Horseback riding in Naples

My dream of going on a horse riding tour in Italy finally came true one weekend a few weeks back when we booked a sunset tour from the Vesuvius horseback riding tours.

vesuvius-horse-riding-tour-logo-blog-review

Our tour guide, Roberto, was kind enough to meet us at Naples airport (which was close to the stables and easier for us to find than the stables themselves). We then followed his car to the stables, located at the base of the famous volcano, also known as the symbol of the city.

always-abroad-vesuvio-horseback-horse-riding-tours-stables
Western vibe is in the air

I have been a true horse girl since I was little, but the intense amount of homework at college forced me to drop my beloved hobby around at the age of 18. Perhaps I also slightly came to the realisation that the Finnish climate is simply not made for the hobby – my many toes and fingers that have suffered permanent damage from deep freezing speak for themselves (sometimes stable girls are given little tasks such as carrying buckets of water to horses outdoors at -32°C, because obviously the water pipes have been frozen overnight and horses happen to drink up to 70 litres of water per day). Therefore, the idea of horse riding in Italy sounded like more than idyllic to me, and I was dying to try it out in Naples.

always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tours-blue-eyes-naples-napoli
My trusted horsie Blue Eyes, unfortunately photographed from an angle ideal in making any horse look like a donkey.

Our tour group consisted of a colourful bunch of around 10 people, including adults, children, Americans, Italians, plenty of first timers and a few tour leaders. We chatted and drank coffee while the horses were prepared for us. Once they were ready, each of us was handed a horse and told to get on, very straightforward Neapolitan style of course, without giving too many instructions even to the first timers. All of a sudden, we were on the move, one horse at a time exiting the stable yard to the road. “What do I do?!” yelled my boyfriend, whose horse did not show any intention to move, and one of the leaders gave him some instructions in Italian. I generally like the Neapolitan spirit where people don’t make a fuss of just about anything (apart from food of course), but this time I really felt for a couple of first timers who were probably touching the 500 kg animal for the first time in their lives and were simply told to hop on and hold on, while no one was going to walk them or give any riding 101. If I hadn’t had 10 years of riding schools and horse renting behind me, I would have freaked out as well. However, the instructors were extremely nice and you could ask for help at any time. And as it turned out, no one really needed any help and everyone was able to handle their horses just fine throughout the 2 hour journey. Well done guys!

vesuvius-horseback-riding-tour-horses-vesuvio-naples-napoli-forest
It may be a shaky phone shot but I just had to show you the amazing forest we went through on the way up and down the volcano!

I hadn’t been on a horseback for a long while and was excited as a little kid. The tour really fulfilled all my expectations. The horses first took us through a jungle-like deciduous forest, a beautiful nature reserve where vines had taken over the ground and birds were chirping all around us. The highlight of the journey was the moment we reached a place quite high atop the volcano, where we could sit and stare at the stunning view of the Gulf of Naples while the sun was setting. It was a shame the weather was a bit cloudy, but we couldn’t complain – the day was one of the warmest this spring, and even at sunset, the temperature was as high as 22°C!

always-abroad-vesuvio-horseback-horse-riding-tours-gulf-of-naples
Naples seen from the volcano
always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tour-napoli-naples-blog-review
A common language was easily found somewhere in between English and Italian
always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tours-fun-activity-naples-napoli
Cheese!

My advice is to take a small backpack with you (one that sits tight against your back) and carry not only your phone or camera in it but also a water bottle, because you might find yourself thirsty once you get up there and take a break (let’s not forget that riding is a sport, after all)! For clothes, I’d recommend to put on ones that you don’t mind getting little dirty (which they probably won’t, but just in case). Running tights or very comfortable jeans should do if you don’t have breeches – there is no need to be too worried about this given it’s a western saddle you will be sitting in and it is virtually impossible to find it slippery, so trousers don’t necessarily need to provide that extra grip like regular breeches do. The most important thing, however, would be to wear boots with a small heel, 2-3 cm, to prevent your foot from going through the stirrup in case you lose your balance really badly (which I cannot see happening during this tour, though). Wellington boots should do the trick. However, let’s not forget that we are in Naples and these kinds of things are mere suggestions – we did the tour in Nikes (and not to mention, without helmets) and it was perfectly okay.

always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tours-western-horses-vesuvio-volcano
Volcanic rock all around the place
always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tour-napoli-naples
Our photogenic tour guide Roberto
always-abroad-vesuvio-horseback-horse-riding-tours-lava-rock
Vesuvius had a mild eruption in 1944, from which the lava rock covering the mountain originates

The riding tour was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in Naples and would recommend it to anyone, young or old, big or small, beginner or not. On the way back to the stables, one of the instructors invited me to go galloping her, given I was the only one with some experience. We left the rest of the group behind and trotted off to some fields. I had so much fun! We went around a few times, faster and faster, again and again. Unlike back in my stable days, my muscles are no longer made of steel, and the next day I could really feel the aftermath of the galloping experience in my feet, calves, thighs, bum, and in some abdominal muscles I never knew existed. My boyfriend’s riding experience hadn’t been as sporty as mine so it took him two days until he started to complain about the pain in his legs and abs.

always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tour-western-horses-naples-napoli

When we finally returned to the stables, it was already dark. We were offered some well-deserved wine while chatting over the experience with others, watching the horses being unsaddled and city of Naples twinkling in the horizon.

always-abroad-vesuvius-horseback-horse-riding-tours-western-stables-night
Buonanotte cavalli!

I’d like to thank the whole crew at the Vesuvius Horse Riding Tours for such a memorable experience, for taking good care of us and for having been reintroduced to my dear hobby again! I will definitely be seeing you in the future:)

www.horseridingnaples.com
Vesuvius Horse Riding Tour Facebook page

Sunset riding tours are 50€ per person.

Have you ever been on a horse riding tour abroad? Please let me know if you have some amazing places to recommend!:)

 

Amalfi Coast: A day trip to Sorrento

It was a sunny Thursday morning in August, right before Ferragosto, a major Italian holiday. We packed our bikinis, beach towels and 5 litres of water into the small yet faithful Mazda and started our journey to the Amalfi Coast.

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-map-route-napoli.23.png
1 hours 3 minutes? Dream on…

Given that Ferragosto was right around the corner, we suspected it might slow down the traffic a little bit given that Italians seem to be nuts about hitting the roads exactly the moment this holiday begins. Our initial plan was to drive to Positano, but after 3 hours of sitting in the traffic while sweating our brains out, we had only reached the northern side of the Amalfi Coast. Dehydrated and knackered from the burning sun, we decided to stay in whatever town would come next. This town was Sorrento.

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-sea-view
View from the town centre of Sorrento

It soon became clear that Sorrento was not a bad place to spend the day at all – it is, however, one of the most famous towns on the Amalfi Coast.

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-happy-people
One can nothing but admire the relaxed Italian mentality. La vita è bella!
sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-tourist-train
Wehee!
sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-gates-001
Wonder what kind of a private property with a sea view these gates are hiding from tourists!

Previously, I had only been to Amalfi (the town) on the Amalfi Coast (see my post about it here), so I was fascinated to see a town that was built so high up on the cliffs overlooking the sea. Sorrento was considerably bigger than Amalfi, and my fears about it being the worst tourist trap didn’t quite hold true – it was nowhere as bad as I had imagined. However, one local man did guess correctly that my friend was Australian (although this is only 50% true, but still, impressive), implying she was not the first Australian having walked down the streets of Sorrento. (My nationality, for one, only tends to confuse people.)

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-sea
The town centre was located on top of the cliffs rising basically straight from the sea
sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy
We must have looked like a legitimate tourist parade while walking down the streets of Sorrento

After taking a look at ourselves it was no wonder locals readily assumed we were tourists. White as sheets (or mozzarella) for the italian standards, we were equipped with all kinds of bags, backpacks, cameras, hats and sunglasses, not to mention the snorkelling gear we were carrying around…😂 Excuse me but I am only a semi-tourist!

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-beach
How to expand a beach? Let’s build tons of docks.

It took a while for us to figure out how to get to the beach, especially as the tourist info was closed (thanks for that, guys). We asked about it in a ceramics shop and they told us to walk down a staircase that we could have never found ourselves. Later on we discovered that there was also a lift built inside of the rock connecting the town and the sea – so absurd. The ‘journey’ cost a couple of euros, and we used it on the way back.

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-crowded-beach
Fancy some relaxation while sunbathing on this serene beach?

Seeing how crowded the beaches were on this hot summer day, we were lucky to find a spot along the coast where there were only a few people. At this point we were so tired that we couldn’t be bothered to take any more photos, unfortunately. Well, the spot looked kind of crappy anyway.

After falling into some sort of a beach coma for a while, we were all of a sudden shocked to realise that our car’s parking ticket was going to expire in 10 minutes! We packed our things, drank quick espressos (so that we could use the toilet, obviously), and rushed back to the car which we had parked a 20 minute walk away (you wouldn’t believe it, but fines for speeding or parking can be surprisingly high in Italy).

If you are a normal person who regularly checks what the time is, I do recommend leaving the car farther away like we did; parking cost us only a couple of euros per hour, while down by the beach they were asking triple/quadruple that amount. Amalfi Coast is definitely not the cheapest place to visit in Italy!

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-tourist
Quick photos from one of the beautiful sightseeing spots before we would leave

Although the day passed by really quick and we definitely didn’t see everything there was to see, I really enjoyed our visit in Sorrento. Travelling to the Amalfi Coast is always a good idea, and I would suggest choosing a few different towns to visit during a holiday. Sorrento is probably not the best choice when it comes to beaches as they are rather tiny – they are quite narrow as the cliffs are practically rising straight from the sea. However, the town is just lovely and it has plenty of fine old shops selling designer goods, ceramics and handicrafts.

sorrento-travel-tips-amalfi-coast-italy-view
Arrivederci, lovely Sorrento!

Final tip to anyone interested in travelling to the Amalfi Coast: you do not want to skip Naples! It makes me so sad whenever I hear someone having taken a flight to Napoli but having directly continued to the Amalfi Coast without even taking a quick look at this gem of a city that tourists have not yet found and ruined. Amalfi Coast may be one of the most beautiful places in the world, but there is no place in Italy where the food was better, the atmosphere more energetic or the people livelier than in Napoli. Read my recent post about the many reasons to visit bella Napoli here!

Have you ever gone on a holiday to the Amalfi Coast or Naples? Would you like to visit? Share your thoughts!:)

Why everyone should travel to Naples

My recent discovery, an article in the Business Insider UK, has shaken my world a little bit. “Why no one wants to travel to Naples” was a headline that immediately caught my attention yet I couldn’t have guessed that an article implementing such a poor level of journalism could have been published in a leading UK magazine. Read the piece of crap here.

Now, in case you are interested in learning some up-to-date information that has not been mixed with bizarre statistics and incorrect facts about Naples, read on.

There is an incredible amount of stuff to do and see in Naples.

Business Insider UK: “TripAdvisor lists a total of 149 sights and landmarks and 118 activities and tours for Naples. For Rome, there’s 552 sights and landmarks and 618 tours and activities.” Therefore, there is “not all that much to do or see in Naples“. Wow. Just wow.

One of the best things about Naples is that it is not a crowded tourist hellhole. Tourists are often unaware of the gems of the city, but once found, they will be shocked to realise that there is no two-hour queue to enter the landmark. This will save you not only time but also a great deal of frustration on your holiday.

The Historic Centre of Naples is a UNESCO world heritage site.

why-travel-naples-centro-storico-historic-centre
Naples’ centro storico is full of artisan shops and handicraft boutiques

I bet there are not that many cities where you can go visit an ancient underground network of tunnels beneath the modern city. See my blog post about our visit in Napoli Sotterranea here.

napoli-sotterranea-underground-tunnels-water-pool
Napoli Sotterranea offers tours in English and Italian

Museo di Capodimonte not only has a great collection of art but the park and the view are also spectacular.

Capodimonte view
Capodimonte view from inside the gallery

The National Archaeological museum has a section dedicated to sex and penises.

why-travel-naples-archaeological-museum
Penises not visible in this photo, though.

There are so bloody many churches just around every single corner that you could not possibly visit even half of them during your holiday.

why-travel-naples-church-centro-storico
Church of Gesu Nuovo looks like a dull wall of concrete on the outside, but surprises every visitor once you step in

Same goes for castles.

why-travel-naples-castel-nuovo
Castel Nuovo is so big it went all distorted in the photo.

Riding tours on an active volcano (which also happens to be the world’s most dangerous one, although I’m not sure if that is a great selling point… However, horses would sense an upcoming eruption long before humans would so being around them could actually save your life). Book your Vesuvius Horseback Riding Tour here.

horse-riding-tour-naples-why-travel-napoli
Riding to the sunset. Photo via Vesuvius Horseback Riding Tour

Kayak trips to Roman houses and secret caves, anyone? Kayak Napoli‘s website here.

why-travel-naples-kayak-tour-caves

Graffiti, more or less artistic, can be found just about everywhere.

why-travel-naples-graffiti-art-streets

If you are into creepy stuff, try Catacombe di San Gennaro, Fontanelle cemetery and Santa Maria del Purgatorio. Photo courtesy here.

why-travel-naples-fontanelle-cemetery-creepy
Cimitero delle Fontanelle

Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest opera house in Europe, shows opera continuously. Photo by Vittorio Pandolfi, via Flickr.

teatro-san-carlo-napoli
Teatro di San Carlo is the oldest theatre in Europe

Stazione Zoologica is the home to the oldest public aquarium in Europe. Photo via SZN.

stazione-zoologica-napoli-naples-aquarium
SZN is located in a beautiful park by the sea

The stations of Metropolitana di Napoli look bloody amazing. Each station is designed by a different architect.

Press play.

Pompeii, one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites, is only a short ride away. Photo by Jon Berghoff.

ruins-at-pompeii-italy-jon-berghoff-why-travel-naples

The Amalfi Coast is considered one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. Hire a car and you’ll be there in 1.5 hours. More on the Amalfi Coast in my blog post here.

Amalfi, here we come!
The town of Amalfi

Caserta Palace is a 40 minute ride away. I wrote about our visit there in this post.

Caserta Palace and park view
See that shady brick at the end of the park in the distance? Yes, that the ridiculously enormous Palace of Caserta.

The islands of Capri, Ischia, Procida, Ventotene and Ponza surround the Bay of Naples.

Capri at night
Capri at night in the winter

Naples has, hands down, the best food in Italy.

Wait, does this mean that Naples has the best food in the world? Wouldn’t doubt it.

Naples is the birthplace of pizza… (Read my post about the Neapolitan pizza here)

why-travel-naples-pizza-margherita-neapolitan-sorbillo
Margheritas and a Filetto at Gino Sorbillo on Via Partenope

Home to espresso

why-travel-naples-espresso-cup-view

Riccia has a crispy outside and a creamy inside…

why-travel-naples-food-riccia-frolla

Mozzarella di Bufala will blow your mind…

why-travel-naples-mozzarella-bufala-aperitivo-wine-prosciutto-view
The real mozzarella has a sweet skin and is full of buffalo milk, most commonly eaten with piece of bread dunked in the milk. Simply divine.

Olives!

why-travel-naples-olives

Let’s not even get started with the seafood

why-travel-naples-sea-food-vongole-spaghetti1
Spaghetti alla Vongole. Penne alla Siciliana on the background

What about gelato?!

why-travel-naples-gelato-pistacchio-stracciatella
Pistacchio e stracciatella.

Naples is stunningly beautiful

Let the photos speak for themselves.

naples-bay-castle-waves
Castell dell’Ovo in the distance
why-travel-naples-via-roma-toledo-alley
Chaotic yet charming. An alley off Via Toledo, the main shopping street
why-travel-naples-beautiful-streets
Piazza Amedeo. Not all areas in Naples look like landfills for toxic waste.
why-travel-naples-lungomare-beautiful.jpg
Lungomare, Via Partenope

Naples is the city of love

Although often overlooked by tourists, I consider this an essential element about Naples. One cannot really understand the soul of Naples without acknowledging that the city is all about love, emotions and passion.

Graffiti around the streets of Naples may look disturbing to someone visiting the city for the first time, but once you realise that the majority of them are just love letters from one lovestruck teenager to another, your heart melts. Ti amo Maria and Mi manchi Francesco seem to be written all around the city.

why-travel-naples-heart-graffiti
Subtle declarations of love

Imagine St. Valentine’s day in Naples: couples walking hand in hand, immigrants selling roses to bypassers on the streets (and the women getting offended if their partner doesn’t buy them one), and restaurants decorated with heart shaped balloons, offering only San Valentino‘s special menus. This is the most romantic day of the year and Neapolitans are not afraid to show the love.

why-travel-naples-lovers-locks-lungomare
Neapolitan love locks.

In fact, PDA’s (public displays of affection, what a terrible term) are a common sight on the streets of Naples all year round.

why-travel-naples-lovers-vesuvius
Yes, there is a girl underneath the man without a head on the right.

Naples is the most unique city in Italy

Now that was a bold statement, but certainly not any bolder than the “facts” stated in the Business Insider article.

Just like the streets of the city, the people of Naples are also colourful, lively, warm and fun. When I first met my boyfriend (who would probably like me to state here that he himself is Sicilian, not Neapolitan) and started my regular visits to Naples, I did not understand a word in Italian nor the locals a word in English, but somehow I always found myself in conversations with locals, feeling like we were already friends.

why-travel-naples-boy-striking-pose
This boy casually asked me to photograph him and immediately stroke a cool pose like a pro. Clearly Neapolitan!

Something that should be taken into account when comparing Naples with the glorious and clean Northern Italian towns is that Naples is one of the few cities that has been continuously inhabited for over 3000 years. That means Naples existed long before Rome, Milan or Venice. It is a city that has seen it all and survived it all, whether it was a powerful eruption of a volcano, an invasion of the Greeks, Normans, French or Spanish, or the ground being sabotaged by toxic waste by the mafia. Naples has almost always been poor and thanks to that, the poor man’s kitchen, cucina povera, and pizza, a street food dish for poor people, were born. (Edit: Naples has not indeed always been poor; Naples used to be the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.)

Naples has always highlighted its Greek heritage, even in the Roman times, and is proud to be considered different from other Italian cities and towns, holding the head high while doing so. Neapolitan dialect is still alive and well, and people a little louder and prouder than elsewhere. It is not a surprise that writers and artists from Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol have been inspired by the beauty of the city – the rustiness, the loudness and the liveliness of it.

why-travel-naples-centro-graffiti-streets
Bella Napoli – filthy and poor or vibrant and inspiring? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I guess Naples is not a city for everyone, though. There are travellers who are not willing to step out of their comfort zone and wander to streets where the sightseeing bus tour won’t take them, and tourists who cannot be bothered to learn a word or two in Italian to know what they are ordering in a restaurant where no one speaks English. Some are frightened by rumours of high rates of criminality and don’t realise that Barcelona and London are cities where you are just as likely to become mugged or pickpocketed, and that Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, does not mean a bunch of criminals going around the streets culling tourists as they come.

Yes, the traffic rules may be only suggestions in Naples and the drivers complete maniacs, the train station may look dreadful and spotting stray dogs may break your heart, and you may have to rise your voice from time to time to get what you want. However, every city has its faults. Wouldn’t it be justified to excuse this ancient, way too densely populated city from a few of her defects? Because once you let yourself to go with the flow and the city to embrace you, I guarantee that the Neapolitan people, culture and all the treasures will give true meaning to the old proverb, “Vedi Napoli e poi muori!“.

see-naples-and-die-why-travel-napoli
Vedi Napoli e poi muori.

I would like to thank a recent post on the Napoli Unplugged Facebook page for giving me the inspiration to write this post. I was glad to see I was not the only one with a word or two to say about the Business Insider article.

Edit 10.8.2015 : Some typos corrected, a note about the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies added.

My Spring in Italy, According to Instagram

1st of June! Now this is a date I’ve been waiting for! This means that the summer officially begins in Finland – kids here finish their schools around this time, and are set off for an endless, 3 month summer holiday (ah, memories!). The weather in June is also becoming warm enough so that we can actually start calling it summer! This is how lovely it looks like around here at the moment:

Anyway, summer may have started in Finland just now, but in Italy it has been going on for a while now! (According to a Northener, that is. My boyfriend’s neighbours in Naples think I’m bananas for sunbathing in March/April, apparently.) Here come a few photos I’ve taken during the spring time in Italy, seen through the lens of Instagram!

Buona Pasqua! #napoli #easter #surprise

A photo posted by SAANA (@saanarai) on

I love spending Easters in Italy! It’s freezing cold in Finland but the weather in the South of Italy is starting to warm up. This massive easter egg shows how Italians take everything edible seriously – it is a thick walled egg made of milk chocolate and walnut crumbs, nocciolato, and weighs 2 kilos!

I’m the biggest sucker for Moomins in the world. This Finnish book series and later, a kids’ cartoon series, was my favourite thing as a child and not much has changed. My mom bought me and my boyfriend these Moomin mugs by Arabia after the designs were recently released at the same time, and she could not help seeing the resemblance to us two😀 Little My (on the right) is small yet feisty and comes up with all kinds of pranks and jokes, and is not afraid to voice her opinions out loud or use her teeth when needed. Snufkin (left) is a calm, contemplative character who smokes a pipe, plays a harmonica and lives in a tent. He lives a nomadic lifestyle and travels to the south every winter. Guess who is who😉

This is what our dinner looks like every time I arrive in Naples! On the way home from the airport, we stop by in this little grocery store famous for their excellent Mozzarella di Bufala, which you order over the food counter. Same goes for the bread, cheese, olives, prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes and aubergine – all of them fresh and absolutely delicious!

Sangria, a gift from Spain to the world, is one of the few things Italy is missing. Luckily it is easy to make some on your own!

I bought these sandals last summer when visiting Palermo in Sicily, from an adorable shoe shop called Primadonna. They were on a massive sale and cost me only 15 euros!
#reasons-I-don’t-buy-shoes-from-Finland

Hope you enjoyed this little photo update! Now, bring it on, summer! 🌻

alwaysabroad.co-baia-beach-napoli-naples-italy-spiaggia-di-miliscola
Beginning the tanning season on Spiaggia di Miliscola, Bacoli, Napoli:)

Alberobello, a magical town in Southern Italy

Do you have a thing for magical places? I know I do.

ALBEROBELLO-italy-souvenir-trullo-mini-cottage-figure-holiday

I took off to Italy for the Easter as soon as I finished my lectures at the university, excited to find out what my boyfriend had planned for the holiday. Our original plan was to go to Sicily, but after realising that the ferry and flight prices had rocketed to the skies, we agreed to go for a plan B.

My horrifyingly long travel from Helsinki to Naples took me all day but finally I made it, knackered but alive. Despite it was late at night and the brisk wind was making the palm trees sway in the air, it was still at least 10°C warmer than in Finland, which was enough to made me smile like an idiot (the Italian influence! Always puts a smile on your face). And more smiling was yet to come, as my boyfriend finally revealed the destination of our trip: we were going to go to Alberobello in Puglia!

naples-alberobello-bari-route-car-drive-blog-spot.png
The drive from Naples to Puglia (Apulia in English) took us 3 hours

I had seen dozens of photos of this bizarre little town on Pinterest and had wanted to visit ever since. The whole town is built of round limestone cottages, trullos, some of them so small that they look they’ve been built for dwarfs (of fairies, or gnomes). The most exciting thing was that we were also going to stay overnight in one!

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-road
After leaving Naples, the landscape soon turns into mountains, sometimes covered with snow
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-meadows-green-spring-roadtrip
Fields surrounded by stone fences were a typical sight in Puglia

The drive from Naples to Alberobello took around 3 hours. It included a couple of obligatory coffee stops and loads of singing by me to pass the time, mimicking Anastasia, T.A.T.U and The Rasmus (quaranteed Italian radio station quality). I believe I’m great at keeping my boyfriend entertained. (Or annoyed?)

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-stone-fences
Some parts of the landscape almost reminded me of England!

We finally arrived at our B&B on the countryside, just 10 minutes away from Alberobello. The location of the cottage proved brilliant over the 4 days we stayed in the area: visiting other towns nearby never took much longer than half an hour. Our hosts were such a lovely elderly couple, who had turned one half of their trullo (singular, plural trulli) into the B&B, them living on the other side of the building.

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-trullo-b&b
The B&B trullo was built in the 1800s, but the oldest trullos date back to the mid 14th century
ALBEROBELLO-TRULLO-B&B
Our good old pals Jesus, Maria and the crew were keeping us company
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-trullo-b&b-hotel
The structure of a Trullo makes the indoors basically completely sound proof: in the morning, we found out that there had been a rain storm at night, but we had not heard a thing through the thick stone walls!
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-breakfast-lovely
There’s nothing better than waking up to a beautiful morning with the breakfast waiting in the table:)

The next morning, our amazing host lady had made us breakfast including fresh squeezed fruit juices, self-made pie, coffee, and given that she knew that I was from Northern Europe, she had also put some bread, cheese and prosciutto on the table – how thoughtful of her! It is a struggle for me to find anything to eat in the mornings in Italy, because a basic Italian breakfast consists of an espresso and a sweet pastry, such as a croissant (filled with Nutella in the worst case). Even the idea of eating something sweet in the morning makes me ill!

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-trullo-trulli-breakfast
The salty food on the breakfast table was a big surprise and saved my day!
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-village-trulli
Trullos ahead!

We parked our car near the Alberobello train station and walked to the historical town. Seeing the first glimpse of a hill filled up with little trullo roofs already gave me the chills!

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-trullos
The town got somewhat crowded because of the beautiful day and the Easter time – Alberobello is becoming more and more popular among tourists

Alberobello was given the UNESCO world heritage site status in 1996 for all the obvious reasons; the foundations of the town date back to the 14th century, and the trulli represent an ancient type of architecture with a lot of traditional value. What makes the town so unique and spectacular is that the ancient trullos are still in use, with normal families inhabiting them, as well as serving as boutiques, restaurants and cafés.

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-hot-chili-red
The town is small but teeming with different little trullo boutiques!
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-handicrafts
Colourful handicraft shops
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-ancient-signs-trullis
The main street of the historical side of Alberobello

A very particular thing about this town were the ancient mythological and Christian symbols that you could see everywhere in town. We were told that each family would pick their own symbol, each of which have a different meaning, and paint it on the exterior side of the trullo’s roof. The same goes for the shape of the knob sitting on top of the trullo; they all have their own meaning, and we spotted all kinds of shapes, varying from round to star shaped ones. The symbols are thought to bring protection, luck and various other positive things, depending on the symbol in question.

Given the small size of the historical center of Alberobello, a couple of hours is enough to see the most important parts of it.

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-old-trullo
Ancient Christian and other mythological symbols were painted all over the town. Each symbol has their own meaning

I don’t know how, but even before finding out that Alberobello indeed is a magic town of some sort, I constantly felt like there was some magic in the air. Perhaps it was the combination of the  trullos and the landscape with big, dark trees with their spooky pale branches sticking in the air, still lacking the leaves. Or then there simply was some actual magic in the air…

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-night-village
We returned to Alberobello to have dinner another night. The town felt even more magical in the moonlight
alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-olives-bari-dinner-trullo
Olives are the pride of Puglia. I still prefer the big Neapolitan ones but my boyfriend was actually on Puglia’s side on this

I am so glad that we had a change of plans for the Easter, because I absolutely fell in love with Puglia. We visited a few other towns nearby (excluding the biggest town, Bari, though) and it was incredibly beautiful everywhere; the sea, the green meadows, the white towns. Trullos were a common sight a bit of everywhere, and we found out that new ones are being built still today – that’s how beloved trullos are in this area!

alberobello-necklace-ancient-christian-symbol
Although not a big fan of religious stuff, I wanted to buy this necklace with the meaning “the prayer which raises from earthly and hellish world to God”, whatever that means

The next day we headed to a place I could have never guessed existed in Europe – a Fasanolandia zoosafari was exciting yet strange – every biologist’s dream yet the worst nightmare. A blog post filled with camels, elephants, zebras, ponies, giraffes, hippos and polar bears will follow!

alberobello-puglia-italy-trip-blog-post-cherry-trees-blossoming-village-italian-flag

Until next time, Alberobello, arrivederci!

Let me know what you think! Have you heard of Alberobello before, or have you actually been there? What about other destinations in Southern Italy? I’d love to hear suggestions about attractive Italian towns that are worth visiting!

Interested in our B&B accommodation? La Gazza Ladra can be booked through here!

May Day & Liebster Awards!

Hi people! I hope you all had a great May Day (which, for me, was the reason I haven’t posted anything in a week, whoops). In Finland, Vappu is the happiest celebration of the year and definitely my favourite one of them all. It is the time when everyone digs up their white college graduation hats from their cupboards, puts on their university overalls, drinks an insane amount of champagne and enjoys the parades and the overall happy atmosphere in the city.

But now other news! Maaike from Travellous World just nominated me for the Liebster Award! I’m so flattered, thank you so much!

liebsteraward-roses-tag

And what is a Liebster award? Liebster is German for “sweetest, nicest, lovely, kind, pleasant, sweetheart”… You get the picture. The Liebster award is given to bloggers by other bloggers and the main purpose is to discover new blogs while giving visibility to the small ones.

The Rules:

  1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the nominator’s 11 questions.
  3. Nominate 11 small blogs who have less than 200 followers. You should believe that they deserve this award and include their link in your post.
  4. Create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer. Notify these nominees via social media/blog.

So! Let the games begin! Maaike’s questions answered:

1. What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited in your life?
Driving along the Amalfi Coast for the first time was sure a breathtaking experience. It was so beautiful that it was hard not to cry out loud!

2. Finish the sentence: ‘I couldn’t travel without…’
My camera. Preferably my SLR but even a phone camera would do.

3. Hotel, B&B or camping?
Basic hotels are perhaps the most boring thing in the world! I love B&B’s for their uniqueness which is why I’ve become a big fan of Airbnb. You’ll get such an authentic local feeling when staying in an apartment rather than in a soulless hotel room.

I grew up in the countryside so camping is something I’ve been doing every summer since I was a kid! It is so much fun and it’s always amazing to wake up being surrounded by nature. The best thing is to do is to row a boat to a small island (preferably in the Finnish archipelago) and stay overnight in a tent.

4. Planning your trips to the last minute or go and see what happens?
Go see what happens – I’m super spontaneous and cannot worry too much about the future, which would only result in overloading my brain, haha!

5. What language would you like to learn and where would you like to do that?
I’m learning Italian as my fifth language now but I have always had a serious love affair with French. (Don’t tell my boyfriend whose Italian soul would be wounded forever)

6. Favorite souvenir you own?
 I have a lovely ceramic hamsa on my wall that I bought from Israel. Another one is a miniature trullo I recently got on my trip to Alberobello in Italy!

7. Hot or cold destinations?
Having spent most of my life in Finland, suffering from the cold – my answer is definitely HOT! (But not too hot, you know, or I’ll be just very nervous and get on everyone’s
nerves.)😜

8. Traveling solo or with others?
 I’m a sucker for company. I get depressed within a few hours whenever I’m alone. Therefore, company.

9. Have you ever experienced culture shock?
I guess I may have had a slight one in the UK after realising that yes, every building is covered in mould and no one cares, that showers just are shite everywhere and that it takes an hour to travel from place A to place B anywhere in London. (However, the pros outweighed the cons so clearly that I didn’t really care in the end! )

10. What customs you learned abroad would you like to have in your own country as well?
Oh dear, where should I start? Shall I make a list? I shall.
Things I’ve observed in the UK that don’t exist in Finland:
  • People talk to strangers because, you know, we are the same species
  • People joke around with strangers
  • People hold doors open for strangers
  • People smile at strangers
  • People have a positive attitude towards life (generalisation, I know, blah blah!💩)
  • People go for a pint after work
  • People go pubs to hang out with friends, not (necessarily) to get waisted
  • People have ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ in their vocabulary
  • People wear whatever the heck they want and don’t care about what others think

Things I’ve observed in Italy that don’t exist in Finland:

  • Family first: the importance is enormous
  • People have a relaxed attitude towards everything
  • People enjoy life even in little villages (say, ~2000 people) where they organise events, open great restaurants and spend time in nice cafés socialising with people
  • Drinking wine at lunch doesn’t make you an alcoholic
  • Drinking wine every day doesn’t make you an alcoholic
  • Going out doesn’t mean getting hammered, losing your memory and waking up in a bin
  • People show their love towards their friends and family (in public, too)
  • People don’t take too much stress about rules
  • Being a little bit late is not the end of the world
  • People agree that life is too short to ever eat bad food
  • Life is also too short to wear bad quality clothes or accessories (may sound shallow but it really is all about saving the environment and your money in the long run!)
11. Favorite travel book and/or film?
I guess most people pack something light to read for their travels, but travelling for me is the only moment when I have the time to open a book, so my choices are very science-y, ha! I’m currently reading the Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, and have In defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins scheduled for the summer. 💡

Now, these are the blogs I’ve nominated:

And these are the questions I’ve made for you guys!
1. What is your favourite quote?
2. Dogs or cats?
3. How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
4. Name 3 things on your bucket list.
5. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
6. What languages do you speak? What would you like to learn?
7. What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in your life?
8. Have you ever experienced a culture shock?
9. Were you any different a few years ago? How?
10. What are your goals for this year?
11. Who inspires you?

Congratulations, I think you all deserve these nominations! Looking forward to reading your answers!:)

How would you have answered these questions? Let me know below!

Tips for Tourists in London: Infographic

Oi, mate!

Continuing the London theme, I decided to share this amazing infographic that is just the bees knees! I swear I could not live without Pinterest.

Looking for tips for someone visiting London for the first time? British people love to play with words and phrases, and reading in between the lines of what the locals are saying is just as important as understanding the words themselves. To make things more complicated, Brits have a bunch of their own words that are not (always) used in other English-speaking countries. Just remember that french fries (AmE) are chips (BrE) and chips (AmE) are crisps (BrE)!

(And if you are looking for trousers (BrE), don’t go to the fittest (=hottest😀 ) male sales assistant and ask for pants, unless you are looking for underwear!) TipsTouristFullsize Source: whatson.millenniumhotels.co.uk

Please, thank you and sorry, I hope you enjoyed it!
Share your thoughts below:)

Cheers! xx

How to London like a true Londoner

Guess I just came up with a new word! No? Don’t even get it? Oh well.

how-to-get-around-in-london-like-a-londoner-travel-blog-post

Being my favourite city and former home town, I often get asked if I have any London travel tips to share. This vast, crowded, incredibly busy city can be a little confusing at first, but this London travel guide will guide you through the jungle. Who knows, perhaps you will actually pass as a local with these 10 simple tips!

1. TFL is your best friend

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 14.49.37

How to get from place A to place B? TFL aka Transport for London will help you out. Their Journey Planner on their website shows you the duration, distance and way to get you to your destination, whether it was public transport, cycling or walking. A phone application is also available.

Have certain conditions for the journey, such as a step free access?  This will come in handy not only for those with limited moving abilities but also travellers carrying big suitcases. Because, I’m telling you, walking up and down the endless stairs of underground tunnels carrying suitcases worth your own weight is no fun.
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/

2. Oyster card is your 2nd best friend

ALWAYS-ABROAD-london-travel-guide-travel-card-oyster-card-holder-get-around-in-london-blog-post
I always keep my oyster card in a holder. This one is from Paperchase

So what do you need to enter the tube or hop on a bus? An Oyster.
Where do you get it? From an assistance booth at any tube station.
How much does it cost? Free, but you give a 5 pound deposit for the card. You get it back upon returning the card to any assistance booth.
Are there alternatives to an Oyster card? Yes. A day travel card (or a 3 day travel card, or 7 day travel card) may turn out cheaper depending on the amount of zones you cross per day – more information on the TFL website.

3. When everything else fails, Uber is your 3rd best friend

Uber-london-application-how-to-get-around

Photo credit • This smartphone application has become the new way of getting around in the city and has replaced the black London cabs for many young people. This is because of the flexibility and affordability of Uber. Want to know who your driver is? Check. Want to know exactly when the taxi will arrive? Check. Want to know beforehand how much the journey will cost? Check. Want to pay less than using a black cab? Check check check. Sometimes Uber also offers discount vouchers, wohoo!

Disclaimer: Uber has faced a lot of criticism lately in the media and some are now boycotting the company. More info in a nutshell in this Telegraph article, including an explanation for why the app still remains so popular.

4. Tube is easy when you make it easy

tube-art-mess-map
Looks familiar?

Do your homework before first entering the tube. Things you need to know about the London Underground:

  • The underground consists of 6 different zones in numerical order
  • Zones that a basic tourist usually needs are 1 and 2 (sometimes perhaps 3, and in case you travel to Heathrow, also zone 4.)
  • Zone 1 consists of the very heart of London, including famous tube stops such as Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, London Bridge, Westminster, Hyde Park Corner, Baker Street, South Kensington and Notting Hill Gate.
  • Zone 2 surrounds zone 1 and includes stops such as Camden Town, Shoreditch and Canary Wharf.
  • Travel during off-peak hours is cheaper than during peak hours, when people go to work and get off work. Also, a lot more convenient as there are fewer people.
  • Mind the gap because sometimes the gap between the train and the platform is so large that a child could basically fall in there.

But most importantly: HOW DO PEOPLE NOT GET LOST ON THE TUBE?
The answer is simple: know the direction you are going to. Look at the tube map. Is your destination in the east, west, south or north? Tube tunnels are marked with signs such as Westbound, Eastbound etc. Then you just pick the “bound” you are heading to. Also, you obviously should know which line your station is on and understand what station connects which line, but I assume (and hope) you kinda knew it already.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of walking

tube-walking-distances-london
Sometimes talking a walk is faster than taking the tube

Because London is so heavily trafficked, delays occur all the time and taking the public transport can cause a massive headache. Therefore it’s good to know if you will actually save time by taking a walk!

Check out the full size walking distance tube map here.

6. Don’t get killed by a bus

look right-look-left-london-street
First look right, then look left

Photo credit • Yeah, London streets are dangerous. Not only because they are crowded with pedestrians, taxis, buses, drivers, motorists and everything in between, but they can also be very confusing for those coming from countries where the traffic is right hand sided. LOOK RIGHT – LOOK LEFT -texts written on the roads everywhere in the city may just save your life, if you are not familiar with the traffic on the left hand side.

Also, be aware of the cyclists! Those bastards always appear out of nowhere and a collision with a speeding one can cause really bad damage. Keep your eyes open and head turning unless you want to spend the rest of your holiday in a hospital.

7. STAND ON THE RIGHT

stand-on-the-right-london-tube-travel-guide
How to spot a tourist in London? They are standing on the left. Locals showing the way in the photo

Confusing yet true! Traffic may be left-hand sided, but standing in escalators should always be done on the right. And I cannot stress the importance of this enough! The Londoners waiting for you to move out of their way are most likely in a hurry and soon also angry.

8. Pronounce it right

thames-photo1
Th-ames or Tems?

River Thames: /tɛmz/
Leicester Square: /ˈlɛstə/
Southwark: /ˈsʌðək/
Greenwich: /ˈɡrɛnɪtʃ/
Buckingham Palace: /ˌbʌkɪŋəm/ (Goes for other hams as well, such as Egham, /ˈɛɡəm/, or Tottenham, /ˈtɒʔnəm/, where in addition to h, letter e is also silent and ʔ represents a glottal stop at tt. Therefore it becomes a pretty silent word to pronounce in general! )

…And the list goes on and on. English are funny about their place names and you have to get it right to be taken seriously (don’t take this too seriously, though).

A funny story: back when I moved to the UK and started university in 2011, I decided to attend an English class for students who didn’t speak English as their first language. Ridiculous enough, our teacher was American, as if I had any interest in learning to pronounce things her way. The rock bottom came when she told us to repeat some words after her and she pronounced Buckingham palace as “Bucking-ham palace”. Needless to say, I never returned to the class (and waisted 10 quid, thank you University of London!)

9. Bring an umbrella (but don’t use it)

“English weather is like a woman, always changing her mind” was an answer I got from my boyfriend when I asked his thoughts about the London weather. Definitely backing him up on this one.

umbrella-red-london-rain

You will thank me for suggesting this umbrella thing in case you are going to walk for longer distances.

However, I discussed this topic with some fellow Londoners – turned out that many carry an umbrella in their bags but rarely end up really using them, no matter how much rain is pouring from the sky. This may have something to do with the short distances Londoners prefer to walk outside until they hop on a bus or disappear to the underground tunnels – journey planning is the key. Also, instead of an umbrella, many put their money on a good quality trench coat that will keep the rain away – an umbrella will break in the wind anyway. And if you really want to look like a Londoner and the rain is really pouring down, you can always grab a copy of the Evening Standard (a free daily newspaper available at tube station entrances) and use it to cover your head.

10. Bring a water bottle (and use it)

water-bottle-airport-security

London Underground is hotter than maximum legal temperature for transporting cattle” –The Independent, July 2014

It hasn’t been once or twice that I’ve been close to fainting on the tube. The temperatures get extremely high inside the carriages in the summer and you can feel the lack of oxygen building up in the air. Feeling dizzy is almost guaranteed on a hot summer day if you happen to be in a hurry, run to the tube, only to find it so full that it’s hard to find space to stand. The worst thing to happen here is to realise you’ve forgotten your water bottle. If you feel bad, you should seek help at the next stop.

Bonus: Stay away from Oxford Street

LONDON-travel-guide-blog-post-travel-blog-always-abroad-oxford-circus-stay-away
The hellhole called Oxford Circus

This is my final tip for every London visitor. Being Europe’s busiest shopping street and home to 300 different shops, Oxford Street is filled with people at all times – don’t even try to go on a Saturday afternoon, when it is impossible to walk straight for more than 5 metres until someone bumps into you. Sure, Oxford Street is worth taking a quick look at, but I would advise you to spend more time on Regent Street which crosses Oxford Street at Oxford Circus. Regent Street is cleaner, prettier and slightly calmer street compared to Oxford Street, with some fancier shops such as Ted Baker and Michael Kors, but also some basic ones, such as H&M, Zara, Mango and Hollister. A bonus is that Regent Street ends at Piccadilly Circus, the major traffic junction with flashing billboards – a must see for every tourist.

There! A few tips I wanted to share with you guys! I had many more in mind but this post got super long already. What do you think? Are there some important London tips you would like to add? Leave a comment below and let me know!🙄

 

Best coffee in South Kensington

Looking for a for a café that stands out from the crowd? Something stylish and original, fancy yet cosy? Does Italian music move your bones and the warm Sicilian culture speak to your soul? Would you like to find a place to try Mediterranean delicacies and order a cup of authentic Italian coffee?

iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london
Iddu London hasn’t been around for long, but judging by the steady flow of customers, locals seem to have discovered it already

Look no longer! If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, Iddu will be the place for your next cup of coffee.

iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london-blog-post
The Sicilian café/wine bar opened in February 2015. A lot of traditional Sicilian elements have been utilised in the interior design, such as Sicilian ceramics and old photos of (old) Italian people

Located 300 metres from the South Kensington tube station, and in a very close proximity to the Natural History Museum (my favourite!), Science Museum and V&A Museum, Iddu is on a super convenient area and easy to pop in after spending a day in the museums.

iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london-blog
Have a genuine Sicilian pastry, snack or sweets along with your coffee. Iddu also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner
iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london-cannoli-italian
Unlike we expected, Iddu turned out to be rather affordable, which was a positive surprise. The customer service was excellent, too

The experience at this truly Sicilian café differs from most cafeterias given that it is partially a restaurant, too. The restaurant feeling goes for both the customer service and the overall vibe; you are directed to a table upon entering the place and the waiter (most of the time Italian, naturally) takes your order. Being served in tables, even if you are only ordering coffee, feels just luxurious after a long, tiring day of walking around London!

iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london-italian-cafeteria
A chic neighbourhood café facing not so chic construction site fence – I’m guessing it’s only temporary though!
iddu-london-cafe-sicilian-review-barbera-coffee
Iddu is also known for a selection of great Sicilian wines and cocktails

We ordered a latte and an americano, even though it was a little late for both. Having worked in cafés as a younger girl, my friend is incredibly picky about her coffee, but this one got an instant approval! Respecting the true Italian spirit, they have chosen to serve authentic Sicilian coffee at Iddu; Barbera is not only delicious but also the oldest coffee roaster in the world.

iddu_sicilian_cafe_south_kensington_london-barbera-caffe
Iddu London is one of the few places in London serving high-end Italian coffee

I recommend South Kensington for every tourist: it is home to many lovely museums, and located near Harrods, the poshest department store in London, and let’s not forget Notting Hill, famous from the film with Julia Roberts. South Kensington is all white, shiny buildings, big trees lining the beautiful streets, black cabs and red double-deckers. The perfect London you always imagined in your mind. And now you also know a great place to stop for a coffee!

iddu-london-review-blog-post-sicilian-barbera-coffee

Quite a different area compared to my last post about Brick Lane in East London, huh? London has something for everyone, which is one of the many reasons I love this city so dearly.

Iddu London address: 44 Harrington Road, London SW7 3ND
http://iddulondon.com/