Numana, Le Marche: A Jewel of the Adriatic

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I am completely blown away by the eastern region of Le Marche in Italy. After years of my Italian sojourns, I finally made it there thanks to the lovely ladies from DiscoverMarche. They not only gave me the initial push to plan a trip but also showed me around the best places in the region.

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Postcard perfect

Numana was the first place I visited, a town hard not to miss and easy to fall in love with. A popular summer destination, the history of Numana goes as far as the times of the Romans. The town is now divided into Numana Alta (upper) and Numana Bassa (lower) and is small enough to walk in about 30 minutes.

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Late afternoon in Piazza Santurio

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Palazzo Communale

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An empty street in Numana Alta

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Getting a view of the Adriatic

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The colors of Numana

There are various vantage points from where you can get the most spectacular views of the Adriatic! Numana is all about that vibrant beachy vibe that you are looking for.

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Breathtaking!

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Port of Numana

There are several bars and boutiques in Numana alta and many homes with signs of “affittacamere o affittare una stanza” (room(s) to rent). However, most stores were closed and there were hardly any people around even until 7 p.m.

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One of the most picturesque streets: Costarella. Can you spot anyone??

The only place open on Numana alta was Gelateria Morelli where I fancied myself with a good old chocolate gelato that I can still taste. Buonissimo!!

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Gelato from one of the oldest makers in Marche

Numana must be much more crowded and fun this time of the year as opposed to mid May when I had visited. But I had the whole town to myself and that was another kind of fun!

Important Info:

-There are no trains to this part of Italy and erratic bus connectivity so hiring a car is the best way to travel.

-Best time to visit is June- Sept when the beaches are in full swing and there are more people on the streets.

-For further information and reading I found Numana Toursim very useful.

Ispirazione: Story of The Beehive in Rome

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I met Linda of The Beehive in April 2016 after being online friends with her since a few years. Linda and her husband Steve run “The Beehive” in Rome – an environmental friendly hostel with a passion for community building. They use ecological goods and recycled paper in their hostel and support all things organic. The Beehive is a place made with a lot of love and that shows in Linda. She has dedicated evenings for storytelling sessions and cooking classes often. The whole foundation of The Beehive rests on its unique concept of friendliness and warmth.

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Last year on a one day visit to Rome I booked a night at The Beehive just to meet Linda because I was so inspired by her. Let’s read what she has to say about her life in Italy, learning the language and about The Beehive:

How The Beehive started:

My husband Steve and I got married in September 1998 after a long and tumultuous relationship. Part of our “master plan” had always been to leave the US and live internationally, but we just didn’t know how we would go about doing it or what we would do and so we came up with a lot of half-baked ideas. We spent part of our honeymoon in Rome and stayed at a hotel/hostel that Steve used to work at a few years before. That’s when the idea came to us of creating our own hostel in Rome and 8 months later we opened the doors to The Beehive on 11 May 1999.

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Did you know Italian beforehand?? How was your experience learning in the first few months??

I had taken Italian for 2 semesters at Santa Monica Community College a few years before we moved to Italy, but sadly had not retained any of it. However, my family is Puertorican and Spanish was my first language. Since Italian and Spanish are very similar, I felt comfortable in Italy despite not knowing the language.

I took a two week course at Torre di Babele at its former location on Via Bixio in Rome, but the course was frustrating as it was filled with a group of students who had no interest in learning the language (have no idea why they were there!) and they were very disruptive. After that course, I came into contact with an Italian language tutor, and now good friend, Andrea Viviani, who tutored me privately for a while. At that point though, I was a new mother and so my Italian language learning took a backseat. I’ve learned the rest of my Italian on my own which I have to say, probably isn’t the most effective way to learn a language.

What tips would you give to readers who are learning Italian??

Find a method that works for you whether it’s in a group if you are an extroverted sort or privately by tutor if you prefer one on one. Both have their pros and cons and you might want to try both initially to see which works best for you. Stick with whichever method works and keep with it and keep learning!

That was my problem, I reached a certain level of fluency and comfort and then stopped. This was a mistake because while I have a grasp of the language, I am by no means at a high level of proficiency in Italian and I make a lot of mistakes, basic mistakes too. It’s difficult to go back, but I do have a friend who has a wonderful YouTube channel –Lucrezia Oddone – Learn Italian with Lucrezia and she has inspired me to want to hire a private Italian language tutor again to expand my vocabulary and improve my grammar. It’s never too late!

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Grazie mille carissima per la tua ispirazione! In the comments please let me and Linda know how this post inspired you whether you are in Italy or not and even more so if you are learner of the Italian language.

Follow Linda as @thebeehiverome on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

#ItalophiliaPostcards

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In the past 3-4 years of blogging and social media, I have fostered many online friendships and am truly grateful for that. Some of them have turned into real life meetings in Italy/India and that is a testament to the amazing journey that blogging has given me.

Improving online relationships and getting to know my followers/friends has been a lot of fun. So keeping it alive, I have merged the old and new traditions with #ItalophiliaPostcards.

I send postcards to anyone anywhere across the world (willing to share their personal details) and once the postcard is received by the person, he/she shares it on Instagram with #ItalophiliaPostcards. It is a really fun way to get to know people and take out time to choose a postcard for that particular person. The point is to bring back the dying tradition of sending out postcards and make social media more fun and less repetitive!!

If any of you are interested to receive a postcard from me or even send one to me, please follow me on Instagram (linked above) and reach out to me via email ishitatravel@gmail.com with the subject Postcards or simply drop an Instagram DM. For privacy reasons, it is best not putting your addresses under the comment section here.

PS-If you are not on Instagram, don’t sweat. You can always share on any other social media or even your blog!

Some More Favorite Books on Italy

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Literature is a wonderful way to know another culture. Don’t you think?? In the past few years, having read several books based in Italy and/or by Italian authors, I have managed to make a list of 15 best books so far. But the thirst to learn more doesn’t satiate. Here is another list of books that easily fall under the essential Italy reading category:

Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani:

Translated as “the beautiful centre”, Michelle Damiani’s book is about her journey living as an expat in Spello, Umbria. Il Bel Centro is not only a travel memoir but is a journey of self discovery. Michelle’s writing is beautiful and takes the reader to the ancient town making them part of her struggles, frustrations and victories. One not only gets to know about life in a small Italian town (with no frills) but also understand the traditions that become a part of Michelle’s life in that year. Il Bel Centro is a must read for travel enthusiasts in general and also for anyone looking to move to Italy.

Region: Umbria

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Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon:

It is difficult to mention books based in Venice and not think of Donna Leon. An American living in Venice for over two decades, Donna Leon is a lover of Venice and her vivid descriptions of the city show that. The main character of her books, Commissario Brunetti, keeps the readers on toes with his tumultuous Venetian life and thinking. While I have read only a few out of the 25 or so odd novels, Death at La Fenice stands to be my favorite. Donna Leon takes her readers to the back alleys of Venice in the home and life of Brunetti. The fabled city’s charm with hints of Venetian food and old canals gets far more interesting than you can imagine. A must read for crime fiction lovers! The books have been made into a German TV series.

Region: Veneto

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The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed by Mary McCarthy:

Well written and poignant, this book is an underrated gem and a great commemoration to the cities of Florence and Venice. It is an honest recollection of McCarthy’s intense travels and includes large explanations about the people and art of both the cities. She makes the reader feel the intensity and crowd of a piazza and then effortlessly takes them to the quietness of a small alley. The research behind this small book is worth mentioning and noteworthy. Of course it is an the icing on the cake if you have visited either or both the cities. Must read for all Italophilies!

Region: Tuscany and Veneto

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Italianissimo by Louise Fili and Lise Apatoff:

Anyone looking to know more about the Italian culture should get their hands on this handy 6 inch of a book. From art, architecture, food, fashion and family to smaller details such as vespas, fiat 500s, aperitivo, gardens, markets, bars and festivals, Italianissimo is a peek into the Italian life that you might not know. A great effort by the two authors, the book shows a lot more than you already think you know. There are one page chapters on an aspect of Italian life that also makes it an easy read to flip on your ride back from work. Louise Fili is a popular name in the graphic media world and this book is a testament to that. You should definitely check her caligraphy and designs that will astound you.

Region: Italy

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Have you read any of these?? Do share this post among fellow Italy/book/travel lovers!

The Sound of Music: A Photo Story

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“The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years…..”

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The Sound of Music Tour

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Hohensalzburg Castle: a stunning sight

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Nonnberg Abbey: where the real-life Maria married Georg von Trapp (Credits: Shuttersandsunflowers)

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Leopoldskron Palace: where the children “supposedly” fall. Now a private property

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Hellbrunn Palace: Another song location

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The famous gazebo from “I am 16, going on 17” In the movie, the dance was done on a set.

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Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang: panoramic places from the movie

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St. Michael’s Church, Mondsee: where Maria gets married.

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The Pegasus Horse Fountain: from the song “Doe a deer a female deer….”

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Mirabell Gardens: Used as a backdrop several times

Good to know:

-The real life Maria and the von Trapps family have been shown differently in the movie. For instance the Baron wasn’t cold hearted at all.

-The movie shows several locations that are different from the ones they pretend to show.

-Maria and Julie Andrews met in real life after the success of the movie.

-The locals in Salzburg aren’t amused by the film and many haven’t even seen it because they think it spoils the sanctity of their town.

For more info:

Panorama Tours & Travel

Cost: EUR 42 p.p.

A Day in the Baroque Town of Salzburg

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Salzburg, the picture perfect town that most people connect with the movie The Sound of Music, literally means”salt fortress”. Its old world vibe and baroque architecture with the ever imposing Alps makes for a great vacation spot.

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Hello Salzburg!

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I also say hello with a bookstore!

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…..and Bialetti!

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These charming streets

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I love the greys

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Details details

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Yummy Mozart chocolates!

Salzburg is well known because Mozart was born here. And Mozart is everywhere in this town. You can see his orange colored home turned into a museum along with plenty of other things such as Mozart Cafe, a Mozart festival, a Mozart Library….Not to forget the Mozart chocolates! They are quite something and worth sampling for the flight  back home.

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Salzburg is an artist’s dream

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Traveled back in time

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Local food?? Not so much

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Grab a seat

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Goldgasse- the main shopping street

The town is also loaded with several bars and restaurants like any European town. There are many over priced ones with extensive menu of local wines and schnitzel. But I had my reasonably priced share at Cafe Mozart. Delicious food in a quiet place.

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Delicious schnitzel!

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Cafe Mozart

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EUR15 (return) on the funicular

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But worth it for the views!

Salzburg is best seen on foot but to get sweeping views of the town going to the top of the Hohensalzburg Fortress via a funicular is a must!! It is a well worth the money and also a breathtaking sight to see the town from above. There are many photographers lined up to get shots from that 900 year old fortress.

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Empty this side

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Imagine owning one of those villas by the river

While this baroque town might be ancient and historic, there is a trendy side to it too and that includes impressive modern art on the streets!

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Salzburg is a doable day trip from Vienna but long-ish (about 2 hours, 40 mins one side). However, if you leave Vienna early morning you can take the last train back that leaves from Salzburg around 20:00. Check the latest schedule at WestBahn.

All in a Day: Belvedere Gardens to Austrian Library

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The weather in Vienna is so unpredictable and windy. I wasn’t lucky both the times and my clothing choices turned out to be poor because I didn’t pack enough layers.

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Being the last day in the city I was on the verge of finishing my cash but since I was in no mood to withdraw more euros, I wanted to make do with what I had. That meant choosing between two options:

Option 1: Seeing the whole of Belvedere Palace and Austrian National Library. Spending about EUR 30 for the visits.

Option 2: Seeing the Belvedere gardens (free entry) and the Austrian National Library. Skipping the Belvedere Palace completely. Spending less than EUR 10 for both.

Needless to say, I chose Option 2.

The Belvedere Gardens are an easy 15 minute tram ride from the centre of Vienna. Since I was skipping seeing the palace I wanted to relax in the gardens and just sit for a while. I was at an advantage since I went there on a Sunday morning. There were less tourists and more locals and most of them were exercising and running amongst all that glory, just very casual!

One of the locals clicked a photo for me and we got to talking. It turned out how she and her husband had lived in the South of India about 16 years ago! She even knew a little Tamil and Hindi and we ended up speaking a lot about India. I was impressed with her friendly demeanour something a little unusual for me in Vienna.

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I wouldn’t have ever thought that I would be speaking Hindi in the Belvedere Gardens in Vienna! I think she stole a bit of thunder of those French styled gardens. But all in all it was a great visit.

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My next stop was the Austrian National Library in the heart of the city. The entry to visit the library was EUR 7 last year. Inside there was an exhibition showing the life of Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916) who ruled for over the country half a century.

Emperor Joseph was known to be very creative and imaginative so the whole library was about his collection of letters, drawings, photographs and paintings. What was wonderful was how well it was all preserved. There were an endless number of old books inside the library which were obviously not to be touched. If I had a better camera, I could have got more shots but standing there was better from what I remember.

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I secretly wished to climb up the ladder and have a look at all those books! The library would have been more fun had a section been opened to the public. Hence my visit was quite short but I learnt a lot about the history of Austria.

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Vienna as a city has a lot to offer because of its fantastic transport system, old world cafes and cultural life. However, speaking from personal experience, the locals were not as friendly. Despite visiting twice and for longer intervals, I have no friends from the city. I think people need to be more open and kinder especially towards Asians.

Have you traveled to Vienna?? What was your experience?? I am really curious to know 🙂

The Bookstores of Vienna

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Hi everyone! 🙂 Are you ready for a virtual tour to see some of the bookstores I visited in Vienna??

Let’s start!

Shakespeare & Company: If you are an English speaker in Vienna, chances are you will feel a little lost in the city. There aren’t a lot of stores selling English books and the ones that sell, don’t have a great collection. But Shakespeare & Company was the opposite. It turned out to be the only English book store in the city with an amazing collection! There are books covering each inch of the store and as I walked in, there was ooh-ing and aah-ing in my head. It was the kind of store you see in movies or better yet dream about. Located in a quiet alley that also turns out to be the oldest and most prettiest corners of Vienna, the bookstore contains hundreds of translations and unknown authors. It was therapeutic just being there. The service was super friendly and I was suggested to read Elena Ferrante when I asked for the popular books. I enquired whether the bookshop is in any way related to the famous Shakespeare and Company of Paris, when the man at the counter smiled and politely said no. I could guess that he got that question a lot.

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Pic Credits: Shakespeare & Company

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My buy!

Sterngasse 2, Vienna

Frick International: A large and modern bookstore with a decent English books collection, Frick is a type of store where no one really cares if you buy anything or not. You can spend as much time here and no one will really question you. Frick has a huge stationery counter on the first floor (that I ignored because of my inner voice) and a room full of English books at the far end of the floor. It seemed as if it was almost forgotten! There were still a loot of catchy titles and it turned out to be better than most of the stores. I picked up a copy of 84, Charing Cross Road which surprisingly I didn’t own. Frick is a popular name in Vienna and you will see many stores by the name of Frick or Frick International or Frick Bestsellers.

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Another Frick in the wall (Sorry!)

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Leporello: Almost sounds Italian to me but it is not. An independent bookstore with a friendly service, Leporello is located behind the imposing St. Stephen’s Cathedral and is therefore closest from the metro. It is strangely quieter inside even though it is located in one of the most touristy areas of the city. While browsing, you can hear church bells ringing so loud! The store however has a sad little English collection (as of Sept. 2016) There wasn’t much to browse. My guess is that they don’t sell as many English books hence a lot of the titles here are probably collected over time. Having said that, I still enjoyed the look and feel of the store and a friendly smile always helps.

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Not a great picture, but you get the idea

Singerstr 6, Vienna

Tyrolia Buch: If you want to go and stare at books, go here! Seriously I am not kidding. Just next to the metro station, Tyrolia is another chain in the country. They have tons of books in German and if you are like me, fascinated by the same books read in English and comparing their covers in other languages, this store should be fun. That being said, Tyrolia’s English collection was a sorry state with just only a rack.

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We need more English books here!

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Stephansplatz 5, Vienna

Overall, I expected a more international vibe from Vienna. Maybe I didn’t go to the right stores and maybe I have a lot left to explore but these are my short findings as of now. There are several second hand bookstores in the city with great deals if you know German and for academic books, Manz bookstore on Kohlmarkt is the best. I went there looking for fiction and came back empty handed.

Oh Vienna, I Love Your Cafés

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I love Europe because it is so easy to have the prettiest things around you without you having to even realize it. Whether it the old world trams, beautiful monuments or historic cafés, Europe has a side to it that I probably think no other continent offers. One such side is that of Vienna with its traditional coffee houses. Now I know that every city in Europe has coffee to offer. Then why is Vienna so special??

Simply because the Viennese coffee houses are not just coffee shops but institutions of social events and culture. They are places to chat and read the newspaper. Places with marble tables and a cosmopolitan air. Places where the piano is played and gentlemen play cards in a corner. Places where one can sit and write all day.

“Where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill”.

-The Intangible Cultural Heritage 

So here’s showing you a list of my favorite cafes in the city, which by sheer coincidence  (#NOT) are historic! 😉

Café Sperl: Fans of the movie Before Sunrise will easily recognize this place. I visited it only because a major part of the movie was shot here. Remember the telephone chat?? It was so sweet. Right in the middle of the elegant Sperl! This place has been serving coffee since the year 1880 and stepping in will make you feel as if you walked back in time. Velvet upholstery, old furniture, dainty cups and impeccably dressed servers, Sperl is such a treat. Do try their famous double mocha with or without cream, a speciality that the server suggested me.

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Café Landtmann: I saw more locals in Landtmann than anywhere. And also locals staring at me! It was as if I had invaded their space. This café is on a slightly different street, a walk away from the main landmarks and maybe that is why not as heavily thronged by tourists. A local suggested me to visit here and I am so glad for that. On both my visits to Vienna, I spent a good amount of time here with delicious goodies on my table. Their line of pastries are probably the best I saw. Ever.

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Café Griensteidl: The Griendteidl is one of my favorites! Horse drawn carriages outside and a view of the Hofburg Complex, this place has been a regular meeting place for a lot of literary influencers as well as locals. Being a 19th century café , Griendteidl is very charming. The interiors are lovely and sandwiches are excellent. Griendteidl  is also slightly more easy on the pocket despite being in the centre of Vienna. However, that being said, I saw very few tourists here too.

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Café Central: There is a queue to enter this café. Yes! I couldn’t fathom how a queue that covered more than half the street would help me get that famed cup of coffee. But it was in about 10 minutes that I had got a seat next to the pastry counter. I wasn’t complaining 🙂 I doubt if they ever have a moment of peace. The place was jam packed and service was super fast. I tried their vegetable soup since it was so windy and cold and finished it with some chocolate pastries.

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Café Sacher: Located in four different Austrian cities, Sacher is a hotel chain in the country and therefore a big name. It is famous for its Socher Torte which I went to try after a 3 hour walk in the city. The cozy atmosphere of this café made me sat there for longer and I missed seeing the Opera. I totally blame Sacher! 😉 Their torta is a chocolate cake, slightly pricey, but worth trying. Its recipe goes as far as the year 1832.

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I was fortunate to visit Vienna (Wien) twice in the past year. If you haven’t read my post on Imperial Vienna with Context Travel and my stay at 25 Hours Hotel yet, do give it a read. It will give you a little more understanding of this elegant city.

Ispirazione: Learning Italian through Instagram

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I have a very special guest on Italophilia! We have known each other for over a year now and been in touch thanks to Instagram and Facebook. Peeps, say hello to my friend Elfin Waters! A passionate Italophilie who hails from Gaeta in Lazio, Elfin now lives in Cremona and teaches English and Italian at Italki. 

Today, Elfin will be sharing her thoughts and knowledge about learning a new language through Instagram. She has made this post simple for all readers and language learners so that the focus is more on understanding and listening the language. I am inspired by this lady so much because she pushes me to do little by little every day just as she trains and helps her students. Elfin’s focus has been on learning a language by watching videos on Instagram (IG) and making sure that no matter how busy you are, there’s time to fit learning in a joyful way.

Let’s move forward and learn from her:. Here’s what Elfin has to say:

If you’re able to fit in Instagram in your daily life, you can fit language learning around that. Instagram is an amazing tool for language learners. For starters there are tons of teachers on IG, like myself for instance. Teachers post a picture or a short video with a relevant piece of language for the day and learners get to pick all levels of language.

How do you find other teachers or language learners?? Through hashtags- an important source of categorizing content on social media and Instagram where they pretty much run the show.

How you can find hashtags??

If you’re learning Italian, you can simply start with #learnitalian and search it as a hashtag as shown below. But it doesn’t have to stop there. You can use them to look up words you are learning and help memorize vocabulary.

Let’s say you’re not quite sure what the word papavero means. So you can write to the IG search engine and get many pics of papaveri. (Explained in picture) That will give you a visual hook that will make the word more memorable. Nice, right??

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So, how are you actually learning a language by skimming quickly at a post from an Italian account? Very little probably. That’s why practice comes in. You really should use your down time, say the line at the supermarket, or time while cooking, to skim and see what is relevant to you. Listen to songs and podcasts and watch videos. Whenever you see something you think could be helpful to you, bookmark it!!

In IG under every post, you can bookmark to review later. IG even has added folders to help keep everything organized. So if we are online and we see something relevant like a grammar rule or a nice idiom, we can just save and bookmark the picture. Exploring the Instagram App is essential to get a feel of it and when you are free, whip out your notebook or even phone and start going over your saved posts.

If you’re feeling brave, leave a comment on the picture or video that you liked and practice the language presented. If you don’t feel up to that yet, just jot your comment down. It is normal to feel shy about leaving comments so make sure to keep all your notes in one place. When they add up, even after a week, they will give you a sense of accomplishment.

Is there anything else I can do??

A few ideas:

I am learning Spanish and I realized that teacher accounts were great but weren’t enough to keep me going. So, I went in the search explore part of Instagram and started looking hashtags with the word Spain in it. That is how I followed Spanish accounts that talk about going to Spain, which is what I hope to do and these will keep me inspired. Plus, I also get exposed to Spanish in other contexts. Tiny things always add up to something bigger. So, even if I don’t have time to crack those verb tenses, or that grammar book, I do have time for IG and that exposes me to tiny moments of native content. Make sure you check out the comments on videos/pictures because they provide a lot of interesting language tips. Similarly, if you’re learning Italian or you probably are in love with the country, what better way to keep you motivated in your studies than to follow accounts that showcase Italy?? Start with classic accounts such as IgersRome and IgersItalia and then you’ll quickly find more account suggestions on the IG App. 

Join a community and share your passion:

Join a language challenge. These are organized by teachers on IG where you are supposed to commit to posting one video/picture a day for a month on words/topics suggested by the teacher/organizer. At the end of it, you get feedback from fellow learners which gives you the feeling that it’s alright to make mistakes and that we are all in this together.

The most famous challenges are the IGLC by Lindsay Williams from Lindsay does Languages  and the #mylanguagediarychallenge by Katie from Joy of Languages.  For more detailed info on how to join a challenge check this blog post

Remember, you can’t do this alone. And why should you?? Learning a language is about connecting.

Share on Instagram Stories:

Lastly, I can’t recommend following IG stories enough. It’s a great source of motivation and learning the local language. IG stories are similar to Snapchat where you post a picture/video and talk about your day or just share snippets of your day. These help to know local life to a language learner. Do remember that these stories are not like IG posts and disappear after 24 hours. This also means you can keep adding more daily.

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IG Stories are a great way to practice your listening skills and learn new vocabulary. An Italian account on IG stories I really recommend is @lucreziaoddone from Learn Italian with Lucrezia. Follow her!

I hope you enjoyed reading through all my tips of language learning through Instagram. My only recommendation would be not to get lost in the process as Instagram is a very addictive app. Also do remember, it shouldn’t be your only source of study! Thanks for reading 🙂

Follow Elfin on Instagram

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In the comments please let me and Elfin know whether you use Instagram to learn Italian or any other language?? Has it helped you??

Grazie mille carissima per la tua ispirazione!