Bologna is the beautiful and lively, historic capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy. It is full of rich history, culture, amazing architecture and it might be the most delicious city in all of Italy. And if this is not enough, there is another great reason to visit Bologna. While most cities are overrun with tourists in summer, Bologna is still very much undiscovered by foreign tourists. There were only a few other tourists, which made for a special, authentic, immersive local experience which was so delicious.
Bologna has three nicknames that sum up this wonderful city perfectly:
La Rossa, which means the red, referring to the beautiful terracotta-hued, yellow and red medieval buildings and the UNESCO-protected porticoes, as well as its communist past.
La Grassa which means the fat, referring to the rich and delicious cuisine making Bologna Italy’s gastronomic capital. Handmade Pasta, hearty meat sauces, cured meat, salty cheese and lots of other delicacies can be all found in Bologna.
La Dotta, which means the learned or the studied, referring to its university, founded in 1088. The University of Bologna is one of the most ancient and prestigious in the world.
We loved wandering the endless streets covered in Porticoes, we marveled at the painted walls and ceilings, soaked in the beauty around us and ate our way through Bologna.
One of the first things in Bologna that visitors will notice are the medieval buildings in different warm hues like terracotta, orange and other earthy colors. They influence most of the city center and are embellished with matching porticoes, which are beautiful roofs that are supported by columns. The special thing about the porticoes in Bologna is that they are all interconnected. They are an important cultural and architectural heritage of Bologna and represent a symbol of the city together with the numerous towers.
No other city in the world has as many porticoes as Bologna. In the historic center alone, they are about 40 kilometers long, and more than 60 kilometers long including the porticoes outside the medieval city walls. It is an international record that Bologna has been holding for more than 900 years and that today, together with the towers, the terracotta facades and its delicious food like Tagliatelle al Ragù, Tortellini, Mortadella (to name a few) – are the identity of this city.
The cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region is some of the best in Italy and Bologna is called the gastronomical capital of Italy. With so much delicious food in Bologna, it can be a challenge to order only one dish… We wanted to taste it all and are so happy we did….
Bologna is the birthplace of Pasta Bolognese, or Tagliatelle al Ragù. One of the most popular pasta sauces in the world, Pasta Bolognese is never served on Spaghetti. There is no such thing as spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna. The ragu sauce is topped over Tagliatelle, a thicker flat-ribboned pasta that holds the sauce better. And it is.. Oh so good…
And then there is handmade stuffed pasta like Tortellini and Tortelloni, the different sized versions of pasta dumplings. Either Tortellini in Brodo (served in a broth) or Tortellini in Panna (a cream sauce) are so delicious. We also tried the Lasagna Bolognese which is served with green pasta and the Cotoletta alla Bolognese. One of our favorites was the fried Mortadella. Other traditional dishes and food to try from the Emilia Romagna region are of course Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan, Prosciutto from Parma – ham, balsamic vinegar from Modena, Passatelli, Tigelle, Balanzoni, Aperol Spris and many other delicacies.
Eating is quite simply one of the best things to do in Bologna.
The exact date of the University of Bologna’s founding is uncertain but believed to have been 1088. During the Middle Ages, scholars from all over flocked to Bologna to pursue their intellectual studies. Some of the University’s most famous students throughout history include Dante, Petrarch, Erasmus, and Guglielmo Marconi. Today the University has a diverse range of programs at all levels. It also houses a vast collection of Medieval art and illuminated manuscripts.
My Top 10 Favorite Things to Do and Visit in Tangier
Located on the Strait of Gibraltar where Africa meets Europe, Tangier is the perfect location for a day trip from Spain. There are different ferry lines that connect Spain and Morocco in less than one hour. We took a ferry from Tarifa, the most Southern point of Spain and stayed several days in Tangier.
Tangier has a rich history and is one of North Africa’s most ancient places that is over 2000 years old. It was ruled by Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs and Portuguese. Even today it is still a melting pot with a blend of different cultures, countries and influences like North Africa, Spain, Portugal and France.
Tangier has the most interesting history and beautiful sights like the medina, Kasbah, bazaars and souks. The sounds from the muezzin and smells from the market made us feel like walking in an old Middle Eastern folk story.
Many parts of old Tangier, the Medina and the surrounding areas are very accessible by walking. We walked directly from the port along the old city walls to our hotel in the middle of the old city. There are several entrances and stairs leading into the Medina.
The two official languages of Morocco are Modern Standard Arabic and Berber, but Moroccan Arabic is what’s most commonly spoken on the street. Most locals and people we met, spoke English perfectly.
There are many great things to do in Tangier and in Morocco. Here are our top 10 favorite things and places to visit in Tangier:
Get Lost in the Medina
Getting lost in the Medina is an absolute must when visiting Tangier and it will happen when you step inside! The Medina, which is the old walled city, feels like stepping back in time. It is labyrinth of small streets and alleyways, miles of tiny, narrow, endless paths. Some streets only have colorful buildings on both sides, some have tunnels and other streets are filled with vendors. People sell ceramics, rugs, trinkets and more. There is everything from spices, metals and tanned leather to textiles, traditional clothing, silks and more.
Walking through these magical winding streets, felt like being in a fairytale and we could have spent hours just walking and looking and experiencing it all. We let the boys lead the way and it was very exciting for them to find new corners and to decide which direction to go. I really like to involve our kids in planning our travels and to decide what they want to see. It makes it much more interesting for them, makes them feel important and connects everybody. (A little tip on the side that works so well everytime. Each member of the family picks something that they like – for example in Puerto Rico my son wanted to go to the children museum while I wanted to do a horse carriage ride. We did both. Rather than complain about the carriage ride, he accepted and respected that it was my pick.) It just makes a much happier travel environment to involve the kids.
Other than lots of little streets, we also found many street cats. Around every other corner were little cats. Many of the cats were injured or dirty and it was rather heartbreaking for me. My kids found them very cute and tried to convince us to take some home with us. (we did not)
Visit a Traditional Souk or Carpet Store in the Medina
While inside the Medina, go and visit one of the souvenir stores. Morocco’s crafts are beautiful and carefully made; experience for yourself the centuries of traditional artisan techniques in the chiseled wood, stained glassware, and each knot on the hand-pulled rugs. The stores are charmingly clustered with lanterns, ceramics, carpets, textiles and so much more. Many of the stores have different rooms and levels specializing in carpets or clothing or something else. It almost feels like a museum and we spent over an hour in one of our favorite stores. The owners were very gracious and let us take pictures, served sweet peppermint tea and showed us carpet over carpet. They were extremely friendly. We ended up buying most of our things right at that store and were able to haggle with the prices. I wanted to buy the souvenirs anyways, so I was happy to buy it from them.
There are so many things to buy. Its possible to fill up an entire suitcase. Souvenirs worth buying are Argan Oil for the hair, saffron and some other spices and mixtures like Ras El Hanout, a tagine cooking pot, the famous blue and white ceramics, lanterns and of course a magical carpet. My son bought himself a traditional dress. He did not wear it very often since then, but was very happy about this treasure and still keeps it in his room. Seeing him being passionate about this clothing is one of many fond memories I have. We also bought a small leather camel for my daughter which looking back is such a great little souvenir standing on a shelf in her room.
Some street vendors have a more aggressive approach and really try to push selling their things. Just make it clear that you are not interested and after a couple more tries the vendor moves on.
Visit the Grand Socco Market
The Grand Socco Market is a pleasure for they eyes and for the nose. Vendors sell all sorts of loose dried spices, nuts, fruits, olives, herbs, breads and much more. The smells are incredible fragrant and Vendors attract customers by offering samples of their wares. Again it is such a special atmosphere and a must see when in Tangier.
Drink the Sweet Mint Tea
The most popular drink in Morocco is a sweet mint tea that is actually green tea with fresh mint inside. It is often called Moroccan mint tea because of how enmeshed it is in the local culture. The hot green tea brewed with spearmint and lots of sugar is served year-round and at all times of the day. We had so many tea ceremonies in Tangier and it quickly became the favorite drink of the family. It also was Luca’s favorite thing about Morocco.
In my opinion, the best way to enjoy the mint tea is on top of a roof terrace together with a cookie and a view, but it tasted just as great and sweet anywhere else. Moroccans are famous for their hospitality, and it is Moroccan etiquette to offer tea to any visitors that might stop by. It is served in beautiful tea pots and we love everything about it.
After tasting the mint tea, it was very interesting for us to sea the vendors selling the fresh mint on the side of the street.
Eat Moroccan Food in a Traditional Restaurant
I was hesitant before eating traditional Moroccan cuisine for the first time, because I don’t like too much spice in my food. I was really surprised how good it was, tasting intriguing flavor combinations with a subtle hint of different spices in just the right way. Everybody probably heard of couscous. I had eaten it before in the United States, but the couscous in Morocco tasted so much better. It’s no wonder, because it is a North African staple that’s been eaten by the indigenous Berbers for thousands of years. Couscous is served topped with slow-cooked beef, lamb, or chicken, spices and vegetables and is called Tagine. It is the unofficial national dish of Morocco and it’s served in the earthen clay pot called a tajine.
We tried several other dishes including a delicious soup (which I forgot the name) and a traditional Moroccan sweet chicken pie and loved it all. I am so happy we tried several dishes and I really recommend to go to a small traditional restaurant and do the same.
Try on Traditional Clothes
I highly recommend to try on traditional Moroccan clothes. Many stores will be happy to help and let the customers try on several outfits. Again, everybody was really friendly to us and I was impressed by the hospitality. We were served mint tea, tried on several beautiful dresses and hats while getting a cultural lesson about the garments.
The traditional dress for men and women is called djellaba and is a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves. It signifies purity, virtue, good fortune, and honorable moral qualities.
Olivia, our youngest daughter did not want to participate to try on clothes and watched us instead. I loved how the clothes looked and felt and immersed us in Moroccan culture.
Visit the Palace/ Kabash Museum
This museum was once known as “Dar el Makhzen,” which translates roughly to “The Sultan’s Palace,” and was the residence of Portuguese governors between 1471 and 1661. The museum contains many exhibits and artifacts showing the history from prehistoric time to the 19th century. The entrance fee is 20 dirhams per adult and 10 dirhams for kids and is open from 10am-6pm every day except Tuesdays.
While the information is only in Arabic and French, the architecture is still very fascinating. I loved the different mosaic tiles on the walls and floors as well as the gorgeous courtyard. There are several small rooms around the courtyard with different exhibitions.
It also has a magnificent Andalusian garden with lots of great picture opportunities.
Visit the Main Square
This large open plaza in Tangier that is also called the Grand Socco is the most central point for anyone visiting. It has a big fountain in the middle and is a great place to take a break. There are several cafes nearby but we just had a seat on one of the benches and watched people go about their daily lives.
It also connects the old part of the town with the new city and has several gates (with a street map and your location) that lead to the Medina and the Nouvelle City.
Listen to the Muezzin
The Muezzin is the official who proclaims the call to the daily prayer five times a day, at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. .The muezzin is the servant of the mosque and is chosen for his good character.
Historically, a muezzin would have recited the call to prayer atop the minaret in order to be heard by those around the mosque. Now, mosques often have speakers on the minaret and the muezzin will use a microphone, or a recording is played, allowing the call to prayer to be heard at great distances without climbing the minaret.
Visit the Hercules Cave, Cape Spartel and the Beaches
Located about 14 kilometers west of the city of Tangier, Morocco, lies the famous Cave of Hercules, which is a fascinating archaeological cave and the most North Western point of mainland Africa. The cave is free to enter and to explore on your own, but there were also guided tours available. The cave system is open daily, year-round. July and August are the peak season and have the most visitors, including at the nearby beaches.
I wrote a blog post about our the Hercules Cave and Cape Spartel. For details, check out the post here:
Cape Spartel is a promontory in Morocco about 1,000 feet above sea level at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar, about 15 min drive West of Tangier. It is where the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic Ocean! The Spartel lighthouse that was built in the 1860s by an international coalition (including the USA, France, Spain, and Morocco) in order to mark the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Rheinfall / Rhine falls is the largest waterfall in Europe and is located close to the border near Schaffhausen in the Northeast of Switzerland. There are many other waterfalls that have greater drops and are much longer, but the Rhine Falls is the most powerful. Because of melting alpine caps, the water flows at an impressive rate of up to 600,000 liters per second during the summer. Even though, it is only 23 meters high, it is about 150 meters wide, making the Rhine Falls very impressive, powerful and loud.
The Rhine Falls is around 15.000 years old and originated during the last ice age. Because of tectonic shifts , the Rhine River was forced into the current riverbed. First the stream met the glacial deposits – gravel, clay and sand. Once the glacial deposits were washed away, it met with a large block of hard rock. That’s why the river became wider and more shallow before leaping over this rock, forming an enormous waterfall.
There are several different parking lots on both sides of the river. We parked very conveniently on P2 and only walked a couple of minutes downhill to get to the site. If you have read some of my other posts, you know we are known to visit many places in the late afternoon and early evening. This works out great for us, because most of the crowds already left for the day and everything is covered in the golden afternoon light. We started our walk at Schloessli Woerth, which also has a restaurant and a boat dock for tours.
We decided to walk the promenade along the water towards the falls. There is an information point, playground, benches and several view points which are all free. The entire walk around the Rhine Fall basin was about 3 kilometers long.
The river Rhine is really special to me. I grew up in a small village right next to it and even saw it from my classroom window at school everyday. (The Rhine is the largest river in Germany and it flows from the Alps to the North Sea. ) We had visited family at Lake Constance, so it was the perfect opportunity to make a stop at the Rhine Falls. I am so glad we did. It is an amazing sight.
These waterfalls have been formed in a sharp bend of the Rhine which is why it offers so many impressive views.
We walked by several little platforms and viewing points, discovering little side waterfalls and different angles.
What a gorgeous view with the castle in the background.
The highlight for the boys was dangling their feet inside the water on one of the platforms. They had seen several people do it and since it seemed harmless with the handrail, I let them join the fun. Little things (if they are not dangerous) makes kids so much more excited about a place. I want my kids to want to travel with me and have fun while doing it. Little things like this can make their day and they will always remember the Rhine Falls. It also gave me a great picture opportunity.
This viewing platform was one of my favorites. The views were spectacular, the sun was setting perfectly and we had the falls almost to ourselves. In the middle of the Rhine Falls stands a large rock that has withstood the elements for thousands of years. The rock can be reached on one of the boat tours, which must be impressive. Virtually in the middle of the waterfall, visitors stand on platforms that jut out and partially hover over the Rhine. We will be back for that Rhine Falls.
Next up was crossing the water to the other side of the falls for more spectacular views.
We continued on the path which led us over the railway bridge that was built in 1857. There is a small pedestrian pathway right next to the railroad, which crosses the river, just above the falls. I highly recommend to walk across the bridge and admire the falls from this amazing viewpoint.
We were greeted by these cute cows. I am not sure if they always stand there, but the kids loved it. Of course we had to take cow pictures in Switzerland, even if the cows were made out of plastic.
Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall on the southern bank towers on a rocky cliff high above the waterfall. Most visitors (including us) stroll directly through the inner courtyard of the castle to the “Känzeli”, a spectacular viewing platform directly over the thundering Rhine Falls. From here you can get the best views of this imposing natural spectacle. In addition there is also a new visitors’ center, a children’s playground and the “Historama” (interactive exhibition about the Rhine Falls and its 1000-year-old history ) . Schloss Laufen has an entry fee:
Entrance per person CHF 5.00 per person. Included in the ticket price: access to the Historama and the viewing platforms. Children 6 – 15 years CHF 3.00 For groups from 15 to 29 persons, CHF 3.00 per person. For groups with more than 30 persons, CHF 2.00 per person. Tickets for visitors in a wheelchair, with a pram and groups of 15 or more are only available in the Visitor Centre.
Since we did not book a tour and didn’t have too much information beforehand about the Rhine Falls, I found this sign very interesting. I normally plan and get to know some facts before visiting a place, but sometimes like here, I didn’t have time and appreciated this great sign even more.
The path to the viewing platform was steep, rocky and had lots of stairs. So much more fun for the kids. We even had to go through the rock several times.
Once we arrived at the platform, we were rewarded with an amazing view and sound. This was my other favorite spot of the day. We could feel the roar and vibration of the water through our entire body. We even got a little wet from the spray of the falls. This was an experience that I will never forget. This is the place to see, hear and feel the power of the falls.
This place is also one of the photo stops of the Grand Tour of Switzerland.
I hope you liked our visit to the Rheinfall. Follow us for more of our travel adventures.
Look through and download the official brochure of the Rhine Falls in English and German. The brochure is also available in French and Italian.
The beautiful vibrant fields of purple together with the aromatic but calming scent of lavender have captivated people for a long time. Visiting the Provence in France and standing in the middle of a lavender field was on my bucket list for a long time. We had the opportunity to drive through France in the beginning of August in 2019 and I promised myself to make this dream come true.
I didn’t know at the time that August was already very (too) late to see the beautiful Lavender fields . The best time to visit is between mid June to mid July. Most fields have been harvested by the end of July. I still wanted to try to find a blooming lavender field and did not get discouraged.
I had researched before online and found several areas that sounded promising. Once we were in the Provence, we found out that most of the fields were already harvested. We drove to many sites that I had found and there were no more blooming Lavender fields.
We were ready for a break and for something to eat and stopped spontaneously in Sault. I am so happy we found this small charming village. It lays up on a hill at an altitude of 750 meters with gorgeous views of Val de Sault (which in June and July must have been painted in purple with all the blooming fields).
We parked the car and wandered around streets, old stone houses and village squares. It was such a quaint little village with lots of purple accents. We visited several shops and tasted the different nougats, macaroons and delicious lavender honey. We ate lunch and bought some nougat and lavender to take with us. There was a really nice girl in one of the shops that explained to us the difference between Lavandula and Lavandin. She told us that the higher the altitude of the field, the later the flowers will bloom and gave me direction to several possible late blooming fields.
I was so delighted to finally see purple spots of lavender fields in the distance. I am still happy today, that even though the chances were slim, we actually found Lavender fields. There was somebody working on a field harvesting lavender. We got a “hands on” lavender lesson on how it is harvested and dried in the sun. Such a cool learning opportunity and adventure I will never forget.