17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible

17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible

There are many excellent reasons to visit Italy.

You see, I love Italy. I am sure that if you visit you will fall in love with it too. 

Mind you, it is easy for me. I was born and raised here. I can see Italy’s many faults, and I have no issue expressing strong criticism for the many things that don’t work. But no matter its many faults, I love Italy and I consider myself very lucky to be born here. 

But it looks I am not the only one in love with it. Judging by the World Tourism Organization latest report on 10 most visited countries in the world, there were at least 62 million people who fell in love with Italy in 2019 alone – and those are the ones that visited. I suspect there are many more who are in love with Italy. They must be those who have visited many, many times before and are now waiting to visit Italy again.

Facebook travelers groups abound where people who have been to Italy and want to visit Italy publicly displays their love. Liga Serzane says “One of the reasons to visit Italy is that it is amazing destinations for all kind of travelers – for big active families to romantic couple getaways and also for solo travelers. Everybody will find something to their taste buds from Italian amazing food, drinks while enjoying it all with a million dollar view as well as activities or laziness for every level!”

Lindsay Sinko’s manifestation goes the extra mile. She claims: “The reasons Italy captures our hearts like nowhere else are too many count. Before the plane touches down, Italy is spellbinding. As the Alps emerge out the window, or the color of the sea comes into view, little pieces of the heart begin to fall. Then we get there. The music fills our ears. People play with us, laugh with us, awaken us to a joy we have never known. The language is captivating. Every view is paradise.”

But that’s not all. She continues: “Every bite is unforgettable. Each sip of wine, soaking into our taste buds and memories and making us a part of the place where it was born. Hilltops offer lush green views, pierced by sunlight. Seas sparkle and glow as cliffs tower above them.  Ruins host cats and tourists alike, effortlessly mingling the ancient world with ours. Eyes painted during the Renaissance gaze into our own as if they understand. 

Jasmine fills the air in heavenly perfume we recognize years later and hundreds of miles away. Falling in love with Italy is like falling for the love of your life. The love grows. Whether you’re together or far apart, the relationship continues. You live to be together again.”

If this is not enough to convince you to visit Italy, I don’t know what is. But if you still need more reasons, let me sum up why you need to visit Italy as soon as possible.

GUIDED TOURS OF ITALY

Have I convinced you to visit Italy already? Then you may want to book your guided tour of Italy with GAdventures – there are various to pick from, but the one I most recommend is the Iconic Italy tour. It lasts 14 days and goes to all the most famous places to visit, including Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Naples and Amalfi Coast. You can book it here.

reasons to visit Italy

Cities like Cagliari hide many layers of history

17 Perfectly Good Reasons To Visit Italy

The history

One of the reasons to visit Italy is to learn about its very complicated history. Each region has its own past – so for example Sardinia has a strong mark from the bronze age. Phoenicians, Etruscans and Romans all left their mark in various parts of the country. The middle ages are still visible in many beautiful cities, and so is the Renaissance period – and these are just a few to mention. The many layers of history are still visible, with archeological sites scattered around the country, unique art (more of that in a bit) and a cultural traditions that have been carried out for centuries. 

The culture and traditions

If you think there is one such thing as Italian culture, you are a bit mistaken. Yes, there certainly is one overlaying Italian culture, but Italy is divided in many regions, and each of them has its own traditions. Keep in mind that Italy as we know it today is a relatively young country: Italy as a unified State first came to life in 1861 and it was not until the end of World War II that it took its current shape. 

While Italian is the language we speak throughout the country, Italy has 12 officially recognized minority languages (among them Sardinian, the one I speak). Then there are the dialects. Food varies a lot from one place to another – don’t expect to find polenta on the menu in Sicily, for example. 

It goes without saying that one of the reasons to visit Italy is to uncover its many cultures. 

best places in Sardinia

Sartiglia is one of Sardinia’s most famous festivals

The Festivals

One of the reasons to visit Italy is its festivals and celebrations. They truly abound in Italy. They vary by season and they vary by region. In fact, they vary by city and village too! Some festivals and celebrations are nationwide, but celebrated differently in every place – I am talking of Carnival celebrations (the most famous one is in Venice, but I wholeheartedly recommend checking out Sardinian Sartiglia too).

Others festivals are significantly more regional and often involve traditional food or wine – these are called sagre (sagra is the singular). There can be festivals for just about anything – strawberries, artichokes, oranges and tuna are just some of those we have in Sardinia. 

reasons to visit Italy

The narrow alleys of Castello Quarters in Cagliari

The beautiful cities

Italian cities alone are one of the main reasons to visit Italy. They all really differ one from the other. Most first timers in Italy head straight to cities such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples. These are all gorgeous and truly different one from the other – there isn’t quite anything such as Venice, after all.

If it is your second or third time in Italy, though, I recommend exploring lesser known cities. My own Cagliari is a real gem that catches many by surprise. Viterbo, at around 90 minutes drive from Rome, is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy. Siena, in Tuscany, has the most charming atmosphere you can think of. And Matera can be easily called the Italian Jerusalem. 

TOP TIP: I usually recommend doing a guided tour of the city you are visiting to get your whereabouts and some basic facts about it and then continue exploring by yourself. Get Your Guide offers a great selection of guided tours in each city. To look for the most suitable one for you, click here.

Bosa Sardinia

Bosa is one of Italy’s most darling villages

The picturesque villages

It’s not just cities. Among f the reasons to visit Italy is to discover the many lovely villages. Some became really famous among travelers – I am talking of places such as Vernazza or Manarola in Cinque Terre, Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio and Cefalù in Sicily. Others, however, have yet to be discovered by the masses. 

Bosa (photographed above), is my favorite village in Sardinia – the kind of place I never tire of exploring. Mezzano di Primiero, in Trentino, is a tiny charming place, where the pace of life is slow. And not far from the popular Civita di Bagnoregio, you will find the many scenic villages of Tuscia such as Bolsena, Calcata and Bracciano. 

The best way to take in all these views is on a road trip. Just rent your car and drive, get lost and discover the beauties of Italy. 

reasons to visit Italy

Mountains, lakes and nature galore – this is Italy

The nature

Italy is an extremely diverse country when it comes to nature, and you are bound to find just about anything for your taste. From the peaks of the Dolomites – perfect for skiing in the winter and for hiking in the spring and summer months; to the rolling hills of Tuscany; from the lakes of Lombardy to the volcanoes of Sicily; from the rugged coast of Liguria to the desert-like dunes of Sardinia, Italy will take your breath away. The only hard time you will have is going to be in selecting what place to visit among so many!

Costa Rei

Sardinia beaches are one of the reasons to visit Italy – especially in the summer

The beaches

I am from Sardinia, so it goes without saying that I need to devote a specific section to the many gorgeous beaches you will find in Italy. Small coves, long sandy beaches, clear waters, water sports and diving opportunities – although many hardly associate Italy with beaches, we have plenty of excellent ones. Visit in the summer and you will easily find a way to escape the heat by swimming in the clear waters of Sardinia or visiting one of the small bays of Salento, in Puglia. You can even opt to do a boat tour like this one

things to do in Sardinia

Nuraxis are unique to Sardinia

The archeological sites

If you are an archeology geek, you will have about a million reasons to visit Italy. Archeological sites are scattered throughout the country. Walking around Rome, you will come across the Roman Forum and Largo di Torre Argentina (where there is a lovely cat sanctuary). Pompeii is one of the most unique archeological sites in the world – and it is massive. Even smaller cities like Cagliari have their own remains such as the Roman amphitheater and the Phoenician necropolis. 

But that’s not all. In Sardinia, you will find many nuraxis – dating back to the bronze age, this are unique to the island. The most famous one is Barumini, a UNESCO site, but wander around and you will bump into more. 

TIP: Archeological sites deserve in depth visits. You can book skip the line tickets or guided tours via Get Your Guide. Their “originals” tour are usually synonymous of quality. Find the ticket or tour that most suits you here.

The art

Italy is a paradise for art lovers. Here you will find some of the finest art galleries in the world and wherever you go you will find some masterpiece to admire. Museums such as Uffizi, Borghese Gallery, the Vatican Museums are the most popular museums in the country. But art can be found on display in the myriad churches you will find around the country. Paintings such as the Last Supper in Milan, or the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel are an absolute must see. 

TIP: Whichever museum or gallery you intend to visit, and especially for the Vatican Museum and the Last Supper, make sure to book your tickets plenty in advance as the lines to get inside are terribly long. Third party resellers such as Get Your Guide give you ample choice of tickets and quality guided tours that are easy to book and just as easy to cancel, should you need to do so. Look for your tickets here.

I love Italy

Italy will bring a smile on your face

The weather

No, it is not always summer in Italy. We do get quite a good dose of rain and snow in the fall and winter months. But, compared to many other countries, we have more days of sun than average.

If you ask me when to visit Italy, I really won’t be able to comment because that is really up to you, your travel taste, and your itinerary and what you want to get out of the trip. In central and southern Italy, I love October – the days are still nice and long, the temperatures milder than in the summer, and you can even enjoy a day at the beach. In northern Italy, my favorite month is June. It’s not nearly as hot as in July or August, it’s perfect for hiking and it’s usually sunny.

The people

The lovely Italians are one of the best reasons to visit Italy. I am not just saying this because I am Italian, by the way. But really, where do you find people that are at the same time friendly, courteous, generous, always up for a laugh, romantic and at the same time extremely competent and professional? Seriously, I think Italians are one of Italy’s best features. 

The lifestyle

Why do you think Italy is the second oldest country in the world (second only to Japan)? And why do you think studies for the Blue Zone longevity are carried out in Japan and in Sardinia, Italy? You got it: it’s the way we live.

A bit more slow paced than in other countries: we take time to sit down for lunch and dinner every day; we have close family ties and elderlies are usually taken care of by family; children hang out with their grandparents; we practice lots of sports; we go out every day for one reason or another; we are sociable; we eat healthy food; we know when to take things seriously and when to have a break. 

Our lifestyle is simply something others should practice. One of the reasons to visit Italy is to learn about our way of life. 

things to do at home

Italy is all about food

The food

Ah, Italian food! Are there any better reasons to visit Italy than this? From pizza to the million pasta dishes; from the strongest pecorino cheese to the tastiest street food of Rome and to gelato, you will never go hungry in Italy. 

There are a few things you need to keep in mind regarding Italian food in Italy, though. 

First of all, this is where you will find the real deal. There are plenty of good Italian restaurants overseas but honestly, most of them don’t do full justice to the food you are going to find here.

Americans beware: I am a huge fan of Italian-American food, but many of the things you commonly find on the menu on that side of the Atlantic are not a thing here – so don’t come looking for fettuccine Alfredo (we still haven’t found out who this Alfredo is, by the way) and never ask for pineapple on a pizza. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that our eating schedule is not quite like that of other countries. We have lunch between 12:30 and 2:00 pm, and dinner between 7:30 and 9:30 pm – depending on the location and on the season. Any restaurant serving food at 5:00 pm if for tourists only and you should stay away from those. 

Finally, repeat after me: cappuccino is not to be had with a meal, or even after a meal. Many will tell you that it is forbidden after 11:00 am but I dissent. I love a good cappuccino in the middle of the afternoon. As long as it is not to accompany food. 

TIP: Make sure to get acquainted to Italian food with a nice food tour and even a cooking class. You can find many online, such as this excellent street food tour of Rome or this pasta making class.

The wine

Italians love their wine, and you will love it too – many would say that wine is one of the reasons to visit Italy, and in fact we do have several wine centered events such as Vinitaly – a massive fair held each year in Verona and entirely dedicated to wine; or smaller village fairs such as Cantine Aperte in Serdiana (Sardinia) where visitors pay a fixed price to visit all the local vineyards and try several wines.

Each region in Italy has its grapes and makes its wine – they are all different. The best way to learn about Italian wines is to go on a good wine tour. Wine tours are available in every region of Italy. Many tourists associate wine tasting and vineyards with Tuscany, but honestly you should try to taste other wines too and I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

I live in Sardinia, so I can easily comment about Sardinian wines and tell you which ones you should try, which ones you should bring home and which wineries you should visit. If you happen to visit Sardinia, Cantine Argiolas in Serdiana do the best wine tasting tours in the region. Their Turriga is by far one of the best wines you will ever try – it is not cheap though. 

Other wines you should try include Nepente di Oliena (one of my favorite regional wines) and Carignano del Sulcis (this is the name of the grape, by the way).

You can book a good wine tasting tour in Sardinia here.

The coffee

There is nothing quite like a tiny cup of Italian espresso. So small, so packed with flavor, it will waken your sense. This is to say, coffee should definitely be one of the reasons to visit Italy. 

Sure, Italy doesn’t have coffee plantations and doesn’t produce coffee beans. But Italians know a thing or two about roasting the beans until perfection and they know how to create the most amazing coffee drinks: espresso, espresso macchiato, caffé shakerato, cappuccino, marocchino, caffellatte… and the list goes on. 

The language

Italian is one of the most beautifully sounding languages in the world. Musical, full of passion, you should definitely try to learn it: one of the reasons to visit Italy is to be immersed in the language and try to improve your skills. I recommend getting acquainted with it before visiting, so that you can try talking to locals. They will be helpful, I promise! 

Make sure to read my post “20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language” for tips on how to learn Italian.

The costs

Italy is not the cheapest country in the world, but it’s by far not the most expensive either. €16 euro get you inside the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill – three of the most amazing sites in the world. You can easily splurge and stay in luxury hotels, eat at fine restaurants, shop at designer store and travel by fancy car, but if your budget is a bit more limited you can opt to travel in the shoulder season and you will find plenty of budget friendly places to stay and trattorie where you can eat delicious home cooked meals.

Visiting the Colosseum? Make sure to read my post Seven Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines.” 

Further readings about Italy

Have I inspired you enough to visit Italy? These are some of my posts that will help you plan your trip:

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Discover all the reasons to fall in love with Italy - via @clautavani

A Local’s Guide To Costa Rei, Sardinia

A Local’s Guide To Costa Rei, Sardinia

It’s no secret that Costa Rei is one of my favorite places on earth. Located on the south-east coast of Sardinia at about one hour drive from Cagliari, in a region called Sarrabus, this is home to some of the best beaches on the island.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t use to go there. My parents took me there for the first time when I was just a newborn. They were pretty broke back then, but it was legal to camp at the beach and they would pitch their tent and be happy with the little things they had.

Things changed as I grew up. My parents first decided it’d be better to rent a holiday home for the summer. Then they invested in a property, where they still spend about 5 months a year and to which we are all very attached. 

But why am I sharing so much about my family here? For two reasons, you guys. First of all, to let you all know how attached I am to Costa Rei. It is my happy place – our happy place, in fact. Secondly, to clarify that I am a local there. I know it inside out. I have seen it change as I grew up and got older. It has no secrets for me.

In other words, if you are looking for accurate and up-to-date information about Costa Rei online, this post is your best bet. 

Continue reading to discover everything you need to know to plan your perfect holiday in Costa Rei, Sardinia.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Never take sand or shells from Sardinian beaches. This is strictly forbidden and should you get caught, you will be subjected to a fine. Please don’t take marine starts out of the water, as that means killing them. 

Costa Rei

Singing to the sun in Costa Rei

9 Things To See And Do In Costa Rei

The gorgeous beaches

Monte Nai 

The main beach in Costa Rei goes by its very name. It’s a 12 km fine, golden sand and incredibly clear waters. The beach is unfortunately quite exposed to the wind, especially mistral, so when this blows you may want to look for a smaller cove, such as one mentioned below. 

There are several access points along the beach, some with (limited) parking lots and disabled access – so perfect for families with children who may need to use the car or strollers, and for wheelchair users. Other parts are only accessible on foot via easy trails – these tend to be less crowded compared to the places that can be accessed by car. 

Scattered along the beach you will find various kiosks with a lifeguard on duty that serve food and drinks and where you can rent umbrellas and other beach equipment. These places also organize all sorts of activities such as boat expeditions to nearby islands (more about that in a bit). 

GOOD TO KNOW: Dogs are generally not allowed at the main beach in Costa Rei, though you will occasionally come across a family that has one. If you are traveling with a dog and want to go to a dog friendly beach, you may want to head all the way to Tiliguerta beach, which is equipped for our furriends. 

Santa Giusta

Santa Giusta in late September

Santa Giusta

Santa Giusta is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Though there is a beach proper – a lovely small cove that is well protected from the wind and never too crowded – for some reasons people generally hang out on the resorts side, where they can have direct access to the massive rock (locally known as Scoglio di Peppino, Peppino’s Rock), and where it gets crowded beyond belief. I fail to see the point, honestly. 

If you really want to spend a day at Santa Giusta, I recommend to either go to the small cove or to only go when the resorts close down. The photo above – where the beach looks nice and empty – was taken at the very end of September! 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: To get to Santa Giusta, follow the signs to Santa Giusta that you will find near Villas and Santa Giusta resorts. There is a large parking lot and you will have to leave your car there, and walk to the beach (about 500 meters). During the summer months, police patrols the area and fines are given to anybody who doesn’t park in the designated areas.

Monte Turno

The gorgeous Monte Turno

Monte Turno (Castiadas)

Monte Turno is one of the most scenic beaches near Costa Rei. South of Sant’Elmo, one of the best resorts in the area, this small cove has the most transparent waters and the rock formations on both sides make it a fun place to snorkel and take photos. 

The beach tends to get crowded in the peak summer months – it is easily accessible by car and rather small. Make sure to go in the late afternoon to avoid the largest crowds. It is protected from the wind so a good option on days during which the mistral winds blow. 

There is one kiosk on the beach called Iki Beach that serves light meals and drinks and from where you can rent umbrellas and sun beds. The only issue with it is that if often plays loud music. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: To get to Monte Turno, drive south from Costa Rei along SP18 for about 5 km, until a small sign points you toward the beach. You will have to make almost a U turn, so make sure to drive slowly or you will miss it. There is a parking lot where you can pay for half of the whole day.

Costa Rei

Cala Sinzias (Castiadas)

Cala Sinzias is a fabulous beach 10 minutes south of Costa Rei by car. Contrary to the nearby Cala Pira (of which I talk below), the water here is almost immediately deep. The fine sand however makes it perfect for children.

The beach tends to get quite crowded in the summer months, as it is easily accessible, well serviced with kiosks where you can get food and any sort of rental, as well as a lifeguard on duty, and spotless. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: From Costa Rei drive south along SP18 and continue on until you a sign pointing to Cala Sinzias. There are several access points. Parking is very limited and you will be tempted to leave your car on the main road. Don’t do that, unless you don’t mind risking a fine.

Cala Pira (Castiadas)

Further south from Cala Sinzias, Cala Pira is a truly nice beach at about 15 minutes drive from Costa Rei, perfect on a windy day. As there is a rather large parking lot right nearby, and it is easy accessible, it tends to get quite crowded. Nevertheless, it remains pleasant and an excellent place for a relaxing day.

The shallow, clear waters, the sand and the Aragonese protective tower at one of its end make it a really scenic place. The local kiosk serves light meals and rents out whatever you may need for the day. There is a lifeguard on duty.

At the end of the summer of 2019, dolphins decided to show up at Cala Pira beach, much to the amusements of those who were at the beach then. The video above, which went viral, was filmed by my cousin and reported by a local news channel. The voices you hear are hers, her husband and their kids.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: From Costa Rei take SP18 and continue on until you find a sign that points to Cala Pira – drive slowly or else won’t notice it. There is a parking lot where you’ll have to pay for either the whole day or half of it. 

Portu de S’Illixi and Cala sa Figu (Muravera)

I keep hoping these two adjacent beaches never get fully discovered, as even on a peak summer day they are blissfully quiet and not nearly as crowded as the rest. The fact that they aren’t easily accessed, that the road to get there isn’t easily marked and there is a bit of a walk on uneven terrain to get to the beaches certainly help. 

My favorite of the two is Cala Sa Figu. It’s really small, with fine sand and water that is as clear at it gets – perfect for snorkeling. 

Both beaches are quite secluded so you won’t find services such as a kiosk, umbrellas or even a toilet. There is no lifeguard on duty. 

PRACTICALI INFORMATION: To get to these two beaches, drive north towards Olia Speciosa. After about 5 km turn right onto SP97 towards Capo Ferrato. It will take you about 25 minutes to get there.

costa rei sardinia

Water sports 

Costa Rei is a great place to have a try at pretty much any water sport and activity you can think of. Depending on the wind, you can try windsurfing and kitesurfing, catamaran hobie cat. Wave surfing isn’t possible – although Sardinia is a good destination for surfing, the beach in Costa Rei isn’t a good spot. But if that is something you like doing, you may want to look for a surfing spot that is close by. 

Other water activities that you could try include fun tubing and kayaking. If you don’t have your own, you can rent a kayak in one of the many kiosks along the beach.

Diving in Costa Rei

Costa Rei isn’t exactly a diving destination, but there are a few spots here and there where you can have a good dive. The best site is at Sant’Elmo’s Rock, a small rock that emerges from the water and under which there apparently is incredible marine life. Other than that, other diving spots are in Capo Carbonara protected marine area, near Villasimius, and further north towards Capo Ferrato. 

The nearby islands

Not far from Costa Rei there are a few small islands you can see on a boat trip.

The largest one is called Serpentara; it has the shape of a crocodile and belongs to the protected marine area of Capo Carbonara. You can get close to it by boat, but it is forbidden to dock and to disembark at it is a highly protected area.

The other island is called Isola dei Cavoli, a poor transliteration of the Sardinian word “cavurus” which means “crab” (cavoli on the other hand means cabbage). It is located at about 1 km from Capo Carbonara and belongs to the protected marine area of Capo Carbonara. It’s a fabulous place to go snorkeling.

Other than the marine life, one of the most interesting sightings there is the underwater statue of the Virgin of the Sea. The statue, by Sardinian artist Pinuccio Sciola, was placed there in 1979. Boats can dock on the back side of the island and from there you can follow a short trail to get to the lighthouse. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Boat trips that go to Isola dei Cavoli depart several times per week from Costa Rei beach. The best place to enquire is the kiosk you can access from Via dei Gigli. The trip lasts around 5 hours and goes to the island and to various beaches in the area of Villasimius. It costs €45. 

Running and walking

My favorite walk in the area of Costa Rei is the one that goes to the lighthouse in Capo Ferrato, through a gorgeous Mediterranean pine forests. You just have to drive towards north until you reach Capo Ferrato to get to the pine forest and then it’s pretty self evident. 

For the best views in Costa Rei, walk up the hill to what is locally known as “casa della contessa” (countess’ house). It’s an abandoned building that is visible from pretty much anywhere in Costa Rei. There are several legends about it – including that the countess left during a fire, and that she hid a treasure on the walls (hence why the house was vandalized). I have often dreamt of buying the property and turn it into a nice small hotel – which would have the most incredible sunrise views.

If you are into running, you can follow Via Ichnusa heading north and after the first km of running on the road, you will have a nice trail which is perfect for running. 

If you are visiting in the fall or spring months, you may want to go for a hike in the Sette Fratelli mountain range which can be accessed from Castiadas, not far from Costa Rei. Sentiero Italia goes right through Sette Fratelli park. You may want to get in touch with a local guide to help out with trails and organization. 

Other easy hikes – albeit some are bit long – include the trail that goes from Monte Turno to Cala Pira; the one that goes from Cala Pira to Cala Sinzias. There also are several trails around the beaches of Villasimius, which will grant you spectacular beach views. My favorite is the one in Porto Giunco beach. 

sunrise in Costa Rei

A beautiful sunrise in Costa Rei

Sunrise and sunset in Costa Rei

Costa Rei is on the eastern coast of Sardinia, so not a good place if you are hoping for a killer sunset. If you are an early bird, you may want to set your alarm extra early to walk to the beach for a gorgeous sunrise. I won’t hide the fact that the only time I did it was once I got back from a trip and was terribly jet lagged!

If you want to catch the sunset, you may want to drive a bit southwards to Monte Turno or, even better, towards Baccu Mandara (it’s about 45 minutes drive, on the way to Cagliari).

The pools of Sarrabus

Not far from Costa Rei, closer to the small towns of Muravera and Villaputzu, you will find a gorgeous wetland known as Pools of Sarrabus which is home to beautiful wildlife. It’s the perfect place to go if you feel you need a break from the beach – but mind you, it’s best if you go early in the morning or in the late afternoon, right before sunset, when chances of spotting birds are higher. You will need to wear mosquito repellent. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: To get to Colostrai and Feraxi ponds you have to take the old SS125 following the directions of Muravera. Once you get to Capo Picci, follow the signs to Torre Salinas. Piscina Rei pond is more easily accessible from Costa Rei. Just drive along the panoramic road heading north, and follow the signs. 

Castiadas prison

The main entrance of Castiadas prison

Castiadas Prison

If you are short of ideas on things to do in Costa Rei when it rains, worry not: I got you covered. I had the exact same issue last summer (in fact, many times) and decided that Castiadas Prison would be a cool place to spend a couple of hours while the weather improved.

The prison was first opened in 1875 and operated until the 1950s. The first prisoners who arrived there were taken in directly from the sea, and had to disembark in the nearby Cala Sinzias – back then, where were no roads connecting this part of Sardinia to Cagliari, as malaria was a real issue.

Prisoners were taken in with the idea of working on the land with the final aim of reclaiming the area and freeing it of malaria once and for all. They planted eucalyptus tree brought in from Australia, which were known for absorbing lots of water. One the area was finally reclaimed, a penal colony was created with an efficient prison that also had a clinic. 

A guided tour of the prison (definitely available in Italian, do enquire for English) will walk you through the prison cells, the torture rooms, the backyard. Unfortunately some areas of the prison haven’t been restored yet and can’t be visited. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Castiadas Prison is located at about 15 minutes drive from Costa Rei. Follow the directions to drive back to Cagliari, but instead of turning right to take SS125 continue going straight for a short while until you reach the small square where the old prison is located. Admission fee is €5 and includes a guide. 

The festivals

Costa Rei doesn’t have festivals per se, but the nearby Muravera holds a couple of them each year. The most popular ones are the Citrus Festival (Sagra degli Agrumi), which is usually held in March or April to celebrate the delicious citrus fruit produced in the Sarrabus region; and Muravera Carnival, which is held in August and during which traditional carnival masks from various villages in Sardinia parade the streets of the village. It really is a show for tourists, but locals love it too so it can get very crowded. 

costa rei dog beaches

Dogs are welcome in Costa Rei

Other Useful Information To Organize Your Trip To Costa Rei

Where to stay in Costa Rei

Costa Rei has no shortage of good accommodation options. Most people who visit opt to stay at one of the camping sites or to get one of the many holiday rentals. There are various local agencies you can rent from, but alternatively Booking.com is great resource with a wealth of places for rent. Just take a look here.

If you are looking for a camping site, these two are the most popular options:

  • Camping Le Dune is one of the most popular camping sites. It has a pool, a grocery store, a decent restaurant and offers a wide range of activities and entertainment.
  • Tiliguerta Camping Village is the nicest camping site in the area and has the added bonus that it is also pet friendly.

If you would rather opt for an all inclusive resort, these are the best ones:

  • Free Beach has been in Costa Rei for as long as I can remember, but it’s been renovated to give it a more modern look. It features a gorgeous swimming pool, restaurants, activities. And it is right by the beach.
  • Villas is one of the best luxury resorts in Sardinia. It is in the area of Santa Giusta. It features gorgeous rooms, restaurants and a great variety of activities. 

Where to eat in Costa Rei

Eating options in Costa Rei don’t nearly match the beauty of the place. In other words, good restaurants are hard to find. I have tried pretty much all of them and these are the ones I recommend. 

CHAPLIN – this budget friendly eatery is close to the beach and serves excellent fresh pasta dishes and delicious calamari. I recommend booking in advance. 

SA CARDIGA E SU PISCI – by far the best restaurant in the area, with a focus on regional ingredients which are used with a modern twist. It’s expensive but worth it. Book in advance. 

LIDO TAMATETE – located on the beach of Cala Sinzias, this fabulous restaurant has a strong focus on seafood dishes. It’s perfect for a romantic dinner. Desserts are to kill for. Expensive, but worth it. Make sure to book in advance. 

PIZZERIA SU TOSTOINI – probably the most budget friendly option, it is on the way to Villasimius, right by the intersection. They don’t take reservations so you have to wait until a table opens up (not ideal if you are with a group). Service is slow but pizza is fairly good. 

I MENHIRS – in Olia Speciosa, this restaurant with a fixed menu focuses on local specialties so it is the best place to go if you want to try Sardinian food. Book in advance and expect to pay between €35 and €40 depending on the day.

LA BOTTEGA PANE E VINO – perfect place for an aperitivo with wine, cheese and cold cuts. 

A good gelateria is located in Piazza Italia. But if you really fancy a good gelato, you may want to make the effort to drive all the way to Villasimius for La Chiccheria. It’s worth it.

As a local, I feel I should also mention a couple of restaurants you may want to avoid. Su Nuraxi is one that I would avoid at all costs. It is huge and in a key location so it gets lots of people all the time, but the food is poor quality – trust a local. Definitely don’t have the suckling piglet Sardinia is famous for there. 

I also recommend avoiding Oasi pizzeria: service is painfully slow. Finally, l’Aragosta – once one of the most popular places in Costa Rei – took a turn for the worst a few years ago. 

sweets sardinia

Traditional sweets are sold at the local bakery

Groceries

Grocery stores are scattered all around Costa Rei. A bakery is located in Piazza Italia, but you will also be able to get fresh bread from the supermarkets – there are 3 in the main village, of which one is on the main road (Via Ichnusa), one is called Market Monte Nai but is locally known as Farci and located on the northern side Via Colombo, and one called Rei Market is on the southern side of Via Colombo. 

Supermarkets carry fresh fruits and vegetables too. The best quality is found at Farci. Alternatively, you can shop at the greengrocer in Piazza Sardegna. 

A butcher and a fishmonger are located right by Farci supermarket. 

Further supermarkets are located in other parts of Costa Rei. 

If you have a car and don’t mind scouting for them, you will find several local producers each selling their own fruits and vegetables, as well as free range eggs. Honestly they are much better quality than anything you will find in the stores. The best producers can be found in the area of San Pietro. You will have to drive towards Cala Sinzias, turn right on the big intersection and then immediately left. There is a small road where you will find signs here and there, each announcing what they are selling. 

Local services and shops

Costa Rei is well equipped with whatever you may need for a perfect holiday.

The only bank (Banco di Sardegna) can be found in Olia Speciosa, where there also is a central post office. However, ATMs are scattered throughout the holiday resort. 

There are several newsagents – the one in Via Ichnusa, located immediately where you enter Costa Rei right in front of Via delle Mimose and Via dei Gigli – has international newspapers too. They also work as an unofficial information desk – they speak English and German. The official information desk is located further north in Viale Colombo, not far from Farci supermarket. 

Estate agencies are found on the main street (Via Ichnusa) where you will also find a car rental agency; in Piazza Sardegna and Piazza Italia. 

The local police station (Carabinieri) is located on the northern side of the resort, in Piazza Rei Marina. You can also call at +39 070 991 6112. 

A doctor on duty is found at Camping Le Dune.

Should you be traveling with your pet and needing a vet, or should you decide to adopt one of the many stray cats that roam around Costa Rei, you will have to drive to Muravera and look for Dr. Gabriele Porcu. His clinic is in Via Roma. Feel free to tell him you read his name on Claudia’s blog. He is a very dear friend of mine, very professional – we spent many years trying to spay and neuter the many strays in Costa Rei. He doesn’t speak English so chances are he will call me to translate – but he will make himself understood.

A hair dresser and beauty salon is located in Piazza Italia and one is on Via Ichnusa.

There are two pharmacies – one in Via Ichnusa and one in Piazza Italia.

Costa Rei isn’t exactly a shopping mecca, and you are probably better off going to the nearby Villasimius if you need to get presents to bring home. A souvenir shop is located right by Farci supermarket. Not far from it, in Via Marco Polo 1, Paderi is the fanciest boutique in the resort. Piazza Italia has a bikini and swim suits shop and a shoe shop. 

A windy day in Costa Rei

A windy day in Costa Rei

How to get to Costa Rei

Costa Rei can be easily reached by bus and by car. 

Buses leave from Cagliari main bus station. There are several each day. They take about 2 hours. 

If you are driving, you have to take SS 554 and following the signs to Muravera, then take SS125. You will have two exits for Costa Rei. Depending on traffic, it should take you about one hour. 

How to move around Costa Rei

Unless you are staying away from the beach or want to visit one of the nearby beaches, the best way to move around Costa Rei is on foot. I typically arrive there from town at the weekend, park my car and forget it exists for the next few days. 

When to visit Costa Rei

If you ask me, any time is a good time to go to Costa Rei. My parents will say they love it in September, when the crazy crowds of tourists are gone and the beach is a bit emptier. October is perfect as the temperatures are still quite warm and you can enjoy a day at the beach with zero crowds and without the terrible heat of the summer. 

I also love going in the winter months, when almost nobody is around. Mind you, this really depends on the kind of place you get. My family’s house has heating and a nice fireplace so it gets warm and really really cozy even when it is cold and raining outside. The winter is perfect if you enjoy long walks at the beach and clean air. But pretty much everything will be closed, so you will have to bring groceries with you from Cagliari, or go shopping in the nearby Olia Speciosa o Muravera.

Other useful information

I recommend taking a good guide book about Sardinia for your trip. These are a couple of good options. 

I also recommend getting a good travel insurance. Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about Sardinia

If you are planning a longer trip to Sardinia, make sure to read my other posts:

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10 Awesome Things To Do In Koh Samui

10 Awesome Things To Do In Koh Samui

There are many cool things to do in Koh Samui. 

This is easily one of the most popular destinations to visit when island hopping in Thailand, and easily one of the best islands in Thailand. Not least because of its beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls and epic nightlife!

What’s also great is that Koh Samui is super easy to visit thanks to the fact it has an airport on the island. So it’s easy to reach from other popular destinations like Bangkok and Chiang Mai and it is the perfect addition to any truly unforgettable Thailand itinerary.

When they finally visit Koh Samui, lots of people find that they want to stay longer than intended. This is hardly surprising: the island is beautiful!

Keen to learn more? Great! Keep reading to discover the most epic things to do in Koh Samui.

koh samui things to do

The Big Buddha is a must see

10 Amazing Things To Do In Koh Samui

Visit the Big Buddha of Wat Phra Yai Temple 

One of the funny things about Buddhas in Thailand is that almost every city claims they have a “big Buddha.” This will leave you wondering if they are in competition with each other. But, the Big Buddha in Koh Samui is one of the focal points of the island and well worth a visit (and genuinely is a VERY big Buddha). 

It’s a touch of Thai culture on an otherwise westernized (but beautiful) island. What’s really cool about the Big Buddha on Koh Samui is how colorful the stairs and surroundings are with the backdrop of the pure gold Buddha. Built in 1972, this has been one of the star attractions in Koh Samui for a while now. It makes for a great photo opportunity – visiting really is one of the things to do in Koh Samui.

Big Buddha is located at Wat Phra Yai Temple and is best visited either early in the morning when it opens, or just before closing to avoid mass crowds.

TIP: Don’t forget you’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting this temple.

Entrance is free, which makes it one of the great things to do in Koh Samui if you’re on a budget. 

Rent a moped and drive around the island 

Since Koh Samui is a relatively small island, it’s super easy to explore and that’s exactly what you should do! There are countless beautiful beaches across the island and the best way to explore them all is by renting out a moped and driving – this is definitely one of the things to do in Koh Samui. 

There is a ring road around the island that’s easy to follow and you can do this route in a couple of hours. This includes stops at random viewpoints and beautiful beaches you may discover along the way. The ring road is 51 km long and goes though all the major towns on the island.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Moped rental is cheap in Koh Samui and costs around 150-200 Baht per day (that’s $5 to $6 USD). 

beaches in Koh Samui

Koh Samui has some gorgeous beaches

Hang out at the beach

There is little doubt that one of the top things to do in Koh Samui is hanging at the beach. The island is packed with places where you can spend the day basking in the sun and enjoying the clear waters. 

Among the best beaches in Koh Samui it is worth mentioning Lamai, the second biggest beach on the island; Silver Beach; Maenam Beach and Samrong Beach. Chaweng is the closest beach to the airport and the most crowded, but it still remains very beautiful.

Relax at Grandfather’s & Grandmother Rocks 

I know what you’re thinking … “rocks, really?!” 

But as far as unique spots and rock formations go, this is a really beautiful spot (and a slightly funny genital shape). It is a gorgeous place for a peaceful and beautiful lunch in the sunshine. It’s also possible to relax in the water here too. The rocks also offer amazing views! 

It’s easy to reach this spot on a moped. This may be one of the more random things to do in Koh Samui, but you should definitely keep it on your itinerary. 

rock formations in koh samui

Funny rock formations in Koh Samui

Experience Koh Samui nightlife

When people think of nightlife in Thailand, they often think of Koh Phangan (for its famous Full Moon Party), Phuket or Pattaya. Don’t overlook the parties of Koh Samui! Koh Samui is home to some of the best nightlife in Thailand. Chaweng beach is the party central of Koh Samui and a great place to start your night. 

If you’re traveling solo and want to meet some other travelers, one of the best things to do in Koh Samui is a bar crawl. A great way to meet others and have fun. 

The island is also home to some really cool beach clubs as well if you prefer to start the fun earlier and enjoy an epic sunset. I suggest Nikki Beach Resort. You’ll see signs for it all over the island and it’s highly rated! 

Go on a hike

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of islands in Thailand is the amazing beaches, but hiking is actually one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui and there are several good trails that you can walk – some easy, that go to beautiful waterfalls, and others more challenging leading to viewpoints where you can enjoy breathtaking views. 

The only issue with hiking in Koh Samui is that it is hot and humid, so if you intend to hike make it a point to set out nice and early. I also don’t recommend hiking alone – there are plenty of organized hikes you can join. Enquire with your accommodation. 

Make sure to read my post “Why Hiking Alone Is A Bad Idea.”

Spend a day in Ang Thong Marine Park

One of the best day trips from Koh Samui is to Ang Thong Marine Park – it’s the kind of place where you can relax at gorgeous, pristine beaches; snorkel in crystal clear waters, and simply just relax on the boat. The islands of the marine park are the perfect backdrop for stunning photos. Tours usually go to Emerald Lagoon too. 

These are the best day trips to Ang Thong Marine Park:

Koh Samui

The walk to the waterfalls

Discover the beautiful Namuang Waterfall (1 & 2)

Like many of the best spots in Thailand, Koh Samui has some pretty cool waterfalls on offer, with the most famous being Namuang Waterfall. When you go to visit, you’ll discover there are two levels. The first is super easy to access from the carpark and you’ll be there within a couple of minutes. You can swim and chill here for hours under the intense Thai sunshine, or you can take the challenge of reaching falls number 2 – it’s actually one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui.

This requires a bit of a hike which typically takes around 30 minutes to the top. It’s quite steep and you just need to follow the steps and ropes that lead to the top. You’ll see others on your route, so you can ask them to point you in the right direction if you feel lost.

TIP: Remember that the heat can be intense, so you’ll need to bring plenty of water (but there is a small shop at the base of Namuang waterfall 2).

When you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with two beautiful pools which overlook the jungle. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the amazing views. 

TIP: I suggest you start this hike earlier in the day, so you don’t get caught in the intense heat and you’re also more likely to have the spot all to yourself (at least for a bit!) 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Entrance to the waterfalls is free, but you do pay for parking. This ranges from 20 Baht to 60 Baht ($0.60 to $1.80 USD)  depending on whether you have a moped or a car.

If you don’t feel confident visiting Namuang waterfall on your own, then you can opt for a tour. You’ll see them advertised throughout the island. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour online. These are some good options:

Other waterfalls on the island you can visit include Hin Lat Waterfall and Tarnim & Magic Garden.

Take a day trip to Koh Tao

There is plenty to do in Koh Samui, but in case you want to explore one of the nearby islands, you may want to go on an easy day trip to Koh Tao, thought to be a fantastic place for snorkeling, diving and other water sports. Should you want to book a guided trip to Koh Tao, you can do so here or here

Learn how to cook Thai food

Mastering the art of Thai food may take a long time, but a cooking class is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Koh Samui and you will surely find several ones to suit your needs. Cooking classes usually begin with a trip to a local market to get fresh ingredients, and at the end you will be eating what you prepared. It’s a fun way to get to know a bit more of the local way of life and culture through food. 

This cooking class comes highly recommended – it runs in the morning, in time for lunch time, and in the evening, for dinner. 

koh samui cooking

A cooking class is one of the best things to do in Koh Samui

Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Koh Samui

Where to stay in Koh Samui

Among the best things to do in Koh Samui there is relaxing at a fabulous hotel. The island has no shortage of places to stay for all budgets and tastes. This is a brief selection:

Getting to Koh Samui

As said at the beginning of this post, Koh Samui has its own airport with easy connections to Bangkok, so it is very easy to reach. You can also get there from the nearby islands and even from Bangkok by boat. You can get your boat transfer from Bangkok here. For a quick and easy airport transfer directly to your hotel, you can click here.  

Getting around Koh Samui 

To get between all the amazing attractions of Koh Samui, you have four main options, highlighted below.

Moped

As mentioned before, the best way to get around the island and to see all the awesome Koh Samui attractions is to rent a moped. You can rent one for around 150-200 Thai Baht daily (but if you’re renting for a longer period of time you can usually negotiate a great deal!). Don’t drive without a helmet and do not drink and drive either. If you’re not confident on a moped, then don’t worry, there are other ways to get around the island. 

Ride the Songthaew

This is basically like an open air minibus form of transportation. It’s a pick-up truck that has two back benches that typically fit around 8-10 adults (prepared to be squeezed when it’s busy). They usually have luggage racks on the top too so they’re a good budget option for transport to the airport or ferry terminal.

Songthaews are available all around the ring route of the island, so you can hop on and off as you wish. To indicate you want to get off, just ring the bell! It’s best to negotiate a price before you go on, but it’s always very cheap. 

Rent a car

If you don’t feel confident on a moped, but like to drive, then you can rent a car typically for a great price on the island. Again, since the roads are pretty self explanatory, driving shouldn’t be any more or less complicated than a moped. 

Taxis

Taxis are also available all over Koh Samui. These are a good option in the evenings if you plan on catching the sunset with a few cocktails. You can negotiate a deal with the taxi driver, but being foreign, it’s natural you’re going to be charged a little bit extra.

koh samui

Views of Koh Samui

When to visit Koh Samui

Koh Samui is best visited between December and April – that’s when you will get the best weather, with sunny days that will mostly be dry. It’s definitely cheaper to visit in the shoulder season, in September and October. May and June are sunny with occasional showers. 

How long do I need in Koh Samui?

I spent 3 nights on Koh Samui and felt this was a perfect amount of time to really get a taste of what the island has to offer. If you are looking for a holiday style visit, then you could easily spend a week or more relaxing on the various beaches whilst sipping on cocktails, but if you’re just island hopping the Thai islands in general, then 3 nights is a great amount. 

For 3 nights, I would suggest an itinerary like this:

  • Day 1: Visit Big Buddha then stop at some of the beautiful beaches for sunset (perhaps Samrong Beach) 
  • Day 2: Chase the beautiful waterfalls of Koh Samui 
  • Day 3: Check out the beach clubs then sample the epic nightlife 
  • Final day: Relax your sore head on some more of the beautiful beaches before your departure

After your visit to Koh Samui, you’re in a great position to visit the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The former is famous for its parties, but is actually quite beautiful and quiet outside of the party scene, and Koh Tao is famous for its snorkeling opportunities. 

Other useful information

Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip to Thailand. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Further posts about Thailand and South East Asia

Planning a trip to Thailand and South East Asia? Make sure to read these other posts:

This was post written by Cazzy Magennis, one half of Dream Big, Travel Far, the couples travel blog for adventurous couples and for type 1 diabetics (like herself!) With their blog, Cazzy and Bradley aim to inspire you to travel the world without limitations. They have travelled to over 60 countries so far and are on a mission to see the entire world.

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Discover the best things to do in Koh Samui - via @clautavani

25 Cool Things To Do In Montevideo

25 Cool Things To Do In Montevideo

There are more things to do in Montevideo than you’d imagine. Though this city is often overlooked for its more popular neighbors, it actually is an interesting place to spend a few days exploring its main tourist attractions and taking in the chilled atmosphere.

Montevideo may lack the buzz and the chaos of other South America capitals – traffic isn’t nearly as bad as that of Buenos Aires. It may not have the picture perfect tourist attractions. But what it lacks in architectural delights, it surely makes up in vibe and in cultural events.

Take my word for it: Montevideo deserves to be visited, and you’ll end up enjoying it way more than you can anticipate.

In this post, I will highlight what to do in Montevideo and share some useful tips to help you plan your trip there.

TIP: To make the most of Montevideo if you have a short time, I recommend going on a guided tour. These are the best ones that you can book online:

Continue reading to discover all the things to do in Montevideo.

things to do in Montevideo

Plaza Indipendencia is one of the unmissable sights in Montevideo

25 Things To Do In Montevideo

Pass by Plaza Indipendencia

One of the first things to do in Montevideo is visiting Plaza Indipendencia. This is the most important square in Montevideo and the easiest place to start exploring the city. Located at the center of the square there’s Artigas Mausoleum, a monument surmounted by a massive statue representing the hero of Uruguayan independence.

Plaza Indipendencia is lined with important buildings such as Palacio Estevéz, which was the seat of the government until 1985. Palacio Salvo is located on its eastern side and on the western side you’ll find the Puerta de la Ciudadela, one of the few remnants of the colonial town, which was almost completely demolished in 1883.

Admire Palacio Salvo

Among the unmissable things to do in Montevideo, there’s seeing and even going inside Palacio Salvo. This building of 27 floors and 100 meters used to be the tallest one in South America when it was inaugurated in 1927. It’s built in a mixture of Art Deco, Renaissance and Gothic style and is often seen as the building that best reminds visitors and locals alike of Montevideo’s most prosperous times. You can enter the building and visit it – get your tickets here.

Montevideo attractions

Palacio Salvo is one of Montevideo’s iconic buildings

Explore the Ciudad Vieja

West of Plaza Indipendencia and through the Puerta de la Ciudadela you’ll find Montevideo Ciudad Vieja. This is by far the most charming part of town, a mixture of crumbling old buildings and newer ones where you’ll find quaint coffee shops and small boutiques. It’s a nice place to walk around, taking photos and just enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

If you would like to get to know this part of town a bit more in depth, you should opt for a guided tour. This is the best tour of the Ciudad Vieja:

Visit Montevideo Cathedral

In a city that doesn’t have nearly as many churches as other capitals, visiting churches is one of the things to do in Montevideo. The Cathedral, located in the Ciudad Vieja, is a nice place to visit. Built from 1790 in the place of a small brick church that had existed since 1740, it was named Metropolitan Cathedral by Pope Leo XIII in 1897. Make sure to stop by while exploring the Ciudad Vieja.

what to do in Montevideo

Seeing a show at Teatro Solis is a great way to appreciate its fantastic acoustic – photo courtesy of Ana Raquel S. Hernandes (flickr)

Attend a show at Teatro Solis

Close to Plaza Indipendencia, Montevideo’s most important theater was first inaugurated in 1856. It was completely renovated in the last 15 years, and enjoys a fabulous acoustic. You can go on a guided tour or, even better, go to a show to fully appreciate its magnificence.

Learn about Uruguay’s history at Museo Historico Nacional

One of the things to do in Montevideo is learning about the history of the country.

This museum is spread along three buildings in the Ciudad Vieja. The best bit is the Casa Rivera, once the residence of Fructuoso Rivera, Uruguay’s former president and founder of Partido Colorado. It has an interesting collection of documents, paintings, furnishings and other artifacts documenting the history of the country from its origins until its independence.

Mercado del Puerto Montevideo

The mouthwatering array of meat at Mercado del Puerto

Eat at Mercado del Puerto

There is little doubt that among the things to do in Montevideo is going to Mercado del Puerto to gorge on meat.

If you only have a few hours in Montevideo, drop everything else and just head to Mercado del Puerto for a meat extravaganza (or not, if you are vegan or vegetarian). The building where the market is located, on Rambla 25 de Agosto de 1825 228, has been beautifully restored, and it’s a good place to get an idea of the local way of life.

More than anything else, in a city where good restaurants abound, this is the best place in town to have a proper steak. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen (and wanted) that much meat in my life. There is an endless array of fantastic parrillas (parrilla means grill, and that’s the word used to refer to restaurants whose main focus is barbecued meat) where parrilleros can be seen piling stacks of meat and vegetables over the biggest grills known to men.

Eating at Mercado del Puerto isn’t cheap – but it’s worth every penny. It’s open every day from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm – a good spot for lunch, but you won’t find it open for dinner.

Drink mate

I used to think that the Argentines were obsessed with their mate, then I visited Montevideo and realized that Uruguayans have taken their mate obsession to a whole new level. If there is a place in South America where you should try it, this is it: mate is a serious business – or shall I call it “ritual” here.

Virtually every person you meet walking down the street holds a cup and carries a flask of hot water (rigorously at 84 degrees Celsius) along with a bombilla (the metal straw used to sip mate) and a bag of yerba (mate powder).

Mate isn’t the kind of drink you’ll be able to get at a coffee shop. There used to be a “materia” but it closed down, so your best bet to enjoy it is hang out with a local and ask to explain more about it – I am sure you’ll be able to find someone at your hotel or hostel that is willing to share his or her mate with you – because drinking mate is one of the things to do in Montevideo.

Rambla Montevideo

One of the beaches along the Rambla of Montevideo

Attend a tango show

Not many people know it, but tango is as much an Argentine thing as it is Uruguayan and one of the best things to do in Montevideo is going to a tango show or, even better, attend a milonga and learn how to tango. There are several milongas in town, as well as tango shows – they typically also involve dinner. If you don’t know where to start, you can book one online here or here.

Attend Montevideo Carnival

If you happen to be there at the right time of year, one of the things to do in Montevideo is attending its carnival.

Montevideo Carnival is one of the largest in South America, and known to be the longest Carnival celebration in the world. It usually starts in January and goes on until early March. The best bits are the Desfile Inaugural, which usually opens up the celebrations, and the Desfile de las Llamadas, which takes place for two consecutive days at the beginning of February.

A show you may want to attend during Carnival in Montevideo is the Carnival Tablados. It’s a night show that features four to seven groups and that takes place each night until early March.

Visit the Museo del Carnaval

If you can’t visit Montevideo during its amazing Carnival, you may want to do the next best thing: visit the Museo del Carnaval, where you’ll be able to appreciate the collection of costumes, masks and photos documenting more than a century of this tradition.

Enjoy a show of Candombe

Candombe is a popular musical tradition that involves drumming and dancing and that is commonly heard during Montevideo’s carnival. Its roots are to be found in African slave music and in traditional European folk dance. In other words, it’s quite unique.

It is so much part of Uruguay heritage that in 2006 the Chamber of Deputy adopted a bill to celebrate the National Day of Candombe – Afro-Uruguayan Culture and Racial Equity, each 3 of December. In 2009 Candombe was inscribed in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A show of Candombe is a great way to get to know Uruguayan culture and spirit better. Shows are held every Sunday. You can even join a guided tour where you’ll get a proper explanation of what the music and the dance mean – it’s among the things to do in Montevideo.

Rambla

Enjoying some down time at the Rambla

Walk or bike along the Rambla

Among the most local things to do in Montevideo, there is walking along the Rambla.

Montevideo’s waterfront is called Rambla and it runs along the city’s coastline for 22 km. This is the best place in town to go for a run, to bike or to simply walk. Locals love hanging out there. When the weather is nice, and at weekends, they can be seen enjoying a game of volleyball in one of the grassy stretches, biking, or simply doing what they love most: drinking mate.

TIP: Pretty much any hostel in Montevideo will be able to rent you a bike. Alternatively, you should be able to rent a bike at Orange Bike.

Hang out at the beach

One of the top things to do in Montevideo is spending time at the beach. Walking along the Rambla you can get to the main beaches in town. Montevideo is directly facing the estuary of the Rio de la Plata, so don’t expect clear waters. Yet, there are some nice beaches where you can enjoy the sun, play a game of volleyball, and just relax. Among the best there are Playa Ramirez and Playa de Los Pocitos.

Get puzzled by Castillo Pittamiglio

Castillo Pittamiglio is located along the Rambla, between Punta Carretas and Pocitos. It was the house of eccentric alchemist and architect Humberto Pittamiglio. While the facade is in and of itself worth stopping for, the interior is even more interesting.

Montevideo Ciudad Vieja

Vintage commercial signs in Montevideo – photo courtesy of Ana Raquel S. Hernandes (flickr)

Get a bargain at Sunday’s Feria de Tristan Narvaja

One of the nicest things to do in Montevideo if you happen to visit during a weekend is going to the Sunday’s Feria de Tristan Narvaja. The country’s largest open air market is the place where you’ll find all sorts of artisan jewels, second hand clothes, antiques, old books, and even fruits and vegetables. It’s a cool place to visit, even if you have no intention to shop.

See a soccer game at Estadio Centenario

Second to Uruguay’s obsession for mate, there’s the obsession for futbol – soccer. Come to think of it, I think these two obsessions go hand in hand, as a typical scene will be that of people watching a game while drinking mate. Anyways – if you fancy mingling with the locals, make sure to go watch a game at Estadio Centenario.

The stadium was built between 1929 and 1930 to host the 1930 FIFA World Cup and can seat more than 76000 people.

For a heated game, try to attend for the superclasico – Nacional vs. Peñarol. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Montevideo.

Visit the Museo de la Historia del Arte

If you are into art, visiting the Museo de la Historia del Arte is what to do in Montevideo. It’s located in the undergrounds of Palacio Municipal, and has an interesting collection of original pieces and reproductions of famous ones coming from Egypt, Persia, Greece and Italy and even the Americas.

Go to the Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena

This good museum has a permanent collection of artifacts and documents that explain the life and traditions of the now extinct indigenous peoples of Uruguay. There also are exhibits about other indigenous groups in the Americas.

And to Museo Blanes

Located in Prado, this lovely museum is dedicated to Juan Manuel Blanes, Uruguay’s most famous painter. The paintings are beautiful, and so is the mansion where the museum is set. It’s a nice place to spend a couple of hours.

Explore the Botanical Garden

The Jardin Botanico is one of Montevideo attractions that you shouldn’t skip if you feel like walking in a place that is extremely peaceful and relaxing. It’s located in Prado.

Visit Fortaleza del Cerro

The name couldn’t be more clear: this fort was built on the highest hill (cerro) of Montevideo in the 19th century. It was used to protect the population and the harbor, and it now is a nice place to admire the views of the city – one of the nicest things to do in Montevideo.

day trip from Montevideo

Punta del Este is a nice place for a day trip from Montevideo

Go on a day trip to Colonia del Sacramento

To be fair, Colonia is so lovely and full of atmosphere (and tourists) that you should spend more than a day there. But if that is all you have, then go and appreciate this lovely colonial town with cobbled alleys, bright white buildings with colorful gardens, vintage cars and lovely restaurants.

Colonia is at 2 hours drive from Montevideo and there are several daily buses going there. A guided day trip may be the most efficient way to visit. These are the best guided tours to Colonia del Sacramento departing from Montevideo:

Or to Punta del Este

Punta del Este is one of the trendiest summer holiday destinations in South America – it’s where rich Argentines go spend their vacation. The beaches are nice, there are plenty of good restaurants, and there is an overall sophisticated yet chilled vibe.

It’s at just 2 hours drive from Montevideo, and there are regular buses. In case you want to go on a guided tour, these are the best ones departing from Montevideo:

Go on a wine tasting tour

You may not know it, but Uruguay has its very own wine production, with tannat grapes and wines being the star of the show. One of the nicest things to do in Montevideo is getting out of town for a wine tasting tour. These are some excellent wine tasting tours:

Uruguay

Montevideo is easy to explore

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Montevideo

When to visit Montevideo

Montevideo is great in the spring and summer months. It tends to get hot in the summer, but that’s also when carnival takes place so you may want to endure the heat and enjoy the show. Summer is also the time to enjoy the amazing beaches of Uruguay!

Where to stay Montevideo

There are some excellent accommodation options in Montevideo, with something suitable for all tastes and budgets. I have selected the best options for you:

Guided tours of Montevideo

To make the most of the city, you may want to join a guided tour. There are several good ones around. I have selected the best:

How to get to Montevideo

By plane

Montevideo is connected to other cities in South America and to North America and Europe (mostly Spain) by plane. Montevideo International Airport is at about 25 km from the city. To get to the city you can opt to get a bus, a private transfer or a taxi. The bus is the most convenient way – you can opt on any bus that says Montevideo; the bus stop is right outside the terminal.

Taxis are more expensive and often uncomfortable, so your best option if you don’t want to take the bus is to get a remis – a private transfer. It costs around $40 USD per car, so if you are traveling with friends it doesn’t end up being too expensive. You can book it here.

By ferry 

There are several daily ferries connecting Buenos Aires to Montevideo, run by either BuqueBus or Colonia Express. The fast ferry takes about 1.5 hours. The ride costs around $55 USD.

By bus

There are regular buses connecting Montevideo to Buenos Aires, Colonia del Sacramento, Punta del Este and Punta del Diablo. Buses in Uruguay are usually punctual, reliable and inexpensive – but you should book them in advance as it is a common means of transportation.

How to move around Montevideo

The best way to explore Montevideo is on foot, and save for the area of the harbor the city is quite safe. Alternatively, you can rent a bike – it’s particularly pleasant to bike along the rambla. Buses work well and they are a reliable and inexpensive way to reach the places that are a bit further from your hotel.

Other useful information

Montevideo is easy to explore, but a guide may come in handy for when you’re stuck with no wifi or for any time you feel you need more information. These are the ones I recommend:

As for any other trip, I recommend purchasing a good travel insurance for your trip to Uruguay. Make sure to read my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about Uruguay and South America

Most of those who visit Uruguay do so during longer trips to South America, usually pairing it with Argentina. Here are some posts you may find useful:

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Discover Montevideo attractions - via @claudiatavani

 

20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language

20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language

What are your tips for learning a new language? 

I regularly get asked this question, because picking up foreign languages is one of my very few talents. I always say it’s connected to our musical ear. You know how it works. Some can teach themselves to play the piano by ear; some are natural born singers; others are able to easily learn a new language and use their musical ear this way. I also use it to make imitations and come up with cartoon character voices of my own, but this is a different story!

Anyways, that’s me and – come to think of it, this skill actually comes rather handy with my job as I am often on the road and need to communicate to people who do not speak Italian or English.

Mind you though. It’s not like I travel to a new place, listen to locals talk among each other and automatically master the language. Even I have to study, practice and all the rest. The main difference is that I may be more prone to learning than others – and even then, please observe that I wrote that in Italic! 

My language learning experience goes a long way back. Other than Italian, my first language, I speak Sardinian (one of Italy’s minority languages) thanks to my mom and her family; English; Spanish; some French; enough German to get by; a few words of modern Greek (I can read it, so that helps!) and I am trying to learn Hebrew. That’s a tough one though, let me tell you! 

As you can see, I have lots of experience and that’s why I think I can tell you what really works and decided to put together a post with my top tips for learning a new language. Because now is a really good time to do this! 

Stuck at home? Make sure to read my posts “19 Productive Things To Do At Home When You Can’t Travel” and “Virtual Traveling: 13 Ways To Travel Without Traveling.”

best way to learn a language

20 Useful Tips For Learning A New Language

Define your objective

Defining your objective is key. This is one of my top tips for learning a new language. So ask yourself why you want to learn a new language. Because really, anything becomes easier when we find a purpose in it. For example, you may want to learn a new language because you want to expand your business to attract customers from a specific country. Or you may want to impress the guy you are having a relationship with (or his family). 

If you need to learn a language because you are traveling somewhere or want to impress your beau, you may want to focus on learning a few key phrases that will help you with him or during the trip – for example asking directions; ordering at a restaurant; whispering romantic things etc. That’s definitely more urgent than learning perfect grammar, which on the other hand is needed if you need to use the language for business purposes (and especially if you have to write it).

Pick a language you are passionate about

Human beings are interesting creatures. Tell them to do something, and chances are they will try to find any possible excuse not to. Invite them to follow their passion, and they will put their mind, body and soul in it and chances are they will succeed.

This is to say: it’s definitely easier to learn a language you are passionate about. So, one of my most important tips for learning a new language is to follow your passions.

For example, I have a real obsession for the landscapes of South America and love reading South American writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa (Peruvian Nobel Prize winner for literature) among many others, so it made sense to me to learn Spanish, and I hardly felt I was making an effort in the process. 

Are you passionate about Russian literature? Learn Russian! Do you want to read German philosophers? That’s your language! 

tips for learning a new language

Learn a language = appreciate a culture

Remember that language is a vehicle of culture

There is a wealth of literature that shows how language and communication help perpetuate and understand a culture, and that proves how, once a language disappears, a culture is destined to disappear too. What I mean to say is that, if you learn a foreign language, you are already a step ahead in appreciating a country or people’s culture, which will make your experience of visiting a place whole lot better. If this is not a good incentive, I don’t know what is!

Attend a course

You didn’t think I was going to say this, right? I didn’t want to put this first so not to put you off but… ladies and gentleman, the very best of all tips for learning a new language is to actually attend a course. Yep, you read that right. Even the most capable of us in learning languages have to do sit down, take classes, do homework and conversation. 

In general language courses can be classified into two main categories. Each of them has its advantages (and disadvantages). The kind of course you pick is really up to you. 

Online

One of the best tips for learning a new language is to enroll in an online course. There is a wealth of courses you can take out there which allow you to learn from the comfort of your home. In fact, you can do it from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection. It’s super convenient, really. 

Depending on your needs, you can sign up for a course that is more or less intense and count on a variety of ways to learn. Some courses even let you practice conversation via Skype and find you tutors to help your studies. All you have to do is look for the one that you think is most suitable to your needs and budget. 

In person

I am a huge fan of the old way so among my secret tips for learning a new language I have to include taking a language course in person. You see, I am a bit of a geek at heart so I love the act of actually walking into a classroom, seeing the same faces, sitting down, talking to the teacher, participating in group projects etc. I think I learned Spanish so swiftly thanks to a combination of a great teacher that was able to keep the class interested and motivated, and a fun group that I was looking forward to see each time.

You can find a good language school in pretty much any city, so it is just a matter of browsing the internet and see what’s available. 

language learning tips

Immerse yourself in a culture and you will learn the language

Travel

Fair enough, you can’t exactly do this now – but when the time to travel comes again, go for it. It’s one of my best tips for learning a new language. My Spanish was decent, but when I started roaming Central and South America and I was immersed in the language, I improved a lot – especially since most people in the remote villages of the Andes don’t speak a word of English. 

Go on a date

Ok so this is only applicable to those of you who are still single. But one of the coolest ways of practicing a foreign language is going on a date with someone who is a native and who doesn’t speak your language. If you like each other and keep dating, you will be learning the language really quickly. And if you have an argument, you can just assume you got lost in translation!

best way to learn a language

Talk to children! It’s a great way to learn a language

Learn common use words

One of my tips for learning a new language is to learn words that you are likely to use on an every day basis and learn them, make sentences with them, study just enough grammar to construct proper sentences and practice them. Sentences that start with “where is…;” “can I have…” or “how do I…” are likely to come in handy on an every day basis. Add a few other words of common use, the typical please, thank you, good morning, hello and goodbye and you will already have enough for a basic everyday conversation.

Do a bit every day

One of my favorite tips for learning a new language is to study a bit every day. It really is a matter of 15 to 30 minutes – do your homework, listen to a podcast, do some reading. It’s way better to do it this way than to spend a bunch of hours all on the same day – I did that mistake once, with a language I was trying to learn. It didn’t work – and I didn’t learn. 

Keep at it

Be stubborn! There is always a learning curve, with all languages. The first few weeks will be fun and easy, but as you move along the learning process, grammar will become harder, words more complicated and you may feel overwhelmed. The minute things start looking complicated, is when you’ll know you will be improving a lot and going from very basic skills to intermediate or even advanced.

The key is to keep at it. Once you pass that seemingly insurmountable peak, it will once again become easy and fun. Just take my word for it. 

Challenge yourself

If you feel like you are stuck in your learning curve, you need to set yourself a challenge. Most of us study a language up to a level where we can get by, perhaps understand close to 100% but speak poorly (that would be me in French, by the way). If you want to move forward, you have to set yourself a real challenge or commit to do something to improve.

For example, you could sign up for a big exam you will have to study for, if you want to pass – and remember, if you don’t pass the exam, you don’t get the certificate and the qualification that comes with it. If this isn’t a great incentive, I don’t know what is!

tips for learning a new language

Read a book in the language you want to learn

Netflix is your friend

One of my secret tips for learning a language is to watch a TV series or a show in the original language and with subtitles, also in the language. That’s why Netflix (but not only that) is your friend. You can watch a series, rewind, listen to a sentence over and over again matching the words you hear as they are pronounced to how they are written on the screen. I promise you it works. 

So are books

One of my favorite old school tips for learning a new language is to read books in the language they were written. I do this all the time to improve my Spanish and it works wonders. By reading a novel in its original language you learn new words by putting them in context; you improve your grammar by reading sentences the way they are meant to be construed and you appreciate the various nuances. 

Love reading? Make sure to check out my post 27 Great Books For Travelers.”

And music

True story: my ex boyfriend learned English exclusively because he wanted to be able to sing and understand Pink Floyd songs. 

Granted, many songs out there are in English or Spanish. But it’s worth scouting for artists that sing in the language you want to learn. Don’t know where to start? Google is your friend. Just key in “best songs in ” and a selection will pop up. The more you search the more you find. 

Let me give you a hand and suggest a few Italian artists that aren’t obnoxious (I refuse to even name them for fear their voice comes to my mind!): Mina is the best Italian singer of the 20th century; Gianna Nannini is a powerful mix of rock and drama; Nina Zilli one of the best voices of Italy; for something really classy and old school download Francesco De Gregori and Fabrizio de André – both have the best lyrics; Vinicio Capossela is irreverent and political – you will love him; Cesare Cremonini writes songs that are poem like.

Listen to podcasts

Another great resource to learn a language is podcasts. You don’t even have to listen to any language learning podcast in particular. Just select by language, pick a topic you are interested in, and start listening. If you are scouting for something in Spanish, I can recommend Radio Ambulante. It’s a podcast about mysteries across Latin America, with intriguing stories that you will have fun to follow. 

best way to learn a language

Lost in translation

Don’t try to translate

This is the biggest mistake you can do when learning a language, yet so tempting. You think of a sentence in your own language, try to translate it word for word in the language you are studying, and whatever you say makes little to no sense – especially if the languages are not even remotely similar. 

Obviously if you are a very beginner and know only a few words in the language you are studying, it will be hard to form sentences directly in said language. But still, try. The more you try, the easier it becomes. 

It’s all about the slang

One of my top tips for learning a new language is to learn some of its most colloquial expression and slang. If you can master a bit of slang, you can consider yourself fluent. However, this can be a bit tricky with languages that are spoken in different countries such as Spanish, because – say – Cuban slang is by no means similar to Argentine slang (which is actually more similar to Italian), or Mexican slang. There are plenty of resources online to learn slang. You may want to check out Fluentu. 

tips for learning a language

Laugh at your mistakes

Years and years ago (more than I care to remember), when I was still learning English, I was dating a guy from South Africa. I once told him I was fattening. I obviously meant to say that I was putting on weight, but he found it really amusing. We had to laugh at it. 

Want to hear another one? My mom ordered a stick with fries at a pub in Dublin. She was so eager to order herself, since she was taking English classes. The waiter looked at her with a puzzled look so I had to tell her – and we laughed so much. 

So, make a good not of this: laugh at your mistakes. This is one of the most important tips for learning a new language, because you will be making loads, you will be saying things that make no sense at all, and in some cases the things you are saying that make sense in a place, don’t make sense in another – for example, coche is car in Spain Spanish, but it means pig in Guatemalan Spanish. So if you say “coger el coche” it doesn’t really have the same meaning (ahemmmm!). 

Use your smartphone 

Technology always comes in handy when it comes to learning a language. Use your smartphone as a tool to learn. Download pocket dictionary apps and language learning apps. Duolingo is a good language learning app. Memrise is perfect for vocabulary. And if you are stuck for a word, Mr Google will help: either use the translate tool or write the word you are looking for in your language and then click on images until something relevant comes up. Show it to the person you are talking to and learn a new word that way.

Remember that different cultures communicate differently

You all know I am Italian – if there is something we are good at here is communicating in non-verbal ways. Call it body language, gestures, facial expressions: we got it. But different cultures and different people aren’t as good at it. Fail to pronounce a word with a perfect accent and the person you are talking to will not understand you – and in some cases they will actually pretend that they don’t (though you can never really tell).

Don’t let this put you off! Verbal communication consists in talking and in listening, so if someone doesn’t understand you it’s as much your fault as theirs. And just as well, if someone talks to you in a foreign language and you can’t understand them, perhaps it is their fault for not being able to talk in a more understandable way? 

Practice anywhere you can 

Last but definitely not least in my list of tips for learning a foreign language, I recommend practicing at each and every occasion you can find. 

I never miss an opportunity to speak Spanish. If I realize that a person I am talking to is a native Spanish speaker, I immediately switch to Spanish, ask where they are from, and take it from there. Do the same – and you may even end up making new friends.

You can find language conversation groups in each university city – there will be exchange students that will attend those groups so that is your chance to practice even when you can’t travel.

Do you have any more tips for learning a new language that you want to add to this list?

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Find the most useful tips for learning a language - via @clautavani