Kenzie’s travel guide to southern Europe
By Mackenzie Mason, Staff Writer
I’ve been quite on the move recently as I continue my travels on my solo trip through Europe. After travelling throughout Greece for a month and doing ALL the island hopping, I said goodbye to the amazing friends I made and took a plane to Napoli (aka Naples) to explore Italy.
But I missed my friends too much. So, after eating and drinking my way around Italy for three weeks, I went to meet them in Barcelona, Spain. Together, we explored the beauty Spain has to offer and partied in Barcelona for Halloween.
This last month has been a blast and I’m here to talk about the things I did in the southern part of Europe, mainly in Italy and Spain, that you should do too.
Do a Limoncello Tour in Sorrento
After a few days walking around Napoli in the rain and visiting historical sites like Pompei, I made my way to Sorrento to explore the Amalfi Coast. I highly recommend visiting this beautiful area of Italy, but I specifically recommend tasting some limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, in the birthplace of limoncello — Sorrento.
A group of friends and I went to Villa Beatrice Sorrento, a family-owned lemon, orange and olive orchard located high above the town of Sorrento that offers gorgeous views of Sorrento and the sea beyond. Marino, the co-owner of the orchard and villa on the property, personally gave us our tour around his orchard, and despite it being the end of the season, we were lucky enough to see the last harvest hanging on the trees ready to be picked.
After the tour and learning how limoncello is made (by steeping lemon peels in ethanol or vodka), we went back to the villa and were seated on the patio in front of said gorgeous view to sample their own brand of limoncello. If you end up in Sorrento, you need to have this experience.
Swim in Positano
While Positano seems like a posh place to wine and dine with your significant other at the fanciest places in town, I didn’t have the budget for that — or the boyfriend. I decided to grab some gelato and walk down towards Spiaggia del Fornillo. The walk along the coast is absolutely stunning.
Now I’m not sure what it’s like in peak season with no travel restrictions in place, but right before Spiaggia del Fornillo there is a smaller secluded beach. As everyone was at the beach directly in Positano, there was no one at the smaller beach and I had the whole area to myself facing onto crystal clear blue water. It was a beautiful moment of relaxation and reflection for me.
Taste Tuscany Wine
One of my favourite ways of immersing myself into new cultures is through food and drinks, if you can’t tell already. While I was driving and camping my way through the Italian countryside to get to Firenze (aka Florence), I stopped at Pietraserena Winery di Arigoni, just outside of San Gimignano, Italy. This vineyard was also family-owned which always elevates the experience for me.
We toured around the different products they had growing and learned how each specific type of grape needed to be produced in different ways. After an interesting and beautiful tour, we got to taste four different wines all varying in age and flavours. The accompanying charcuterie and bruschetta was a plus, too.
Pro-tip: look at Groupon for certain experiences, like the tastings I’ve suggested. These were more than 50 per cent off on Groupon, which is how I’ve been able to have these experiences on a budget!
Visit St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
In Rome, everyone needs to go to the Vatican City. I’m not religious, but I could — and did — get lost in the museum and the Basilica all day. I’ve been to Rome and to the Vatican before, but it honestly never disappoints and each time I go, I find things I didn’t see before. Something I didn’t do the first time I came was go up to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and man, am I glad I did this time.
Getting into St. Peter’s Basilica is free, so spending €8 (CAD $11.50) to go up the 551 steps to the top of the Basilica is completely worth it. You get to see the intricate detailing of the dome’s interior and a 360 degree view of Rome from the exterior. It’s something not everyone does, but it’s a must on my list.
Take in the Piazzale Michelangelo view
This is definitely a basic recommendation while you’re in Florence, but Florence makes my heart feel full and I think this is the best view of it. It’s a bit of a hike to reach the top of the hill that Piazzale Michelangelo rests on, but the view from there is totally worth it.
My recommendation? Grab a bottle of wine and a take-out pizza and watch the sky turn to beautiful shades of pink, orange and purple over the stunning views of Florence.
Five blue trail paths connect the quaint and colourful villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre region. But since it’s off-season, the easier four out of five blue trail paths were closed. The only path that was still open connected Vernazza to Corniglia and vice versa. Going from Vernazza to Corniglia is the easier route, as if you go from Corniglia to Vernazza there is more of an incline to climb up at the beginning.
This hike lasts approximately two hours, if you were like us and stopped halfway through for an Aperol Spritz break. The breathtaking views of the beautiful Ligurian Sea smashing against the steep cliff sides is a view living in my mind rent-free and the picturesque pastels of Corniglia in the distance doesn’t hurt either. If you visit Cinque Terre, you have to do a hike between the villages. You won’t regret it.
Watch the sunset at Bunkers del Carmel
Barcelona is in my top favourite cities that I visited on my trip so far.
My days consisted of walking around the city, enjoying tapas, sangria, more tapas and savouring the last of my beach days before I moved on to enjoy fall in France.
One of my favourite things I did (twice) while in Barcelona was to watch the sunset at the Bunkers del Carmel which offers a 360 degree view of Barcelona featuring the infamous Basílica de la Sagrada Família.
You can either walk all the way up the hill, which takes about 30 minutes or you can take a bus up half way and walk the rest.
Either way, it’s a bit of a climb but it’s worth it for what’s at the top.
Grab some sangria and snacks from a supermarket and make the trek to check off another box on your bucket list.