Alberobello, Italy: a Trulli Unique Experience

Alberobello, Italy: a Trulli Unique Experience

Last October, I decided to take a mini family trip to Alberobello, Italy, a destination I had been dying to visit for the past 2 years. I desperately wanted to see the unique Trulli of Alberobello, Italy with my own eyes, only to be found in a certain region of Southern Italy. So my little brother, my cousin, and I rented a car and decided to make a stop in Alberobello for a day, as part of our epic Italian road trip, which I’ll write about in a future post. If you ever make it to Puglia, don’t leave without stopping in Alberobello!

Alberobello, Italy: a Trulli Unique Experience

Where is Alberobello?

Alberobello is located in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, in the “heel” of the boot. Puglia has become one of my favourite regions in Italy, and I highly recommend a visit here. It is definitely more rugged and less structured than other parts of Italy, but that means less tourists and a more raw Italian experience.

What’s So Special about Alberobello?

Alberobello is famous for its traditional cone-shaped white-washed housing carved from limestone. The Trulli of Alberobello are so distinctive and unique that they were coined a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Trulli in Italy

Viewing the Trulli from above as a storm is brewing in the depths

Quick History of the Trulli

Trulli in Italy

The Trulli originated in Alberobello back in the 14th century. The Trulli were strategically built to throw off the government to hide under the law and evade taxes, so they were meant to look like an “uninhabited settlement”. For this reason, the Trulli were built without mortar so they could easily be disassembled quickly if needed. The clever things people do to avoid taxes. Ha!

What it’s Like to Stay in an Actual Trullo

Trulli of Alberobello

 

We found our awesome Trullo on AirBnb for $80/night. Today, trulli are a popular accommodation type in this region and are fully functional with electricity and plumbing. Our specific trullo had 2 bedrooms and could sleep up to 5 people. It had a super cozy feel to it and everything inside seemed a bit miniature.

trulli, www.crazytravelista.com

It was a 5 minute drive from town so a car was necessary. I’m so glad we decided to stay in a Trullo a little outside the city because we had a HUGE yard filled with olive trees and vineyards. Plus, we had the entire property to ourselves! An added bonus.

If you’re interested, here is the Airbnb listing here. If you’re new to Airbnb, use my coupon for $20USD off! 

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What to Do in Alberobello, Italy

♥Wander the Streets and See the Trulli Up Close♥

Typical Trulli in Italy

How cute is this town?

There aren’t a whole lot of activities in Alberobello, it’s just one of those places you come to see and experience for yourself. It’s truly like nowhere else in the world and it’s fun to just wander the streets. There are a few museums, souvenir shops, restaurants, and a bunch of liqueur tasting spots. I can’t say we didn’t do a little bit of our own “liqueur crawl”. Don’t worry, we bought a few bottles as well, to support the local community.

Trulli of Alberobello, Italy

♥Have a Mini Photo Shoot♥

Trull of Alberobello, Italy

Alberobello is very Instagram friendly, and there are endless amounts of photo ops around every corner. We spent a good hour just goofing off and taking some silly photos.

Try the Local Coffee

Coffee in Alberobello, Italy

Caffe Leccesse, one of the BEST coffees you will ever drink. Period. My mouth is still watering.

Where to Eat in Alberobello, Italy

Casa Nova il Ristorante-We really enjoyed this restaurant as it had a cave-like vibe being underground. We were surprised at the exceptional service as 2 waiters served us with the utmost respect. The food was really tasty, and they even had some gluten-free pastas and bread for me as well! They also gave us some appetizers for free! Oh, and the best part was the whole entire bottle of Limoncello they gave us to try at the end. I highly recommend this place if you’re in town.

Casa Nova, www.crazytravelista.com

Secret Find in Alberobello

As it started to storm during our day in Alberobello, we ran into this cute little shop called Il Ricardino where they had wine tastings for 1€ a cup. The owner Georgina has owned the place for 50 years and she was so friendly and awesome! She came to drink with us and played some fun Italian music so we could all dance. Then she insisted we all take a “selfie” together. Such a sweet lady!

Trulli in Italy

Cheers to discovering this cute little spot with our own chill out attic

The best part of this little shop was the tiny attic in the roof of the trullo, where there was a little chill out spot where we could relax and sip our wine. It was so cozy and authentic and this was a highlight of our time there. If you’re in Alberobello, make sure to stop at this shop and take a selfie with Georgina! It will make her very happy.

Here is her FaceBook page if you’re interested in visiting. 

Logistics:

How to Get to Alberobello

By Car-Having a car in this region of Italy is highly recommended, especially if you want to rent a Trullo with some land away from the city. We rented a car from Bari and it took about an hour to get there.

By Train– you can reach Alberobello on a direct train route from the 2 major ports nearby, Bari and Brindisi. It will take about 1.5 hours from Bari and 1 hour from Brindisi. Check the Trenitalia website for timetables.

How Long do I need in Alberobello?

Honestly, one day and one night is all you need as there isn’t a whole lot to do activity-wise. But I must stress, you shouldn’t come to Alberobello without staying in your own Trullo! It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime unique experiences that you shouldn’t pass up. When in Rome, right?

Book ahead as they to sell out in the high season.

When to Visit the Trulli of Alberobello

Trulli of Alberobello, Italy

Going to Alberobello in October means you have the whole town all to yourself 🙂

Early spring or late fall is the best time to visit the Trulli of Alberobello, Italy, when there are virtually no crowds. We went in October and had almost the entire town to ourselves, which made it extra special.

Have you been to Alberobello or stayed in a Trulli? Was it everything you expected? I want to hear your thoughts!

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Trulli in Alberobello

Proizd Island: the Secluded Croatian Paradise You’ve Been Looking For

Proizd Island: the Secluded Croatian Paradise You’ve Been Looking For

If you’ve ever been to Croatia, then you probably know how special it is. However, I must admit, over the past few years it has become more and more popular (i.e. crowded). Unfortunately, if you visit in July or August you will be rubbing elbows with many tourists fighting for a spot near the water. Cue in the virtually undiscovered island of Proizd, a secret local hideaway far from the crowds.

Paradise in Proizd, Croatia

Proizd was voted Croatia’s most beautiful beach in 2007 by the Croatian Tourist Board, and it’s not hard to see why. The clean white rocks contrasted with the deep turquoise waters is breathtaking, and probably the clearest water I’ve ever seen in all of Croatia. Proizd is completely off the beaten path and is perfect for a day trip if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. 

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Proizd, Croatia

Disclaimer: all of the photos in this post are completely unedited and from my iPhone( or GoPro)…the water really is that color! A fancy DSLR camera wasn’t needed to capture Proizd, it’s so naturally beautiful on its own! 

Where is Proizd?

Proizd is located off the West Coast of Korčula Island, one of my favourite Croatian islands. A boat ride from Vela Luka to the island will take 35 minutes. 

How to get to Proizd

Proizd island boat

To get to Proizd, a small boat leaves from the port town of Vela Luka 3 times daily during the summer at 10am, 11am, 12pm, and 1:30pm. The boat returns at 5pm, 6pm, and 7pm. Get to the boat 25 minutes early to assure you a seat in the high season. It only holds about 25-30 people. Tickets costs 50 kuna roundtrip (about $7.36 USD currently).

Proizd boat timetable

Proizd boat timetable

What to do in Proizd

Ok, there are only a few things to do on this island, but it’s so worth going to. If you love nature and secluded beaches, you will fall for Proizd very quickly. 

1. Wander through the woods, pick a trail and let it lead you to a new secret beach

Take the beaten path to get off the beaten path. Makes sense, right?

Proizd woods

One you get off the boat and pass the one restaurant near the dock, you will notice a wooded forest that has several different narrow walking paths that lead in different directions. You can’t really go wrong, so pick one, take the short hike, and see where the path takes you!

Proizd island, Croatia

My favorite view below, after a 10 minute walk through the green forest led to this…

Proizd, Croatia

2. Relax!

secluded Croatian island

This is the perfect place to take a book, lay out and relax. It doesn’t get more peaceful than this.

Relaxing in Proizd island, Croatia

That’s the beauty of this island. It is completely devoid of tourists and you will only see a handful of locals around. At any given point, I don’t think I saw more than 10-15 people at a time at one single beach. At some spots, there weren’t any people at all. Keep in mind, I was there in August, in the height of peak season! I can’t even imagine what it would be like in May or late September, but I’m definitely intrigued to go back and find out! 

Proizd island, Croatia

 

Who wouldn’t want a whole paradise island to themselves?

Where to Stay in Proizd

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Proizd is uninhabited! There are NO houses, apartments, or hotels on the island. Another reason why I loved this island so much!

There is one restaurant and one beach bar, and that’s it! The rest is just you and nature (and a handful of Croats). Staying in nearby Vela Luka is recommended as you can easily catch a boat directly from there.

Tips for Visiting Proizd

  • Wear appropriate shoes because it is very rocky (no sand unfortunately)
  • Bring snacks as there is only one restaurant where the boat docks
  • Don’t stay at one beach, explore as many paths as you can (I didn’t know about this until it was too late and I was only able to see 2-3 beaches)
  • One beach is nude, just FYI
  • Pay attention to boat departure times, the last one is at 7pm! Dont get left behind or you WILL be sleeping on the beach alone (hey, this might  not be a bad thing after all)

Proizd island gopro

Where is your perfect secluded paradise island? Let me know in the comments below. I may need some inspiration for future travels 🙂

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Proizd, Croatia secluded paradise


MY TOP 5 RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GEAR:

1.Sony Alpha 6000 Mirrorless Camera: I made the switch from my huge DSLR and I wouldn’t go back. It’s light, compact, and takes amazing photos!

2. Sony 10-18mm Wide Angle Zoom Lens: this wide angle lens is the key to landscape shots. I use this lens more than the original and am super happy with it. It’s not cheap, but super worth it if you want to get those special nature shots. Honestly, I would purchase the Sony alpha 6000 camera body only and save up for this lens to go with it.

3. E Bags Packing Cubes: the biggest life changer to keep me packing light! This is my biggest travel gear obsession and I have NO idea how I traveled without them before.

4. LifeProof NUUD Waterproof Case (iPhone 6): this helps protect my phone from water, sand, dirt, and the numerous drops that incur while I travel. I love it!

5. GoPro Hero 5 Black: I am a proud GoPro ambassador and obsessed with GoPro selfie pics if you didn’t notice! This is an essential item when you’re traveling solo to get all your cool shots (and of course underwater pics). Plus it’s so much fun to use! 🙂

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a super small commission if you make a purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I have used before on my own and that I truly love 🙂

 

8 Helpful Tips for Traveling Europe with a Gluten Allergy

8 Helpful Tips for Traveling Europe with a Gluten Allergy

Traveling Europe with a gluten allergy does not have to be a daunting task. It just takes a little bit of extra planning and preparation beforehand. As an avid traveler, my first thought of traveling with a Gluten allergy was “omg, I’m not going to be able to travel and enjoy all the amazing foods that I love experiencing”. But I soon learned that it IS possible. It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie. But I think I figured out the system and I wanted to share some of my tips for all those who might avoid traveling out of fear of food allergies (not just gluten).

How I Noticed Signs of Gluten Intolerance

To make a long story short, about 2 years ago I developed a whole list of mysterious medical symptoms. I started having extreme joint pains, headaches, blurry vision, muscle cramping, fatigue, and sharp tingling and burning sensations in my hands, arms and legs. I live a pretty healthy lifestyle, working out since I was 15 and eating “right”, so this came out of nowhere for me.

It was a long 6 months straight of going to endless doctors appointment and undergoing just about every medical test and blood test in the book. I became depressed as I though I must be dying or something (I’m already a hypochondriac so this just made it a thousand time worse).

After spending $5000 out of my pocket, on top of my $300 monthly premium (thanks to our awesome US healthcare system), one doctor suggested an elimination diet (from gluten).

Fast forward 2 months later, after religiously restricting gluten from my diet, low and behold, the symptoms went away completely! Gluten, you bastard! I never underwent all the Celiac tests, so I’m not exactly sure if I have it (although it does run in my family). At that point I didn’t need to, I knew 100% that Gluten was the culprit. Fast forward 2 years, and I have never felt healthier!

I wanted to share some tips (through trial and error) and how I get by traveling Europe with a gluten allergy. It doesn’t have to be stressful if you’re fully prepared.

8  Helpful Tips for Traveling Europe with a Gluten allergy (or any food allergy for that matter):

1. Pack Snacks

If you have any friends with food allergies, you will soon realize that they ALWAYS carry snacks on them. Zip-lock bags are your friends. I never get on a flight without packing a few bags of goodies beforehand. My favourite in-flight snacks are rice cakes, gluten-free crackers, bananas, and cereal. Sometimes I bring peanut butter but it often gets confiscated, especially in US airports. However, it has gotten through security in several European airports, so it all depends. But a good rule of thumb is, stick to solids only. Sorry, that Nutella just won’t cut it!

2. Request special airline meals AT LEAST 24 HOURS in advance

This one is tricky and will only work on longer flights. Most European budget airlines don’t have this option at all, so be aware (or if they do, it will cost you an arm and a leg). For most intercontinental flights, CALL the airline AT LEAST 24 hours before your flight to make your requests. Ive made the mistake of requesting it online while I was signed into my United Mileage account. Unfortunately they didn’t get the memo and I was left without ANY food on an 8 hour flight. This has happened to me 3 TIMES! Although, the other 2 times I was given the first class meal, so I wasn’t complaining.

3. Stock up Locally

Gluten-free/Bio section in DM

Gluten-free/Bio section in DM

The first thing I do when I go to a new place is go to the local farmer’s market for fresh produce. It’s also a great way to help the local economy! I also look around for a DM (Drogerie Markt), they are located all over Europe. DM is a German based retail store that sells cosmetics, household items, travel size toiletries (bingo!), and bio and gluten-free snacks. DM is my go-to spot and I’m obsessed!

4. Gluten-free Restaurant Card (GAME CHANGER)

Croatian gluten-free restaurant card

Croatian gluten-free restaurant card

Discovering the gluten-free restaurant card was a complete game changer for me! It’s basically a nice, neat print out card for Celiacs to give to your waiter so they know what you can and cannot eat. It’s available in 54 languages and honestly has been a life-saver for me. Click here to find your desired language.

5. Learn the Lingo

In the event you misplace your gluten-free restaurant card, it’s smart to learn a few words in the local language regarding your allergy. If there is one phrase I make sure I remember, it’s how to say “gluten-free”.

Here are a few useful ones to remember:
Italian: Senza Glutine
Croatian: Bez Glutena
German: Gluten-frei
Spanish: Sin-Gluten
French: Sans Gluten

6. Cook your Meals

This is where Airbnb comes in! One of the main reasons I love Aribnb is that you can often cook all your meals, not only making it easier for those with food allergies, but saving you extra money by avoiding dining out.

Super quick meal I whipped up in Italy, with fresh spices from the host's balcony :)

Super quick meal I whipped up in Italy, with fresh spices from the host’s balcony 🙂

If I’m staying in a hotel with a mini fridge, I make sure to stock it up with salami, cheese, fruit, and smoked salmon. Even with no kitchen, there are ways to dine in and I definitely take advantage of them!

7. Gluten-Free Apps

Apps are an easy way to find gluten-free options while you’re traveling and I use them heavily! Three of my favorites are:

Find Me GF-allows you to search gluten-free restaurants and stores based on your location.

Mangiare SG-basically the same thing as Find Me GF but specific to Italy.

Google Translate-there is a feature where you can scan a whole group of words for translation (only available in a few language). I use this a lot translating ingredients on a package. Genius!

8. Visit the Pharmacy

Yes, you heard that right. In some countries, specifically Italy and Croatia, the government awards a stipend to those suffering from Celiac. For this reason, most pharmacies are stocked up on gluten-free items to accommodate these prescription holders. When all else fails and you’re having no luck finding GF snacks, look for the big green pharmacy sign. 

Worrying about food should not be on your mind when traveling Europe with a gluten allergy, there are so many amazing experiences to be had! You just need to be smart, change some habits, and be better prepared. It’s not the easiest thing, but once you get the hang of it you can get out there and explore with a better piece of mind, and not to mention a healthier overall well-being.

Do you have any more helpful tips to add for traveling with a food allergy? PLEASE SHARE! I’m always open to new suggestions! 🙂

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Traveling Europe with Gluten Allergy

Geysers, Waterfalls, and Glaciers, Oh My! The Golden Circle Tour (+Northern Lights)

Geysers, Waterfalls, and Glaciers, Oh My! The Golden Circle Tour (+Northern Lights)

Golden Aurora Circle Tour with Solstice Tours

With only 3 days to explore the entire country of Iceland, I had to pack as much into each day as humanly possible to try to see it all. When I decided a tour was the best option for me, I chose a small company called Solstice Tours, featuring a smaller group size. Because, who wants to be herded around in a grey hound bus with 100 other tourists? That sounds God awful. I chose the Golden Aurora Circle Tour, a combo of the Golden Circle Tour and Northern Lights Tour. 

The Golden Circle covers approximately 300km and is the most popular day tour in Iceland.  So what exactly do you see on the Golden Circle Tour? Here goes (it’s a lot!):

Golden Circle Tour

 

On Power Power Plant

The first stop was to the On Power power plant. Not too excited about it at first, but then I learned some very interesting facts about Iceland. Some extremely freaking cool things I learned:

  • the power plant is near an active volcano
  • magma under the ground is heating up the water (2km underground)
  • power plant adds sulfur to water to protect the pipes (hence the bad smell)
  • power plant extracts the geothermal liquid and it is separated into water and steam
  • steam is used for electricity (resulting in extremely low electricity bills in Iceland)
  • pipes run 27km to the city of Reykjavik
  • 16,000 tons per hour can be pumped to Rekjavik at highest capacity (woah)
  • Reykjavik uses underground hot water to heat the streets (I was wondering why there was no snow on the streets!)
  • 90% house in Iceland use geothermal hot water

Icelandic Horses

I had no idea this was part of the tour but Jon, the tour guide and owner of Soltice tours, pulled over on the side of the road near a green pasture. He hopped out and told us it was time to feed the horses. What? How exciting! He gave us some bread, and I was extremely hesitant to feed them, thinking I might lose a finger or two. But he calmly informed us that the Icelandic horses are some of the tamest horses in the world. Why? Because they have never had any known predators. I thought that was cool.

What else is really cool about Icelandic horses? They have 5 different gaits, as opposed to the average horse with 3 gaits, making them extremely unique. The more you know…

Kerið Crater

Kerid Crater, Iceland

How cool is Kerid Crater?

I had never heard of this place, but this turned out to be one of the most unexpectedly awesome stops of the whole tour. I felt like I was on Mars walking around the periphery of this huge volcanic crater. I cant deny that it took me 30 minutes to walk around as I kept stopping for selfies. No shame. 

Random Cherry Tomato Plant

cherry tomato farm

Random stop at cherry tomato farm (aka the best cherry tomatoes I’ve ever tasted)

On this random stop, we quickly visited a cherry tomato plant where Jon brought us endless cups of local cherry tomatoes. I’m so not a tomato person at all, but these were the best cherry tomatoes I had ever tasted! Hands-down. So sweet and juicy! Who would have thought, in Iceland?

Geyser Geothermal Area

Strokkur Geysir on Golden Circle Tour

Strokkur Geysir erupts every 5-10 minutes

Just like it sounds, it’s an area filled with geysers everywhere you turn. The most famous Strokkur Geysir is very active and erupts every 5-10 minutes, making it a popular spectacle. The famous geyser sprouts up to 30 meters! But don’t stand too close or you will most definitely get sprayed!

The Magnificent Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss waterfall in winter

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gulfoss waterfall is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in all of Europe. Formed by 2 waterfalls smoothly cascading into the next, this is certainly the highlight of the Golden Circle. We were however, greeted by an intense hail storm upon arrival. The hail was so powerful I couldn’t even open my eyes, so I had to run like a bat out of hell back to the van for shelter. Very characteristic of Iceland’s weather, 5 minutes later the sky opened up magically with a bright blue tint, making you forget what had just happened. It was just enough time gawk at this beauty of nature, snap some pics, and be on our way!

Here I am 5 minutes earlier trying to snap a photo. Not exactly what I was expecting.

Gulfoss waterfall, Iceland

Not too thrilled about that Icelandic weather

Stop at a Glacial Spring

With a quick stop at the glacial springs, we were able to actually taste the glacier water straight from the source. It was some of the purest, freshest water I have ever tasted! I can now officially say I’ve literally tasted natural glacier spring water.

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park fissure

Fissure outlining the separation of the tectonic plates

Þingvellir National Park was one of my personal favorite stops on the tour! It is home to the Silfra fissure, where you can snorkel and dive in between the Mid-Atlantic ridge separating the 2 continents, North America and Eurasia! Where else in the world can you do that? It was January, so I decided to pass on this. I know, lame. We still were able to spot many areas where you could visibly see the fissure between the 2 continents.

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

GOT Season 6 was filmed steps away from here 🙂

Another huge highlight for me was getting to see some of the filming sites for the upcoming Game of Thrones season! Yes, they were filmed in Þingvellir National Park!! I felt like a giddy school girl knowing that I could be walking on the same grounds as Jon Snow. I’m a dork, I am fully aware of this fact. 

Þingvellir National Park waterfall

Is Iceland really real? 🙂

Observatory between North America and Eurasia Tectonic Plates

This was really cool as we could visibly see the cracks in the ground separating the 2 continents. Jon took us to the North American side so we could feel “at home”.

North America and Eurasia tectonic plates

Overlooking the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between N. America and Eurasia

Interesting fact: The plates in this Mid-Atlantic Ridge shift apart 2cm each year!

Northern Lights Tour

 

Ok, this is why I really decided to come to Iceland in the dead of winter. The Northern Lights are high on my bucket list, as they should be. The great thing about this tour is that Jon allows you to go along on the Northern Lights chase up to 3 TIMES, on the day of the tour, and also on the day before and day after, increasing your chances of a sighting.

Jon had a plethora of knowledge about photography and shared some of his helpful tips as we sat in the van waiting for the perfect timing. It was a windy and frigid evening and it seemed like we would go home empty handed, but Jon pepped us up to go out..

He informed us that sometimes you cant see the lights with your naked eye, yet they are still visible through the camera lens. And he was right! We were able to see a slight glimpse of the lights through the viewfinder. If only faintly, we were able to see the Northern Lights. However, I can still say that I have not seen the lights with my naked eye. So it still remains on my bucket list! I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me; although I did enjoy the chase!

Aurora Borealis

Photo courtesy of Jon, owner of Solstice Tours

What I really liked about Solstice Tours?

  • small group size (about 8 people) allowed for getting to know other travellers
  • wifi on bus (huge bonus!)
  • knowledgable and kind tour guide (I’m talking about you Jon!)
  • pick up outside of the city (at my Airbnb apt)
  • extra stops along the tour
  • good lunch options
  • so many sites visited (bang for your buck)

What I didn’t like?

  • My only complaint is that I wish we could have spent more time at certain sites such as Þingvellir National Park. But with the short daylight time in winter, this wasn’t possible.

Disclaimer: special thanks to Solstice Tours for hosting me. As always, my opinions are my own. If I don’t like something, I will definitely speak my mind! No bullsh*t.

Have you done the Golden Circle Tour or Northern Lights Tour? Would you rather go on a tour or go solo? I want to hear your thoughts!

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Golden Circle Tour highlights