I met Francesca on our first visit to Valencia a few years ago. It was our first trip to Spain with Stef and we quickly realized that the city is nothing less but love at first sight because of: the street art, the architecture, the wonderful urban atmosphere and above all: the friendliness and the positive attitude of the people around us.
Francesca was one of these smiling people: a charming curly Italian girl, who liked Valencia so much that she decided to move to live there. Now, just before we leave for our second visit to the city, I wanted to ask her a bit more about Valencia and see the city through the eyes of a local who is not only a visitor but also an owner of her own hostel …
*All photos (apart from Francesca’s portrait) were taken during our previous visit in the city, you can read more about that old trip on the Bulgarian website of National Geographic
Ciao, Francesca! You are an Italian living in the great city of Valencia: for how many years have you been living here and how did Valencia (and Spain in general?) win your heart?
Hi! Yes I’m Italian and I’ve been living here for 4 years. I really fell in love with this city. The first time I came to Valencia was 6 years ago as a tourist but the climate, the people, the cleanliness and good organization of life made me think it was a nice place to live in.
What would you say are the main differences between Italian and Spanish people?
The biggest difference between the Italian and the Spanish is the tranquility. In Italy we are much more stressed, we rush for anything. Here the people are patient and enjoy every moment of the day.
Another difference that I’ve seen while living here is patriotism: they really care about their traditions and origins. Valencia is the third biggest city in Spain and here they organize fantastic festivals for religious holidays. On the contrary, this type of Festival in Italy would now be celebrated only in small villages where traditions are still deeply felt but not in large cities where I would say pepole have lost a bit their sense of belonging.
What is your favorite thing about Spain?
I can’t speak about all of Spain because I’ve only lived in Valencia, but my favourite thing here is that people do not look at you from head to toe.
Let me explain: in my city in Italy unless I dress well or if for one day I decide to go out without make-up I would not feel at ease because appearances are very important, Here, on the other hand, people are much more relaxed about this topic. (and I reaaally love it!).
And one other thing of course: I love the sun! Valencia is sunny almost always and for me this is a wonderful thing!
There are so many things to see and do in the city, but If someone has only one weekend to spend in Valencia: which places are the Must-see ones which you shouldn’t miss?
From the tourist spots: one must really see the Oceanographic Museum. It’s a huge aquarium located in a complex of modern structures built by the architect Calatrava. You cannot come to valencia without seeing the immense pools and gardens entangled with the modern architecture of the buildings.
Another thing that you must visit is the garden of the Turia: this was once a river бут after a flood it was dried out and transformed into a garden which now circles along the city for nearly 10 km. There are sports facilities here, tourist facilities and is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the sun of the city.
In addition, the old town is fantastic to visit, especially the cathedral and trademark city squares such as Plaza del Ayutamiento and Plaza de la Virgen.
And if you have more time and want to explore Valencia outside of the tourist map:
Can you recommend some less famous but really good places…
…to see an interesting not so popular part of the city:
An interesting part of town is the Barrio del Carmen, it is certainly an area known for its nightlife because there are many cafes and discos, but not everyone knows that it is a point where you can find a magnificent street art: it is full of beautiful murals looking upon the narrow streets of the old neighborhood.
Another place very dear to me, is Port Saplaya. It is located a few killometres away from the center of Valencia, and is nicknamed “Little Venice” because of the sea crossing around the colorful houses of this beautiful little town. It is something magical! Very few tourists know about it but I think it is really worth seeing.
Last place that I particularly like is the Albufera of Valencia in this area there is a beautiful lake that you can visit with the boat and there is a natural park and beautiful vegetation. Here I’ve seen the most beautiful sunsets of my life, the colors of the late afternoon are fantastic!
…to have great tapas:
The cuisine in valencia (as in all of Spain in general) is really good. I’ve had delicious tapas in almost all the places where I’ve been.
I think that I would recommend the best places to be the more “rustic” ones: those which are usually not so aesthetically beautiful and where perhaps there are older people drinking beer and eating. It means they are local and have been around for a long time: in those places you usually eat more and wonderfully well!
…to taste the best paella:
Valencia is the home of paella, and it’s really hard to find a place where the paella is not good. However, I don’t recommend the tourist places and especially for lunch because in many places that serve the paella which was prepared the evening and just heat it up for lunch.
In any case I ate the best paella in a restaurant in Mislata, which is a small tourist village just a few kilometers from Valencia. The restaurant is called “El Meson de los Naranjos” (House of the Oranges) and in my opinion they make the best paella in the world.
…to have fun the way the locals do:
Here we have fun in many ways, as in all places of the world. But the most common thing in Valencia is definitely staying on a terrace to drink beer with friends (and not sangria as everyone thinks!! 😀 ) and then go dancing or go to the theater. There is a lot of movement on the street especially during the weekend.
If you can travel anywhere in the world where would you go? Would you consider living there for a long time?
I would like to visit many places, the world is immense and the most beautiful thing in life is to travel!
I would love to see Norway, I saw pictures of its fantastic nautre! And I would also like to visit the Australia, to see traditions and lifestyle different from my own! And then of course I would like to see Hawaii, but who does not?
I realize that I have named three totally different places from each other! But the world is beautiful because it is different!
However, I do not think I can live for a long time in any of these places, right now I would not change Valencia with any other city!
We met you at the Red Nest Hostel which was a pretty nice place but now you are the owner of Pension Alicante Valencia. Tell me more about the place: you must really enjoy the city and the tourist industry?
Yes, we met at the Red Nest, which is a beautiful youth hostel in the center of Valencia, I worked there for more than two years and I am very happy and very grateful to them for everything I have learned and the wonderful people that I have met.
Now I’m the owner, along with Mariano and Alessandro, of a small Hostel, which is called “Pension Alicante”. In total we have 16 rooms, 10 of which have private bathroom in the room and the others are more economical and have a shared bathroom. We cater to all types of pockets but in general it is a low cost place, the rooms are simple but equipped with all comforts: daily cleaning, toiletries, free wifi, LCD TV, air conditioning and heating.
But the best things about the Pension are 2: – the staff, because we try to “guide” the client throughout his holiday, pointing to what you can visit, where you can eat, which public transport lines will take you to the place you need to go, etc. We are basically available 24/7 for any kind of help or information.
The second strong point is the location, because we are on the pedestrian street of the main square Plaza del Ayutamiento. From here it’s really easy tto reach the old town on foot and it is close to all types of buses and metro stations (if you want to reach more distantsites of the city)
The place is ideal if you want to spend less and stay in a clean and very centrally located spot. Our customers are usually families (we have 3 family rooms) and couples.
What is the strangest situation you have witnessed during your work with tourists and visitors of Valencia?
The truth is that working in this field allows you to meet many people and you realize that they are so different and many of them- truly strange!
Something I will not forget is a guy who called us to make a booking and some minutes after that his girlfriend called to say she didn’t agree with her boyfriend and we have to speak only with her about the booking..
.Then we changed the booking and talked with her about it…In a few minutes her e with her boyfriend called again telling us that his girlfriend was angry with him .. in short, they couldn’t agree and began a phone figtht with each other through us- without actually calling one another to sort it out….At the end (thankfully) they gave up on booking. I think they needed a couple’s therapist more than an a holiday…
:))) Oh, my god, your job is not easy. On a more positive note: what is the best travel advice you have received or which you would like to give?
Тhe best plan is to have no plans!
Anything you want to add about the fun and beauty of meeting new people and helping them enjoy their stay J:
I can add that Valencia is a wonderful city and that traveling is the best way to live life, you learn so much from each new person that you know and every new place you visit!