Cinque Terres Fishing Villages

Portifino consists 5 small fishing villages off the coast of northern Italy.
Accommodations:
If you are on a budget, I think the best way to see the 5 fishing villages is to stay in La Spezia at an Airbnb.
If you want to stay at a hotel in one of the villages,  La Torretta in Manarola or Hotel Palme in Monterosso, are more flat of the five villages so these would be the best places to stay when you are hauling around luggage but be prepared to walk up some steep hills. There are no 5 star hotels in these villages but these look like the closest thing you can get to that.

Each Village:

Corniglia: Extremely high up on a hill, probably very difficult to get to with luggage.

untitled-9Manarola: second smallest of the 5 villages. Beautiful sunset, some great restaurants including the “instafamous”  Nessun Dorma. This restaurant can get very crowded, so I would go sometime after lunch, but before dinner. We went around 4pm and stayed close to sunset and we were able to get a good table with no wait.

Monterosso al Mare: Largest of the fishing villages with a proper beach.

Riomaggiore: a small u-shaped village, which is said to be the most photographed village,  few restaurants overlooking the harbor. a few boats in the harbor you can rent or do some trips to the other villages. Also able to swim in the harbor, bring your goggles, it is extremely clear water.

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Vernazza: Beach, boutique shops, and harbour. Doria Castle is here which was used as a look out for pirate raids back in the day

How to get to the villages:

Boat: If you are staying in La Spezia, there is a port with boat rentals that will take you to each of the villages. You can go on the public boat, which I can only imagine will be quite crowded in the high season, or you could rent a private boat with a skipper.

Train: Traveling by train, it is easy to get from one village to the next. There is a central station in La Spezia that takes you straight to the fishing villages.

What to do:

Sentiero, also known as the “blue” coastal trail. This trail goes through all 5 villages. The hiking path is said to have spectacular views and is part of the UNESCO world heritage site. You can start in Monterosso and head south or Riomaggiore and head north. Check out the status before you leave, certain times of the year some of the trails will close down for safety precautions due to landslides.

Food:

Fried cone seafood in Riomaggiore.

Geloato! This can be found in all the villages.

Traveling to Morocco

There are many different cities that are quite popular in Morocco but only a few I would recommend going to.

  1. Marrakesh: seems a bit more quaint than the other cities. The markets can get a bit pushy on what they are selling but all are different, each selling something unique.untitled-4untitled.jpg
  2. Chefchaouen: also known as ‘the blue city’. This is a pearl in the middle of Morocco. A very small town, mostly locals and you aren’t harassed at every street corner you turn down.untitled-18.jpg
  3. Sahara desert: of course this has to be a stop on everyone’s list that is going to Morocco. Seeing nothing but sand for miles and miles watching the sun rise and the sunset, laying under the most sparkling stars you’ll ever see. This is a one of a kind adventure that you don’t want to miss out on.untitled-31.jpg
  4. Fez: This place is a pretty big city, looking out over the city from the hills above is pretty cool. Other than that, I wouldn’t recommend going. The street vendors are all the same, nothing original I would want to purchase here. Not to mention I felt like I was being harassed just walking through the markets here. The restaurants are bland, and only have a small menu of chicken kabob, couscous, and tagine. Don’t get me wrong the tagine is fabulous but when that is all you have to eat all day every day it gets a bit old.

Where to stay?

Riads. They are very welcoming and safe to stay. They are originally palaces, or big family homes, with Moroccan style architecture, and rooms on two or more floors all surrounding a courtyard. These places made me feel at home, they are normally back away from everything and it feels very safe. They welcome you with mint tea and food, if you requested it. Some of the best food I had in Morocco came from the riads homemade food so I would recommend eating here if you have the chance. You can just google ‘Riads in Morocco’ a list will come up on the places they have around the area you are looking for.

 

Tours; The Sahara desert tour.

We went with Authentic Morocco. This tour was from Marrakech to Fez, three days two nights, and we booked the luxury option which was about $1800. They have tours from different destinations, so it depends on which ever city’s you want to see. There are also cheaper options by taking a bus, and sleeping in tents. Check out my Sahara Desert blog for more info.

Have a great time! Message me with any questions!

Sahara Desert Luxury Tour

Luxury 3 days 2 nights.

There are plenty of companies that plan day trips for where you want to go in Morocco. We went with Authentic Morocco, and this is the experience we had.

Day 1.

Private driver will pick you up from your riad about 9am and you will start your 9 hour drive into the desert. They have a few stops for some cool sites on the way. They day ends about 6pm. The hotel is included in the price of the tour. So lounge by the pool while they serve you some authentic Moroccan cuisine.untitled-70

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Day 2.

The day starts at 8am. The same goes for the second day, the driver will stop a few times for food, and sight-seeing. You will arrive around 6pm in the dunes where your camels will be waiting for your arrival. You will take about an hour and a half camel ride through the desert to watch the sunset. After sunset you ride your camels back to the luxury camp site where they greet you with cold rosewater towels. As we all know the desert dunes are full of sand, so they kindly provide a walking path of rugs to guide you to your tents. These tents have a king bed, sitting area, and private bathrooms. Outside you have a sitting area to enjoy a glass of wine while they prepare your dinner. Your dinner will be served in a large tent, with 4 appetizers, four large entrees, and desert! So I hope you come hungry! After dinner you can enjoy the view of 1000 stars.

Day 3. Outside your tents they prepare you with a large breakfast, and coffee while you enjoy the sun rise. After breakfast a Toyota 4 runner picks you up and takes you to meet your driver at the front of the camp. You then begin the journey to Fez. It is about a 10 hour day as well, you stop at some sites along the way and around an hour for lunch. The driver drops you off at your riad around sunset, so you are able to walk the city for a little bit and grab some dinner.

Traveling to Pisa

 

Pisa is a small town about an hour outside of Florence. A day trip is all the time I would recommend spending in Pisa.

Driving:
If you are renting a car, it is basically a straight shot from Florence on one of the major interstates. Google maps is the best way to go when you don’t want to use your data and don’t have wifi on the roads.

Train:

There is a popular train route that takes you to Pisa from Florence. You can purchase tickets online, they leave several times per day.

What to do there:
The tower of Pisa. Yes, the Italians have a structure that appears to be “leaning” due to apparent foundation problems.
At the tower, you are able to walk up the top and see panoramic views, for a small price.

Food:
Gelato! At every corner, its Italy, Gelato can not be passed.
Donor kebab. Shaved meat from a rotisserie, they make into a popular sandwich.

 

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Florence on a budget.

Exploring Florence on a budget is a bit hard, especially when they have some luxurious spots of accommodation, dining and drinking.

Accommodation:
Airbnb is the best way to go when booking on a budget. They have some cool places to rent out for the week, not far from the city center. Also cooking at home, and packing sandwiches for day trips is an easy way to save money. The food in Florence can be pricy, as this is a popular tourist spot.

Dining:
The airbnbs are normally equipped with cooking utensils and basic cooking ingredients, so my advice would be to find a local grocery store and cook at home. Florence is beautiful at night so grab a bottle of wine and enjoy it on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo where you will see panoramic views of the city.

Things to see:

untitled-4.jpgThe David: Michelangelo’s masterpiece ‘the David’ is in Galleria dell’Accademia. I recommend buying your tickets a few day in advance online, it is a few dollars more, but you get a faster entrance to the museum, than buying your tickets at the door, which can be over an hour wait.

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Santa Croce: The tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo.

Michelangelo’s apartment: If you decide to take the free walking tour, they will guide you down a narrow alley, where you will see the first floor apartment where he use to live.

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untitled-20The cathedral di Santa Maria del fiore: This cathedral is the largest brick dome ever constructed, and built in beautiful gothic architecture. For 10 euro you can climb to the top to get panoramic views of the city. Inside the church is free of charge.

 

The central market: Most of the locals go here to get authentic Italian dishes at reasonable prices.

Activities:
Free walking tour is always a good way to get information when exploring a city for the first time. It gives you an inside of the city’s history from a locals point of view, which is the best way to see a city. This tour is free but it is appreciated to tip at the end. I think around $10 a person is acceptable.

Day Trips:
Day trip to Tuscany: Check with trip advisor if you do not have a car, they have day trips that provide you with a shuttle service and wine tours all included in one price.
If you have a car I would check out some wineries that have a bed and breakfast and stay up in Tuscany for a night, the countryside is beautiful. We went for a wine tasteing and tour at Viticcio, they also have accommodations that we wished we would have known about.