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My Fab Fifties Life

    Europe Travel  --  Island Life

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    Island Life on Greek’s Crete Island

    Location: Chania Crete Greece

    Dear Chania and Western Crete. What a lovely surprise you have been during our three week visit. I want to apologize for arriving with low expectations. You were so much more than I could have dreamed of. I also want to apologize for all the islands that have come before you…I just didn’t know how wonderful you were. You ticked all the boxes and I know I will be back. Dear Chania and Western Crete, how do I love thee? Well let me count the ways;

    1. Crete

    Rethymnos Venetian Harbor
    Olive tree outside of Chania estimated to be 3500-5000 years old

    Crete, the largest Greek island, known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, was infatuating. The home to ancient ruins and significant Minoan archaeological sites as well as beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque villages nestled in the mountains. Your cuisine is a highlight, featuring fresh seafood, olive oil, and local herbs. The people of Crete are known for their hospitality and traditional music and dance and are so welcoming.

    Rethymnos Fort offers spectacular views of the White Mountains and the Mediterranean

    2. Chania

    Chania (pronounced Han-ya) was a perfect choice for our three week stay. We had two couples joining us from the states for the first week of our stay, so we booked an amazing four bedroom historic stone home about 15 min from the center of Chania. Now we are already discussing staying in this Airbnb again. We rented a car on arrival to be able to thoroughly explore all you have to offer, having a car is recommended. Chania has an airport, and so does Heraklion and you can also arrive on the island via ferry from Athens or other Greek islands.

    Our Airbnb
    We loved our Airbnb
    Even in the cool spring the pool was beautiful

    Chania is a charming coastal town, known for its picturesque Venetian harbor, narrow streets, and historic architecture. The town has a rich history, with influences from the Venetians, Ottomans, and Egyptians. Chania offers a mix of cultural attractions, vibrant markets, and beautiful beaches, making it a one of the things we really fell in love with.

    Venetian old town in Chania
    Chania harbor
    Old Town Chania after dark with a full moon

    Things We Enjoyed in Chania

    On our first day we hired Roussos from Alma de Crete to show us the beautiful city on foot. Our four hour tour also included so much food tastes – we needed no other meals that day. We learned from Roussos the fascinating history, cultural insights and local cuisine. Thank you Roussos, your tour helped us start our love affair with Crete.

    Watching filo dough be made by hand
    Fabulous local seafood at the market, Chania
    Cathedral of Mary in old town Chania

    We also did something else special in Chania, we learned to make beautiful mosaic art from famous local artists. I highly recommend this activity when in Chania – perfect for groups, families, kids or just couples like us. Look what we made! Not only did we make a great souvenir we met lovely local people. Learn more about it here, Marinella Mosaic Workshop.

    Marinella Mosaic Workshop
    A perfect souvenir in the works
    All smiles with our Masterpieces

    3. History

    Dear Chania and Western Crete, your history is fascinating and beautiful. We loved the Venetian feel of Chania and Rethymnos, the historic stone farm houses scattered through out the countryside and mountains, the ancient amphitheater in the hills above Rethymnos. We marveled at your culturally rich monasteries, fortresses and ports.

    Rethymnos Harbor
    Mosque dome at Rethymnos Fort
    Chania Lighthouse after dark
    Historic chapel in the middle of nowhere

    Crete, your rich history dating back to the Minoan civilization makes you one of the earliest advanced societies in Europe. Who knew? The island has been influenced by various civilizations, including the Mycenaeans, Romans, and Byzantines. You played a significant role in Greek mythology and was a strategic location in ancient times.

    Aptera Amphitheater near Chania
    Dating to 1537 Gouveneto Monastery is one of the oldest in Greece. A definite place to visit.

    4. Hiking

    Chania and Western Crete offered excellent hiking opportunities for this outdoor enthusiast. The region features diverse landscapes, including mountains, gorges, and coastal trails. One of the most popular hikes is the Samaria Gorge, a stunning natural wonder that attracts hikers from around the world. We explored the White Mountains, hiked to ancient ruins, and enjoyed panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea along the way.

    Hiking at Falassarna
    Goats joined us for a hike in the White Mountains
    A beautiful day to hike at the Gouverneto Monastery high about the sea
    White Mountains

    5. Beaches

    Even during the spring, the Mediterranean beaches of Crete are beautiful. We marveled at the turquoise water of the beaches on the coast between Rethymno and Chania. We hiked the rocky cliffs along the beaches of Falassarna. And we swam in the blue ocean and walked on the golden sands of Elafonisi. Come summer we understand your beaches are packed with guests, but our love affair with Crete began with deserted beaches, and crystal clear water.

    The beach on a windy day at Falassarna
    Gorgeous weather at Elafonisi
    Elafonisi known for the pink sand, though it’s not as pink as it once was

    6. Oh the Food

    Cretan cuisine is a highlight of this island, featuring fresh and flavorful dishes made with local ingredients. Thank you Crete for the olive oil, herbs, and seafood – staples in Cretan cooking. Traditional dishes like dakos (barley rusk salad), lamb with stamnagathi (wild greens), and kalitsounia (sweet cheese pastries) were delicious, reflecting your rich agricultural heritage and Mediterranean flavors. Oh and the wine. Wow.

    Outdoor oven at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Veerna helps us with the dough

    Dear Chania and Western Crete we could not get enough of your delicious, fresh and local food. We learned to cook six local dishes with Veerna at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School in Chania, one of the highlights of our visit to Crete. Veerna and her family have created an amazing place to gather, learn and enjoy. We highly recommend every visitor to Chania spend time with Veerna learning about Crete cuisine.

    Amazing stuffed vegetables at Veerna’s Kitchen Cooking School
    Raki with Dakos
    Boureki is one of Chania’s regional dishes, very much like Potatoes Au Gratin

    Delicious Dining

    During our island visit we ate at some remarkable restaurants that I must mention here, creating more memories of our time in Western Crete. We highly recommend all of these;

    Carte Postale when visiting the historic monasteries outside of Chania, Carte Postale is a perfect destination for lunch or dinner. With a beautiful view of Chania, the food was remarkable and so was the service.

    Braised lamb so tender at Carte Postale
    Feta and Wild Greens Salad, Carte Postale

    Raki Ba Raki we stumbled upon this place while visiting Rethynomo and what a treat it was. Great food and ambiance too.

    Meze Platter at Raki Ba Raki
    Marinated Anchovies at Raki Ba Raki

    Ntounias Slow Food – farm to table slow food cooked without electricity over wood stoves specializing in Chania regional cuisine. Don’t miss this. We almost missed it because I could never reach them on their website, but eventually called and got someone. Although when we showed up for our reservations I didn’t really think we needed it. They also have vineyard and farm educational tours. We dined on bouriki (see above), roasted goat, eggplant salad, fava beans and their own wine. Service was amazing!

    Tamam our guide Roussos recommended this restaurant for authentic food and we went as a group of six and had a spectacular meal. Located in an ancient building in the Venetian area of Chania, it was a perfect mix of delicious, historic and great service too.

    Perfect Moussaka at Tamam
    Meatballs at Tamam

    And Seafood

    Salis, right on the beautiful harbor in Old Town Chania, we loved the view, the food and the service was excellent as well. Great wine list too.

    Warm brocoli salad was amazing
    Local Corbfish was delicious

    Argentina Kapenekis about 30 min from Chania is the lovely beach town of Kissamos. We enjoyed a late lunch with waterside view and a wide selection of fresh caught fish and lovely preparations. If you like seafood this is the place for you.

    Spicy Shrimp Saganaki
    Beautiful view

    Dear Chania and Western Crete

    We hope you will welcome us back again with such open arms as you have during our March visit. Thank you for your kind people, and rich and full list of things to keep us busy…but also for quiet days, with filtered sunshine and the sweet smell of lemon blossoms.

    View from our Airbnb
    Greece – colorful and quaint

    How do I love thee? So many ways. I will return. Efcharistó Crete!

    Thank you for reading my blog post Dear Chania and Western Crete. We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you.

    Next week I will tell you about our visit to the ancient Knossos Palace in Heraklion Crete. Be sure to come back to read about that.

    Chania Venetian Harbor after dark

    See last week’s post Athens for First Timers – A Beautiful City.

    Also you might like our post My Favorite Greek Food here and The Cyprus Test Kitchen here

    See our post Island Hopping From Antiparos here

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious

    Unique Culture & Cuisine

    Location: Sicily, Italy

    Sorprendente! What a surprise Sicily was. I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Sicily, the island just off the toe of Italy’s boot, during the month of February 2024. It was an interesting time of year to visit – very few tourists and many restaurants closed for the winter. But, as we always do, we found lots to do and spent time Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious.

    Olives – A Staple Food Everyday

    This beautiful island is really something special. I could easily spend several months here and still not get enough of it. You probably know I love to talk about, write about and EAT local cuisines. So today let me explore with you the cuisine and culture of Sicily in the first of a two part series on Sicily. I think I can tempt your taste buds and entice you to visit this delicious island, the largest in the Mediterranean. Here we go!

    Culturally Diverse

    I loved this place, its people and its food. Every local we had the chance to talk with referred to themselves as Sicilian, not Italian. There is a very strong sense of cultural identity here, and the people embrace their unique history. You see it in the agriculture, architecture, art, history and most definitely in the food.

    This beautiful platter of traditional Sicilian foods we enjoyed in Palermo


    From the day we arrived we felt the difference between Sicily and Italy. Sicily felt more like Malta to us than like Italy. It felt a bit like Morocco. It also felt like Cyprus and Greece. Memories of Tunisia came to mind as well as Spain. The language is Italian, but the dialect is different. The people look a little Arabic. It’s a melting pot of thousands of years of the island changing hands.

    Wikipedia says;

    The history of Sicily has been influenced by numerous ethnic groups. It has seen Sicily controlled by powers, including Phoenician and CarthaginianGreekRomanVandal and OstrogothByzantineArabNormanAragoneseSpanishAustriansBritish, but also experiencing important periods of independence, as under the indigenous SicaniansElymiansSicels, the greek-siceliotes.

    We came to Sicily expecting Roman history and Italian food but found so very much more. And thanks to this incredibly diverse cultural history, Sicily is singular in its identity. Although part of Italy today, it remains, Sicily.

    Cefalu port

    Embracing Locally Grown

    Every gastronomic experience we enjoyed was touted as seasonally produced, and locally sourced. Sicily produces an astonishing array of foodstuff. Local cooks and restaurants alike choose the island-grown always…and often just do without if it can’t be sourced from Sicily. Seasonal favorites like cherries or sardines figure heavily in dishes produced at particular times of the year. The locally produced list is long, and I can’t even begin to mention all the ingredients that are grown and originate on the island. But here are just some of the most delicious island produced foods we reaped;

    From the Fields

    Citrus – everywhere we looked, including in our own front yard of our Airbnb, there was citrus weighing down the branches of every tree. Winter is harvest time and the oranges and lemons are colorful, juicy and abundant.

    Lemons in the grove next to our Airbnb in Western Sicily

    Pistachio – first introduced by the Arabs, today Pistachios are considered like “gold” to several local economies, especially the city of Bronte in the province of Catania where much of this lovely nut is cultivated.

    Pistachio is part of both savory and sweet dishes throughout the island

    Artichoke – Also introduced to the island by the Arabs, we enjoyed artichokes in several dishes, which were everywhere freshly harvested in February.

    Artichokes were in season during our late winter visit

    Eggplant – another popular winter vegetable finds it’s way into so many delicious dishes. It’s one of my favorite vegetables, under-utilized back home in the USA but definitely loved in Sicily.

    Delicious Grilled Eggplant with Zuchinni and Peppers

    Capers – the small island of Salina, one of Sicily’s tiny islands, is where most of the delicious capers come from. A perfect briny compliment to so many dishes.

    Wild Fennel – I was intrigued on our hikes and walks the abundance wild fennel growing fast and furious in February. This delicious vegetable shows up in many Sicilian dishes and as a garnish too.

    Wild Fennel

    Almonds – available year around, but the spring pink blooms are a harbinger of the late summer nut.

    Wheat – the Romans brought wheat to the island, and in most homes locally-produced flour similar to semolina is used to make fresh pasta and bread. The bread here is truly amazing. Though dried pasta is available in the grocery store like in the USA, home cooks still make the pasta on Sunday. The Trapani area near where we were staying is famous for the egg less Busiati pasta, a curly long pasta made fresh with local flour, oil and water.

    Fresh ground wheat made into fine flour was what we used to make the busiati

    Couscous – surprising to us, we found couscous a favorite dish available in many restaurants and in grocery stores. The Arabs brought this dish to the island, along with a mix of raisins, pine nuts and spices that have become part of the Sicilian diet.

    Couscous with Fish is a Sicilian Favorite

    From the Sea

    Squid and Octopus – stuffed squid and several octopus dishes enticed us during our visit. There are so many seafood dishes available in restaurants as well as fish mongers sharing the daily catch, you can never go wrong with fresh seafood from the waters that surround Sicily.

    Octopus with Potato is a local favorite

    Tuna – I’ve eaten a lot of fresh tuna in my life but two memorable restaurant dishes with fresh caught tuna in early March were unbelievable.

    Simply prepared fresh tuna was one of the best I have ever eaten at a Cefalu restaurant

    Sardines – early spring is the peak of the sardines, and we ate them multiple times including in the famous Sicilian dish pasta con le sarde.

    Pasta con le Sarde might be Sicily’s most famous dish

    Salt – for centuries the west coast of Sicily has been home to salt harvesting. Similar to many places around the world we have visited, delicious salt from the sea is a staple for Sicily and also an export

    Salt Flats near Marsala

    Say Cheese

    Cheese – there are many locally produced cheeses, my favorite from the island was the abundant and creamy ricotta. But there is more than one ricotta produced on the island, as well as several hard cheeses. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Learn more about Sicilian Cheese here.

    Cannolo made with fresh Sicilian Ricotta. This one was orange flavored.

    And the Best of All…

    Olive Oil – Sicily is dotted with miles and miles of olive trees…many older than most humans. First introduced to the island by the Greeks, families produce their own years-worth supply of olive oil each fall, and larger productions of the ubiquitous liquid goes to market. You can’t cook or eat Sicilian without this golden ingredient.

    Wine – did I save the best for last? Wine of course is part of every meal and the grape varieties were crisp and delicious. The Romans brought the grapes to the island, and today vineyards produce about 160 million gallons of wine each year. Some popular new-to-me varietals included Nero de Avola, Grillo and Cattarratto.

    Grillo was one of our favorite Sicilian variatals

    Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious

    One of the best things we did during our three weeks was enjoy a wonderful cooking class with Liliana at the historic farm known as Baglio Florio. Liliana’s organic farm ingredients from Adamobio helped guide us through the amazing local dishes that take their flavors from the island. During our class all the ingredients we used and ate were locally grown and produced – including the amazing wine. If you are coming to Sicily, cooking with Liliana is an absolute must. In addition to cooking classes you can take wine tours with lunch or have events at the beautiful historic farm. Check out her website and her Instagram page.

    Cooking class at historic Baglio Florio


    One dish that will remind any Sicilian of their childhood is caponata. Served cold or room temperature it is an absolute favorite. Both a summer and winter dish, we ate caponata as part of an aperitivo before we even knew what a local specialty it was. Liliana introduced us to it in our cooking class. Caponata is usually made with eggplant (aubergine) but the recipe can be very flexible to available ingredients. In fact since Liliana only uses ingredients from her farm, on this day we replaced the eggplant with apples. This dish is simple and easily made in advance for perfect entertaining. And absolutely delicious. Try this recipe.

    Caponata, usually made with eggplant, is a favorite for Sicilians

    Stuffed Sun dried Tomatoes

    This delicious appetizer also showed up on aperitivo trays. Sun dried tomatoes are a favorite snack plain as well. Usually dried in the summer and stored, the tomatoes can be soaked in water for a few hours to rehydrate and used multiple ways for a powerful flavor punch. Here we made a filling of bread crumbs, garlic, orange rind, mint, water. The filling was placed between two similarly sized halves of tomato then very quickly fried in olive oil. Served at room temperature, I absolutely loved this.

    Busiate Trapani (Almond Pesto)

    Our visit to Sicily was spent entirely in the western region where this regional dish is a favorite. Trapani is a port town as well as a region, and almonds are a favored local nut. This dish can also be made with pistachios, another Sicilian favorite. Busiate was a new to me pasta, the shape important to the dish. We made the pasta by hand, using a wooden skewer to roll each piece into it’s distinctive shape. The shape holds the pesto sauce perfectly. I will definitely make this locally significant dish again. Try this recipe.

    Handmade Busiate Pasta
    Almond Pesto was delicious and easy too


    Sicilian’s love the ricotta and this dessert uses the best of local ingredients. This delicious dessert is a favorite of mine because it is not too sweet. The lovely dough can be prepared easily and the filling is made from the delicious local ricotta, a hint of sugar and usually tiny chocolate chips. We fried these in a mixture of vegetable oil and olive oil. Served at room temperature they were the perfect complement to our meal with Liliana. Try this recipe.

    Ricotta stuffed Casatelle

    So much fun spending these hours at Baglio Florio and we loved all of these delicious and authentic dishes. Liliana kindly invited us to return for dinner or a wine tour but unfortunately we could not make that happen in the days before we left. You must visit Liliana and eat with her when in Sicily. You can’t possibly feel more a part of the local culture than this.

    Thank you Liliana

    Simple and Loved

    Just a couple more dishes I want to mention because these simple peasant foods have continued to be part of the daily staple of Sicilians for generations. You will find these as take and go items just about everywhere you go. Fresh, filling and inexpensive, Sicilians love these daily and delicious lunch fare.

    Pane Cunzato

    This amazing sandwich is a go to for Sicilians. The ingredients usually are cheese, tomato and anchovy but the most important ingredient is the incredible bread. It is made fresh daily and consumed in great quantities. Try this recipe.

    Pane Cunzato


    Another great food of Sicily is Arancini. Available all over Italy and Sicily, I have eaten arancini in many places around the world, but in Sicily I had some of the best. Made Traditionally with tomato and mozzarella, there are many other flavors as well. Often in Sicily the arancini is shaped like a pointy hat, and is a take and go meal. Learn more here.



    Wow this dish knocked my socks off. A traditional food of Palermo, we had a delicious version from a bakery in Scopello. A cross between pizza and bruschetta, it is, once again, all about the bread. Makes a perfect light lunch or snack. You must try it when in Sicily. Learn more here.

    Sfincione on the right

    Consider Sicily

    Have you considered visiting Sicily? If not you should. There are many, many reasons to visit but the food, culture and people are hands down the best reasons. You will fall in love with all three. As a visitor you will be embraced by the locals who share their love for their island and it’s unique history through food. Go book a ticket today. Sicily is waiting to feed you.

    So delicious

    Next week I’ll share with you some of the special feelings I have about this beautiful island. I can’t sing its praises enough. Come back for more next week. Meanwhile…I’m going to go have a glass of Sicilian wine. Molto bene.

    See last week’s post Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

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    Europe Travel

    Adoro la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

    Puglia, a little secret – at least it was to me. Having traveled to the big five of Italy; Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice and Naples, I kinda thought I had “done” Italy. We were researching Bologna, and then I stumbled upon Puglia. And now Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

    Puglia in SE Italy on the Adriatic

    Our five days in the Puglia region was a whirlwind. I thought it would be plenty of time. Re-examining I wish we had ten days, even though we made it work. Interestingly, visiting in February had the advantage of almost no tourists but the disadvantage of many shops and restaurants closed for the month. Evidently this is when many business people take a vacation. It was not a hardship for us, we found plenty to see and do and really loved how quiet and uncrowded it was. We had beautiful weather which we were very grateful for.


    In the course of our five days we hit nine cities and villages. Most places we just wandered aimlessly through the streets, astonished at the history, architecture and beauty. In a few other places we hired a guide to give us more in depth knowledge. And everywhere we ate the incredible food, and drank the incredible wine.

    Sassi di Matera

    Below is a list of the nine places we visited over our five day visit. For your planning purposes I would recommend you look beyond these nine, as there are other places we did not get to. But for this blog post, this is what we did – Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

    A Note – you can do this tour by train, but I really recommend a car. It is a law to have an International Drivers License in Italy so plan ahead. During our visit we used an app called Easy Park to help us find and pay for parking in every city we went to. Italians drive like crazy people. Take it slow and safe and they will go around you.


    This beautiful little town is what first attracted us to the Puglia region. After seeing a photo of the iconic Trulli architecture of Alberobello we were smitten. We spent our five days in a historic Trulli turned Airbnb, and used Alberobello as our Puglia base. Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage village and has grown in popularity for visitors and group tours over the past few years.

    Our historic Airbnb
    Our Airbnb, part of an old farm


    What is a Trulli? In the 17th and 18th century Alberobello was overseen by a feudal lord. In his effort to avoid taxes, he had all the peasants live in the Trulli – a stone house with a conical roof that were built without mortar. The lack of mortar made the structures “temporary” and thus no taxes. At the time, the area was a vast forest (Alberobello means beautiful tree) and the peasants were clearing the trees. Until the late 1700’s Alberobello was not a designated town.

    Beautiful Alberobello
    Spring is in the air
    Alberobello Aia Piccola
    Looking towards Rione Monti

    Aia Piccola

    Today, throughout the region for miles around Alberobello you will see historic Trulli dotting the landscape, including the Airbnb we stayed in. But within the historic center of Alberobello there are two distinct areas of tightly compacted Trulli. We did a private walking tour with a local through both areas. Our guide Guido showed us the smaller Aia Piccola which is still home to many locals. It is a small neighborhood of friendly people. We went inside one home to see how people once lived.

    Rione Monti
    Cats of Alberobello

    Rione Monti

    The larger more touristic area is Rione Monti. This neighborhood is positioned on a hill and provides perfect photo opportunities. This is also where the shops and restaurants are. Many shops are local products including popular wood and ceramic works as well as jewelry and clothing. I purchased a beautiful scarf, a small Trulli shaped olive oil decanter and a charm for my bracelet. On our first day we discovered two delicious local specialties; Orecchiette with turnip tops and Braciole, a delicious slow roasted rolled beef.

    Beef Braciole at the tiny but delicious My Grandmothers Pantry

    Monopoli & Polignano a Mare

    After our morning walking tour of Alberobello and a quick lunch, we headed out towards the coast and the two larger cities; Monopoli and Polignano a Mare.


    An ancient fortified city, Monopoli was founded in 500 BC by the Greeks. Similar to much of this southern part of Italy, Monopoli passed through the hands of the Romans, Goths, Byzantines and Normans. Today it is a beautiful seaside city with a gorgeous Basilica of the Madonna della Madia, sparkling turquoise water dotted with quaint fishing boats and lots of restaurants and shops for visitors. In the summer it is a popular beach destination.

    Basillica of the Madonna della Madia
    So picturesque

    Polignano a Mare

    Another seaside town perched ontop of limestone cliffs with beautiful views of the Adriatic. A rich ancient history beginning in the 4th century, Polignano was likely originally named Neopolis by the Greeks, while some historians say Julius Caesar founded it as a hub along the Via Traiana, one of several ancient Roman roads in the region. Today Polignano a Mare celebrates itself as a modern city popular with tourists all year long. A statue of native son Domenico Modugno, best known for the song Volare, is a popular tourist photo spot.

    Next time I’d love a hotel room with this view
    Domenico Modugno

    Ostuni, Cisterno, Martina Franca and Locorotondo

    On day three we set out early to explore four ancient hilltop villages all within about an hour or less from Alberobello.


    We actually arrived in Ostuni so early nothing was really open yet. But we parked the car and took a long walk around the “white city” – referred to for it’s white walls and buildings. Ostuni is very popular with visitors and the population explodes in the summer. On the morning we were there we seriously had the place to ourselves. It was wonderful to just wander and peek into the various alleys and stairways. The original settlement here can be dated back to the stone age.

    Hidden treasures in Ostuni
    One of many artful doors in Ostuni
    Ostuni Citadel


    We really enjoyed the hilltop village of Cisternino, with views across the valley to neighboring Martina Franca. The village was just coming awake on our arrival. We enjoyed an espresso before wandering the streets, taking in the view from the panorama vista and visiting some local cathedrals.

    The original town is said to have been destroyed by the Goths, and it was rebuilt as a monastery by the Basillian Monks in the Middle Ages. Today it’s dense interior gives it a maze feel and offers visitors to enjoy a treasure hunt as they wander.

    Cisternino high on the hill
    A wonderful view

    Martina Franca

    Named for Saint Martin and founded in the 10th century, Martina Franca is famous for its olive oil production and its Baroque architecture. It’s another good place to take a slow stroll within its gated walls, or wander outside the gates where commerce continues and locals sit and watch the world go by.

    One of the Baroque gates of Martina Franca
    The main square in Martina Franca


    One of my favorites of this day was our final stop in Locorotondo. Another very small hill top village, with the name meaning “round place”. The village was a unfortified walled city from about 1000 AD, founded by Benedictine monks. Today it is a tourist mecca for its beauty and architecture.


    We had a late lunch/early dinner here in Locorotondo, and it was one of the best meals we had anywhere in Italy. We just stumbled into Osteria Il Rosoni, one of the few restaurants that were open. It was a great discovery. We drank the local Verdante wine and ate several local specialties. It was a great way to end day three.

    One of the best meals we had in Italy at xx
    Lamb Shank

    Sassi di Matera

    Day four we headed out from Alberobello about an hour and 15 min drive to Matera. I had seen photos of this place and I knew it had a unique history but was not prepared for how amazing it was. We spent the entire day in this town and if I were to visit again I would spend a night or two in this remarkable UNESCO site.

    Looking across the ravine to Matera
    Astonishing history

    You definitely should start your visit on the Murgia side, across the ravine, to get a good look back at this astonishing cave city. What you are looking at is a prehistoric troglodyte village, thought to be among the first human settlements of what is today Italy. The oldest Neolithic pottery found dates to 7500 BC. It is truly one of the oldest inhabited settlements in the world.

    Today’s city is built on top of the original caves, but many cave dwellings still exist and are occupied in their updated form. In the 1950’s it was considered the “shame of Italy” because the inhabitants were so poor. The government relocated them to a new area. But eventually in the 1990’s the potential for tourism and commerce started to be noticed, and today it is really one of the most remarkable places in the world. Read the Smithsonian story about it here.

    Ancient but living
    A fascinating way of life
    Such a great day

    We enjoyed a really delicious meal in Sassi di Matera at Il Terazzino within a cave. Great food and service too. It was a favorite day and I am so glad we visited this remarkable place.

    Eating in a cave
    Melon and Prosciutto so delicious


    Our time in Pugla flew by, and on our last day we were tired, but decided to make the hour and half drive south to Lecce. We figured it was unlikely we would ever return to this area, so we didn’t want to waste a day. The drive was on a good freeway much of the way and we arrived with plenty of time to find parking and then search out the tour we had booked ahead.

    Symbol of Lecce
    Roman Coliseum

    Lecce has a fascinating history. Most of the architecture is Baroque dating back to the 12th and 13th century. But legend dates the original city to the 5th BC. Below the current town only recently (early 1920’s) was discovered an entire coliseum, and nearby an entire Roman theatre. Both areas are still to be full excavated but will eventually be opened to tourists.

    Roman Theatre

    Lecce has several stunning cathedrals, including the recently restored Basilica de Santa Croce. You should also visit the city’s Bell Tower, popular with tourists and you can climb to the top. The walls of the original city, dating back 2000 years, can still be seen in several places around what is often referred to as the “Florence of the South”.

    Lecce hidden gems

    Back to Alberobello

    We made the drive back to Alberobello, where we wanted to enjoy this little gem after dark on our final night. We had an outstanding dinnner at 100Metricubi, a unique menu of local octopus, bean mash (a local favorite) and of course, wine.

    Alberobello at night
    Beautiful scene Alberobello
    Our final meal was amazing
    Primativa our favorite

    I do not take lightly how astonishing my travel life is. It can be exhausting and sometimes it’s a lot of work for the planning and execution. However, the result is a treasure chest of memories of people, places and experiences that have forever changed me, taught me, inspired me and made me a better steward of the earth. Thank you Puglia, you were something special. Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

    Ciao Bella, Puglia

    Thank you for reading my post Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”. I hope you will consider adding Puglia to your travel bucket list.

    See last week’s post San Marino Hiding in Plain Sight.

    See this week’s book review Still Life by Sarah Winman here.

    We love it when you pin, share and comment on our blog posts. Grazie!

    Become a World Traveler  --  Inspire

    Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two

    Fllight Upgrades and Airport Lounge Access Perks

    Location: Around the World

    We are half way through year eight of our travel life. And sometimes we enjoy a travel perk or two. We have fallen into an easy pattern as we navigate the world. We understand how the system works, we each have our area of responsibilities as we plan and execute our travels, and generally we are content.

    However, we are also eight years older than when we first started. And along the way we have discovered a few things about ourselves that keep us happy in our retirement travels. For me, I need an outdoor space, even if it’s small, at our long term lodgings. I also need a washing machine…not a dryer, but definitely a washing machine makes me happy. Simple things but they make all the difference.

    Bangkok. We had a really long layover, visited two lounges over a six hour layover


    Because we are very cognizant of our budget, we always fly economy. But every once in a while we will bid on an upgrade seat in Business Class. We will never pay full price for Business Class, but if we can slide in at the last minute we take it. It’s the only time I can actually sleep on a plane. We recently enjoyed a fabulous Philippines Air Business Class flight from San Francisco to Manila. It was heaven for this old girl.

    That said, we don’t just automatically book the cheapest flights out there either. We try to fly non-stops or one stop maximum. It makes such a big difference for our bodies. After the first few years of living this life on our retirement income, we figured out where and when to spend a bit more without breaking the bank.

    Business Class Life
    Philippine Air was comfy
    Excellent food and drink in Business Class

    Airport Lounge Privileges

    If you fly a lot, you quickly learn that most airports, with only a few exceptions, are all the same. Uncomfortable seating areas, expensive food, and way too many people.

    Last summer we upgraded our credit card to a Capital One Venture X. This new card provides us airport lounge privileges all around the world (in addition to some other perks). We have been very grateful for these, and have visited three different lounges in the Manila Airport (my least favorite airport in the world but the lounges are nice), lounges in Seattle, Brisbane, Melbourne, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai so far. Some are nicer than others, but all are better than sitting at the gate.

    Seattle USA
    Manilla Philippines
    Lapu Lapu Philippines

    How Does it Pencil?

    By the way, this is not a sponsored post…I’m just sharing how much I like this credit card.
    The card cost $495 per year, but we get $300 back in travel credit when we book travel using the Capitol One travel site (which has turned out to be surprisingly easy to use and competitive with or Expedia, our normal travel standards). So in reality we pay $195 per year less the additional cash back we get for some specific travel purchases.

    The way we figure it, before we were hanging out in airport lounges, we could easily spend $50, or more, on a meal and drinks while waiting for a flight. Now we eat and drink for free in lounges. We have enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as full cocktails, beer and excellent coffee. That saving cost alone pays for the card if you are a frequent traveler.

    In addition, the Capitol One Venture X also gives us discounts when we book with Bookingdotcom, Expedia and Get Your Guide. All travel apps we use frequently.

    Lapu Lapu Philippines
    Hong Kong
    Lapu Lapu Philippines

    Although we have yet to use it, many lounges offer showers and even beds. We usually only have a few hours, so we charge our electronics, have a meal, use the wifi and kick back in seating that is much more comfortable than at the gate.

    Melbourne Australia
    Melbourne Australia

    Travel Fatigue

    I’ve talked in the past about the reality of travel fatigue. Our travel life may look exciting, and usually it is. But it also can be exhausting and there are occasional long, difficult days. As we have winged our way around the world, we have learned that our dollars are well spent on a little pampering, to help make travel comfortable and reduce travel fatigue.


    Sometimes, since we have all the time we want, we will get a hotel at an airport, so we can sleep and be fresh for our next onward flight. This might be just for the day, or overnight. Arriving fresh at our destination makes us happier, less cranky and excited for what’s ahead.


    Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two

    Finding perks that are affordable but also keep us healthy and rested, is our goal. Since we travel so much, it pays to occasionally upgrade to Business Class and to carry the Capital One Venture X card. If you only fly once or twice a year, this probably isn’t the credit card for you. But if you are a nearly full time traveler like us, the lounge privileges are really nice.

    Thanks for reading my post Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two. See last week’s post Koh Chang Thailand, Taking it Slow. Next week we begin a series of our travels in Italy. Hope you will come back for that!

    We love it when you pin, share and comment on our blog posts. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel

    Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise

    Location: Tasmania Australia

    I arrived in Tasmania Australia with absolutely no expectations. I love it when that happens. Sometimes it’s on purpose and other times it’s just because we are busy and have not really planned our visit. Usually this results in wonderful surprises and discoveries – and this is exactly what happened for us in Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    Hobart from on top of Mount Wellington

    Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise

    Island Paradise? Absolutely. But maybe not in the way you are thinking. It’s not tropical…but there are beautiful beaches. You’ll love that it’s not crowded…most of it wild and undeveloped. Also it’s not hot…with four seasons but rarely getting over 75 – 80F degrees in the short summer.

    And yet it truly is a little Eden. About half the size of the State of Washington, the heart shaped island is home to a fascinating collection of birds, animals and plants. With miles of undeveloped coast, rain forests, mountains, waterfalls, lakes and meadows. A hardy local population of about 540,000 are friendly, patriotic and helpful.

    Beautiful Tasmanian beach

    Tasmania has a rich history. Home to aboriginal tribes for tens of thousands of years, the tribes were nearly wiped out when Europeans arrived. Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, first named the island Van Diemen’s Land in the 1640’s. The British began “transportation” in the early 1800’s, transporting convicts to gaols (jails) throughout Australia including Tasmania. In an effort to colonize the area, more than 162,000 men, women and children served hard labor between 1788 and 1868. Most of them stayed, and populated the Australian mainland and Tasmania. It is estimated that 20% of today’s Australian population can trace their roots to British convicts transported during this time.

    What’s Your Pleasure?

    During our visit, Tasmania provided us activities that we enjoy the most; bird and wildlife spotting, hiking, walking, learning about history, eating seafood and drinking local wine and beer! We did all that and more during our four week visit to Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    Amazing local beer and wine throughout Tasmania

    Most people probably aren’t going to spend an entire month. But hopefully this post will help you set your priorities for visiting Tasmania.

    By the way – if you plan to visit more than one national park in Tasmania, it’s worth it to purchase an annual pass which we did. Definitely worth it for us at US$60. Learn more about it here.


    We spent an entire month in a wonderful historic Airbnb in Hobart. All but two of the activities listed below we did as day trips from Hobart. One overnight was to Freycinet National Park, although we could have done that in a day trip too. Additionally we took two nights to go north and visit Launceston and Cradle Mountain. It was great to use Hobart as our home base, since we had such a lot of time to work with. If you have less time, be sure to spend at least a few days in lovely Hobart because there is much to do. Read all about the amazing things we did while living in Hobart for a month here Hobart Australia’s Most Surprising Town.


    Bruny Island


    DISTANCE FROM HOBART – 35 min drive and 30 min ferry ride.

    Bruny Island (approximation)

    A short drive from Hobart to the small town of Kettering, you catch a small ferry to Bruny Island. Plan ahead because sometimes you wait a couple of ferries – it’s really small. Once on the island, there are some fun things to do…we did it as a day trip but depending on how much time you have it could be a great overnight. Bruny is home to some great hikes including Fluted Cape Walk, which we did. It involved a pretty steep climb but that gave us some wonderful views. We had hoped to see the famous Bruny Island white wallaby but unfortunately we didn’t. Hopefully you will. There are about 200 on the island.

    Bruny has beautiful beaches and several wineries. We took some time to visit a local brewery that also makes cheese Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company and enjoyed a little lunch.

    Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company

    A popular thing to do on Bruny is get out on the water on an organized boat cruise. We didn’t do this, but there are many ways to enjoy the water…and many other things as well. Learn all about what to do on Bruny Island here.

    Bruny Island Ferry
    Fluted Cape Walk
    Fluted Cape Walk

    Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur


    DISTANCE FROM HOBART Just over an hour to Tasman Peninsula and an additional 20 min to Port Arthur

    Tasman Penninsula Port Arthur (approximation)

    Tasman Peninsula

    We started early for this day trip and enjoyed everything we did. Starting on the Tasman Peninsula we made several stops to enjoy the beauty of this astounding scenery of this area. This is home to the multi day hike known as the Three Capes. On this visit to Tasmania we were not prepared to do overnight hiking, but it’s one of the most popular things to do in Tasmania. Learn more about it here.

    However our day trip included some short walks that provided us outstanding views of this rugged and beautiful area. Starting with a couple of short loop walks that took us to the Tasman’s Arch and then to the Devils Kitchen. Another short walk in this same area is to a Blow Hole at Fossil Bay, with spectacular panoramas along the gorgeous coast. I highly recommend a stop at the Tessellated Pavement too. It’s also a short walk and worth it to view this very unique rock formation, created by the expanding salt in the rock cracks. Unreal and bewitching.

    Tasman’s Arch
    Tessellated Pavement
    Devil’s Kitchen and Coast
    Alien looking “loafs” at Tessellated Pavement

    Port Arthur

    At the end of the Tasman Peninsula we come to Port Arthur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former penal colony. Between 1830 and 1877 nearly 13,000 convicts came to this remote point of the Tasman Peninsula, at that time reachable only by water. The convicts that were housed here were those who recommitted crimes. A high offender penitentiary. The museum and self-guided tour is so perfectly presented and easy to understand. At the start of the tour you receive a playing card with the name and picture of someone who either lived or worked in Port Arthur. As you tour the grounds you read the interpretive signage and try to find your person. It was fun and interesting for young and old alike. This unique historical site of Port Arthur is sad, but frankly beautiful too. Port Arthur is a not to be missed attraction of Tasmania.

    Engaging way to explore Port Arthur
    Port Arthur
    Beautiful too

    As we returned to Hobart we stopped at one of the dozens of wineries in this area. Visiting Bangor Vineyard winery we enjoyed an early dinner in their incredible restaurant and some delicious wine too.

    Bangor Vineyard
    Bangor Vineyard

    Mount Fields National Park


    DISTANCE FROM HOBART one hour and ten minutes

    Mount Fields National Park (approximation)

    At 600 feet, you’ll enter this beautiful national park and find a cool rain forest and home to some of Tasmania’s tallest Eucalyptus trees. We enjoyed a full day hike doing the three waterfalls loop. On our visit we hiked about 7 miles but there are short and easy wilderness walks that take you through the beautiful fern trees and to the popular Russell Falls, one of Tasmania’s most beautiful waterfalls. After our hike and picnic lunch we drove up to Lake Dobson. It was noticeably colder at this elevation of 3500 feet. In the winter it’s popular for snow activities at Mount Mawson Ski Field. Mount Fields National Park is not as popular as some of the other national parks close to Hobart, we loved how few people were there on our visit. I highly recommend you visit.

    BIG trees in Mount Fields
    Russell Falls

    Maria Island


    DISTANCE FROM HOBART One hour by car and then 30 min by boat.

    Maria Island

    One of our favorite things we did on Tasmania was visiting Maria Island (pronounced mar – EYE – ah). Another national park, it is remote and beautiful and home to abundant wildlife. I recommend booking your boat ahead, especially during high season. It’s recommended you arrive at the ferry 45 min before your departure. The passenger-only ferry with Encounter Maria departs from the small town of Triabunna. At the ferry you will find parking, rest rooms and a small place for coffee and fish and chips.

    One day or More

    The boat ride can be a bit bumpy, so if you are like me plan ahead with your motion meds. On arrival there are multiple hiking options depending on your fitness level. We did three different hikes; first to the Fossil Cliffs, about an hour and half. The fossils are pretty cool and the hike along the rocky cliff side of the island is windswept and beautiful. We encountered kangaroo on this section.

    Next we did the Reservoir Circuit, a very peaceful walk through tall forests with fewer people. On this walk we saw our first potoroo and some beautiful birds.

    We walked through the Darlington Township, another of Australia’s penal colonies of the 1800’s and enjoyed our picnic lunch at one of the provided tables. It was here that we encountered the rare Cape Barren Goose.

    Boat to Maria Island
    Fossil Cliffs

    Next we walked along the beautiful Rutherford Beach cove to the Painted Cliffs, one of the most beautiful areas of the island. A fascinating geological feature of Maria you don’t want to miss. Make sure to check on the tide however, to properly see the Painted Cliffs the tide must be low enough to walk to them.

    Walking back to the ferry we encountered wombats. Several wombats, including a Mama and a baby. Such a treat to see these incredible marsupials up close.

    We took the 10:00 AM boat out of Triabunna and returned on the 4:15 departure from Maria. This gave us plenty of time to do all of the above. There are longer hikes as well, and you can stay the night in both small historic lodging or camping. Don’t miss Maria Island when visiting Tasmania.

    Beautiful Painted Cliffs
    Mama and baby wombat

    Freycinet National Park/Wine Glass Bay


    DISTANCE FROM HOBART 2 hours 40 minutes

    Freycinet National Park (approximation)


    We visited Freycinet as an overnight but you could do it as a day trip from Hobart. Deciding to make it an overnight, we stayed in the tiny town of Swansea, about an hour from the park, in a small cabin in a caravan park. Swansea has a few restaurants but not much else. We did enjoy a walk through town and along the waterfront.

    Beautiful beach near Swansea
    Dinner in Swansea at The Branch

    Wine Glass Bay

    Wine Glass Bay is the main thing most people come to see. There is a fairly steep hike up to the viewpoint that includes about 1000 stairs. Once at the top the view makes you forget all about that. At the lookout, you can choose to walk another 1000 steps down to the beautiful sandy beach. Then, turn around and back up, and down the other side. It is a bit difficult, but if you take your time, I think nearly anyone could do it. Be sure and bring water.

    Looking down onto Wine Glass Bay
    The beach at Wine Glass Bay
    Made it to the top!

    Cape Tourville Light

    It’s also worth it to visit Cape Tourville Light. The view is incredibly, and although very windy I definitely recommend the short walk around the light. The view from the windy cliff where the light house sits is stunning.


    OVERNIGHT – we did Launceston as part of a two day tour of Launceston, Devonport and Cradle Mountain (see below)

    Distance from Hobart 2 hours 30 minutes

    Launceston (approximation)

    Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city. Located on the Tamar River, it’s home to James Boag’s Brewery – Australia’s largest brewery. It’s a small town with lots of historic charm in the Victorian style architecture. It’s easy to do a self-guided walking tour. Don’t miss the Old Umbrella Shop, owned by National Trust Tasmania.

    If the weather is fine make sure to visit the Cataract Gorge and ride the old school Cataract Chair Lift over the gorge.

    National Trust Old Umbrella Shop
    Cataract Gorge

    Cradle Mountain National Park and Devonport


    Distance from Hobart 4 hours. From Devonport it’s about 1 hour 30 min.

    Cradle Mountain National Park (approximation)


    We drove from Launceston on to Devonport (about an hour) where we rented a tiny cottage in a caravan park with views of the the Bass Strait. We chose Devonport because it was easy to access Cradle Mountain National Park which was our main reason for coming to this area. The region is very agarian, a bit windy and absolutely beautiful. Devonport is home to the ferry that crosses the Bass Strait, the treacherous span of water to mainland Australia.

    We didn’t have much time in Devonport, and frankly there isn’t a lot to do. We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the waterfront a long and well maintained Torquay Heritage Trail.

    The best thing we did in Devonport was go at sunset to see the Little Penguins. Often called Fairy Penguins these little cuties leave their chicks on shore and go out to fish from just before sunup until after sunset. Conservation volunteers man the overlook at Lillico Penguin Viewing Platform each evening to help visitors spot the little penguins as they come ashore. It was cold and windy and of course dark…but I’m sure glad we did it.

    Torquay Heritage Trail
    Little Penguin at Lillico Viewing Platform – using red lights to see the penguins after dark

    Cradle Mountain National Park

    We arrived at Cradle Mountain National Park about 10am. It was the week after Christmas and it was really busy with tourists and locals too. We hadn’t realized that visiting Cradle Mountain means a shuttle bus inside the park. At first I was annoyed about that…always wanting to be able to control my timeline. However, it was a very efficient system, even on a very busy day. The shuttles are large and comfortable and frequent. Even if you already have a parks pass, you’ll need to stop at the visitor center to get your shuttle tickets.

    The park is about 3000 feet, and even in early summer, it can be chilly. When packing up that morning in Devonport where it was 75 Fahrenheit, we had only thrown in our down jackets and hats as an afterthought. Thankfully. We wore all of it most the day. Beginning our hiking around 11am with the Dove Lake Circuit, one of the most popular hikes in the park. We followed that with a nice stretch of the Overland Track – most of which is on a raised platform. Next we enjoyed our picnic lunch and were just heading out to do a portion of the river gorge track, which wanders back down to the Visitor Center. But right then it started to rain…a nasty, misty, soaking rain, and we decided we had enough for the day, and headed back towards Devonport.

    Beautiful Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain National Park
    Bundled up but loving Cradle Mountain National Park

    And We Didn’t See It All

    There are a few things we did not squeeze into our visit. Despite the compact size of Tasmania, if you like nature, you’ll never run out of things to see and do. The people are so friendly, prices are good, roads are passable to all the places I mentioned here, and summer and fall provide comfortable temperatures. Spending the holidays here we observed how laid-back life is – even as Christmas approached. People are unpretentious, happy, and completely at home in this beautiful state.

    We loved everything about our time in Australia, and Tasmania is a place we would love to return to again. If I can help you plan a visit to this remarkable place, let me know. Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise.

    See last week’s post about Hobart Tasmania – Australia’s Most Surprising Town here. Be sure to come back NEXT FRIDAY for our ANNUAL TRAVEL AWARDS post – which incidentally has a lot of Australia in it too! You don’t want to miss it – always one of our top posts of the year.

    Want to learn more about our time in Australia? Check out Visit Beautiful Brisbane, Visit Marvelous Melbourne and our Caravan Travel post one and post two.

    Thank you for reading this week’s post Tasmania – Australia’s Island Paradise. We would really appreciate your shares, pins and comments to help our post get more views. Thank you.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Lucky Dogs by Helen Schulman

    The title of this book never made sence to me. But other than that, I did enjoy this book, “ripped from the headlines” if you will. Fictional but loosely based on the “Me Too” movement. It was a difficult but also interesting story. Here is my book review Lucky Dogs by Helen Schulman.

    Me Too

    Unless you are living under a rock, you will know what the Me Too movement is. Though this novel is not about the actual real life actress whose experience started the movement, it’s quite similar. It includes a beautiful actress, a horrible and unattractive but powerful male Hollywood misoginsit, and a undercover beauty.

    Fiction but Real Life

    Taking real life events and using them as a base for a novel is not new. Schulman does a good job changing the characters just enough to keep them fictional. But the underlying story is the same; women abused, misused and victimized by men. And yet, the most disturbing part of this book for me was how WOMEN surrounding the alleged victim did not stand by her. Their own fear of losing their Hollywood status kept their mouth shut. And even more disturbing was the false friendships, clever and deep, and the lengths the “hired” friends went to in an effort to discredit and once again victimize the actress.

    It’s a tangled web of espionage-esque, fear based emotional trauma and intrigue.

    ****Four stars for Lucky Dogs by Helen Schulman

    Thanks for reading my book review Lucky Dogs by Helen Schulman. See last week’s book review Absolution by Alice McDermott.

    We love it when you pin and share our book reviews. Thank you.

    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Island Life

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia

    Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

    Tasmania. Where is it? I don’t think most people even know. Not that long ago I wouldn’t have known either. But today I can say it is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. And Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, is definitely worth a visit. Let me tell you why I say Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Looking down at Hobart from the top of Mount Wellington at 4400 feet

    Hobart, Tasmania

    Tasmania is Australia’s southernmost state. It’s an island too, about half the size of the state of Washington, an hour flight from Melbourne. Hobart is the capital city of Tasmania and is home to 198,000 people. The city of Hobart sits at latitude 43 south – which is equivalent to Milwaukee Wisconsin or Marseille France north. During our visit we rented a wonderful Airbnb in Hobart for an entire month over the Christmas holidays. Even though December is the beginning of summer in Australia, it never gets too hot in Hobart due to the southern exposure, and we had a little bit of everything in the weather department. It’s a perfect size city for getting around, and we had time to do so many wonderful things: from museums to hiking and more – Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Lovingly refurbished historic home
    Historic Airbnb built in 1860
    We loved this Airbnb

    Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia, has a colonial and penal colony history but natives were here much earlier. Wikipedia says “The first European settlement in the Hobart area began in 1803 as a penal colony and defensive outpost. In 1804 it was moved to a better location at the present site of Hobart at Sullivans Cove, making it the second oldest city in Australia. Prior to British settlement, the area had been occupied for at least 8,000 years, but possibly for as long as 35,000 years, by the semi-nomadic Mouheneener tribe, a sub-group of the Nuenonne, or South-East tribe. The descendants of the indigenous Tasmanians now refer to themselves as ‘Palawa‘.”

    Historic Hobart Harbor (Canva)

    Things to do in Hobart Tasmania

    In this post I will share with you all the great things we discovered to do in the city of Hobart, or less than an hour from the city. Next week’s Friday blog post, I will expand more on all the incredible attractions more than hour outside of the city. But if you are only visiting Hobart, there is so very much to do without leaving the city Let’s talk about it.


    Battery Point – one of Hobart’s oldest and best preserved neighborhoods just south of the CBD. Founded in 1818, Battery Point (so named from the cannons once positioned there) is perfect for a self-guided walking tour when visiting Hobart.

    Battery Point
    Row Houses in Battery Point
    Battery Point

    Hobart Wharf and Constitution Dock – a beautiful part of the city, this historic waterfront area is home to the fishing fleet as well as yachts and personal sailboats. Many tours leave from here and there are casual eateries and fine dining options. The cruise terminal is close by.

    Hobart Waterfront
    Mawson’s Museum, replica of early Antarctica cabins
    Lots of seafood options at the wharf

    Cascades Female Factory Historic Site – not to be missed former site for female convicts who were transported from Britain beginning in the early 1800’s. This is a great place to begin learning about this bleak time in Australia’s history prior to visiting Port Author about an hour and a half from Hobart (more on that next week). Don’t miss this fascinating, sad but also intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Sight in Hobart.

    Cascades Female Factory
    Historic Cascades Female Factory
    Cascades Female Factory


    MONA Museum of Old and New – Difficult to describe; weird, curious, eccentric. Definitely thought-provoking. I struggle to understand modern art…so some of it went over my capacity. The architecture however was fascinating. Even if you go away scratching your head, it still is worth a visit when in Hobart for its state-of-the-art concept. I also recommend arriving by ferry on the Derwent River from Hobart Harbor.

    Museum of Old and New

    Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – Wow. This museum was a real surprise right from the start when we realized it was free. Housed in a historic building near the original docks, TMAG is home to a wide range of exhibits from art to history and nature. I was particularly impressed with the aboriginal exhibits which I thought presented that story very well…despite how disturbing it can be. A very similar tale to the plight of the Native American.


    Glow Tour with Lisa Ann – staying up past dark was worth it to do this unique tour. We walked through a city park and were astonished at the wildlife there. Using UV lights which don’t disturb the animals, we explored trees and found possums, endangered bandicoots, wallabies and pademelon. The platypus were elusive but regularly are seen after dark. A fun evening.

    Endangered Bandicoot

    Parks & Gardens

    Mount Wellington, now called kunanyi in respect to the original local people of the region – It’s a very easy drive to the top of kunanyi- Mount Wellington, about 40 minutes from Hobart. Certainly the top was chilly but worth it for the amazing views…incredible from 4400 feet.

    Afterward we went back down to about 3500 feet where it was a bit warmer and did a lovely hike below the iconic Organ Pipes rock formation, and had a picnic and enjoyed so much bird life. This park is a must when in Hobart.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens inside Queen’s Domain Park – we spent Christmas Day walking around this beautiful botanic garden – one of many we enjoyed in Australia. The well tended and diverse 17 hectare space is housed within the more wild Queen’s Domain Park. Consecutively , worth a stroll when in Hobart. Free too!

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    A Beautiful day at Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

    Intercity Cycleway – used for commuting and recreation both, this wonderful paved trail runs along the old railroad tracks from Hobart all the way to Claremont. About 16 miles and we used it regularly for our morning runs.

    View of the Derwent River from the Intercity Cycleway


    Salamanca Market – held every Saturday 8:30-3:00 through out the year, this huge outdoor market offers a wide variety of food, produce, gifts, clothing, arts and crafts. On Salamanca Street right near the wharf. The area is also home to wonderful shops, restaurants and historic sights.

    Salamanca every Saturday year around
    Salamanca every Saturday year around

    Sunday Farm Gate – my favorite for locally grown and produced, this market is held every Sunday in the summer. Home to fresh bread, produce, cheese, honey and even gin and whiskey all locally made.

    Sunday Farm Gate
    Sunday Farm Gate

    Hobart Twilight Market – Happening twice a month in the summer and once a month in the winter, the Hobart Twilight Market takes place near the waterfront and Franklin Pier. Albeit you’ll find lots of yummy options for dining as well as distillery options, crafts, honey and more. Live music. Dates vary so check the website.

    Hobart Twilight Market

    Food and Restaurants

    Because we had such a great kitchen in our Airbnb, and because we work hard to stay on budget, we actually did not eat out very often during our month in Hobart. But we did enjoy the following;

    Street Eats – during Australia’s summer months (December – February) every Friday night at Franklin Square you’ll find Street Eats. This Friday night food truck festival is a great gathering place complete with music.

    Street Eats
    Street Eats held at Franklin Square
    Friday Street Eats

    Breakfast -looking for a tasty breakfast in Hobart CBD? Look no further than Criterion. A unique and tasty menu and excellent coffee with great service and a good price.

    Breakfast at Criterion

    Lunch – Cultura Espresso and Bistro is a perfect place for a quick late breakfast or lunch. Italian specialties with excellent coffee and wine too. Try the Chicken Panzanella Salad.

    Lunch at Cultura

    Dinner – We enjoyed dinner out at a handful of restaurants and can recommend all of these;

    Da Angelo Italian – this highly rated restaurant in Battery Point serves spectacular food with wonderful service too. I had veal bianco and my husband had lasagna (his favorite) and we both were really happy. Da Angelo has a great local wine list, perfect with our meal.

    Pearl & Co. – casual seafood eatery connected to the fish market and located right next to where the fresh fish comes in, a really delicious selection of seafood. Oyster, calamari, blue-eye trevally and scallop pie all were perfect.

    Delicious and authentic Italian at Da Angelo
    Pearl & Co.

    Room For A Pony – it’s a funny name but a very popular spot for both indoor and outdoor dining and perfect for groups in North Hobart. We enjoyed a delicious salad and pizza. Simple and family friendly.

    Poncho Villa – we read such good reviews about this Mexican restaurant we had to try it. Consequently, Poncho Villa is so popular it even requires a reservation. The Mexican food was authentic and delicious, while being creative too. I’m glad we went!

    Landscape Restaurant and Grill – fine dining at it’s best. This beautiful restaurant on historic Hunter Street was a perfect way to end our month in Hobart. Beautiful steak, fish, wine and service…everything you need for a perfect celebration or night out.

    Room For a Pony
    Poncho Villa
    Perfect meal at Landscape


    Cascade Brewery Tour – it’s not free but it’s really interesting to tour the oldest brewery in Australia. Fascinating building and history and your ticket includes a lovely tasting at the end. Tickets $35 Aussie (about $20 US)

    Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest brewery

    While in Hobart, we made a point to visit several local microbreweries. I can recommend all of them if you are a beer lover like we are. Definitely check out T-Bone, Shambles, Deep South, Captain Bligh, Hobart Brewery and Overland.

    Captain Bligh’s


    Theatre Royale – this beautiful historic theatre, built in 1837, has events through out the year. While we were in Hobart we enjoyed a fun and festive annual Christmas show. Check out offerings when you visit.

    Saint David’s Anglican Cathedral – this beautiful and historic church hosts many events throughout the year open to the public and during our stay in Hobart we attended a free (donations welcome) holiday musical event that was truly spectacular. We loved being there with all the locals enjoying the music of the holidays in a venue where the acoustics were heavenly.

    Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – in the summer the Theatre Royal presents shows outdoors at the Botanical Gardens. We enjoyed a fun production of Pinocchio the week after News Years.

    Saint David’s Cathedral performance
    Beautiful Saint Davids Cathedral

    Pinocchio in the Park


    Richmond is a tiny colonial town about 30 min drive from Hobart and definitely worth a visit. Luckily we went in the morning, before the tour busses arrived, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Czeg Cafe. Secondly we followed a self guided walk around the village following the city’s online guide.

    During our walk we visited the well preserved and interesting Richmond Gaol as well as the convict-built stone bridge – built in 1823 and still in use. Richmond has some fun shops and many other restaurants as well. In the region around Richmond you will find multiple wineries. We visited Nocton Winery and enjoyed a tasting – taking two bottles home for our holiday celebrations.

    Richmond Bridge
    Richmond Gaol
    Czeg Cafe Richmond
    Breakfast at Czeg.
    Nocton Winery


    For such a small town Hobart is home to large variety of events and festivals throughout the year. See the full list here. While we were visiting, one of the biggest events of the the year, Taste of Summer , took place the week after Christmas and first week of January on the waterfront in Salamanca. The party on New Year’s Eve was a great fit for us. Certainly the event has so much food, beverages, excellent music – and on NYE front row seats to the 9:30pm fireworks (family and old people friendly) and the midnight fireworks as well!

    Taste of Sunmer
    Happy New Year
    Taste of Summer

    See More Tasmania

    Although I spent a month in Hobart, you could explore the city easily in three or four days. Therefore giving you time to see so much of the island of Tasmania, if you don’t have a full month like we did.

    However, next week I’ll tell you about our adventures around the island of Tasmania…some day trips from Hobart (more than an hour) including Bruny Island and Port Arthur. Additionally we also did some overnight trips including Freycinet National Park and Cradle Mountain. I hope you will come back to learn all about that next week. Tasmania is an astonishing place. I think I’m in love. Meanwhile, thanks for reading my post Hobart, Tasmania – The Most Surprising Town in Australia.

    Do you want more posts about Australia? Click on these Visit Beautiful Brisbane, Visit Marvelous Melbourne, Caravan Travel Australia Part One, and Part Two.

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