Piombino: An underrated beach town in Tuscany

Piombino, a charming little beach town located in Tuscany, was hands down our favorite destination during our trip to Italy. We were lucky enough to have our own private beach house with incredible views of the sea right outside of our window.

It was a beautiful sight, every single day.October is considered the offseason, but even with the lack of tourists, there were still places to shop, eat, and grab a beer late at night. During the day, we walked around the shops and strolled around the beaches in total peace and quiet. At night, the streets became lively filled with beer drinking on the patios and singing inside the restaurants. The hospitality was unlike the other cities in Italy. The servers were incredibly nice and welcoming, food and drinks were not overpriced, and most menus were translated in English and German.

Here is a list of our favorite places:

Pictured: Il Gusto Giusto

All natural gelato made with quality ingredients. In addition to being incredibly delicious, it was also not expensive! My kind of place.

Not pictured: Da Rosa Alimentari

 Two doors down from Il Gusto Giusto, on the corner, is a small deli that sells fresh fruit and other groceries. We were able to get 2 large sandwiches, a slice of cake and a liter of water for less than 10 euros. The sandwich was delicious, fresh and introduced me to pecorino cheese! And that was literally the cheapest food we had during our entire trip.

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Pictured: Osteria Da Mamma Carla

We came here for dinner twice and it was definitely one of the best restaurants we ate at during our entire trip. In addition to the amazing food, the owner’s son/our server was incredibly friendly. We felt so at home at this place. Try the pesto lasagna and calamari!

Not pictured: Pizzeria Tonino

We had pizza around 10 o’clock at night and the place was filled with young locals enjoying beer, clams, and pizza! The quattro formaggi was delicious, but be aware, individual pizzas in Italy are really big so either share or come with a big appetite!

Cafes:

I failed at writing down or taking pictures of the cafes in Piombino. I was drinking about 3 cappuccinos a day, so I got to a point where I stopped taking note of every place I got a coffee! Luckily, the 4 cafes we stopped at all had great drinks and desserts, so I think it’s hard to go wrong in the area.

The beach:

October is not a popular time to go swimming. Actually, while we walked around in shorts and spent time at the beach, locals were dressed in their fall attire looking at us like we were crazy. We live in the mountains, so we had to take full advantage of the water. My advice, take a dip even if it’s not in season!

On our way out, we took the train, Trenitalia, back to Rome. It was about a 3-hour train ride and cost 18 Euros each. Prices vary and tickets can be purchased at a machine at the train station.

I highly recommend Piombino to anyone looking for a quiet and relaxing break from the crowds in Italy. If it wasn’t for my long list of places I had to see during our trip, I would have stayed in Piombino the entire time.

Next stop, the bustling city of Rome!

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Visiting Cuba: tickets, medical insurance, and visas.

As an American, Cuba has always been a fascinating place, a forbidden land of mystery. When the travel ban was lifted, our curiosity got the best of us, so we decided on Cuba for our first international trip as a family.

Prior to our trip, I googled information, read several blogs on tourism in Cuba, and bothered every person who wrote #Cuba on Instagram. I soon found that the information I gathered wasn’t consistent. Confusion loomed over where to purchase a tourist card, what to see, and how much money to bring. My anxiety heightened by the lack of information.

Despite the headaches and the eye twitching that came immediately while checking in our bags, our misadventures became a learning experience and for that, we are grateful. Let me set the record straight so you can leave your headaches in the US and enjoy your Cuban vacation!

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Riley and I strolling through Havana

 

Booking your flight:

There are 8 major airlines that fly to Havana. We booked our ticket with Frontier since it was about $200 cheaper overall including baggage fees. When we booked our flight, we were asked on the Frontier website what our reason was for visiting Cuba. Americans are banned from visiting for tourism so you must choose a reason that makes the most sense. We chose “Support for the Cuban People” because we were spending our money and helping out the economy. For other airlines, such as Southwest, you are asked your reason at the counter prior to obtaining a visa. Please remember, US visitors are required to keep an itinerary of their activities and it must match your reason for visiting. Apparently, our government can ask for our itinerary years after a visit. So keep track of what you’re doing and make sure it consists of more than just hanging out at the beach and drinking rum.

Medical Insurance:

American citizens are required to have Cuban medical insurance prior to entering Cuba. Check with your airline to see if it is covered with the price of your fare. Since we flew with Frontier, our medical insurance was paid through our tickets, so we didn’t have to worry about purchasing it elsewhere.

Cuban Tourist Visa:

The information on obtaining a visa was the most confusing ordeal of my life. The Frontier website had no information other than a link to a company that sells the visa and sends it to you for $110. I was informed by friends who had visited that visas could be purchased at your connecting airport for $50. After speaking with several people, we decided not to purchase the visa ahead of time and waited until we got to Miami.

Here’s the kicker and the beginning of my headaches/eye twitching; when we checked in our bags at DIA, the woman at the Frontier counter asked if we had our visas. When I told her we would purchase it in Miami, she said there was no guarantee they would have visas for us in Miami then said ” well, your bags will be in Cuba, but you might not be. Good luck.” Can you believe that?! She also mentioned how we risked being detained with a $3000 fine for not buying it ahead of time. Thanks to her, I didn’t sleep on the plane and I was sick to my stomach the entire flight to Miami.

But of course, I shouldn’t have worried and should have trusted what I knew. Once we got off the plane, we heard an announcement asking passengers to Havana to come to the Frontier desk. They had visas! Stacks and stacks of visas. And I cursed the Frontier lady at DIA for worrying me for no reason. So here’s my advice: flying with Southwest? Wait it out and buy your visa at the counter because it’s only $50. For the rest of us, it’s $100 per visa although I don’t understand why there is a price difference. I thought I was going to save money by buying it in person, so if I were to go back, I’d buy it online. And please remember, do not make mistakes on the visa. One mistake will force you to fork over another $100 for a new one.

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For my next post, I’ll outline all the things you need to bring like loads of cash and sunscreen. Did you know Americans can’t use credit cards and debit cards in Cuba? Yes, cash is king. And did you know there is literally no place to buy sunscreen? I’ll outline all of it in my next post on what to bring and how to prepare. Stay tuned and leave any questions below!