Dominique Rizzo - Catalonia Costa Brava

Lloret de Mar – A Gem of the Catalonian Region

Located just seventy kilometers from Barcelona, Lloret de Mar is a booming tourist attraction and seaside resort. With more than seven kilometers of coastline and some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, Lloret de Mar is one of the most popular nightlife destinations in the world. But, this city can offer you much more than just round the clock parties. Read our guide to  find out what are the must-do activities and best locations to see when visiting Lloret de Mar.

Lloret de Mar - Dominique Rizzo Tours.

Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lloret_de_Mar.jpg

 

The Next Big Party Destination – Costa Brava

Without any doubts, Lloret de Mar is the nightlife capital of Costa Brava. With dozens of popular nightclubs and specially-themed discos, visitors can enjoy never-ending fun and experience everything, from modern music to flamenco and music from the sixties and seventies. Most clubs open in the afternoon, although some venues are open at all times. Besides this, you can also visit beach parties or take a tour on one of several party boats cruising along the coastline every day.

Lloret de Mar Beaches

Lloret de Mar Spain - Dominique Rizzo

Image by _alfons.eg

 

 

Even if you’re not that into partying and prefer relaxing on the beach and drinking cocktails while on vacation, This coastal region has a lot to offer to you. While not many people may know, there are actually many activities you can partake in Lloret de Mar that don’t involve the parties. The town is very famous for its beautiful sandy beaches, with some of the most popular ones being:

  • Lloret beach – more than 1.5 kilometers long, this is the largest beach in Lloret de Mar and is named after the town itself.
  • Fenals beach – the second largest and arguably the most beautiful beach in Lloret de Mar. More than 700 meters long, it is situated in a bay and sheltered by hills.
  • Cala Boadella – Much smaller than the two above, Cala Boadella is a charming and secluded beach perfect for those who don’t like big beaches and heavy crowds.
  • Sa Caleta cove – located right to Lloret beach, Sa Caleta cove is a fisherman’s cove that offers fantastic views of the coastline and fine sandy beaches.

Museums, Architecture, and Art

Despite being a town of a small population of just 37,000 people, there are a lot of sights to be seen in Lloret de Mar. From the church of Saint Roma to the Can Garriga Museum of the Sea, the City Dye Centre, it will take you a couple of days to get to every location. Plus, we didn’t even mention the most significant piece of history located in Lloret de Mar – St John’s Castle. Built in the 11th century, the castle is a building of cultural interest and has endured a long and rich history. It survived natural disasters like earthquakes and storms, as well as many attacks and raids over the ten centuries it stood on top of the hill between Fenals beach and Lloret beach.

Lloret de Mar - Dominique Rizzo Tours

Image by @natalie_golebiewska

Great Food

We’ve talked about the unique charm of the Catalonian region and everything that comes with it. This also applies to this charming coastal town that has the potential to be a significant economic contributor in the region, mainly through tourism. Besides unique location-based activities, most tourists also like to experience the local food of every location they visit.

When it comes to food, tourists visiting Lloret de Mar will find that the town offers very fascinating local cuisine, influenced by several cultures. Starting with the Phoenicians and Greeks, and then later the Romans and Carthaginians, all the way to the Arabs and Spanish Christians, the food in Lloret de Mar, and Catalonia in general, is a must-try for every gastronome.

The Best Time to Visit Lloret de Mar

It is the perfect summer destination. The weather is pleasant in April with around 25 degrees Celsius in the daytime. The high-season starts in June and lasts to mid-August, and this is the period when the town gets really crazy. If you want to enjoy the warm weather, swim and walk around town, but don’t appreciate the massive crowds, May and September are the perfect time to visit the town. If, however, you’re an adrenaline seeker who wants to experience everything this town has to throw at you during summertime, peak season then this is the perfect place.

 

Thinking of travelling to Spain?

As a food and wine lover, you may want to consider joining one of Dominique’s bespoke, small group Gastronomic Food Tours to Spain, travelling in 2021. Have a look at some of the highlights of her Spanish tours and see why Dominique has rave reviews for her personally escorted food tours.

Catania La Pescherio Markets Dominique Rizzo

Catania and “La Pescheria” Markets

One of my favourite Sicilian tours takes in the region of Eastern Sicily, the rich lands surrounding the famous Mount Etna, the provinces of Catania, Syracusa and Ragusa, the towns of chocolate-loving Modica and the island of Ortigia and the alluring Aeolian Islands. We welcome you to charming, lively Catania which is, after Palermo, the second-largest city in Sicily.

Sicily your perfect holiday - Dominique Rizzo

What’s So Special About Sicily Anyway?

Is it the food? Is it the people? Is it the culture? Is it the history?

Yes, it is all of these things in that wonderful interaction of the slow way of Sicilian life, where little old nonnas (grandmothers) sit outside their front door of the house they have lived in for 50 years; where older men gather in the afternoon to play bocce in the town square;  where the traditional ways of slow cooking are passed on from family to family.

Scintillating Sicily - Dominique Rizzo

Scintillating Sicily

Have you been dreaming of experiencing a trip to Sicily? It’s scintillating and fascinating, it’s tasty, it’s colorful and passionate. Your senses will implode as you experience rich ancient historic sites, pristine turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and white-washed coastal villas.

Western Sicily

Western Sicily for Food Wine and Culture

Tour Western Sicily, personally guided by Dominique Rizzo to take an in-depth look at of Sicily’s most historic cities and sights.

piazza-armerina-villa-romana-di-casale

Historical Sicily – Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana di Casale, Caltagirone

Learn all about Historical Sicily at Piazza Armerina, Villa Romana di Casale and Caltagirone on Dominique Rizzo’s Sicilian tours.

Things to Do in the Basque Country

Things to Do in the Basque Country

The Basque Country is a region in Spain known for its sprawling valleys and rugged mountains. The region attracts millions of tourists every year, as Argia reports that 4.5 million tourists visited in 2015 — a number that is likely to have only grown since then. If you’re planning a trip of your own to this beautiful region, read on for a list of things to add to your itinerary.

Explore the cathedrals

By Dflandre – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16413873

One of the best ways to appreciate the Basque’s unique landscape and architecture is to explore its two most famous cathedrals, the similarly named Saint Mary’s Cathedral and Sainte-Marie Cathédrale. The former, also called the Cathedral of Santa María, is located in Vittoria-Gastéiz, the peaceful capital of the region. The intricate details of the gothic cathedral were chiselled during its construction in the 13th and 14th century. Not too far in Bayonne, Sainte-Marie Cathédrale’s unique infrastructure makes it a popular site to visit, too. The building is made entirely out of locally sourced red and white stones and overlooks two local rivers. Both landmarks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites and host regular tours for their visitors.

Go on a food crawl

The Spanish people have a rich food culture and history — a fact to take advantage of on your trip. An obvious place to start is with staples like paella, ham, and tapas. We’ve personally confirmed that Spain is home to the most mouth-watering tapas, and these are definitely something you shouldn’t miss out on during your visit.

In the Basque Country specifically, the place to look for is La Bretxa in San Sebastian-Donostia, a market known for its fresh and high-quality seafood. The variety of things at the market are from nearby ports, straight from the fishermen.

Visit a gaming centre

Espaldazo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

For the complete European experience, you can head over to either of the two available land-based casinos in Bilbao or San Sebastian. Gran Casino Bilbao is an excellent choice if you enjoy classic table games like Blackjack and Roulette. Poker tables for games like Texas Hold ’em are also available in the facility.

Of course, the rise of online gaming portals has been both a boon and bane for land-based casinos like Gran Casino Bilbao. Although foot traffic and revenues have undoubtedly taken a hit because of the emergence of online gaming opportunities, these have also made experiences in gaming centres all the more unique, and introduced more people into the excitement of different casino activities. With this in mind, online gaming and casino magazine Expat Bets continues to provide comprehensive casino guides for expats and travellers from around the world on top of giving them a taste of popular games like Big Bad Wolf and Dragon Dance. That’s because there is much more to enjoy on both sides of the spectrum, which sites like this and Gran Casino Bilbao stand as a testament to. If you plan on dropping by the casino at Bilbao, keep in mind that you can play the slot machines from 10 am until 5 am the next day, while table games run from 5 pm until 5 am.

Learn from the museums

Bilbao is also the home of one of the world’s best museums — The Guggenheim Museum. Filled with contemporary and modern art, this attraction is a must-visit for the artsy tourist. The unique curves and appearance of the building itself is considered a masterpiece designed by architect Frank Gehry, who is known for his unconventional style.

A quainter option is found in Bayonne, in the Musée Basque. It houses over 2,000 artefacts that tell the story of Bayonne and the Basque Country, and is the largest ethnographic museum in the region.

All in all, there are hundreds of things to do for travellers who find themselves in the Basque Country, where enriching one of a kind experiences await at every corner. We love talking about Spain and other famous food destinations here on Dominique Rizzo, because like this breath-taking Spanish region, there is a myriad of places around the world to learn about and explore, sights to see, and food to taste — all just waiting for you to get there.

My Day on the Isle of Capri

When I was a mere 5 years of age was the last time I visited Capri, so really I am visiting for the first time and in all honesty, after my day on Isle of Capri, I could live here forever.

Getting to Capri is very easy.

Accessed only by boat, there are a number of companies and ports in Salerno, Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi from which it will only take you 30 minutes to an hour depending on where you are coming from and which boat you choose.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours

All boats arrive in the main port Marina Grande which spills into an array of tourist shops, bars, restaurants and ticket booths offering extra boat rides around the island, tours to the famous Blu Grotto, and for the local buses.  There are also private taxi companies who will encourage you to jump into their sexy little convertible cars, great for groups but I chose to take the bus, 7 euro for an all-day 24 hour ticket, valid for all of the busses, most of which will take you to all of the main towns you will want to visit such as Capri, Anacapri and Marina Piccola; a great way to get around the island.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Dominique on bus

Capri is close to Marina Grande and the main piazzette where most people will hang around and wait for their departures from the island.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Capri piazza

To best describe what to see on the island, it is easier to divide the island into its two main towns Capri and high above it Anacapri.  Both of which have their own mayors, rules and regulations.

What to see in and from Capri

For people-watching, there is no better place than Piazza Umberto I, also better known as the “piazzetta” (little piazza), in Capri town. The heart of Capri’s social scene, this small yet charming square, lined with cafes and restaurants, bustles throughout the day turning into a more tranquil vibe in the evening as visiting tourists start to depart the island.

For centuries Capri has had a long history and a passionate love affair with artists, writers, aristocrats, actors and actresses and to this day it is renowned for being the place for the rich and famous to come to visit, relax and holiday;  from the likes of Rita Hayworth, Axel Munthe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Gracie Fields, Ernest Hemingway, Sophia Loren, Mariah Carey and Giorgio Armani.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Rita Hayworth

Rita Hayworth

Few places in the world can boast such a high concentration of designer shops of some of the biggest brand names in the world as Capri, I was blown away with the collection of stores and I loved wandering along Via Camerelle, a definite must for any shopaholic or for that speciality piece.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Via Camerelle

I also found a fabulous Vintage & Designer shop called WOND&RLAND which was almost like a fashion house museum, with unique clothing, bags and some great homewares, a must if even just to have a look.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Vintage shop

If you’d rather buy something which has been made on the island and which you are unlikely to come across anywhere else, there are plenty of little artisan shops and showrooms in Capri where you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for!

Capri town also boasts a stunning coastal walk, known as the Pizzolungo, that takes you to Punta Tragara, bringing you up close to the Faraglioni rocks. Though more challenging, another option is the steep uphill walk to Villa Jovis, which takes about 40 minutes from the piazzetta in Capri. Along the way, you will pass some beautifully-kept homes with gorgeous verdant gardens — and, of course, when you get to the top, the view is amazing!

When in Capri, you also can’t miss the famous Via Krupp, the zig-zag street that leads to Marina Piccola.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - waters of Isle of Capri

Marina Piccola is perfect for a quiet stop as there are quite a few restaurants and bars dotted along the beach front and also on the road near the bus stop. We stopped at La Piazzetta ristorante, a little expensive for what it was but the views of the water and beach front were beautiful and the food was delicious especially the spinach with butter and parmesan and the fried zucchini, a must to have squeezed with fresh lemon  from the local gardens; a real symbol of the island.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Octopus by the sea

If you’re coming to the Capri for long stretches of sandy beach … prepare for disappointment! The beaches on the island are either pebbled, or solid rock, and you will soon see that locals and visitors alike, don’t mind relaxing on the hard rock areas that fall into the turquoise waters. In Capri town, you have some equally glamorous clubs, especially in Marina Piccola, which can be easily reached by walking down Via Krupp. Wander down the stairs just in front of the restaurant to reach the beach as it’s a perfect spot for some swimming or sunbaking on either side of the Siren’s Rock.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Wisteria

The most famous, La Canzone del Mare, attracts many high-profile visitors; it also offers some luxurious suites.  While many of these private beach clubs come at a price, Capri town has some free beaches, too. One is in Marina Grande, close to where the ferries dock. The water is incredibly clear, but it can be extremely packed.

If wandering through ruins is your thing, then don’t miss Villa Jovis, in Capri town. The walk is a little challenging to get to and will take about 40 minutes from the piazzetta in Capri. Along the way, you will pass some beautifully-kept homes with gorgeous verdant gardens, so picturesque with the intoxicating aroma of the citrus and floral notes. The Villa Jovis is one of twelve villas built on the island by Emperor Tiberius in the 1st century AD. Spanning more than 7,000 square meters (2 acres) and built on several levels, it once housed thermal baths, servants’ accommodation and official function rooms.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - R. Buonocore

“R.Buonocore” Pasticceria/Gelateria

A must to visit in Capri is the “R.Buonocore” Pasticceria/Gelateria, perfect for a coffee and to try one of their pastries. The ladies all speak English and they also have a great selection of savoury items for lunch that you can enjoy there or take away. Vegetable frittatas, baked pasta, gnocchi, stuffed vegetables and a great selection of side vegetable dishes, perfect if you are wanting something light and to steer away from all of the pasta and pizza. A definite must to try is their “Coda Di Rospo” similar to the Neoplolitan sfogliatelle but filled with a zuppa inglese creama scented with lemon, so deliciously perfect with a good espresso.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Melanzanna at R. Buonocore

Quiet streets of Anacapri

For a quiet and more laid back atmosphere, head to Anacapri and onto the lovely garden at Villa San Michele. Considered one of the finest gardens in Italy, it not only boasts stunning views, but a serene and well-kept garden overflowing with flowers. Built by Tiberius and lovingly preserved by Axel Munthe, the Swedish physician who fell in love with Capri in the 1880s, the villa today has a charmingly refined atmosphere, helped by its formidable position perched high on a limestone ledge.

If you’d rather shop for artisanal or local products, head to Viale Axel Munthe in Anacapri, where you’ll find shops with plenty of specialized clothing and crafts.

Continuing the garden theme, head to the Church of San Michele that boasts a spectacular 12th-century, hand-painted mosaic floor depicting the story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Both towns boast gorgeous views, but the view from Anacapri’s Monte Solaro is especially breathtaking. Monte Solaro is the highest point on the island with a striking 360-degree view of the island. The summit can be reached either on foot or (for a fee) by taking the chairlift.

Another fantastic Anacapri walk is along Via del Migliara, a route that dates back to Roman times; today, it winds past vineyards and orchards. Only about a kilometre long, it’s a pleasant stroll where at the end of the route, you will be treated to a fantastic view overlooking the southern coastline. From there, you can even take the path to Torre del Guardia, an ancient watchtower. To truly get off the beaten path, the Sentiero dei Fortini (or “Trail of Forts”) in Anacapri runs along the western coastline, starting from the Blue Grotto and heading to the Punta Carena Lighthouse. It’s perfect for those who want to experience the “wilder” side of the island!

One of the most popular spots among locals is Lido di Faro, where you get the sun the entire day. This exclusive beach club even boasts a seawater swimming pool, plus is renowned for its acclaimed restaurant. If you really want to do it in style, on top of the hill is the Capri Palace Hotel. Privately owned with fabulous service and an outstanding two-Michelin-star restaurant (with a one-Michelin-star restaurant at its beach club), it looks towards the island of Ischia and beyond to Naples.

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours - Lido di Faro by johnhenderson.com

Dickens said: ‘There is no spot in the world with such delightful possibilities of repose as this little isle’.  I could have spent weeks here just exploring, so to Dickens I say, I will have to agree and I vow to return as soon as I can.

For those of you who are into hiking, lots of walking and step climbing here are your must visits:

Linking the port of Marina Grande with Anacapri and, for many centuries, the only way to reach the town built on the high slopes of Monte Solaro is the 921 Phoenician Steps. Chiselled out of the rock face by the ancient Greeks between the 6th and the 7th century, the steps were used by anyone who needed to transport goods from the Marina up to Anacapri. Much of the hard work was done by the women of the town who carried heavy vases, balancing them on their heads. In the late 18th century as international travellers started to visit the island, donkeys were used to carry their trunks up the stone stairs. I remember seeing the donkeys as a little girl, and people paying to ride up the steep stairs.

My day on the Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours

Deciding where to base yourself is crucial. Capri, where the main drag is Bond Street al mare, is heaving with day trippers, but by 7 pm they’re all gone and the town settles into a different rhythm.

That said, Capri town does have some stunning views, too. From the Gardens of Augustus, you also have a fabulous view of the iconic Faraglioni rocks. And from Villa Jovis, a Roman villa perched above the town, you can take in the spectacular view of the entire Bay of Naples, as well as Ischia and Procida!

 My day on Isle of Capri - Dominique Rizzo food wine tours

Don’t miss our post on 5 of the most beautiful islands in Italy! and more on my food and wine tours.