Italy off the Beaten Path: Genoa and Cinque Terre

- Travel

Photo by Bailey Gullo on Unsplash

Many people are dreaming about their next vacation while staying at home. While we don’t know when our next vacations will be, it could be a good time to start putting together a travel bucket list. Two places you should consider adding to your list are Genoa and Cinque Terre.

Genoa and Cinque Terre are off the beaten path but both very well known, especially Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, their region of Liguria has been through a lot, first with the flash floods a few years ago and then with the more recent Morandi Bridge collapse that once connected the A10 motorway towards France and A7 to Milan. 

Though the region has been through a lot, there is and will always be so much to see and do here. Genoa and Cinque Terre are two gems that may not be frequented as often as the main cities, but they are both sure worth a visit.  


Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is an underrated destination, as it is a walkable port city that has one of the largest historic centers in Europe, incredible food, and beautiful architecture. Being in Liguria, there is also pesto, focaccia and seafood that you’ll dream of for years to come. 

Here are some things you should see and do while in Genoa:

  • Visit The Museum of Contemporary Art Villa Croce
  • Walk around historical Via Garibaldi (a World Heritage Site)
  • See a play at Teatro della Gioventù
  • Visit the San Lorenzo cathedral
  • Enjoy a coffee in Piazza de Ferrari
  • Spend some time walking the cobblestone streets, wind your way to Piazza San Matteo and the Gothic Church
  • Visit the charming fishing village of Boccadosse 
  • Get city views from the Bigo Crane in Porto Antico 
  • Visit some of the 100 palazzi, including: Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Blanco, Palazzo Stefano Balbi 

With so much character and history, so many landscapes, and it being a destination in Italy that isn’t overcrowded but still has so much to offer, Genoa is definitely a place in Italy off the beaten path that is worth visiting. 

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is one of the first destinations that people think of when they imagine the Italian Riviera. While off the beaten path from main cities Florence, Venice, and Rome, Cinque Terre is also a popular spot to visit in Italy. Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is a string of colorful fishing villages along the coastline nestled between beautiful hillsides and the Mediterranean Sea. Among the 5 colorful villages are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. 

Riomaggiore is the one of the most romantic sights, Manarola gives you a glimpse into bustling village life, Corniglia doesn’t have direct access to the sea but is set into the vineyards with a gorgeous view of sea and other villages, Vernazza faces the sea with narrow lanes that wind their way through the village, and Monterosso al Mare has a proper strip of beach and has more of a flat landscape that makes it more accessible for many. 

Known for its seafood, incredible sea views while being right on the water, and landscape incomparable to anywhere else in the world, Cinque Terre is absolutely worth a visit at least once. If you do not have a car or boat to go between the towns, there is a train that you can take or if you enjoy hiking you can follow a trail. 

You can spend your time walking through the village and stopping at the shops, restaurants and bars that call to you, and stopping wherever and whenever you want to just take in the gorgeous view. This is a destination where you want to spend at least a couple of days so you can really relax here and take in the gorgeous landscapes. 

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Have you ever been to Cinque Terre or Genoa? What did you think of these two destinations?

Here’s How To Make Sure Your Next Holiday Goes Without A Hitch

- Travel

Are you thinking about your next vacation? With a lot of people under lockdown right now, in terms of travel there’s not much to do except plan where you want to go next. Of course, if you’re going to spend a while waiting to travel, then it might be a smart move to ensure that everything goes according to plan and you don’t run into any issues on your next adventure. Here’s a few ways to ensure that this is the case. 

Plan Ahead 

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You should always make sure that you are taking time to plan for your vacation. The good news or the silver lining of the coronavirus – if there is one – is that you now have a lot of time to do that. You will be able to make sure that everything is in order before you set off. So, here are some things that need to be part of your plan.

First, it’s important to ensure that where you’re traveling to is in fact safe. In 2020, this is probably going to be largely based on what countries are still experiencing outbreaks of the coronavirus and which are largely past the crisis. You’ll also need to explore the potential measures that different governments put in place to prevent a second wave

Usually, this is about making sure that there are no terrorist threats in a country that you are planning to explore. Or, there can be special circumstances too. For instance, you might be thinking about going on an African safari. While you can do this, it’s important that you choose the right travel company. Certain payments will need to be made to ensure that you can get safe passage through some locations in Africa. 

Aside from safety, you should also think about where you are going to stay. It can be exciting to go out into the wide world with no plan of where you are going to stay or what you are going to do. But it’s also risky and you might end up in a hotel or hostel that just isn’t up to the standards that you were hoping for. That’s why it’s worth checking out the reviews and finding out about the best places to stay. 

Take Care Of Your Cash 

You also need to think about the money that you are going to take with you. It’s important that you don’t just have one source of money as this can be dangerous. For instance, you shouldn’t rely on cash because if all your cash is stolen, then you could end up with nothing to live on for the remainder of your trip. Even the cash you take should be separated. This means that you shouldn’t have all your cash with you at any given time. That makes it far more likely that you are going to lose it all. 

You should have some in your wallet or purse and the rest back in your safe at the hotel room. You should separate your money as soon as you arrive at your destination. It’s also worth having a travel card. Travel cards are great because if these are lost then it’s easy to immediately cancel the funds and ensure that your cash is protective. Finally, as a purely cautionary measure, you should take a credit card as well. A credit card can get you out of some tricky situations that you might not be prepared for.

Don’t forget, while you can insure the money that you take on holiday, this won’t usually immediately provide you with a way to access the cash that you need on vacation. 

Get Checked Out 

You do want to make sure that you get your health checked out before you head out on vacation. It’s important to ensure that you aren’t suffering from any underlying health conditions that you are unaware of. These can be exasperated by changes to your environment such as a tropical location. Of course, health issues can be less significant but they can still be enough to disrupt your vacation. For instance, you could be looking forward to relaxing on a beach with a good book to read. 

That’s great but what if you find that you eyesight isn’t what it used to be. If that’s the case, you might need reading glasses and this is why you may want to visit an optician a few months before your next vacation. The dentist is another good point of call. The last thing that you want to deal with while on vacation is toothache. This can definitely put a dampener on your plans. 

Don’t Forget Insurance 

You should also make sure that you are planning on getting insurance for your next vacation. It’s important to guarantee that your holiday is protected. This is probably another lesson people have learned due to the coronavirus when people without travel insurance lost a lot of money on booked vacations that they were forced to cancel. 

The big question is always how much travel insurance you need. A good rule of thumb is to take out about $5 – $10 million to cover medical expenses. Now this might seem like a lot however there are a lot of medical procedures that are ridiculously expensive. Particularly if you get hurt in the wrong country. So by getting the right level of insurance you are preparing for the worst possible scenario and this is always a smart plan. It means that you don’t have to worry about facing disaster if you are injured on holiday with an expensive bill waiting for you when you get home. 

It’s worth shopping around for the right insurance deal as they are available at a range of different price points. Remember, the cheapest is not always the right option and neither is the most expensive. 

Make The Most Of It 

You do want to make sure that you make the most out of your next vacation. One of the worst feelings is coming home from a trip that you may have spend a lot of money on and realizing that you really didn’t get as much done as you hoped or planned.

This is a common feeling for families coming back from Disney World who spend thousands on the trip of a lifetime for their kids. When they kid there, they find that walking around a park the size of San Francisco is actually a lot of hard work. So, they take a lot of off days and lounge by the pool which they could have done on virtually any vacation. Think about how many days off you need and plan a schedule to ensure that you fit everything in that you want to see and do. It’s worth doing this regardless of where you’re going to get the most out of the experience. Particularly, if you are going to have saved for a while to afford this vacation. 

Take The Right People 

Finally, you should make sure that you are taking the right people on this vacation. It’s important that you do end up with people that are interested in doing what you want to do rather and exploring the things that you want to explore. Otherwise, you can end up on a vacation that doesn’t match your goals at all.

In some cases, it can be best to fly solo. Particularly if you have certain goals for this particular trip that you want to complete. You can always meet likeminded people while you are there and build new friendships along the way.

Support Small Business!

- Food, Lifestyle, Shopping

I wanted to put together a post to share some of my favorite restaurants and small businesses that need our support right now more than ever! I am also writing this from the standpoint that I realize you might not be in the position to help financially (I’m personally not able to help this way right now), but that’s why I wanted to support these places by sharing them here and also sharing other ways you can support for FREE:

  1. Write a review! – Go write a review right now for your favorite restaurants and small businesses. This is completely free and is so helpful to them right now. What is your favorite dish and why? What makes shopping from this boutique or store exciting and fun? What differentiates them? Write an enticing, detailed review of why you love them and your review could make a world of difference!
  2. Shout them out on social media! – Again, a simple and great way to share the love and reach people who are shopping or getting take-out as often as they can.
  3. Word of mouth – sound a little old school? That’s OK! Right now is the time to share with your friends and family that you are spending time video chatting with about the business and restaurants you love! Even if you can’t support them financially right now, that doesn’t mean your friends and family can’t!
  4. Reach out – Honestly, I think everyone could use a little extra love and recognition right now. Reach out and tell them you are thinking of them, that you love them and what you are doing to help (sharing on social or writing a review, etc.) Ask if there are any other things you can do right now to support them!

Take-Out to Support Local Restaurants

Gloucester, MA – I don’t think I have a ton of followers in the area, but if you live in the Cape Ann area, here are some of our favorites that are still doing takeout!

  • Thai Choice Restaurant – We LOVE Thai food and have ordered from here often. Their lunch specials are a great value, plus with a side of sticky rice, you will have plenty of leftovers for dinner too! (same if you did dinner, you’d definitely have plenty of leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day).
  • Leonardo’s Pizza – Their cheese pizza is seriously the best I’ve ever had AND they still have their Tuesday large cheese pizza special, only $8.99. A whole lot of cheesy goodness. I take my cheese pizza very seriously and I haven’t found better cheese pizza this side of the pond (the best I’ve had outside of Italy!)
  • Charlie’s Place – Charlie’s Place has been one of our go-to’s since we moved to Gloucester. They have amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner specials. We love their breakfast sandwiches and they have amazing seafood platters. They are still open for take-out from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Minnetonka, MN – We might not be able to support our favorites back home right now, but I still have plenty of people in my Minneapolis network who can! Specifically speaking to the West Metro area because we lived in Minnetonka for 3.5 years before moving!

  • Main Street Bar & Grill – (Hopkins) This was our favorite go-to place when living in Minnetonka! They are still doing take-out and curbside, as well as some hours of free delivery! Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 11:00 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Station Pizzeria – (Minnetonka) They have delicious, unique pizzas and I spent quite a bit of time here back when I lived in Minnetonka! They are open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • 6Smith – (Wayzata) This was one of our favorite spots! They are a bit more pricey, but the food is SO good. We used to go to many happy hours here and I remember coming here after signing the contract for our venue and church for our wedding as a celebration! They are currently open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for curbside pickup and delivery.
  • Nong’s – (Golden Valley) WE MISS this place so much. BEST THAI FOOD ever. You will not be disappointed! They are currently doing take-out orders from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

St. Cloud, MN – Have to support our loved ones in St. Cloud as well! You WILL NOT be disappointed if you order take-out from MT’s on 8th!

  • MT’s on 8th – MT’s is still doing pickup and curbside orders from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. They are also doing a full Easter spread on Sunday for $12 per person: Ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, cranberries, green beans and rolls with butter. If we were in Minnesota still, THIS IS EXACTLY what we’d be doing on Sunday!

Shop to Support Small Business

  • AppleBranchesVintage: My favorite online vintage store – has so many unique and gorgeous options, as well as a reasonable price tag.
  • Fribobble Fashion: I recently started working with this wonderful clothing boutique and am OBSESSED with their fashion-forward and unique styles. I’ve shared two outfit posts featuring their clothing here and here. They are also the absolute sweetest. If you are looking for some retail therapy, definitely shop here!
  • My Lolliflops: My favorite place to buy baby clothes for my friends and now sister (new twins in the family)!
  • Ruggy Revival – Unique vintage home decor items! I have found several of my favorite vintage pieces from here, including these vintage decanters seen on our bar cart here.
  • BohoFleaMarket – They have the cutest selection of rugs!

Fundraisers to Support Small Business

  • Small Business Relief Fund – To help small businesses affected by COVID-19, QuickBooks has teamed up with GoFundMe to launch the Small Business Relief Initiative and has donated $1M towards assisting in small business relief.
  • Freelancers Relief Fund – Freelancers Relief Fund will offer financial assistance of up to $1,000 per freelance household to cover lost income and essential expenses not covered by government relief programs, including food/food supplies, utilities and cash assistance to cover income loss.
  • Freelancer COVID-19 Relief Fund – This will be used to fund creative freelancers who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 virus and resulting public response. Examples of funding usage are: unexpected childcare costs, clients cancelling event or contract leaving you unable to pay basic living expense and unexpected medical expenses due to someone in your family contracting the virus.
  • Professional Beauty Association (PBA) Relief Fund – this relief fund is designed to help support the licensed beauty professionals who have not been able to work or are experiencing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you have any other fundraisers I should be SHARING, please email me: [email protected] or message me via Instagram @rachelslookbook.

I am honestly probably missing so many great restaurants and businesses (and fundraisers) but wanted to get this post put together and out there as soon as I could! I will definitely be adding to this as I think of more, but hope this gives you some ideas for how to help! We can all do something to support our favorite small businesses right now!