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.

9 Beautiful and Must-visit Caribbean Islands

9 Beautiful and Must-visit Caribbean Islands

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

The Caribbean has a staggering number of islands with more than 7,000 islands to discover. These islands not only offer the most spectacular beaches but also a myriad of hidden gems, lagoons, caves, incredible mountains, and even some beautiful towns with European style architecture.

While in the Caribbean, you will get to enjoy its natural wonders, underwater sites, endless water sports and activities, and end up sleeping in the world’s most jaw-dropping and dreamy hotels. Because one can’t simply visit all 7,000 islands, instead here are nine of the most beautiful and must-visit Caribbean Islands perfect for a vacation!

1. Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands in the Caribbean incorporates 3 islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. The Grand Cayman is the largest of the islands and is famous for its dreamy beach resorts and diverse snorkelling and scuba diving sites counting Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto.

Cayman Brac is a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches and is well known for being a popular starting point for deep-sea fishing trips.

From its name, Little Cayman, is known to be the smallest island. This island is astonishing as it’s home to a huge variety of wildlife exclusive to the island. From endangered animals like rare iguanas (Rock Iguanas) to some unique seabirds, like the red-footed boobies.

Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman island
© Mikolaj64 | Dreamstime.com

2. Aruba

Aruba is a Dutch Caribbean Island known for its continuous sunshine; in fact, Aruba enjoys the most days of sun in comparison to other Caribbean islands. Aruba is also famous for its golden beaches, bustling nightlife, safety, luxurious resorts and hotels.

While in Aruba, enjoy a beach day at the Eagle Beach, Hadicurari Beach or Palm beach which are all free of charge. Also, you can visit the Casino at Hyatt Regency Aruba, the Aruba Donkey Sanctuary, the butterfly farm and also benefit from an amazing hike at Arikok National Park.

Flamingos in Aruba
© Yanta | Dreamstime.com

3. The Bahamas

The Bahamas is an island country situated within the Lucayan Archipelago. It covers around 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago’s area and houses about 88% of the archipelago’s population. Two of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were actually shot in the Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park of the Bahamas.

The Bahamas is a great place to unwind and have a relaxing vacation. While there, make sure to hit the free beaches of Pink Sands Beach and Cable beach and the famous pig beach where you can enjoy water activities like snorkelling, diving (coral reefs, underwater caves..), boat tours, and even horseback riding.

Also, make sure to visit the Lucayan National Park, Clifton Heritage National Park, Versailles Gardens, the Glass Window Bridge and Blue Lagoon Island.

Nassau in Bahamas
© Ruth Peterkin | Dreamstime.com

4. The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation famous for its gorgeous vast beaches, golfing, and lavish resorts and hotels. The Dominican Republic has a diverse terrain as it has a rainforest, savannahs, and highlands, counting Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain.

While there, make sure to visit the Dominican Republic resort destination: Punta Cana and Puerto Plata where you will find great beaches such as Bavaro Beach and Playa Dorada. Enjoy a stroll in the lively street of Calle El Conde, where you can enjoy shopping, food, dinner and even gazing at some old ruins.

If you want to try Kiteboarding, make sure to go to Cabarete’s Kite Beach which is the ultimate kiteboarding destination.

Your trip won’t be complete without checking the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua, Bahia de Las Aguilas, Isla Saona and Parque Nacional de Este.

Punta Cana in Dominican Republic
© Valio84sl | Dreamstime.com

5. Barbados

Barbados is an eastern Caribbean Island surrounded by surfing beaches, historic homes, botanical gardens, caves, and golf courses and is a great place for active travellers. The capital of Barbados (Bridgetown) is well-known to be a cruise-ship port with beautiful colonial buildings.

If you are looking for a full day of swimming, surfing, kayaking, and snorkelling for shipwrecks and marine wildlife then Carlisle Bay should be your first choice. You can also enjoy a day at these free beaches: Bathsheba Beach (surfer’s paradise), Dover Beach (windsurfing), and Miami beach.

More things that are worth seeing include Animal Flower Cave (the only accessible sea cave), Harrison’s Cave, Andromeda Botanic Gardens, Hunte’s Gardens and St. Nicholas Abbey.

Bottom Bay in Barbados
© SimonDannhauer | Dreamstime.com

6. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an Eastern Caribbean Island home to volcanic crescent-shaped beaches, coral reef diving sites, waterfalls, fishing villages, luxurious resorts, and hotels. Saint Lucia is famous for the Pitons, which are St. Lucia’s twin towering peaks and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. The large Piton stands at 2,530 ft high, while the small Piton is 2,438 ft high high. Both of them were formed 200,000 to 300,000 years ago by volcanic activity. The best panoramic view of the Pitons can be found in the fishing village of Soufriere.

If you are a fan of snorkelling and diving, head to “Anse Chastanet Marine National Park” where you can find all kinds of marine wildlife from corals, coloured sponges, soft corals, brain corals, Frogfish, goatfish, wrasse, parrotfish, and barracudas.

To see the some great waterfalls, head to Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Waterfall & Mineral Baths.

Other top things to do and see in Saint Lucia include Pigeon Island National Park, Edmund Rain Forest Reserve, Morne Coubaril Historical Adventure Park, Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay.

Saint Lucia beach and landscapes
© Alexander Shalamov | Dreamstime.com

7. Antigua

Antigua is one of the 2 major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua is known for its endless sandy beaches, coral reefs, delicious food and iconic sceneries and views. In Antigua, you can visit a new beach literally every day of the year as it has 365 beaches!

While there, begin your journey with a hiking trip from Galleon Beach in English Harbour to the summit of Shirley Heights and witness the breathtaking views of the active volcano of Montserrat and the southern island of Guadeloupe. Later, head to the beaches of Half Moon Bay, Hawksbill beach, Dickenson Bay, or Galley Bay Beach.

Also, check the Devil’s Bridge (natural limestone arch), Betty’s hope museum, the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Nelson’s Dockyard (English Harbour), and Antigua’s Rain Forest Canopy Tour.

Beautiful views of Antigua and its coast
© Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

8. Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island with a beautiful landscape of rainforest, mountains, waterfalls, and the sea. What is great about Puerto Rico is the existence of its two extremes: where the activities can range from exploring the jungles of El Yunque, and ziplining through trees to checking the El Morro Fort (the 500-year-old walls) and shopping in Old San Juan Street.

Start your tour by taking a nice stroll through Old San Juan Street, where you can find many of the popular attractions like the Casa Blanca Museum, El Morro fort, Calle del Cristo, Calle de la Fortaleza, and Castillo San Cristóbal. There you can do lots of shopping and also find some great food to try as there are many street vendors selling a variety of foods and drinks. You’ll also find tours to help you explore this area and enjoy the best food.

One of the things that you will find very inspiring is the Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay where the water glows blue at night due to the organisms that live there called dinoflagellates. Other top things to see include Flamenco Beach, Sun Bay (Vieques), El Yunque National Forest, Carabalí Rainforest Park, Cueva Ventana and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

Beaches in Puerto Rico
© Stevengaertner | Dreamstime.com

9. St. Martin – St. Maarten

Saint Martin includes 2 different countries, divided between its French side of Saint-Martin in the north, and Sint Maarten, the Dutch side in the south. The island is home to eventful resort beaches, private coves, fusion cuisine, vivacious nightlife, jewellery and liquor shops.

While there, enjoy the many beautiful free beaches like Mullet Bay Beach (St. Maarten), Cupecoy Beach (St. Maarten), Orient Bay (St. Martin), Maho Bay (St. Maarten) and Friar’s Bay (St. Martin). Go to the Front Street in Philipsburg (duty-free) where you can go shopping for all sorts of things, ranging from jewellery to electronics and more.

Make sure to also check St. Martin National Nature Reserve, the butterfly farm, Loterie Farm (St. Martin) and Pic du Paradis (St. Martin).

Saint Martin beaches
© Thierrydehove | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime trip, then be sure to visit the Caribbean islands. You will get to enjoy everything from great weather, sunshine, friendly people, golden beaches, natural wonders. As well as great food, drinks, water sports, breathtaking scenery beyond imagination and so many more adventures. Although there is a great number of islands in the Caribbean, make sure to keep the islands recommended in this article on your list!

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.