Rome Vlog! My First Solo Trip

Last week, I was stuck in quite the funk in London. Getting rejected from job applications and drowning in depths of schoolwork, I needed to get away ASAP. I booked a quick trip to Rome, and decided to take a bit of a risk – I would travel alone. While I’ve traveled alone in the States before, this trip was my first voyage abroad sans companions, and I’m so glad I finally bit the bullet and went for it.

The weekend in Rome was restorative, immersive, and even a bit meditative. Plus, it was filled with sunshine and plenty of pasta and stunning ancient ruins. Since I didn’t have any real-life friend with me, I thought I’d bring YOU, my internet friends, with. Being the obnoxious millenial I am, I vlogged the whole trip. Check out all my food porn and painful attempts at Italian! Can’t wait for my next solo trip; I may be newly addicted.

Hotel Margherita: A Hidden Gem on the Amalfi Coast

Can I let you in on a secret? Promise not to tell anyone? I’ve found (well, really my mom found) a hotel on the Amalfi Coast with world class service, Wi-Fi, and even a pool (yes a pool!) and it won’t set you back several thousand Euros. Miracles happen, right?

Hotel Margherita: A Hidden Gem on the Amalfi Coast

When I first dreamed of visiting the famous Italian coastline after seeing countless Gray Malin photos, I thought it would simply be too expensive. Hotels like Santa Caterina in Amalfi or the famous Le Sireneuse in Positano are iconic and luxurious but not attainable for someone like me. Staying somewhere within my price range conjured up images of schlepping it to a dingy B&B with run-down facilities. Since finding Hotel Margherita, however, I think anyone’s dream Amalfi Coast vacation is within reach. Now just don’t tell too many people – I’d like to be able to book a room next year!

Arrival & Check In
From the moment you arrive at Hotel Margherita, you experience their five-star service. Suela and Gennaro greeted us how everyone should be greeted: “Beer or wine?” Check-in was quick,  and they helped carry our bags to our room, all while giving us a tour of the grounds. We definitely appreciated the efficient and warm welcome after a winding drive along the curvy coast (Italian drivers know how to keep you on your toes!).

Hotel Margherita on the Amalfi CoastThe view from the terrace. A stunning start to our stay.

Location
Carved into the cliffs above the Mediterranean, Hotel Margherita is in the picturesque town of Praiano, located ten minutes south of Positano and 25 minutes north of Amalfi. The ideal location, Praiano is close to the action, but without the hustle and bustle and heaving crowds of tourist. You truly feel like you’re staying in an authentic Italian town.

Approaching Praiano by water taxiApproaching Praiano by water taxi, my preferred mode of transportation.

Transportation
While you may not be located steps from the beach or right in the center of town, transportation to these attractions are seamless. A bus to Positano leaves right from in front of the hotel every hour and only costs a couple of euros. Additionally, the hotel offers a free shuttle to the local beach and goes above and beyond to make your transportation stress-free. We went to dinner at Locanda Costa Diva, at a neighboring hotel, and Suela offered a van to take us there without even having to ask her – free of charge. They’re incredible.

Praia BeachThis magical beach is a quick and free shuttle ride away.

Service
Not only is service exceptional when it comes to transportation, but your entire stay at Hotel Margherita will also feel like luxury 5 star service, yet without the hefty price tag. The staff truly surpasses all expectations and do so with a smile on their faces. We had lunch brought to our room, had tours and cars arranged for us, and were always made to feel at home. There’s a reason they have the rare, flawless 5 star rating on TripAdvisor.

Lunch on the balcony at Hotel MargheritaAfter a long, sweaty day of shopping in Positano, the hotel brought this mouth-watering spaghetti to our room for me to enjoy on our balcony – after the restaurant had finished lunch service.

Rooms
Rooms at Hotel Margherita are classic and simple. You aren’t going to get over the top or super expensive decor, but your room will be comfortable, clean and tasteful. Our bathroom was the standout with intricate blue tile-work and a tub with a window overlooking the ocean. Almost all rooms have a balcony, and I would definitely pay any extra fee for an ocean view. It’s truly surreal  to wake up to the glistening Mediterranean Sea every morning. Wifi and Sky satellite TV are included, but you’ll be too busy soaking in the sun or eating more spaghetti with clams than you should to use them.

Hotel Margherita RoomPhoto of a guest room from the hotel website. I dropped the ball and was too entranced by my Amalfi Coast daydream to remember to take a photo of ours!

Dining
The hotel restaurant, Ristorante M’ama! was delicious and situated on a terrace, so you can watch the sun set as you savor your seafood and pasta. We also made daily use of the free breakfast included in your room rate. I feasted on freshly made omelettes, pastries, local fruit and wayyyyyy too much nutella. All topped off with a cappuccino of course! You’ll need that energy if you’re going to jet off to a beach club or Capri. This fresh and filling breakfast is also a money-saving option if you are on a budget – fill up in the morning and avoid an expensive lunch at a tourist trap in one of the neighboring towns.

Processed with VSCO with a1 presetMassive amounts of nutella not pictured. Probably in my stomach.

Amenities – aka that pool!
In addition to the aforementioned restaurant and sun terrace, the real jewel of the hotel grounds is its infinity pool. By no means a lap pool, it’s still so satisfying to dip into after a long day spent on a boat, hiking, or simply after rolling out of bed. It’s saltwater, and there are plenty of sunbeds nearby for your sun worship. My parents stayed at a different hotel on their previous trip to the Amalfi Coast and really regretted not having a pool. It can get scorching during summer holiday season, so you’ll be thankful for the opportunity of a quick refreshing soak.

The pool at Hotel Margherita on the Amalfi CoastThe pool, midday. That’s me! Probably in a daze that I’m actually in that dream of a location.

Hotel Margherita at duskCandy colored skies at dusk. No filter necessary.

Areas for improvement?
The only reason I wouldn’t recommend staying at Hotel Margherita is if you absolutely HAVE to be right on the beach or in the middle of “the action” in Positano or Amalfi. Even then, I think the hotel goes to great lengths to make both of those things very accessible, so it’s still difficult for me to not recommend it to anyone and everyone. Seriously, just stay here. As long as there’s still space for me too 🙂

Where to book: https://www.hotelmargherita.info/bookonline.htm
How to get there: Fly or take a train into Naples. From there, take a bus or hire a car to take you to the hotel. The drive is about 2 hours, and Hotel Margherita helped us book a driver who was friendly, reliable and fairly priced.
Price: About $200/night depending on when you go and what room you book.
Tips: Book as far in advance as possible. The hotel is boutique, so it will fill up during the busy season (July-August are busiest). There is an elevator, so rolling luggage is fine. If you have any questions or need special arrangements, email Suela. She won’t steer you wrong.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat. It’s not a matter of if, but when!

Hotel Margherita on the Amalfi COast

Arrivederla – or see you soon!

Amalfi Coast style:

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Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Click on the button below to check out more great travel content!

Weekend Wanderlust – hosted by a Brit & a Southerner! Please check out both link parties for more excellent travel content! Thank you!

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Amalfi Coast Essentials

If you have spent any time here on Always, Erin (hi, Mom!), you’ll know that I love writing a lot about two things: the Amalfi Coast and packing. So, I thought I would do the obvious thing and combine these two loves and share my Amalfi Coast Essentials. My normal Carry On Essentials are here, so you can supplement those with these beach specific must-haves, tailored to that iconic Italian coastline.

Amalfi Coast Essentials

 

Beach Bare Necessities

No use heading to the beach unless you have a proper beach bag. A longtime Longchamp fan, this bag is perfect for carrying all your bits and bobs, smart enough to take out to dinner, and water resistant. Toss in a cute, yet compact, wallet to hold plenty of Euros for all of those lovely Italian leather goods that will surely tempt you. Of course, you’ll want your phone.  Even though you likely (and luckily IMO) won’t have Wifi while exploring, pack a portable charger. I took more pictures than on any previous vacation and was glad to have extra battery so I could capture that dreamy watercolor sunset at the end of a long day of touring.

While a bikini seems like an obvious addition, I’d like to remind you to pack at least two. I only brought one and definitely underestimated how much I’d be frolicking in the Med. Whether it’s taking a day trip to a beach club in Positano, diving off a boat in Capri, or just dipping into the hotel pool – you’ll be glad you packed multiple swimsuits for your multiple aquatic adventures. For that beach club in Positano (or really any beach on the Coast), you should wear water-proof flip flops. Amalfi Coast beaches are all rock or pebble, so you’ll want shoes you can wear right up to the waves since said pebbles can get scorching in the height of summer. My Birkenstocks did NOT cut it, so my poor toes were left toasty.

Paradise Protection

While we’re discussing the necessary summer armor, sunglasses (preferably of the colorful variety) are a must, as is sunscreen. This solid stick is perfect for travel, since you don’t have to waste precious space in your quart size bag for liquids or bother finding a 3oz version.  I have a bit of OCD when it comes to chapstick application, so this grapefruit Burt’s Bees option is always on hand. Once I’m lathered in SPF, to keep cool I like to shelter under this Panama hat and spritz with a bit of Evian mist, in between long, languorous floats in the ocean of course. They also just make me feel like some sort of Fellini-esque diva, so who cares if they’re a tad over the top.

Seaside Style

After a long day of sunbathing, drinking prosecco and swimming in the salty sea, you’ll likely want to duck into a restaurant (Chez Black in Positano is the perfect beachside detour) to enjoy a restorative glass of rose and nibble on antipasto. Pack a full-coverage cover-up that doubles as a dress to make the effortless transition. For post-beach beauty, I’m a big fan of this hair conditioning spray and Wet brush for making my rat’s nest of a hairdo look somewhat presentable. (Pro-tip, definitely pack conditioner for Italy – most hotels don’t supply it) As for summer make-up, I like my tan to do the talking and will just accentuate it using this liquid bronzer and solid blush with a few flicks of mascara. Then, voila, I’m coiffed for my Italian boyfriends and selfies, yet still undone and free-spirited enough to relish in la dolce vita.

Grazie for stopping by my friends! I hope this will help you prepare to your next trip to the Amalfi Coast- whether it’s your first or hopefully one of many! It’s one of my favorite places in the world, so it definitely keeps me inspired.

Check out more of my packing posts here:
Carry On Essentials
Coachella Essentials
Road Trip Essentials
Walt Disney World Essentials
Travel Beauty Essentials

 

Linking Up With:

My first Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

My first Weekend Wanderlust – hosted by a Brit & a Southerner! Please check out both link parties for more excellent travel content! Thank you!

Wanderful Wednesday

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Travel Tuesday: How to Eat Like an Italian

Forget climbing the Colosseum, taking in the wonders of the Vatican Museums, or tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Arguably, the best part of visiting Italy is indulging in its food. During my trip over the summer, I did my duty and savored every last bite I could get my hands on. All in the name of blog research, of course. (Check out  Everything I Ate in Rome and Everything I Ate on the Amalfi Coast).

As an American, however, I had to prepare and learn the art of eating like an Italian. Through my dutiful research and prolific intake of carbs, I’ve gathered some tips and etiquette for how to best eat your way through the peninsula. My findings are informed by my experiences in Rome and on the Amalfi Coast, so custom may vary a little in other regions. Now, on to the rules of feasting!

Tripadvisor and Yelp are your friends
Italian cities, particularly Rome, are filled with restaurants; the number of choices is overwhelming. Do your research via Yelp and Tripadvisor before your trip, so you have a list of must-tries in areas you’ll be visiting. The hotel concierge can be hit or miss as they often have partnerships with local restaurants that may or may not actually be good. For a local recommendation, ask your tour guides or check out the Eating Italy blog. They run food tours in Rome, so the Roman food landscape is their expertise.

Ristorante 34 near the Spanish Steps was one of my favorite meals on the trip.

Avoid tourist traps
That being said, if you’re out and about and unprepared with restaurant options for that area, be careful when picking a place on the street. If there is a carnival barker type standing out front and beckoning you inside, that’s a bad sign. These places are tourist traps usually with overpriced menus and mediocre food. We fell sucker to one of these (Da Francesco – avoid!) near our hotel on the Via Veneto because we were jet lagged and just wanted lunch ASAP. The food was meh, prices were high and the waiter was peeved when we didn’t give a Yankee sized large tip. Not a terrible experience, but not pleasant either. At that point, you’re better off stopping by a deli or street vendor (trust me – the suppli – fried balls of goodness -are worth it).

When to eat?
Since I have the habits of a 75 year old and like to have dinner at 5PM, it was difficult to adapt to eating later like the Europeans. 8 or later seemed to be customary to start dinner, and meals were a much more languid, drawn out affair. I love the longer, savoring of meals, so by all means, devour at a leisurely pace. If you can’t wait to eat at 8 or 9, try an apertivo. They’re essentially an Italian happy hour right around the end of the work day and include a smattering of nibbles for the cost of a drink. Apertivo is an excellent option for student or budget travelers, since they can cost as little as 2.5 euros. Read more about the apertivo experience here.

Grabbing a late dinner on the Amalfi Coast. Worth it for that sunset.

How Italians do bread
Oh bread, may favorite carb to enjoy before eating more carbs. Bread may or may not be complimentary, so check the menu before digging in. Butter is unlikely, so instead dunk your bread in tasty olive oil, or better yet, use it to sop up any extra sauce from your entree or pasta. Yum!

Frizzante or naturale?
Thirsty yet from all that bread? When ordering water, be sure to note if you want frizzante (sparkling) or naturale (still). Roman tap water is very clean (straight from  the aqueduct!), so no need to pay extra for bottled.

Eat local and seasonal
If you’re in Naples, order pizza. If you’re in Bologna, try the bolognese. If you’re on the coast, have fresh fish. I sound like captain obvious, but Italians do excellent fresh, seasonal food. Also order based on local specialties, so you’re getting the best of the best and not reliant on Americanized versions of Italian treats. Roman favorites include cacio e pepe, amatriciana, carbonara, and saltimbocca. You won’t be disappointed.

Amatriciana at Grazia e Graziella in Trastevere. Nom nom nom.

Coffee faux pas
Italians love to have coffee at the end of a meal, as it is a diuretic and aids in digestion. Cappuccino or any other milky drinks, however, are strictly for breakfast and should not be ordered after 10AM. Instead, order un caffe which is straight espresso. Down it like a shot to cap off a meal and be on your merry way.

Caffe at Da Vincenzo in Positano. A must try.

You’ve finished eating, now what?
Simply ask your waiter for Il conto per favore and your check will be on its way. A service charge of around 1-3 euros is usually added to the bill and should be noted on the menu. I’d add a few euro for good service and even more for an outstanding meal – one to two euros per person. To me, most meals in Italy were outstanding, so definitely have some extra euros on hand, as you usually need to tip in cash. Try to physically hand the tip to your waiter too, especially if you’re dining outside in a busy area.

The one dish to never order in Italy
Fetuccine Alfredo. It’s an American invention, and if a restaurant in Italy has it on the menu, run far far away.

And finally, take in the glorious surroundings, savor every bite and never turn down a chance at gelato.

Nutella. Gelato. The end.


Check out my favorites for trips to Italy and bring the Italian feeling home below:

 

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Travel Tuesday: Best Instagram Hashtags for Female Travelers

Instagram is an excellent way to share your photos while traveling and follow along on travelers’ adventures when you’re stuck in the real world. Using hashtags on Instagram will help you to not only grow your following, but also connect with other instagrammers and maybe make some new online friends. I used to be very anti-hashtag, but they’ve really helped me to begin some follower growth (still have a long way to go!), and better yet, discover some awesome travel accounts.

I thought I’d share a few general hashtag tips I’ve gleaned in during my obsessive gramming, as well as my favorite hashtags for female travelers. Leave your insta handle in the comments below, so I can give you a follow, and let me know if you know of any other great travel hashtags. You can follow my account here!

GENERAL HASHTAG ADVICE

 

Tell Us Your Location

First, some easy hashtags to use are location-based. If you’re in Rome, tag #Rome and #Italy. If you’re specifically in the Vatican tag #vatican or your neighborhood as well. Additionally, pull up your location in the “Tags” section of the Instagram search function to see what popular hashtags are used for that location. As you’ll see below, a search for “London” also pulls up #londoncalling, #londoner and #londonlife.

Tell Us What You’re Seeing
Pretty straightforward, but tell your audience what’s in the picture. If you’re on the beach in Positano, try also tagging #beach, #umbrellas or #ocean.
Some examples:
#sunset
#piazza
#church
#ceiling
#palmtree
#skyscraper
#bridge
 
Tell Us About the Photo
Is the photo a #selfie? Did you use #vscocam to edit it? Perhaps you use #iphoneonly to take your photos, or it is a #landscape. Additionally, if you post daily on Instagram you can use the tag #instadaily or if it’s “good” use #instagood. These seem silly, but they definitely will pull up new viewers. I typically use #vscocam and #selife, but I’ve also experimented with other ones.
Be Relevant!
Make sure you’re hashtags are relevant and authentic! Do not tag #beach, if you’re simply posting a #selfie, and don’t use irrelevant hashtags to just try and gain new followers. Other photogs will just get annoyed and see through the inauthenticity right away. Personally, I also shy away from the #likeforlike and #followback tags. I want people to follow me simply because they like my feed, not because they expect reciprocity, but it’s up to you.
 
HASHTAGS FOR TRAVELERS
Travel Magazines
These tags are tied to travel magazines and tend to be very popular. These are great for finding new accounts to follow, but your photo can get lost in the shuffle quickly due to sheer numbers.
An offshoot of Darling magazine. More of a hipster aesthetic.

 

The Conde Nast Traveler tag. Perfect if you’re staying in a glitzy locale or staying in a luxury hotel, but really you can use it on any photo.

 

Enter to have your photo potentially featured by Travel & Leisure. Like I mentioned, this tag is very popular, so it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

 

The tag for Afar Magazine. They’re lesser known than Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast, but I love their content.
Travel Communities
These are more off the beaten path than travel magazine tags, so you have a better chance of being featured or finding great new accounts that aren’t simply professional photographers. They sometimes are tied to a blog, travel site or simply an Instagram community.
This tag was started by Cathay Pacific airlines, but I’ve seen it used so frequently on many accounts, that I don’t really associate it with the brand. To me, it’s just a great, general travel hashtag. One of my favorite accounts @tuulavintage is a big fan.

 

This is the tag for Tiny Atlas Quarterly, a more niche travel magazine, focused on travel storytelling through images. If you use this tag, I’d recommend sharing an anecdote about the photo, to keep with the storytelling theme.

 

Passion Passport is a travel site that shares travel stories, an online community and even sells it’s own “Experiences” aka tours. They frequently have instagram contests, so why not try to win a trip or money simply for sharing your travel photos?
Female Traveler Communities
These tags are geared toward women travelers and are my favorites to use. They tend to be more intimate and involved, so I think they’re the best to actually meet other female travelers and organically grow your folowing.
Dame Traveler is a community and sit that aims to inspire women to travel more, experience more and be more. Love that!

 

Globelle Travels offers information and inspiration for female travelers. They also feature a “Globelle Gal in Focus,” each month that ranges from bloggers, entrepreneurs to nonprofit leaders.

 

This is a more intimate, instagram-only community for female travelers. Some great photos by real women travelers who are “finding their way.”

 

This is a straightforward, good old-fashioned hashtag that celebrates all things “femme” and “travel.”

 

I discovered this tag through one of my favorite female travel instagrammers, The Belle Abroad. It’s an excellent mix of street style and travel, perfect for global jettsetters who also love to express their travel style. Sidewalker Daily also has a beautifully designed website with an online community.
Thanks for stopping by today, and be sure to leave you’re Instagram handle in the comments, so I can give you a follow! I’d also love any of your travel hashtag recommendations 🙂

 

I’m linking up with the awesome girls at Travel Tuesday, hosted by A Compass Rose and Lauren on Location. Check it out if you love finding excellent new travel blogs!

 

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