Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia: Info + Tips for Puglia’s Most Beautiful Beach [Italy]

Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia: Info + Tips for Puglia’s Most Beautiful Beach [Italy]

South Italy’s Puglia has always been a popular destination for Italians but it has been receiving international attention for the last 3-4 years. There are many reasons why one should visit Puglia, and the beaches are an important factor, especially THIS particular one. 

The stunning Sant’Andrea beach in Puglia, Italy

Looks familiar? Well, this is usually the cover picture for most of the Puglia travel articles on media. Good news – the pictures don’t lie at all, this place is simply mind-blowing.

If you are in touch with me on Instagram, then you surely know that I spent a month in Puglia, South Italy. Most of that time was spent in Salento. Wondering what’s Salento all about?

Puglia is often called the heel of Italy’s boot because that’s exactly how it looks on the map. Salento is the bottom-most point of that heel.

Out of that one entire month in Salento, if there’s one place that will forever stay etched in my mind as the most spectacular place in every way, it is Sant’Andrea – both the beach and the rock formations. I did visit a lot of beaches during my one month in Salento, and I think Sant’Andrea is the most beautiful beach in Puglia.

Sant’Andrea Puglia, Italy – Panorama

Before we go further, I’d like to tell you that this area can be divided into the following parts:

  • The Rock Formations of Sant’Andrea (I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea) – 5-10 minutes from the parking place
  • The Sandy Beach (Spiaggia della Punticeddha) – 5-10 minutes from the parking place
  • The Rocky Beach (Torre Sant’Andrea) – Depends on which part you want to go to.

This isn’t official segregation, but something I have made to help you. I couldn’t find a lot of English articles before visiting and I didn’t realize that there’s so much to see and experience here before visiting. There is a lot more beyond these three segregations but I didn’t end up visiting further.

The Rock Formations of Sant’Andrea (I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea)

If we talk about beaches with stunning arches and rock formations, what are the places that come to your mind? Most likely France’s Etretat, Portugal’s Lagos, Germany’s Rugen Island, Thailand’s Phra Nang Cave beach but somehow Puglia’s name never comes up. Maybe it is a good thing! 

The Arche and Rock Formations of Sant’Andrea – I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea – Puglia

I have visited most of the places that I have listed above but for me Italy’s Sant’Andrea was beyond anything I had ever seen in terms of scale and magnificence. 

Expected to see massive arches, lagoons, towers, and crazy rock formations. There are also tower-like rocky islands that emerge out of the blue-green water.

The Sandy Beach (Spiaggia della Punticeddha)

The Sandy Beach at Sant’Andrea Puglia – Spiaggia della Punticeddha – Puglia, Italy

Sant’Andrea’s rock formations are famous, but the sandy beach will surprise you. It isn’t big but it is lovely since it has rock formations on all the sides. This beach is called Spiaggia della Punticeddha – that’s what you need to put on Google Maps to find it.

The sand on Punticeddha beach – Spiaggia della Punticeddha is very soft and light. The water is clear and very blue, so it feels unreal. The beauty of the rocks around will take your breath away but the best part of the rock formations can be viewed if you swim further away or climb towards the tower area.

The Rocky Island at Sant’Andrea Puglia – Spiaggia della Punticeddha

There is also a small island of rocky formation that you can swim to from Spiaggia della Punticeddha. If you are here with small children then get a floaty, so that you can take them with you till there.

Spiaggia della Punticeddha gets crowded with families in the summer, because that’s the only part of this entire area that’s safe for children. Try to reach here early if you want to have at least some area to yourself.

The Rocky Beach (Torre Sant’Andrea)

The Stunning Rocky beach at Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia

Just between the Sandy beach (Spiaggia della Punticeddha) and the rock formations (I Faraglioni di Sant’Andrea), there is a rocky beach. This Rocky beach isn’t just one beach but has several small segments and each is better than the other.

The Rocky beach at Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia

The parts that are easy to get to are obviously not so empty but not even half as crowded as the sandy beach that I talked about in the above section.

There are parts that are not very easy to get to, and for me the water looked much clearer there. You can climb, or you can try swimming to that area in order to reach it. 

Tips for visiting Sant’Andrea Puglia

Get Your Climbing Shoes 

In order to visit the most lovely spots here, you have to climb a little. The climb isn’t steep and was also done by my 2.5 year old girl. 

Make sure you wear proper shoes. If you lose balance and fall, you can seriously hurt yourself here because the rocks are hard and not smooth.

San’t Andrea – Puglia’s Coastline – South Italy

If you’re planning on cliff jumping, then waterproof shoes help. You will find “swimming shoes” for just 5 euros in most of the small beach towns in Puglia. Of course the price will rise as you move to more touristy areas.

EXPLORE Around

For me, the first spot of Sant’Andrea that we saw was gorgeous and I didn’t imagine that I’d want to leave that, but after an hour of being there, we decided to explore.

We realized that the more we explored, the better the landscape around us became. The shapes of the rock formations changed after every few steps. 

We visited Sant’Andrea wqith our 2.5 year old daughter so our climb was a bit limited. If you are adventurous and enjoy climbing, then you will surely see a lot more than we did. 

In order to reach a new spot, you won’t have to climb a lot or walk a lot. All the places are just 5-10 minutes away from each other.

Parking Gets Full Early in August

Parking Spot I Faraglioni Sant’Andrea Puglia

The peak travel month in Puglia is August. That’s the time when not just Italians but most of the Europeans are on their annual summer break.

The car rental prices go very high at this time and naturally, the parking spots fill out fast. Arrive early to find a good parking spot or be ready to spend some time driving in circles in order to find one. Or, you can arrive a little late at 4 or 5 pm when most of the people start to leave.

We arrived at 4 pm at Torre Sant’Andrea parking and found a spot after taking just one round, but we were lucky since many people were leaving at that time.

Arrive Early or Late in the Summer

The Sandy Part of Sant’Andrea gets crowded

Ever seen popular Italian beaches in the summer? They are usually fully jam-packed and one needs to hunt to find a place to put the mat.

The peak season crowds at Sant’Andrea,Puglia, Italy

The comfortable sandy part of the beach at Spiaggia della Punticeddha is small. It gets very full so if you want to spend even a little time here, then the best time to arrive at the beach is as early as 8 am or as late aa 4 pm.

The clear water near the rocks at Sant’Andrea beach, Puglia, Italy

Of course the rocky beach area near Torre Sant’ Andrea doesn’t get crowded because it isn’t uncomfortable to sit there unless you manage to get a thick rug or a chair. You have to climb with your stuff or swim with it to reach the rocky beach.

Cliff Jumping in Sant’ Andrea Puglia

The Many Cliff Jumping and Swimming Spots at Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia

What do you find on beaches with rock formations? Cliff Jumping spots!

If you want to do cliff jumping, then you will be happy to know that there are plenty of spots near Torre Sant’Andrea that vary in height. 

Stay Safe if you Cliff Jump

I have mentioned this before in my Puglia article but I feel it necessary to remind you to be safe if you choose to do cliff jumping. Don’t ever force yourself into an activity that you’re not comfortable doing.

If you want to cliff jump, then you have to make sure you jump straight or else you will injure yourself. My husband suffered from two fractures in his spine after cliff jumping in Puglia from Porto Selvaggio.

Visiting with Children? Get a Floatie

The view of the family beach at Sant’Andrea, Puglia, Italy

If you are visiting this beach with small children, then you will be able to explore much more with a floaty. You can put your child or children on the floaty and swim with them as you explore the different rock formations around.

We forgot to carry our floating hammock in our car and ended up buying a floaty here for Karma. We resisted buying it till the very end but realized we had to if we three were to swim together for a while instead of staying on the beach.

Shops Around the Beach are Expensive

The shops around the small sandy beach sell everything you’d need on the beach. Beach mats, sunglasses, floaties, sand toys, snacks, etc. But try to bring your stuff with you because the shops are expensive here.

Affordable Food Truck near the Parking

Taralli Pugliesi – the popular Puglian snack from the food truck at Torre Sant’Andrea parking

If you spend a few hours on the beach and swim, you will naturally get hungry. There is a food truck near the beach parking. It is actually near the small water fountain from where you can fill up your water bottles.

If you want snacks and beer, then you will be happy to know that you will get them at the food truck for an affordable price. You can get paninis, french fries, and similar small snacks.

Visit Grotta della Poesia – a Cave Pool that’s 5 KMs Away

I will be honest, I didn’t get to visit Grotta della Poesia but it doesn’t mean you should miss out. I didn’t even know of its existence. A day after visiting Sant’Andrea, I saw information for Grotta della Poesia and I kicked myself for not knowing before and missing out.

Grotto means cave in Italian, and Grotta della Poesia means “Cave of Poetry” – isn’t it romantic? The rock formations create a natural pool with a tunnel that goes into the sea, that’s Grotta della Poesia.

In order to see Grotta della Poesia, you need to pay an entrance fee of €3 per person, and must show a valid Green Pass.

Torre Sant’Andrea Puglia Corona Restrictions

Like most of the places in Italy, you need to show a valid Green Pass to enter busy public areas here. Italy has recently changed its Green Pass restrictions, it is now only for vaccinated people and not those who have just recovered from the illness. 

I didn’t see anyone checking for a green pass in the Torre Sant’Andrea area but my friends who visited Grotta della Poesia mentioned that it was checked there.

Where is Torre Sant’Andrea?

Sant’Andrea is on Salento’s East Coast. It is in Lecce province and is around 20-30 mins drive from Lecce city. Torre is an Italian word that means tower. Most of the beaches in Puglia have medieval towers that are sometimes photogenic.

How to Reach Torre Sant’Andrea

The best way to reach Sant’Andrea is by driving to it. This is how it works for most of the European destinations unless you’re visiting the main big cities like Lecce or Bari. If you’re arriving in Puglia by air, then rent a car so that you can drive to amazing places like Sant’Andrea instead of being restricted to just a handful of destinations that are accessible by public transport.

Where to Park for Visiting Sant’Andrea Beach & Rock Formations

There is a parking area near Torre Sant’Andrea which gets full very early during the high season. Most of the people park along the road that goes to Torre Sant’Andrea. This is the same road that has a van camping spot that’s called Area Camper I Faraglioni Sant’Andrea.

Honestly, the road itself gets full but if you have time or patience to look for a place to park, then you will find one. As mentioned before, arrive early or late in order to find a place for your car.

Final Thoughts about Torre Sant’Andrea, Puglia

Puglia is getting popularized every year and even more so in 2021 because of the Red Bull Cliff Diving event in Puglia. Of course the event took place on a very busy area of Puglia but if you want to see something special that’s not as busy as the rest of Italy, then make sure you don’t miss Sant’Andrea.

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Why Visit Puglia? I fell in Love with Puglia in Italy, Here’s Why

Why Visit Puglia? I fell in Love with Puglia in Italy, Here’s Why

Ciao Puglia, can I stay with you forever? I spent a month in Puglia in 2021, here’s my love letter.

So, it finally happened. After talking about it for years, I finally got to visit Puglia in 2021 – the heel of Italy’s boot. Not for a week or two but an ENTIRE MONTH. I sure am glad that I married a half-Italian.

A little background, my husband’s father’s family is from Salento in Puglia and they even have a place to stay there on the beach. After hearing about this place ever since I got married, I ended up visiting six years after being married to San. 

My Father-in-law is from Leverano, Puglia, Italy

Honestly, it wasn’t my first time in Italy. I was in the Trentino region before but most of the Italians told me that “the real Italy only starts from the south of Rome”. Really? I thought that was a snobbish thing to say.

Anyway, I was all set to have a very “average” experience in south of Italy in every sense but I was in for a surprise. It’s because I have visited a lot of amazing beach destinations and paradise islands, moreover, I have also visited countries that are known for their amazing food and I thought I’d find Italian food very “plain and basic” – but hey, I was wrong.

So, Where is Puglia in Italy?

Ever seen the map of Italy? It looks like a high heeled boot. Being in the absolute south of Italy, Puglia is the heel of that boot. So, it has coast on two sides so it means plenty of sun (and fun).

To make things confusing, Puglia is also sometimes called Apuglia. 

Reasons to Visit Puglia, Italy

1) Puglia’s Coastline is Massive

My fav beach spot in Porto Cesareo, Puglia

Puglia has the longest coastline if you compare it to any other region of the mainland Italy. There’s the Adriatic sea, the Ionian Sea, gulf of Taranto and the Strait of Otranto on all the sides, so it means plenty of beach time.

No doubt there are many other things to do in Puglia, but beach-ing is something you will end up doing the most while you’re here. I don’t know about you but when I go for a beach vacation, then I don’t want to go to the exact same beach every single day. If you’re like me then you will be spoilt for choice in Puglia. 

Puglia’s Coastline – South Italy

In fact, Puglia’s Salento region has so many beaches that I couldn’t even visit a fraction of them in one month. I visited many of them but I had to leave many others on my list for my next visit. But hey, Puglia’s beaches aren’t just your typical sandy beaches. There’s a lot of other stuff going on, read on!

2) Cliffs, Arches, Caves – the Coastline has More Than Just Beaches

Puglia’s coastline will give you more than just beaches. You will see other amazing natural wonders like arches, caves, cliffs, and insane rock formations that will stun you.

When I saw the rock formations in Sant’Andrea with stunning arches and I swan in the caves of Porto Selvaggio, I wondered why aren’t these places more famous than they are? Maybe it’s a good thing!

I have seen the arches of Étretat, France, Rugen Island’s high sea cliffs, insane rock formations of Zumaia in Spain and also Ireland’s Achill Island stunning sea-cliffs but I actually got to witness something way more spectacular in Puglia. And what’s insane is that in Puglia, all these stunning places with amazing rock formations that are so different from each other are in the same region.

Vieste in Gargano National Park, Puglia, Italy – CC0 via Pixabay

See the picture of Vieste in Gargano National Park. It reminded me of Thailand’s famous Phra Nang cave beach with limestone formations.

The beach that we visited everyday ion Porto Cesareo had multiple freshwater springs in the shallow part of the water near the shore, it was an amazing experience to cool off in them.

3) Puglia’s Culture will Amaze You

Locally Orchestra at Sant’Rocco festival Leverano, Italy

If there’s one country that’s so culturally powerful that everyone has to experience it at least once, it has got to be Italy. What’s better is that everything gets highly exaggerated as you move further South.

Art on the streets of Leverano, Puglia

In terms of culture, family, food, art, architecture and music – they all play an important part individually and collectively. This is something you will witness at every step, every bite, every sip and on every face. Italians take pride in their culture

It is hard to describe how it is to experience a new culture. I come from a country where culture plays a very visible part (India) and I felt something similar in Italy. Even if you arrive in Italy with a closed mine, over time the country will win you over because you can’t help but fall in love with it.

4) Puglia’s Food will WOW You

Cozze Gratin – Mussels baked with Parmesan – food in Puglia, Italy

I did experience the country’s food scene in North Italy and I was definitely aware of the fact that the food gets even better as one moves to the South from Rome. I love seafood and I usually prefer asian food over European any day. So, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Italian food in a way that I did.

Pizza quattro formaggi – Napoli style in Puglia, Italy

Italian food outside Italy is highly altered with loads of cheese, cream and butter. In reality Italian food in Italy is much lighter, even the pizza. One might say that the best Italian pizzas can be found in Napoli, but the best food overall definitely comes from South Italy.

Salento (Puglia) has the best Seafood in Italy

If you’re used to the typical “creamy” Italian food and if that’s what you’re seeking, then you will be disappointed. But if you’re ready to experience food that’s made with just a handful of simple ingredients and yet tastes divine, then Puglia is the place for you.

Frutti di mare – Seafood Pasta in Puglia, Italy

Some of the local specialities that I loved are:

  • Cozza Gratin (mussels baked with parmesan on top)
  • Pulpetti (Meatball)
  • Pulpo (Octopus) – Italians make the tastiest octopus
  • Handmade Pasta
  • Frutti di Mare Pasta or Fruitti di Mare risotto (Fruitti di mare means fruit of the sea, or seafood)

Honestly, I was knew I’d like the food in Italy but I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I normally prefer complicated Asian dishes with a lot of spice but shockingly loved everything in Puglia.

5) Puglia’s Trullo (or Trulli) in Alberobello – UNESCO World Heritage Site

Trulli houses in Alberobello Puglia, Italy via Pixabay

If you’re active on Instagram then you’ve surely seen pictures of Puglia’s Trulli. Most likely the location of the picture was Alberobello.

A Trullo is a traditional dry stone hut that can only be found in the Apuglia region of Italy. Trulli is the plural term of Trullo. Trulli are protected under UNESCO World heritage law. 

Some Trulli were built as early as the 17th century as a temporary shelter by farmers and labourours. Some were also built as a permanent place to live.

Trulli Village – Alberobello, Puglia in Italy via Pixabay

Trulli aren’t just found in Alberobello, but also in Locorotondo, Fasano, Ostuni, Cisternino, Martina Franca, and Ceglie Messapica. The ones in Alberobello are the most famous ones because there are many of them together and are highly photographed. 

Can you rent a trulli and sleep in it? Sure, you can in Alberobello. Once upon a time a local bought a lot of abandoned Trulli, renovated them and started renting them out to visitors. The locals in Alberobello still live in their Trulli and have converted some to host others.

6) Puglia Has a Lot of Historical Landmarks

The Historical Old Town of Lecce in Puglia

Puglia has a lot of history, and you don’t have to visit just the famous Historical Towns like Lecce, Ostuni, Otranto, etc – but even the smaller towns have a lot to offer. No doubt the famous bigger towns are spectacular but I found some of the similar looking buildings and landmarks in the smaller ones without any tourists.

The Barouque Old Town in Lecce city in Puglia, Italy

Did you know that Lecce city in Puglia is called the Florence of the South? Broadly speaking, it is in Salento part of Puglia. Lecce is also a province and a city. We’re talking about the city here.

Lecce city boasts of a stunning old town with  Baroque architectural buildings. The buildings here are made with a famous limestone that’s called “Lecce stone” and is sold all over the world for sculptures. It also has a Roman amphitheater that dates back to the 2nd century.

Another notable historical town in Puglia is Martina Franca, which is also in Salento. Martina Franca has a beatufully preserved baroque old town with stunning gates, narrow streets, Piazzas (the squares), and palaces.

Imagine seeing the charming historical buildings next to the beach! Yes, most of the beach towns have historical buildings. No matter where you go, you will most likely see a historical tower (Torre) near the beaches in Puglia.

7) Puglia’s Streets Are Stunning

A stunning bougainvillea fringed street in Leverano, Puglia

I have this thing for streets. I love photographing them, love walking and getting lost and discovering more in the process. If you love streets as much as I do, then you’re going to adore Puglia. 

Exploring the Historical Lecce city in Puglia, Italy

Some of the streets that I walked on in the old towns of Lecce, Leverano and Copertino are said to be 1000 years old and were built during the time of the Roman Empire. 

Cobbled streets that are lined with hold houses on each side with a lot of landmarks, it made me feel like I was walking around in a museum city. What is even better is that most of these streets were fringed with flowering vines like bougainvillea. 

The above are just some of the 100s of street photos that I clicked in Puglia. When I came back to Germany after Italy, I was shocked to see I had so many street photos. Even more than the beaches!

8) Coffee Lover or Not, You Will Love the Coffee

My cappuccino with cornetto in Porto Cesareo, Puglia, Italy

Strangely the cafes in Italy are called bars. Even if you love coffee or hate it, you will LOVE the coffee culture in Italy. Now before you say that this point is true for most of the Italian destinations, well here’s more. Puglia’s cafes (or bars) have some interesting things that can just be found here and not in other parts of Italy. 

Caffè Mousse in Leverano, Puglia, Italy

Most of us know about espresso – the little Italian coffee which is the base of cappuccino. I normally drink cappuccino back home in Germany but in Italy I fell in love with so many different ways to enjoy espresso. I’d like to mention a few that I regularly ordered:

  • Caffè ghiacciato – espresso with ice. Some will add a bit of almond syrup for sweetness and I enjoyed the marzipan kind of flavor.
  • Caffè granita – it is the normal slushie but it is made with coffee. YUM and super cooling.
  • caffè mousse – even though they called it mousse, but the texture is more like a softie ice cream. Some bars make it in coffee flavor and others in vanilla flavor and add cold espresso on top. This was my favorite.
  • Gelato Coffee flavor – this gelato that has a decent amount to get anyone caffeinated. I loved having my coffee in this form on some days.

You know what goes well with coffee? Breakfast of course. Italy with its elaborate meals has somehow a simple breakfast – pastry with coffee. I love how the cafes are full every morning till mid noon with people who visit for early to late breakfast. The most popular breakfast pastries were Pasticciotto and Cornetto.

Caffè ghiacciato with Pasticciotto, Salento, Puglia, Italy

If you don’t like sweet breakfast (like me at the beginning of my Italy trip) and want something salty, then ask for “rustico”. It is a pastry that’s stuffed with mozzarella and tomato. This is usually hidden in a very small section because most of the people order something sweet.

The cafes aren’t just open at breakfast time but till late at night. You can also order “aperitivo” and beer. Many places will also give you a few snacks (free) with aperitivo.

9) Puglia Has an Abundant Local Produce – Olive Oil, Wines, Figs

Primitivo Grape growing in Salento, Puglia, Italy

Why does everything taste better in Italy? A lot of that is because of the country’s abundant fresh produce. Tomatoes, olives, figs, lemons, oranges, apples, grapes, cactus-fruit, garlic, chili-peppers, lettuce, extra virgin olive oil, wines, breads and so many other things are freshly produced right here in Italy.

Guess what, Apulia has one of the highest concentration of fruits and vegetable production in Italy. You can taste the freshness in the food and the richness when you buy them from the supermarket to cook at home. Not just the fruits and the vegetables, even the fresh seafood and meat tastes much better here than the rest of Europe.

Olives on an Olive tree in Puglia, Italy

Things like olive oil, Primitivo red wine, cookies, handmade pasta make excellent gifts for your family and friends after your visit to Puglia. Don’t forget to buy these things for yourself too before you leave.

If you drive around in Apuglia, be ready to pick fruits from trees that are growing in public spaces and have fruits that are ready to be picked. We picked a lot of figs and cactus fruit, which were growing everywhere in summer. They tasted much better than the ones in the supermarkets.

If you’re picking your own cactus-fruit (prickly pear) then you need to be extremely careful. Make sure you wear the thickest gloves.

10) Adventure Lovers will Love Puglia

Porto Selvaggio Caves & Kayaking, Puglia, Italy

Cliff Jumping, Scuba diving, canyoning, snorkeling, kayaking – you name it, you’ve got it. Puglia has it all to keep adventure lovers entertained.

Puglia not only has sandy beaches but high sea cliffs too. There are some spots that are perfect for cliff jumping. The water clarity is impressive and with just swim goggles, we had a memorable experience in one particular location that reminded us of snorkeling in the Philippines.

Did you know that Puglia is also the location for Red Bull Cliff diving tournament for 2021? Those who follow the tournament love the location. The exact location for the Red Bull Cliff Diving 2021 is Polignano a Mare near Bari in Puglia. No doubt it is stunning but it isn’t even the most amazing cliff jumping spot that Puglia has to offer.

Cliff Jumping in Porto Selvaggio, Puglia, Italy

There are places on Puglia’s coast where one can find caves (or grottos). You can literally cliff jump, swim and go inside the grotto. We did that in Porto Selvaggio in Salento.

Stay Safe while cliff jumping: I’d like to mention that one needs to be very careful when cliff jumping. If you follow me on Instagram then you surely know that San had a cliff jumping accident in Puglia and he fractured his vertebrae. He was in an intensive care unit in a hospital in Lecce for almost a week after this.

He is an excellent swimmer and diver, so what went wrong? Even the slightest wrong entry while cliff jumping can have dangerous consequences.  This is a warning to all my adventure lover friends, please be careful and don’t do cliff jumps from higher than 10 meters (he did from 20 meters). If something doesn’t feel right then there’s no reason to push yourself to do it.

11) Puglia has Warm Weather = Real Summer

A Beach near Torre Lapillo, Puglia, Italy

Living in Germany, I miss real summer when one doesn’t need to carry a light jacket, just in case it gets chilly. Thankfully Puglia’s summer reminded me of India’s summer, where summer meant warm weather every single hour of the day or night.

Summers season in Puglia is long and one can expect sunshine almost every single day. Yes, it does rain and when it does, then it rains a lot. But then again, the sun shines the very next day. 

12) Puglia is a Shopping Heaven

Shopping in Porto Cesareo, Puglia

One of the things that I crib about after moving to Europe is about shopping. I love flea markets and handmade things, and I found a lot of amazing dresses, shoes, bags and home decor for cheap in Asia, but never in Europe. Even though I did find flea markets in Amsterdam and vintage shops in Hamburg, but nothing was affordable at the same level as Asia.

Guess what, there’s a weekly market in most of the towns in Puglia where one can get everything – clothes, shoes, food, household things, etc. I didn’t think I’d buy anything and my visit was purely for photography purposes but I came back home with 4 bags.

Imagine my surprise when I found amazing dresses for 7 Euros and shorts for 1 Euro. Yes, just ONE Euro. The Italians are known for their amazing sense of style and I found some amazing clothes even in the small town markets.

13) Puglia’s Beauty Salons are Awesome (and CHEAP)

Who visits a salon on a vacation? I did because it was a month long vacation. Also, I will do so again even if it is a short trip because the beauty salons in Italy are amazing and ridiculously cheap.

Living in India, I visited salons for things like haircuts, styling, waxing, etc, monthly. I don’t in Germany because they are crazy expensive (and most aren’t good). Believe it or not, I paid just 45 euros for a haircut & color and just 30 euros for waxing. Insane!

14) The Festivals of Puglia

San’Rocco Fireworks in Leverano, Puglia

We visited Puglia in August and got to witness a few festivals. We witnessed San’t Lorenzo, Ferragosto and San’Rocco and all of them involved fireworks. The locals came out of their homes and sat all over the beach in groups. The town centers were lit up and some of them also had elaborate stalls that were set up.

San’Rocco Festival Celebration in Leverano, Puglia

I did mention in my earlier point about Italy’s culture and I’d like to mention how strongly it shone in front of our eyes when we saw people celebrate. 

15) The People

There’s definitely something about the weather effecting the mood of the people, and it is always evident when one visits a warm country. I felt this the first time when I traveled to Portugal and Spain after spending a month in colder parts of Europe, and I definitely felt it in South Italy.

The people of Puglia are extremely warm, friendly, expressive, lively and most of all – approachable. They don’t shy away from a conversation after finding out that one doesn’t know their language, they still find a way to communicate. My little girl made more friends in our one month in Italy than she has ever made in Germany (and we live here!).

Locals who saw me on the beach everyday came up to me eventually to introduce themselves and to chat a little, even if we didn’t speak the language. By the end of my second day in Salento, I was saying Ciao to everyone who lived around our apartment (and there were many). They are all just so approachable, friendly and they acknowledged me each time I walked by.

What’s the Best Time to Visit Puglia

Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy

Puglia’s summer months are long so you can visit from May to September. The beaches get crowded in August but in terms of weather, that month is really good. Also, if you want to experience Puglia’s lively culture then August is the time when most of the festivals and celebrations happen.

August is the month when most of the European countries go for their summer vacation. Puglia is a very popular destination for Italians, hence you may not find an empty spot for your mat on the popular beaches. To avoid crowds, visit Puglia in the months of May, June, July or even September.

Leverano’s lively Piazza in Summer – Puglia, Italy

I have been told by my husband’s family that Puglia’s towns feel completely dead in the winter months and most people stay indoors. The liveliness of summer and staying outdoor ends when winter arrives. Of course the whole culture of restaurants with outdoor seating ends but they still remain open with indoor seating.

Airports in Puglia

There are two airports in Puglia – Bari and Brindisi. Bari is served by more flights and a lot of budget airlines too. Brindisi is served by fewer airlines. Brindisi is closer to Salento – the gem of Puglia. That’s where everything is – the best beaches, the stunning old towns like Lecce because that’s the Southmost province.

Check Car Rental Prices in Italy

If you can’t find a flight to Bari or Brindisi for Puglia, then you should know that some people fly to an airport in Tuscany instead. From there they rent a car and drive to Puglia.

Where to Stay in Puglia as a Base

Bahia Porto Cesareo – Sandy beach in Puglia

A lot of first timers stay in Bari and drive to the nearby beaches but honestly that’s like just like viewing the top layer. Sure, Bari is lovely but if you want to experience the best of Puglia, then you have to make your base somewhere in Salento.

Porto Cesareo was an amazing base for us because we were right on the beach. We could see it from our balcony and went there at every opportunity. Porto Cesareo has an amazing stretch of sandy beach

Also, from Porto Cesareo we could just drive to all the famous landmarks, towns and beaches in just an hour (mostly). The city centre does get extremely crowded in August, but the trick is to stay away from the centre. 

Lecce is also an amazing place for a base for those who don’t need to wake up on the beach. Lecce has the best food, the most amazing historical landmarks and you will feel like you’re walking in a museum. Lecce is literally in the middle of Salento so you can drive to the east coast, the west coast or the absolutely Southern tip from here. 

To experience Puglia like a local then find base in a smaller town like Leverano or the nearby Copertino. These towns aren’t on the beach but they are just 15 mins drive away. Both these cities have a stunning old towns and you can create some magical photos without crowds. Here the restaurant scene is even better because there are just locals. Of course, it helps if you can speak a few words of Italian.

How to Travel within Puglia?

By car. Really there isn’t a better way because not everything is connected well with public transport. If you live in Europe then you can just drive to Puglia from your place of residence. We did from Germany. Yes the duration was crazy long but it can be a fun road trip with stops.

Check Car Rental Prices in Italy

A better option would be to arrive in Puglia by air and rent a car (click here to check the prices) from Bari or Brindisi airports. The car rental prices shoot up very high in August, so it is better if you in a group of 3 or 4, so that you can split the cost.

How Many Days do you Need for Puglia?

A lot. I spent a month and I still didn’t see all the famous spots. If you want to see at least some of them, then spend no less than two weeks. If you just have a week then don’t stress yourself in trying to do too much. Focus on a handful of places and do them well.

Is Puglia Crowded or Touristy?

The answer depends on when you visit and where you visit (like most destinations). Most people fly and stay in Bari as their base so of course it is crowded there.

A lot of Italians and Europeans in general visit in Puglia in August. During that month most of the popular places to visit in Puglia are crowded. However, if you know of some less visited places then you can find empty areas in Puglia in August too.

Pin it – Why visit Puglia in Italy

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9 Most Beautiful Lakes in Europe [that aren’t Grada or Bled or Camo]

9 Most Beautiful Lakes in Europe [that aren’t Grada or Bled or Camo]

Ever seen a list of the most visited destinations in the world? Most of them in the top 10 are in Europe. Yep, Europe is one of the most touristy continents. Why do I even mention it? Read on.

When a destination becomes even mildly famous in Europe, it kind of turns into Disneyland. It is not just with destinations that have been famous for decades – such as Amsterdam, Paris or Prague – but also newly famous destinations thanks to the power of Instagram such as Bucharest.

Same happened with the most famous lakes in Europe too. Yes, I’m talking about the ever famous Lake Grada of Italy, Lake Bled of Slovenia and Lake Camo of Italy again. Yes, they are definitely lovely but it is hard to enjoy the raw natural beauty of these lakes when the area all around is so developed and busy.

If you’re anything like me, then you seek peace and raw natural beauty of a lake destination instead of the hustle bustle of an overly developed town. Moreover, you would want to see the lake without too many boats in or around it.

For me, a stunning lake is the one that’s in the wilderness – or even better mountains. It is not surrounded by developed towns but you can only see empty areas if you sit next to the water. An absence of commercial boats is definitely an added advantage because it adds to the peace element. Calm and clear water so that you can see inside. Yes, that’s what it takes for a lake to be truly stunning.

Maybe I sound like a nature snob, but the thing is exploring natural landscapes is our thing. San and I are living in Germany and we often travel within the Europe on our campervan. We avoid big cities and instead head to National Parks. And guess what, some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe are found in National Parks. Yes, we have seem many European lakes and we’d like to tell you about the most beautiful ones.

The easiest way to reach most of these lakes is by car. If you live in Europe, then you can drive your own car to these destination. Alternatively, you can fly to the nearby destination and rent a car. Traveling by car is usually cheaper and more convenient in Europe.

Check Car Rental Prices in Europe

Click the above button to see a comparison of car or van rental prices for your preferred destination from many different providers.

Europe’s Most beautiful Lakes

1) Lake Bohinj, Slovenia (Triglav National Park)

The spectacular Bohinjsko jezero - Lake Bohinj in Slovenia

The spectacular Bohinjsko jezero – Lake Bohinj in Slovenia

Slovenian’s Lake Bled gets all the attention, but Lake Bohinj is the one that will truly take your breath away. This lake has all it takes to be on top of our list. Bohinj is the highlight of Triglav National Park so you can rest assured that the natural beauty of the area around the lake is preserved. 

So what makes Lake Bohinj so special? The water is insanely clear, it is away from the main towns and is surrounded by big mountains.  Mount Triglav is the highest peak of the Julien Alps. Yep, so Lake Bohinj is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Alps. Bonus point – Lake Bohinj has some ridiculously stunning beaches.  

Mountains, clear lake and pretty beaches - Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Mountains, clear lake and pretty beaches – Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

You can not just sit on the side of Lake Bohinj on one of its beaches and not get stunned by the jaw dropping beauty of the mountains around it. They are so high! I wasn’t even able to capture the complete height of the mountains even with a wide angle camera except only at one spot where I walked way far back.

One of the many beaches along Lake Bohinj - Bohinjsko Jezero - Slovenia

One of the many beaches along Lake Bohinj – Bohinjsko Jezero – Slovenia

There are definitely many stunning lakes around the world but not many that you can camp right next to. Yes, you can actually put up your tent or park your camper van next to the lake in  Camp Zlatorog Bohinj. For all these reasons, Lake Bohinj is one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe.

For more information, read my post about Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj.

2) Black Lake, Montenegro (Durmitor National Park)

Black Lake - Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro

Black Lake – Durmitor National Park near Žabljak, Montenegro

Many visit Montenegro for its beaches but in our experience this country’s mountains is so much better. Montenegro’s Durmitor Mountain range within the Dinaric Alps is a destination that will wow you over.

Within the Dinaric Alps, there’s a protected area called Durmitor National Park which has many glacier lakes. One of the most famous glacier lakes here is called Crno jezero (the Black Lake) near Zabljak, which should actually be called the Blue Lake. The water is extremely clear and is blue-green in color. 

Crno jezero or Black Lake entry area, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

Crno jezero or Black Lake entry area, Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

Black Lake is actually a set of twin lakes that is joined by strait. There are trees and mountains around most of the lake so the resulting landscape is super stunning. There is also a walking path around the twin lakes with many benches. You can walk around both the lakes in 1,5 hours if you make a few resting stops.

You can’t swim in the Black Lake or Camp right next to it. For more information on Black Lake, read my post about Durmitor National Park.

3) Lake Zaovine, Serbia (Tara National Park) 

I was 4 to 5 months pregnant when San and I went to Serbia

Swimming in Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Serbia

A lot of the lakes in this list are surrounded by high mountains and pine trees but Serbia’s Lake Zaovine is a bit different. Yes, there are mountains but they aren’t as high on all the sides and we definitely did not see pine trees. As a result, there is a high visibility of the landscape around Lake Zaovine. 

Lake Zaovine is in Serbia’s Tara National Park, which is literally on the border of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is situated in Tara National Park which is known for its mind-blowing viewpoints. 

Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Mokra Gora, Serbia

Lake Zaovine in Tara National Park, Mokra Gora, Serbia

Talking about touristy, this place definitely isn’t. It is perhaps the least touristy destinations that are mentioned on this list. As a result, you can have the gorgeousness of this lake to yourself like we did. You can swim in it, spend a few hours around it, click endless photos without bothering about other tourists. For us, Zaovine is one of the best lakes in Europe for swimming.

For more information about Lake Zaovine, read my post about Tara National Park, Serbia.

4) Lago di Tovel, Italy

Lago di Tovel in Trentino, Italy

Lago di Tovel in Trentino, Italy

Yes, Italy’s lakes are super famous and touristy, but Lago di Tovel isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t gorgeous. It has the bluest water and was semi frozen when we visited in spring. It is surrounded by snowy mountains and has everything you imagine in a typical alpine lake. The best part, you can usually see a reflection of the snowy mountains on the surface. 

Lake Tovel is in Italy’s Trentino region which is known for the Dolomites. As with most of the lakes on this list, it is in a protected area – Adamello-Brenta nature park. As per the legends, this lake was once red in color. Spooky!

Lago do Tovel - the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino - Italy

Lago do Tovel – the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino – Italy

It is possible to walk al around Lago di Tovel in 1.5 – 2 hours to discovered other scenic spots. We couldn’t because I was pregnant when we visited and I wasn’t in a mood for so much exercise. The lake is triangular in shape. No, you can not swim in Lake Tovel.

In order to get to Lago di Tovel, you need to visit Italy’s Trentino region. Stay in Val di Non to enjoy its romantic beauty and drive to Lago di Tovel. 

For more information about Lake Tovel, read my post – Lago di Tovel, Italy or read about Val di Non.

5) Plitvice Lakes, Croatia (Plitvice Lakes National Park)

Crystal Clear Water - Plitvice Lakes Croatia

Water so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake – Plitvice Lakes Croatia

How can I write a post about the most beautiful lakes in Europe and not mention the Plitvice Lakes? It is a National Park in Croatia with 16 lakes that are formed on different levels that are interconnected. They are on different levels and as a result there are waterfalls and cascades. These lakes are stunning with insanely clear water.  This area is truly a natural wonderland.

The 16 lakes of the Plitvice Lakes complex are divided in two segments – the Upper Lakes and the Lower Lakes. Some of the lakes are really big but in my experience the smaller lakes were better than the bigger ones because you could really see the clarity. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park has 7 hiking routes that vary in length. Because of the size of the national park, not all trails cover all the lakes but just 1 of them does. That’s the hiking route we took but it took us all day and we ended up walking for 15-20 kilometers in total. You can also pick one of the smaller trails. I mention all of the Plitvice Lakes’ hiking routes in detail in my post. Be sure to read it before you go. 

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

San and I in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Maybe you were only looking for Europe’s most beautiful lakes but for me it is an added bonus when you get to enjoy the beauty of the waterfalls too. Yes, you will find a lot of them in this national park.

Sadly you can not swim in the Plitvice Lakes but it is really a good thing because that’s how the water is so clean and the biodiversity is truly protected. These lakes collectively are some of the cleanest lakes in Europe. The water is so clean that you can actually see the bottom of the smaller lakes.

Perhaps the Plitvice Lakes are the most touristy lakes on this list and the crowd peaks in the months of August and July. But you can visit them in other months and that will help you avoid crowds.

For more information, read my post about the Plitvice Lakes where I also mention how to avoid crowds.

6) Seealpsee, Switzerland

Recommended by Continent Hop

Seealpsee Switzerland - Most Beautiful Lakes in Europe

Seealpsee Switzerland – Most Beautiful Lakes in Europe

Switzerland’s Seealpsee that’s sat at an altitude of 1141 meters above sea level, is one of the prettiest lakes in Europe. The lake is located amongst the Appenzell Alps in Switzerland and reflects the nearby surroundings like a glass mirror.

To add to the magic, this alpine lake doesn’t get a lot of visitors. The only ones to be found here are ones that head off on the Wasserauen -Seealpsee hike.

You could take a picnic here and in summer possibly go for a boat ride; however, the postcard-perfect location is best enjoyed by taking a walk around it and admiring the dense trees and the glass reflections in the lake while the cows lazily graze around. On some days, the clouds almost descend on the lake, making it look unbelievably stunning.

There’s numerous options for stay here if you’d rather not spend just a single day at the lake.

 

7) Xhema’s Lake, Valbonë, Albania

Valbona Lake in Albania - Travel the Balkans - by Robert Figgen

Xhema’s Lake in Valbona, Albania – Travel the Balkans – by Robert Figgen

Albania’s Valbonë River and the Albanian Alps create a stunning natural landscape in Valbonë Valley National Park. The most famous lake in national park is Shkodër (Lake Skadar) and that’s massive. But there is a smaller lake in Valbonë village called Xhema’s Lake which is stunning. 

It is easy to reach Xhema’s Lake from Valbona village. You will see the signboards in the village itself and from there it is a 30 minute walk. The lake is super clear and blue. The water is icy cold. It is surrounded by limestone cliffs that adds to a strange rugged beauty to this spot.

Please keep in mind that Xhema’s Lake dries up in late summer heat and it is a better idea to see it in spring or early summer. The above picture was clicked in late June. The locals say that the lake is at it’s best in spring because that’s when the winter ice freshly melts and as a result the water is clear blue.

Here’s more information about Valbona Valley National Park.

 

8) Eibsee, Bavaria, Germany

Recommended by Happy to Wander

Eibsee =, Bavaria, Germany by Happy to Wander

Eibsee, Bavaria, Germany by Happy to Wander

When it comes to lakes, Germany doesn’t have a shortage of them and some of the best ones are in Bavaria. While Bavaria’s Königssee is definitely a more famous one, we’d like to mention Eibsee on this list, which is smaller.

Eibsee is special because not only it has crystal clear water but you can also see the Zugspitze (the highest mountain peak in Germany). It is said to be one of the purest and most beautiful lakes in Bavarian Alps.

You can visit Eibsee in all the seasons, each has something unique to offer. This lovely alpine lake freezes in winter and the water starts melting in spring. Summer is a very good time to visit with a family because the weather is warm. Bonus: you can swim in Eibsee in summer. Autumn can be a really interesting time to visit because of the contrast of warm red leaves against the cold blue water. 

Autumn Foliage around Eibsee, Germany

Autumn Foliage around Eibsee, Germany [Pixabay]

The landscape around Eibsee is rocky and you should take some time out to walk around the lake. You can reach Eibsee from Munich. We suggest you read Bayern Ticket Guide by Germany’s travel specialist – Happy to Wander.

 

9) Lago di Braies, Italy

Lago di Braies or The Pragser Wildsee, or Lake Prags, Lake Braies in north Italy

Lago di Braies or The Pragser Wildsee, or Lake Prags, Lake Braies in North Italy

Did we save the best for the last? Maybe. Yes, it is the second one from Italy on our list and totally deserves to be here because Lago di Braies is one of most beautiful lakes in the Alps. It is also called the Pragser Wildsee.  

Lago di Braies is often called the “pearl among the Dolomite lakes”. As with most of the alpine lakes on this list, you can enjoy a surreal landscape of mountains too.

Lago di Braies suddenly became extremely famous because of Instagram. This resulted in a massive spike of visitors and traffic jams. Thankfully there is now a restriction on the number of visitors from 10 am to 3 pm. If you arrive by car, you can only visit if you get a parking place in one of the valley car parks in Fanes-Senes-Braies Nature Park. Another way of visiting would be by booking a bus ticket to the lake in advance from Dobbiaco or Monguelfo. Another option would be to hike from Ferrara to the lake.

During your visit to Lago di Braies, you can take some time out to walk around the lake. The walking path is 4 kms and this way you can get to enjoy the surreal beauty of this lake from different perspectives.

Did something catch your eye? Let us know which one of the above mentioned European lakes you have visited already or are planning on visiting next. Comment and let us know.

Northern Italy by Train Itinerary: Where to Go + How to do it + Info

Northern Italy by Train Itinerary: Where to Go + How to do it + Info

An epic Northern Italy Itinerary that has everything – lakes, mountains, historical towns, 

Italy has always been the centre of attention because of its beauty and culture. Year after year, it ranks in the top 10 as one of the most visited countries in the world. Italy is where you can really experience it all – the best food, beaches, mountains, canals, art, architecture, luxury cars, and history. Can you believe Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world?

Italy’s amazingness isn’t just due to its rich culture or fascinating history, or even the scenic beauty. It is more than that.

It is about experiencing the mediterranean climate, the joy of sitting on a chair along the street in one of the cafes while sipping espresso, tasting the simplicity of food that’s cooked with just 3-5 ingredients, seeing the locals communicate with energetic gestures and listening to the musical sound of Italian chatter. 

An outdoor restaurant in Tuscany, Italy

An outdoor restaurant in Tuscany, Italy – CC0 by Nina Evensen from Pixabay

If you look at the map of Italy, you will notice the country is shaped like a boot. It is surrounded by water on almost all sides, except the top of the boot. As you go down from the top of the boot to the toe, you will see how the landscape changes from mountains and alpine lakes, to vineyards, and to the beaches. 

Broadly speaking, the regions can be divided into the below sections, and in brackets are the most famous destinations of the regions so that you can get an idea – 

  • Northeast Italy, (the Dolomites, Trentino, Venice and Bologna) 
  • Northwest Italy, (Cinque Terre, Milan and the Alps)
  • Central Italy, (Tuscany region and Rome)
  • Southern Italy, (Naples, Puglia, Amalfi and Capri)
  • The islands – Sicily and Sardinia.

Each region of Italy offers something completely unique, and there is so much to experience in this incredibly exciting country. You don’t even need to go to the most popular destinations to enjoy the beauty of Italy. 

Beautiful village Tavon in Val di Non, Coredo, Italy

Beautiful village Tavon in Val di Non, Coredo, Italy

Even if you’re in one of the most unknown towns that doesn’t have a single person who speaks English, you will have an incredible time. Italians have a skill of communicating well with their exaggerated hand gestures, so language isn’t usually a barrier.

Moreover, almost all the towns have pretty streets and lovely town squares with something historic. Most of the city centre also have a free water fountain where you can fill up your bottles.

No doubt all the regions of Italy have something to offer, but the north of Italy is where you will find many of the country’s famous destinations and that’s what this post is all about. Yes, I’m talking about the Lake Como, the Renaissance city of Florence, the canals of Venice, Cinque Terre’s colorful coastline, the majestic Dolomites and the fashionable Milan. 

You can travel internally in the North of Italy in many ways but getting around by road is the best option to experience the natural beauty. 

In particular, getting around by rail is easy and convenient. You can sit back and relax as you gaze out from your window and see the beauty of the country. This is why rail holidays to Italy are super popular. They are relaxing, luxurious and can provide you a good value for money.

Check Car Rental Prices in Italy

Another option is to arrive in Italy by air and rent a car from the airport. You can check and compare the car rental prices here from many different car rental companies.

Northern Italian Train Destinations + Itinerary

Northern Italy has an amazingly extensive train network that connect many of the country’s top destinations. We have made a train itinerary for you that can be shortened or lengthened based on your preferences. You can start this itinerary from top to bottom – Venice to Rome, or the other way round from Rome to Venice. 

The below map is just a very broad depiction of this route map. At this time Google Maps doesn’t let users create a route map with multiple train stops and this is why I have selected a driving map to give you a general idea. 

 

We have mentioned 5 main parts of Northern Italy and optional destinations around those parts that are worth visiting. For instance, if you’re more into art or history and are super short of time, then you can just do Venice, Florence, and end your trip in Rome. However, we suggest you do a mix of both – the big cities and smaller towns so that you can experience Italy’s true natural beauty.

Here are some of the places that you can visit on a rail itinerary in this part of the country. 

Venice (Optional: Trento, Lago di Grada, Lago di Braies) – 3 – 4 Days

Grand Canal in Venice - Northern Italy by Train

Grand Canal in Venice – Northern Italy by Train – CCO via Pixabay

When thinking of Italy, Venice is always one of the first destinations that spring to mind. This floating city is known for its network of canals and bridges. Because of its geographical placement, it is the perfect way to start (or end) your Italy by train itinerary. You can explore the northeastern and northwestern parts of Italy very easily with your starting point as Venice. 

Being a major tourist destination, Venice is well connected by train routes. In fact, the easiest way to reach this city surrounded by water is by train, and you can take one from Austria, Slovenia or Germany. You can also arrive here on a ferry from Pula in Croatia. Or, you can just fly to Venice airport to start your Italy train trip. 

A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy

A bridge over a pretty canal in Venice, Italy – CCO – by travelspot via Pixabay

Forget about cars here – Venice is all about getting around via boat. There really is no place in the world quite like Venice, and it should definitely be added to any Italian travel itinerary. 

Besides the beautiful canals and gondolas, Venice is also known for many famous landmarks and attractions. These include the Doges Palace, St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge, the Campanile di San Marco, and many more. The buzz and energy experienced when walking around Venice is unlike any other city. After you spend around 2 days in Venice, then consider getting out to see the mountains.

Lago di Braies or The Pragser Wildsee, or Lake Prags, Lake Braies in north Italy

Lago di Braies or The Pragser Wildsee, North Italy – CC0 by vaiunruh via Pixabay

Venice can is a good starting point for you to see Italy’s mountains to see the Lake Grada or Lake Braies or the Dolomites. You can start off in Venice, head to Lake Grada (stations are Desenzano del Garda / Sirmione). If you have more time on your hands, then you can extend this part of your trip to experience the scenic towns around Lake Garda. Or go further up to Trentino.

If you’d like to see the Dolomites, then we suggest you take a train to Trento and consider going further up north to experience the Trentino region. You can include places like Val di Non, the spectacular lesser known Lake Tovel and also Alpe Cimbra. This part of Italy has some of the best lakes in Europe. We actually drove here from Venice with our rental car in 2018 and loved it.

Lake Como (Optional Lake Orta & Milan) – 2 Days

The lovely Lake Como in Italy

The lovely Lake Como in Italy – CC0 – by EzPzPics via Pixabay

Italy has some amazing lakes and you can find the most famous ones in the north. These lakes are big, beautiful with the perfect alpine backdrops. They have been attracting travelers for many years.

Thanks to their stunning natural scenery, pretty lakeside towns, ancient villas, perfect gardens, and 19th-century hotels, a holiday along the Italian lakes is all about a luxurious and laid back experience. In the last part we spoke about Lake Grada and Lake Tovel, that are in Trentino region but here we will tell you how to visit Lake Como and Lake Orta.

Don’t let Italy’s more famous destinations like Rome and Venice make you leave out Lake Como in your itinerary. Lake Como (or Lago di Como) is awesome and it will make you fall in love with Italy.

Stay for a few days in one of the little towns along Lake Como and you wouldn’t want to leave. Remember the idyllic Naboo from Star Wars II Attack of the Clones? It was filmed along Lake Como. 

Varenna, Lake Como, Northern Italy by Train itinerary

Varenna, Lake Como, Northern Italy by Train itinerary – CCO Image by travelspot via Pixabay

Lake Como is the most well known of the lakes in Italy. This enormous body of water is speckled with the most charming towns, speedboats, grand hotels, and phenomenal views. This far northern part of Italy is very close to Switzerland, so it offers a completely different atmosphere altogether. 

Lake Como has a shape of an inverted “Y”, so the legs are towards the south. The most scenic villages along Lake Como are up in the north because of the mountains. 

Lake Orta, Italy by train

Lake Orta, Italy by train – CC0 by Fabio Valeggia via Pixabay

If you would like to experience the magnificent lakes, then taking a rail holiday is one of the best ways to do it. You can experience the Lake Como by taking a train to Como Nord Lago, Como Nord Borghi or Como San Giovanni. You can extend this part of your trip to also visit the Lake Orta by taking a train to Pettenasco.

Depending on your route, you may have to stop at Milan or change trains here. Why not stay for a day in Milan and experience the country’s fashion capital?

The Cinque Terre (Optional Turin) – 3 Days

The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

The colorful houses of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy – CCO by heidi_ziller via Pixabay

The Cinque Terre is one of the most impressive coastal destinations in Italy. This stretch of scenic coastline is dotted with five of the most magnificent little towns in Italy. These are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Monterosso. Out of all these towns, Manarola is the one that you see on most of the pictures. 

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre – CC0 by Zotx via Pixabay

The Cinque Terre is best known for its beach, harbors, hiking trails, local wines, and perfect pastel-coloured villages. There are no cars in the Cinque Terre, and each town is connected via train. This makes rail travel the best way of reaching this area. If you are planning a railway itinerary in northern Italy, including a stop at the Cinque Terre is easy.

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre - Northern Italy by train

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre – Northern Italy by train – CC0 by Felix Wolf from Pixabay

From Milan or Como Nord Lago train stations, you can head to Turin. Either stay here or get on a train to Rapallo. From Rapallo, you can take a ferry to experience the Cinque Terre villages. Alternatively, you can also take a train from Rapallo to Monterosso.

Another option is to take a train directly from Germany to Cinque Terry by travel via the Rhine Gorge and Gotthard Pass to experience the best of Cinque Terre. 

Florence, Tuscany (Optional Umbria) 3 – 5 Days 

Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Sunset in Florence, Tuscany, Italy – CC0 by Mark Gilder via Pixabay

Tuscany and Umbria are two Italian regions that cover some of the most attractive sights and points of interest in the country. Did you know that the Renaissance art movement started from Italy? It happened right here in Tuscany.

Both Tuscany and Umbria form a part of Italy is that’s very green. In fact, Umbria is also called the “green heart of Italy”, so you will get to experience the nature, the history and the art scene in Tuscany and Florence together. The real beauty of this area is outside the cities and town – that’s where you will get the typical picture postcards style landscapes.

Tuscany's famous rolling hills - Italy by train

Tuscany’s famous rolling hills – Italy by train – CCO by monica_valladares from Pixabay

Nestled in the rolling green hills and scenic landscapes of these areas, you will find cities like Florence, Siena, Assisi, Pisa, and Perugia. Between the art, food, wine, history, and natural beauty – there are so many things to experience around here. 

These regions are conveniently located, being within easy reach of major cities. This makes a train journey around these regions very easy. To experience this region by train, you need to arrive in either Perugia (for Umbria) or Florence (for Tuscany).

Tavernelle - Perugia - Umbria, Italy

Tavernelle – Perugia – Umbria, Italy

If you’re arriving here from the Monterosso or Rapallo train stations because you were visiting the Cinque Terre, then you can take a train directly to Lucca, make a quick side trip to see the leaning tower of Pisa and then head to Florence – a city where it all began.  To experience the best of Tuscany, you can stay for a few days in Florence and then take a train to Siena to explore the Chianti vineyards. You may want to read this Florence travel guide to gather more information about this legendary destination.  

If you have some time on your hand then you can visit Umbria right after Tuscany. From Siena, you can enter the Umbria region by taking a train to Perugia and head to Assisi and Spoleto from there. You can also make a trip to Lake Lucerne or visit Capri from Florence. If you don’t want to spend too much time in Tuscany, you can just visit Florence for a quick visit from Rome.

Rome (Optional Castel di Tora or Naples, Pompeii) – 2 Days

The bejeweled Rome in Italy

The bejeweled Rome in Italy – CC0 by Nimrod Oren via Pixabay

Rome is Italy’s capital and most well-loved destination. This ancient city has so much going on, and any holiday to the country should definitely include a stop here. Every single thing in Rome has a history, even a bench along the street.

Rome is characterized by its world-famous landmarks and history, delicious cuisine, vibrant streets, and architectural beauty. Wherever you walk in this city, you will be faced with postcard-perfect scenes. With its renowned museums, churches, Colosseum, Vatican City, piazzas, fountains, and more, Rome offers the ultimate Italian experience. Being the capital city, Rome is very well-connected and easy to travel to. 

Even the streets in Rome are lovely

Even the streets in Rome are lovely – CC0 by djedj via Pixabay

While in Rome, you can also easily visit the Vatican City. You don’t even have to make a day trip because it is right there.

Just 50 KMs away from Rome is the stunning Castel di Tora along the Turano Lake. It is a medieval village with lovely narrow streets and stunning viewpoints. The best part is that it next to the water. Include Castel di Tora in your itinerary if you have a little more time in Rome and you’d like to get away from the maddening crowds.

Rome is also a good starting point to see the Northern Italy if you want to start this itinerary from reverse, that is, from south to north. Start at Rome, head to Perugia, then Florence, then to Bologna and finally Venice. You can also alter this route by heading to the Cinque Terre villages at the end instead. Rome can be a part of many different kinds of train itineraries and you can also consider starting in Switzerland.

In case you want to take a peek at the gems of southern Italy, then you will be happy to know that they’re not far from Rome. It will take you just 3 hours to reach Naples and the Pompeii ruins.

Northern Italy Train Travel

The destinations above are some of the most popular stopping grounds in northern Italy. However, you can still customize your trip by adding stops at places like Milan, Bologna, San Gimignano, Verona, and Trentino. Starting your trip in either Venice or Rome, and traveling between these destinations is easy to do. 

Final Thoughts about Northern Italy by Train Itinerary

If you are planning to explore Italy, then getting around by train is one of the best ways to do it. Italian rail holidays are convenient, and they offer fantastic views and experiences along the way. Traveling by train in Italy is quick and comfortable so it makes a lot of sense.

The northern Italy is full of incredible places to visit and varied regions. Visiting some of the above mentioned destinations will give you an excellent taste of Italy that you will remember for life.

Did follow our Northern Italy itinerary?

Tag @drifterplanet on Instagram and hashtag it #drifterplanet. We will be happy to share your journey with our audience.

 

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Lago di Tovel – the [Red] Lake of Mysteries in Trentino, Italy [Adamello-Brenta nature park]

Lago di Tovel – the [Red] Lake of Mysteries in Trentino, Italy [Adamello-Brenta nature park]

This post is about Italy’s Lake Tovel, a.k.a. Ladi do Tovel, Trentino, located in Adamello-Brenta Nature Park.

Oceans are aggressive, rivers are energetic but lakes are calm. Well, mostly.

There is a special air of serenity about lakes, especially if they’re in the mountains. It is as if they are the laid-back hippie mamas, while the harsh mountains are their protectors. They appear even calmer in comparison to their friend rivers, which are too restless to stay in the mountains because they’re on their own journey.

Whatever the reason may be my friends, I want to tell you about one such amazing mountain lake in Italy – Lago di Tovel, in Adamello-Brenta nature park.

Suggested: Val di Non in Trentino – Romantic valley of Apple Orchards, Castles and Brenta Dolomites

Lake Tovel – a.k.a. Lago di Tovel in Italy

Picture the bluest lake ever with clear glassy water surface that reflects the beauty of the surroundings. This is how Lago di Tovel looks like.

Lago do Tovel - the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino - Italy

Lago do Tovel – the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino – Italy

Lake Tovel, or as it is commonly called in Italy – Lago di Tovel is in Trentino Province. It is a freshwater lake. This lake is surrounded by snow-covered mountain range – the Dolomites.

The Dolomites belong to the Alps parent range and are a UNESCO world heritage site. Therefore, Lake Tovel is an alpine lake. Italy surely has some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe. Have you ever heard of Italy’s heart shaped lake in Abruzzo?

This almost triangular lake is in Adamello-Brenta nature park. There is a thick forest that surrounds it.

The clear blue water of Lago di Tovel in Trentino, Italy

The clear blue water of Lago di Tovel in Trentino, Italy

Trentino is a comparatively unexplored part of Italy with many areas but the ones that I highly recommend are Val di Non and Alpe Cimbra. Val di Non is famous for its apple blossoms and orchards, while Alpe Cimbra is an amazing skiing, mountain biking and hiking destination. Lago di Tovel is a part of Val di Non, although geographically it is in the smaller Tovel valley.

How to reach Lago di Tovel

The easiest way to reach Lago di Tovel is if you rent a car for a trip in Italy. If you’re flying to Italy, then the nearest airport to Lago di Tovel is  in Venice or Verona. Book a rental car and just pick it up from the airport to drive to the Trentino region, it can’t get easier than that. In any case, renting a car can turn out to be cheaper than paying for trains and buses internally.

Check Car Rental Prices in Italy

You can also do this journey on train. It isn’t the easiest because of changing the train but it is possible. Get on North Italy’s Bologna – Brennero train line and change at the Trento train station. From Trento station, you need to get on the Trento – Malé electric railway to Dermulo. Email your hotel to check the best option to reach them from Dermulo station.

To be close to Lago di Tovel, I recommend you stay in the nearby Val di Non (Non Valley). Lago di Tovel is in the nearby Tovel Valley, a.k.a. Val di Tovel. There is literally nothing there so I’d not recommend you to stay here.

Driving to Lago di Tovel, Trentino, Italy

Driving to Lago di Tovel, Trentino, Italy

Many hotels in the area organize or can recommend early morning bus trips that you can take to visit the Tovel Lake. I again recommend renting a car, because this way you can reach this lake and have it to yourself before the buses arrive.

Note: Lago di Tovel may definitely be one of the most beautiful lakes in the area, but it is still not as visited as the nearby Lake Grada (Lago di Grada), which is also in Trentino. I’d recommend you visit it before it gets famous.
The way to Lago di Tovel, Trentino

The way to Lago di Tovel, Trentino

When you arrive here by car, you can park your car at the parking area outside. From there, you’d need to walk for just 5 – 10 minutes to reach the lake.

Suggested: Alpe Cimbra in Trentino, Italy – Nature Rejuvenation

What to do around Lago di Tovel

The perfect reflection of the Brenta Dolomites on Lago di Tovel

The perfect reflection of the Brenta Dolomites on Lago di Tovel

There is a walking path that goes around the lake and it will take you just one hour to complete the full loop. This way, you’d get to enjoy the beauty of this lake from many different angles.

There are many other hiking trails inside the valley that leave from here so if you’re in the mood to walk more, you will have many options. You can also check out Casa del Parco Lago Rosso – it is a museum dedicated to the Adamello-Brenta nature park. We did not visit this museum.

The forest around Lago di Tovel, Trentino, Italy

The forest around Lago di Tovel, Trentino, Italy

It is worth noting that the Adamello-Brenta nature park is also home to the brown bear and it was reintroduced here in 1999 and 2002. Casa del Parco Lago Rosso is also dedicated to the brown bear.

Quick Facts

So what is the shape of Lago di Tovel?

It is kind of triangular in shape.

A satellite image of Lake Tovel captured on Google Maps - Lago di Tovel, Italy

A satellite image of Lake Tovel captured on Google Maps – Lago di Tovel, Italy

How big is this lake?

Lago di Tovel is one kilometer long and 500 meters wide. The total surface area is 0.38 KM square. Its deepest point is more than 38 meters deep.

Is the lake very high?

Lago di Tovel is 1178 meters above the sea level.

Can you swim in Lago di Tovel?

The semi frozen water surface of Lake Tovel, Trentino, Italy

The semi frozen water surface of Lake Tovel, Trentino, Italy

Umm.. if you’re not scared of jumping into freezing cold water – then yeah go ahead. Tovel Valley is not as sunny as the nearby Val di Non and as a result is much colder. The lake was semi frozen when we visited and I can’t imagive what would happen if you jump in for a swim. I’d need a lot of pushing and a visible reward before attempting this.

Literally every lake has a source. What’s the source of Lago di Tovel?

The water in Lake Tovel comes from two rivers – S. Maria Flavona and the Rislà

Isn’t this lake also famously called the Red Lake?

Yes, and you should jump to the nest section for this. But wait, before that I want to tell you something super interesting.

Lago di Tovel was actually created by a landslide 1300 years back. How awesome is that!

Suggested: Chandrataal – the Moon Lake in Spit Valley, the Himalayas, India

History and legends about Lago di Tovel – the Red Lake

Lago di Tovel - Red Lake painting by Luigi Grassi

Lago di Tovel – Red Lake painting by Luigi Grassi

Lago di Tovel is also called the Red Lake because the water would turn red during the summer months many years ago. The last time when it happened was 1964.

Back then there were many legends associated with it, but to much annoyance of imaginative story makers, the cause of the redness was later discovered to be a particular kind of algae. If you’re curious what it is called, it is Glenodinium sanguineum.

San and I spent time with a few locals in Val di Non and they mentioned that back then, there was a legend that the lake is red with the blood of the army of Princess Tresenga that fought for her.

As per the legend, Princess Tresenga said no to many suitors after the death of her father – King Ragoli. One such suitor, Lavinto from Tuenno did not accept her refusal and sent an army. Princess Tresenga’s people fought the army at the shores of Lago di Tovel but were defeated.

At the end of the fight, the lake had turned red with the blood of those who were defeated. The princess was killed too and the red color of the lake actually honored their bravery as they risked their lives to fight for her.

The legend also says that the Princess Tresenga still comes to the shores of Lake Tovel and cries.

Best Time to Visit Lago di Tovel, Trentino

Lake Tovel in spring, Trentino, Italy

Lake Tovel in spring, Trentino, Italy

The best time of the year when you can visit Lago di Tovel is from spring to autumn months. In spring time some parts of the lake may still be frozen and at autumn time you can see the contrast of reddish brown leaves against the blue of the water.

The best time of the day to visit Lago di Tovel is early morning. If you want to enjoy the calm beauty of the lake before the first bus of visitors arrive, then try to reach here at around 9 am.

Hotels around Lago di Tovel

If you want to stay near the lake, there are only two options of places to stay. I have mentioned those two options below but keep in mind that these are not “lake view” hotels but are close to the lake.

The time when I visited (April 2018), there was literally no connectivity in this area and nothing to do in Tovel valley. Alternatively, you can stay in Flavon, or Tuenno or Cles. Tuenno is the nearest town to the lake, Cles is the biggest town in the valley and Flavon is a smaller town where San and I had stayed.

1) Chalet Tovel – Mountain Lake, Tuenno (Near the lake)

Chalet Tovel – Mountain Lake hotel is near Lago di Tovel. As per my research on the internet, it seems there is a path from the hotel to the lake directly.  A room for two costs around €125 per night. Click here to read reviews about this hotel on TripAdvisor.

2) Albergo Lago Rosso (Near the lake)

Albergo Lago Rosso is a simple bed and breakfast. As per the information on their website, it seems the rooms don’t have a bathroom inside. Perhaps there is a shared bathroom in the common area. The cost per person per night here is €35. You can read get more information about this hotel on TripAdvisor.

3) Agritur Residenza De Poda, Flavon

San and I stayed in a charming old-fashioned inn called Agritur Residenza De Poda in Flavon and we highly recommend it. A room for two is around €60 here, which is half the cost of the first hotel. Flavon is lively with good options of places to eat but still has a small village charm which isn’t there in the nearby Cles. If you have a car, it will take you around 30 minutes to drive to Lago di Tovel from here.

Click here to reach reviews about Agritur Residenza De Poda on TripAdvisor.

Disclosure: San and I were invited to Trentino by Visit Trentino team but all silliness and thoughts expressed in this article are totally our own.

PS: Drifter Planet contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we will earn a little commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us reduce the costs of keeping this site active. Thanks for reading!

Visiting Italy’s Valley of Love: Val di Non, Trentino (+Brenta Dolomites)

Visiting Italy’s Valley of Love: Val di Non, Trentino (+Brenta Dolomites)

Old towns, castles, apple trees, mountains and lakes – Val di Non you’re gorgeous!

What makes a travel destination truly romantic?

I bet you’ll say dramatic viewpoints, loads of flowers and fairy tale castles. Add a backdrop of mountains and scenic valleys; you’ve got yourself a winner. Oh, and of course it would be incomplete without fine wine and delectable food.

Guess what – this is exactly how I’d describe Val di Non, the Non Valley in Italy’s Trentino. This valley is in the middle of the Brenta Dolomites, the Maddalene, the Anauni, the Paganella Massif and the Andalo Saddle mountains.

If you thought Val di Non couldn’t get any better, here’s the icing on the cake. This valley is full of apple trees and the pink and white apple blossoms look AMAZING against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

When I say there are apple trees everywhere, I actually mean they are in every possible place. San and I had never seen so many apple trees in our live. With their twisted branches, these trees look like they’re right out of a bittersweet fairy tale with witches!

Apple Blossoms in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Apple Blossoms in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Val di Non also has fairy tail-ish medieval castles; old towns with narrow streets where you’d want to get lost and incredible food. Well, if you’re in Italy, you can be guaranteed unbelievably good food wherever you go and Val di Non is no exception. (By the way, Italy doesn’t have a shortage of romantic destinations. We’d love to go revisit for a road trip to Tuscany.  

Val di Non Travel Video

Want to experience Val di Non through our eyes? If so, then watch the below video for a cute virtual trip where we will show you what we did while we were in Non Valley, Trentino:

 

If you’re looking for a new travel destination that is still under the radar, offbeat and not run by hoards of tourists with selfie sticks, then Trentino in Italy is your best bet. Do check out our article about the Alpe Cimbra area in Trentino.

Where is Val di Non?

Val di Non, is the Italian name for Non Valley, which is in North Italy’s Trentino just at the edge of the Dolomites. Right next to the Non Valley is the Sole valley and the river Noce runs between them. Together both the valleys are referred to as Noce Valleys.

How to Reach Val di Non

The best way to travel to and within Val di Non is by a rental car. You can arrive in Verona airport or Venice airport and then rent a car from there to drive to Val di Non. That’s what we did.

I have said this before and I will reiterate – traveling by train can be very expensive in Europe and in most cases a rental car turns out to be cheaper. The only time I’d suggest you not to rent a car is if you were going to a super busy city like Amsterdam or Paris

Check Car Rental Prices in Italy

If you’re looking for public transport, you can travel on the Bologna-Brennero train line. Change at the train Trento station and get on the Trento-Malé electric railway to Dermulo. Trento to Dermulo should take about 1 hour on train. From Dermulo train station; ask your hotel for the best way to reach them. Most likely they will send a shuttle. As per my research, most of the destinations can easily be reached by bus but I personally did not experience them there.

Things to do in Val di Non, Italy

Here are some of the most amazing places to visit in Val di Non with some exiting activities that you’re going to absolutely love. To make things easy for you, I have marked all these things on the map so that it is easier for you to plan your time in Val di Non.

 

Lago di Tovel – Visit the Glassy Lake

Lago do Tovel - the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino - Italy

Lago do Tovel – the stunning lake in Val di Non, Trentino – Italy

There is something very special about clear lakes that are surrounded by mountains. It is an added bonus if the water is extremely clear and blue. Even better is if you get to enjoy the beauty of the lake without crowds and just by yourself in peace. This is exactly how Lake Tovel is – in fact even better.

Lago di Tovel is one of the prettiest lakes that we have seen in a long time. Our pictures and words cannot do justice to the beauty but we will try our best.

San sitting by Lago di Tovel, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

San sitting by Lago di Tovel, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

The water of Lago di Tovel is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake. It was semi frozen when we were there and the surface reflected the beauty of the snowy mountains like a mirror. In a way, it reminded me of the Chandrataal Lake in the Spiti Valley, India.

The stunning Tovel Lake - Lago di Toval in Trentino, Italy

The stunning Tovel Lake – Lago di Toval in Trentino, Italy

Here’s something crazy about Lago di Tovel — the water was once bloody RED. This was back in the 1960s and because of that there are many legends associated with this lake. It was red because of some particular kind of algae. INSANE, huh?

It is not very often that one can enjoy a place that is as spectacular as Lake Tovel without crowds. If you want to enjoy the serene beauty of this lake just like we did, now would be the best time to visit before it gets mainstream.

Lago di Tovel is in Tovel Valley and is a part of Adamello Brenta Natural Park. In my opinion, it is the GEM of Val di Non. The entry was free and there was a proper parking place outside.

San and I drove here from Flavon in Val Di Non. While the sunny Val di Non was covered with apple blossoms when we visited, the Tovel Valley appeared to be stark and cold in comparison, but beautiful nonetheless.

Cles – Enjoy Walking in the Scenic Old Town

Cles in Spring - Val di Non's biggest town - Trentino, Italy

Cles in Spring – Val di Non’s biggest town – Trentino, Italy

Cles is the biggest town in Val di Non and it has old buildings, pretty streets and a panoramic viewpoint that overlooks the Cles Castle and Lake Santa Giustina. Even though Cles is a busy town as compared to the nearby villages, you’re surely going to enjoy the old world charm here.

The pretty streets of Cles in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

The pretty streets of Cles in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Historically speaking, Cles is a significant town because this is where the Tabula Clesiana was discovered. If you haven’t heard about it, it is ok – even we had not. The Tabula Clesiana is a bronze plate dating back to 46 AD that was discovered near Cles. It was found in 1869 at Campi Neri. The Tabula Clesiana contains the decree of Caesar Claudius of 46 AD granting the Roman citizenship to the Alpine people. This plate is now in Trento’s Castello del Buonconsiglio Museum.

Walk around the Spinazeda Quarter – the most ancient quarter of Cles it will surely transport you to another era. On the other hand, as you will walk to the center of the town you will notice how new the streets are dotted with chic cafes that somehow don’t look out of place.

Old Rathaus Building in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Old Rathaus Building in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

As you walk around the town center, you will also see the ancient building of Cles’s non-functional Rathaus – the City Hall. We were told that this building is now the venue of several art exhibitions and is no longer serving as the city hall.

If you’re making a day trip to Cles, I will make it easy for you and tell you exactly where to go. Here are some places that you should visit while you’re in Cles:

La Cucolq, the Mini Cheese Factory

Inside La Cucolq - the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Inside La Cucolq – the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Young couple Erica and Fabrizio run an adorable little cheese factory in Spinazeda Quarter, Cles’s old town. Fabrizio milks the grass fed cows and Erica makes the cheese. You can just ask anyone in Spinazeda Quarter where the Mini Cheese Factory is and they will guide you.

The sitting area in La Cucolq - the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

The sitting area in La Cucolq – the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

The interiors of the mini cheese factory are lovely and look like they’re right out of an old time movie. But hey, if you look around carefully then you will notice that quirky art pieces that are in the corridor give the timelessness away (in a good way).

Erica making cheese in La Cucolq - the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Erica making cheese in La Cucolq – the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Fresh cheese in La Cucolq - the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Fresh cheese in La Cucolq – the Mini Cheese Factory in Cles, Val di Non, Italy

Ring the bell when you’re inside and ask for Erica. Buy her special Caciotta cheese or Rabiola cheese that she makes all by herself. While you’re there, try the homemade yogurt with honey.

Cles Castle Viewpoint with Lake Santa Giustina

Cles Castle and Lake Santa Giustina in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Cles Castle and Lake Santa Giustina in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Cles has an amazing viewpoint and to reach here you have to walk uphill for 5 minutes from the town center. The viewpoint is actually accessible from a small public park.

When you’re here, you will see the Cles Castle of course and the man made Lake Santa Giustina next to it against the backdrop of mountains. Right in front of the Cles Castle there is an apple orchard but the trees had not begun blossoming while we were there.

Larnterna Magica – Cinema Themed Café

Inside Lanterna Magica - Cinema Themed cafe in Cles, Val di Non

Inside Lanterna Magica – Cinema Themed cafe in Cles, Val di Non

Did I mention how Cles’s old town is dotted with chic cafes? Well one of them is a really quirky cinema themed café called Larnterna Magica.

The food in Italy is spectacular and I’m sure you won’t stop eating pizzas and pastas while you’re here. However when the weather is sunny and you’re in a mood for a not so heavy lunch as you’re exploring Cles, a Panini in Larnterna Magica is an amazing option.

There are strange looking cinema machines from the older times in this café that are decorated at random spots. The menu also is cinema themed with things like Ace Ventura drink, Orient Espresso, Vanilla Sky coffee, and more.

I ate a vegan Panini here and San had a meat Sandwich – they were both very good.

Stop at the Apple Orchards (Frutteto Storico or Ville d’Anaunia)

Apple trees with their twisted brances in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Apple trees with their twisted brances in Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

No visit to Val di Non is complete without seeing the valley’s famous Apple orchards. After all, it is the specialty of the region. We did two tours of apple orchards, one was Frutteto Storico in Aperitivo and the other was on a private farm in Ville d’anaunia.

Pink Apple Blossoms in Val di Non, Italy

Pink Apple Blossoms in Val di Non, Italy

If you have ever lived in Europe, I’m sure you would have mostly eaten Melinda apples. They’re a product of Val di Non. There are around 7000 hectares of apple orchards in Val di Non that are owned by 5000 families. These are sold under Melinda co-op. We were told that during the harvesting season, most of Val di Non is working in the Orchards. Even of they don’t have their own farm but have private job instead, they get called by their cousins or uncles to help around in the farm.

Apple orchard in Frutteto Storico, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Apple orchard in Frutteto Storico, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Warning – if you don’t like history, then just skip to the next paragraph. Val di Non has an ancient history of apples that was documented even in the 16th and 17th centauries when they were grown in gardens. In the 18th and 19th centuries saw a large-scale cultivation and export to Germany and France. In late 19th century, apple farming in Val di Non became more organized with numerous water canals and structured methods of agriculture. In 2003, Val di Non apples were recognized as PDO apples.

A traditional Renetta Canada Apple tree with new blossoms in Ville d’Anaunia - Val di Non, Italy

A traditional Renetta Canada Apple tree with new blossoms in Ville d’Anaunia – Val di Non, Italy

I’m not sure if the above history was of an interest to you, but I must say that these apple orchards are really lovely to look at. Broadly speaking, there are two types of apple trees here – the ancient ones and the new ones. The branches of both these kind of trees are twisted and they look like a witch’s arm. In a way, the ancient apple trees look kind of psychedelic.

 

San and I exploring a lovely Apple Orchard in Ville d’Anaunia, Val di Non with Brunella

San and I exploring a lovely Apple Orchard in Ville d’Anaunia, Val di Non with Brunella

Some of the apple trees in Val di Non had pink flowers and the others had white ones. These looked realty interesting with a backdrop of snowy mountains. If you visit during spring, you can enjoy the beauty of apple blossoms. These apple blossoms smell mildly sweet.

San and I got to learn so much about apples that we will never look at them the same way again!

Castle Valér – Visit the Super Romantic Castle with a view

C’mon honey, buy me a castle!

Castel Valer in Ville d’Anaunia - Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Castel Valer in Ville d’Anaunia – Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Jokes apart, this castle was actually on sale back in 2016 after 650 years! This is Castle Valer – a one of a kind octagonal castle from the 13th century. It is on the foot of the Dolomites in Val di Non. The best part – during spring it is surrounded by pretty apple blossoms.

Castel Valer is in Tassullo village, which is a part of Ville d’anaunia. Ville d’anaunia is the same place that is mentioned in the previous point where I recommend you to stop to see apple orchards. San and I really enjoyed Ville d’anaunia because with Cherry Blossoms and Tulips – spring was in full swing here.

Val di Non has Cherry Blossoms too - Trentino, Italy

Val di Non has Cherry Blossoms too – Trentino, Italy

You can hike around Castle Valer to the St. Justina Hermitage. Or, you can pre book a guided tour so that you can see the castle from inside. If you’re short on time, you can just walk to the castle and admire it from outside.

Tavon (Coredo) – The Scenic Small Towns in the Mountains

Alpacas in Pineta Hotel, Tavon, Val di Non - Italy

Alpacas in Pineta Naturamente Hotels Tavon, Val di Non – Italy

Cordeo and Tavon are two nearby idyllic village in the Non Valley that are surrounded by mountains. Tavon village has a very nice view of the surrounding mountains.

Near Tavon are two man made lakes – Lake Tavon and Lake Coredo and together they are referred to as Cordeo Lakes.

Beautiful village Tavon in Val di Non, Coredo, Italy

Beautiful village Tavon in Val di Non, Coredo, Italy

While you’re here, you should surely check out the spectacular Pineta Hotel, a luxurious spa hotel that is surprisingly affordable. It is on an elevated part of Tavon, so the views from here are spectacular.

To make the most of Coredo and Tavon, you should stay in Pineta Hotel for at least one night. This way you can head out for the hike across Sfruz, Smarano, Tavon and Coredo villages and see Lake Tavon and Lake Coredo. Moreover, Pineta Hotel is the perfect spot for you to enjoy a sunset here with these adorable Alpacas. Look at these cuties! San and I thought these were Llamas.

Adorable Alpacas in Pineta Hotel, Tavon, Val di Non, Italy

Adorable Alpacas in Pineta Naturamente Hotels, Tavon, Val di Non, Italy

San and I enjoying a cozy dinner with the locals in Pineta Hotel, Val di Non, Italy

San and I enjoying a cozy dinner with the locals in Pineta Hotel, Val di Non, Italy

While you’re here, make sure you try Pineta Restaurant – “Alla Pineta”, it is even older than the hotel itself and is legendary. Chef Bruno is the eldest son of the family that owns Pineta Hotel and he runs the restaurant with his wife Bianca. If you’re confused about what to eat, the staff will explain and help. I recommend you to try one of their multi course dinners.

Flavon – Old Town Surrounded by Apple Trees

Sunset in Flavon with Spring Flowers - Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Sunset in Flavon with Spring Flowers – Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

While Val di Non’s main town Cles is beautiful, I’d suggest you book a place to sleep in Flavon. Flavon is not as busy as Cles and has its own quaint charm, which you can only find in smaller villages. Moreover, the hotels in Cles are expensive but not so in Flavon.

A cemetery in Flavon, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

A cemetery in Flavon, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

We stayed in a lovely family run inn called Agritur Residenza De Poda, which was in the middle of Flavon. Everything inside was wooden, even the decoration was wood carved. This place is also called Antica Residenza de Poda and true to its name is an antique residence.

Flavon is a very peaceful town in lower Val di Non and apple orchards on all the sides surround it. We also saw several cherry blossoms while we were here.

While you’re in Flavon, you should check out the Church of Saint John the Baptist. You should also eat the legendary pizzas of Ristorante Pizzeria Centrale. This is where I had the best pizza of my life.

Where to Stay in Val di Non – Best Hotels

Room in Agritur Residenza De Poda, Flavon, Val di Non, Italy

Room in Agritur Residenza De Poda, Flavon, Val di Non, Italy

 

For a place to sleep in Val di Non, I will give you two options – the first is where we stayed – Agritur Residenza De Poda and the second is the one that we visited – Pineta Naturamente Hotels in Tavon, Cordeo.

Agritur Residenza De Poda, Flavon

Agritur Residenza De Poda is also called antique residence, which is a family run inn in the middle of Flavon. It is colorful from the outside but as you go inside, you will notice how everything is wooden, even the decoration!

Our room was very clean, airy and spacious with all amenities. The wifi worked very well. The hotel actually is a charming old farm house that has been renovated and converted into a hotel. Antique household things are displayed at different corners and on the staircase too.

The breakfast at Agritur de Poda was pretty good but it is worth noting that the restaurant is in the hotel is not open for dinner. However there is a Ristorante Pizzeria Centrale that’s nearby and is open till 10 pm. The hostel in Agritur de Poda was very helpful and delightful to talk to.

Pineta Naturamente Hotels, Tavon

Pineta Naturamente Hotels is a spa resort that is quite affordable for what it offers. It is built on an elevated part of Tavon and as a result the views are really good.

Pineta Hotel and Spa, Tavon, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Pineta Naturamente Hotels, Tavon, Val di Non, Trentino, Italy

Not only is Pineta Hotel extremely gorgeous, it also has a really good in house restaurant. This is the same hotel that we mentioned in our point about Tavon. This is where we saw Alpacas – the sama picture that you see as the cover image for this article.

Disclosure: San and I were invited to Trentino by Visit Trentino team but all silliness and thoughts expressed in this article are totally our own.

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