Steenie Harvey

Author Image for Steenie Harvey

Steenie Harvey has been writing for International Living for the past 15 years. As IL’s Roving Europe Editor, she travels most months—not just to Europe, but also further afield. She has been on the crafts trail in Ecuador, the Viking trail in Iceland, and investigated real estate in the Philippines, Malaysia, Italy, Spain, and France. When she’s not on the road, Steenie lives in County Roscommon, Ireland. She is the author of Live Well in Ireland, and Adapter Kit – Ireland and Adapter Kit – A Guide to European Vacation Rentals.

Archives

italy

Italy’s 4 Best Food Towns

Italy is home to the Cittaslow movement which combines “Slow Food” with the art of leisurely good living. As delectable dining is one of the great joys of Italy, make time to discover at least one or two of the network’s 70 small towns. Most Cittaslow communities come with historic treasures, but the big attraction is their strong sense of identity and spirit of place. To be accredited, they must have less than 50,000 inhabitants. With an emphasis on regional recipes, traditional agricultural practices and seasonal local produce, it’s an authentic taste of Italy guaranteed to make your tastebuds zing. Here are four inland and coastal gems to whet your appetite.

Lyon, France

Culture and Food in 5 of Europe’s Best Cities

Culture takes in far more than the arts, the architecture and the history of places. Sure, Rome is outstanding for antiquities and churches and Paris has the Louvre. But whether it’s watching an afternoon cricket match on an English village green, going naked in a German sauna, or riding a bike through the Dutch tulip fields, Europe has a multitude of fascinating cultural experiences. And when you can combine city thrills with good food, so much the better. For a different take on “culture” as well as delectable taste sensations, add these five cities to your European wish list.

Italy

Culture, Climate, Food: Three Great Reasons to Live in Italy

Have you taken the public ferry that calls into the flower-bedecked lakeside villages around Lake Como? Spent a day shopping for the perfect turquoise leather purse in Milan? Bathed in the thermal pools of Saturnia? Wandered pilgrim paths through the chestnut woods of northern Tuscany? Eaten pumpkin tortellini in Bologna or cuttlefish risotto in Genoa? Lolled under a shady ombrellone on Lido di Metaponto’s golden beach? Enjoyed opera under the stars at Verona? Seen glow-worms lighting the fields at night as you walk back from San Gimignano of the medieval towers?

Wernigerode, Germany

Wine Barrels, Witches, and Hairy Brutes on Harleys

As a 14-year-old schoolgirl, I didn’t know life would turn me into a travel writer and a wine enthusiast. So I didn’t appreciate Bad Dürkheim as much as I should have. When you’re treated to a meal inside the world’s largest wine barrel, you should at least remember what you ate and drank.

Travel writing, Italy

Start Selling Your Travel Expertise

My next trip is Las Vegas. No complaints—I’m one of those sinners who enjoys Sin City. The trip is for an International Living conference where I’ll speak on Italy and its sweet life. I’m not wearing my travel-writing hat for this conference, but I’ve visited Italy so many times—at least 20—I’ve gained a great insight into places unknown to the tourist hordes.

Riots, Escapes and Contraband High on the Moors

I’m on a narrow road that cuts across the bleakest part of Dartmoor. And from here, the view of one of Britain’s most dismally austere buildings is perfect. The road leads to HMP Dartmoor—and HMP is the acronym for Her Majesty’s Prison.

france-3

Retirement in France Offers More Than its Fair Share of Pleasures

La vie française. Imagine relaxing in the garden of your own French home, a pretty stone cottage set among orchards, vineyards, and flowery meadows. The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky. The only sound is the drone of honeybees and the blissful strains of one of Satie’s Gymnopédies playing in the background. You’ve just returned from the market, and now you’re savoring the thought of lunch. It’s such a perfect day, you decide to dine picnic-style, spread out over an old oak table under a shady canopy of trees.

Granada, Spain

Property Bargains in Europe for Less Than $137,000

Pundits are divided on whether Spain’s property market will see further price falls. A huge overhang of unsold homes remains, but for the first time in seven years, sales in Málaga province showed an increase in 2013. Spain will always be a popular retirement destination for northern Europeans, and the number of U.S. citizens registered as living in Spain has increased, too.

A Home on Spain’s Coast from Just $62,500

Steeped in memories of Moorish Al-Andalus, the narrow streets, shady gardens, and stunning architecture of Granada make it one of Spain’s most iconic cities. In the Realejo, the old Jewish quarter, a refurbished 913-square-foot apartment close to Campo del Príncipe (which has some wonderful tapas bars) is reduced from $162,000 to $134,000.

Discover Spain’s Low-Cost Retirement Gems…

If you’ve ever ordered fried anchovies and a glass of nuttily-sweet sherry at 10 a.m., did people stare at you like you’d gone mad? If so, then you should move to Arcos de la Frontera—a small white town clinging to the hills of Andalucia in southern Spain. (If not, you should still think about moving there…)

Pocket-Money Real Estate Bargains in Europe

What’s not to love about cultural riches and cobbled charms? Throughout most of Europe, the property market remains in the doldrums, which means you can find bargains. From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean…from Ireland to Greece, there’s a tempting array of move-into properties that will leave you change from €100,000 ($137,000).

Italy-Lake

Yes, You Can Afford to Retire in Italy…

Whether it’s for a summer or a lifetime, Italy isn’t only for the wealthy. I first got hooked on la dolce vita when I was young and had very little cash to spare. But as I was in love with the vagabond lifestyle, relative impoverishment was no barrier to doing my own version of a Grand Tour.

barcelona-yachts

Spend a Week as a Guest on a Mediterranean Island

Not everyone looks forward to getting up and going to work. But I’m not complaining. The most difficult task I need to tackle today is to finish packing a suitcase. So I’m having a very leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport for a flight to Barcelona, one of the world’s most electrifying cities. Even though I’ve done it countless times before, I’m really looking forward to…

Galway

You’ll Never Get Bored if You Retire to Galway, Ireland

If Ireland tugs at your heartstrings, Galway is a wonderful retirement location. On the west coast, this historic maritime city combines a modern urban lifestyle with scenic beauty, deep-rooted traditions, and a staggering array of activities. Whether your passion is for the outdoors, the arts, traditional music, horse-racing—or a combination of them all—you’ll be spoiled for choice. And Connemara is on the doorstep. Established as a National Park in 1980, this unspoiled region of stone walls…

menorca-spain

Now Hiring for the Coolest Job in the World

One advantage of living in Europe is that cheap airfares make the rest of it so accessible. I’ve just got back home to Ireland after an unofficial three-day jaunt to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This tiny country holds the title for the highest per capita consumption of wine in the world, so there was a good reason to go bar-hopping.

berlin2

Make it Your Job to Be Outrageous

“Follies are the only things that one never regrets,” said Oscar Wilde. Agreed. But travel writers needn’t look far to find excuses for their follies. After all, writers have a reputation for eccentricity. Whatever bizarre situation you find yourself in—and if any awkward questions arise—you can always blame it on the job. Why were you buying contraband from gypsies in the Czech woods? (“It’s my job.”) How come you spent half the night in a Berlin anarchist squat? (“It’s my job.”)

The Spectral Smugglers Of Cornwall’s Jamaica Inn

The Spectral Smugglers of Cornwall’s Jamaica Inn

“The grey slate inn with its tall chimneys, forbidding and uninhabited though it seemed, was the only dwelling-place on the landscape.” I adore “forbidding” places. Especially those with cobbled courtyards, sloping floors, shadowy corridors, beamed ceilings, and log fires. So I’ve followed author Daphne du Maurier’s footsteps to Cornwall’s bleakly beautiful Bodmin Moor.

RamblingCornwall

The Best of Britain: Rambling Cornwall’s Ancient Coast

Awash in tales of smugglers and wreckers, Cornwall is a favorite with UK vacationers. A peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, its coastline of bays, inlets, cliffs, coves and golden beaches covers almost 300 miles. Inland, a maze of lanes leads to lost-in-time villages anchored by squat granite churches and complete with inns, beer gardens and home-made pub grub such as fish pie and steak-and-kidney pudding.

Ireland

Living in Ireland: An Insider’s Guide

Maybe it’s the music. Or the breathtaking landscapes. Or the witty humor and long, effortless conversations. Even without a drop of Irish blood in your veins, it’s easy to fall in love with Ireland’s charms, traditions and strong sense of community. The recession that followed the Celtic Tiger boom hasn’t altered the essentials that make the Emerald Isle special. I’m one of those people who prefer a cooler climate with four distinct seasons.

Aquitaine-France

France v. Italy: Round Three

Mon ami, you painted a pretty picture of life in southern Italy. But something is lacking—the sophisticated delights of duck confit, sweet onion preserves, foie gras and garriguette strawberries. You Italians are obviously clueless about food.

Scalea-in-Calabria

Italy v France: Round One

Mi dispiace, France. I’m sorry. It’s no contest. Even in your rainy-day Brittany region, you can’t come up with a two-story house that a buyer could move into for 18,000 euro ($24,000). We can. It’s not a doll’s house either—there’s 1,290 square feet of living space.

Italy: Charming, Romantic and Affordable

Italy: Charming, Romantic and Affordable

La dolce vita is what Italians call the sweet life. You could be living it for less than you perhaps think—even in desirable regions like Tuscany and Lazio.

France: Enjoy Classic Good Living For Less

France: Enjoy Classic Good Living For Less

From glamorous Paris to sun-soaked Provence and beyond, France will never go out of fashion. And there are bargains around for those who value its historic treasures and gourmet pleasures.

otavalo-clothing

Shop Your Way Around the World As You Earn

The earrings are from Hong Kong’s jade market. I bought the fedora hat at a Christmas market in Berlin, the boots from Malaga in Spain, and the shimmering scarf at Otavalo market in Ecuador—one of the largest indigenous markets in South America. You might call it eclectic fashion indulgence. I call it research.

CuttingTheCosts

Cutting the Costs of a New Zealand Road Trip

I’m impressed by Tuscany Gardens. I have a spa bath…free Internet…satellite TV. I don’t intend to use the laundry facilities—much less the iron and ironing board—but the unit’s kitchen is better equipped than mine at home.

BaringAll

Baring All in a German Spa Town

The light is dim, the temperature sweltering. This outdoor sauna already has an occupant on its topmost wooden bench. Sprawled on a large towel in all his unclothed glory, he mutters a polite “Guten Tag” (Good day).

Stuttgart, Germany: Cars, Spas, And Opera

Stuttgart, Germany: Cars, Spas, and Opera

Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II was unimpressed by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler’s new contraptions. “I do believe in the horse,’’ he said in 1886.

brac-island-croatia

Travel in Croatia: The Corner of Europe That Time Forgot

As the ferry approaches Brac Island and Supetar, its toy-town “capital,” the blues fragment into shimmering greens and turquoises. In the harbor, the water is so crystal clear I can see fish. It’s like gazing into a magic mirror. Today, Croatia is pulling out all the stops. Trees froth with blossom, fields are speckled gold with wildflowers, and there’s the scent of summer in the air.

The Weird And The Wonderful On Display In Southeast Asia

The Weird and the Wonderful on Display in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is adventure travel at its most exotic. Each day brings new sights, smells, tastes, and experiences. Cultural encounters, too. The Bangkok taxi driver who asked to borrow my glasses (he thought they’d help his eyesight)…the former head-hunters of the Iban tribe who still live in traditional longhouses in Borneo…the sing-along with locals in a Filipino karaoke bar.

black-forest-germany

Deals With the Devil

In the Black Forest, the darkest tales often seem linked to the loveliest places. So it’s no surprise that Staufen’s historic center of cobblestones, courtyards and fountains is straight from central casting’s Enchanted Germany file.

CroatiaTheBlueBeauty

Croatia: the Blue Beauty of the Adriatic

Blue becomes bluer, every shade from sapphire to cobalt. Sea merges with sky. The intensity of blueness is almost too much. It’s as if the Adriatic has fallen into the clutches of a Photoshop enthusiast with an uncontrolled passion for color saturation.

Pirate Speak, Burgers and Blues? All in a Day’s Work

Pirate Speak, Burgers and Blues? All in a Day’s Work

In 19th century New Zealand, I’m sure, speaking like that, I’d have been understood. After lengthy voyages, its early immigrant settlers were undoubtedly familiar with jackspeak—sea-faring slang. Not far from Auckland, the Riverhead is a historic tavern whose walls are adorned with bizarre nautical sayings. Most of those sayings have long vanished into the vault of forgotten phrases.

los-alcazares-murcia

Three Little-Known Havens in Italy, France and Spain

If you’re in love with classic Europe and its history, romance and culture, take heart: Spain, Italy and France aren’t only for the vacationer who saves for months just to visit. Each one of these three countries has numerous small towns and villages that lie under the radar—places with enticingly affordable properties to rent or buy

BeautyAndTheBeach

Beauty and the Beach: Rent and Live Part-Time in New Zealand

After a day’s hiking in Abel Tasman National Park, I need a night in. A bottle of $8 Sauvignon Blanc is chilling in the fridge. Perfect with these fresh mussels I bought—amazing value at $3.15 for 2.2 pounds. As my accommodation has a fully-equipped kitchen, they’re simmering in a wine and cream sauce.

DrindlsSausages

Dirndls, Sausages, Superstition: Germany’s Black Forest

Cheery waitresses in dirndl frocks. Wooden chairs with carved-out hearts. Walls of glassy-eyed hunting trophies, a stuffed bear included. If seeking a traditional Black-Forest restaurant, seek no farther. But now I almost regret finding the Jägerstüble, a wood-panelled inn under the Marktplatz arcades in Freudenstadt—home to Germany’s largest market square and a werewolf legend.

tasman-bay-new-zealand

Could This Really Be The Perfect Job?

New Zealand is one of the most scenically gorgeous countries on earth. For most people, it’s either the trip of a lifetime or a destination to only dream about. Not for me. I went there for the second time last November. A long way to go—but it’s not too bad when you can break the journey. This time around, I chose to stop off in Hong Kong—and of course I had to take in the harbor light show…

borneo

Who Said Nothing in Life Comes for Free?

I get to see a lot of the world. New Zealand… Spain… Ireland… Turkey… Germany… Thailand. I love being on the road. But what makes these adventures extra special is this… I don’t have to pay a penny for any of them.

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