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10 things to do in Curacao: diving, snorkeling, beaches, and more

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Top 10 places to visit in Naples and Salento regions – Southern Italy long weekend itinerary

Top 10 places to visit in Naples and Salento regions – Southern Italy long weekend itinerary

Does culture, history, turquoise sea and amazing food sound like an ideal combination? If yes, Southern Italy won’t disappoint you! My long weekend in Southern Italy started with a two-night stay in Naples. In advance, I had a bit of mixed feelings based on what I had learned about the city in media and doing a bit of research online before travel. I knew to expect it to be hot, crowded, possibly dirty and noisy – people seemed to be divided to those who had loved it and those who weren’t impressed. I was even thinking of skipping central Naples altogether and just going to the smaller towns close by. However, in the end I decided to stay in the city and it turned out to be a positive surprise!

Naples traffic is often described as chaotic so I decided not to rent a car but use public transportation instead and I was amazed at how well it worked. Alibus from the airport to the city cost 5 euro and worked well although it took a while between the central station and the last stop in Porto Beverello.

There’s plenty of options where to stay in Naples – from bed and breakfasts to Airbnb and boutique hotels and it’s relatively affordable. I stayed at La Ciliegina hotel and room was very small but the location, rooftop terrace and breakfast were just magnifico!

La Ciliegina hotel rooftop terrace

Top 10 places to visit in Southern Italy Naples and Salento regions

  1. Naples city
  2. Capri
  3. Pompeii
  4. Vesuvius
  5. Brindisi
  6. Santa Cesarea Terme
  7. Santa Maria di Leuca beaches
  8. Gallipoli
  9. Otranto
  10. Lecce

Long weekend in Southern Italy Naples and Salento regions map

1. Naples city

Naples’ location by the sea charmed me instantly since first stepping out of the airport bus in Porto Beverello.

Castel Nuovo is a medieval castle rising behind Porto Beverello. The walking path from the harbor to Municipio metro station and my hotel went around it so I had plenty of opportunities to admire this impressive landmark.

Castell Nuovo in Naples

Castel dell’Ovo is a seaside castle with free entry and fantastic views to Naples coastline. I found it to be especially beautiful in the evening. It’s also nice to sit at one of the close by restaurants, have a gelato and watch the sea. Some people were even swimming at a small beach between the castle and the harbor.

Castel dell'Ovo Naples

Walking in the historical center Centro Storico at sunset is a great experience. There’s so many restaurants to choose from on especially Via dei Tribunali. On a warm summer night, lively and happy people were having aperitifs and heading to dinner.

2. Capri

I decided to take the first ferry departing Porto Beverello – whether it would go to Proscida, Ischia or Capri. Capri it was! There’s no need to buy tickets in advance but it’s convenient to check the timetable online. The cruise aboard the high-speed ferry (hydrofoil) was pleasant although I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t possible to sit outdoors (from this perspective the smaller ferries from Sorrento to Capri looked nicer). Luckily the aircon worked well and there was a small kiosk selling drinks and snacks.

Capri

The ferry arrives to Capri at Marina Grande that is a lovely port with luxury yachts to fishing boats. Right next to it is a small pebble beach that can get very crowded in the busy months. The bus stop is next to the beach and if you desire to escape the crowds you can take a bus uphill to Anacapri. The bus  (2,5€ per person, same for luggage) can be packed with mostly standing places and beware of a very narrow and serpentine road – there’s barely space for a newspaper to squeeze through the passing buses! Naturally no seat belts and driving fast is the norm. The ride up was worth it just for the views on the way. Anacapri village is nice, small shops and restaurants. However, it was a surprise to me that it was more inland and no views to the sea. It would have been great to take the chairlift to Monte Solaro or a boat to the blue grotto but timing was too tight. It would be worthwhile to spend a night on the island. Don’t be in a rush or expect the buses to run on schedule during the busy season. It was taking quite long at the bus stop and we decided to group up 4 people and take a taxi – it was much more comfortable but cost 30 euro.

Capri beach

There’s plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from on the island but if you prefer a picnic there’s a small grocery store in Grand Marina. I got some water and ice cream and went to the beach to enjoy the last moments before it was time for the return ferry back to Naples.

3. Pompeii

I was thinking of visiting Pompeii already when I was in Rome but it was much more convenient to take a tour from Naples which is only about half an hour away. It’s possible to get there by public transportation and just walk around but if you’re interested to learn about the history and get interesting insights I’d warmly recommend to book a tour or a guide. I booked my tour via Viator only a day before and everything went quite smoothly. Maria our tour guide shared lots of fascinating stories about the life of Pompeii people in the beginning of 1st century. When the Vesuvius volcano erupted in 79 AD the town was buried under 6 meters of ash! The tour started off by taking a look at the big and small Amphitheater that still today has incredible acoustics (thanks Linda for the concert!). Pompeii used to be a vibrant city with tens of shops and restaurants. I found the Roman spa most impressive and especially the sauna section which is remarkably well conserved.

Pompeii

The climate at Pompeii is typically very hot and humid. We were lucky that there was a bit of breeze. Still 8 out of 35 people on the tour gave it up midway so I would only recommend it in the summer if you can stand the heat and walking quite a long way in crowds. Lunch at a close by restaurant was included in the tour and a basic Pizza margarita served Al fresco tasted amazing.

4. Vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius was just a 35 minutes’ drive from Pompeii. According to our tour guide Lucinella it’s one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world and it gave a bit of an adrenaline rush to hear her words that this could be the last experience of our lives! On the way up it’s possible to see the lava flows of the 1944 eruption. There had been a big fire last year in the national park and the devastating effects were still clearly visible.

We were given only 1,5h for visiting the volcano so it was better get going fast! There’s 3 cafes at Vesuvius – one at the start of the climb and two at the top. It’s a good idea to buy some cold water. Good walking shoes are essential although the path isn’t difficult as such but there’s gravel and rocks that made walking in sandals look painful. It was a quite an easy hike, hot but we were lucky to have a bit of breeze. The views across Naples and to the sea were amazing. I enjoyed the hike a lot and although sweaty, dusty and far from glamorous, felt re-energized after it.

Vesuvius

In the next morning it was time to say good-bye to Naples and head to the other coast. The metro ticket cost only 1 euro 10 cents and was convenient, modern and clean, although a bit noisy and not sure if there was air-conditioning in the cars so it might not be ideal in the rush hour but in the weekend morning it was fine. I took the metro from Municipio to Garibaldi – the central train station and the bus station and got on-board the Flixbus for Brindisi – 5 hours bus ride for under 20 euros with wifi and aircon seemed like a good deal compared to more expensive trains with having to transfer at least once on the way.

5. Brindisi

In case you do take the bus be sure to check the departure AND arrival places – I got dropped off somewhere at the edge of Brindisi without any taxis in sight and had to walk a couple of kilometers in the afternoon heat to get to the central station and catch the bus to the airport for picking up the rental car. This area of the city wasn’t particularly pretty but at least it was possible and safe to walk. Of course, there would be much more to see but I was very happy to finally get to the airport and get the rental car to continue the journey.

Our rental car
Photo: Heidi Lehmuskumpu

6. Santa Cesarea Terme

After a couple of hours drive I arrived to Santa Cesarea that was our base for the next few days. It’s a small village that seems to be a popular vacation spot for locals and Italian tourists but not too many foreigners have found the place yet (although we did hear some French and German). Puglia is known for turquoise sea and combined with the rocky coast of this area the views were stunning. Spiaggia Porto Miggiano was an incredibly beautiful spot to go swimming.

Santa Cesarea di Termini

We also enjoyed lovely dinners in restaurants with amazing views:

Il Villino

La Torre

Ristorante del 19 Summer Club

Ristorante Bagno Marino Archi 

7. Santa Maria di Leuca beaches

Next morning we hopped into our trusted red Twingo and cruised through the narrow Southern Puglia countryside roads towards the beaches west from Santa Maria di Leuca. The beaches stretch 5 kilometers and are also known as the “Italian Maldives”. It was a bit tricky to find a good spot and where to park without knowing the region but finally got to the long white sandy beach to catch some sun, swim in the sea and had lunch at a beachside café Papeete.

South Puglia Beach
Photo: Heidi Lehmuskumpu

8. Gallipoli

Gallipoli is a charming little town with the centro storico on an island, accessed via a bridge alongside the Castello Angioino di Gallipoli. I was excited to see a group paddling in kayaks – what a wonderful way to discover this beautiful coastal spot!  Walk through the island and reach the lovely beach cove with amazing views to the sea. There was plenty of stylish restaurants with outdoor seating that looked very inviting!

Gallipoli

9. Otranto

Otranto is the easternmost town of Italy and has a beautiful Port with views to the turquoise sea, a lovely beach walk with restaurants and a white shallow sandy beach. Enjoyed a swim in the warm water and the lunch with a view.

Otranto

10. Lecce

Lecce is famous for its beautiful old town with lots of churches. Remember to dress accordingly if you plan to go inside the churches. There’s a few nice gelaterias around the central square that make it a perfect spot to relax for a moment.

Gelato in Lecce

Huge thanks to my friend Heidi for inviting me to visit – otherwise I probably would never have discovered this gorgeous region!

Next time

There’s so much to see in Southern Italy that in a long weekend it’s only possible get a first glimpse of this amazing region. Next time I’ll be sure to go to Amalfi coast. I was told that it’s extremely crowded in July and August and therefore decided to save it for a future trip. Capri really impressed me and I regret that I didn’t have more time to spend there. In the future, I’d like to stay overnight and visit the Blue Grotto and take the chairlift to Monte Solaro. Additionally, Procida and Ischia islands would surely be worth visiting.

I almost booked tickets to Naples Opera and heard that the interior of the building is very beautiful. There would be lots to experience also further south from Naples in the Calabria region aka the “toe” of the country’s boot.

Puglia region north from Brindisi is the home of a number of famous cities to be discovered in the future – for example Alberobello, Matera, Ostuni, San Lazzaro, Polignano a mare, and Altamura are terrific reasons to return to Puglia one day…

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Top 5 Tips to Skiing with Kids in Pallas National Park, Lapland

Top 5 Tips to Skiing with Kids in Pallas National Park, Lapland

March to April is the best time to visit Lapland because the darkness and freezing temperatures of the deepest winter are over and the sun is often pampering the winter wonderland’s visitors. In April the days are long already – if you are lucky the […]

Vatican Top 5 Highlights – How to Skip the Lines and Avoid Crowds?

Vatican Top 5 Highlights – How to Skip the Lines and Avoid Crowds?

Vatican definitely deserves one day on your trip to Rome.  I only had a few days to prepare for my trip but just enough to do a bit upfront research and all the reviews on Vatican warned about the massively long lines especially on weekends. […]

Rome – top 10 tips to an active long weekend and walking tour map

Rome – top 10 tips to an active long weekend and walking tour map

Back in school I loved history and felt intrigued by the ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman cultures. As long as I remember, I’ve had visiting Rome in my travel goals and finally it was time to make it happen. Traveling to Rome in the beginning of March had its pros and cons – just a couple of days earlier it had snowed for the first time in 5 years and it continued to be cold and rainy. On the positive side in low season the crowds are bearable so it’s possible to take advantage of the free museum access to for example Colosseum (only available the first Sunday of the month).

Top 10 tips for an active long weekend in Rome:

  1. Colosseum, Palatine hill and Roman forum
  2. Trevi Fountain
  3. Spanish steps (and shopping)
  4. Pantheon
  5. Piazza di Navona
  6. Renting a bicycle
  7. Trastevere and Monteverde
  8. Yoga
  9. Food, wine and coffee
  10. Finding the perfect place to stay

Pack along your best walking shoes, you’ll need them in Rome! I was amazed with how easy it was to walk from one key sight to another. Here’s an itinerary of a 6 kilometer / 4 mile walking tour of the main sights you don’t want to miss: the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Navona and the Spanish steps.

If you only stop for taking some quick photos the tour could be completed in about 2 hours but of course you’ll get much more out of it if you visit Pantheon and Colosseum from the inside. I saved the Colosseum tour for another day as I didn’t start off till the afternoon for my first exploration of the eternal city.

1. Colosseum, Palatine hill and Roman forum

Colosseum

The Colosseum is massive, similar size as stadiums today – it could fit 50 000 people and had marble seating for the best spots reserved to the most prestigious visitors while slaves, women and children were only allowed to access the top floor with wooden structures. However, after the fall of the Roman empire the monuments were not cared for and during the medieval times people recycled whatever could be removed and burned the marble!

Colosseum from inside

Expect long lines to the Colosseum around the year and especially on the first Sunday of the month when the access is free (otherwise it costs 12 euros for adults) to access the first and second floors. I strongly recommend to buy your ticket in advance to benefit from the shorter line. The ticket includes access to Palatine hill and Roman forum in addition to the Colosseum and it’s valid for two consecutive days. Even on a free Sunday, you need a free ticket that you can most likely get with a shorter wait at the Palatine hill and Roman forum entrances.

Palatine hill

For an extra fee you can purchase a guided tour (~40 minutes) or an audio guide. Luckily a guided tour in English was starting shortly and cost just 5 euros so I decided to sign up for it. Our tour guide Laura, archaeologist, shared interesting historical facts and useful insights that were not all included in guidebooks. It was a nice quick tour and worth the small price for sure. However, next time I would book a longer tour that would go around also the underground and the third floor as well.

2. Trevi Fountain

Trevi fountain

From the Colosseum the walk continues to Fontana di Trevi where tourists flock to take photos of the gorgeous Trevi Fountain and throw coins there. According to the legend, you should throw a coin over your right shoulder to the fountain to secure your return to Rome one day. I didn’t want to jinx this one!

3. Spanish steps (and shopping)

From here the walk continues to the Spanish steps which is a popular place for people to gather and sit down – nice break for taking a sip from your water bottle. Some nice shopping streets are located in this area including very high-end stores but also a wide range of brands and I found some good deals at GAP and Desigual stores.

4. Piazza di Navona

On the way back, you can pass by Piazza di Navona which is one of the most beautiful Baroque squares in Rome.

Piazza di Navona

5. Pantheon

Next stop is Pantheon which is free to access. The dome is open from the middle and it’s quite amazing how rain falls in and trough small holes on the floor – an example of the brilliant engineering expertise of the ancient Romans!

Pantheon entrance

Pantheon oculus

From the Pantheon the walk continues to Plaza Venezia where you can admire the Altare della Patria – a palace honoring first king of Italy and WWI soldiers – and the Trajan Forum ruins before you arrive back at the Colosseum.

Altare della Patria

Trajan forum

6. Renting a bicycle

Renting a bicycle was a great way to explore places a bit further away, although due to the traffic it can be a bit adventurous – especially if it starts raining! I rented a bicycle at a bike shop just outside the Colosseum station (4€ per hour or 10€ for a day). Beware that they ask to leave some form of photo ID for the duration of the rental so it would be a good idea to bring something in addition to a passport. I loved the feeling of freedom on the bike and having some pedaling after all that walking felt so good! If the River Tiber isn’t overflowing like during my visit to Rome you could even bicycle along its banks.

Tiber river

7. Trastevere and Monteverde

Trastevere is a nice hip neighborhood on the west side of the River Tiber from the historical center of Rome, south from Vatican. It’s nice to stroll along the narrow cobblestone roads, visit the Basilica of Santa Maria and dine at one of the excellent restaurants available in this area.

Trastevere Basilica of Santa Maria

Monteverde is a lovely neighborhood next to Trastevere. It was a bit of hills for bicycling and quite many stairs too that my maps app didn’t recognize. Saw some nice street art though and enjoyed a fantastic lunch.

Monteverde

8. Food, wine and coffee

Finding a quality but reasonably priced restaurant can be a challenge in the historical center of Rome from the middle of so many overpriced tourist traps. I stumbled upon this little place Prosciutteria Cantina Dei Papi that’s actually more of a shop than a restaurant (they don’t have restaurant license so they can’t serve or set tables but offer plastic cutlery. They can also only sell drinks only by the bottle (luckily also small wine bottles, beer, soft drinks) and tap water is freely available. I recommend the mixed platter that comes in 3 sizes (5/10/15 euros). I was so hungry that I couldn’t help but to choose the big one.

Mixed platter Prosciutteria Cantina Dei Papi

Restaurant Panattoni was highly recommended for paper-thin pizzas. After having already a bit too carbs I was craving for something light and found the smoked salmon salad at Buff excellent and free wifi was nice too.

Buff salmon salad

Close by to Piazza Navona is Circus Café which is ideal for a relaxing break with a nice cup of chai latte with almond milk and freshly made juice or smoothie.

9. Yoga in Rome

Yoga in Rome

After a long day of walking and aching feet, Yoga class in Rome was the perfect end for the day. Zem Yoga’s hot Vinyasa community class of Friday evening (13€ + 2€ for renting a mat) instructed by Amity was incredible! She created such a warm-hearted atmosphere and asked the participants to introduce each other the closest people in the room which brought a very nice social aspect to a solo traveler’s day. The class was quite physically demanding and indeed hot – I should have brought a bigger water bottle! In the end on the 90-minute class I was feeling superbly relaxed – what a better way to unwind after a long day of sightseeing!

10. Finding the perfect place to stay

Rome has a huge number of hotels for all budgets. Based on reading some reviews it seems that in many places the rooms can be very small. Airbnb has an extensive offering in Rome and I found a modern 1-bedroom apartment with a roof terrace with an amazing location in the city and just across the bridge from Vatican. There was a small grocery story close by and I was very happy that I had a kitchen to cook healthy breakfasts and suppers to stay energized for the long days exploring the city. If you are new to Airbnb you can use this promo code link for 35€ travel credit.

Visiting Vatican is something you don’t want to miss when in Rome – read more about the Top 5 highlights of Vatican and how to skip the lines and avoid crowds.

Still wondering how Rome in snow looked like? Check it out here.

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Top 5 tips to a Skiing holiday with kids in Salla, Finland Lapland

Top 5 tips to a Skiing holiday with kids in Salla, Finland Lapland

It was Easter holiday when we packed our skiing gear and set off for my daughter’s first skiing holiday. Last year I spent Easter in Finnish Lapland for the first time in my life and it was an amazing experience to be surrounded with snow, yet […]

Top 5 things to do on an active family holiday in Corralejo, Fuerteventura

Top 5 things to do on an active family holiday in Corralejo, Fuerteventura

It was my second time to visit Corralejo, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. The weather was quite windy which seems to be typical, so  be sure to bring also warm clothes in addition to sunscreen if traveling there. However, I found the climate to be ideal for sports: mostly sunny, dry but not too hot due to the refreshing breeze.

I had a bit of mixed feelings about returning there because three years ago the signs of the financial crisis were visible everywhere: half-built abandoned constructions, “For Sale” signs on windows… Although the abandoned construction sites were still there, I was happy to notice that the atmosphere now felt more optimistic.

Top 5 things to do in Corralejo, Fuerteventura

  1. Jogging along the coast
  2. Renting bicycles
  3. Watersports – Stand Up Paddling
  4. The beaches and restaurants with a view
  5. Morning yoga

We stayed at Ananda Resort Fuerteventura Hotel Mirador de Lobos booked via TUI. The Villa was spacious with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and living room, and a big outdoor area with the pool. Booking in advance, it was possible to get the small pool heated which was definitely worth the investment. On the downside the resort is quite far out, about 3 kilometers from the center and beaches but it is easy to drive if renting a car and taxis don’t cost much. I actually found the slightly remote location to give good motivation for jogging and bicycling! WP_20170404_001The hotel is built around a Par 3 golf course that looks very nice even for non-golfers like us. Upon arrival, we were offered a nice deal on half board for 4 days including breakfast and dinner and decided to take it. The breakfast selection was very good while the dinner varied from a day to another, including three courses and drinks. I would recommend the local fish of the day, served with baked vegetables and canary potatoes.

1. Jogging along the coast

My favorite jogging path was the about 4 kilometer route along the coastline from the harbor up to the Dunes. The mornings were beautiful and very peaceful with very few other people on the path.

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2. Renting bicycles

In Corralejo there are sidewalks on almost every road (some in a bit bumpy condition though) and lots of bicycle paths which makes it very easy to go bicycling – it’s safe even with kids. We rented our bicycles from Pierre Shop and were very happy with the superb service.

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We enjoyed especially the most peaceful paths around our hotel and at the harbor.

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3. Watersports – Stand Up Paddling

Corralejo offers lots of opportunities for watersports. Surfing and kiteboarding for example are very popular due to the windy coast. I signed up for my first ever Stand Up Paddling practice, a 2-hour private class with Salty Life. I was at first a bit nervous how it would go. Luckily Pierre is a fantastic teacher and I was amazed how quickly I started to feel confident on the board and it exceeded my expectations on how much fun it was!

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I would have liked to go kayaking too and Kayak Fuerteventura’s kayak-snorkel excursion to Lobos Island would have sounded perfect. Something for next time!

4. The beaches and restaurants with a view

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Fuerteventura is famous for it’s beaches and there’s lots of them. Even if you prefer a more active holiday the restaurants with a view are wonderful places to take a break. Our favorite spot was Waikiki Beach Club Restaurant – it was easy access with a relaxed atmosphere.

5. Morning yoga

Yoga on the beach is a perfect way to start the day. I really enjoyed Ocean Yoga’s gentle flow yoga class. I wish I would have found it earlier than on my last day in Corralejo!

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Corralejo Fuerteventura Spain acctive Family holiday


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