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The Gems of Europe

With the very real and very valid concerns arising over the Covid-19 virus, travel for exploration and adventure has understandably been heavily restricted. For fellow travellers, like myself, this may be a difficult and frustrating time; it is important to stress here that I do hope that everyone is making informed and sensible decisions in regard to any travel plans to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. If you are feeling a bit down about cancelled or postponed plans perhaps a good remedy might be to start planning trips for a post-corona future. Here are a few well known places (and their hidden counterparts) that I recommend visiting and all on a student friendly budget.

 Rome & Verona

I feel I owe it to Italy to start here at its heart. Rome is full of history, it melts out of its every pore and embodies romance, beauty and decadence but it’s not just a sum of its stereotypes- it has so much more to offer. The governing word that comes to mind when I try to describe my experience of Rome is Ethereal. I would recommend you visit this city during the month shortly after September; residual heat from summer still lingers and tourists are sparse. Although at any time of year, Rome will work its endless charms on you.

That brings us onto Verona- a mirror image of Rome with fewer tourists. I fell in love with Verona as soon as we arrived. In Verona time seems to exist only outside its walls, within them things stood still. It was a bizarre experience for me, as the city moved at a pace that would rival a snail, I felt as though I had no choice but to slow down with it. Verona taught me that slowing down whilst exploring new places makes you feel as though you are experiencing them not as a tourist but as a local.

Marrakech & Essaouira

Marrakech is bustling, busy and a real blast to the senses. The city can take some getting used to, however, once you acclimatise to its pace it reveals its beauty and wonder in every street. Speaking of streets, you will likely get entirely lost as no map details every twist and turn of each tiny alleyway correctly. As long as you plan enough time to your destination, all runs down well. The experience of discovering new parts of the city and having not set a plan can be really thrilling.

The sleepy seaside sister of Marrakech, Essaouira is a total dream. The town is a three-hour bus journey from Marrakech where we spent our days wandering the beautiful medina, visiting the fisherman’s market and eating more fresh fish tagine than I can bear to admit. On that note I would highly recommend the restaurant “Taros”, especially at sunset with its open topped balconies overlooking the sea and live music. I would also highly recommending walking the length of the beach to “Ocean Vagabond” where you can eat with views of the beach and watch the working camels and horses (Please research for yourself the ethical considerations of camel and horse riding in these regions so you can make informed decisions).

Lisbon & Sintre

I was in constant awe of the eclectic mix of architecture and culture in Lisbon; it was a place that felt very unfamiliar and very exciting to me. Old trams transverse the city and can take you to all its corners in a very cheap and very fun way. I would recommend leaving the direct parameters of the inner city if you have time and going for dinner a little further out to get a real feel of Lisbon. There is not a great deal of tourist attractions as with places like Rome so prices can be kept low on this front.

Sintre is kind of like another Essaouira- a town of pure culture and beauty. The town offers a multitude of sites to explore and I cannot recommend this day trip from Lisbon enough. The town of Sintre boasts a beautiful national palace housed in incredible gardens. The town managed to remain relaxed and peaceful even though it bustled with tourists. We then made the short two-hour hike to reach to the mesmerizing castle that looks like something ripped straight out of a Wes Anderson film set. In short, I think not visiting Sintre on a trip to Lisbon should be made an international crime.

Venice & Amalfi Coast

Another part of Italy known for its price tag, but why not consider Venice as a day trip? I visited Venice by train from Verona and found my time there to be very adequate. I felt I covered, by foot and by boat, a satisfactory proportion of the city in the 10 or so hours I spent there. We arrived by train at around 10 am and explored the canals, beautiful hidden cathedrals, weird and wonderful little shops and the utterly stunning St Marks Basilica. The entire day out cost less than £50 and I would highly recommend a day trip here.

The Amalfi coast is known largely as a destination where the uber rich flock en masse, but if you look hard enough there are some seriously well-hidden and exciting places to explore. First please visit Positano, it truly is beautiful and somehow has remained sleepy despite its popularity. When you get to Amalfi try to go to the waterfalls that inhabit the mountainous area a three-hour hike behind the town itself- they are so worth the walk I promise. Then get the bus that takes you for an evening up into the town of Ravello where you will be able to enjoy vast views over dinner at sunset. Last but certainly not least stay at “Bella Baia”, a campsite in Maori whereby guests stay in private glamping tents nestled in a lemon grove in the hills of the countryside. The whole place is a beautiful combination of peace and adventure.

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