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!

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
Photo 152218056 © Diana Vyshniakova | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 50918835 © Scaliger | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 84038228 © Shopartgallerycom | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 54026975 © Freesurf69 | Dreamstime.com

(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!

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
Photo 113712211 © Multipedia2014 | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 120971672 © Flydragonfly | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 25350097 © Oliver Sved | Dreamstime.com

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
Photo 109765280 © Yuriy Brykaylo | Dreamstime.com

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.

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


Movies That Took Place In Italy

Movies That Took Place In Italy

When there is a lockdown and everything is closed, we usually tend to reside to movies to make us feel something different. I usually love to watch thriller & investigative crime movies while other times I love watching films about adventure, love and travel.

I currently live in Rome; weirdly enough, I still try to find movies shot in Italy or I’ll re-watch some older movies. Italy is a place with endless dreamy locations to film in and so watching movies shot in Italy will never be boring. Instead, it will always get you excited about planning a trip once the lockdown is over! Not all of these movies are masterpieces but, in some way, each of them beautifully showcases Italian landscape, society or culture.

Below I will be mentioning some good & enjoyable movies shot in Italy:

1. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Thriller/Crime

This movie is definitely one of my favorite “keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat ” kind of film. The Talented Mr. Ripley was shot in and around Positano and some locations in Rome and Venice.

It is an American psychological thriller film written and directed by Anthony Minghella and based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel . The movie stars Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf and has received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Law.

The movie is about the charismatic but very psychopathic Tom Ripley who gets sent to Italy to bring back Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), a spoilt millionaire. However, events take a sinister turn and a murder occurs.

2. Love Wedding Repeat (2020)

Love. Wedding. Repeat (2020) • Netflix | by Charlene DeKalb | Frame Rated |  Medium

Romantic Comedy

If you like cringe-inducing humor, this movie is for you. The movie takes place, in large part, at Villa Parisi in Frascati, Italy.

Love Wedding Repeat is a romantic comedy film directed by Dean Craig and is a remake of the 2012 French romantic comedy film Plan de Table. The film stars Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn and Eleanor Tomlinson.

The movie is about Hayley’s marriage (wedding day) to Roberto, a wealthy Italian man. The wedding gives Hayley’s older brother, Jack, the chance to reconnect with his old crush, a journalist named Dina. However, Hayley’s ex shows unexpectedly which leads us to seeing the multiple scenarios of how people are trying to handle that situation.

3. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Luca Guadagnino: 'Elio would be a bedroom producer if the film was set now'  | Dazed

Romance/Drama 

This movie will make you never look at peaches the same again. The movie was shot in Lombardy, mainly in the town of Crema, an hour from Milan.

Call Me by Your Name is a coming-of-age romantic drama film directed by Luca Guadagnino and starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet.

The movie talks about Elio (Timothée Chalamet) who is staying in his family’s 17th-century villa and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student whom Elio’s father, a professor of archaeology, invites over for the summer. What follows is a sensual tale of first love between Elio and Oliver in the beautiful Lombardy!

4. The Rite (2011)

The Rite (2011 film) - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

Horror/Thriller (based on real events)

This horror movie was filmed in Budapest and Rome. It is a supernatural horror film directed by Mikael Håfström and written by Michael Petroni.

The movie was based on Matt Baglio’s book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist; which is based on supposedly real events as witnessed and recounted by an American then-exorcist-in-training, Father Gary Thomas, and his experiences of being sent to Rome to be trained and work daily with veteran clergy of the practice. The film stars Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue.

The movie talks about a seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) who finds that he must attend a Vatican school of exorcism while believing possession to be the work of a troubled mind rather than actual demons. Then, Michael becomes the apprentice of Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins), a veteran exorcist, and encounters a terrifying force that causes him to question everything he believes.

5. Under The Tuscan Sun (2003)

Under The Tuscan Sun (2003) Movie Review from Eye for Film
Positano

Romance/Drama/Memoir

Under The Tuscan Sun was filmed in multiple locations in Italy, including Cortona, Florence, Montepulciano, Positano and Rome. This American romantic comedy-drama (starring Diane Lane) is written, produced, and directed by Audrey Wells and is based on Frances Mayes’ 1996 memoir of the same name.

The movie is about an American author, Frances Mayes, who escapes to Tuscany when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her. Falling in love with Cortona, she buys a dilapidated villa and starts to rebuild it, hoping it will lead to a change in her life.

6. Eat Pray Love (2010)

Julia Roberts Teaches Us How To “Eat, Pray, Love” (2010) | by Arini Arsana  | SeoulSearching In Film Industry | Medium

Romance/Drama/Memoir

If you are into Italian food porn and good vibes, this movie is a great choice! Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts, was shot on location in Rome and Naples. This film is an American biographical romantic drama film based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir of the same name. Ryan Murphy co-wrote and directed the film.

Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) thought she had everything she wanted in life: a home, a husband and a successful career. But after her divorce, she hits a turning point and finds out that she is confused about what is important to her. Daring to step out of her comfort zone, Liz embarks on a quest of self-discovery that takes her to Italy, India and Bali.

Bonus movie to watch:

The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)

Watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie | Full Movie | Disney+

Family/Comedy 

A trip down memory lane and childhood memories, perfectly describes this movie! The film was shot in Rome, Italy in the fall of 2002. The Lizzie McGuire Movie is an American teen comedy film directed by Jim Fall starring Hilary Duff and Adam Lamberg.

The film talks about Lizzie McGuire, who while on a holiday in Rome, is mistaken to be a pop star named Isabella. However, when the time comes, she must choose between her new glamorous lifestyle and returning home.

Top 5 Serial Killer Netflix Series To Binge-Watch During The Lockdown

Top 5 Serial Killer Netflix Series To  Binge-Watch During The Lockdown

In these tough times, we all are looking for a sweet escape from today’s pandemic and drama. Although not so sweet, every time I surf Netflix, I find myself fascinated and inclined to watch serial killer Netflix shows. I end up binge watching them for days and this makes me question my sanity and the reason why am I so interested in serial killer series in particular.

For the most part, the reason I watch serial killer shows is because I am very curious & interested in delving into the minds of serial killers and understanding why they did what they did and how did they manage to get away with several murders.

Below I will introduce 5 serial killer Netflix series that will satisfy your curiosity and keep you hooked:

1. The Confession Tapes:

The Confession Tapes is a Netflix TV show from the journalist and documentarian Kelly Loudenberg. The show got distributed by Netflix and became available to all subscribers on September 8, 2017. This show presents a stimulating look into the failures of the American criminal justice system, of forensic science, and of memory where several cases of possible false confessions leading to murder convictions of the people of interest is portrayed. The series presents alternative views of how the crime could have taken place and features experts on criminal law, psychology, and false confessions.

The series features the case of Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, who come home to discover Rafay’s parents and sister murdered in their family home after a night of partying. In spite of their alibis, the police decided almost immediately that Burns and Rafay should be the murderers.

Rating: The show was given a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

2. The Alienist

The Alienist is a psychological thriller drama on Netflix that was premiered on January 22, 2018. This chilling serial killer show was set in 1896 and focused on a series of gruesome murders of young male prostitutes in New York City. The series joins fictional characters and true historical figures, such as Theodore Roosevelt.

In the series, Teddy Roosevelt calls upon Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, who is a criminal psychologist, Sara Howard, the headstrong secretary to the police commissioner, and John Moore, a newspaper illustrator, to conduct the investigation secretively. The opening of the series is very catchy by itself: “In the 19th century, persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be alienated from their own true natures. Experts who studied them were therefore known as alienists.”

Rating: The series was given a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes but actually deserves a much higher rating.

3. You

You is an American psychological thriller television series that was originally released on September 9, 2018 and became available on Netflix in 2019. I, myself, watched it 5 times already. This serial killer Netflix TV show takes place in New York and portrays the life of a regular bookstore manager (Joe Goldberg) who turns out to be a serial killer. Joe falls in love with his customer and quickly develops a toxic and delusional obsession with her. The series hit an astonishing 43 million viewers. Season 2 was aired on Netflix at the end of 2019 and had a major plot twist where Joe leaves New York to Los Angeles to escape his past to start over with a new identity. Later, he meets Love Quinn and then begins falling into his old patterns of obsession and violence.

Rating: The series was given a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.

4. Conversations With A Killer – The Ted Bundy Tapes

The Ted Bundy tapes is a limited serial killer Netflix show released on January 24, 2019, thirty years after Bundy’s 1989 execution. The Netflix show focuses on the charming Ted Bundy who was one of America’s most notorious serial killers and was dubbed as the “Jack Ripper of the United States.”  The series delves into the life and mind of Ted Bundy who was convicted in the deaths of more than 30 women before being caught in 1978.

Rating: The series was given a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes

5. Making a Murderer

Making a murderer is a Netflix TV show premiered on December 18, 2015 which talks about Steven Avery who was falsely convicted of murders he spent nearly two decades in prison for. Steven Avery then filed a suit against Manitowoc County and other individuals involved in his false conviction. However, after his release, Avery got accused of the murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach and got back into prison. Teresa was last spotted on Avery’s property, where she was to photograph a vehicle. Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were convicted of her murder.

Rating: The series was given an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes

Bonus Serial killer Netflix Series To Watch:

The End of the F***ing World:

This series is one of the only serial killer Netflix series to be a Netflix Original. Season 1 was released on Netflix on 24 October 2017 to be followed by season 2 on 4 November 2019. The serial killer Netflix show follows two 17-year-old teenagers, James and Alyssa, who decide to go on a road trip to find her estranged father, who left home when she was just a child.

James, who claims he is a psychopath, has decided it’s time to spot a human victim (Alyssa) as his next kill, after spending his time killing animals. James and Alyssa get caught up on a trail of violent events and gruesome murders that brings them closer together. The series is a part humor, part serial killer show and is filled with exciting and wild turn of events.

Rating: It was given a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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.