Sustainable Glamping At Big Berry Slovenia

Sustainable Glamping At Big Berry Slovenia

Big Berry Slovenia is a fantastic glamping site located in the beautiful, lesser known region of Bela krajina. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the nature and culture that this region has to offer. 

Located in Primostek, on the border with Croatia, this luxury resort is the kind of place where you can completely relax, feel at one with nature, and yet enjoy the comforts of modern life and more. And as it is in a border region, once you are there you will have the chance of exploring two countries!

As soon as you walk into your bungalow at Big Berry Luxury Landscape Resort, you will know you are in for a treat and that ahead of you lays one of the most relaxing experiencing you can imagine. 

In this post, I highlight everything you need to know before booking your stay at Big Berry Slovenia.

Book your stay at Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort here

Big Berry Slovenia

Is this really all ours? My sister and I loved our bungalow at Big Berry Slovenia

7 Things To Know About Big Berry Slovenia

Big Berry Slovenia location

Big Berry is a beautiful glamping site right by the Kolpa River, in the region of Bela krajina. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, it at about 1 hour and 30 minutes drive, while Metlika, one of the biggest local towns, is at about 6 minutes drive – there you will find the biggest selections of shops, restaurants, bars and cafés, as well as grocery stores – where you will want to shop, so that you can make use of the well-equipped kitchen!

Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, is at an easy 1 hour 20 minutes drive. So you can literally explore two beautiful European capitals while enjoying the tranquility of staying in a lesser known region. 

Indeed, Big Berry is set in the most beautiful, tranquil countryside, and the only sound you will be able to hear while there will be that of the light breeze sweeping the trees; of the occasional cow mooing; and of the strong rain when it pours during the night. That silence is real bliss!

Big Berry Slovenia

Stressing out in the jacuzzi… NOT!

Understated luxury

‘Luxury of Freedom’ is the tagline of Big Berry – and luxury you’ll find. Yet, it’s hardly in your face – it’s subtle, and oh-so-cozy. 

As soon as you walk in, you will find a nice, spacious and bright kitchen that has anything you may possibly need to prepare a scrumptious meal; wine glasses (because wine in Bela krajina is actually really good); and a comfortable couch perfect for relaxing. As a welcome, all guests are gifted a basket full of local products: a craft beer from the local brewery Vizir; a delicious jar of local honey; a freshly pressed apple juice; a piece of fresh pogaca, the local bread; and the Big Berry Slovenia shower gel. 

There are 7 bungalows. One of them sleeps just two; one sleeps four guest and the rest sleep up to six guests – so it’s the ideal place to stay for a family with children or a small group of friends. There are two rooms with actually massive closets, a really comfortable bed with the coziest comforter, and a bathroom with a powerful shower. 

In the living room, you will find a massive flat screen tv with cable tv (and Netflix: just in case you prefer staying in for the night). On the porch, there is a large hot tub perfect to relax in an idyllic scenario.

To complete an already perfect scenario, not far from the bungalows there are some beautiful sun beds and swings under some trees, and a fantastic barbecue that you can use during the summer and which apparently has been the scene of many parties organized by the wonderful stuff.

Book your stay at Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort here

Big Berry

Breakfast at Big Berry – photo courtesy of Lily France

Fabulous breakfast

Breakfast at Big Berry is served on the porch, where there’s a large dining table. If the weather is nice, it’s really the perfect spot to start the day while taking in the beautiful surroundings. And what a this is! Every morning, someone from the staff delivers a basket full of goodies -fresh fruits, fresh milk from local producers, top quality locally sourced yogurt, cheese, fragrant pastries, freshly baked pogaca (a local focaccia bread), juice, muesli, coffee and what not for a breakfast in style.

Book your stay at Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort here

Big Berry

Our neighbors at Big Berry

Support of local businesses

This leads me to talk about one of the things I like the most about Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort: instead of sourcing for whatever is cheap at a big grocery store, Big Berry only partners with small local businesses.

From oil to dairy and honey producers, to local bakeries, vineyards and beer crafters, and even a local gym where guests can attend fitness classes, Big Berry Slovenia has implemented a system that not only provides the camp with local products, but supports the local economy allowing it to grow and thrive and at the same time facilitating the creation of a better infrastructure to accommodate the growing numbers of visitors.

Book your stay at Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort here

Krupa river

Activities at Big Berry Slovenia

The staff at Big Berry is always available to help you organize activities. Here is a selection of things you can do:

CANOE ON THE RIVER KOLPA – Canoes and kayaks are available at Big Berry for all guests.

BIKING – Big Berry guests can borrow one of the resort’s bikes to explore the region.

GUIDED TOURS OF BELA KRAJINA – There are many interesting places to visit in Bela krajina and you can join one of the guided tours departing from Big Berry to get to know them. Make sure not to miss the River Krupa, Krupa Castle and the Mithraeum of Rozanec.

WINE TASTING – One of the best nearby vineyards is in Semic, where the owner Samoel Malnaric will tell you about the history of the local wines, about their production and the overall wine culture of Slovenia. You can also enjoy wine tasting while dining in Veselic. Finally, make sure to try Penina, Slovenia’s champagne. 

CRAFT BEER TASTING – The local brewery, Vizir, produces some excellent ales.

HONEY TASTING – You can taste the sweetest honey as well as the honey liquor in Metlika, at Čebelarstvo Veselič.

OIL TASTING – Smother your skin with the fabulous oils produced by Oljarna Pecaric. You can try pumpkin oil, walnut oil and many other.

HOMESTEAD SRAJF POCAGA WORKSHOP – Learn how to bake your own pogaca. 

LIQUOR FACTORY – Berryshka makes some excellent liquors. 

SHIATSU MASSAGE – Just in case you need to further relax.

SATURDAY DINNER – A special night during which a local chef cooks dinner for all guests at the resort.

Book your stay at Big Berry Slovenia Luxury Landscape Resort here

How to get to Big Berry Slovenia

Big Berry is at about 1 hour 30 minutes drive from Ljubljana and 1 hour 20 minutes drive from Zagreb. The best way to get there is by car, but you can also get a public bus to Metlika from the capital (around two hours) and ask someone from staff to pick you up from there.

When to visit

Big Berry is usually open from April to October. Summer is the perfect time to visit – Kolpa River is really warm then, and you will have more chances to explore the area. Winter in this part of the country can be harsh, with lots of snow and wind.

Final Consideration About Big Berry Slovenia

Perhaps the best thing at Big Berry is the vibe. The staff is always incredibly nice, friendly and helpful but never in an intrusive way. They will help you organize activities, they give plenty of advice, they are easy going, and the give Big Berry Slovenia that special, cozy atmosphere that will make you want to come back for more.

Big Berry Slovenia first opened to customers in 2017, and I highly recommend to visit. There is no doubt that this is one of the best places to stay in Bela krajina.

Further readings about Slovenia

Are you considering a trip to Slovenia? Make sure to check out my other posts:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Big Berry during my stay in Primostek. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Discover how to make the most of Big Berry Slovenia - via @clautavani

Discover how to make the most of your time at Big Berry Slovenia - via @clautavani

 

 

11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia

11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia

There are some things not to do in Sardinia. It’s that simple. You really should avoid them.

If there is one thing that we never get tired of in Sardinia, that is pointing out that our region is fantastic and truly a world apart. Italian by law, Sardinia is and feels different. Italians themselves feel they are in foreign territory when they visit – they can’t quite put their finger on it, but they know there is something unique about Sardinia that makes it feel exotic.

It is a gorgeous island, right in the heart of the Mediterranean sea, inhabited by people who can and will give anything they have, without ever expecting anything in return; people who are however very proud and can easily get offended whenever they feel someone is lacking them respect.

Thus, here’s a short list of the things not to do in Sardinia – never, for any reason. Follow the rules, or get frowned at.

things not to do in Sardinia

11 Things Not To Do In Sardinia

Ask us if Sardinia is near Venice. Or Rome. Or north or south.

We take it for granted that literally everybody should know where our beautiful land is located. Don’t tell us that you drove by it once: we will laugh at you – seriously (see point 10 below). It’s one of the things not to do in Sardinia.

By the way, you can check out where Sardinia is in this post.

Say you want to move to Sardinia… 

Although you don’t really mean it. Because honestly, if you only had a vague idea of what it means to be born and raised here, and the struggles that living in Sardinia bring; if you only slightly understood the concepts of equal opportunities and equity, you’d understand how privileged you have been your entire life for not having to pay an extortionate price for a flight each time you have a job interview, or there is an unmissable networking event, a concert and so on. 

Do you really, truly wonder why we leave our beloved island? Do you think it doesn’t hurt when we pack our bags, knowing that in order to make a living we can’t avoid that? Ask us, and you may end up not getting the most polite reaction. We get it – most of you come from boring, grey, gloomy cities and you love Sardinia. But this is not the way to get your point across.

More than anything, do not underestimate our intelligence (and yours) with such a common sense sentence. And – hint hint – before asking us, do some reading and find out about the financial situation of Sardinia. We have one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy. And we have to pay out of our pocked each time we need to go to a job interview outside the island because guess what – interviews over zoom are only for foreigners. As if it was not faster and cheaper getting to Milan or Trieste from Slovenia or Switzerland. 

So repeat with me: one of the things not to do in Sardinia is saying you can’t understand why we leave. 

Cala Spinosa

Start or finish each sentence with “ajo’” or “eja.”

You will often hear us Sardinians say ajo, to mean “let’s go”, or eja to mean “yes”. But knowing what those two words mean isn’t in any way indicative that you can actually speak the local language (by the way, it is a language and not a dialect).

I can promise you that regularly repeating “ajo’” won’t make you look cooler to a Sardinian. In fact, you’re more likely to look like somewhat of a fool. If you are really keen on it, use it among yourself. But don’t scream “ajo’” to a Sardinian. It gets boring after a while.

Say you’d like to have a small bite, or a snack.

One of the things not to do in Sardinia, ever, is to mention that you feel like having a snack. If you your idea of a bite is that of a small, light meal, or at most a sandwich, keep in mind that here in Sardinia it may quickly turn into a full meal that would do best served at a wedding reception. It goes with the Sardinian sense of hospitality. We would not want anyone to leave our home feeling hungry.

best places in Sardinia

Say no to a drink.

This rule is particularly valid in the areas of Nuoro and Barbagia. If someone offers you a drink you shall never, ever, for any reason refuse. So, if someone gets you a drink, drink it. And if they keep pouring, drink more. Mirto (traditional myrtle berries liquor)? Fil’e ferru (Sardinian grappa)? A little wine? A beer? As long as you keep drinking.

This way, we’re all be merrier and become good friends. And, going back to point 4 above, we would not want anybody leaving our home thirsty.

Say that Ichnusa, the local beer, is tasteless.

If you really care for your life, never dare saying that Ichnusa isn’t the best beer you’ve ever had. It’s one of the things not to do in Sardinia. You see, if you offend Ichnusa, you are pretty much offending Sardinians. Even if you think it is not really too tasty, it is light, mild, etc, never say it out loud. You may have to face the anger of a bunch of Sardinians – young and old, men and women.

By the way – the fact that Ichnusa is actually owned by a foreign company and that the only Sardinian thing in there is the name, is obviously completely irrelevant. (Hint: we do know Ichnusa isn’t the best beer, but we are allowed to say it).

pictures of Sardinia

Try to outsmart a Sardinian.

We Sardinians are smart and educated. We read a lot (could be due to the fact that we live on an island and get bored for only being able to drive at most 350 km from bottom west to top east), and we do read a lot. Don’t try to teach us a lesson. Even those who look really ignorant to you, will have a sharp tongue which will turn you shy in a second. You have been warned.

Challenge a Sardinian to do anything.

As I have already said, Sardinians are proud. If you dare to challenge any of us Sardinians to do something – dangerous or not – you can rest assured we will. We are on the stubborn side, and we can hardly stand people telling us what to do. You never know what the consequences may be!

Stop the sheep from crossing first.

Sheep outnumbers humans in Sardinia. It does happen to see flocks near the city. In the (actually likely) circumstance that you encounter a herd of sheep, sit and wait till they’re done crossing, even if they seem like a million and you are running late for a date, and by all means do not try to get across with your car, even if you intend to drive really really slow. Shepherds would not appreciate you and you surely would not want to start a fight with them (see points 6 and 7 above). Again, don’t say you haven’t been warned!

Lavender fields in Sardinia

Take what a Sardinian says too literally.

We Sardinians have quite a subtle sense of humor. Don’t take what we tell you too seriously (even if we looks serious, and at times even hostile). We’re likely making fun of you. Rather, if you manage, sharpen your tongue and answer appropriately. By all means, do not get offended. In any case, an offer of a drink will settle all matters (see points 4 and 6 above).

Fall in love with Sardinia.

Don’t leave your heart in Sardinia, don’t fall in love with its beaches, its clear waters, its gorgeous nature, its history and culture. It may soon turn into a disease which will be hard to cure. And once Sardinia and Sardinians sneak their way into your heart, it will be hard not to come back.

Have you ever been to Sardinia? Did you find Sardinians to be unique? Discover more things to do in Sardinia on my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia.”

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Discover what to never do or say in Sardinia - via @clautavani

 

A Short Guide To Bela Krajina, Slovenia

A Short Guide To Bela Krajina, Slovenia

Also known as White Carniola, Slovenia’s region of Bela krajina is the kind of place you have probably never heard of, but which you are bound to fall in love as soon as you set your eyes on it. 

Located at 90 km south-east of Slovenia capital Ljubljana, Bela krajina is the most rural and underdeveloped region of Slovenia. The main cities are Črnomelj, that has around 14000 inhabitants, Metlika, whose population is of about 8000 people, and Semič, where around 4000 people live. Primostek is one of the smallest villages, but also one of the most charming.

Off-the-beaten path compared to other more popular destinations in Slovenia such as Ljubljana and Lake Bled, Bela krajina is slowly but steadily becoming more popular among international travelers, thanks to its beauty and to having retained all of its character. This is the kind of place where life goes by slowly, where people still enjoy spending time with family, where they prefer buying local produce. 

More than anything else, in a world where life has become more and more frenetic, people in Bela Krajina seem to appreciate life to the fullest. 

If you are considering visiting this beautiful region and are looking for information about it, you have come to the right place. Continue reading this post to discover the best things to see and do in Bela krajina, and how to plan your visit. 

Bela krajina

What To See And Do In Bela Krajina

Visit Metlika Bela krajina Museum

The best place to learn about the history of the region is a museum located a castle in Metlika, the biggest city. Bela krajina Museum has a permanent exhibit of artifacts of the region up until the 20th century. That’s how you’ll discover that this was already inhabited in pre-historic times and had an important role in the defense of the region against the Turkish invasions of the 15th and 16th centuries. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sundays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. Admission is €4.

Visit Tri Fare

Not far from Metlika, in a village called Rosalnice, there’s a complex known as Tri Fare, which for 7 centuries was the object of pilgrimage. Surrounded by a wall, there is a cemetery and three gothic churches built one next to the other. The reason why 3 different churches were built in such a small place are still unknown. 

Bela krajina wine region

Taste the local wines

Part of the history and culture of Bela krajina has to do with wine. The region is covered in vineyards, especially on the hills that surround Metlika and Semič. Sukjie is one of the nicest wineries in the area, where the owners will welcome you with plenty of good samples while recollecting the family history.

If you happen to visit the region right during harvest time, you may be able to join in the celebration in one of the many wineries.

And beers

Bela Krajina is also quickly developing its own tradition in beer crafting. Vizir is one of the oldest breweries in the region, and its craft beers are quickly overtaking the market as a good alternative to Lasko, the most common beer in Slovenia. It mostly produces ales – make sure to try the SuperStar!

Pogaca

Try Pogača

The cultural traditions of Bela krajina are also reflected in the traditional bread, the Belokranjska Pogača, a focaccia kind of bread that is prepared with cumin seeds and which is present at pretty much every meal – even at breakfast. Try it plain or stuffed with whatever you can think of: it’s delicious!

Try honey at Čebelarstvo Veselič

If you are a fan of honey, head straight to Čebelarstvo Veselič, a local small honey factory where you can learn about the process of honey making – from seeing the bees at work, to learning about the role of the Queen bee, all the way to the final product. You can even taste medica, a lovely honey liquor.

Oil tasting at Oljarna Pečarič

Bela krajina doesn’t produce olive oil – the climate is not right for that. Yet, any other kind of oil is avaialble. Oljarna Pečarič, in Metlika, makes the best walnut oil. Other kinds you can try and buy are hazelnut oil, wild rose, sunflower, linseed and even cannabis. Most oils are suitable for cooking. Others are to be used only for cosmetic purposes. 

Kolpa river

Kajak along Kolpa River

The Kolpa river marks the border with Croatia for 113 km and contributes to making Bela krajina incredibly lush. Its clean waters are among the warmest of Slovenia, and can get up to 30 degrees in the summer – not bad at all for a river. And rafting, canoeing or kayaking along the river is a pleasant (if only a bit hard, if you are as lousy as I am) experience.

Visit Kolpa Natural Park

The Kolpa river also names the Kolpa Natural Park, a beautiful park where you can spot various species of birds, turtles and otter. Dears and foxes roam free in the region – and actually pop out from nowhere in the middle of the night.

At Kolpa Natural Park you will find plenty of hiking and biking trails, for all levels of difficulty and of various duration. One of the easiest is the Divji Potok, which is short and well marked and ends at some beautiful waterfalls. 

Krupa river

Get mesmerized by the Krupa River

Bela krajina is packed with hidden gems. One of them is the Krupa River, a beautiful source of water that actually looks like the set of a fantasy novel. It’s the kind of place where you can go meditate, for the only sound to be heard is that of the leaves softly swept by the wind. A water mill at the back gives the place an even more intriguing aura.

Slovenia

The Mithraeum of Rozanec is one of the most beautiful archeological sites in Slovenia

Visit the Mithraeum of Rozanec

Another hidden gem in Bela krajina is the Mithraeum of Rozanec, near Črnomelj, one of the most interesting archeological sites in Slovenia (and shockingly free to access). The beautiful Mithraeum of Rozanec can be accessed via a lovely path through a chestnut forest and a narrow path between large rocks.

GOOD TO KNOW: Mithraism was based on the cyclical alternation of life and death, and on the conflict between good and evil and the power of redemptive sacrifice. Its origins were found in Persia, from where it spread to the Roman empire adopting elements from other religions. 

Enjoy the countryside

Not far from the Krupa River, the road follows along the countryside. Turn after turn, Bela krajina proveS to be one of the most photogenic places you will ever see. Feel free to stop along the road (there hardly is any traffic, anyways) for photos! 

Krupa castle

Take a peek at Krupa Castle

One of the most charming sights are the remains of the Krupa castle, in Stranska vas. This fortress dates back to the 13th century. The site was originally Croatian, and fell under the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Back then it was used as a stronghold to spread power to the west.

GOOD TO KNOW: Another cool castle is that of Gradac, which dates back to the 13th century and was abandoned years ago. You can’t go inside, but you can peek in through the windows.

Go on a day trip to Zagreb

If you are staying in Primostek, it takes you around one hour and 20 minutes to drive to Zagreb, the beautiful capital of Croatia. You can’t possibly explore it all in a day – there is too much to see and do. Make sure to visit the beautiful upper town, the Cathedral and the Museum of Broken Relationships. 

Bela Krajina

Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Bela Krajina

How to get to Bela krajina

Metlika, the main city in Bela Krajina is located at about 100 km from the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. You can get there by public bus (it takes little over two hours). However, this region calls for a road trip so I recommend renting a car to make the most of it.

Where to stay

Big Berry Luxury Glamping is one of the best places to stay in Bela krajina. If offers small but very comfortable bungalows, each equipped with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a fully equipped kitchen and dining area. There even is a hot tub right outside, perfect to enjoy some relaxing time. The resort is beautifully located on the banks of the Kolpa River and fully immersed in nature, but close to all the main attractions in the region. You can book it here.

Final Thoughts On Visiting Bela Krajina

Bela krajina feels like a chest full of treasures that have been hidden for too long, a perfect combination of welcoming, smiling people, beautiful nature and intriguing history. Chances are that after one week in Bela krajina, you  will want to visit again!

Further readings about Slovenia

Make sure to check out my other posts about Slovenia:

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Big Berry during my stay in Bela krajina. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Read everything you need to know about Bela krajina, Slovenia - via @clautavani

Read what you must know about Bela krajina, Slovenia - via @clautavani

24 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa

24 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa

There are so many incredible places to visit in South Africa, that you may spend a lifetime exploring it.   

It’s no secret that South Africa is one of my favorite countries. I have been there three times already, and I wish to go again and again. This is a place that has so much to offer. There are many beautiful places to visit in South Africa. Beautiful cities; gorgeous beaches; the African bush and all its wildlife; the rugged coastline; the mountains and the forests; the vineyards, the canyons: there really is something for all kind of travelers, and it is no wonder why it’s been called “the world in one country.”

Add to this the delicious food, the superb wine, and the fact that it is truly great value for money, and it’s easy to see why it’s becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination.

If you, too, are considering a trip to South Africa, you are probably looking for information on the best places to visit in South Africa. Then, you have come to the right place! This post highlights the best tourist attractions in South Africa. Keep in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive, but the places listed on top are those you should visit first! At the end of this post, you will also find some useful planning tips for your trip.

IN A RUSH? CHECK OUT THIS GUIDED TOURS TO SOUTH AFRICA

places to visit in South Africa

My sister, posing for a photo on Table Mountain. This is one of the places to visit in South Africa

24 Amazing Places To Visit In South Africa

Cape Town

If you only have time to visit one place in South Africa, it has to be Cape Town. Known as the Mother City, this is the oldest city in the country (it was founded in 1652) and easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There is no denying that this is among the most incredible places to visit in South Africa. 

Cape Town has some of the best tourist attractions in South Africa. Make sure to go up Table Mountain to enjoy the views of the city from there. I recommend going a couple of hours before sunset and lingering on enough to admire what really is one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. You’ll then understand why this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Africa.

FUN FACT: The highest point on Table Mountain is Maclear’s Beacon.

TIP: The weather in Cape Town is truly unpredictable. At times, it’s sunny in the city but Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are covered by clouds. If you can see Table Mountain from town, and if the cable car to the top is open, that’s a good sign: go there, and don’t postpone it to a different day as you never know the weather! You can get your cable car tickets here.

Cape Town is also packed with easily accessible hiking trails. You can hike Table Mountain (but make sure to join a guided hike such as this one via Platteklip Gorge or this one via India Venster), and hike Devil’s Peak or Lion’s Head, from where you’ll be able to see Table Mountain. You can opt for this Lion’s Head sunrise hike or alternatively, sign up for this Lion’s Head sunset hike.

Other places to visit in Cape Town include the colorful Bo-Kaap, the V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch Gardens – one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world; Groot Constantia – where the first vineyards in the country were established; Signal Hill and Two Oceans Aquarium.

TIP: Plan to spend a minimum of 5 days in Cape Town – there is a lot to see in the city itself and it is an excellent starting point to visit all the neighboring smaller towns and natural sites. 

To make the most of the city, you may want to buy a city pass or join a guided tour:

Further readings about Cape Town:

places to visit in South Africa

Robben Island is one of the unmissable places to visit in South Africa

Robben Island

There is no doubt that Robben Island, is one of the unmissable places to visit in South Africa. This is where the high security prison where political leaders such as Nelson Mandela were held until the end of Apartheid. You can easily get there on day trips from Cape Town – the ferry takes about 45 minutes (depending on sea conditions) and leaves from the harbor right by the V&A Waterfront. 

TIP: Purchase your ferry tickets in advance, and opt for the earliest one as sea conditions becomes rougher throughout the day.

These are tours that go to Robben Island

best places to visit in South Africa

Muizenberg is one of the most charming places to visit in South Africa

Muizenberg and Kalk Bay

Muizenberg is a lovely coastal town close to Cape Town, at about 30 minutes drive, and can be easily enjoyed on a day trip from the Mother City. It’s one of the loveliest places to visit in South Africa. Its main attraction is the beautiful white sandy beach, lined with colorful beach houses that are fun to photograph. It’s also one of the best surfing spots in the country.

At a short drive from Muizenberg, Kalk Bay is the kind of place you may stop at for a quick coffee when driving around the peninsula, and end up spending a couple of hours browsing through the antique and vintage shops. It’s lovely!

Check out my posts:

places to visit in South Africa

Boulders’ Beach Penguin Colony is one of the coolest places to visit in South Africa

Cape Peninsula and Cape Point National Park

No trip to South Africa is complete without a road trip around Cape Peninsula, which is part of the Cape Floral Region – so famous for its biodiversity that in 2004 it was inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These is, quite simply, one of the unmissable places to visit in South Africa.

The drive around Cape Peninsula along the 12 Apostles Coastline and connecting Camps Bay to Hout Bay is among the most scenic ones in the world. The latter a lovely suburb of Cape Town which has a beautiful sandy beach and a nice harbor from where it is possible to go on a boat tour to Duiker Island (typically referred to as Hout Bay Seal Island) to admire marine life (mostly seals). You can even snorkel with seals – book your tour here.

Chapman’s Peak, at around 15 minutes drive from Hout Bay and connecting this with Noordhoek, is another must. Once in Noordhoeak, the road splits into two roads that go in opposite directions. Driving east, it reaches Fish Hoek and then continues to Simon’s Town (home of Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony, where more than 20000 penguins live) to then reach Cape Point National Park. Going west, it goes through Kommetjie and then follows the coast until entering the National Park area.

GOOD TO KNOW: I have driven both roads and they are both beautiful. The first one stops in small cities and is perfect if you want to visit Cape Point Peninsula and the penguin colony on the same day. The second one is significantly less trafficked, and there are some stunning coastal views along the way.

The main attractions inside Cape Point National Park are Cape of Good Hope – which, despite being one of the most famous places to visit in South Africa, actually isn’t the southernmost point in Africa (that’s Cape Agulhas, at around 230 km from Cape Town); Cape Point Lighthouse (the two are connected by the Cape of Good Hope trail); and Diaz Beach. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Cape Point National Park is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is R340 (around $22 USD).

TIP: As in many other places to visit in South Africa, baboons are an issue in Cape Point National Park: they are vicious and known to bite humans for food. Don’t carry any food in your bags or pockets once you get out of the car.

The following are the best guided tour of Cape Peninsula:

hotels in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is one of the best places to visit in South Africa

The Wine Region – Stellenbosch and Franshhoek

The wine region – comprising Stellenbosch, Franshhoek and Paarl – is one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa.

Famous for the incredible wines, Stellenbosch is packed with history and small interesting museums and art galleries. The vineyards are great places to visit for wine tasting. They all have something special – some have a strong focus on conservation; others are truly historical and vintage; there even are some where you can blend your own wine! The one thing they have in common is the excellent quality wine.

TIP: If you are planning to go wine tasting, don’t drink and drive!

Stellenbosch is close enough to Cape Town that you can easily visit on a day trip. However, it’s such a pleasant place that I recommend staying a bit longer. If you do, you should also make it a point to go to Franshhoek – which is a bit smaller, but totally charming; and Kayamandi Township, whose name means “sweet home,” and which was founded in the 1950s during the Apartheid regime.

These are the best day trips to the Wine Region from Cape Town:

Make sure to read my posts:

Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

Kgalagadi offers great chances of spotting animals

West Coast National Park

One hour North of Cape Town, West Coast National Park is a locals’ favorite. You can go there to make the most of the breathtaking landscape, the many hiking trails, the wildlife, the flowers (especially colorful in spring, which here will be August and September) and the tranquility. There aren’t many facilities, so you may need to bring whatever you need for the day.
 

GOOD TO KNOW: Namaqua National Park, close to the border with Namibia and at more than 5 hours drive from Cape Town, is one of the lesser known places to visit in the country. It’s more of a desert area, but if you visit in the spring month the landscape is absolutely breathtaking.

Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park

This transfrontier park was established in 2000 and merges Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa, and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The beautiful landscape and the abundance of wildlife make it a top photography destination and one of the best places to visit in the Northern Cape. 

Animals you may be able to spot include the black-maned Kalahari lion; leopards; hyenas; cheetahs, gemsboks and meerkats. You need a 4-wheel drive to explore – and it’s best to find a guided tour.

 
places to visit in South Africa

A Southern Right Whale off the coast of Hermanus. This is one of the best places to visit in South Africa for whale watching

Hermanus

At about 1 and a half hour drive from Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province, Hermanus is one of the places to visit in South Africa for whale watching. Several boat tours depart daily from the harbor, and if you are lucky you can even spot southern right whales from the shore (there are various whale-watching points along the waterfront). Hermanus is also packed with gorgeous beaches.

TIP: The best time to see whales in Hermanus is between the end of June and November. Make sure to book your whale watching tour in advance and to check online reviews for companies that run tours in a responsible way. You can book your tour departing from Cape Town here.

GOOD TO KNOW: One of the best places to visit in South Africa for whale watching is Gaansbai, which is significantly lesser visited than Hermanus but just as stunning.

GOOD TO KNOW: At about half way between Cape Town and Hermanus, Pringle Bay has a nice beach and is a relaxing place to stop for a day or just a few hours. 

Cape Agulhas

The stunning landscape in Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas

Although you will hear over and over again that Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost tip of Africa, that’s actually wrong. The tip of Africa is in Cape Agulhas, and that’s where the two oceans meet! This really is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Africa, a bit far off from everything else and as such not getting nearly as many visitors. 
 
TIP: Cape Agulhas can be seen on the way to the Garden Route. It’s at about 2 hours drive from Hermanus, and it’s a further 3 to Mossel Bay. You will be better off spending the night in Hermanus and driving there early in the morning before making your way to the Garden Route.
 
best places to visit in South Africa

The Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness leads to a nice waterfall. This is one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa

Wilderness

Wilderness is small town in the Western Cape Province and one of the stops along South Africa’s Garden Route, a stretch of more than 200 km that goes from Mossel Bay to Stormsrivier. It’s one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa. The area is packed with beautiful, long, sandy beaches. It’s also home to the Map of Africa, a stunning lookout point with views of the Indian Ocean, of the Outeniua Moutains and the Kaaimans River.

Wilderness Natural Park is a perfect place to hike: the Giant Kingfisher Trail (also known as the Waterfall Trail) is an easy walk that goes to some beautiful waterfalls.

places to visit in South Africa

Knysna Heads: this is one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Africa

Knysna

Along the Garden Route Knysna is one of the top places to visit in South Africa. This small town is perfect for nature, wildlife and adventure lovers, and it has a nice, easygoing and holiday vibe that makes it a wonderful place to stop for a few days.

The most famous attraction in town is the Knysna Heads, two sandstone cliffs that separate Knysna Lagoon from the ocean. This is actually the world’s most dangerous ocean mouth.You can see Knysna Heads from the lagoon and from the hills facing the ocean. It’s also nice to go all the way to the viewpoints to admire the ocean below (some beaches are truly stunning).

Knysna Lagoon is best enjoyed on a boat trip.

TIP: Plan to spend a few days in Knysna, especially if you are interested in going on a boat tour around the lagoon. The wind can be quite strong and oftentimes tours are cancelled or postponed till the day after, so give yourself plenty of time to increase your chances of good weather and calm waters.

These are some of the best tours of Knysna:

Make sure to read my posts:

places to visit in South Africa

Plettenberg Bay is one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa: the beach is gorgeous!

Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma

Plettenberg Bay is one of the last stops along the Garden Route, and one of the top places to visit in South Africa. It has some gorgeous beaches, a fun vibe and offers easy access to the nearby Tsitsikamma National Park and Nature’s Valley, where there are plenty of incredible hiking trails (the most famous one is the Tsitsikamma Mountain Trail, a fantastic 6-day hike).

Plettenberg is an excellent place to admire wildlife (whale watching and dolphin watching are quite popular here). It’s also close to Bloukrans Bridge, where the 216 meters high bridge is a famous spot for bungee jumping. And if bungee jumping is not your thing, you can go zip lining in Tsitsikamma instead.

places to visit in South Africa

A lemur at Monkeyland, one of the nicest places to visit in South Africa

Jukani and Monkeyland Sanctuary and Birds of Eden

I am not a fan of zoos (though I know that some do excellent conservation work) and I don’t support facilities that encourage interaction with wildlife that would never occur if the animals lived in their natural environment.

Unfortunately, some places in South Africa still offer animal encounters that are anything but responsible – think of lion walks or “elephant experiences.” If you are keen on getting close to animals in a responsible way, Jukani and Monkeyland are two of the nicest places to visit in South Africa. These animal sanctuaries, which won the World Responsible Tourism Award, are easily reached from Plettenberg Bay, on the Garden Route.

Jukani, located at around 14 km from Plettenberg Bay, houses around 70 carnivores from Africa and beyond, all injured, orphaned or rescued from zoos or from people that kept them as pets (obviously illegally). They are now kept in large enclosures mimicking their natural environment as much as possible.

At Jukani animals aren’t bred (in fact, they are closely monitored so as not to reproduce, as this would jeopardize the already delicate ecosystem they live in) and there is interaction or walks with animals. All tours are guided.

A further 7 km up the road there is Monkeyland, another sanctuary that is dedicated to primates rescued from zoos or kept as pets. You can spot squirrel monkeys as well as vervet monkeys; gibbons; lemurs and much more. Guided tours depart every 20 minutes and last around one hour, with plenty of chances to take photos.

Next to it, Birds of Eden is a bird sanctuary and the world’s largest free-flying aviary. It’s divided into various ecosystems, so there is a wetland as well as a misty forest inside, and birds are rehabilitated before being released inside. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The combo ticket for the 3 sanctuaries costs R 560 (less than $37 USD) for adults. 

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park is one of the best places in South Africa to spot wildlife

Addo Elephant National Park

Not far from Port Elizabeth (the “Friendly City” at the very end of the Garden Route famous for its beautiful beaches) in the Eastern Cape and a few hours from the Garden Route, this is South Africa’s third largest national park and a great spot to admire wildlife – especially (but not only) wild elephants. 

The park is easy enough to visit independently if you have your own car, but for better chances of spotting animals, you may want to join a guided tour such as this one.

best places to visit in South Africa

The beach in Umhlanga, one of the most chilled places to visit in South Africa

Durban

I have been to Durban, the main city in Kwazulu Natal, twice and both times I enjoyed it. Sure, it lacks the dramatic beauty of Cape Town, but it has a laidback vibe and amazing beaches with truly warm waters where you can swim year round. Some of the best tourist attractions in South Africa that you’ll find in Durban are the Golden Mile, the UShaka Marine World and Durban Botanic Gardens. 

Not far from Durban, Umhlanga is an upscale suburb with a beautiful beach perfect for an early morning walk, a lighthouse and a jetty for perfect views.

TIP: For the best sunset drinks, go to the terrace of Oyster Box, one of the best hotels in Umhlanga.

GOOD TO KNOW: At less than one hour drive in the Natal Midlands, Pietermaritzburg is a lovely Victorian city packed with nice museums. A student town, it has a very easy going vibe.

places to visit in South Africa

Without a doubt, Phinda is one of the best places to visit in South Africa

Phinda Private Game Reserve

If you are thinking of doing a safari in South Africa, there are many options to choose from and many places to visit in South Africa offer incredible safari experiences.

Phinda, a private game reserve managed by And Beyond at about 3 hours drive from Durban, has the perfect combination of excellent lodging with the best wildlife experiences you may hope for. You will be able to spot the Big Five, but also zebras, hippos, giraffes and a lot of cheetahs and hyenas. Keep in mind that the reserve is huge, and the landscape changes from one area to the other, which implies that different animal species will be more easily spotted in some areas. 

TIP: I recommend a minimum of 3 nights in Phinda Game Reserve.

For a more complete post about Phinda, click here. You may also want to read my posts about safari in Botwana:

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Home to the largest estuarine system in Africa and a World Heritage Area, iSimangaliso is located north of Phinda, in Kwazulu Natal. Its name means “miracle and wonder.” The area, which has a whopping eight ecosystems, is another fantastic place to admire wildlife. You will be able to spot hippos and crocodiles, as well as an incredible variety of birds, leopards and rhinos.

As it is on the coast, you will also see stunning sand dunes and a coral reef.

It’s a great place for a safari and for activities such as diving, snorkeling, kayaking and fishing. If you don’t have a lot of time in the area, a boat tour such as this St. Lucia Estuary boat tour may help you make the most of the area.

GOOD TO KNOW: Not far from St. Lucia, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is another great place to spot wildlife that is not nearly as known as Kruger and other national parks, yet it is home to the Big 5. You can go there on a day trip from Durban such as this one.

places to visit in South Africa

Mrs. Zikhali poses with her students at Nkomo Primary School. Nkomo is one of the top places to visit in South Africa

Nkomo Village

If you care to visit a rural community and get a better idea of the every day struggles of rural South Africa, make sure to add Nkomo Village to your South Africa itinerary. I visited as part of a half-day trip from Phinda, on an Africa Foundation tour. Africa Foundation is an NGO that serves to empower local rural communities living nearby core conservation areas in Africa, with the idea that furthering education and empowerment they will recognize the importance of preserving the environment and its wildlife and contribute in the effort.

I hardly expected it to be so, but I admit that Nkomo was one of the highlights of my trip to South Africa. A guided tour usually includes a visit to Nkomo Primary School, the kindergarten and the local crafts market, where women can sell their work in a safe environment; and finally at the local clinic, which does both prevention work as well as administering cures for the most common illnesses.

best tourist attractions in South Africa

Drakensberg is a favorite tourist destination for locals and foreigners

Drakensberg

Drakensberg, which means “Dragon Mountains,” is located in KwaZulu-Natal and is one of the best tourist attractions in South Africa, home to the highest peaks in the country. This is where you will find the World Heritage-listed uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, as well as the Royal Natal National Park.

The landscape in Drakensberg varies with the season. Visit in the summer and you’ll find lush forests, waterfalls and flowing rivers. Go in the winter, and it will be very cold and even covered in snow at times. 

TIP: You may visit Drakensberg on a day trip such as this one, but if you want to make the most of all that it has to offer (hiking, rock climbing, rafting, biking and more) you should spend at least a couple of days there.

GOOD TO KNOW: At 3 hours from Durban on the way to Lesotho, Sani Pass is a truly unique place. Getting there is not the easiest thing to do, and you do need a 4×4 vehicle, so you may want to consider joining a guided tour such as this one

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

For more impressive landscape, you may want to head to Golden Gate Highlands National Park, a land of sandstone rocks whose colors vary depending on the time of day and the light. It’s a good place to spot wildlife too. 
 
Kruger National Park

Kruger is a prime wildlife destination

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the most famous places to visit in South Africa. It’s huge, and the landscape changes from one place to the other, with mountains, bush plains and even tropical forests. This is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and an incredible place to see animals – including the Big Five and wild dogs (Africa’s most endangered carnivore) – in their natural environment. 

The good thing about Kruger is that it is easily accessible. Much like Etosha, in Namibia, you can self drive (though it takes quite a trained eye to spot wildlife, I think!) and there is a variety of accommodation options that go from camping sites to luxury lodges, so it is really suitable for all budgets. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Not far from Kruger National Park, Tshukudu Game Reserve and Sabi Sands Game Reserve are both excellent places for a safari.

Blyde River Canyon

The breathtaking landscape of Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon and Panorama Route

Blyde River Canyon, in the Mpumalanga province, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Africa – the second largest canyon in Africa and the third largest in the world. Located on the Panorama Route, on the way from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park, it’s characterized by diverse wildlife (you can spot hippos, crocodiles as well as primates) and an environment that comprises waterfalls, rivers and beautiful rock formations. 
 
The best stops along the Panorama Route include Pinnacle, God’s Window, Wonder View, Lisbon Falls and Berlin Falls and Three Rondavels Viewpoint. To make the most of the area, you may want to go on a boat trip such as this one or have a go at whitewater rafting.
 
Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park is one of the best places to visit in South Africa for wildlife

 
Pilanesberg National Park
 
At just 2-5 hours from Johannesburg, and close to Sun City (South Africa’s nature immersed version of Las Vegas) Pilanesberg National Park is an easy to reach place if you want to see wildlife – and since it is much smaller than Kruger, it’s also infinitely easier to explore (not to mention, the chances of spotting wildlife are higher).
 
The park is located in an extinct volcano crater, between the Kalahari Desert and a wetter kind of environment, which means that the wildlide is very varied there. Other than the Big Five, you should be able to spot zebra, giraffes, antelopes and even wild dogs.
 
GOOD TO KNOW: The park is malaria free!
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can visit Pilanesberg National Park on guided day trips from Johannesburg such as this one or this one. From Sun City, you can opt for this tour. For a great adventure, consider going on a hot air balloon ride such as this one.
 
places to visit in South Africa

The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg is one of the places to visit in South Africa

Johannesburg and Soweto

Johannesburg may not be as beautiful as Cape Town, but it still is one of the places to visit in South Africa. The main international hub in Southern Africa, Jozi, as locals affectionately call it, has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. South Africa’s largest city has a few superb museums; the street art scene is rocking; and its culturally lively.

The highlights of Johannesburg are the Apartheid Museum, where you can learn more about the difficult past of the country; and Maboneng, the best part of the city to admire street art. If you have enough time to get out of the city, the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves are other also interesting places to visit.

You should also make it a point to go to Soweto, a massive township (the largest in the country, with 1.3 million people living there) that became famous during the Apartheid regime, as it was where protests and civil unrest started. Vilakazi street, in Soweto, is where Nelson Mandela and his family used to live. Nowadays the house is a small but very interesting museum.

These are some of the best guided tours of Johannesburg and its surroundings, and of Soweto:

Head over to my post Three Unmissable Things To Do In Johannesburg – On A 24 Hours Layover for a more detailed guide to Johannesburg and Soweto.

Pretoria

Pretoria is one of the lesser visited places in the country

Pretoria

Once the heart of the Apartheid Regime, Pretoria is at less than one hour drive from Johannesburg but a million miles away in terms of vibe. If you visit in the late spring, the colors of the jacaranda will be quite a sight. The administrative capital of South Africa has many parks and gardens, and is home to the Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site and Freedom Park.

Other interesting places to visit

Cities like Bloemfontein – known as the “City of Roses” and one of South Africa’s three capitals; or Kimberley – in the diamonds field region, are generally out of the main tourist route, but also very interesting to visit. Bloemfontein is home to several good museums, such as Oliewenhuis Art Museum, the National Museum and the Anglo Boer War Museum. In Kimberley, a guided tour to the ghost town will give you insights into its mining past.

best places to visit in South Africa

The rugged coastline makes driving one of the coolest things to do in South Africa. This is the view from Knysna Heads

What You Need To Know Before Your Trip To South Africa

When to visit South Africa

Any time is good to visit South Africa. I have visited in both early winter and late spring, and enjoyed it both times. Naturally, some of the places mentioned in this post are better enjoyed in the spring and summer months. If you plan to go hiking, keep in mind that winter can be rainy in the Western Cape, but summer may be too hot.

Traveling around South Africa

One of the most fun ways to experience South Africa is on a road trip. You can check out the prices of car rental in South Africa here.

In order to rent a car in South Africa you’ll need a valid driving license and a credit card. A deposit will be blocked from your card when you pick it up, but will be released a week after you return it.

Read about the best tourist attractions in South Africa - via @clautavani

Driving tips

Make sure to have a GPS (but use it with caution): our car had a GPS system, but at times we had to rely on Google Maps to get to some of the placeswe wanted to go to, as the GPS was apparently not updated and it’d send us to the opposite direction.

Don’t drive at night: roads in South Africa are poorly lit, and often unfenced. Stray animals and at times even people cross the road and you may not see them!

Keep within the speed limits: speed cameras are scattered around the country. A good GPS will warn you about the presence of a camera and will update you on the speed limit.

Beware of the road conditions: the road conditions are good in the Western Cape and all the way to Port Elizabeth. Keep in mind that 4-lane roads are common only in the vicinity of major cities, with 2 to 3 lanes being the most common.

Passing etiquette: the good news is that even when there only are 2 or 3 lanes at most, it’s easy to pass. You’ll notice that South African drivers, especially truck drivers, are very polite and will pull onto the shoulder to let you pass. Once you are done, flash your emergency lights shortly as a thank you.

Roadworks: road works, road blocks, accidents are common, and in my experience Google Maps regularly underestimates driving time. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get from one place to the other.

Have your documents in order: it’s not uncommon to be stopped for a police check in South Africa. Make sure to have your driving license ready and all your car documents in one place.

Parking guards: you’ll have to pay for a parking lot in most places. Once you park, a person working for the municipality (and which you can easily identify) will mark down your arrival time. You will pay once you are ready to go. The official parking personnel is not to be confused with the “car guards” which are pretty much anywhere in the country, and who will often try to help you park your car. Tipping them is not mandatory.

Learn about the places to visit in South Africa - via @clautavani

Safety in South Africa

South Africa has the reputation of being an unsafe place. Cape Town certainly has some dodgy areas that you are better off avoiding. I have to say I have never had an issue in my three times in the country, but I wholeheartedly recommend keeping your eyes open and following the advice of locals when it comes to safety. If a hotel receptionist advises you not to walk around alone at night, there must be a good reason for that!

A good thing to do is getting a local sim card with enough data for the duration of your stay, so that you can easily access Google Maps to find your way home, or Uber if you need transportation. There is a Vodacom shop right outside the terminal in Cape Town airport.

Remember to always get a good travel insurance. You can find a good one here.

Legal Disclaimer: I wish to thank Turkish Airlines for offering my sister and me an upgrade on our intercontinental flights. I would also like to thank Around About Cars for offering us a discounted rate on our car rental, and And Beyond for giving us a discount on our safari in Phinda. Needless to say, no sponsorship or cooperation influenced my opinions, which remain honest. I loved my time in South Africa and I can’t wait to go back.

Make sure to also read my post Nineteen Incredible Things To Do In Zanzibar.”

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Discover the best places to visit in South Africa - via @clautavani

Tipping In Italy: When To Tip And How Much

Tipping In Italy: When To Tip And How Much

Tipping in Italy is by no means a requirement or a custom.

I often come across the question on whether or how much one should leave a tip (or, as we say, a mancia) for a service in my home country and the answer I give is always the same: we Italians don’t have a habit of tipping in Italy – not even when the service we have received was stellar – so please do as the locals do and avoid tipping.

Tipping in Italy is just not a thing – and sure enough it’s not done in the same way it may be done in other countries. And I honestly beg you to please respect this and listen to what Italians have to say about it (rather than asking our friends who visited once years back) because the long term implications may be deeper and more significant than you may imagine (more about this at the end of the post).

Continue reading to unveil the mystery about tipping in Italy and discover if – and how – to do it. Let me first start with some pointers on what you can expect to see on your restaurant bill. 

Tipping in Italy

Understanding Your Restaurant Bill In Italy

Like in the rest of Europe, the VAT in Italy (which amounts to 22% of the final price of things) is already built into the price you see. If you go to a bookshop and find a book on sale for €10, that will be the final price you should expect to pay – easy peasy. 

But in restaurants, it’s a different story. 

Added to the price of what you have ordered and consumed, you may find some smaller charges in the range of €1 to €3 Euro per person for things such as coperto, servizio or pane

What are those and do you have to pay for them?

First of all, not all restaurants in Italy add pane, coperto or servizio to your final bill. It pretty much is up to the individual restaurant to decide whether to charge those or not – save for some regions such as Lazio (where Rome is) where the coperto has been abolished by law.

Below is a quick explanation of these additional fees.

COPERTO – This charge dates back to Medieval times, when customers would spend endless time inside inns and restaurants so that they could escape the cold and stay “covered” (coperto, in Italian). Coperto is meant to cover for things such as table cloths, crockery etc. It usually includes bread, oil, salt and other things you may be using while at the table. It also covers the cost of things such as cleaning. According to article 18 of law 635/1940, coperto needs to be stated in the menu. It usually ranges from €1 to €3 per person.

SERVIZIO – Servizio is essentially a tip. It can amount to anything between 15 and 20% of the final bill and it is usually added automatically for groups of 8 or more persons. The menu should clearly state if a servizio fee will be added to the final bill for larger groups. Since this is a tip, you don’t need to leave anything else.

PANE – This means bread in Italian. It usually is included in the coperto. Where there is no coperto, like in Lazio, you can expect to pay between €1 and €1.50 for bread. In theory, you don’t have to pay for it if you don’t eat it (in which case, send it back as soon as it is brought to the table). I have yet to come across someone sending back bread here. Besides – do you really want to give up on your scarpetta? (Don’t know what scarpetta is? Find out here).

tipping in Italy

Why Tipping In Italy Is Not Necessary

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

In other words, it means you should abide by local rules and customs. This is the responsible thing to do, and shows respect for the people of the country you are visiting (Italy in this case) – even when you’d do things differently back home. 

Care to be a more responsible traveler? Read this post!

I am actually very passionate about the subject – because I feel that if you come here and stubbornly decide to break our customs, you may end up creating expectations that, in turn, may change our already unstable economic system. 

So, just to sum up, let’s go through the reasons why tipping in Italy is not necessary. 

Waiters are actually paid

In many countries – the US for example, but also Israel – tipping is a way of covering the wages of waiters and other workers who are otherwise paid a reduced hourly wage. 

Waiters in Italy are actually paid a monthly salary. Which is why tipping in Italy is not a custom and, when we do it, we don’t feel obliged to leave a set %. It’s more of a way of letting a waiter he’s done an exceptional job, and that we’ve truly appreciated that.

The tip is included in the bill already

As I have explained above, most restaurants in Italy will charge a service fee that is either called coperto or – for larger groups – servizio. So, before you reach out to your purse to get some change for a small mancia, carefully read the bill – chances are you will notice that a service charge has been added already. If that’s not the case, just round up the final amount and leave the spare change. 

Read this Italy tipping guide and discover how much and when to tip in Italy - via @clautavani

Tipping creates (wrong) expectations

This is the main reason why I believe you really shouldn’t be tipping in Italy – at least, not large amounts as you may be used to in your home country. Tipping creates a whole set of expectations that may have a long term impact on our economic and welfare system, by which waiters feel entitled to a tip even when the customers are actually locals (and let me tell you, the average salary of an Italian is by no means as high as that of people in Northern Europe or North America).

Another thing to consider is that tipping may have a negative impact on wages too – whereby employers don’t feel obliged to pay waiters a fair amount, since they can work for tips. 

Finally, tips can’t easily be traced and taxed, and this would in turn cause yet another issue of tax evasion – as if this was not a problem in Italy already!

Now that you know what to expect on your bill, and why tipping in Italy is absolutely not necessary, let’s see when and how much to tip in Italy – in restaurants and for other services.

coffee

Tipping In Italy – When To Tip And How Much To Leave

As I have said over and over, there is no actual custom of tipping in Italy and, with that, there is no set amount or percentage you are expected to tip in exchange of a service. It really is up to you if you want to leave something, and how much you leave.

Having said that, below are some tips on tipping (yeah, I really had to say that!). 

GOOD TO KNOW: If you really want to leave a tip in Italy, it has to be cash. That also applies to payments by credit card.

In restaurants

Provided there is no coperto or servizio charge on the bill already, whether you leave a tip or not is totally up to you. Definitely do that if the service was stellar; but don’t feel obliged to do it if the service was bad.

How much should you leave then? I’d say €1 per person is perfect, or else just round up the bill. So for example if I am expected to pay €38, I may decide leave €40.

I invited my friends to my favorite pizzeria for my birthday. The waiter kept her cool despite out many (contradicting) requests; pizza was delicious and coperto not included, so I left her a tip.

GOOD TO KNOW: Expect to receive the bill only after you have specifically asked the waiter (it’s considered rude to bring a bill to the table before the customer asks). Only some very busy pubs, bars and coffee shops will bring you the bill upon serving your drinks. Expect to have to pay at the desk at times.

GOOD TO KNOW: We never tip the owner of a business for some reason. So, if you eat at a tiny local place where the same lady is the cook, the waitress and sits at the cash desk, a tip is really not required.

At a café

I have never left a tip at a café – but then, I usually drink my coffee at the bar. If you sit down for coffee, leave a small coin on top of the receipt or simply round up the bill. That’s more than enough.

GOOD TO KNOW: The price of coffee in Italy varies depending on whether you drink at the bar or at a table. Make sure to read my post How To Order Coffee In Italy: The Best Italian Coffee for more. 

tipping in Italy

Bartender

I don’t think I know anyone who leaves a tip to the bartender. It really isn’t something we do here. 

Drivers

We don’t tip taxi drivers in Italy – not unless it makes getting the change easier. But really, it’s not something we do. The same applies to shuttle drivers. 

Tour guides

Once again, remember that tipping is not customary and you shouldn’t feel obliged to tip your guide in Italy. Factors to keep in mind when deciding if and how much to tip a guide should be the duration of the tour and the actual service you have received. If you feel the guide was outstanding, and you were out on a full day tour, leave a tip between €5 and €10. If it was a shorter tour (between 2 and 4 hours), leave no more than €5 Euro. If the tour or the guide were bad, just don’t leave anything.

Hotel staff

Tipping at hotels is not expected, but definitely welcome, so you may want to leave a little something to the staff. Here are some guidelines:

  • Porter / bellhop / doorman – if the porter carries your bag up four flight of stairs all the way to your room, you will want to leave a €1 euro tip per bag;
  • Concierge – leave a tip if you use the services and are given information that isn’t readily available. For example, if you get an excellent top to a local restaurant or receive help snatching last minute tickets to a show, you can leave between €5 and €10;
  • Housekeeping – between €0.50 cents and €1 per day for a spotless room. Leave the tip daily in your room, or at the end of your stay at reception, in an envelope, asking for it to be split among the cleaning staff.

Beauty salons, hairdressers and spas

There’s no need for tip your hairdresser or your manicure. Likewise, no tipping is necessary at a spa. 

Further readings

Make sure to read my other posts about Italy:

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Find out what you need to know about tipping in Italy - via @clautavani

Discover everything you need to know about tipping in Italy - via @clautavani