Our Complete Europe Itinerary

So here it is. Our holy grail. Our complete itinerary from our UK & Europe adventure which lists our cities, time spent in each place, and most importantly (and let’s be honest, what I think most people really want!) .. the links to all the accommodation for the whole trip. I’ll also be listing all the websites that we used to get all the information we needed to help you in your own scheming and planning. Hooray!

Our trip included visiting 48 cities in 20 countries. Wowee I had never counted that before until just then…god I miss being in each and every one of those 20 countries. 
An important disclosure before I share allll of our info however. I am, in no way shape or form sharing this for you to take the trip and do it exactly the same. There is no way you could ever replicate a trip from doing so. Our itinerary worked perfectly for us as it was exactly what we wanted but every single person is different and you really need to find your own travel groove. Take a little or take a lot but just use this as a good inspiration and guiding light to get started. 
Are you ready?
Our Europe Itinerary for 4 & a half months

London for 4 nights & we stayed here 

Cardiff for 1 night & we stayed here
Dublin for 4 nights & we stayed here
Belfast for 2 nights & we stayed here
Inverness for 2 nights & we stayed here
Portree for 2 nights & we stayed here*
Elgin for 2 nights & we stayed here
Edinburgh for 4 nights & we stayed here
Amsterdam for 3 nights & we stayed here
Brussels for 2 nights & we stayed here
Athens for 2 nights & we stayed here
Santorini for 7 nights & we stayed here & here
Mykonos for 3 nights & we stayed here
Split for 3 nights & we stayed here
We then Sailed Croatia for 7 nights (highlight of our trip) & used this company
Budapest for 3 nights & we stayed here
Kirchburg for 5 nights & we stayed here
Vienna for 3 nights & we stayed here
Prague for 4 nights & we stayed here
Rome for 4 nights & we stayed here
Naples for 2 nights & we stayed here
Positano for 2 nights & we stayed here
Amalfi for 2 nights & we stayed here
Florence for 3 nights & we stayed here
Venice for 3 nights & we stayed here
Milan for 2 nights & we stayed here
Vernazza (Cinque Terre) for 2 nights & we stayed here
Monte Carlo for 2 nights & we stayed here
Nice for 2 nights & we stayed here
Cannes for 2 nights & we stayed here
St Tropez for 2 nights & we stayed here
Toulon for 2 nights & we stayed here
Nimes for 2 nights & we stayed here
Barcelona for 4 nights & we stayed here
Valencia for 4 nights & we stayed here
Mallorca for 2 nights & we stayed here
Madrid for 2 nights & we stayed here
San Sebastian for 3 nights & we stayed here
Paris for 4 nights & we stayed here
Luxembourg for 2 nights & we stayed here
Berlin for 3 nights & we stayed here
Frankfurt for 2 nights & we stayed here
Heidelberg for 2 nights & we stayed here
Munich for 2 nights & we stayed here
Interlaken for 5 nights & we stayed here
Dubai for 6 nights & we stayed here
Websites that we used to book all of the above – & spent a million hours researching on…
Skyscanner – to book all of our flights internally & across countries
Airbnb – an ah-ma-zing website that we adored. This is how we stayed in luxurious apartments for so cheap.
Hostelbookers – you can’t backpack through Europe without staying in hostels & this was the best website.
Hostelworld – also good for booking hostels but less variety than hostelbookers & a little more expensive.
Booking – great to find hotels & hostels when the other websites can’t find you many options.
TripAdvisor – we didn’t use this to book, but great to read honest reviews of hotels from previous guests.
Also, the only iPhone Apps that we couldn’t live without over there was the following.
AroundMe – SO helpful in any and every city we went too when we needed to find an ATM, restaurant, toilet, the list goes on! It would pick up on where you were and then point you to the closest everything. It saved our butts many times.
TripAdvisor CityGuides – TridAdvisor is obviously every travelers best friend so this app shouldn’t surprise you! Before reaching each new city we would download it to the app so once there could look up all the top attractions, tours, restaurants and activities. It would map you there from wherever your starting point was as well so if the mood called to use it we could just get the app up and map ourselves to the tourist thing we wanted to do at that moment. Fan-tastic!

[Left; Budapest      Right; Cinque Terre ] _________________________________________________________________________________

So there you go. 4 & a half months of trip of a lifetime travel condensed here, for you, with love, in just 3 paragraphs. This is the thing though, I am trying to encourage as much as humanly possible for you to just book that trip. Just go. Stop telling yourself that you never have the right timing, or money or circumstance because let me assure you, if you keep telling yourself that, then you never will. I had told myself, that no matter what, when I finished uni, I’d go to Europe. I spoke it aloud, I wrote it down, I shared the dream, and last year I did just that. I would love to see 2013, or the years to come manifest in to the year you took a trip to the place you’ve always dreamed of but never deemed possible. I truly believe, with the right belief, planning, research, saving & tools you will be able to do it. And this is exactly what I hope my 2 Europe posts will do for you.

Your turn.

If you have any cities that aren’t on there that you think people would love or should know about then I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also share any other websites or Apps that you have found amazing when traveling, let’s help people grow their travel dreams together.

Love, light & big wishes,

Anna xx

[ Madrid ]

[ Croatia ]
[ Nimes ]
[ Kirchburg ]
[ Vernazza ] 

[ Munich – Oktoberfest ]

We heart Heidelberg

It’s hard to put in to words just how beautifully surprised we were when we first arrived on Heidelberg’s doorstop. Our biggest no-no when travelling was from the very get go to never go in to a country or city with expectations from ourselves, and especially from others so Heidelberg was of course no different. We arrived with no expectations just a little knowledge of this old town full of character and our heavy backpacks. Can I just say here though, if we did have any expectations, they would have been exceeded, exceeded so much that to use metaphors, the ball of expectation would have been smashed way out of the ball park, down the road and around the corner, we were that surprised and that immediately in love.
It’s like with any new city or town or country that we went to and fell in love with though. You can’t put your finger on exactly what it is about that place you love so much. I mean, after all, it’s just a new city, with similar shops elsewhere in the world, an old castle that most other old cities had, and friendly locals willing to help out if need be. But you don’t love it any less. 
Heidelberg for us was it’s Baroque old town, its gorgeous cobblestone streets, it’s incredible Christmas markets scattered all over the city and it’s beautiful old, rich rich history. The town had originally been slapped on our travel map as when looking in to Germany we discovered it was one of the only towns that escaped bombing during WW2 which meant that the town stood originally as it did many moons ago, which was a huge attraction to us. Once there though we both fast said it was one of our favourite places visited in Germany and we loved how we could be surprised with new things to see or do each and every day. 
We walked for hours everyday getting lost in it’s old town streets, we wandered up to the medieval castle high a top the hill, we found hole in wall cafes to drink hot cups of coffee out of the snow and we went for food and fun every night in the Christmas markets alongside all the other locals and tourists searching for the same thing as us – memorable times with loved ones. 
When we spoke of going to Germany, everybody gave us fantastic recommendations on where to go like Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt and all the normal places you would expect to go….but if I can give you our own recommendation put Heidelberg high on your priority list (and make sure you stay in old town, it’s the heart of this beautiful city). 
________________________________________________________________________________
Your turn…
Have you ever been to a city you’d never heard of before and it been one of the most magical times ever? I’d love to hear about it and get inspired for our next trip.

To Paris, with love

Dear Paris,

Wow.

Just wow.

What a remarkable, beautiful, magical, inconceivable, extraordinary city you are. Where do I even begin? 
We arrived by your rail system when the sun had set so got to experience exactly just why you’re called ‘city of lights’ from the minute we arrived. Coming out of the subway and having the Eiffel tower in front of us, lit up like it was is something I will remember forever. 
I can’t quite explain just how you made me feel… it was like it was Christmas eve and I was 7 years old again not able to sleep as I knew how many presents I got to open the next morning…except, I’m not 7 and it wasn’t Christmas eve. I’m 24, it’s November, and there were no presents, just pure & utter exhilaration & adoration for your parks, streets food & sights, the whole city was ours to unwrap and I literally couldn’t sleep from excitement. 
You have this romantic vibe to you that is undeniable, I connected to the energy like it was nobodies business, in fact, you probably saw Morgs & I stop to steal a kiss at one too many of your sidewalks or cafes but I’m sure you’re already used to that. 
I feel like the Champs Elysees & I had a connection, like a real connection – of all the beauty and all the sights and all the wow that you have to offer, I just couldn’t stay away from this street. The Christmas Markets were running along them, which admittedly could have only strengthened the connection. Walking the stalls and stopping every second or third to try a new piece of chocolate, marshmellow, nutella crepe, ice cream or churros really had me adoring the whole experience. 
Oh & don’t even get me started on the ice skating. I sent you such loving vibes after Morgs & I were walking home hand in hand after our night of ice skating. You probably saw me pinch myself more than once, literally, it just didn’t feel real. I adored Morgs did it with me, I think you had something to do with that however, your magic vibe is inescapable. 
I couldn’t name a highlight, no siree, all that we did and all that we saw was so so so amazing and special in it’s own right. Night one, we hadn’t even been in your city 2 hours and we were sailing the Seine River on a luxurious boat, dining on 4 courses of delicious food & too much wine. The whole experience was totally and utterly unforgettable, cruising on a glass boat seeing all the monuments lit up, live music cooing in the background with the wine flowing, it was just too perfect for words. We were also utterly flawed by the live Moulin Rouge show we took in with the champagne flowing a plenty of course. The whole show start to finish had me gasping and oh my god’ing – you really do know how to put on a good night of entertainment. 
I don’t really properly have words to describe my awe, love & fascination with your mighty structure that is the Eiffel Tower. Morgs & I made sure to visit a few times to really soak the whole experience and atmosphere in properly. One of my favourite evenings happened when we decided after a solid 8 hours of exploring your streets and museums that we’d just ‘quickly’ go across the street to visit it again. We ended up sitting there together for about an hour at the base of it just watching everyone get excited that they were there (along with us), and basking in the amazing loving energy all around. The sun set and it lit up right before our eyes. We kissed, laughed and planned future travel right there and then, so thank you from the bottom of my very heart for providing us with that experience. Lets not forget taking the elevator to the very top, my god was that another pinch me moment. There we were, up the top of your magnificent tower literally among the clouds, looking down on Paris falling more in love than ever. It’s one of those stories I will take joy in telling future grandchildren. We were so so lucky to have found an apartment quite literally across the road so took major major delight in going to sleep and waking up with the Eiffel tower right outside our window.Like I said Paris, you are Magical with a capital M.
We climbed your Arc De Triomphe, visited your Louvre, walked through your magnificent parks, ate in your dimly lit, incredibly sexy restaurants….we got exactly what we wanted in all that we did, ate, saw & felt. 
We vibed with you, loved you and just wanted to thank you…for being who you are, and giving Morgs & I some of our most unforgettable memories on what truly is our trip of a lifetime. 
With a heart full of thanks & utter joy & awe,

Anna x







EVER LASTING MEMORIES


Affairs of the heart with San Sebastian

As I’ve mentioned previously, putting in to words just how much we loved Spain and all that it offered up to us is truly hard to put in words and the same has undoubtedly applied to specific towns along the way. Whilst a dream came true in Madrid – I lived the Spanish moment I’d always wished & dreamed for, San Sebastian was equally beautiful in providing us peace, laughs, beauty and relaxation. I thought as an ode’ to this magnificent sleepy town I would list all the things that made San Sebastian so unforgettable.
I loved the beautiful sunshine peaking out from behind the clouds from the moment we arrived.
I loved walking to the apartment in the warm afternoon sun with the man by my side reflecting on how much of an amazing time we’ve shared together so far.
I loved the wonderful surprise of getting to our gorgeous apartment & it being so luxurious. 
I loved exploring the beautiful tree lined streets with bursts of Autumn colours surrounding us everywhere from fallen leaves.
I loved strolling slowly slowly through the small town stopping whenever it pleased us for dessert for lunch, hot chocolate for breakfasts and hot wine to warm us from the inside out.
I loved stumbling upon old town and getting lost in the tiny ally ways for hours and hours.
I loved walking through the old fisherman bay watching the men dock their boats for the day and show off their catch & tend to their tangled nets.
I loved just happening to get to the highest point in San Sebastian by chance right as the sun was setting over the ocean and being able to watch the beautiful sunset and taking the time to plan our next adventure on a whim.
I loved bar hopping in the old quarter to find the best tapas on offer – fact: there are no such thing as ‘the best’ in San Sebastian, it’s alllll delicious. 
I loved sitting on a ledge on the beach for who knows how long with Morgs watching the surfers catch wave after wave. 
I loved being able to go for a pre dawn run along the river and coast and perfectly timing the sunrise on my run home. 
I loved we found churros like we hoped & got to tick ‘eat churros in Spain’ off our list.
I loved sitting on the beach watching the turquiose water break calmy on a warm sunny day. 
I loved that I expected the town to be so much bigger and got a wonderful surprise when it was actually quite small and sleepy.
I loved we packed a delicious picnic and got to nap for a few hours after a plentiful lunch in the warmth of the sun the green grass at our feet in an empty park. 
But most of all?
I just loved San Sebastian. 
Spain, we will be back – thank you for the most extraordinary times and memories that will last the ages.
{ So excited by so many leaves to crunch, luckily I have a loving bf who totally understands my love of leave crunching and allowed this to go on for at least 5 minutes }
{ Walking blissfully around San Seb }
{ San Sebastian by night – beautiful any time day or night }

Dreams coming true in Madrid

I have a confession to make, a confession which, if you are familar with the blog, you will know from previous admissions, but I am a self confessed Control Freak. 

That’s not the confession though. The confession is that somewhere along this big beautiful trip, I let go. I seemed to stop being a control freak. In fact, not only have I relaxed more & given in to whatever goes, well, goes, I have actually loved plans that change or don’t always go according to plan. 
Which is exactly what happened with Madrid.
The booking all along was to fly from Mallorca to Porto in Portugal (then on to San Sebastian), but two weeks out of said flight, we were emailed from the airline saying the flight was cancelled, they could instead get us to some remote part of North Spain (not even in the same country as our original destination!) We said thanks but no thanks & cancelled the booking.

Now. Old Anna would have had a mini break down. Considering how badly I had initially wanted to go to Portugal and were now being told it was impossible from where we had the flight from & time permitting I normally would have been super super upset. Possibly even stewed over it for a day or so. The new me however literally just shrugged my shoulders, and admitted clearly we were just not meant to get there this trip around and the universe has something far greater planned for us…

Cue Madrid. 
For whatever reason, it never got on our original list but with 3 days now available we booked a flight to this unassuming city with a feeling that we were just meant to go there specifically – and as beautiful as hindsight always is – aren’t we glad we did!!
Madrid is truly hard to sum up. Just like I had always imagined San Sebastian to be bigger (post on that to come tomorrow), I had always imagined Madrid to be smaller, but it’s anything but. Not only is it ginormous in size, the city literally has something beautiful to stop & marvel at, or walk through or explore around every single corner, and I truly mean, every single corner. The moment we got there we both knew we just wanted to tread our own path. We stayed away from trip advisor suggestions, tour guides and hotel reccommendations – Madrid was ours and ours alone to explore & take our own incredible memories away from.
We walked, and walked, and walked & walked. We stumbled upon the palace, beautiful botanical gardens, Puerto Del Sole square, humongous shopping streets (la la loved the shopping in Madrid!), and huge squares to sit & drink Sangria in to people watch. There were street markets we got lost in for hours on the Sunday, getting caught up in the hype of shopping among hundreds of spanish people, flicking through old records of 80’s metal – for Morgs of course, and watching old men barter over old basketball cards. 
And then, there was the Flamenco. 
When putting Spain in big bright bold colours as a place we absolutely wanted to see, the way I had always envisioned it was sitting in a small bar, Sangria in hand, with my lover (cue Morgan!) the lights dim with a magnificent Flamenco show going on in front of me, and up until Madrid, a city we weren’t even meant to be in, I hadn’t gotten my Spanish moment. 
For those who aren’t aware, like I wasn’t until we accidently ended up in the city (& Morgans mum who had taught dancing for 30 years telling us) Madrid is actually the heart & soul of Flamenco in Spain…
Let’s just say, I got my Spanish moment. We by beautiful fate found a bar that did shows each night and the night we wanted to go just happened to be the night an award winning Flamenco dancer would be performing. It happened! It really happened just like I always imagined it, without any effort at all. There we were, in a small bar, dimly lit, with Sangria in hand, my lover by my side, and the most incredible performance of Flamenco in front of us and it was in that moment, I cried. I sat there without an embarrassment or care in the world tears streaming down my face. I don’t know if it was gratitude, or the feeling of pure & utter joy from the inside out, or feeling like another dream had just come true, but I didn’t care. I was happy & beautifully living in the moment.
So Madrid, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, not just for being an incredibly beautiful, remarkable city, and not just for the delicious and amazing food on offer, but for giving me my Spanish moment I had always dreamed about. 
But most of all? For solidifying for me once & for all that sometimes when things don’t go exactly to plan, there is always something greater for you waiting.
With a heart of happiness & love,
Anna x
p.s If you ever go to Madrid and want to see a show, this is the one we went to. There are 3 or 4 main ones in Madrid (tonnes more but 3 or 4 main ‘the best’ ones) and Cardamomo is one of them. We chose this one as it wasn’t so commercial and offered a more intimate traditional experience…and obviously I can’t recommend it highly enough!

12 Tips on traveling Italy

When most people plan their European holidays, much like us, Italy is without a doubt, right on up there with one of the ‘must get to countries’. Morgan & I hadn’t realised until we were filling in our travel insurance forms & answering ‘country which spending the most time in’ – something we had to go away & work out! – was in fact Italy. We ended up spending a little over 3 weeks there and although not even a year would be enough to see all that this beautiful country has to offer, we feel, from one backpacker to another, we learnt a lot in our short time that might help you when planning your own Italian adventure. 
So here are the 12 tips in all their glory – the good, the bad, and the ugly that may – or may not – help you when it’s your turn traveling Italy.

12 TIPS FOR YOU FROM US IF YOU TRAVEL ITALY 


No.1. If backpacking 3 weeks is long enough. I wouldn’t do any longer, but I wouldn’t have done any less. After 3 weeks of really only having pizza & pasta as the option and getting itchy travel feet you will generally feel ready to move on.








No.2. Be prepared to put on weight – no amount of stair climbing or planking will disguise the fact that living on pasta, gelare, pizza, free bread at EVERY meal, wine and croissants is going to pack on a few kg’s around the ole’ waistline. In the same breathe, don’t let that stop you ordering and enjoying Italian food – it was the best we’ve ever eaten.


No.3. Get to the Amalfi Coast – even if it means you have to save a little more, it’s worth it. We only did 4 nights & that wasn’t enough. The best towns to stay in are Ravello & Positano. Both Morgs & I didn’t rate the town Amalfi as that amazing but adored Positano. If you are going, have it as your rest week and stay 6 nights ..

No.4. Put Bologna on your ‘to visit’ list! We had two nights in Florence and did the whole town (we felt) in a day so decided to day trip out to Bologna which ended up being one of our most fun, most delicious days in Italy! It has amazing shopping, fantastic food & is the home town of Spaghetti Bolognese, do I need to say anymore?

No.5. If you are going to Naples there are only 2 things you need to know. 1) Don’t have ANY expectations of the place. You will either like it or not. We didn’t, but it might turn in to your favourite town. I was just shocked at how much litter and graffiti was everywhere. 2) You HAVE to eat Pizza in the birth place of Pizza and if you do, eat it here…best & most popular place in Naples we found by mistake which was the best mistake we could have ever made…& lastly…3) Use it as a base to visit the isle of Capri..  Getting to Capri was a must for us and we’re so glad we did it. The island boasts some of the most magnificant scenery & views we’ve seen the whole trip & the day trip across was well, well, well worth it if even for the Blue Grotto experience.

No.6. Give yourself 4 nights in Venice. We had 3 and I would have given anything for one more. This place really truly is magical and rain, hail or beautiful sunshine is a joy to explore and get lost in. It has SO much to offer either if you do tourist things or just wander and get lost in. 3 nights was just one night short for me and I think you will find that too!

No.7. Don’t do any less than 4 nights in Rome. That’s what we did and we found it the perfect amount of time (as backpackers with a timeframe). We could have easily spent weeks there, or even a few more days but certainly managed to cram everything your average tourist does in this beautiful city plus a little bit more. Any less than 4 nights I believe you’ll rush through it and not really get to experience all of Rome’s magic.














No.8. Walk the Cinque Terre – I had planned my WHOLE trip and it wasn’t until lunch with a friend that she mentioned this strange sounding ‘Cinque Terre’ town. After some quick googling I immediatley fell in love, but obviously nothing can prepare you for the real thing. I’m SURE many if not most have heard of it, but I hadn’t so if you were like me then slap this on your travel to do (& stay in either Monterosso or Vernazza).

No.9. If you are actually there for an extended period of time like us (3 weeks), then BUY A EURAIL pass. Morgs & I had researched this extensively before we left in general. I.e to get one for Europe and worked out it wasn’t worth it. For Italy specifically though? Its VERY worth it. Trains are not cheap in Italy and it will save you hundreds (I mean that) of euro’s if you do it eurail not as you go. To give you an example, traveling the same distance in France, costs us between $4 – $6 euro….that in Italy was costing us $25 – $50 euro. Ca-ra-zy. Eurail is worth it people. Write that down.

No.10. In Venice, if you’re going to drink coffee, drink it standing! As soon as you sit in a cafe, they tack on a less than desirable service charge…plus standing for coffee is such a fun experience & makes you feel like a local.

No.11. If you’re in Italy for more than a week, buy a sim card. We did this & it was the best thing we ever could have done (we just went to the local phone shop – “Tim” over there – & it cost us $15 euro for the sim plus wayyy too much data which was plenty). It helps you navigate your way around every city without paper maps, and you have much quicker access to places you might want to see or where to eat.

But most importantly? (Because I always have a most important)…







No.12. Ignore all of these tips & find your own groove, path, vibe, whatever you call it…find it. I think one thing Morgs and I have learnt best is that everybody can experience cities differently. Places people told us we’d LOVE & were their favourite, we didn’t like at all, and places people said they hated and we should miss all together were our favourite. The same will happen for you no doubt, so take any advice always with a grain of salt…we found the above worked for us perfectly & hoped it would just give you a general guidance….but hey –

treading your own path & finding your own adventure is what it’s all about.

Love & Light,

Anna xx

Walking the Cinque Terre

“There it is! Just a litter further!!” – I puffed to Morgs as we climbed the final stairs in the small town Vernazza to our apartment we would call home the next 3 days.  
Cinque Terre, The 5 (cinque) lands(Terre) – we had made it…& it’s 5 towns Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola & Riomaggiore were ours to explore over the next 3 days, a thought that had us in a state of pure happiness & excitement. 
That afternoon, settling in to our accommodation was done in record speed & it wasn’t long before we were sitting quietly on our private balcony perched high above the Ligurian sea staring out across the horizon as far as the eye could see. We had decided to stay put to catch the sunset from this spot, and as the sun was setting on a beautiful day, and I was reflecting on what had been over the past few months and what was still to come on the trip I realised in that moment, we were living a dream. 
Coming to Cinque Terre we had one goal and one goal only, like many tourists do, which was to walk the 5 towns. Hearing on our first afternoon that a landslide had shut the whole coastal walk (the infamous route ‘2’ aka the blue line) certainly caused some disappointment. 
Having spoken with the friendly locals and visited the tourist information (found at all 5 trains stations in each of the 5 towns) we realised that we could take a different route, the red trail, and do the trains in between towns as worst case scenario. 
Being avid exercisers back home (& even throughout the whole trip) we thought the trail wouldn’t be too hard but learnt fast it is certainly not for the faint hearted. We had decided to do the walk from North to South, Monterosso to Riomaggiore which in my opinion and those of most is the best way to do the trail – lots of reasons listed why below. 
After exploring Monterosso and all it had to offer we trained to our ‘home town’ Vernazza for a coffee & cake stop. Once we felt replenished & ready for the 40 minute walk ahead of us to the next town off we went. The views in between towns is truly breathtaking and it is worth your while doubling the time the walk takes just to stop and take in all that surrounds you every few hundred metres. 
Stopping for lunch in Corniglia we were soon happy with our decision as this small town was full of ally ways bursting with shops with delicious smelling food & wine a plenty. It has an amazing viewing platform that we basked in the beautiful sunshine for longer than we probably should has – but hey there are no rules or time restrictions on holidays! 
We walked on to Manarola from Corniglia on the closed path as were told by locals it would be fine – and it was! The views again were unrivalled and the steep cliffs hosting houses & animals are a marvel to look at along the way and keep you wondering how they ever got there in the first place. 
Unfortunatley, even though Morgan & I came prepared with our padlock for the Via Dell’Amore – the way of love – that path was well & truly shut. The torrential rain from a week before had collapsed a rock on the path injuring some Australians, so even though the day we did it it was beautiful clear blue skies, the big padlocked gates weren’t letting anyone through – not even two excited young lovers (ehem, morgs & I) with our padlock at the ready. The Via Dell’Amore, for those playing along at home is the final stretch of pathway connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore. It is known as the pathway of love & one of the most significant areas of the cinque terre where young & old lovers for years have come to seal their love by locking a padlock on to the gates & fence along the pathway. 
Not to be deterred by this, and always wanting to tread our own path & leave our own mark, Morgs & I decided we would instead lock our love away in the very town we stayed – Vernazza amongst other padlocks locked many years before ours on a gorgeous old bed head overlooking the ocean – we found the bed post by luck and it turned in to our meant to be. 
Ending the walk in Riomaggiore was magical however as the sun was setting so we went high a top the cliffs for a drink & chat about our favourite parts of the day. Once dusk had set we wandered down in to the gorgeous quaint bay area of the town and sat on the rocks soaking in the last 24 hours we’d spent in the Italian Riveria. 
Catching a train back to our town Vernazza (for a whole $1.60) we knew this day would always be in our memory banks as the day we lived a dream. With it’s quaint almost historic towns, bustling but welcoming cafe’s and active but relaxing atmosphere, Cinque Terre had it all and is yet another highlight of the trip so far. It now holds pieces of our heart and love that we’ve secured forever … All thanks to a padlock resting high above the sea. 
Pssst when we were trying to find out the best information on the names of the towns, which way to walk them, where we should start etc, there was no concrete information all in one place so here is our snapshot of what we think you should know if you ever want to visit & do it yourself;
TIPS FOR WALKING THE CINQUE TERRE TOWNS:
Towns to stay in? 
GOOD QUESTION! This took me weeks of research and reading through hundreds of reviews. Let me break this down for you. Monterosso & Vernazza are THE best towns to stay in so look no further than them. Trust. Me. Monterosso is the first & the biggest town and kept us going back there for coffees along it’s gorgeous huge beach front. It has the most amount of restaurants and is by far the biggest of all 5 towns. Vernazza is the ‘infamous’ town of Cinque Terre with that postcard shot. We stayed here & adored the quaintness of it all. There are only a few restaurants with not a huge amount of food options. It has a small bay, and some great cafes but is smaller compared to Monterosso (each town almost gets smaller as you go along). In terms of accommodation options, Monterosso has the most and the best and BOTH towns offer stunning views of the Ligurian sea cliffside. 
Which way should you walk the towns?
North to South without a doubt. That would see you start in Monterosso then go through in this order Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. 
The walk gets harder moving North so it is SO much better to start North & go South. I.e. Start in Monterosso as town number 1, and finish in Riomaggiore. The hardest part of the trail is in between Monterosso & Vernazza so getting that out of the way first in the morning leaves you the day to stroll more leisurely & relax. 
There are over 300 stairs leading up in to the town of Corniglia – yet another reason to go North to South – Once you reach Vernazza and walk on to Corniglia, leaving Corniglia to head towards the fourth town of Manorla you will walk down said 300 steps instead of up them. 
The views are better walking North to South. If you say Cinque Terre, the picture that springs in to mind for most is the postcard of the infamous bay of Vernazaa with all the coloured buildings…that is the view you get walking around the cliff edge walking IN TO Vernazaa from Monterosso. 
Take plenty of water.
Wear enclosed walking shoes – joggers or hiking boots are perfect
Be careful and use common sense 
But most Importantly?
Ensure to stop and enjoy what each town has to offer. As much as they’re all similar they all have their own unique fingerprint & you need to stop and soak in all you see & smell around you. Monterosso has an amazing beach front area full of buzzing restaurants. Vernazza has a gorgeous tiny bay area where you can stop for ice cream & coffee. Corniglia has narrow ally ways full of shops boasting trinkets & great little gifts for loved ones. Manarola has a narrow main street offering great sights & shopping & Riomaggiore is almost all 4 towns combined. Make sure you get to the cliff top to watch the sunset as you finish your walk and down to the bay for a shot looking back at the town. Just magic. 
Towns in snapshot from Left to Right – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore – & our padlock with our initials … 

Our love affair with Venice

Oh Venice you had us at hello. 
We fell in immediate love with this city, and I mean immediate. We literally stepped out of the train station and stopped abruptly in complete awe as right there in front of us was the bustling Grande Canale with it’s overflowing water taxi’s and impressive bridges. I knew Venice was full of canals, that is of course why we went there, I just wasn’t ready for my reaction to seeing them all for the first time & my ensuing love & affection I would then develop for a city we had only just arrived in and I barely even knew.
We arrived at our hotel in record speed by foot – you would be surprised how fast you can hustle with a 15kg backpack when you just want to go out exploring a new city – and immediately felt conflicted as we could have lazed around in the hotel just as easily we loved it so much. Luckily the want & need to go canal exploring got the better of us and off we set, with a map tucked firmly in the back of Morgans pocket ONLY to be used when we wanted to find our way home. 
And that boys & girls…is how we spent the next 3 days. I could share all the laughs we had – we sure had them, the restaurant finds we happily stumbled across – there were plenty of those, the cafe’s down teeny tiny ally ways you’d never imagine would even hold a cafe – but they did….but I won’t, because that’s just the thing you see. Venice is yours to discover, to explore, to get lost in and to develop your own love affair with. 
I think the point of Venice is to get lost. To find your own way again, to make your own adventure. To find your own fun. To develop your own love affair with.
Morgs & I were easily clocking up over 20km’s of walking a day just aimlessly wandering around every canal and tiny ally that Venice had to offer. We found treasure coves of forgotten side streets, canals that were deserted, cafe’s that claimed to sell the best coffee – we think they did, and wine bars where we sat to sip delicious cold drinks & eat amazing tapas. We even made sure to be real Venice’i’ans (aka local people) by standing to drink all of our coffee...p.s once you sit in most cafes in Venice the price goes up! It was just truly ‘pinch me are we really here I never want to leave’ kinds of travel moments.
I even finally got my ‘omg we’re in Italy’ moment when we literally fell out on to St Mark’s square and immediately got surrounded by pigeons and heard all the live music playing from the huge square surrounding us. Ah-ma-zing. I had, for weeks said to Morgs that my ‘true Italian experience’ would be when I “found this square, I don’t know exactly which one it is, or where it is in Italy, but I’ll know it when I see it, and it definetley has a lot of pigeons and there will be music playing” how descriptive I know, of COURSE I was going to find it (not) but then…. Cue St Marks Square in Venice. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I knew that THIS was the square. The music was playing almost on cue, the pigeons were flying & I had my pinch me moment. I had found ‘my’ square. 
If you DO have Venice on your hit list though and maybe would like some suggestions as to where to start when arriving in this labyrinth of a city who am I to not share our own fantastic experiences & give you some little hints to this remarkable place…so here they are, it’s short, but remember you will have your own Venice experience with your own adventures…..these are just some little hints to help get you on your way…

1. Grand Canale – the main canal in Venice and the bustling gateway to all of Venice’s other canals. Both sides are lined with more larger restaurants – packed full of tourists so Morgs & I stayed well away – we preferred to eat in the side streets with the locals – street vendors, and Gondola rides. You also catch the main water taxi’s here. P.s if you have a smaller budget and don’t want to pay the $80 euro for a 20-30 minute Gondola Ride, you can opt to jump on a water taxi which takes you all up the Grand Canale for about $18 euro (& it takes around 45 minute from point A to point A).

2. St Mark’s Square – the main square in Venice and if you’re anything like me and have always wanted to have pigeons feed out of your hands with live piano and jazz music in the background, well then this is your square. There are the big main restaurants in the square but you pay extreme prices even for a coffee. You can still get the experience of the bands & energy just by walking around yourself. A MUST see.

3. Tearoom Caffe Orientele – this little gem is quite the walk through ally ways you wouldn’t think have been walked in years. Just when you think you are surely lost you come out on to one of the most beautiful canals in Venice – in my opinion – and walk a little further and it’s hidden away next to a bridge. It’s number 1 on trip advisor which you also wouldn’t believe as when we got there we were the only ones in there. It’s far away from the throngs of tourists which was perfect, served us up some DELICIOUS vanilla tea & the yummiest home made apple crumble we’ve ever consumed. If you can be bothered with the adventure – visit the tearooms!

4. Venice Jazz Club – this place was Sexy with a capital S … I died when I walked in. D.i.e.d – doors open around 7pm – we got there for 8pm, band comes on at 9pm…It’s all jazz and is so sultry and amazing it is literally my ‘must must must do’ in Venice. The club is SO intimate. You sit at small round tables with your lover (or friend) lit only by candlight as a smooth jazz band plays away – you have tapas and red wine & you r night is set. You do pay a $20 euro entrance fee which gets you a table, your first drink, some nibblies on the table (chips & peanuts) & a cranking jazz bar all night..WELL worth it. 


5. Ride in a Gondola – I really think you can’t go to Venice and not do this. I was squealing like a teenage girl at a Justin Beiber concert I was so excited. But heed our advice – Morgs & I had seen sooooo many couples as we wandered the canals and over bridges in their Gondolas watching the whole experience through the lens of their cameras – so our one rule for our own ride was to be fully present in the moment, cuddle, and take only 2 or 3 snaps .. which we did and the whole experience was that much richer & meaningful. So with your own Gondola ride, don’t get caught up in trying to snap the best pic or take the best video…just be in that magical moment. Tips? ALL Gondolas cost the same – it’s $80 euro for the Gondola so doing it with more people obviously lowers the cost as you can split it…we just wanted the two of us however. Also, don’t take a Gondola off the main canale. Go in to the side canals. We asked a few different ones out of interest and the Grand Canale Gondola rides were shorter and ONLY stayed on the Grand Canale (for the same price) .. getting in one down the side canals goes for longer (try 10mins longer) and you get to do all the side canals PLUS the grande canale..Much much better.

5. GET LOST…Like any of you need to be told this. I know everybody that goes to Venice goes for the same reasons and that is to explore the canals and get lost. I think the general rule in Venice is to only look at a map when you have to get home. It’s how we did it anyway and it worked amazingly for us. You see so much more, have so much more fun & find places, sights. people and food you would never have found constantly navigating your way around with a map. 

I think we will absolutely return to Venice one day & I can’t wait.
Love & Light xx

Memories in Milan

{ Duomo Cathedral – such an incredible sight }
So here we are….out of Italy! We had an amazing time the past 3 weeks exploring all the towns we’d dreamed of for many many months (& years in my case) and had some expectations exceeded, and some not met – a la Florence being one not met. I shouldn’t be so mean about Florence. It was actually really beautiful and had some gorgeous sights, fab-o allyways, and we even loved our morning runs snaking down the big river….it just lacked that za za zu I was hoping for? Expecting? I suppose what I mean to say is it just felt like any other city. Rome for example blew our socks off – that’s not entirely true we didn’t wear socks, but it blew us away. Amalfi Coast was indescribable, Capri was beautiful … but when we got to Florence it did just feel like ‘another city’. A gorgeous one at that I will absolutely give it credit where credit is due. Morgs & I bucked every trend in Florence as well and didn’t even go to see the Statue of David. Shocking, outrageous and poor form I know….in our defense however we did go to the museum and line up for about 10 minutes but knowing that we were in for a wait as long as the day is long plus having already seen plenty of nude men with chiseled bodies & their man bits out in the Vatican Museums – we opted instead to find the best ice cream in Florence – which by the way we did – it was the biggest scoops we’ve come across. 


So why bring up Florence in a post about Milan? Because that’s the only mention Florence is going to get. We came, we saw, we conquered. Don’t get me wrong either we did enjoy Florence. We ate, we drank, we explored, in fact we clocked up over 22km of walking on our 2nd day there…and don’t ever let someone’s opinion of a place put you off from going. Florence till your hearts content I say!! Just give me a few extra days in Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast …
Our opinon of Milano then you ask? Well. Milano impressed. 
Think about all the stereotypes you can of Milan … high fashion shops, gorgeous restaurants, every person dressed impeccably, clean city, great sights – and they’re all true. I really loved the vibe of this place and enjoyed just walking and walking seeing as much as we could. 
We ventured in to the high fashion areas and even dined in the Martini Bar which is inside the Dolce & Gabanna store. Morgs & I really did try so hard to be polite & posh … but clearly our subconsciousness couldn’t handle the faking and we both ordered meals that can’t be eaten any other way than with your hands … Hamburgers. HA! We considered for 0.2 seconds that we might attempt to eat a hamburger with our knife & fork but laughed it off & tuckered in to those suckers like nobodies business. It was all so unglamourous in an exceptionally glamourous restaurant but it was US and we had a ball.
The highlight had to be Duomo Cathedral though & Duomo Square. It’s a short metro away from Centrale station & as you come up the metro stairs it is there right in front of you in all it’s glory. It’s just a mammoth gothic looking building in a great area – the square itself reminded me a little of St Marks Square in Venice as the pigeons are friendly and it’s packed with people. 
Not wanting to see Museums & Cathedrals in every city we venture to though we do try to do something a little different and Milan dished us up the weirdest tourist attraction yet … A cemetery!!  Morgs had read up on it from Trip Advisor – it was number 6 of things to do in Milan which is pretty much a ‘must see’. We didn’t spend too much time in there but it is worth a visit for the sheer size & over the top’ness of the statues & graves – some that are the size of a small house. 
Speaking of Trip Advisor – best Travel tip I can give you that we’ve learnt? Download the free app they do called ‘City Guides’ before you hit each new town. It is ahh-mmaa-zzinggg. It basically lets you look up all the tourist attractions, plan your days, map you to places, gives you restaurants nearby, bars nearby, the list goes on. We go through and hit ‘save’ on everything we think we might like to do, where to eat, where to buy ice cream – worked out ice cream is our Achilles yet? & then you can map your ‘saves’ – so the app works out the most efficient route for you to see everything you want to see and maps you there. It is honestly brilliant and has helped us SO much. 
I have Venice to share with you next & then recount our adventure in Cinque Terre which has been heralded as a highlight of the trip – up there with Santorini & Sail Croatia. 
Morgs has kept me in hysterical fits of laughter our whole 3 weeks with his running commentary about Italy & what it has to offer so I have asked he share what we will call his ‘letters to Italy’ soon. 
We are still unaware of days/weeks/times and are still relishing in every one of our moments. 
Love & Light xx
psst – Morgs & I did try to go to see Leonardo Da Vinchi’s ‘The Last Supper’ original painting whilst in Milan but as our unfortunate luck would have it…the workers were on strike!! So we didn’t get to see it. Bought the postcard though 😉 
{ Waiting for our food to come – being lavished with the little extras that come when you order wine though – one thing I love about Europe!! }
{ In the cemetery – it’s ok we weren’t the only ‘tourists’ there and we were very respectful }
AND JUST TO GIVE FLORENCE SOME CREDIT…. here is a pic of me & the end of my amazing ice cream in Florence exploring their local markets (which oh me oh my had some insane shopping, I wanted to buy every bag in sight!! 

Our personal food tour of Bologna, Italy

Sometimes when you’re travelling, not everything always works out perfectly .. surprising I know. Morgs & I when planning our big adventure had written a few things down one night with a bottle of red of non negotiable’s we wanted to do when over here and things like watch flamenco in Spain, Sky Dive in Switzerland, and Sail Croatia were some examples that made the list. A big one for us as well was eat & drink our way around Italy….one that up until Florence we felt we had and have very very successfully done (just ask our growing but happy belly’s!) Our last little ‘thing’ we thought we’d love to do however is take a day trip out to Tuscany from Florence and go on a wine tour… the plan was set and the preliminary googling of options had been done one lazy afternoon on the Amalfi, but clearly in our insanely relaxed state, we weren’t paying enough attention. The one day we planned on doing it, Sunday, was the one day almost NO wine tours operate in Tuscany, and when I say almost none, I mean N.O.N.E. Morgans comments when finding this out after another quick google session late on the Saturday afternoon a mere 16 hours from said Sunday was “don’t get upset hunny, clearly the Italians need their sabboth to get straight with the lord, let’s find our own fun” …

Firstly, everybody needs a Morgan to travel with. He is quite honestly the most relaxed, calming, PATIENT person on holidays and Secondly…he was right. We initially looked in to some wine and/or cheese and/or food and/or all of the above tours to do locally in Florence but there was nothing that really tickled our fancy. So there we were, on Saturday afternoon, with our Tuscany wine tour plan smashed to pieces trying to come up with our own fun for the Sunday….When you are constantly striving for adventure, a huge foodie & have one Mr M aka Morgs with you it didn’t take long until we had our own fun & exciting plan set….

Do our own food tour in Bologna .. more specifically, eat Spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna – only the birth place of Bolognase!

I was at this stage beside myself with excitement & actually glad Tuscany didn’t work out – p.s pre packaged wine tours from Florence to Tuscany for a wine tour are around $140 aussie each and when it comes downs to the nuts & bolts every package tour you only got about 6-8 tastings at most….which in our eyes didn’t even become worth it! 

We took an early train out to Bologna – which is only about 25-30 minutes and arrived ready to over indulge ourselves. Like with every town/city/country we go to, first things first always, always involves finding a groovy little cafe for our beloved cappuchinos.

Before I go on, can I also make two very important comments about Bologna itself as a town.
1. It dished us up by far the BEST coffee, ice cream, chocolate, pizza AND pasta we had on our whole Italian 3 week crusade….and that says something (everything) for this gorgeous city.
2. If you are going to Italy yourself, consider putting Bologna on your ‘sleep over’ list. I.e. Not JUST a day trip town, a ‘let’s stay two or more nights here town’. Truth be told Morgs & I weren’t the hugest fans of Florence…it was amazing and had some fantastic ice cream – see what I mean when I say we’re eating our way around Italy? – BUT when we landed in Bologna with it’s g.o.r.g.e.o.u.s cobblestoned ally ways, a.m.a.z.i.n.g shopping, f.a.n.t.a.s.t.i.c restaurants & equally f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s bars, we were wondering why on earth we’d not stayed two nights there say instead of Florence. It is a SERIOUSLY great city that not only is pretty central to do day trips still to Tuscany/Florence/Pisa … but would be just as wonderful to stay in & explore the whole time ou were there…& like I said – the BEST italian food we’d had the whole trip.

Now where was I?

Right. Food.

We thought we would venture a little more ‘in to town’ i.e. away from the train station to find a buzzing cafe worthy of our cappuchino order…and we found said buzzing cafe just off the main street in town by the name of “Eataly” .. Morgs & I both took our first sip of our coffee, looked at each eyes wide – the two of us don’t even need words we’ve been travelling so long – & almost skulled the rest of the coffee back. By the time we’d gotten to the bottom of the cup we already had another 2 cups on the way. When I say it was the best coffee we’ve had in Italy, I mean it’s the best cup of coffee we’ve had the whole trip – the joke was that cappuchino alone was worth the trip to Bologna.

Ice cream (& by way of association) chocolate were next on our hit list and we didn’t have to go very far to find it – Venchi happened to be right next door to Eataly & we had been told by some Italians we HAD to have their ice cream & home made chocolate. Luckily we took them up on the offer as it was the best ice cream..& chocolate…we’ve ever consumed. I went next level & even said “yes” (probably a little to hastily) when the lovely lady asked if I’d like whipped cream on top of my ice cream. Venchi is the one place you too have to visit if ever in Italy (you can find them all over Italy apparently!)

Our last, & possibly most important stop on our food tour – we stopped for countless wines & coffees in between our walking & touring but we don’t need to bore you with the details of those – was to find the perfect Spaghetti Bolognase in Bologna. The restaurant that we finally ended up at was by accident after having trip advised the sh*t out of “best spaghetti in Bologna” and venturing to every single referred restaurant to find it closed, gross, or just not up to our expectations. We were walking back to the twin towers – which we climbed for a view of all Bologna, also reccommended – when we saw it. It was a large alfresco dining area packed with Italians ALL eating Spaghetti – honest to God. We ran over and knew we’d found the place. Unfortunatley for you, in our haste to sit & drink more Red Wine & Eat our spag bog, I didn’t even look for the name of the place….but it truthfully was….the best Spag Bog I’ve ever eaten.

Bologna provided us with one of our most fun, relaxing, indulgent days in Italy & I can’t reccommend the city highly enough.

On the way back to the Train we followed our noses – oh shoosh it was dinner time don’t judge – & found a tiny hole in the wall take away pizza joint where we ordered a take meat pizza for a wholeee $6 euros. With absolutely no expectations considering it was so cheap, found on a whim, and a hole in the wall – we literally laughed from ‘we can’t believe this’ at first bites when yet again Bologna delivered the yummiest pizza we’d had all trip – although Naples was a very very close 2nd.

The biggest lesson I took away from the day though was to never get upset over things that don’t always go to plan….My initial disappointment at not being able to wine tour in Tuscany turned in to the most fun & yum day in Bologna that we wouldn’t have changed for the world.

I suppose the biggest lesson was & will remain to be that I have adored learning on the trip is…

Tread your own path – you never know the adventures waiting for you around the corner!

Love & Light xx