Äscher-Wildkirchli – Hiking in Switzerland’s Appenzell

Have you ever looked at one of the “Most Amazing Places on Earth” lists? If so, you have likely seen an image of the Aescher-Wildkirchli cliff restaurant and guesthouse. The dramatic cliff restaurant is world famous, yet many people don’t know where it is and how to get there.

Äscher Wildkirchli, cliff, restaurant, mountain, guesthouse, Äscher, Aescher WildkirchliOn an early morning in June, my two daughters (8 and 10 years old) head out from Bern for an adventurous day in Appenzell. The air is chilly, especially after days of excruciating heat, but the day promises to be perfect. We are starting with a 3 hour train ride, first-class, among business people headed to Zurich to work. As always, they look at us with a certain curiosity, but we don’t mind, playing cards as we go. The train goes straight to Gossau, and once we pass Zurich, the compartment starts to feel deserted.

Past Zurich, the landscape becomes more and more beautiful. Rolling hills, timbered houses, sunflower fields, cow pastures, and the scenery green and bountiful. In Gossau, we change train to board the smaller Appenzeller Bahn. A 50 minute train ride takes us through an incredibly romantic area of Switzerland. Mountains are green and rounded. Houses are painted with a lot of love and detail. Appenzell is one of the most picturesque and also conservative areas of Switzerland. As a result, it is really well preserved and tradition runs deep.

appenzell, switzerland, aavtravelOnce in Wasserauen we cross the street and arrive at the Ebenalp cable car station. The ride takes us swiftly in the air and quickly gains height. Drastic cliffsides as well as alpine meadows are abundant. The ride takes less than 10 minutes.
ebenalp, appenzell, switzerland, panoramaThe panorama that greets you once you step out of the Ebenalp station is incredible. Green mountain tops as far as the eye can see, snow covered mountains and Lake Constance in the distance. The air you breathe is fresh, the grass greener, and wildflowers abundant. Many cows graze peacefully along our side as we start the descent.

The walk to the Äscher-Wildkirchli only takes about 15 minutes, but is exciting on many levels. After crossing the pasture, it quickly descends to the prehistoric Wildkirchl Caves which you cross via a safe path and then leads to the ancient hermit dwellings. The hermits that settled here in the early 1600 would accompany travelers through the caves for safe passage.  The caves are dark and despite some lights you might want to bring your own flashlight. Past the dwellings you then come to the actual chapel, dating back to 1621, built into the mountain side.
Äscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelÄscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelAround the bend you go and there it is, the world famous Aescher-Wildkirchli Gasthaus. The Äscher-Wildkirchli is a restaurant as well as simple guesthouse with a few dormitory style beds. It is built directly into the cliffside and some of its back wall is bare rock. The guesthouse dates back to the 1800 when hermits and milkers (Sennen) started serving simple food and drinks. It turned into an actual guesthouse in early 1900.

Äscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelFrom here you can either return up to the Ebenalp cable car station or start your hike down towards Unterauen. The hike takes about 2 hours, and is very steep at times.

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandWe decided to embrace the challenge and started our hike towards Wasserauen. It was an excellent time although due to the constant descent, very challenging towards the end.

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerland

alpstein, appenzell, switzerland, cows, alps, alpine, mountains, aavtravelThe way down is steep and not always clearly indicated. Beautiful views, spectacular alpine scenery, many colorful wildflowers accompanied our way, and we also made new friends…

 

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerland, cow

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandWe did get lost on our way and ended up in Weissbad instead of Wasserauen which wasn’t really a problem since the train back to Gossau stopped there as well. It was a wonderful day-trip which we will treasure forever. All in all, it took us a full day (12 hours) from Bern, and we slept very well that night.

Ebenalp/Aescher-Wildkirchli makes for a wonderful day-trip from many cities in Switzerland. Here are a few things you will want to watch out for:

  • Weather in altitude is generally cooler and can change in an instant. Be prepared.
  • Bring a picnic. There is nothing more beautiful than to sit on an alpine meadow and have a snack. Don’t forget a little trash bag so you don’t leave anything behind.
  • Your shoes need good tread. The terrain is steep, there are rocks, gravel, and steps. Make sure your shoes snug tightly to your feet and your gear is adequate.
  • Trail indications are not the best. Our rule of thumb: As long as you go downhill you are going the right way.
  • You will be walking through cow pastures. Before you decide to touch a cow, assess the situation. If the animal seems restless or scared, do not attempt to approach and touch it.
  • The trail requires a certain level of fitness. You do not need to be a professional athlete, but it is very steep at times and if you have issues with your knees or back it is definitely not recommended.
  • You can do the trail with your children, however they need to be old enough to hike on their own and you need to feel comfortable to let them run a little risk every now and then. One of my girls stumbled, one slid and fell on her butt. Some tears were shed but we survived and have some beautiful memories. My daughter told me afterwards that it made her feel stronger.
  • Make sure you factor in the travel time. From Bern the train ride to Wasserauen takes about 3 hours. From Zurich it will take about 2 hours. Depending on where you are, it will be shorter or longer.
  • How to get there? You first need to travel to Gossau (St. Gallen). From there you take the Appenzeller Bahn to Wasserauen. The Ebenalp cablecar ground station is located right across the street. The adult roundtrip cablecar ride prices at roughly 15 CHF.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner and travel consultant at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specializing in customizing travel itineraries for discerning customers. Being originally from Switzerland makes her an expert and she can help you create a wonderful trip. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

10 Reasons why Bern makes the perfect hub when traveling to Switzerland

Being originally from Switzerland it is only natural that I feel very passionate about this topic. Not only do I help many clients with their trip to this mountainous country but I also return home on a regular basis.

switzerland, matterhorn, cervin, alps, suisse, aavexplorations, aavtravel

Image credit: swiss-image.ch//Max Schmid

When asked what they would like to see in Switzerland, most of my clients start with Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich and Zermatt. What they don’t understand, is that despite the small size of Switzerland, it is not necessarily easy and fast to get from one point to the next. The Alps pretty much split Switzerland in half and many times you have to travel around the mountains before you can get to a specific place. This is why I always recommend having a hub. Not only does it mean you don’t have to pack and unpack all the time, but it also allows you to adjust your itinerary depending on weather. Personally I also think it is very important that you get to experience Switzerland versus simply taking as many pictures as possible.

fondue, switzerland, cheese, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret

Bern is the underdog when it comes to the list of destinations promoted by the Swiss Tourism Board. However, I think it actually deserves to be on top because of its central location.

Here are 10 reasons why Bern makes an excellent hub when traveling to Switzerland:

  • Bern is the Gateway to the Bernese Alps
    Granted, many say it is Interlaken and it is true, Interlaken is closer, depending on where exactly you want to go that is. Wherever you want to go in the Bernese Alps, you will either have to go through Spiez or Interlaken. Both destinations are reached in approximately 1 hour scenic train ride from Bern.

Bern, Switzerland, alps, junfrau, eiger, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger

  • Bern is the gateway to the French part of Switzerland
    Whether you want to visit one of the cities like Lausanne or Montreux, or visit the Gruyeres cheese dairy or Cailler chocolate factory, explore the vineyards of the Lavaux, a comfortable train ride of approximately an hour will take you there.
  • Bern is the gateway to Zermatt and the Matterhorn
    Without doubt, the Matterhorn is one of Switzerland’s most famous mountains. Zermatt is a charming mountain village to explore. In 2006 the Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened and cut the travel time from Bern to Zermatt in half. Instead of having to travel around the mountain range, you can now cross via one of the longest tunnels, approximately 35km/22 miles. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel from Bern to Zermatt via train.
  • Bern is a UNESCO Heritage town
    Founded in 1191 (almost 100 years before Switzerland was founded) the medieval town was developed over several centuries. The Old Town dates back to the 15th and 16th century and retains much of its original character. Not only does it offer wonderful sights like Bern’s Clock Tower or the Muenster but it also boasts numerous medieval fountains, all spouting potable drinking water.

bern, altstadt, old town, medieval, aare, switzerland, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch/Terence du Fresne

  • Bern is perfect for rainy days
    Why you might ask? Bern’s Old Town is lined with 6 km/4 miles of arcades which are not only beautiful and unique, but make shopping on a rainy day a breeze.
  • Bern is very pedestrian friendly
    Cars can only drive in the heart of the Old Town with a special permit. The locals travel around either via the public tram and bus system, ride their bikes, or walk. It is a pleasure to stroll through Bern on foot. When you get tired you hop on a tram. It is as simple as that.

bern, switzerland, zytglogge, cobble stone street, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Jan Geerk

  • Bern is perfect for a workout
    The Old Town of Bern sits on an elevated peninsula surrounded by the River Aare. Throughout hundreds of years, the river has carved out the valley surrounding the Old Town. Today, many staircases connect the lower river level with the upper Old Town. A perfect way to burn calories whilst sightseeing. Oh, and you can always climb the Muenster tower, the 222 stone steps should do the trick.
  • Bern is home to the Paul Klee museum
    The Zentrum Paul Klee features about 40% of all of Paul Klee’s pictorial oeuvre. Apart from the large collection of excellent artwork it is also an architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. Three undulations perfectly blend into the green countryside.

bern, market, switzerland, flowers, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Stephan Engler

  • Die Berner – The Locals
    When traveling Switzerland you will quickly understand that despite the small size of the country, there are quite a few differences between the cities and areas. Many Swiss say that the Bernese are slow. I will argue that this is inaccurate. The Bernese are simply less driven than, let’s say people from Zurich. Not because they are lazy, but because they want to enjoy life. They strive to find a balance between career and happiness. Why is that good for you? No matter what you wear, you will get by in Bern. People here are casual and relaxed. No need to fret over a not so fancy wardrobe.

bern, switzerland, dinner, restaurant, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

  • Bern’s Outdoor Spaces
    Whether it is a stroll along the river Aare, a pic-nic on the Bundesterrasse, or an ice cream in the beautiful Rosengarten overlooking the Old Town, Bern is an outdoor town and people enjoy the fresh air. You will find them sitting outside at restaurants, you will find them sitting on the lawn enjoying the sun. You will even find kids playing in the 26 fountain display (representing the 26 Swiss cantons) located right in front of Switzerland’s Parliament. Bern is absolutely fantastic for anyone who loves to be outside.

bern, switzerland, muensterplatform, aare, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

Have you been to Bern? Want to go? Have a question? Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat has been creating customized vacations to Switzerland for 8 years. She is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

 

 

 

When is the best time to visit Ireland?

Dreaming of standing on the cliffs, seeing vast, luscious shades of green expanding over many miles, feeling the wind from the Atlantic blow through your hair, and experiencing such beauty that you thought only existed in a fairy tale? According to World of Wanderlust, a reputable travel blog, Ireland ranked number two out of 15 destinations in the world to travel to in 2015–and for many good reasons!

cliffs of moher ireland aavtravelLike every other destination, Ireland also experiences a high season, low season and shoulder seasons. But one thing that doesn’t change is the weather. One of Ireland’s most famous sayings goes: “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change.” It couldn’t be more true, due to the fact that the weather is so unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day. Ireland is on the same latitude of Washington, USA and the weather is very comparable to Seattle, especially with the amount of rainfall. But don’t let the weather be a reason to not visit this beautiful, enchanting island, because it will be an experience like no other.

Celtic Monastery Ireland aavtravelHigh Season
Generally starting the last two weeks of June because the days are long (6 a.m. sunrises and 10 p.m. sunsets–doesn’t that sound great?!) and lasts until August. You can expect the costs of airfares, hotels and car rentals to be sky high because this is the major time for tourists to flock to Ireland. Crowds will be very intense at the major attractions, such as Giants Causeway (pictured below) or, for example, the Cliffs of Moher get up to one million visitors a year! If you’re planning a trip during peak tourist season, make sure to book way in advance, because every B & B, guest house or hotel will be reserved. Destinations like Dublin, Killarney, Galway and Cork are only some of the few major stops along the way for tourists!

giant's causeway antrim northern ireland aavexplorationsThe weather during the summer, like mentioned earlier can be unpredictable. July and August are the warmest months, but they’re not scorching hot. The Irish consider anything over 20 degree Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) to be ‘roasting.’ You can expect to have nice sunny days with rain showers sporadically. It can also be chilly any time of the year in Ireland, so when you pack, think layers! That way, if you get warm you can take a layer off, or vice versa.

Christ Church Ireland aavtravelLow Season
November to March is considered the low season, where tourist traffic is at its lowest, and airfares and hotels are at their cheapest. But, the wind will really blow, some of the rural sites will be closed (or have winter hours), and a good amount of B & B’s will also be closed. Keep in mind there are holidays that will affect attraction closures, such as: Christmas (Dec. 25), St. Stephen Day/Boxing Day (Dec. 26), New Years Day (Jan. 1)  and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).

Belfast Christmas in Ireland aavtravelThe downside to visiting in the winter is the days are shorter and the weather ranges from cool to cold. Strong winds will blow from the Atlantic, and gales are common. The Irish consider anything below 1 degree Celsius (34 degrees Fahrenheit) to be freezing during the winter months. Wintertime to most means snow, but not in Ireland. Though they do get snow in the northern region it rarely sticks, and the island mostly gets frost.  But there is an upside to visiting during the winter! Not only will you get great deals to save on the overall cost of your trip, but major attractions won’t be crowded with tourists, so you can take your time. Just make sure to pack comfortable shoes, a warm jacket, layers of clothes and an umbrella!Dublin Ireland aavtravel

Shoulder Seasons
April-May and September-October are considered Ireland’s shoulder seasons mostly because they’re not in the high or low seasons. The weather isn’t winter-like, or summer-like, but rather mild. The springtime is a great time to go because students are still in school, and family travel isn’t as prominent, plus you get to see everything in bloom! During the fall you’ll see the colors change, and students are back in school.

Connemara Ireland aavtravel The shoulder seasons are a great time visit especially if you want to escape the crowds from the summer, but don’t want to experience the winter time in Ireland. This way, you’ll have a more relaxed atmosphere, without all the hustle and bustle to worry about.

doolough ireland aavexplorationsOverall, whether you plan to visit during the high, low or shoulder season, your experience will be one in a lifetime. Ireland is a unique destination, it’s a place where you can have tropical climates in the south west and see lots of exotic plants and flowers, but you can also expect to see rare flora and fauna in the north where you won’t see anywhere else in Ireland. There’s a reason why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, why not experience the rolling hills, greenery, and natural beauty first hand?

stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Ireland Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Ireland Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. Having personally traveled to Ireland she can help you create a wonderful experience. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

When is the best time to travel to Italy?

Thinking of visiting the Amalfi Coast? Or going on a romantic getaway to Venice? And you want to visit the largest amphitheatre in the world? Italy has and always will be a popular tourist destination; with Rome being ranked 12 out of 100 top city destinations in the world. While in the midst of dreaming and planning out your vacation, you might wonder, when is the best time to go Italy? There are a few factors that likely influence your decision: The weather, the crowds, the time you have available, and your budget. Amalfi Coast Italy aavtravel The Seasons
Just like any destination, there are high and low seasons for travel–high season meaning cities crawling with tourists, and long wait lines for popular attractions. Low season on the other hand can mean you encounter closed shops or restaurants and the weather might not be as nice.

High and low season influence cost, particularly airfare and hotel pricing. Train tickets, transfer and sightseeing tours & tickets are usually not affected by the season.

High Season
Italy’s high season generally starts in May, it runs through to Mid-July, slacks for a month and picks back up in September through October. Easter is also a very popular time for tourist to flock to Italy, so depending on when Easter falls, high season could start as early as April. This applies to just about majority of the very popular destinations throughout Italy, such as Rome, Venice, Tuscany, The Amalfi Coast, The Lakes, Milan and Sicily.

One exception are parts of Northern Italy where skiing is one of the major tourist attractions. Prices in those places peak throughout the winter months.

Tuscan Hill Italy aavtravelMay 1 is Italy’s Labor Day. Many shops, restaurants and some tourist sites will be closed since it’s a national holiday.  This is the first big month for travel, so if you think you’ll be crowd-free, think again. However, crowds are nothing like June, July and August. May is about as good as it gets weather-wise, it’s not too hot, and not too cool. It’s a beautiful time to visit, clear skies, very little rain. It will be perfect for a walk on the beach, however it will likely be still a bit chilly for swimming in the Mediterranean. Generally you can expect the weather to be in the 70s, and it only gets warmer when June rolls around. July tends to be very packed and it’s not unusual to wait hours at ticket lines to attractions. The weather gets hot. You can expect temperatures to soar to the 80s and 90s. Restaurants and hotels do not necessarily have air-conditioning so if you have a hard time with heat, it is something you will want to pay particular attention to.

assisi italy aavtravelCome August most people can’t take the heat, and leave for the beach. Availability is much better at that time, however pricing might still be up. Most Italians are headed to the shores in August for the Italian holiday Ferragosto, so a lot of family owned shops, restaurants, cantinas and cafes will be closed, although the big attractions will remain open. August can make cities like Rome feel like a ghost town, so if you’re the type to enjoy big crowds and people watching, this is not the time to go.

Portofino Italy September is also one of the busiest month for travel, particularly for European tourists as they usually have a long fall break. Popular destinations will book up quickly, especially Tuscany. September doesn’t seem like it would be a contender for the most desired time to go, but why? The weather. It’s still summer in Italy, and September still has beautiful 70 and 80 degree days; it’s pretty much like June. September is a really great time to go in terms of weather but remember, make sure to book well ahead of time, AAV Travel recommends at least 6 months ahead of time.

Low Season
The rest of the year is pretty much considered low season in Italy, though there is a rise in tourists around holidays such as, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. November marks the start of the low season, which goes up till the end of March. For most Italian cities, you can expect to get a lot of rain, about 4.5-5 inches of it during the month. The weather will be quite mild, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s with grey skies. Keep in mind that there are other Italian holiday’s that may have closures for some of the sites, especially the Vatican; Nov. 1 (All Saints Day), Dec. 8 (Feast Day of the Immaculate) and Dec. 26 (Santo Stefano).

Although it will be busy in the major cities come New Years, it will quiet down by the second week of January. Hotels and airfares will be cheaper, so if you want time to wander around sites minus crowds and can handle the cold, January is the time to go. January is the coldest time of the year in Italy (30 degrees), so pack warm clothes, though the more south you go, the milder it will get. It is a great time to experience an authentic Italy with less tourists. However, you will also miss out on the people watching while sipping on a coffee in the piazza. Lago Trasimeno aavtravelOther things to consider is though January and February are in the low season and there tends to be a substantial drop in tourists, places like Venice and Viareggio will be busy with celebrating Carnevale, so they’ll have higher prices compared to other Italian cities such as Rome and Florence. If your prime reason to visit Italy during the winter is to ski the Alps–which is the best time–it is also the most expensive.

 Shoulder Seasons
In-between the low and high seasons are a few months of time called the “shoulder seasons.” Typically, the shoulder seasons have reasonable weather and prices. March and October are considered those sweet spots between the high and low seasons. Though weather can be unpredictable and it’s mostly mild, you can still get fairly beautiful weather that ranges from  40 to 60 degrees, with chances of little rain.

This is considered to be one of the best times to visit Italy  if you’re willing to take a chance on the weather, or you want less crowds so you can roam freely and take your time at tourist destinations.

tuscany italy aavtravelThe Vatican
If Rome and the Vatican are on the top of your list make sure to check the Papal city’s schedule of events. A canonization for example can mean an invasion of people for the time you are there. This will affect your sightseeing as well as availability in major ways.

rome vatican city aavtravel

stephanie jellett aavtravelWritten by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com

 


in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Italy Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Italy Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Cork, Ireland — A Place for Lovers

Situated in the south west of Ireland, Cork is rich with luscious farmlands and rivers. The River Lee flows through two main channels in the city, so you’ll find yourself crossing bridges to get around. Though Cork isn’t a popular honeymoon getaway like Dublin (the capital of Ireland) or Galway, which rests on the Atlantic Ocean and has golden sand beaches, Cork is a true treasure trove for couples in love.

cork ireland aavexplorations

Arriving in Cork you’ll have the option to stay at various modern hotels, cozy up at a charming bed and breakfast, or romance at a historic place, such as the Bantry House pictured below. Either way—you’ll be welcomed with smiling faces anywhere you go. The best way to experience the city is by foot—imagine walking hand-in-hand down the cobblestone walkway through the old city, over the channel, taking in everything it has to offer.

bantry house ireland aavexplorationsCork turns into a different city when the sun sets. The air is filled with laughter coming from comedy clubs, friends tell jokes over a couple of beers in an old Irish bar, and beat of the DJ music can be heard down the street. Experience a wide array of nightclubs with music that ranges from modern popular music to live local music.

If you want to get out of the bustling city for a day, Kinsale is located 15 miles outside of Cork. Originally a medieval fishing village, Kinsale is located on the coast and is one of the most historic towns on the south west coast of Ireland. The picturesque village is full of beautiful buildings, complete with intimate pubs and restaurants. Listen to Irish songs in a pub while enjoying a pint of Guinness. Go horseback riding through the country side. Kinsale is the ideal place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle.

sheep road ireland aavexplorations

Ireland is a very romantic destination full of history and laid back charm. It is a place where you can feel very close to nature. Cork is but one of the many places to be explored and makes for a great stop.

Ireland as well as Northern Ireland are easy to explore on your own. The most challenging part is how to create an itinerary that optimizes the time you have available. If you would like some expert help feel free to contact us at info@aav-travel.com.

 stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Ireland Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Ireland Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

How to Not Look Like a Tourist in Rome

trevi fountain rome aavtravelBeing a tourist is one of those things were it has its perks and downsides…let’s be real, some people just don’t like tourists and never will. But, everyone has had their own share of experiences, whether good or bad. When I was a teenager I went on a trip to Quebec City with my family. We went to the shopping mall and I wanted to try on some clothes and see if there were different sizes out back…well, I don’t speak French (which is their primary language), so that led to a lot of hand gestures, frustration and eventually I just gave up and left.

Carrying a DSLR around your neck in a new place does have its perks though, for instances: I was in Philadelphia on a university trip walking downtown with a friend of mine. I had my Canon out taking photos of the skyscrapers, the old architecture and the monuments when I was approached by a woman who asked if I was a tourist, pointing to the “big fancy camera around my neck.” Laughing, I told her yes, I was from out of town. She told me that if I wanted a panoramic view overlooking the entire city to go City Hall before 4 p.m. because they let people up the tower. Sadly, I didn’t make it before City Hall closed, but it was a really nice gesture that I appreciated.

Now, it doesn’t bother me to completely play tourist when I’m in a new place, but others prefer to blend in on vacation. When going to a new place it’s pretty instinctive to research about it first and get to know the basics, such as: language, culture, history and customs. Every place is different, so it’s important to learn about it beforehand.

Viva Italia!
Italy is very well respected for their culture, which differs from what we’re used to. Not only does Rome have a different language from us, they aren’t on a fast-track like we’re used to. Imagine sitting down to eat at a quaint little Italian restaurant and you devour your meal…now imagine the dirty looks you’ll get from the other locals around you who are taking small bites, eating slowly and appreciating their meal. To make your trip go smoothly, follow these tips and etiquette and you’ll be blending in in Rome in no time.

rome colosseum aavtravelCiao! Boungornio and Bounasera
Italian is the official language of Italy and 93 percent of the population are native Italian speakers. Though in bigger cities it won’t be a problem to find someone who speaks English at the hotel. Before you head out on your trip to Rome, start practicing some basic words and phrases in Italian. If you have your trip booked months in advance, start learning the language right away–not only does this get you excited about it, it helps you develop your new language.

  • Grazie — Thank you
  • Prego — You’re welcome
  • Per favore — Yes please
  • Mi scusi — Excuse me/Pardon me
  • Non parlo molto bene italiano — I don’t speak Italian very well
  • Parla inglese? — Do you speak English?
  • Quanto costa/costano? –How much does that cost? (sg.pl.)

Tip: First impressions mean everything to Italians. When meeting someone for the first time, don’t greet them with ‘ciao!’….that greeting isn’t used amongst strangers. Shaking hands with a smile is the most appropriate behavior between strangers. Once a relationship develops, air-kissing on both cheeks (starting with the left) is very common.

Do’s and Don’t’s of Table Etiquette
It’s fairly common for tourists to wind up going to the “touristy” places to eat on vacation. Get off the tourist path, be that person who people-watches, and learn where the locals go to eat. That way you’re staying away from tourist-packed restaurants and experiencing something most tourists don’t — all while blending in. Another option is buying local food (if you’re staying at a place that has a kitchenette).

Rome Italy It doesn’t matter whether you’re at an upscale restaurant or having a picnic, Italians take their dining etiquette seriously. If you want to avoid getting dirty looks, glares, and turning waiters into enemies, here are some basic do’s and don’ts that’ll help you fit in on your vacation.

  • Do: Pick up cheese with your knife rather than your fingers.
  • Don’t: Order coffee with or after a meal; it’s seen as a way to digest your food AFTER you eat.
  • Do: Put your napkin on your lap and your hands on the table.
  • Don’t: Eat bread before a meal, it’s used to soak up left-over sauces from your meal, not fill you up beforehand.
  • Do: Wait till everyone else has their food to begin eating.
  • Don’t: Request Parmesan for your pizza or any meal…you don’t want to know what happens…just don’t do it
  • Do: Be polite to your waiter, don’t holler across the room to get his/her attention
  • Don’t: Ask for tap water at a restaurant. Italians always drink bottled water or sparkling water.
  • Do: Ask for the bill. A waiter will not bring it unless it is requested or it’s passed closing hours.

romance wine italy aavtravelDress and Sightseeing
Italy is huge on chic, European fashion and they’ll spend a pretty penny on their wardrobe. Observe the locals and what they wear and try and go with that to not stick out like a sore thumb. Women usually tend to wear feminine attire, such as dresses while men wear also be formal with suits, with and without ties (depending on the occasion). The overall trend is elegant, but conservative;old, dirty and ratty clothes are not appreciated.

love romance italy aavtravelThat goes for being in church as well. There are many churches throughout that have beautiful works of art, but remember it’s a place of worship–you need to dress appropriately. Shorts, tank tops and sleeveless garments are taboo throughout the country, so make sure to bring a sweater to cover up. Also, you can’t bring any food or beverages inside churches, so leave that behind!

Do you dare to shed your tourist aura? Get out of your comfort zone–learn a new language, learn from the locals, it’ll enrich your vacation in a way you never thought possible.
stephanie jellett aavtravel

Written by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanie.jellett@maine.edu

 

in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Italy Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Italy Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

Eat and Indulge in Rome – Running, Walking and Working Out in the City

Ever go on vacation and realize that you’ve gained a couple pounds when the button on your jeans doesn’t seem to want to…well…button? This can be the case for many travel-goers when their sweet tooth gets the best of them. But have no fear, you can still satisfy those cravings on vacation and still fit into your skinny jeans. Here’s a look at a how to indulge in one of the most mouth-watering places on earth and keep the weight off.

rome travel aavtravelWhen in Rome…

When walking around in Rome you’ll never have to worry about finding a place to eat–every corner, every street there’s either a family run pizzeria, café or restaurant at every turn. Your taste buds will be satisfied at every meal with Rome’s simple, yet sophisticated recipes.FireovenPizza aavtravel rome

  • Restaurant Spirito DiVino: A family run restaurant where their passion for food shows with every taste. The cost per meal ranges from 24 to 40 Euros ($32 to $53). The four-course dinner has many delicious dishes to choose from; start with the deer bresaloa with salad, grapes and nuts as an appetizer. As your first course, the half rigatoni with white ragu sauce of mixed meats. For the main dish, try the grilled t-bone steak served with creamy mustard and salad. If you still have room after that, the creme brulée will sure hit the spot! Oh, there’s also a wine cellar that holds about 5,000-7,000 wines. You can buy from the glass (6 to 15 Euros/$8 to $20) or the bottle (16 to 800 Euros/ $21 to $1,068)–bring out your inner wino!
  • Li Rioni: Located near the Colosseum, this small, charming little restaurant is where you’ll experience the best pizza in your entire life. The heavenly first bite: the crunch of the thin crust, then the sweet Italian sauce, the melted cheese and then toppings of your choice–all the flavours mixed together so delightfully that you’ll never want to eat anywhere else. A perk: it’s very, very inexpensive.
  • Bar Pompi: Where the gelato is not just ice cream–it’s an art perfected from the ancient recipe by Guiliano Pompi. At Pompi, expect nothing but the freshest fruits and natural flavour. Keep in mind: gelato in Rome is very costly and can definitely break the bank a lot quicker than expected. Prices vary place to place, but expect to pay roughly 13 Euros ($19) each.

Gelato aavtravel rome

Workout in Rome

If you’re worried about adding on extra pounds due to indulging in the savoring tastes of Roman cuisine, you can still eat all you want and get a workout while on vacation. There are many options that you can consider while away.

Rome8 aavravel rome

  • LivItaly Tours: A different kind of tour service–get to experience the city history, architecture and landscapes while out for a group run. Not only do you get to enjoy the sites, you’ll learn about each place and get fun facts and the best part — you’ll be burning off calories while doing so. You’ll get to enjoy every minute of your vacation even if you’re working out. There are various tours to choose from that range from 29 Euros ($39) to 89 Euros ($118).
  • Moves Fitness Center: If you’re into the more traditional workout routine, there’s also fitness centers located in Rome. They have weights from 1 to 42 kg, treadmills, ellipticals and the typical compound and isolation machines. There are also different types of classes offered, such as: Pilates, yoga, body sculpting, aerobics and total body workouts.
  • Walking, Jogging, Running Routes: This website specializes in routes created by locals and people from all over the world. You can search the different types of routes (walking, running, jogging, cycling) and even create your own route to share with other people. All routes vary in length and are all over the city. You can even search upcoming events that are happening–maybe you’ll participate in a 5 km!

Rome4 aavtravel rome workout indulgeIndulge in Rome

There’s no need to worry about packing on the pounds while on vacation. You can enjoy all the delicacies that Rome has to offer while staying in shape. You won’t need to buy gym memberships when you get back home if you exercise to make up for stuffing your face the day before. Working out doesn’t have to feel like a nuisance–and it certainly won’t when you’re running by the Colosseum! Don’t let yourself say “should I really eat that?” because chances are this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, enjoy it.

Find us at www.aav-travel.com to plan your next Italy adventure.