The Best Summer Ever | Spending time in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

View from hostel balcony
As part of my summer series, I am guiding you along the path that I took earlier on this year through Italy! If you have not already read my introductory or Milan posts then go check them out now! 

The next destination on our journey was Cinque Terre, located in the Cinque Terre National Park, on the beautiful Ligurian coastline. 'Cinque Terre' in Italian translates as 'The Five Lands', and it is composed of five special villiages which have radically become popular tourist destinations, even though most of its visitors cannot pronounce its name; 'chinkweh terrreh'. The five villages are only accessible by boat, train and pathways which contributes to its rustic attraction.
Our lengthy train ride from Milan took us all along the shimmering rocky coastline of northern Italy on a beautiful day. With the sun blazing through the window for the whole journey, I had a feeling I wouldn't need the raincoat which Milan required, and we were soon to be whipping out the bikinis!

We arrived at the first of the five towns called Riomaggiore, where we had booked a hostel for four nights with a company called Cinque Terre Holidays. We had read reviews about the hostel that warned us about the prompt closure of the company's reception at 4pm each day, so at about 3:45 we were legging it up the hill through the village so to not miss check-in. After a stressful, sweaty and strenuous drag up the hill, two very out of breath English girls finally found the office and were greeted by the opposite of a happy, short, fat and welcoming Italian man. This guy was pretty scary and had no time for the fact that I was panting and sweating all over the place. I attempted some small talk in Italian to get him on our good side, and he simply replied how he hates money and tourists.... Bit of a bad job to be in then, mate!
After waiting about an hour for the 'porter' (if you can call him that), we were shown to our room, which turned out to be over t h r e e h u n d r e d steps away, up a mountain. Me, being the lovely friend that I am, gave Louise my small suitcase in exchange for hers as we lugged them up some questionable steps. Finally, we reached the hostel and I seriously felt like I had ran a marathon, or at least I looked like it. We were greeted by some lovely Australian travellers who gave us the low-down on the area which we appreciated.

Our hostel was more of an apartment with two big rooms, a living room, bathroom, kitchen and a balcony with the most incredible view. Most of our hostel companions were either American or Australian for the first few nights and then we had two lovely Italian girls staying in our room on the last night and we had a great time with all of them. The Italians left us a cute note when they left! 

Leaving note from Deborah and Valeria
We had about four days to explore the five towns, which is definitely ample time to do it in. We even came across people who visited them all in one day! We left that to the hardcore backpackers who didn't mind waking up before 10am, unlike us. We had heard from other travellers that the town of Corniglia was a little boring, or at least it would be the one to miss if you didn't have time for it. So we visited the other towns of Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Riomaggiore. Each town has its own little special something, so it was fun to explore these and try to find some spots less-discovered.

Each day I would wake up feeling a little less than fresh after spending the night before (every night) indulging in red wine and crostini with a pinch of salt and the best olive oil I've ever tasted. After pottering around in our lovely hostel, we would finally make it down the million steps to the main part of town in search of food. One day we discovered this lovely fresh pasta shop where you can choose your pasta shape and sauce and they cook it in front of you, all for €5! So, as normal people do, we had this for breakfast and dinner on more than one occasion... It was SO GOOD. On other days we grabbed a freshly made pizza and went to the beach front and sat in the beautiful sunshine and had pranzo.

Pasta fresca

Nomnomnomnomnom FRESH PASTA
After our craving for cheesy carbs subsided, we would set off on the train to visit the neighbouring towns. Now. I would like to warn anybody who suffers from claustrophobia to re-think using these trains in August. A journey that should take no more than 10 minutes can take up to 50 minutes- as we found out on Ferragosto (a public holiday celebrated each year where EVERY ITALIAN IN THE WORLD goes to the beach for the day.) We experienced a little moment on the train on this busy day where waaayyy too many people were trying to get onto an already packed train. One fiery Italian definitely did not appreciate being stopped from getting on the train and almost swang at the poor tourist who was only speaking for the rest of us poor buggars, sharing sweat and God know what else with every other passenger..
BUSY station!
Monterosso al Mare is the only town with a proper sandy beach, as the rest of them are more rocky/ cliff edges. Again, we made the mistake of visiting this already highly demanded beach on Ferragosto so we really struggled to find a place to settle that wasn't on an old Nonna's lap. Eventually we were able to put our bags down and get into the sparkly awesomeness of the ocean. This decision almost led us, but especially Louise, to an early death. The sea was really choppy that day and we thought it would be a great idea to go out past the nasty shallow waves and simply bob along with the tide. Or not. If anyone on that beach that day hadn't already seen enough, they were treated to the sight of me and Louise getting dragged around the undercurrent and getting washed up on the shore in not a very presentable state... Any girl who has worn a bikini and been strewn across the beach will know what I mean. But the best bit about it, was seeing the sheer panic and fear on a now sunglass-less Louise's face as she was bleeding from her scuffed knees with a little bit/ a lot of escaped snot down her chin. This absolutely brilliant memory will remain with us for a very long time, i'm sure.
Il mare
One lovely day was spent in Vernazza with our new American pals Erin, Vicky and Katie from the hostel. We ate pizza, swam in the sea and walked along some beautiful cliff walkways, as well as simply having a good laugh with these awesome girls. Vernazza has some of the most beautiful views out of the five villages and what's a better way to view them than by laying on the ocean walkway in front of them for half the day in the sunshine? It was pure heaven! We also went for a walk along the edge of the cliff and saw the most beautiful view, and it was lovely to share the moment with our new buddies!
Bella Vernazza
Bella Vernazza
La Spezia is not within the 5 towns but it is just outside Riomaggiore, but still within the National Park. One day, Louise and I became a little confused on the train and somehow ended up there so we had a little look around. It is a shame that visitors to Cinque Terre do not go to La Spezia because it really is a lovely place! We actually preferred it to some of the 5 towns because we had a LOT more space there, with less tourists and many more things to do! Including shopping ;) So, if you're in the area I would really suggest popping into La Spezia. We spent a fair while sitting in the sun at the harbour watching the odd boat coming in or out, and reading our books. It was nice to relax in peace :)
La Spezia Harbour
So, that's some of my story from Cinque Terre. I'd like to thank my Italian teacher Ugo for the recommendation to go there because it really was a pleasure! When we were in other parts of Italy after our visit here, we came across many travellers who said they were planning to go there and it was a great feeling to say we had already visited it. It is definitely a place to visit during your lifetime and you even have my recommendation now! 

I'll leave it here with some more pictures from our time in Cinque Terre. Keep your eyes peeled for my next post on our time in Sanremo!

New American pals


What a view....

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

A presto!
Olivia xx

The Best Summer Ever | A Short Stay in Milan

"I'm flying, Jack!"
EasyJet lovin'
As I mentioned in my introductory post this is part of a series of posts all about my wonderful summer trip abroad. This is the first of the series so where's better to start than the first city in Italy that I visited? After a slightly rocky flight, two pale and very excited English girls emerged into the Italian sunshine on August 11th in the rich and commercial city of Milano.


Anxious Louise doesn't like flying!
Like the tourists that we were, we had printed off sheets and sheets from the hostel which gave some very unhelpful directions to the hotel. It states that when we arrived, we had to find a bus that would take us from the airport to the hotel which in itself was harder than it sounds! Once we were on an extremely sweaty bus that looked like it might take us in the right direction, I managed to find myself a nice spot to stand in with my two huge suitcases. Unfortunately, that spot happened to be the dodgy floor bit that moved every time the bus turned, and I ended up falling into many grumpy Italians who were not having any of it!

Once out of that nightmare bus episode, my friend and travelling companion Louise and I were stood like too little lost puppies on the edge of a very busy main road. There was only one thing for it: spending £££ on 3G to find the hotel, which turned out to be right round the corner but took us about an hour and a half to find in the midday heat. One word: sweaty.

Beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Our hotel, appropriately named RossoVino,  was very similar to a hostel, but it had private rooms. It was very reasonably priced and it provided a good base for us to explore the city. Each day we got the bus into the centre of Milan where you can find many beautiful sights to see, shops to cry in because you can't afford anything and possibly the best ice cream of your life (that is, until you go to Florence...). Now, I'm no historian, but anyone can appreciate the beauty of the many stunning pieces of architecture on display all around the city- my favourite was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II as well as the mind-blowing Duomo.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Amazing floor in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Unfortunately we didn't get to go inside the Duomo because firstly, it meant waiting outside in the scorching sunshine in the main piazza, and secondly because I had nothing to cover my bare legs and shoulders to be respectable enough to enter God's house. We saw plenty of other churches on the trip that almost made up for it though, I think....


Aside from historical sights to see, we did enjoy many other sights. These mostly consisted of: the beautiful Abercrombie models who stand in the doorway of the shop; the best pistachio ice cream of my life, free red wine in a soup bowl, and more Abercrombie models. The ice cream was from a little shop in the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele  II and I highly recommend it if you are ever passing by! One evening, Louise and I paid a little visit to ice cream heaven, then took a stroll through the Galleria out to the piazza of the Duomo. Some men were busking so beautifully and romantically that I remember thinking to myself "if I die in this moment, with this ice cream and this sound of the music and this beautiful view... I'll be happy." That's how damn good it was. 

This dude was awesome.
And then there's the Abercrombie models, whose golden torsos I longed to stroke SO BADLY but Louise wouldn't let me because it's "not politically correct". Thanks for that, Lou.. The free wine came about because a restaurant we ate at gave us a voucher for free wine so we went back the next night! It was quite a treat, to not spend money on something in such an expensive city. And also, because it was served in a bowl!!? 
Best pistachio ice cream ever
Louise and her yummy vino e pane

Fizzy vino in a bowl

We spent the rest of the time exploring back streets, pizzerias, eating some questionable picnics on our hotel room bed, getting very lost and attempting to flirt with the cute receptionist. Thinking about it now, we definitely did not make the most of Milan. It rained for one or two days which put a stop to some of our plans which was a shame. We also wanted to check out the nightlife but were a little worried for our safety so we didn't attempt it! However, it was a nice place to visit to start off our trip and we managed to tick off some vital sights from our list.

Yes. Yes that is a whole cooked chicken. #picnic

I must admit, when in Milan, I didn't really get the warm fuzzy feeling that I am used to getting when I visit Italy, and I reckon it's because I just loooove the countryside and rustic Italy so much. I hope that I can return to Milan and find some nice rustic areas a bit further outside perhaps, so that it isn't a no-go for the future! I'm sure there are some of these said areas; if you know of any then please let me know! Also make sure to follow me on Bloglovin for updates- the link is in the side bar :)

Pizza for breakfast 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my short stay in Milano. Keep your eyes peeled for my next post, in which I will tell you all about my trip to Cinque Terre which I promise you I am much more enthusiastic about because it was such an amazing place!

A presto!

Olivia x

DIY Scented Soy Candle

A thoughtful Christmas gift

As the winter months are now upon us, it is cold, wet and miserable so I thought it would be a nice idea to express my crafty side and attempt to make my own candles that help create that much-loved snuggly atmosphere when its dreadful outside.

My friend told me about 'Handmade Christmas' which is where you make all or as many presents as possible that you intend to give to people. I think this is a lovely idea for many reasons; firstly I have always preferred thoughtful gifts that perhaps have no monetary value. In my opinion, there's just something lovely about receiving a gift that a person simply really wanted to give you, with lots of feeling and thought. Second, it can be really enjoyable to get stuck into a project or a task of making something for someone, knowing how much they will appreciate it! And finally, I personally don't enjoy dragging myself around the shops  looking for and spending unnecessary amounts on a present that the person in mind doesn't need, or want, for that matter.

So, my first idea for Handmade Christmas was to make my own candles. I had been inspired to do this by a friend who showed me her attempt at this, and I loved it! I think it's a great gift idea because you can tailor the candles to particular people's wants, for example by changing the scent, colour and the container that the candle is in (e.g glass jar, ceramic pot, teacup etc).

With the whole 'keeping the costs down' thing in mind, I sourced my materials online and from charity shops. Ebay is a brilliant site to find competitive prices for the wax, and I found my soy wax and suitable wicks for about £7. That was 1kg of wax with 20 free wicks included. I got my scent from a little hippy shop in town for about £1.50 but these are also online for very good prices and with a huge range of scents! The rest of my materials were found in the local charity shop and were all very cheap. So far so good!

I have read many ways you can make candles at home and I pretty much used this knowledge as well as a little bit of fluke to make mine, so I'll tell you how I managed it!

·         Wax (I used soy but paraffin is also cheap and easy to use)
·         Saucepan
·         Glass bowl
·         Stirrer (of some sort)
·         Scent (optional)
·         Wick
·         Sellotape
·         Jar/pot for candle
·         Hair grips (or anything else you have to hold the wick upright)

Step 1
·         Create your double boiler by putting boiling water in the saucepan with the glass bowl on top of it

Step 2
·         Measure out your wax. Do this by pouring the wax into your desired container for the candle, and then repeat. So double the amount of hard wax will be just right once it is melted in the container. Put the wax into the glass bowl and gently heat.

Step 3
·         Position your wick in the container. It needs to be sturdy so when you pour the wax in it doesn't dislodge and bend. I used sellotape to stick mine to the bottom and it worked pretty well!

Step 4
·         Stir the wax occasionally until it is totally clear and really hot- some people recommend you measure the temperature but realistically, who has a thermometer hanging around for this purpose? I certainly don't... So just keep on heating it for a while after its gone clear.

Step 5
·         Take off the heat and then put in your scent. I'm still tampering with the amount of scent I need to add- and I think the measurements differ depending on the scent and its strength. So just throw it in until it is quite strong because some of the scent will evaporate. Give it a stir.

Step 6
·         Pour the melted wax into the container up until about 1.5cm from the top. It should be just the right amount of wax because of your previous professional hard wax measuring.

Step 7
·         You might need to secure the wick  so that it stands up straight whilst the wax cools. I panicked and used hair grips because it was all I had in the moment that I realised I wasn't prepared for the wax to move/bend so much!

Step 8
Let the wax cool. It only takes a few hours so be patient and keep your fingers out of there!

You can decorate the candle as you wish, perhaps with ribbon and gift tags if it isn't for you! I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful, and perhaps go and make your own candles as a thoughtful gift this Christmas J

A presto!
Olivia x