Sweet Bella Vita

a dash of motherhood… a sprinkle of homeschooling… and a pinch of photography ( with a side of compassion )


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Tarifa

The nicest beach we saw in southern Spain!

The sand was so clean and soft and my boys loved playing in the waves.

Watching the wind surfers was so nice and relaxing.

And there is a cool sand dune nearby to see.

A really chill place and a great vibe!

I think it is known as the windy capitol of Europe… hence all the wind power generators!

As a family we voted that this was our favourite spot in Andalucía Spain.

~Lisa


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Gibraltar

We took a day trip to Gibraltar and it was amazing.

One of our highlights of our trip to Spain. ( although Gibraltar is not in Spain)

We went on a boat ride to see wild and free dolphins. Most amazing experience! It was so amazing there were so many of them and they all looked so happy. They surrounded the boat and followed us out to open sea. Apparently they love doing this , it is fun and it is a lazy way for them to get around as they catch the current of the boat. It was a very choppy day so hard to get good pictures but I was so emotional seeing so many of them … and so many babies with their moms… the males apparently stay out in open waters more. We tried looking for whales but we were not that lucky that day. Maybe next time!

We drove all the way to the tip of Gibraltar and had an outstanding view!

So strange how this cloud is almost always looming over the rock … a local told me that it is a good thing as it keeps the toxic crap from the refineries in Algeciras away.

Also kids got a kick out of the fact that we drove across a airport runway to drive into Gibraltar.

If you are in southern Spain I highly recommend a day trip here! Kids will love it!

 

~Lisa


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florence… gelato

What better treat to enjoy while walking around Florence then a gelato!

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I highly recommend a stop at ‘Edoardo gelato biologico’ (not only is it organic ice cream… but it has VEGAN options too!!!) it is near il duomo.

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and this concludes my Florence posts 🙂

if you missed the others find them here:

FlorencePiazzale MichelangeloPiazza della SignoriaIl Duomo

If you go I would love to hear what you liked and disliked about Florence :)

~Lisa


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Florence…il duomo

Please see my post on Florence here 🙂 and my 1st and 2nd top places to visit

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Lastly, you can’t go to Florence and not visit the famous “Il Duomo di Firenze” (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) … my kids were blown away with the size of it and the ceiling inside is incredible. The ceiling was painted between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari. I could have stared at it for hours, the detail is magnificent!

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I tried to capture different angles of it … but it is so big … difficult to do !

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~Lisa


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Florence…Piazza della Signoria

Please see my first post about Florence here 🙂  and my 1st favourite place to see here 🙂

My 2nd favourite is…

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Piazza della Signoria and Piazzale degli Uffizi and the area around it

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It is amazing… full of incredible sculptures / statues that my kids thought were incredible.

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my oldest was so excited as he recognized so many of the names on the sculptures.

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~Lisa


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Florence…Piazzale Michelangelo

Please see my first post about Florence here 🙂

My number 1 favorite place was …

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Piazzale Michelangelo, not to be missed!!!

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The view is spectacular!

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You have probably seen it in pictures … try to go before sunset and catch the sunset there … breathtaking!

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~Lisa


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Florence

Florence…

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I really want to say that I loved florence and I want to say it is gorgeous and stunning and stop there … but Florence is a tourist destination and I really dislike touristy spots.

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I took the kids there as I had never been and honestly was curious to see what all the hype was about.

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I went in October thinking there would be not many tourists. I was wrong … there were a lot of tourists. Also there were too many street vendors selling stuff like selfie sticks and constantly asking people to buy one :/

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I also found the local store owners in the historical area of florence rather rude; regardless if I spoke english to them, and they thought I was from another country; or, spoke Italian, and they thought I lived somewhere in Italy; I got the same impression.

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Having said that… the availability of organic food in Florence was nice. We rented a nice airbnb which was literally a 90 second walk from an awesome organic food store (where they were really nice). And it took us about 15 minutes to get to the center of florence by tram; so that was really nice as cars are not allowed to enter the historical center. The kids and I really liked the tram, it was really simple to take, fast and I felt really safe.

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Those are love locks in the picture above. People put them there as an eternal symbol of their love. They are never supposed to be taken down. I didn’t see too many around Florence but just a few here and there 🙂 

Putting aside the tourists and the rude store owners; Florence is really nice to visit. And if you like art; even the slightest bit; then it is the city to see!

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Stay tuned for my top 3 places in florence that my kids and myself really enjoyed in my next posts 🙂

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The covered bridge (pictured above)  is called “Ponte Vecchio”. It looks lovely from far. We walked through it thinking there was going to be some cafes (bars) somewhere nice to sit or something else, but we were stunned to see it was full of jewelry stores along it on both sides. There must have been 40 or 50 of them it seemed like.  I question how they can possibly stay in business when all the competition is right there  :/

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~Lisa


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driving in Italy

my random thoughts about driving in Italy

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1. Italians are INSANE drivers!

2. Do NOT trust your GPS in Italy; It takes you down dead end roads or makes you take a side street just so you end up back on the main road. 

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3. Italians drive FAST… and I mean really fast!

4. Why bother painting lines on the road … Seriously think of all the money the Italian  government could save ?!?! I say this as Italians do NOT drive inside the lines._MG_6696

5. Seriously 130 as a speed limit !?!? What the hell is Italy a race track? What ever happened to “piano piano” ?!?!

6. And really with a speed limit of 130 and Italians still speed?? Wth !?!?

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7. Driving IN Italy is insane !!!!!

8. Driving on the highway costs a freaking fortune. All the highways cost a lot of money … basically they charge per km … so the more km you drive on the highway the higher the cost … it cost me over 50 Euros when I got off the first time … I was not impressed  coming from canada where there are almost no tolls, although I knew there was some cost I did not think it was so high :/

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9.  Seriously stop honking at me for driving in the freaking lanes !!!!!!! Italians honk A LOT!!!!  I got honked at as I would drive in the lane and someone would want to pass in the 3rd lane yet they wanted me ( in the middle lane) to move over closer to the 1st lane … and they would pass me extremely close pretty much while driving on the line separating the middle and 3rd lane… whereas in north american if one wants to pass a car in the middle lane they simply move to the 3rd lane and pass  … I am not sure how I didn’t get hit by any car … i swear it was a miracle.

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10. La vita e Bella so slow down and enjoy it a bit !!!!

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bonus 11. parking in one town I stayed in was close to impossible … but love how cars park in either direction when they find a spot … no need to do a u-turn just to park on the other side of the street

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bonus 12. after having gotten in a car with my cousins son who is around 21 year old I was totally beyond NOT impressed … the kid drove me a total of 90 seconds … and he did not put his cell down at all … this is very common behaviour for many young Italians that I saw driving …. I think the police should be monitoring this a lot closer  and giving much higher stricter fines … including loosing your license for such behaviour.

bonus 13. roundabouts are just absolutely amazing!!!! in the south I think I barely saw any traffic lights … they have roundabouts every where and they work so well to get traffic to move

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a side note… public transportation … like the long distance train  and local trams in cities like venice and florence are really great and I highly recommend them … I traveled alone with 3 young kids and a lot of luggage so I did not feel ready to do the long distance train thing this time… but our next trip to Europe will likely be all public transportation as I do not want to deal with a car in Italy again … at least not for the whole time we would be there; perhaps renting one for a weekend would be a lot less stressful.

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I rented from avis and overall it was okay. Do I recommend them? … yes and no. I had a lot of issues contacting them directly while I was IN italy as I needed to speak directly to the venice office which was close to impossible to reach as the direct number would only work after 9 pm and they would rarely answer the phone as they were so busy. Also I had to clear up some issues and had to spend a good 45 minutes with them prior to my return flight as a seasonal employer charged me for stuff she should not have (an error or about 200 Euros)  I got back to see that my credit card was charged for all the mistakes and it took me a lot of frustration to get back in touch with them. Finally twitter saved the day… yes twitter ! Amazing how companies are so helpful when the world is watching!

If you can I recommend taking the train instead … otherwise just search for the best rental rate you can find as I think all the rental companies are the same at the end of the day. and unless you have amazing insurance on your credit card; do yourself a favour and get the full insurance package. I ended up having to pay about 500 euros for some odd scratches when I returned the car; luckily I do have great credit card protection that covered all of them!

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~Lisa


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flashback friday… Pietracatella

My mom was from a very small town in the mountains of Campobasso (Molise, Italy)

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I spent endless hours sitting on the stoop in front of my grandparents home, collecting all the snails that crawled by and playing hide and seek and tag with the kids.

mom's house

these pictures were taken in 2006… but I swear it looks exactly as it did when I visited every summer of my childhood … it has the gift of staying frozen in time …

village of pietracatella

town of pietracatella

house top view

this is a beautiful view of the surrounding area

view of hills Pietracatella

Lisa