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There’s a reason Italy is ranked in the top five most visited countries on the planet.

People are in love with the very idea of this country, the romance it holds, the art, the culture, the history, the sheer natural beauty.

Ok, that’s more than one reason.

But you get the idea. And hey, if you’ve found your way to our site, you know what I’m talking about. Italy has captured your imagination too, and you’re hungry for more.

The downside of course to everyone loving on Italy is that the hottest destinations there — namely Florence, Venice and Rome — can get pretty swamped with people.

These are all must-see cities, of course, and we love them as much as the next gal. But there is an Italy that gets a lot less traffic.

Southern Italy.

A lot of people call everything south of Rome “the real Italy.”

It’s where you go when you’ve already hit up all of the usual suspects. Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan — you’ve been there done that.

Or it’s your first time in Italy, but you’ve always preferred roads less traveled.

Everything feels warmer in Southern Italy, slower, more ethereal. The tomatoes are juicier, and the vibe is earthy, exuberant, luscious.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? So why doesn’t everyone go?

Well, one reason is that it’s waaaay more complicated to plan a trip in the south.

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I felt so scared and alone.

Before I went to Italy for the very first time, I cried for a week.

It wasn’t because I was going on a trip. It was because I was going ALONE.

Dread. Panic. Uncertainty. That was me.

At that point, I had never been that far from home, all on my own. I was in my mid-20s and I just couldn’t get all the nasty things that could happen to me off my mind.

It’s not like it was my first time away from the nest.

Previously, while stretching out my college years, I really only had one mission — to save my money for traveling. Student loans and odd jobs floated me through school.

I hitchhiked around Mexico (hope my mom isn’t reading this), worked in Ireland for a summer, spent a year sleeping in the crappiest hostels in South East Asia and Australia, and right out of high school, drove my mom’s 1979 VW van down to California (we broke down and drove that puppy back to Vancouver in second gear, with no reverse!).

We had to grab a Jiffy Marker and write “PLEASE PASS!” in caps on a piece of cardboard we taped to the back windshield, because “pedal to the medal” meant 30MPH. You can imagine that scene.

But I always did that stuff with a friend. Or many friends. (Four people really can sleep in a VW bus for a month pretty comfy.) On all my past trips, I was never alone.

On THIS first trip to Italy, I was totally alone.

Of course, that feeling was magnified because my boyfriend and I had just split.

He dumped me and I was a mess. My best friend said it was the nicest thing he had ever done for me, and OMG she was right. But I was suuuper bummed out.

Wait, bummed out wasn’t the word.

How about DEVASTATED.

I thought I would never love again. Ahh, the twenties! So full of intense relationships that screw you up for years. So don’t miss that BS. (I do miss being able to wear these really weird-looking army-green wool clogs with miniskirts, old t-shirts and unbrushed hair, and somehow really pull that look off. Very Kate Moss circa 1995.)

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Book your 2017 girlfriend trip of a lifetime to the Cinque Terre Italy with Italian FixPlanning a trip to the Cinque Terre can be enough to do your head in, amiright?

All you have to do is check out the comments section in our Beginner’s Guide to the Cinque Terre to see how complicated people seem to find traveling to these five towns.

(There are literally hundreds of Cinque Terre travel questions from readers on that one blog post alone!)

It’s not like going to Florence or Rome, where you basically know what to expect. Even a jaw-droppingly gorgeous city in Italy is still a city — you figure out what you want to see and where you want to stay, and you go from there.

But the Cinque Terre is a place like no other, so before you even begin to plan, you have to wrap your head around this area’s sometimes seriously confusing logistics.

The answer to a simple question like, “Can I drive there?” is:

“Well yes, but also no. You can get there by car, but you can only drive down into the villages during certain hours of the day. And you have to park up at the top of town, not right at your hotel. And that’s only if you can find a space because the parking lots are small, so you might want to park in La Spezia or Levanto instead. In which case you’d have to take the train in anyway, and you’ll want to take the train between villages as well. So yes, you can drive there. But that doesn’t mean you should.”

Some others we get asked over and over again:

“How do I choose which town to stay in?”

“How do I know which trails I’ll be able to hike and which will be closed?”

“Should I stay in a different town each night?”

“Are there any restaurants where only the locals go?”

“What are the best spots for taking amazing photos?”

“Is it safe for women traveling solo?”

“I want to go for 4 days and 3 nights — what’s the best itinerary for me?”

“Can you PLEASE help me plan my trip???”

That last one is a biggie, because don’t you just want someone to do all of this work for you? Continue Reading…

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