My 3 favourite beaches near Tuscany

This July, I was lucky enough to spend a month living in Florence, Tuscany. Whilst Florence was beautiful, it gets bloody hot during summer. The days had a continuous maximum of 35 degrees Celsius and the humidity was around 80%. The thing I started to miss most about home was the beaches. So here’s my list of my 3 favourite beaches you can easily access from Florence.

1. Monterosso al Mare


Monterosso is the first, and biggest, town on the Cinque Terre. When you first walk out of the train station you’re greeted with beaches full of multicoloured umbrellas and a promenade trimmed with flowers, palm trees and sun-drenched travellers. The beaches here are private but we managed to haggle a good price for some sunbeds for half the day.

The best part about Monterosso is that it’s technically a sand beach! By sand, I mean there are pebbles closer to the water but there is sand near the sunbeds so it’s a little bit of both. It felt more like home!

How to get there:

From Florence, there are trains that take about 2.5 hrs to get there if you have to change trains. On Sunday’s, there are direct trains from Florence which take a little less time. 10/10 would recommend staying a night here if you can, but if not – it’s totally doable in a day!

2. San Fruttuoso 


Now, San Fruttuoso is a little further afield than the Cinque Terre from Florence – but if you do decide to stay a night in the Cinque Terre, this place is not to be missed! Once an old abbey, this beautiful spot has crystal clear water and even an underwater statue of Jesus Christ for those who know who to dive.

As it is surrounded by hills on either side, I would recommend heading to San Fruttuoso first to make use of the most amount of sun rays. We went in the afternoon and by the time we left, half the beach was in the shade.

How to get there:

This secluded beach is only accessible by ferry or by foot. By foot, it takes around 2 hours one way and I’ve heard the walk is far less crowded and more scenic that the Cinque Terre. We decided to take the ferry both ways, and the coastline was breathtaking! We bought a return ticket from Rapallo which let us hop-on and hop-off at other towns along the route such as Santa Margherita and Portofino.

A return ferry ticket will cost you around 17.50 euros and you can find the timetables here.

3. Quercianella

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Just around the headland from the beach

This last one is nowhere near as famous as the other two – but it’s the closest to Florence! If you’re in need of a quick dip in the ocean but don’t want to travel too far from Firenze, this one’s for you.

On one of my last days in Florence, my Italian friend organised an afternoon trip to the beach for us. She said she’d spoken to a few friends and they’d recommended a sleepy town on the Tuscan coastline. From the train station, it was about a 20 minute walk north to the beach. There was both private and public sections, so we just lay our towels down in the public area and jumped straight in the water. People were floating on inflatable beach toys and the vibe was really chill compared to other beaches we’d been to.

As we were leaving, we saw people setting up yoga mats on the beach for a spot of sunset yoga practice! I loved the relaxed atmosphere this beautiful town had – my friend even said she’d be recommending her family to come here next time during their summer holidays. I would definitely recommend a visit here and, if you want to stay overnight, Villa Margherita looks divine.

How to get there:

The train is a direct service from Florence and takes about 1 and a half hours.

Happy swimming!

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Not too far from home!

– s.



Munich has been one of my favourite cities this trip. I hadn’t previously been to Germany before and was so excited to be able to stay with my friend for a week.
My week was full of bier, brezn and beautiful sites. I visited the English Garden many times and drunk the first of my favourite German bier, Hofbrau, next to the Chinese Tower.

Now I’m from Australia and the biggest stereotype we have is that we’re all surfers. I suppose I can surf small waves but I’ve never been a big surfer. So you can imagine I was so surprised to see people surfing in a river! There’s a wave created on the river in the English Garden by the rocks on the riverbed and people surf the one wave. The wave looked difficult and required a lot of turns and tricks – I could’ve watched them for hours, I was in awe!

The highlight was climbing the Olympia Tower which gives an amazing view out over all of Munich. We were lucky with the weather on the day we went because it was sunny and clear and we could see all the way to the alps in south.

If you like vintage shopping, Munich has an amazing store called Pick N Weight where the price of the clothes is measured by – you guessed it, weight! They had so many gorgeous and high quality clothes and even had second hand dirndls. I know where I’ll be going if I come back for Oktoberfest.

My week in Germany could not have been possible without my friends who have moved there. Their tour guiding made me feel like a real local and it was so much fun to see them again. I think getting to know people from around the world is so valuable and gives you an opportunity to learn so much more about other cultures and ways of life.

Munich, I will definitely be back!

– s. 

48 hours in Madrid

¡Hola mi amigos!

In 2014, I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in Europe. I spent my first month studying Italian in Rome at Scuola Leonardo Da Vinci – 10/10 would recommend if you’re keen on learning Italian. During the second month I went on a Contiki tour with my friend – visiting Spain, France, Monaco and Italy.

One thing that surprised me was how I absolutely fell in love with Spain. It’s a country rich with culture, amazing architecture and churros – seriously, the churros are so good that we went to the same churro shop twice in one day.

We began our Contiki in Madrid, the capital of Espagna – and what a way to start! We only had 48 hours in the Spanish capital, so here’s my guide on 5 the things you should tick off your list in Madrid.

1. Churros

Literally the first thing my friend and I did when we checked into the hotel was start the search for the best churros in Madrid – and wow, did we find them! Nestled in a seemingly sleepy alleyway, Chocolateria San Gines is one of the most famous churros vendors in Madrid. Inside, the shop is bustling with locals and tourists alike and the smell of churros cooking fills your lungs. The decor is simple but welcoming – the walls are adorned with black and white photos of celebrities who’ve visited over the years. Order the ‘Chocolate con churros’, which comes with enough churros for two and hot melted chocolate for dipping. If you’re feeling hungry, try the ‘Chocolate con porras.’ Porras are a thicker version of churros and taste just as good, if not better! I dare you not to visit this place more than once.

2. Mercado de San Miguel

I. love. markets.

In every town I visit, I scout out the local markets before anything else. Markets are a great way to experience the local produce and culture. I also use the markets as a way to learn the foreign words for food, this comes in handy especially when you’re dining out.  Mercado de San Miguel is a collection of tapas food, drinks, legumes and fresh produce. Be sure to have a lunch or dinner here and sample all the tapas plates on offer! It is open 10am – midnight on Sunday – Wednesday and 10am-2am Thursday – Friday. With opening hours like that, I’m sure you can squeeze in a quick visit.

3. Valle de los Caidos

Valle de los Caidos requires about a half a day trip from Madrid but believe me when I say, this place is worth the trip. Valle de los Caidos translates to ‘Valley of the Fallen’ and is an underground church and tomb carved into the hillside. It was built to commemorate the fallen on both sides of the Spanish Civil War. The size of the tunnel leading to the main basilica absolutely took my breath away and the huge cross that stands atop of the hollowed out cave is the largest in the world, standing at 150m high. It’s about a 45 minute bus ride from the centre of Madrid to Valle de los Caidos or you if your prefer, you can hire a car and drive there yourself.

4. Football

…or as us Australians say; soccer! Even if you’re not a soccer fan, it’s a fantastic experience attending a European football match. The passion and enthusiasm of the fans is second to none. Whilst we were only in Madrid for two nights, we were lucky enough to find a football game on the second night of our stay and lucky enough to see Ossasuna vs. Real Madrid – with the main attraction being Cristiano Ronaldo! Our seats were fairly high up in the grand stands but they were reasonably priced and we still had a great view of the game. Grab a beer, grab a team scarf and cheer on your team to victory or defeat!

5. Bar Mirador CentroCentro

Rooftop bars are another thing I love to keep an eye out for in a new city. I love the al fresco dining experience and watching the sunset over a new city with a drink in hand.¡Qué maravilloso!

We found Bar Mirador hidden away in the rooftop of Centro Centro – a museum and cultural space which begun life as the city’s postal service building in 1909. From the outside Centro Centro resembles a palace but inside it is a modern-day multi-purpose building with an impressive mixture of classical and contemporary architectural features. To reach the rooftop bar, take the lift to level 6 and exit around to the right. The bar is open until 2am most evenings, but I would suggest going up just before sunset to grab a drink and watch the city pass through life below you.

There you have it, my favourite places I visited in Madrid in 48 hours! What are the best places you’ve been to in Madrid? Do you know of any other great rooftop bars or churros shops? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

– so.