Vatican City – the How-to guide

Vatican City – the How-to guide

Since the Vatican City is such a different destination, we thought we could provide some additional assistance to ensure you have the most fun possible during your visit here. As spectacular and impressive as it is, there are a few areas that may cause you some issues and detract from your visit – but don’t fear, we’ve highlighted these for you below.

Whilst the Vatican City is incredibly small, sizing approximately half a square kilometre, there is an awful lot to see & do here. We wouldn’t expect to spend any less than an entire day exploring the best parts!

Please see our blog post here: xxxx for the activities we most recommend. If you do spend a day here then there is time to see & do all of them at a casual pace.

Secondly, timing is everything. Heading to the Vatican as early as possible puts you in pole position over the busloads of tourists who show up from 9am. Getting there before them means less queues & more personal space!

The best bet is to enter the Vatican City and explore St Peter’s Basilica first up. Hopefully the morning sun is still coming through the windows – it creates some spectacular photo opportunities.
Buying your ticket to the Vatican museums (which includes the Sistine Chapel) in advance is also a great time saver. Skipping the queue with your ticket can save you up to an hour standing in line!

And that leads to our first point. Know what you want to see & do in the Vatican City in advance. Some of our recommendations require moderate fitness levels & if you want to see and do a lot then be prepared to spend plenty of time on your feet. Things like the Scavi tour, which we missed out on, require you to book in advance.

As some churches prohibit photography & film, we can assure you that cameras are welcome in almost the entirety of the Vatican City. The Sistine Chapel was the one place we found where photography was prohibited, so snap away!

Running shoes & respectable clothing (covering shoulders) are essential. Despite the small size of the Vatican City there is a lot to do. If you wish to make the most of your trip here then we don’t think you will be in and out in less than 5 hours. And there aren’t a great deal of spots to sit and take a rest once you’re inside.

Finally, and this is the most important point, eat a decent breakfast before heading in. And make sure to pack some water & snacks. There are very limited (we will go as far as to say ‘non-existent’) opportunities to get food once you are inside the city and you don’t particularly want to leave and return just for lunch. And if you’re on your feet for 5 hours then you’ll need something to keep you going.

If you aren’t confident doing the Vatican City yourself, there are reputable tour guides who can take you around for the day. The going rate is around 120 – 150 euros. They will ensure you get the most out of your day and ensure you don’t miss any details that regular visitors may overlook.
Alternatively, group tours can be booked inside the Vatican City if you are more budget conscious.

We hope this helps you get the most out of your experience in the Vatican City. Let us know if you have any additional information you think we might have missed!

Exploring the Ruins of Pompeii – The Do-It-Yourself Guide

Exploring the Ruins of Pompeii – The Do-It-Yourself Guide

Pompeii is a great destination for a day trip and it’s proximity to Napoli. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to schedule into your Italy trip.

If you are travelling on a budget, we cannot recommend AreA Domus B&B highly enough. A large double room with private parking, excellent WIFI & breakfast (well it is a B&B) was only 50 euros per night. Even better, the location is a mere 10-15 minute walk from the Pompeii ruins.

The accommodation is very affordable due to the shared bathrooms (we didn’t have to share during our stay) and Google Maps had a slightly difficult time navigating us there at night.

The Good

The cost of entry to the ruins is 13 euros for an adult is very reasonable and the ruins were a great experience. Certainly worth the while to see the ruins we have all heard so much about. The ruins are ‘as they were’ and excavation works are still ongoing throughout the site. The ticket price includes a detailed map and guide, so you can avoid walking around every street when there is little to take in.

For those not using a tour guide and not so good with maps, there are several offline guides that you can take a long to use in conjunction with your map. For smartphone users, the app Pompeii – A Day in the Past is available in both Apple & Google Play stores for a small fee and provides a little more detailed information. You will need to download it in advance though as the app is 115MB.

There is also plenty of information available giving an insight into life at the time of the eruption.

For those not entirely sold on the history & archaeological aspect, there are some additions to the site that provide a little bit of added interest. The bronze statues by various artists certainly made the visit more interesting and there is a musical history of artists who have played in the amphitheatre there, although we hastily skipped this part!

The Bad

The ruins are spread over a huge area, so ensure you wear suitable footwear as you will be covering a significant distance during the day. It is also worth noting that there is very limited shade inside the grounds so pack lightly but sensibly. If you are planning to come to Pompeii only for a day trip then bear in mind that there won’t be a great deal of time for any additional activities. We explored the most interesting 80% of the ruins and we still spent 4.5 hours here.

If the day of your visit is forecast for heavy rain then we would suggest trying to adjust your schedule to do this on a drier day.

The Ugly

Unfortunately, the most interesting parts of the ruins are swarming with tourists. Not ideal for taking idiot free photographs. Expect to see them queue up to get an original photo posing with bronze penises etc.

The line for the brothel (yep, oldest profession in the world) was huge. It took us around half an hour to battle to the front. And we were somewhat disappointed by it, it held very little intrigue and apart from concrete beds and a few damaged, suggestive paintings, there wasn’t a lot to it.

Due to the small size of the building only 10 people are permitted inside at any time and with the large numbers you are more or less forced through in about 30 seconds to keep the flow up, so don’t even bother trying to snap a photo – you just won’t get the opportunity.

We thought that there were much more interesting areas of the ruins.

Fitting with this section, there were also far fewer corpses than we had expected. We found about eight preserved bodies during our visit, we had expected to see more.

Bottom Line

When we do return to this area of Italy, we will be spending a little more time in the area. Not necessarily in Pompeii, but we intend to hike up & do a tour of Mount Vesuvius as a minimum.
The opportunity to hike up Europe’s most active volcano is one thing we wish we had done here having climbed other active volcanoes in the past!


If this is something that appeals to you then please check out the most comprehensive guide available here.

Rimini – The tourist hot spot

Rimini – The tourist hot spot

We visited the beach resort town of Rimini in mid September, just after the peak season had finished. With the best of the beautiful summer weather gone, the waterfront areas of the town resembled a ghost town. There were more street vendors than tourists and many of the cafes had closed their doors for the year.

But the sudden departure of the swathes of tourists doesn’t mean the end of the good weather. We experienced a mix during our time here, from sunny mornings to afternoon thunderstorms. So if you do visit outside of the summer months, anticipate losing some time to poor weather. So perhaps book a hotel with good facilities – we found the Hotel Sunset on the waterfront to be excellent value out of season, from 25€ per night including buffet breakfast – how can you go wrong!?

Read our review of Hotel Sunset here:

But aside from Hotel Sunset, there were an abundance of hotels with great facilities for bargain prices.

Despite the sometimes inclement weather, the water was still quite warm at all times during our visit. So swimming isn’t entirely out the question! The waterfront is dominated by private beaches, meaning that, in season, you will have to pay to use the facilities. However, most hotels have a private beach or at least an agreement with one for their guests. Visiting out of season has no such issues, even during our visit, all the sun chairs were empty!

Dining along the waterfront can be tricky, there is a huge amount to choose from during the peak season and prices are competitive. Outside of the summer months a lot of the eateries are closed which makes choosing a destination much easier. For those who are interested, we found that Poker Pizzeria offered great food at bargain prices. The staff spoke great English & were excellent company, making the experience all the more memorable. We normally try different eateries to get a taste of what’s on offer but we found ourselves returning here for most meals!

Outside of the expansive beach & waterfront areas, Rimini does offer visitors something other than surf and sand. About 1km inland from the beach is the historic town centre. Rimini has been populated for over 2,000 years and still features remnants from the Roman Empire scattered throughout. If you are in town, it is well worth looking around and exploring. The town centre offers better shopping and dining experiences than you will find along the waterfront.

Ultimately, Rimini is primarily a beach resort, so it is best to visit during the peak summer season. Whilst there is a great deal of history associated with the town, it isn’t well preserved – we found the town centre to be quite dull and uninspiring. Prices are much inflated during the peak season, especially during the school holidays, so if possible try to schedule around the Italian & German school breaks.

Rimini is also an excellent base for visiting other cities nearby. Which is why visiting early to mid September isn’t a bad idea. You will still get warm summer days to enjoy the vacated beach and on those wet/cloudy days you can make a break and head to nearby Bologna, Ravenna or Ferrara, all of which offer a different Italian experience to Rimini.

Alternatively, you can visit the Republic of San Marino. Buses run regularly between Rimini & San Marino and it takes about 45 minutes each way. Although it is younger than Rimini, San Marino offers a much richer history experience for those seeking a break from the beach.

Positano – The Popular Holiday Destination On Italy’s Beautiful Amalfi Coast

Positano – The Popular Holiday Destination On Italy’s Beautiful Amalfi Coast

If you know anyone who has travelled around Europe then chances are you have heard of Positano. And like us, heard tales of amazement & awe. Well we are here to offer you an exaggeration free, more realistic version so you can make a properly informed decision.

We visited Positano during mid-September, when the peak season is supposedly waning. If possible, we would advise leaving a two day space to visit – hopefully ensuring you get at least one day of perfect mediterranean summer weather.

The town of Positano, despite being one of the larger towns along the Amalfi Coast, was surprisingly small. First up, there is almost no parking in the town, so whether you came by coach or drove yourself, expect a long walk along the side of the road. Hopefully the coach drivers can drop you off closer to the town. Like everywhere else, the earlier you can get up, the closer you can park close to the town. Our late rise on our first attempt to visit Positano beach meant we were a 3 kilometre walk from the beach… On a 35 degree day!

Once you actually reach the town of Positano you quickly realise a few things. Firstly, it seems there are 100,000 tourists in a town for 3,000. And where there are tourists there are overpriced restaurants & vendors.

The second, and most disappointing realisation, is that the beaches are very average. Coming from Australia where we have an abundance of pristine white sand beaches really made us wonder what all the fuss was about here. The beaches are wholly pebble and private beaches dominate the waterfront. You’ll see hundreds of metres of umbrellas with deckchairs sitting empty whilst the minimum public beach is filled with beachgoers.


If you are interested in the private beaches, you can use the umbrellas and deckchairs for 10€ per person per half day.

We really were astounded at how little of the waterfront was designated as public beach. And if you stray across the designated boundaries you will be shouted at by one of the many 60 year old walruses that guard their territory like a wild animal… Whilst there are a few more secluded beaches further from the town you’re looking at more walking or even hiking to get to them.

But despite all the negatives described above it was still difficult to not enjoy ourselves in Positano. The weather was amazing & the beach was clean. The water was warm, about 25 degrees for the time we spent here. We managed to find a reasonably priced cafe close to the waterfront to enjoy some food & a few beers.

It really is a postcard perfect town. Everywhere you look are amazing photo opportunities, even as you walk along the side of the road. Whether you’re looking back up the cliffs from the beach front or out to sea. Make sure you take your good camera along regardless of how far you have to carry it – you will certainly regret it if you don’t.

Whilst accommodation is very expensive in the area, we found that staying in nearby Sorrento was much cheaper and only a 20-30 minute drive to Positano. Ultimately, all to see & do in Positano can easily be done in a day and for us, the overwhelming numbers of tourists certainly diminish the experience. We had planned to come back for a second day but opted not to, and frankly, I don’t think we missed out on much at all.

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