Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel. Show all posts

My Two Weeks in Italy: Rome

Aug 6, 2022

When you've been to Rome before, what do you do when you return? Shop, eat and drink on a rooftop. Oh, and throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to make sure you return if you believe the myth. I actually forgot to do this! 

You can easily find the top sights in Rome with a quick google search so I won't go through all of them. I will tell you my favorite things to do instead. Our friends aren't really interested in touring historic sights, thank goodness since we've seen them all. We did a quick walk-by of them to take a photo outside. It took all of one morning and our first evening there. It's a good thing since we only were there two nights. 

Spanish Steps

Vatican City 

View of Spanish Steps from the shopping area

Honestly, I considered this a brief stop on our way to the Amalfi coast. I didn't enjoy Rome that much when I went last time, but I liked it better once I planned the trip for things I like to do instead of what is expected of me as a tourist. 

This was the nicest hotel in Italy that we booked. It also happens to be across the street from where I really wanted to stay. We had to watch our budget since we were in Italy for two weeks. I did the next best thing and booked a restaurant reservation at my favorite hotel. You can also go to the bar at the fancy hotels without staying there. 

Our hotel had an amazing rooftop bar. You will need reservations if you go at popular times. We went before dinner two nights in a row. It really was one of our top experiences in Rome. 

Terrazza Nainer - Rooftop bar in Rome | The Rooftop Guide

Terrazza Nainer - Rooftop bar in Rome | The Rooftop Guide

Since we saw all of the top tourist attractions by late morning on our first and only full day in Rome, it was time to enjoy a nice lunch and then shop! I didn't really need anything so I really thought it would just be window shopping unless something just grabbed me. I found lots of beautiful things that I would never wear or just didn't need. We also have most of the stores in Houston, albeit at more expensive prices because they are imported. I did get excited that there was a Pucci store, which I have never seen. I have always admired Pucci swimsuits, but never bought one because I feel like it's something I need to try on first. I happened to find one at the store I just loved, and it was almost half the price in Italy. I felt a little guilty buying the matching pareo, but I had to buy it because it matched. Plus, I never get rid of my swimwear so I knew I would regret not buying it.

I wore it the first day we were on the water in Capri. I folded it in half to make it short since it was so hot, but I like that I can wear it longer too in case I get too much sun on a trip. I'm not usually a fan of triangle tops, but this one is so comfortable.

That night we had dinner across the street at Hotel de Russie. The great thing about the location is that we were able to wear heels for the first time on the trip. 

The hotel's photo

My photo. They win. 

Can you believe my outfit is from Express? It reminded me of Dolce and Gabbana so much that I thought it would be perfect for a more formal dinner.

Another beautiful plate from Ginori!

Heavily edited photo due to shadows. I'm not going to let shadows ruin my photo! 

The next morning we went on a walk before we left for Capri. 

Piazzo Popolo-We had to roll our suitcases through here on the way to our hotel because there was a taxi strike for two days. I can't say I look upon this piazza fondly.

Borghese Gardens-We missed this last time and I was excited to see it, but honestly it was a bust. Most of it isn't taken care of well. These were the only picture worthy shots. 

I took a photo of the door of our hotel as we left that morning. Almost all of the doors have these studs on the bottom. I wonder if this is where Valentino got his inspiration for rockstuds?

We actually had a good time in Rome, which I wasn't expecting. I think the nice hotel with it's rooftop, the shopping experience and the dinner at a restaurant I've always wanted to visit made the difference. It may not be the top things to do as a tourist, but it is what all of us wanted to experience. Thankfully, we have traveling companions that have the same interests as us. Well, they didn't want to go to the Borghese Gardens so we split off that morning. That's also okay. Actually, they made the best decision because it wasn't that great!

Our next leg of the trip is my favorite, the Amalfi Coast!

My Two Weeks in Italy: Lake Como

Jul 26, 2022

After Venice, we headed to Lake Como. We took a train to Milan, and arranged for a driver to pick us up at the station and take us to Bellagio. One thing I learned about Lake Como is that it doesn't really matter where you stay on the lake. Bellagio is the most popular, but Como is probably the most convenient location because there's a train station there that allows you to skip the driver. However, I say just stay at the hotel that most appeals to you because you will spend most of the time boating on the lake. 

We stayed at Hotel Metropole, which is at the end of the main road in Bellagio. It is extremely convenient for catching the ferry around the lake, and there are a ton of restaurants right outside the hotel. We had the most amazing room at this hotel. It was a corner unit on the second floor with an enormous patio. In front of us we had the most spectacular lake view, and to the right we had a view of Bellagio. Ask for Room 112! The only complaint I have is that the shower is super tiny.

Here is the view from our room to the patio.

We opted to have after dinner drinks out here with our friends the two nights we were here because we weren't going to get a better view at a restaurant!

The first day we had a quick lunch, changed clothes and caught the ferry to Villa Balbianello. It has been on my bucket list for years after saving so many photos of it on Instagram. It's where parts of Casino Royale and Star Wars were filmed, but honestly I know it best from an iconic Slim Aarons photo. 

1980-1989 Art Print featuring the photograph Villa Del Balbianello by Slim Aarons
Fine Art America

One of the reasons I changed is because I knew this was going to be one of the most picture worthy spots on our trip. I was sweating bullets in this long dress, but it was worth it. I'm not the kind of girl who usually wants photos of herself, but this day I had no shame. I handed my phone over to my husband so many times to make sure we got every bit of scenery in the backdrop. He didn't get the significance like I did, but he could tell it was important to me so he was a good sport.

This last photo! It shows the scale of it, and how beautiful this place really is. We opted for a tour, but honestly the inside isn't nearly as impressive as the gardens. I wish we would have just bought a garden ticket. Also, catch the boat ride to the villa instead of the uphill 20 minute walk. I'm fairly fit, and it was a little tough for me. I thought my husband was going to pass out!

The next day was our full day in Lake Como. We opted to rent a boat all day. We had to ferry to Varenna to pick it up, but it's only a 15 minute trip. I'm glad Bellagio was sold out of boats because I got to experience this beautiful town. 

I loved seeing the swans! This town is much more quaint and less expensive than Bellagio, but so charming.

We went from Varenna all the way down to Como, which is just one of three legs of the lake. It took almost all day once we stopped for lunch. I did dip in the water to cool off, but I got right back out because it was a little too cold for me.

Villa Balbianello from the water

A popular spot to jump off the bridge with the waterfall in the background. 

I love the wooden boats on this lake. 

We stopped at this small town for lunch. There's a beach club here, but it's just really loungers overlooking the lake. Almost all of the towns on the lake have a beach club you can stop at for lunch. Reserve in advance if you want to use the sun beds.

Oddly, we had the best Pina coladas ever here. They have a cream foam on top that's amazing. My husband had a limoncello spritzer. We were trying to get lunch reservations at Villa d'Este. It's one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, but the restaurant isn't great about picking up their phone. This was such a nice lunch that I'm okay that it didn't work out. 

This was the most relaxing day we had on the trip after running from site to hotel to train since we landed in Venice. If you don't want to rent a boat you can go town to town via ferry. The beaches are rocky so we preferred the water, plus the scenery of the hills and homes are amazing from a boat. There are also other villas you can visit, but one was enough for me. We did everything on the itinerary except the lunch at Villa d'Este so the next day we moved on to Florence!


My Two Weeks in Italy: Venice

Jul 22, 2022

I am back from Italy! You may have seen my Instagram posts and stories, but I'm sharing all of the details of our trip. You can also go back and view all my stories on Instagram. It's highlighted as "Italy 2022" in my profile information. 

This was our second trip to Italy. We re-visited some of our favorites and added a couple of new destinations. My husband and I traveled with another couple, which made it so much more fun. Neither of them had ever been to Europe so it was fun seeing it through their eyes. Our itinerary was Venice, Lake Como, Florence/Tuscany, Rome, Capri/Positano. Venice and Lake Como were new to us, and we absolutely loved both. 


Our first stop was Venice, which we had never visited. We left it out of the last trip after hearing from many people it was not worth it. I still wanted to go there despite the negativity, but only planned two nights in case we didn't care for it. We absolutely loved it! It's a beautiful city. Two nights were perfect for our group with everything we wanted to see. Our sightseeing list included the Doge Palace, St. Mark's Basilica, The Rialto Bridge, The Grand Canal and a gondola ride.

We arrived by water taxi from the airport that we booked online about a month or two before our trip. You can also take a bus, which is less expensive. However, since we were traveling with another couple we were able to split the cost. It's also a great way to start off a vacation! We also took it to the train station when we left for our next leg of the trip to Lake Como.

It's a great way to see the canals of Venice, too. 

The boat dropped us off right at our hotel since it was on a canal. We stayed at Hotel Dona Palace, which is right around the corner from St. Mark's Square where the Basilica and Doge Palace are located.      It's a boutique mid-range hotel. In my opinion it's worth it to stay at a lesser hotel if it means getting a bigger room. Hotel rooms in Europe are notoriously small. Some of our showers were so tiny that I couldn't even shave in them so check those out as well. 

Our favorite part of the hotel was the patio on the canal. We enjoyed a drink there every night before and after dinner. Here is the view from our window. Breakfast is included, and we happened to be right around the corner from the buffet on the second floor. I always took a second cappuccino back to my room to finish getting ready for the day.

Our first night in Venice-We ate around the corner from the hotel at a highly rated, but inexpensive restaurant called Rossopomodoro. We had a Caprese salad and a pizza, which was wonderful. They have a Naples style pizza that is considered the best. The house wine was also amazing. We laughed that we never got a bad glass of house wine then entire time we were in Italy. 

Of course we had to check out St. Peter's Square since it was right around the corner. I have a video of it on my Instagram stories. 

We came back for a drink out on the patio and watched the gondolas go by. There's a video on my Instagram stories of it as well. 

Restaurant tips:

-Most restaurants open at 7pm in Italy. We're used to eating early so we always went as soon as they opened, which is perfect if you don't have reservations. The busiest times are between 8-9pm. Rossopomodoro is open all day so we could go as soon as we got there so we didn't fall asleep. 

-The restaurants on St. Mark's Square are more expensive, but great for people watching. We avoided them because there was no shade, and would have been uncomfortable in the sun. The side streets are shaded and much cooler. The weather was perfect in the shade, but could get hot in the sun. If you do go when it's cooler I would recommend Caffe Florian for a light breakfast or snack. Another one we considered is Quadri. Make reservations if there is an event in St. Mark's Square. There was a concert our second night, and a table without a reservation is impossible. Italian's love to say "it is impossible." 

-There is a lot of fine dining in Venice. It was a little too highbrow for our taste with lots of black squid pasta and octopus. We were happier with pasta and pizza. Our plan was to visit the bars at the Aman, Hotel Daneli or Cipriani for the ambiance since the restaurant menus didn't appeal to us. Most of those places charge a small fortune for one drink, plus a cover charge. It's worth it to get a feel for luxury hotels without the four figure a night price tag, but keep in mind some of them require reservations for even the bar. We ended up skipping them because we loved our quiet little patio at the hotel so much. 

Our first full day in Venice we got up early to see the Basilica, walk along the Grand Canal and tour the Doge Palace before lunch. 

Doge Palace

View from the Bridge of Sighs in the Doge Palace-Prisoners would walk along this bridge and sigh at their last view of Venice.

The Grand Canal

Bridge of Sighs from the Grand Canal

We had lunch and then took a little nap at the hotel. In the afternoon we walked to the Rialto Bridge, took a tour of a museum that was included with our Doge Palace ticket and stopped for gelato. 

Before dinner we hopped on a gondola ride. There are many areas you can get on a gondola ride, but we chose a smaller canal behind St. Mark's Square. We were all nervous about the choppy waters on the Grand Canal. It costs 90 euros for a 30 minute ride at sunset that we split between the four of us. Talk to your guide first to see if they offer commentary or singing. It's all the same price. I've heard some people say gondola rides aren't worth the cost, but I have to strongly disagree. We loved it!

Rialto Bridge

Our guide was quiet at first, but as we asked questions he began to give us a history of Venice the entire ride. 

We headed out to dinner after our gondola ride and then listened to an orchestra perform in St. Peter's Square before having our late night cocktail at the hotel's patio. It was a full day, but we took a couple of breaks at the hotel after lunch and before dinner. It's nice to have that option since we were so close to everything. If you are interested in touring other islands, such as Murano, you would definitely need another day or two. 

The next morning we were a little sad to leave such a beautiful place, but since we saw everything we wanted to see it was time to move on to Lake Como.