Every place we visit has some secrets up its sleeve. We wanted to find a few hidden gems for you to consider on your next trip, and with our detective on we went off to investigate the unusual, the quirky and the spectacular.
Local secrets in Costa Blanca
Sant Pere De Rodes is a 10th century former Benedictine monastery, which is built into the rock on a platform of terraces on the side of the Verdera mountain. From the highest point of El Port de la Selva you can wonder at the most incredible 360° views, including the Catalonian coastline, the Cap de Creus Natural Park and towards northern France.
The site is one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Girona, and even inside holds a spectacular surprise as you walk among the huge pillars and look up at the high ceilings above. You can drive most of the way up, with a 30 minute walk from the car park. You can even cycle up, but be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted!
Local secrets in Dubrovnik
Next time you are in Dubrovnik Old Town keep an eye on the city wall. In particular small openings in the walls that are big enough to pass through, but could quite easily slip your eye if you’re not paying attention.
Passing through these holes-in-the-wall and following their paths will lead you to Dubrovnik’s best kept secrets, Buža I and Buža II. In Dubrovnik dialect, buža means “hole” and the name is apt to describe the bars carved out of the cliff, with the barest functionality and minimalist furnishings, but offering incomparable views of the open Adriatic Sea. Open during the spring and summer months, you can sit at a table and linger over a cold drink while taking in the spectacular panorama.
Local secrets in Florence
Florence is renowned as a Renaissance city. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is associated with some of the world’s most treasured art. It’s probably not the place you would think of looking for street art, but locally based French artist, Clet Abraham, has a fun way of injecting a tongue-in-cheek humour, by transforming city street signs into works of art using removable stickers.
Visit his studio in the uber-trendy Quartiere San Niccolò, where you can buy stickers or postcards of his popular pieces, talk to the artist or catch him working on his latest project. He also sells the signs he has recuperated after the authorities have removed them.
Local secrets in Puglia
12 miles off the Gargano coast in Puglia is the archipelago, Isole Tremiti. This cluster of five islands holds thousands of years of history, including the 11th century Abbey of Santa Maria and the Badiali Castle. To get there, park your car on the mainland and take the ferry over. Once there you can hire bikes, boats or explore the islands on foot. It’s worth taking your snorkel to take a peek under the crystal clear waters, or you can join in a diving expedition for a guided tour.
It is said that the Warriors of Diomedes – the war heroes of Troy died and were buried on the islands. Legend has it that Venus transformed them into birds. The Diomedes birds leave Africa every spring and fly to the Isole Tremiti to nest on the steep cliffs of the islands; their particular birdsong can be heard clearly during the night. Folk say the sound is the wails of the partners of the Diomedes warriors, who are mourning the loss of their heroes.
Local secrets of the Algarve
Pinterest fans and internet explorers may have come across an incredible photo claiming to be the ‘Lost Temple of Lysistrata’. We hate to tell you that this image is a clever fake combining the Pantheon in Rome and the Benagil Caves in the Algarve. So while you can’t really visit the Lost Temple, you can take a boat trip to the most impressive marine caves of Europe. The Benagil cave tour runs between Armação de Pêra and Carvoeiro and allows you to visit either a white sandy beach or a cave only accessible by sea. You get to stay for about 30 minutes before the boat comes to pick you up, but be prepared to swim to and from the shore, as the boat can’t go all the way in!