Bologna, Italy

Bologna was supposed to just be a pit stop on our way to Croatia so we just planned to stay one night, but after walking around the city for a bit we quickly fell in love and wished we had planned to stay longer. It’s home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088 and it still is greatly a student town keeping it’s energy young and vibrant. Not to mention, the whole town itself is pretty vibrant just in its blush red colored buildings. The city’s historical center is one of the largest in Italy which makes it a perfect place to wander and just get lost. We stumbled onto yet another leaning tower - "seems like Italians need a lesson in tower-building, geez!" I chuckled to myself as no one laughed...

We had a perfect lunch at a quirky rustic-style wine bar called Swine Bar where we tried some pasta Bolognese (of course) and some other amazing dishes paired with the delicious wine and topped off with a perfect espresso at the end of the meal. I could get used to that. Mark down Bologna as another city I’d like to live in. After that short but sweet visit, we headed off to Croatia!

Draguignan, France

I know what you’re thinking and no, unfortunately, this is not a city for drag queens. Quite the opposite in fact. We went to Draguignan to say hi to our friend’s aunt who is a nun in a convent there. Apparently the funny name of the town comes from an old legend about a bishop, called Saint Hermentaire who allegedly killed a dragon and saved a bunch of people back in the day. Strange story, but I'll take it. 

It was cool to see how they live and it was quite impressive to see all the handiwork these charming ladies do! They’ve renovated the whole place themselves! We learned about their efforts to help others in need, and it definitely inspired me to find new ways to volunteer in my free time. The nuns were all very kind and invited us to a delicious lunch and a tour of the town. 

Nice, France

There’s just no better way to say it, Nice was so nice! Ha. See what I did there? But really, Nice is much nicer than Cannes in my opinion. Cannes just sort of feels a bit fake and plastic next to it (not that I didn’t enjoy passing though Cannes again and having a flashback to the time I went to the Cannes Lions Festival!). Walking around we noticed a cool-looking waterfall peeking at us from the top of a big hill. We found our way up the Colline du Chateau and were rewarded with an incredible view of the city. We had some Nicoise salad and some fresh fish soup, paired with some crisp white wine and the endless secondhand smoke from our french friends - it felt pretty damn authentic.

Antibes, France

Again, we were lucky enough to stay with our friend in her family’s summer house in Antibes (right by the legendary Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc, where Hemingway and Picasso used to hang out - NO BIG DEAL). This house was the perfect place for a group of 7 twenty-something-year-olds to get snobby, brag about our cooking skills, and soak in the summer sun with umbrellas in our cocktails. It felt like “L’auberge espagnol” with so many international people the house. English, Spanish and French were all spoken and mixed together like some crazy drunk version of It’s a Small World. The south of France is usually the kind of place I try to stay away from since it’s so overcrowded with tourists, but we discovered a part of Antibes that made our stay there 100% worthwhile. Right there, in the midst of all the millionaires’ villas, there’s a little dirt path that transports you to another world. Just picture it: beautiful limestone cliffs that lead off into the brightest bluest sea you’ve ever seen, and then breathtaking paths that wind around pine trees and olive trees. It’s amazing. I was surprised to see how narrow and uneven parts of the path were, but that only made it even more perfect for a hike! Along the trail, we spotted some locals casually jumping off some of the cliffs. Nervous and excited, both of us managed to summon up the courage to jump off that 12 meter (40ft) jump. WOO! I highly doubt I’ll ever have the guts to do that again, but it was definitely an experience worth having at least once in a lifetime. 

The old town of Antibes is super cute. There’s a very nice fresh foods market that is accompanied by great accordion street performers who add to the happy ambience of the place. We stuck around the town for Bastille day and we saw the fireworks show from the top of a hill by a lighthouse. What an amazing sight to see! During the night, we went out to a club in Juan les Pins which was great fun, and on another night we checked out a beach club on the way to Nice called “La Siesta” where we danced our little sandy feet off into the night – but none of that comes close to the fun we had just goofing around the house making good food and playing endless card games. (Take me back!)

Mouriès, France

On our way to Antibes, our friend let us crash at his place in Mouriés, a small picturesque village near Montpellier. It’s definitely not on your typical tourist destination list, but if you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful place to just go relax, this might be it. The area is known for it’s olive oil production and its many traditional festivals. We arrived on a deathly hot summer day, but luckily, our friends' beautiful pool and crisp white wine came along to gracefully save the day.

Lacanau & Arcachon, France

Another thing that I love about Bordeaux is how close it is to the beach! We made a few day trips to the nearby coast during our stay in Bordeaux.

First we checked out Lacanau which was only about an hour away. We went straight to the beach, but I’ve heard great things about the lakes and nature reserves in the area so I guess we’ll have to save those for next time! Lacanau’s beach area has a large pedestrian strip lined with tacky shops, restaurants, and ice cream kiosks that lead you right to the water. The beach itself has nice soft sand but the water seems to have a very strong and powerful current. We constantly had to move our stuff back as the tide rose and rose. At one point, we tried to make a sand moat around our stuff and create our own little island. It actually worked pretty well… for a little while. After our last failed attempt there was only one thing left to do… drink mojitos and margaritas! 

Arcachon is also about an hour away from Bordeaux and I think out of the two, this was my favorite. It’s a cute little beach town that emits an appropriately relaxed mood. We wandered through the town a while and stumbled upon a lovely market with fresh produce and seafood that was all pretty much still alive. Once our stomachs started to grumble we decided to sit down at a place that had a sign announcing they served “moule frite au roquefort” AKA blue cheese mussels and OH MY GOD they were SO freaking delicious. After that, all we wanted was a siesta under the sun so we walked over to the beach to catch some rays. The tide in this one was good to us and stayed put, so we were able to relax in the perfect sand and dream about the mussels we had just devoured.

Bordeaux, France

Let me just start off by saying I’m seriously considering moving here for a while. Bordeaux is amazing. It’s like a smaller, better Paris (sorry Paris, I still love you!). Bordeaux has a really cool, down-to-earth vibe and every café, restaurant, and bar seems to call you in to enjoy the jazzy atmosphere. Darwin on Wednesdays in the Magasin Général is a must for the artsy bohemian hipster crowd. And every other day, feel free to go across the street to La Guinguette Chez Alriq for a nice dinner or wine accompanied by live jazz. Also, don’t leave Bordeaux without heading over to iBoat for a fun dance party… on a boat!  If you like wine, check out "L'&tiquette"! One of the days there, we went to a dégustation (opening/tasting party) there and we got to try some of the best wines I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE. You don't even have to be an expert since their wines are easily labeled as "fresh & crisp" "light & delightful" or "strong & spicy" – Trust me, the French really know their wine!

For food, I highly recommend the restaurant Le Bar de la Marine. It’s a hidden gem with amazing food and perfect garden seating. There’s also a cute tiny café by the old city called Label Terre which serves fast, fresh, local and seasonal quiches, salads, and sandwiches for your healthy and delicious afternoon fix. They also have free WiFi so we were happy to camp out there for a few hours and get some work done. Honestly, I can't wait to go back.

Velles, France

Conveniently in the area, we decided to pop by Velles to visit some friends for a birthday party. The party’s theme?: “Your mother wouldn’t let you go out like this". Fake tats and piercings filled the farm house patio that night as we danced and drank tequila under the stars. The next day we were shown around the family property. Casually, this includes a series of CASTLES, acres of fields, a lake, and a forest where they hunt twice a year in a big event that the family organizes. Our new friends Marie, Raoul, and their mother were the best hosts anyone could ever ask for. Their grandmother lives next door (in one of the family castles) and I swear her house feels like you just stepped into the game “CLUE” because each room has its own theme, dictated by the wallpaper. IT EVEN HAS A SECRET PASSAGEWAY that leads to the study... I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Seriously, Wes Anderson should use this house in one of his movies. Unfortunately, I was to scared of coming off as rude and didn’t manage to take any photos in there! I’ll have to return! You might be able to check it out too if you ever choose to do the “Camino de Santiago de Compostela”. The grandmother is so cool, she offers housing for travellers passing through on the pilgrimage walk.

Orléans & les Châteaux de la Loire

Orléans took me by surprise with its beauty. We took a stroll around the old town and admired the majestic cathedral 'Ste-Croix’ and the half-timbered architecture sprinkled across the city. Our friend Marine went to boarding school here, so she was the perfect tour guide. We were sipping on some wine, dangling our feet to the Loire river, when some live music called us to the dance floor. We danced our feet off until the night took over, and after all that, a good meal was in order! So we walked back into the old city, and decidedly stuffed our faces with delicious tartines and foie gras. 

After checking out Orléans, the next “must” in the Loire Valley area is of course to check out the beautiful Chateaux! 'Chateau de Chenonceau’ is by far the prettiest castle I’ve ever seen. It was mostly used by women (kings’ mistresses and/or widows) so it definitely has a nice feminine touch. The castle, even with its beautiful arches that cross the Cher River, is of a size that when compared to other overly-lavish estates, feels surprisingly cozy and actually quite liveable. It also looks just like a castle straight out of a Disney movie - mommy can I be a princess now?! One of the most impressive parts is getting lost in the maze garden designed by Catherine de’ Medici. If you ever visit, give it a try and see if you can find your way out without any breadcrumbs!

Normandie, France

We hit the road with Marine and our other friend Hayley and eagerly started our France-to-Croatia road-trip! Our first stop: Normandy. Besides visiting for its historical associations to D-Day, there are many more reasons to check out the Normandy region of France. Like for example, their seafood and cheese! If you're a fan of scallops, mussels, and camembert (like we are) you should definitely plan a visit to the shore. If you're somehow a very sad human and you don't enjoy those lovely things that bring happiness to the world, you can also just visit to see all the pretty boats!

On the road, we could already start seeing some typical Normandy chaumières scattered along the countryside villages. Little castles and forts seem to pop up everywhere you look! As the sun was starting to set, we arrived in Cherbourg where we would be staying with a friend for a few nights. He warmly welcomed us to his home and took us out to see the beautiful sunset in the chilly seashore. But even looking out at those beautiful orange and pink clouds kissing the waves, I could’t help but think of the thousands of soldiers and servicemen that died on those very same waters so many years ago. 

Since we were already in the area, we knew we had to visit the famous Mont Saint-Michel (which should probably be considered a World Wonder by the way). From far away, it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. A castle, in the middle of nowhere, that seems to be floating in the water. Inside however, the magic can get a little bit lost. All of the sudden, you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with the most irritating tourists.  So we did our best to ignore them and walked right up to the shop where we bought copious amounts of La Mère Poulard’s famous traditional biscuits. SO GOOD. We also took a break from the walking and tried one of the traditional galettes. They're basically a spongier, savory version of a crêpe, and they're absolutely delicious. Most of them I think come with an egg sitting right on top... mmm.  

Fun fact: In French slang, “making a galette” is also used to describe when a person is so drunk, they vomit all over making a huge mess! Believe me, once we learned this term, it was used many times in the remainder of our trip (*Disclaimer: not that we were ever the ones making any of the galettes of course!*)

Bazemont, France

Just outside of Paris, Bazemont is a small town where we spent some days with our good friend Marine and her family. We were amazed the second we saw this beautiful countryside home with vines and flowers growing up and around all the walls. There’s also a garden surrounding the house where Marine’s mom grows all kinds of fresh herbs and berries to use in the kitchen - for a pair of proper foodies like us, this is heaven.

Marine’s parents were incredibly welcoming and they showed us the ins-and-outs of proper French tradition. For example, we had apéro with them every evening (AKA pregame your dinner with some drinks and appetizers) and we learned that eating salty food in the morning –like our beloved eggs– is considered very strange (Marine would joke that it's simply BARBARIC!) . They always encouraged us to practice our French with them and they were just so cool! The kind of people that you meet and you think, if we were the same age, we would hang out all the time. I mean, just take a minute to appreciate Marine’s father’s amazing little car in the pictures below –now that’s a cool dad! And better yet, they have a huge pool in the patio! So obviously, we decided to have a big summer bash and invite all of Marine’s close friends to come over to party. We really had such a great time there. Whoever says the french are not friendly should meet Marine and her family because they could not be further from that description.

Paris, France

Paris. City of love and romance. Cultural center for art, fashion, gastronomy, and mean waiters. Beyond the obvious Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and Louvre, this city has so much more to offer if you know where to look. We were lucky enough to be shown around by a local and got to live “like Parisians” for a couple of weeks.

During the day, we walked around Paris, ate some delicious macaroons from Angelina, and found our way to the AntiCafé Louvre in the Rue de Richelieu - which is awesome. It’s the perfect place to sit down in a comfy sofa and get some work done (if you’re a designer-blogger-traveler like me). In this cozy little café, you pay for the hour instead of paying for each individual coffee. Great concept right? Basically, for just €4 an hour (or €12 for the full day) you get unlimited coffee, teas, toast with different kinds of spreads, snacks like carrots and hummus, little biscuits and of course high-speed WiFi. There’s even a friendly barista who prepares nice cappuccinos and espressos - all included in those €4! You also get access to their projector, printer, scanner and board games. Plus, you can bring your own snacks if what they have isn’t enough. It’s also a good place to make some new friends that are also freelancing or working on some kind of start-up.

As for the nightlife, my favorite local hangout area we went to was the "Canal Saint Martin". First, we went to "Paname Brewing Company,” which is a cool beer spot with a great atmosphere that just recently opened up. Then we checked out the péniches (boat bars) to watch the sunset, and headed over to the "Point Éphémère" for dancing, free photo booth pictures, and cool people. We also got to experience the craziness of “La Fête de la Musique” which is the Parisian way to celebrate the summer solstice with a day of free live music all over the city. So much good energy filled the streets of Paris and signs everywhere read “faites de la musique” which means “make music” and plays up the name of the festival. 

Zürich, Switzerland

From Milan, we took a high-speed train up to Zürich to visit some close family friends. Right as we got into Switzerland, I noticed the entire landscape changed. Everything I saw out the window looked just like a painting. Quaint towns and villages with idyllic little houses huddled in valleys with rainbows and sheep - and as if that weren't enough - the Alps in the distance topped with a tiny sprinkle of snow on the very peaks. We spent most of our time in Switzerland just drinking, eating, and hanging out in our friend’s place where we were staying. It was on the more suburban outskirts, so we didn’t see too much of the city; but from what I can tell, everything around Zürich is very organized and well designed (as expected). It’s also very expensive. The day we did go into the city, we walked through the old town for a bit and then we went up the hill to Lindenhof for a great view of the city. We also went to take a peek at the colorful Centre Le Corbusier and then walked around to the nearby park “Blatterwiese.” The park was filled with people hanging out, drinking, sunbathing, and slacklining all with a great view of the lake. We walked around the park and found an adorable little pond with round stone posts just peeking out from the water. The daughters of our family friends loved jumping from one post to another to get to the other side. Seems like the perfect way to spend a sunny Summer day!

The surrounding areas of Zürich are truly breathtaking. Our friends took us to a nearby mountain with a beautiful view of the lush green landscape hugged by the surrounding lakes. We had a beer and a delicious glass of the local white wine, then we hiked down to have a picnic by the bright blue lake. We jumped in for a quick dip and jumped right back out a few minutes later - it was so cold! But the locals didn’t seem to mind the cold water at all. In the summer, many people also frequent little public "beach" clubs called "seebads" or as the girls called them, "badis" surrounding the lake in Zürich. The public baths are a beautiful place to unwind and sunbathe while kids jump off the trampolines into the water. We went to the one in Thalwil and had a great time. Next time I go I’ll have to practice some Swiss German and hit up some bars in the city!

Milano, Italy: The Expo

Milan just oozes with glamour and poise. Even the people on the streets all look like models (and they very well might be considering it's one of the fashion capitals of the world). Of course, it’s large and cosmopolitan, but it has many delightful little areas as well. First, we had to get the main attractions out of the way. We started our “tourist day” in the Piazza Castello, walked through the grandiose Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and ended up in the Piazza del Duomo to admire the ornate façade of the cathedral (the Duomo di Milano). My favourite out of these sites was by far the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Its epic glass ceilings and gold embellishments really make you feel like a hollywood star walking in the red carpet. We even found the famous bull on the mosaic floor. Apparently, you’re supposed to spin three times on the bull’s.. um.. privates for good luck. Other than the bull’s balls.. Milan is pretty much just as sparkling and glamorous as you would imagine. No wonder it’s the fashion capital of the world.

Again, I think we made a great choice by staying in an area that felt a bit more local and a bit further away from the main tourist attractions. We stayed in the “Zona Tortona” right by the Porta Genova metro station. This neighborhood has been known to attract a crowd of young creatives, photographers, and designers with its thrift stores, vintage shops, art spaces, and cafes. It’s come a long way from its former days as an industrial warehouse-filled run-down area… hmm reminds me of North Brooklyn & Bushwick! 

I was most excited to visit Milan because our friend Federica is living there now. After our tourist sight-seeing filled day, we met up with her and she took us around the Navigli District. This area is the mecca for cool bars and hipsters in Milan (and it just so happens it’s right around the corner from the Zona Tortona where we were staying!). She took us out to a nice restaurant and then we walked along the canal bars ending up in “La Darsena,” Milan’s newly reopened city dock. Here, young people line the scenic river banks, chatting and laughing with beer bottles and cigarettes in hand. The city is filled with a great lively spirit and of course, many loud and loving Italians. 

The next day we went to check out the World Expo. The chosen theme for the fair this year was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. Over 140 countries showcased their newest technology and solutions for world hunger in pavilions of all shapes and sizes. Many exhibits had multi-sensory and interactive displays. One of my favorites was Brazil’s pavilion with a crazy trampoline net as an entrance that overlooked the "Green Gallery" below, which is made up of a series of planter boxer with flowers and fruits from Brazil. Another pavilion that stood out was Save the Children Foundation’s highly informative and interactive installation that was built using simple wood and recycled materials. The stands where you could buy traditional food and drinks from each country were a great and simple way to get to know a little bit about a lot of countries’ cultures and cuisines. The free WiFi throughout the whole fair was a nice bonus for us travelers too. Unfortunately, many of the exhibitions were lacking vital information and failed to prove any concrete action towards guaranteeing healthy, safe, and sufficient food for everyone while respecting the Earth and its natural resources. Even though I believe there was some room for improvement overall in the Expo, I think it’s still great to have such a large global push to promote innovation for a sustainable future. 

Bergamo, Italy

The old city (Città Alta) of Bergamo is a tiny town straight out of a picture book. It’s just two hours away from Verona, and about one hour away from Milano. This city holds a lot of well preserved history and amazing Renaissance art that is for the most part overlooked in comparison to it's neighboring cities… which is great for us, because we get to enjoy it sans the big crowds! The cobblestone streets are lined with bakeries and pastry shops (with the cutest vintage signage), and for some reason, big pianos. Randomly just sitting here and there, inviting strangers to sit for a minute and play music - how cool! There's a beautiful sundial sculpted into the floor of one of the piazzas, and wait for it... yes, there's yet another tower. Of course there's a tower. There's just too many towers in Italy. We somehow didn't feel the need to climb this one. We had a delicious dinner (a little overpriced, but good) and we found our way to the Summer festivals area where there are free open-air concerts and people dancing on the street every night of the Summer! What a great way to spend a Tuesday night! 

Verona, Italy

It was also our second time in Verona. We had traveled to the romantic city of Romeo and Juliet many years back with our high school choir. Being there, walking along those old streets, really brought back a lot of happy memories. Not a lot has changed in the past 7 years. Some parts of Verona felt a bit more clean and walkable which is nice, but for the most part, it was just pleasant to walk in the same markets and streets we travelled years back - this time with a completely different group of people. We also noticed some interesting contemporary architecture (some more Scarpa works here) living next to ancient clock towers and bridges. 

Venezia, Italy

The fist time we went to Venice, it was on a day trip from Verona on a cold Spring day and it was raining - not the best way to appreciate the beauty of a city that has been around since the fifth century. This time around, we went in the beginning of Summer with a slightly different outlook on life and a bigger backpack. Venice gets targeted as one of the “most touristy places of Italy” but this, as many other surrounding cities, has its authentic and beautiful parts as well. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to walk everywhere, rather than use cars, but Venice this time around seemed much bigger than last time. Apart from the main piazzas and cathedrals, there are large parks to walk though and there’s a fun nightlife too!

The night we arrived, there was a Juventus (Italian professional football club) match against Barcelona… and as the only Spanish girls in the bar, we felt a little awkward as our team beat theirs within the last few minutes of the match. We casually (and quietly) left the bar after some quick cheers and went on a search for other bars where no one knew we were of Spanish decent. We stumbled into several different hangout areas. Sta Teresita's piazza was filled with a hip-looking younger crowd, while the Canal del Instituto de la Misericordia was filled with an older crowd and a strip of nicely decorated, artsy local bars and restaurants.

For daytime activities, consider checking out the 1950s Olivietti showroom designed by Carlo Scarpa! It's pretty much hidden in plain sight right in St Mark’s Square and is often overlooked by tourists. It's not on your typical Venice tour guide list, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're at all interested in good design.

As for gondolas, I’d say do it. It’s worth it. Besides, you never know when you’ll be back in Venice! It’s one of those once in a lifetime occasions where you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride… and not think about your wallet slowly disappearing into thin air… Our gondoleiro, Andreas, was very funny and kind. He even let us drive the gondola for a little while. We found out there's only a tiny group of people who are allowed to be gondoleiros. It's a family business, passed down from one man to the next, and in ONE case, there was a daughter who decided to follow in her dad’s footsteps. Yep, there’s apparently only ONE female gondoleira, so if you see her give her props for it!

Firenze, Italy

Florence is obviously best known as the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to work of Brunelleschi, Giotto, Botticelli, and of course, Michelangelo (some of our art world superstars). Therefore, it’s clear that it’s like a dream come true for anyone who is into art history. It is very well known though, so during the day (say between 10:30am and 4:30pm) the main tourists sties are packed with tour groups. The best time to see the sites is either really early in the morning or late in the afternoon. They won’t let you go inside past 5pm, but many of the sculptures and churches are just as beautiful from the outside. As with Rome, we had pre-paid tickets to see Michelangelo’s “David,” which saved us a bit of the hassle of dealing with long lines and elbowing tourists.

We decided to climb to the top of the Florence Cathedral and it was actually way cooler than expected. Its famous terra-cotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and bell tower designed by Giotto are beautiful and highly worth checking out. With only one way up and one way down, it can be pretty claustrophobic to climb inside the small passageways that go up the curved dome tough. We also decided to climb the much-less-claustrophobic bell tower for the great views of the dome itself (oh the pictures!). Another fantastic panoramic view of Florence is from the Piazzale Michelangelo although the afternoon didn’t provide us with the best lighting for pictures. 

The nightlife here calls for cozy bars with dim light and servers with thick rimmed glasses covered in tattoos. There are also many youngsters drinking outside in the piazzas (yes, it’s legal). La chiesa di Sant'Ambrogio, for instance, is a well-known hangout spot. I just can’t help but say it, I love Tuscany! 

Lucca, Italy

Lucca is amazing, and it’s not at all touristy like many of the other places we’ve been to so far. It’s as beautiful as Rome but without any of the tourists! One of my favorite cities in Italy so far! The entire city is scattered with what seems like thousands of adorable piazzas, one of which used to be an ancient Roman Amphitheater. This uniquely round piazza is one of those places that you just have to see in person, because its magic simply cannot be captured using photos or video. Even the churches and cathedrals had a cool unique style. The columns were all different and playful.

The outer walls of the medieval fortified city were turned into a park that locals frequent for jogging, cycling, walking the dog, or simply to enjoy the breathtaking view with a bottle of wine. We found cute restaurants and bars in every corner while we walked the cobblestone streets of the old city. One bar was so packed, the bearded Italian hipsters spilled over to the street. When we asked why this particular bar was so popular we were told it was  2-euro wine night - I'm in! The short visit left me the strong desire to return to Lucca one day, and take the time to explore to really see what this quaint city is all about.

Italian Riviera

Welcome to the Grand Italian Riviera! This place must have been amazing sometime between the 1920s and 1950s, but it seems they didn’t develop much since then… We stayed in Rapallo. I’m not sure if it was just a weekday or if we were “off-season” by going in the early Summer, but the place was pretty deserted. The view of the beach and harbor is nice with a cute little fort sitting right in the water, but the people in the town all seem a bit on the older side (think Florida with the happily retired elite). Like in the Amalfi coast, there seems to be no nightlife, and this town in particular seems to be filled with a bunch of pastel colored houses in serious need of repair. This area reminds me of the Côte d'Azur in France but more run down. Instead of the charming ‘trompe l’oeil’ outdoor frescos you find in Cannes, the Italian twist on the tradition attempts to create the illusion that the houses are more embellished than they truly are. Unfortunately, the painted pediments, shutters, and window frames are all peeling and fading off the walls, braking the illusion of the façade. We visited the glamorous town of Portofino and the neighboring Santa Margherita, but after that we were happy to skip Cinque Terre, leave the Liguria region behind and return to Tuscany to visit Lucca and Florence.