Sicily: Cefalù

Cefalù is a popular seaside town in Sicily; it's a wonderful place. We absolutely loved our week staying there after Florence and Rome, and found the town to be enchanting.
The old town is full of quaint and narrow streets where you'll find tributes to saints and ancient Fiat 500 cars parked up.

As well as Cefalù Cathedral and La Rocca, there are a few other tourist attractions you can visit in the town, plus as a long stretch of sandy beach where you can soak up the sun. You'll also find delicious restaurants and gorgeous little shops.

In Cefalù the food was (mostly) delicious, so I have a few awesome restaurant recommendations to share! First up is Il Normanno, which was definitely the best restaurant we ate at. The menu had original dishes, like their yummy pork fillet with pistachio and chocolate sauce, and we spent a delightful evening there.

We ate at L'Antica Corte twice for lunch, and were impressed both times. Here we had the best pizza in Cefalù, and the pasta dishes we saw other people order looked and smelled delicious. Another great restaurant was Le Chat Noir where we enjoyed a lovely dinner sat in their courtyard. We went Sicilian and tried their swordfish specialities, which were very tasty.

Locanda del Marinaio was another great place for dinner, where we both had a fresh home-made strozzapreti dish for our pasta course, followed by lovely fresh fish for our main. Strozzapreti is known as being a poor man's pasta... ridiculous because it's delicious! Finally, if you're by Cefalù Cathedral, head to Bar Duomo for excellent (and cheap) gelato - a small is actually a massive portion, so don't order any bigger unless you want an ice-cream fest!

All-in-all, we had a fantastic time in Cefalù, spending most of the time relaxing by the sea/pool at our hotel or eating yummy food in the town itself. We definitely ended our Italian adventure feeling very relaxed and happy, and I have a feeling we'll be returning to Italy at some point in the near future! Where's your favourite place to go on holiday? x

Sicily: La Rocca di Cefalù

Looming over Cefalù is La Rocca, a rock that towers about 276 metres above the town.
It's one tiring climb, especially in the heat of the day to get to the top of La Rocca, but it's worth it for the magnificent view of Cefalù.
We could teasingly see our hotel's swimming pool when we reached the top - after a 45 minute climb in the heat, which was very steep and uneven at times, a pool would have been most welcome!
Instead of a swimming pool at the top of La Rocca, we found the ruins of Cefalù Castle. Dating back from the 1300s, it's amazing to think they managed to build up there and that a community thrived.
Making your way back down La Rocca, stop off at the archaeological ruins and the Temple of Diana (Artemis), which dates from the 5th Century BC, and see the megalithic walls.
There's an entry fee of €4 to access the park where La Rocca is situated - tackle it early in the morning and take plenty of water with you!

Sicily: Cefalù Cathedral

Built by the Normans, Cefalù Cathedral helps a little to explain the different influences in Sicily. See, the Normans conquered Sicily in 1091 though before that both the Byzantine and Arab Empires had occupied the island, as well as the Vandals and Ostrogoths. (Not to mention the Ancient Romans and other early tribes.)
Sicily became part of Italy in 1861 - in between this they subordinated to the Crown of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire - but since 1946 Sicily has been an autonomous region in the Italian Republic.

A lot of cultures have influenced the island of Sicily, so it's unsurprising that there's a mixture of styles around the island. This Norman Cathedral dominates the town of Cefalù, and it's worth popping in. Same rules apply here like at St Peter's: Cover your shoulders and knees, but they do have shawls you can borrow if you're not suitably attired.

Sicily: Staying in Cefalù

After our intense sightseeing in Florence and Rome, Sicily was the final port of call in our Italian adventure last month. Flying into Palermo from Fiumicino, we joined the world's slowest queue to pick up our rental car.

Sadly it wasn't a classic Fiat 500 waiting for us or, indeed, a new Fiat 500, but our Fiat Panda kept us safe on the Italian roads, even if the Italians freaked us out with their driving antics. Who knew on a dual carriageway with a hard shoulder that you could get five unofficial lanes of traffic, or that if you missed your exit on the dual carriageway, it's acceptable to reverse down the hard shoulder! I nearly started crying in terror when I saw the latter happen. 

Our destination was Cefalù, a town about an 80 minute drive from Palermo, on the North coast of Sicily. We booked into the Hotel Kalura for seven nights, where we had a marvellous view from our room:

If you stay at the Hotel Kalura, make sure you book a room with a sea view as it's a stunning view. We stayed there B&B, but did eat lunch and dinner there once or twice, which was nice enough.

The hotel has a large swimming pool, perfect for cooling down in the afternoon, as well as its own private beach area (no sand though), which was great for swimming in the sea. The water is clear and lovely - perfect for snorkelling, which I bravely tried - though we were interrupted on our last day as a film crew were setting up - we never did get to find out what they were filming!

The hotel is about a twenty minute walk from Cefalù itself. We hopped in the car in the day to have long lunches in town, but walked there in the evening to make sure we could enjoy those €7 litres of house wine. Parking on the street is free between 1pm and 4pm, though no more than €0.80 an hour at other times (it's much cheaper to do this than park in a car park). x

Rome: The best of the rest

I promise, this is my last post on Rome, though not on my Italian adventure as I still need to tell you all about Sicily! There's so much to see that it's impossible to see everything on one trip, unless you stay in Rome for a few weeks, that is! 

Take this, for example, the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. And because those aren't enough names, you may also hear it referred to as the wedding cake or the typewriter! It's a gorgeous building - some call it ostentatious - but I've never been here to see the Tomb of the Unknown Solider or go up on the roof to admire the view of Rome.

Trajan's Forum is near Il Vittoriano and the Roman Forums; other than quickly walking though this area to get elsewhere, again, I've never explored it properly.

The Palace of Justice sits near Castel Sant'Angelo, and it's a beauty of a building. The supreme court of Italy, it requires more than just a passing glance at it, which is all I've ever had time to give it, sadly.

There are so many other marvellous places in Rome that I've not visited or mentioned during my visits to Italy's capital, which means I'll just have to go back! Where have you been to in Rome that you think I must add to my "to-do" list? x

Rome: Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is gorgeous, so it's a shame that it's currently being restored (until 2016) and you can't currently see it in all its glory. The water has been removed, and whilst you can join a queue to file through and admire the stonework, you don't get the full effect.

Luckily, I saw the Trevi Fountain back in 2011, as it should be seen, so I can share with you the photos I took back then. It's quite something, isn't it?

PS: There's a really awesome gelateria called Gelateria Valentino right by the Trevi Fountain. Make sure you get some gelato from there!

Rome: Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo is one of my favourite places in Rome, but sadly we didn't get time to visit it last month. But, because I was a bad blogger and never wrote about my 2011 trip to Rome, and I only shared some photos, I'm going to write a memory lane post about Castel Sant'Angelo.

Crossing the Ponte Sant'Angelo takes you to Castel Sant'Angelo, which is also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Though it doesn't look ancient, it is actually another of Rome's ancient buildings, and is a decade shy of being 1,900 years old.

It's super close to Vatican City and, in fact, the Passetto di Borgo is a (not-so-)secret passage that links the two.

Costing €10.50 to get in, if you happen to be there on the first Sunday of the month it's free, just like the Colosseum.

You'll find Raffaello da Montelupo's statue of Saint Michael there, which originally stood on the roof of Castel Sant'Angelo. (Raffaello was an apprentice of Michelangelo.)

Nowadays, a bronze statue of the Archangel Michael (above, left) stands on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo. Raffaello's statue was damaged, which is why they moved it.

Up on the roof there's a fantastic view of the rooftops of Rome. Look in one direction and you'll see St Peter's; another direction will show you the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument, also known as the Altare della Patria, and churches galore. Visit it if you can!

(Photos included in this post are a mixture of ones I took in July 2011, and ones I took in September 2014.)

Rome: Piazza del Popolo e Piazza di Spagna

The Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza di Spagna are two pretty squares in Rome, whilst the road between the two - the Via del Babuino - is lined with designer shops and little boutiques.

If you get off the Metro at Spagna, you're going to see a lot of people sat on some steps. These are the famous Spanish Steps, and whilst I've never seen the appeal, people sit on them day and night. (They are apparently the widest in Europe.)

Made famous by one of my favourites, Audrey Hepburn, and her co-star Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, both the church at the top of the Spanish Steps, the Trinità dei Monti, and the fountain at the bottom are currently under restoration, just like the Colosseum and other famous landmarks.

It's OK though, I was in Rome in July 2011 when the church wasn't under scaffolding so you can see above how it should look.

At the Piazza del Popolo, you'll find the "twin" churches - Santa Maria dei Miracoli is to the left, whilst Santa Maria di Montesanto is on the right-hand side. They're not identical twins, but they are very similar.

The Piazza del Popolo translates as the "People's Square" nowadays, but there's another church here - the Santa Maria del Popolo - where the square originally got its name from.

The Piazza del Popolo is probably my favourite square in Rome, but it has one annoyance. Street vendors will come up to you and try and force flowers or trinkets on you whilst you're milling around. A firm no will do the trick, though it may take several of these for them to disperse.

If you walk up the steps towards the Villa Borghese, you can get back to Trinità dei Monti and the Spanish Steps whilst taking in the awesome sight of Roman rooftops, and some famous landmarks. Quite the view, huh?

A city break in Rome

Doing two city breaks in a row as part of our Italian adventure was exhausting, so I'm glad we got to go to Sicily after Rome. Another thing I am glad about is that we didn't have hotel issues in Rome; in fact, we were upgraded when we arrived at the 4* Hotel Pulitzer and snagged their rather large junior suite. Hurrah!

The Hotel Pulitzer is situated a few minutes away from the Marconi Metro stop and whilst it was a lovely hotel, the road leading from the Metro to the hotel is actually an avenue for prostitutes! We never felt unsafe, but it was a surprise getting an eyeful of boobs and bum upon exiting the station on our first evening.

Getting around the Eternal City is easy; there are two Metro lines, as well as buses, trains and cabs. Again, we lucked out when stepping off the train at Termini, the main station, as two tourists who were leaving Rome gave us their weekly travel cards. I think we must have racked up some serious karma points for what we suffered in Florence!

A daily ticket on the Metro costs €6, but you can also get a single journey (€1.50), three-day (€16.50) or weekly (€24) ticket. Watch out for pickpockets though; we spotted a loud and large gang of young teenage girls push through the carriage, get off at the next stop, which is when one of the women they pushed by realised her bag was open. Keep an eye on your things and you'll be fine.

Food-wise, we didn't really find any amazing gems like we did in Florence, but these restaurants were definitely the best ones we ate at. Da Vito e Dina is near Vatican City, and we enjoyed a nice lunch there for €31. This was the first restaurant I spotted in Rome were you could order focaccia, and it didn't disappoint. The pasta was pretty yummy, though their portions are massive.

Loste Ria was near our hotel (Marconi area), and is definitely more of a local place. They give you the most amazing home-made potato chips when you arrive, and their steak is pretty awesome.

The staff at Ristorante Dal Carbonaro were super lovely. I ordered a delicious sea bass dish with an intricate potato crust for my main, but they accidentally brought me a sea bass with an aubergine crust. They realised before I did, were most apologetic, and they sorted out my replacement dish quickly. The restaurant is in Trastevere, which is a great neighbourhood to explore if you have time - it's about a twenty minute walk from the Circo Massimo Metro stop.

Finally, La Nuova Piazetta, near the Colosseum, gave us tasty pizza and pasta with a dessert, sparkling water and a litre of house wine for about €30 - a bargain price for dinner in Rome! They even gave us a limoncello shot. Whilst it is the norm to receive a free shot in Florence and Milan, they don't tend to dish them out in Rome - this was the only place we found that did. Oh, and you'll probably have to chase down oil and balsamic vinegar for your bread in Rome as they only seem to give it to the locals. (Booooooo!)

Finally, I need to tell you about an awesome dress shop called Love-Life on Via Ottaviano. I bought two dresses from there back in July 2011, and bought another dress this time round. The manager/owner is still as rude as ever: your money is fake; stand over there; take this dress; do this! But, in the end, I got an awesome dress for €15. Via Ottaviano is on your way to Vatican City (if you get off at Ottaviano, the nearest Metro stop to Vatican City), and there is also Oysho a few doors down. Oysho is another July 2011 find, and they have awesome pyjama bottoms. (Nowadays though, ASOS stocks their stuff!)

Just like in Florence, we had a busy time in Rome and definitely needed a rest after all that sightseeing! We grabbed a taxi from our hotel - around €40 - and headed to Fiumicino to catch our flight to Sicily. Internal flights to Palermo take around 45 minutes from Rome and can be quite cheap. Our flight was about £40 each, with luggage checked in. x

Beauty: My Little Box October 2014

Receiving My Little Box is like receiving a really nice birthday present each month. It's well thought out, looks oh-so-lovely, but you don't really *need* what they send you. My Little Box is a treat, it's not an essential, but isn't that the point of it?

My rumination last month that DVF meant Diane von Furstenberg was, indeed, correct. Yey, because I'm a big fan of DVF wrap dresses! I couldn't wait to see was waiting for me inside the My Little Box by Dianne von Furstenberg.

This is what I found inside October's box:

It all looks lovely but, actually, how was it? The L'Occitane shea vanilla bouquet hand cream definitely made my hands feel smoother; it smells nice but, to me, it doesn't really smell of vanilla! Unlike last month, I liked this month's My Little Beauty product which was a micellar water cleanser. As for the Laque Noire hairspray from Kérastase, the scent wasn't overpowering and it did its job. Three great beauty products in this month's box.

I felt, however, that the magazine was just one big advertorial for Diane von Furstenberg, and I'm not sure what I'll do with the pin badge. I like the inspirational print, but I hope that next month the magazine has some real content included, rather than pure promotional material. I appreciate that this is a box designed by DVF, so she/her company should be in the magazine, but I just felt there could have been more of a balance. I adore the scarf though, and I feel the inclusion of it gave this month's box a prestige tone. It was nicely wrapped, too.

Receiving My Little Box is such a delight, and I get great pleasure in opening my beautifully wrapped box to see what treats are inside it. Sure, I've not as impressed with the beauty contents as I am with Glossybox but, as the French would say, this box has a certain je ne sais quoi that Glossybox doesn't have. (And, let's face it, it also has a different  purpose to Glossybox, so it's slightly unfair me comparing the two.)

A subscription to My Little Box costs £14.95 a month, which includes P&P, and you can cancel at any time. Let me know what you make of it, and I'll be sure to share my thoughts when I receive November's box! x

Beauty: Glossybox October 2014 review

I've tried Birchbox, and I've tried My Little Box, but it's Glossybox that gets my attention now. I signed up for a three month subscription, making it £12.75 per month, which includes P&P. I also had a code when I signed up, so I got a free random box sent to me.

The first box I received from Glossybox was the random box, which was their "Seaside Splash" box from July 2013, pictured to the left. I'm not going to review this box, but it was a welcome bonus and I have five extra products to try - thanks!

What I am going to tell you about is October's UK Glossybox, which is their "Pop Art" edition:

First up, would you look at the box itself? I love the design, and I like that this was sent to me via a tracked Royal Mail service. Birchbox came by Yodel, and I'm not a fan of their service... points to Glossybox!

I was sent four full-size products, plus two samples, and what awesome products and samples they are - I've had a bounteous box this month!

First up, I tried Nuxe's Crème Fraîche de Beauté Mask. They sent me the 50ml tube, which costs £19.50 to buy. You apply the mask on your face for ten minutes and then either rub in the excess or remove it with toner. I had a few dried bits on my face from the mask so I used a little toner to get rid of these, and my face still felt super soft afterwards. Win!

The être belle liplift peel is, again, a full product. Costing 12.95, it's an exfoliator for your lips. It left mine feeling smooth and soft - a result, especially with the threat of chapped lips emerging as the weather turns colder.

I was also sent a flutter mascara by So Susan, which costs £14.95. It definitely gives your lashes an intense black colour, but I didn't get the promised "voluminous, multi-dimensional lashes in just one coat". Mine were a little flat, if I'm honest, and the mascara doesn't dry very quickly... I ended up with black smudges around my eyes when I blinked. Doh! I'll be sticking to my Chanel Inimitable mascara.

The Ciaté nail polish is a gorgeous purple colour, or "Talent Scout" as they like to call it. Costing £9, this nail polish looks great on my toes, and is the perfect colour for autumn and winter.

I'm excited that I have a perfume sample in my Glossybox this month as I hate going to department stores and getting attacked by the perfume people. Yves Rocher's Quelques Notes D'Amours smells absolutely gorgeous, and I've ordered a full-size bottle of this perfume. They are having a sale at the moment on this perfume, plus Glossybox sent me a £5 off code, meaning I picked up a 50ml bottle for a mere £22.50. I also had free postage, could pick three free samples, plus will be sent a different 50ml perfume with my order. Thanks! Oh, and I used Quidco, so I get £2.25 cashback - I am the bargain queen!

Finally, I received a sample of Rimmel's Matte BB Cream in shade fair. The consistency of this BB cream is awful as it's really runny - squeezing the cream gently on to the back of my hand saw quite a bit of it squirt on to the floor - but the coverage is amazing. I like what it does to my face, not so much to the floorboards (thank goodness it didn't land on the rug!).

So, what's my verdict on October's UK Glossybox? Well, I have to say that I am super impressed and can't wait for November's box to arrive! This box was brilliant value: I can't believe I received four amazing full-size products, worth about £53.70 in total, as well as two lovely samples and a gorgeously-designed box, all for £9.50. Sorry Birchbox, I think I've found my beauty box winner! x

Rome: Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona is a sunny square in Rome where you'll find three fountains - there's the Fountain of Neptune, there's the Moor Fountain, and then there's the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

The Fountain of the Four Rivers, situated in the middle of Piazza Navona, is the one that crowds gather around. It's a Bernini fountain, and represents the four major rivers of the four continents where Papal authority was (at that time).

It's certainly impressive but the church behind it (or in front of it, depending which way you're looking) is far more impressive. You can't take photos inside of Sant'Agnese in Agone but, if you're in Piazza Navona, do go inside and take a look at this magnificent church yourself. There's the skull of Saint Agnes inside - slightly grim - but the rest of the interior and the dome itself is lavish.

You'll also find restaurants aplenty around Piazza Navona; we didn't eat here this time, but I did when I was in Rome back in 2011. Whilst you can't beat the atmosphere of  Piazza Navona - often bands will be playing whilst artists paint - the price of food and drink tends to be on the steep side for pretty average-tasting food. But, we struggled to find really awesome restaurants in Rome, so if you're going to be eating so-so food, you might as well as eat it with an awesome atmosphere, right?

Rome: Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

Once you've been to the Colosseum, you're going to want to head over to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Palatine Hill stands above the Roman Forum and is where Rome was founded, according to legend.

The Roman Forum was the centre of Ancient Rome, and whilst the Colosseum was used for brutal entertainment, the Forum was where you could find the more civilized government buildings, temples and markets.

Nowadays it's mostly ruins, though some of these have been restored over the centuries, like the Arch of Titus above.

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was the largest building in the Forum - its arches are all that remain of it today, so our tour guide told us to picture walking into St Peter's to imagine what the inside of this Basilica would have been like.

There's a reason why the area looks a bit sparse today. Lots of the materials used to build the Roman Forum were removed to construct other churches and buildings after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Don't just dismiss the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as a bit of a falling down building site though - use your imagination to picture the hustle and bustle of the crowds, see the grand buildings before you and marvel at how clever the Ancient Romans were. It's thanks to them, after all, that a lot of our society is like it is.

You can visit the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, along with the Colosseum, for €12. Tickets are valid for two days, though I highly recommend you book a guided tour or buy an awesome guide book to make the most of this area of Rome.


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