Category Archives: My Travels

A Budget Guide to Tuscany

Many people assume that travelling in Italy has to be an inherently expensive business, and Tuscany in particular has an especially pricey reputation. The fact that it is one of the most culturally rich locations in Europe, where luxury boutiques and restaurants serving world renowned cuisine are situated in the shadows of some of the most famous and charming architecture that exists anywhere in the world, nestled amidst iconic rolling hills, means that Tuscany is certainly a place where it’s easy to spend a lot of money.

But there are plenty of options for dining and recreation, and plenty of villas for rent in Tuscany for those looking to explore the region on a considerably tighter budget. And don’t be fooled into thinking that the only way to see Tuscany without breaking the bank is to avoid the most famous sights and attractions and stick to the less well known and travelled paths.

Whilst there are a great number of smaller towns and villages that are untouched by tourism and offer a glimpse into the ‘real’ Tuscan way of life, and whilst visiting these places serves the dual purpose of giving you an authentic experience of Tuscany and keeping your costs to a minimum, it’s also very possible to see all the same world famous sights as the big-spending tourists at a fraction of the cost. When you have the right information and a good plan, this magical, highly desirable destination can be made entirely accessible – whatever your budget.

 

Eat Like a Local

 

In the modern world, lifestyles and eating patterns are increasingly similar regardless of location. But for many Italians, the traditional ‘dolce vita’ is more than just a cultural stereotype: it is a much loved and cherished way of life, and it remains a working reality.

 

Whilst there are many exceptions, particularly amongst commuting workers and during the hot Italian summers, many Italians still eat the main meal of the day during the long ‘pausa pranzo’ (lunch break) in the middle of the day. And when travelling on a budget in Tuscany, you can benefit from joining them.

 

Whilst eating establishments are notoriously expensive in the evenings, when most tourists choose to dine, a great number of restaurants in Italy offer fixed price menus in the middle of the day. It’s entirely possible to find quality meals for under €15, and if you choose to dine at a pizzeria you’ll be able to enjoy truly authentic pizza and pasta for even less. So filling up during a long, late lunch doesn’t just allow you to experience the relaxation and refinement of the Tuscan lifestyle first hand – it also saves you vast sums of money!

 

If you’re renting a villa or apartment, you could also buy quality, fresh ingredients from the local market and cook fresh meals at home at lunch time. It’s what the Italians do, and it could save you huge amounts of money.

 

Sample Street Food

 

If you do decide to save money by eating your main meal in the middle of the day, you’ll probably still want something to eat at supper time. Fortunately, Tuscany offers a wide range of options when it comes to finding delicious and affordable street food for maximum convenience and minimum expense. Schiacciata is a baked flatbread with olive oil and salt which can be filled with meats, cheeses and vegetables and is available throughout the region at kiosks and bakeries. Slices of freshly baked pizza are also available at very reasonable prices, so you can rest assured that you’ll be able to experience a real taste of Italy regardless of your budget.

 

Explore on Foot

 

When you only have a limited time to see all the sights you want to see in a given area and you’re keen to have as many new experiences as possible, it is tempting to spend lots of money on taxis and car hire in order to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, regardless of whether you’re in the town or the country, Tuscany is simply better experienced on foot.

 

Whether it’s the bustling street life and the characteristic architecture of the big towns like Florence, Siena and Lucca or the quaint and beautiful hills, orchards and vineyards of the ancient Tuscan countryside, the region’s most resplendent sites and memorable attractions are all best experienced at a slow walking pace outside beneath the warmth of the Italian sun.

 

You’d be surprised how much art and architecture you miss when you travel by vehicle from one gallery or museum to another, but it’s all available to be enjoyed absolutely free when you choose to walk through the Renaissance streets, soaking up the exciting vibes and savouring the smells of beautiful, authentic Italian cookery pouring out of the Ristorantes and Pizzerias.

 

In the countryside, the rural walkways of the Via Francigena allow visitors to explore a a landscape which seems to have been trapped in time for hundreds of years. The ‘road to France’ has been used as a route to Rome for people from all walks of life since antiquity, and it remains largely untouched by modern industry and technology. The unique experience of exploring an area of countryside where time seems to stand still is completely free, and it’s one of the best ways to get a real feel for the Tuscan way of life.

 

Use Public Transport

 

Whilst it’s best to go around on foot when exploring different towns, villages and districts, the question of how to get from one to the next still remains – and it’s this question which frequently causes many tourists to spend large sums of money on hire cars.

 

Instead, consider using the public transport system that is in place in the region. Not only is it considerably cheaper and less stressful, it also gives you an opportunity to experience the daily lives of the locals – ensuring that at every moment of your trip, you’re being entirely immersed in the culture and lifestyle of this incredible region while simultaneously saving money!

 

Tuscany is never going to be the cheapest place to visit and explore, but that shouldn’t stop you from going. With some background knowledge and the right plan in place, you can enjoy absolutely everything the region has to offer at a fraction of what you’d expect.

It’s never too late to travel. Here’s why…

If you have ever thought that your days of traveling are over or that you have missed the chance to see the world because of your age, it is time that you started to change your opinion. Traveling has no age limit, there are no requirements on how much experience you have or may not have and the simple fact is that if you have the desire to travel, then you need to do it.

Across  the world there are thousands of people on the road just like you who are perhaps there later years or have decided to travel years after the ‘normal’ travel age. If you need any more convincing, here is exactly why it is never too late to travel.

Parties and Budget Living

When most people think of travel or backpacking, they think of the youngsters out there who are living on a shoestring and spending their evenings partying. A certain romance has been attached to this way of living and many are fooled into thinking that it is the only way to travel. In truth, these youngsters miss 90% of what traveling is about when it comes to exploring other countries and cultures and they arrive home with nothing but stories of hair raising adventures and hangovers. You have the chance to really see the world without living this lifestyle, remember that just because you go to a country, does not mean you have lived it.

Better Appreciation

As you age, you gain a finer appreciation of the differences between people from different countries, you have a greater interest for their history and their culture and you will actually find yourself in a far better position than someone younger than yourself, to relate to cultures around the world.If you have kids for example then you are likely to look on parents from around the world in a different way that you would have done when you were younger. This higher level of appreciation means that you can enjoy traveling far more.

Opening Your Mind

It can be easy to get stuck in your ways after a certain amount of time and stop challenging yourself to be creative and look past the norm. Whilst traveling opens up young people’s minds it will also do the same for you and you will come home with renewed vigor and a very different take on the world than before you left.

Health

Believe it or not, traveling is good for your health and this who go traveling have been shown to live a little bit longer than those who do not do so frequently. When you travel, you spend much more time outdoors and much more things doing exercise such as walking, hiking and other activities which you may take part in. Travel can also help you with infections as you will be exposing yourself to different types of bacteria which your body can use to strengthen your immune system in the future.

If you thought it was to late to travel, think again!

5 Tips for traveling solo as a female

If you are considering solo travel as a female but you have been put off by the scaremongering and horror stories which you may have heard, it is time to rethink your approach. Let’s not sugarcoat it though, traveling as a female on your own is unfortunately very different to traveling as a male and there are additional precautions which you need to take.

Thankfully, in over 10 years of traveling solo, I have never ran into any real trouble and I like to think that this is because of the smart and sensible approach which I have always had. If you are thinking about going traveling on your own, here are 5 top tips to take with you.

Communication

The first step is to make sure that someone back home always knows where you are and when. Make sure that before you travel that a family member or friend has your itinerary and that you check in with them as you leave and arrive at your destination. This may strip away some of the freedom element that travel gives you but it will make sure that you can stay safe, and that if you aren’t, someone will be quick to realize it.

Stay in Groups

If you are worried that you may be in danger or even if you feel slightly uneasy in a particular place, make sure that you tag on to, or at least stay near, bug groups of people. Something bad is far less likely to happen if you are in big groups and doing so will discourage anyone who was perhaps looking to cause you harm.

Dress Smart

I don’t agree at all with the “she was attacked because of the way that she was dressed” opinion, but it does make sense to review how you are dressed depending on where you are. For example, I would never walk through the middle of Calcutta wearing a short dress and plunging neckline as I know that the men there see this as an invitation. The key to dressing abroad is to try your best to blend in, the more that you stand out, the more of a target you become.

Always Know Where You Are Going

Before you set off for a new location, make sure that you know exactly how to get there as nothing screams victim more than you standing on a street corner with a map in your hand. What you are looking for when you travel is to become one of the crowd as often as possible and you should know exactly where you are going at all times. IF you do get stuck, head into a coffee shop bathroom or something similar and have a quick check of your map, whatever you do, don’t do so in public.

Hotel Salvation

Make sure that your hotel is not in a sketchy area or and isolated location before you book. Equally if you are heading to a city which is potentially dangerous, don’t be frightened to spend a little extra on getting a nice and secure hotel. The hotel could prove to be your sanctuary if things get dangerous and you will be thankful that you spent the extra.

Don’t worry too much about traveling alone, whilst there are dangers, being smart will keep you away from them.

Traveling in your 40s, why it’s the best time!

Please don’t ever think that you are too old to travel just because you are in your forties, I once thought that and I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I speak about travel I am not talking about a 2 week break to get some sunshine and dip in the sea, I mean real travel, seeing new cultures, new sights and new countries.

Having traveled as both a youngster and someone in their forties, I can honestly say that traveling at the age which I am now, 46, is the most fun that I have ever had and the youngsters housed envy me, not the other way around. If you are over 40 and think that traveling isn’t for you, here is where you are wrong.

Higher Appreciation

When you travel as a kid you don’t really grasp the importance of what you are seeing and things become more about the party element and the freedom of travel, rather than the discovery of new and exciting things. I have never been one to enjoy museums but as someone who is older, I can appreciate these things much more. I also feel as though I can relate to more things that I see than when I was younger and this is a real benefit to traveling as an older person.

More Money

When you are young, money doesn’t really mean very much to you and the consequence of this is that you invariably do not have much of it. I was always of the opinion that experiences were worth more than money was and whilst I still believe this, I also understand that it takes money to have such experiences. I have found that traveling in my forties is much easier because I have more money with which to travel and enjoy new experiences whereas in the past I would have had to say no to many opportunities.

Healthier

It doesn’t matter who you are or what kind of life you have lived, once you get over forty, your body just isn’t the same anymore and it loves nothing more than reminding you of this fact each day. I have found however, that since I have been traveling, I always feel fitter and healthier when I return than I did before I left. When you travel you are almost always on the go and this really helps the body to feel good, hit the road in your forties and you will feel like a new person when you return.

Less Risk

Although the odd scrape or two does make for a great travel story, I prefer to live a life without risk these days and that means that fewer things can go wrong on the road. When things go wrong on the road it either ends up costing you more money or you end up in the doctor’s surgery. Thankfully I am a bit smarter now than I used to be and this means that I avoid such problems because of my mature and risk averse nature.

Don’t feel bad that you are forty, embrace it and hit the road!