Italy is known for it’s food. Pizza, pasta, and wine all seem to taste better in Italy. Maybe it’s the ingredients, maybe it’s the tradition, or maybe it’s just the placebo. The great thing about Italian food is that you can get great food for pretty cheap. Enjoying all Italy has to offer on a budget is quite easy, but there are some things that are worth splurging on, depending on where you are.
Every region of Italy is known for something different. Something special. Although you can find margarita pizza or pesto pasta anywhere, it’ll be even better (and usually cheaper) if you get it where it originated.
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Ljubljana is one of those cities where you can spend a day, a month, or a year and still find things to do. It’s a small city without much to see, but plenty to experience. It has all of the benefits of being in a big city like great food, nightlife, and culture, but is small enough to be walkable and welcoming. Plus, there is lots of green space inside and outside the city.
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The best thing about the Balkans is the people. I have yet to meet someone who isn’t incredibly welcoming with a genuine desire to show me the best of their country. In the Balkans, a lot that welcome revolves around sampling “the best beer in the world.” Every country has its own “best beer in the world.” The States beer market is quite large so there may be more debate on what exactly is “the best beer in the world,” (it’s Free State Brewing Yakamaniac IPA). Balkan countries have a smaller beer market, therefore there is usually a pretty strong consensus on the “best beer in the world.” I didn’t expect every Balkan country to have its own beer as the countries histories are all so intertwined. It surprised me that each country has its unique beer, but it didn’t surprise me that every light lager tasted approximately the same.
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Kotor is situated on bay in northern Montenegro close to the Croatian border. It reminded me of a mini Dubrovnik. The Old Town was smaller, the walls were shorter, and instead of water as far as the eye can see, there are mountains towering above the city. It’s a small place, but get outside the city and discover miles of hiking trails, breathtaking sights, and friendly locals. I went during the low season, so I missed out on some of the awesome nature-related things Kotor is known for, but I still found plenty to do in this small city.
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After the tranquil lakeside days I spent in Ohrid, Tirana was a little overwhelming. It’s a big city packed with crazy drivers. Seriously these drivers will not stop for you unless you are staring them down the entire time you cross the road. While it’s terrifying, it adds to how vibrant and full of life Tirana is. Post-communism, they covered all of the drab buildings in colors and patterns. You can’t walk five feet without seeing some street art. Tirana isn’t packed with “must-see” museums or monuments, it’s more about walking down the street and experiencing the vibrant culture.
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Lively lakeside city in the summer, sleepy, laid-back town in the winter, Ohrid is home to Europe’s oldest and deepest lake. In the summer it becomes the place to be for boating, fishing, and swimming. I went during the winter and found that although I couldn’t really experience the lake, the city itself still has a lot to offer.
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Officially “born” in February of 2008, Kosovo is still a relatively new country. After the wars in 1999, it was governed under transitional UN leadership until it formally declared independence. It is now recognized by 112 countries including most of its neighbors, but not Serbia. Things are still a bit tense between Kosovo and Serbia, at the border and within the country. Not everyone in Kosovo supported independence and groups of ethnic Serbs still remain in the country. Although tensions remain, all the people I met were friendly, helpful, and excited to have tourists in their country. Kosovo is safe and primed for tourism, as long as know what to expect.
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