Tag Archives: italy

Why Sanremo Should Be Your Next Italian Destination

2016-15-8--16-55-47It is almost unfair how Italy contains a great number of breathtaking cities to explore and discover. Indeed, it is a region of the world known for leading travelers back due to its extensive list of beautiful places unlike some travel destinations where only the big cities are worth raving about. From a traveler’s point of view, Italy has so much beauty to offer not only in its capital but even up to the smallest and most remote regions. In a sense this is what makes it such a pleasurable destination especially for those who really want to get a whiff of authentic local vibe.

In my previous travels to Italy, I have seen and explored the eternal city of Rome, scenic Firenze and enjoyed the relaxed vibe of Pisa. Standing before the Colosseum and the majestic Trevi Fountain was nothing short of surreal. The cobbled streets, ancient landmarks, art and architecture of these cities made my visit special and meaningful.

This year, I was fortunate enough to visit another face of Italy through the lovely town of Sanremo. Far from the rustic and ancient ambiance of Rome and Tuscany, Sanremo had a fresh, easy holiday ambiance with its small-town charm mixed with the lashings of sandy beaches and villas.2016-15-8--17-20-23Nestled in the province of Liguria between Genoa and the French border, this Italian Riviera offers more than casinos and manicured lawns. Whether Sanremo is your main destination, a day trip from your travel itinerary or you’re merely looking for your next Italian city to conquer, here are reasons to bump it on top of your list of places to see.

1. Lazy Afternoons with Italian Coffee

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Classic Cappuccino

In a country where coffee is basically a culture, it might be borderline evil not to get a caffeine fix. Italian Coffee is world renowned and a must try whenever in Italy, whether it’s to kickstart your day or to complete a relaxing afternoon in the plaza. Locals take pride in the quality of their signature blend of coffee that no Starbucks can be found in this part of the world. So go ahead and indulge in a cup or two of what could be the finest cup of coffee you ever will find.

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The Nutellino – Italians are generally not fans of mucking around with the taste of coffee, but this little gem is decadent indeed! It’s an espresso with a teaspoon of Nutella, topped with frothy milk and finished off with cocoa powder. This is your next dessert coffee goal!
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Caffe Gelato – I have never heard of this coffee version before and apparently, neither had the lady serving us that day. But with some clarifications she was able to serve us this unique drink: Italian coffee with a tiny scoop of vaniglia gelato happily sitting in the middle. The flavors were amazing and the contrast in temperature made it surprisingly better. I am tempted to make this one at home but I know it just would not taste the same.

Viajera Travel Tip: In Italy, the default coffee is actually an espresso. If you would rather have a long coffee, you can either order an americano or a caffe latte. Cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink but Italians consume coffee in small steady amounts all day long. Frappuccinos simply do not exist and messing up a coffee’s flavor by mixing it with flavors like mint is frowned upon. (Take that, Starbucks)

2. Your Dose of Sun and Sand – Italian Riviera Style

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Sanremo Beach

One of the good things about Sanremo is the fact that you can get that French Riviera vibe without leaving Italian territory. One can gaze upon absorbing views of the coast or hang out by the beach to achieve that golden summer glow while keeping easy access to tasty Italian cooking. The beaches here are mostly lined with creamy sand, unlike des plages in Nice where you are likely to find smooth stone. There are also restaurants conveniently located on the beach facade and bars overlooking fantastic scenery.

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This roof deck bar was perfect!
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Cheers to beach life!

3. Go on an Italian Food Trip

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Italian Food lovin’! Clockwise from top left: Trofie Pasta and Courgette with Simple Olive Oil based Sauce, Seafood Pizza, Spaghetti Vongole and Fettuccine with Porcini Mushrooms. Everything was divine!

I am a self-confessed fan of good quality Italian food, and as evidenced by the domination of restaurants specializing in the cuisine – so is the rest of the world. So when in Sanremo, embark on a foodie adventure, fill up on genuine Italian cooking and trust me on this one -you WILL taste the difference. There is more to al dente pasta and savoury sauces to this type of gourmet, because based on my experience the core of hearty Italian cooking roots from the use of locally grown fresh ingredients. Their cheese comes in barrels and chunks, not in cardboard boxes as seen in supermarkets; their tomatoes come in endless varieties, plump from the nourishment of Italian soil. This is mainly why their food tastes like nowhere else on Earth no matter how many restaurants offer you “authentic” pasta.

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Pasta Fresca – fresh pasta that is cooked within a minute or two. Best consumed within the day of purchase.
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Truffles! Have you ever seen such a big bunch of these?

Let’s face it, a trip to Italy is not complete without a gelato binge! Get them on cups or cones, the goodness is just the same in all forms. Remember you have the option of having two to three flavors in one order so go ahead and choose wisely. So many flavors, so little time!

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I love all flavors but my favorite is still Pistachio. Weirdest flavor I’ve tried so far: Cactus.

4. Pause and smell the flowers (No kidding)

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All shapes and sizes to set you in a joyous mood for travel.

Sanremo is also called Riviera dei Fiori or region of flowers due to its marvelous floral display and cultivation. Setting afoot in the town center, one can easily notice the cascade of flowers in different colors and sizes, adding a sort of festive ambiance. Likewise, the Sanremo Flowers Parade is held every end of January to showcase their dedication to the art of floral display.

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Afternoon walks made better by these florals in Sanremo.

5. Test your Luck with a Little Game of Chance

I did not try this out myself but should you find yourself in the mood for a game of chance then read on. Within the realms of Sanremo is a casino to put out a few of those hard earned Euros for a chance to hit it big. No need to go to nearby Monaco for a little gambling thrill! If you are like me and would rather spend money on booze and gelato than play a game of risks, you can still check out the casino’s lush visage and quite impressive architecture. The grand looming facade and red carpet of Casino di Sanremo is impossible to ignore for those on the lookout for a picture perfect moment.

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Casino Municipale

If you have not heard of Sanremo before then now is the time to mark your calendars and prepare for it on your next getaway. I assure you, the laid back atmosphere is exactly what every city dweller needs to start anew. It may be the Riviera – like beach that sparked your wanderlust, the promised impeccable food or the idea of cocktails by the sea. I don’t know about you but I was sold with the fact that they drank coffee all day long.  Haha. Either way, from one traveler to another, have a happy summer wherever you are. Saluti!

Continue reading Why Sanremo Should Be Your Next Italian Destination

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Beyond the Ruins: A Roman Travel Discovery

2016-19-11-18-03-15Rome, Italy – I could hear the clacking of my heels against the cobbled streets as we walked along the via supposedly headed towards the Colosseum. At least I think this is where the Canadian stranger with the white tank top pointed to. We were running out of daylight and as we hurled ourselves down the avenue, all of a sudden there it was to my right – the Colosseum in all its grandeur! It came within sight without a warning and it left me with a gaping mouth and a face embezzled with admiration. It was… Marvelous. On one side, the sun was setting on the horizon and its rays dramatically loomed over the famous landmark. Fantastic.

Rome is one of the most famous cities in the world both of today and ancient times. I have heard of this city without conscious efforts of knowing more about it, I have answered it on my short quizzes as a student and in travel magazines, it is described time and time again as a one of Europe’s greatest destinations. It’s Rome.

A trip to the Eternal City is an oath I made to myself so when the opportunity came to go with a friend, I was quick to go on a booking spree online. Going around Europe from London is easy and relatively cheap especially with travel game changers like EasyJet and Airbnb.

We stayed in a newly renovated studio type flat with reasonable space and agreeable interiors. Paolo, our excellent host, met us immediately and welcomed us alongside a jovial orientation about house rules and access to public transport. After handing each of us a map of the city, he bid us farewell and wished us luck in our Roman adventure.

It was a pleasant afternoon and with the Colosseum being of walking distance from us (the real question was which direction), we could not think of a better place to start. If you are expecting Rome to be a city of glamour, then I assure you this is not the case. Heading towards the city centre, I cannot help but notice the dilapidated walls, dark mysterious alleyways and street filth that no one is bothering to conceal. And I liked it – I am a fan of the unpretentious. As we gazed upon the mighty Colosseum I suddenly understood why people traveled to Rome – it’s not because of what the city has to offer in the present, it’s because of what was left behind.

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Dusk came too soon as the season was not really in our favour with its late sunrise and early sunsets. We were tired but not exhausted and even if we were, Erika and I were not the type to just retreat into our flat just because we were losing sunlight. So even though the map indicated that Fontana de Trevi was on the other side of the city, we chose to get lost and locate it by foot. After passing by trinket shops and consuming moundfuls of gelato, guided by our very wrinkled tourist map, we finally arrived at the infamous Fontana de Trevi. And for every night we spent in Rome, we found ourselves dwelling upon its magic – a coin ready at hand for a quick toss. Wishfully thinking that maybe the Roman Gods may smile upon us and grant us a wish.

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Vatican

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Vatican City

Visiting Rome would be a waste without stepping upon the holy land that is Vatican City. In a gentle and inexplicable way, being in Vatican reminds us of  life forces that are more important and far stronger than oneself.

Having done my research on how to see the Pope as closely as possible without being arrested, we managed to secure such great seats at St. Peter’s Square. I find Pope Francis admirable because of his simple ways and his ability to live by example, and this is my one shot at seeing him up close. My heart sang when his Holiness waved at us from a meter away carried by a white open car. No gold capes or drapes, not even the usual Pope headgear. Just pure humility enough to shame the entire of planet Earth.

After the mass, we toured the Vatican Museums and climbed St. Peter’s Basilica. I have to admit I have never prayed so much in a four day period. But in all honesty, it felt good. It felt right. It was a unique moment of surrender – an unloading of modern life’s burdens that I have never found anywhere else. At the end of the tour we entered a truly marvelous work of art which is the Sistine Chapel. I guarantee you that few things in life will render you speechless like Michelangelo’s obra maestra that is the Sistine’s ceiling.

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Vatican Museum
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Stolen shot from The Sistine

Daytrips

Italy is a country with a long list of  good cities to travel to. And from Rome, you can choose from a number of daytrips to neighbouring scenic cities like Naples, Pompeii, Florence and Pisa. Map at hand and a train schedule we heavily depended on, we boarded for Florence and Pisa and we were not disappointed with our choices. Here’s a tip or three to make this work: Book your tickets in advance and get the fast trains, secondly, grab the earliest trains for a head start and finally book an open return or late ticket back to Rome to make room for delays.

Florence

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Firenze

To say that Florence was a beautiful city is indeed insufficient. It’s picturesque, it’s artistic and home to painfully talented artists on a mission to create something sophisticated out of blank canvasses and sticks. It’s so beautiful you can almost feel emotions bleeding out of the vias and the pontes.

Famous points of interests include Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo and Fountain of Neptune among others. Firenze is also home to the original statue of David by Michelangelo – a creation that I can only describe as tangible perfection.

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Statue of David

Pisa

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

My friends who have been to Pisa gave me a fair warning that there was not much to see aside from the iconic leaning tower. Honestly, it was not as big as I had in mind and there were more tourists in Pisa than Florence during our trip. It was fun because everyone was doing their best to capture the perfect picture. Backs were being broken and friendships were being questioned. Small as the place may be, Pisa had the perfect vibe for lazy afternoons over coffee and tiramisu. Irresistibly so, we gave in to alfresco dining and capped the evening with cocktails.

An unexpected (mis)adventure!

On our last night in Rome, we took the train back to our flat very much looking forward to a quiet night. Maybe it was the fact that I just came from the Vatican and I chose to believe in the good of other people, or maybe I was tired from all that walking and I just had no guards left to raise, but that night on the metro, two gypsies managed to lift my passport out of my bag.

I realised they took my pouch the moment they did because they artistically squeezed into the Metro with us then simultaneously disembarked just in time for the doors to close. I am from the Philippines – land of pickpockets. I just knew.

With a panic stricken face I stared at Erika with horror – I will be stranded here for a long time unless I solve this crisis.

I will never forget the station’s name – they got off at Barberini. Acting upon instinct I cried and got off the next station on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I did not even realise I was walking out of the station until Erika screamed at me and asked where I was going.

I sat down and breathed – and I remember thinking to myself how much it wasn’t helping. I couldn’t think and I couldn’t for the life of me collect myself no matter how hard I tried. And then a male member of staff passed by and I raised my head as if on cue. I asked for help and they called Barberini Station and gave a description of my pouch.

“Rosa?” He said.

“Uh pink yes!!” I said with all the hope in my heart.

They found it. The gypsies ditched it by the lift because it was basically worthless to them. All my cards were safe and my passport was returned after half an hour of emotional turmoil. Somewhere along the subways of Rome on the night of November 18th 2015 I was hugging a Roman soldier dressed in fatigues because he found my passport after two gypsies stole it from me – his long armalite rifle swaying back and forth as it hung over his shoulder. Needless to say – how’s that for a miracle story?

From the Colossuem to the romantic Piazza Navona, to the Pantheon up to the ruins that were once forums where the wise discussed relevant matters – Rome is truly an unforgettable city. There is a reason why the world still marvels upon those ancient ruins long after they were reduced to pieces. The words we have today are in debt to their Roman origins, deep inside we swoon over their capability to dream big and to challenge what’s possible and we wish we could parallel that. We look back and admire Ancient Rome because we subconsciously feel like idiots compared to them. And so I left Rome with this at heart: aim high and aim for the divine, for in this lifetime you do not need to prove greatness multitude of times – the Romans have assured us that it only needs to be done once if you do it right. And for as long as we are encased in these wasting physical bodies intolerant to time – ambition is our only shot into immortality.

If you do find yourself planning a trip to Rome, do yourself a favour and take my advice. Walk instead of getting on those hop-on hop-off buses. Get lost in the city and imbibe the culture as long as you can. Binge on gelato and feast on authentic pasta dishes. Have a long conversation with an Italian and see how passion is in every fiber of their being from their accent to their gestures. Fear not about being lost – it’s proverbially still the best way to find yourself. And also, keep your bags near – unless you want to have a good cry in the middle of the Roman metro like I did.

 

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