetti alle vongole” with a sea view.

4. Tivoli

Visiting 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(1.25 hours by train and 40 mins away by car from Rome).

Make sure to visit Villa d’Este, a 16th-century villa in Tivoli famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains. It is now an Italian state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This villa is one of the most beautiful villas I have visited yet.

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

5. Bracciano

Bracciano

Bracciano is a small town in Lazio, only 50 minutes away from Rome. The town is famed for its volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano. The lake is surrounded by beautiful medieval towns, lush green mountains and architecture.

The medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace in Bracciano is famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The lake is surrounded by cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with some delicious local food. You can also enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner inside the town away from the lake.

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

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

Under visited and less touristy than other parts of Europe, Ukraine stands as one of the largest countries in Europe. Ukraine is a vibrant and beautiful country perched on the Black Sea, full of beaches, ancient castles, wild forests, stunning countryside, and a welcoming attitude from its friendly people.

Ukraine offers several gorgeous attractions for tourists including its traditional villages and colourful modern cities, many of which feature UNESCO World Heritage Sites and well-kept historical artefacts. Its capital, Kiev, features the gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral, with 11th-century mosaics and paintings is a highlight. Moreover, huge festivals celebrating its rich culture and history of folk traditions and diverse cultural influences take place yearly. Ukraine is also a very budget-friendly travel destination. All this together makes Ukraine a special destination, despite its political problems.

Below are 10 places that will make you fall in love with this eastern European gem. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Ukraine.

Lviv

Established in 1240 and named after Leo, the oldest son of the King of Ruthenia, Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine. This city is packed with monuments, galleries, and buildings with archaeological findings dating back to the 5th century.

Dubbed one of Ukraine’s most popular cultural cores, Lviv is home to some amazing operas, ballet performances, and art galleries, such as the Lviv National Art Gallery, home to over 60,000 works of art. In this city, you will discover all kinds of beautifully eccentric bars and knaipas (local pubs) hidden down narrow side streets.

Skyline view of Old Town Lviv
Photo 124964658 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Kharkiv

Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (December 1919-January 1934). It is now known as the city of students and youth with an average age of 35 years old.

The city offers many theatres, cinemas, museums, a variety of music and theatre festivals demonstrating its traditions.

Kharkiv is home to “Freedom Square”, the 8th largest city-centre square in Europe. A noteworthy landmark of the square is the Derzhprom building, which is one of the most prominent examples of constructivist architecture.

Kharkiv
Photo 53562317 © Volodymyr Silichev | Dreamstime.com

Odessa

Located on the north-western shore of the Black Sea, Odessa is commonly called the “Pearl of the Black Sea”. This city was first taken by the Greeks, then again by the Ottomans, and finally the Russians. This formulates the interesting history this city holds which can be told through its many museums and artefacts.

Odessa is now a modern city that offers a great collection of Art Nouveau architecture, theatres, underground catacombs, gorgeous beaches, great wineries, pretty cafes, and a prosperous nightlife scene.

Odessa Opera House in Ukraine
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Kiev (Kyiv)

Located in north-central Ukraine, its capital is of course the place to be. Kiev (also called Kyiv) is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe (482 AD). It is loaded with historic Soviet architecture, golden-domed churches, huge monasteries, and beautiful streets.

Kiev is for sure a fascinating cultural trip. Make sure to check its history-filled museums, like the Museum of Folk Architecture and Ethnography, which stands as one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. Do not forget to visit the oldest and the most popular monasteries in Ukraine, Kiev Pechersk Lavra (aka the Kiev Monastery of the Caves).

Make sure to check the theatre, opera, and musical performances which are immensely popular in Kiev. Later, head to one of the many city bars, sidewalk cafés, and enjoy a walk down Andriyivskyy Descent, a gorgeous cobblestone street lined with Art Nouveau-style houses and magnificent gargoyles.

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev
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Chernobyl

If you are interested in dark tourism, then this place is suitable for you. Chernobyl guarantees a dark exploration into the notorious 1986 nuclear disaster that led to the mass killing of thousands of people.

Chernobyl now appears frozen in time. While vising it, you will observe the demolished buildings, supermarkets taken over by nature, dolls resting on top of corroded playground equipment, a ferris wheel that never took another spin and the abandoned possessions of the people who had to run for their lives. For the fear of radioactive contamination, the citizens were not allowed to bring with them almost any of their belongings, including their own pets. On the bright side, guided tours are available to learn about the tragedy first-hand.

Abandoned school in Chernobyl
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Chernihiv

Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine and was first mentioned in the Rus’-Byzantine Treaty of 907. The treaty ranked Chernihiv as the second most vital Ukrainian center after Kiev.

Chernihiv is situated on the banks of the Desna River in northern Ukraine and features magnificent medieval architecture, especially the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral and Catherine’s Church with its golden domes.

If you love beer, then you will be extra pleased: the city has a beer (Chernihivske) named after it. Chernihivske is the preferred beer for millions of Ukrainians. Do not forget to visit the two ancient cave monasteries (caves of the Eletsky Monastery), located on the outskirts of Chernihiv which were once used as the bishops’ residences and the 18th-century Kachanivka Palace with its beautiful neoclassical architecture, vast gardens, and gorgeous lake.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Chernihiv
Photo 196534754 © Ksya | Dreamstime.com

Kamianets-Podilskyi

Kamianets-Podilskyi is most famous for the Kamianets-Podilskyi Fortress and constitutes one of the major reasons tourists visit this dreamy city in the first place. This fortress towers over the Smotrych River and is truly one of the most charming fortresses in Eastern Europe.

Make sure to wander in the cobbled streets of this well-kept medieval town that is known for its beautiful pastel-coloured houses and amazing street art. Also, do not miss the opportunity to witness the amazing festival of hot air balloons in the springtime or the chance to ride one of these balloons.

Kamianets-Podilskyi fortress
Photo 83751183 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Uman

Situated in central Ukraine, this city is situated on the banks of the Umanka River located between the famous cities of Odesa and Kiev. This place is well equipped for tourists and you will not face trouble finding your way around it.

The city of Uman is rich with historical and cultural heritage. Make sure to check the Shopping Rows, and the National Dendrological Park “Sofiyivka”. Also, make sure to check the Basilian Monastery (1764) which stands as the oldest building in the city.

Sofiyivka park and fountain in Uman
Photo 205933349 © Olya Solodenko | Dreamstime.com

Rakhiv

Rakhiv, the highest city in Ukraine, is a mountainous town enveloped within the rich Carpathian woodlands of western Ukraine. Rakhiv is perfect for nature lovers, adventure seekers and hiking enthusiasts.

Rakhiv offers fantastic scenery with picturesque slopes and swinging bridges leading across the Tysa River. If you are looking for a peaceful escape in the mountains, head to the calm Dilove village.

Do not miss the Hutsul Bryndza Festival that takes place in September and is held to honour the shepherds who return from the Carpathians every winter bringing with them delicious types of cheese (wurda and bryndza), folk songs, and lots and lots of traditional dancing.

Rakhiv and mountains
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Bukovel

Surrounded by three huge mountains and the highest peaks of the Carpathians, Bukovel is a perfect winter holiday destination. This place constitutes Ukraine’s biggest skiing destination and is in fact one of the largest ski resorts in Eastern Europe!

When you are not enjoying the ski slopes, head to the bicycle park, snow park, or the ski school to learn some new tricks. From December to April is the best time to plan a winter holiday to Bukovel.

Bukovel ski resort
Photo 126155972 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Summary

Ukraine is a rare gem in Eastern Europe that ought to be on everyone’s bucket list. From its beautiful and unique architecture, dreamy and scenic cities, vast green landscapes, gorgeous beaches, charming lakes to its historical museums, Ukraine has much to offer.

Ukraine being an exceptionally budget-friendly travel destination, you need not worry when visiting this remarkable place. Just pack your bags and head there; there is never a bad time to visit Ukraine.

Rating: 5 out of 5.