Post Author: Rachel
Italy has been on the bucket list for quite some time, and this year we were able to cross it off! We spent two weeks exploring, learning, eating, drinking wine, drinking some more, and traveling all over this amazing country. The people were incredibly friendly, the food was outstanding, and the wine was everywhere! While we felt like two weeks was the perfect amount of time to hit the highlights, Italy is a place that you could spend months and never feel like you accomplished everything. Over the next few blog posts I'll be sharing our adventure and providing some helpful tips in case you're also planning an Italian excursion.
First Stop: ROME (where else?!)
Rome was one of our favorite cities in Italy! There is so much to see and experience. It is such a wonderful city full of history, with buildings and roads dating back to B.C.. We were there in April and it was already packed, so if you are headed there soon be prepared for the crowds. The busy season typically starts around Easter, and runs through September - not a reason you shouldn't go, just something to be mindful of as you plan out your days and activities. Even with some thick crowds at times, it was such a fantastic city and we packed in as much as possible in just three full days. You could probably spend a year here and not get to everything, but you'll want at least three days to hit the highlights. Here's everything you need to know!
WHAT TO DO
There are so many things to see in Rome that it's hard to narrow it down. The best part of Italy was just slowing down and taking it all in. Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere, and allow yourself the time to relax and soak it all up. Here were some of our favorite spots, although we loved just wandering down various roads as you don't know what historical building you'll see next!
WHERE TO EAT
There are so many fantastic places to eat in Rome! Unfortunately, my husband and I both have food allergies - neither of us can have dairy and I can't have gluten...I know, quite the pair. We really thought it might be a problem being in the city that's known for their delicious dairy and gluten. Get this - we found more options in Italy than we ever have in the states!
If you have a gluten allergy or celiac, download the free app, AIC (Associazione Italiana Celiachia) - it allows you to easily search for restaurants in the area that have trained their staff on how to prepare food for those with the allergy or disease. It was so helpful and every place we went to was absolutely scrumptious! Also note, if you get your food or drinks to go, or stand at the bar, they won't charge you a cover charge. If you sit down, you'll be charged a couple Euros as a service charge.
Here's a list of the places we ate and what we ordered:
WHAT TO WEAR
We were there in April when it was supposed to be in the 60's & 70's but it was much chillier than we anticipated so I'd suggest layers, layers and layers! Also note, if you enter a church you must have your shoulders and knees covered. Click on the images below for outfit details. I lived in these sweatshirts and jean jacket the entire trip! Plus, I'd highly recommend comfortable shoes because we did a lot of walking (anywhere from 10-14 miles a day). I love these orthopedic Adidas, they are extremely comfortable and go with every outfit.
Hope this helps you plan your Italian experience! Let me know if you have any questions.
Ciao! Welcome to my post on Florence! This was the last stop of our European adventure and it was one to remember forever. Florence is packed full of history, museums, art, steak and wine. If you are able, you need to stay here for more than a week to really soak up all it has to offer.
We stayed at another Airbnb and it was perfectly located, within walking distance of the Duomo, the third largest church in the world. The streets here are so narrow, most everyone walks or rides bikes everywhere.
After taking a few minutes to check in and drop our bags, we headed over to the most popular sandwich shop in Florence, All' Antico Vinaio. There is always a long line, even after lunchtime, but it moves relatively quickly and it’s totally worth it. The food was delicious! Crunchy bread and sandwiches were filled to the brim. An added perk is you can add wine to your to go. Huzzah! There is no seating in the restaurant, but we happily sat on a nearby curb and enjoyed the pretty architecture. Not a bad spot for lunch!
One of our highest priorities in Florence was to visit the museums. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Get the Firenze Card. It lasts for 72 hours, gives you access to 72 museums, and it allows you to skip the lines. What could be better? The cost! It is only 72 euros. You may be thinking that 72 euros is a lot for a museum pass, but it saves money and time. Skipping the wait and going directly to the front of the line, was worth its weight in gold. We were able to visit so many more museums this way. Seeing art by people I studied about in school was remarkable. It made me thankful for my art history teachers who poured so much time and energy into their classes and made me apologetic for taking it for granted. Now I see why they enjoy art so much! So, if you love museums, get the Firenze card. You won't regret it.
The next day we had a vineyard tour with Italy on a Budget Tours. I know what you are thinking -- this sounds cheap and it likely was not a great experience. Instead it was awesome and affordable (50 euros). We toured 2 beautiful vineyards, tasted multiple wines, tried different olive oils and snacks, and visited San Gimignano. Our tour guide was hilarious and taught us so much about Tuscany. I highly recommend this tour because it was fun, light hearted and full of incredible wine. It was splendid to learn how to taste different flavors and notes in the wine and to learn the history of wine country in Tuscany. San Gimignano is also famous for the best gelato in all of Italy, Gelateria Dondoli. I'm drooling just thinking about it. It was the perfect way to end our vineyard tours. Plus, who doesn't love Gelato??
After our day of wine, we headed to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was quite the hike and we climbed many, many stairs but the view was out of this world incredible. People say that the Duomo has the best view and, while it is amazing, I preferred the Piazzale; especially because you can see the Duomo from the Piazzale.
Florence is really known for its meats, not pasta, so you’ll want to splurge. More specifically, splurge on the Florentine steak. It is incredible! I enjoyed one of the best steaks ever at Trattoria ZaZa, which came highly recommended to us by a dear friend. ZaZa’s is quaint and has beautiful murals all over its walls and lovely outdoor seating. Make sure you make a reservation in advance because this place is very popular. This was our last meal in Florence, and it was just the two of us, me and Blake. It was so special and we spent hours talking about everything and anything. It will always be one of my favorite memories.
Florence was very special and will remain near to my heart. I was captured by the history, the architecture, the art and the food. The Italians are clearly living life to the fullest.
I hope you have enjoyed my European adventure posts! It has been so fun to share with you and I hope, if you one day get to travel to any of the destinations, I’ve helped you make your planning a little easier. Now I just have to figure out how I can get back to Europe again ;)
Welcome back! I hope you are enjoying romping through Europe with me. It has been a blast sharing this once in a lifetime experience with you. Today’s post features one of my most favorite - Lake Como. It holds a special place in my heart as it was my grandmother’s most loved place on earth and, now after visiting, it has become mine as well. It was a longtime dream come true and it stole my heart, for sure.
We took the train to Lake Como from Milan and, each time we got a glimpse of the lake, the entire train was oohing and ahhing. We stepped off the train and started walking towards the ferry, and the entire group couldn't stop talking about how beautiful it was. It was dreamy!
We took a ferry to our Airbnb in Bellagio, Italy. The towns surrounding the Lake are a little more expensive than the other places we stayed, but, for us, Lake Como was a priority. Therefore, we were willing to spend a little more and, I promise, it’s worth every penny. Our Airbnb was adorable and the perfect size for the 4 of us. It was exceptionally clean and well kept (below is a view from our balcony). Can you see why I didn't ever want to leave this incredible view??
We no sooner checked in, than we changed clothes and headed straight to town. I cannot even begin to describe how magical it is. From the century-old buildings to cobbled stairs, you could wander around for hours getting lost in the magnificence of this picturesque little village.
After wandering around a bit and grabbing a delicious lunch (pasta of course!), we headed to Lido Di Bellagio. This is a beach club right on the lake and it was perfect! We rented beach chairs, jumped in the lake … it was chilly … and then relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Let me repeat, it was perfect! After traveling most of the morning, it was nice to slow down, soak up the rays and just enjoy the glorious view.
Alas, we headed back to our place to get ready for dinner at Silvio, the most adorable hotel and restaurant within walking distance from our Airbnb. Our host had recommended dinner here and we immediately made reservations. The beautiful outdoor patio was filled with little lights everywhere that added so much to the ambience. We each ordered unique pasta dishes that left us all grinning from ear to ear.
Something I learned in Europe, especially Italy, was that Europeans eat dinner fairly late (typically 8:30/9 pm) and take their time. You do not rush your waiter. We would sometimes wait 20 minutes before seeing our waiter again. So if you want wine right away or bread, ask for it at the beginning. But, this reminded me that yet again, we Americans are constantly rushing and missing out on LIFE. The best conversations are had with a bottle of wine, relaxed dining and good friends.
After stuffing our faces with pasta, a little dancing was in order. We headed back to Lido di Bellagio to check out the night scene. Bellagio’s night life is limited and this was one of the few places to go, but it was actually fun! Be aware though, the youngest people there were 16....that was weird. It made me feel old! I know I'm not that old so you can refrain from the "oh ya, you're sooo old" eye roll. We made the most of it and had a blast even if we were the oldest ones there. Haha!
One of my favorite days in Lake Como, was when we rented a boat and, surprisingly, it was fairly affordable. I was super excited because a sunny day on the lake spent with good friends and yummy food is my idea of the perfect day! And, it was SO much fun. We packed our cooler full of meats and cheeses, bread, fruit and wine (surprise surprise!) and set out for the day. It was SO much fun. The boat was the perfect size and we really took full advantage of it. Plus, we got to see more of Lake Como and the beautiful towns that surround it. Our friend, Mat, grew up on the water and was in heaven. If you find yourself with a couple of days in Lake Como, you should definitely rent a boat. It's cheap entertainment and how often do you get to say that you rented a boat on Lake Como?? Also, ask around for the best places to jump off cliffs!
Side note: I would advise renting a car or mopeds, maybe even bikes, if you are going to stay in Bellagio for more than a few days. We wished we had done this because the hills to our Airbnb were fairly steep and there really isn't a taxi service. So make sure you rent something! Needless to say, we earned all of the bread we ate.
Lake Como was the perfect way to break up our trip and relax in between traveling and walking so much. If you get the chance to go, I'm positive you will fall in love with the Lake. Plus, the town of Bellagio is slow paced, dreamy, full of gardens to walk through and, of course, right on the water. The restaurants are lovely and typically in old homes which make it even more romantic. The history is rich and the culture is classic. I could go on and on, but just know this - there is nothing like it. So pack your bags and go!
See you next Monday on the blog; I'll be sharing Florence with you! Ciao!
Ok, here’s a bit of outfit details for you! My favorite thing about shopping on Shein or Zaful (linked below for my swimsuit and two-piece set), is that people leave reviews and take pictures of themselves wearing the clothes so you can see the fit. This is so helpful. The outfits are sooo cheap, you want to make sure they look as good on you as they do on their website. I only purchase items that have thorough reviews, that way I know I am not wasting time or money. And, lucky for me, these items fit me perfectly!
Also, Lulus is my favorite place to find dresses. They have SO many and the fit is very true to size. They also have awesome sales so sometimes I will snag a few at a time. Their maxi dresses are very long too. So if you are shorter, you may have to have them tailored. I am 5'9" and was still able to wear heels with the dress I was wearing. Enjoy!
Two-piece set: Shein
Dress: Lulus, Similar one here
Prague was filled with tons of fun, but we purposely scheduled an early morning flight to Milan to enjoy the unique shopping offered there. This was a short trip, but it was one to remember. Milan is primarily a business and fashion city, so as you can imagine, the mentality is "go go go!” And, boy, did we run around like crazy. There was so much to see in such a short amount of time, but my priority was shopping and pasta, both of which were hugely successful.
Naturally, one of our first stops was Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It is the definition of fabulous. From the floors to the ceilings, it is the epitome of stunning. I wish all malls looked like this! The Galleria contains the most expensive fashion brands and the stores are uniquely designed to perfectly display each upcoming collection. For clarity though, I was not shopping at the upscale stores … but I did do a lot of browsing there, for sure! Luckily, I was able to find some fabulous items that were affordable and memorable during our little shopping adventure. The Galleria has oodles of stores and it was fun to discover brands that I had never heard of, but can be ordered online. The romper I wore in our last Fashion Friday post was from Bershka, one of my new favorite stores.
After spending the better part of the day at the Galleria running around, we headed out to dinner. We intentionally left our dinner plans pretty loose because we knew would have a full day of shopping and didn’t want to be up against a time constraint. Most of the time we made dinner reservations in advance during our trip, but it was nice to allow one or two meals to be completely unplanned. You never know what fun and exciting places you’ll find along the way. In Milan, we discovered Da Puccini. We walked in around 9:30 p.m. and, quite frankly, didn’t really have high expectations as we hadn't read any reviews on it. But much to our surprise, it was delicious! My husband and I shared the veal with risotto. It was tender, creamy and cooked to perfection. Our friends ordered pasta and we all split a bottle of wine. Once again, wine is fairly affordable in Europe so it is easy to justify a bottle for the table.
Our time in Milan was short, but we definitely did what we came to do! We consumed mounds of pasta, visited some awesome rooftop bars, enjoyed delicious wine and definitely shopped till we dropped.
Here are some of my tips for shopping in Milan that helped make our experience stress free. Do you have any shopping/travel tips or tricks to add? Feel free to comment below.
1) Set a budget. I know my friends are rolling their eyes right now because this is so typical of me … but oh so helpful. Having a set budget allowed me to go in with a plan and not get overwhelmed with the vast number of stores and merchandise to choose from. How often are you shopping in Milan? Make the most of it and come with a plan!
2) Have a couple of ideas of what exactly you are looking for. For me, I wanted an all-seasons leather purse and whatever $$$ were left, was going toward my number 2 priority – clothes! Lucky for me, I found both. Woohoo!
3) Wear comfortable shoes. Wear comfortable shoes. Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously, my feet were killing me by the end of the day and I was wearing tennis shoes! If you like to shop, like I do, your feet will take a beating – but in Milan, it’s totally worth it. You’ll want to explore and discover all the fun stores so comfort is key. And, ladies, this look is totally in style with all the cute dresses available today!
4) Make sure you have a designated meeting time and place if you get separated from your shopping buddy. My friend, Rachel (not my SIL! Confusing, I know!), and I talked before we set out for the day about what we would do if we accidently went in different directions. We can both get lost in clothes (shocker), so sometimes it can be easy to get separated. Having a designated meeting time and place, put our minds at ease and gave us the freedom to browse without worry.
5) Keep your belongings close! This should be a no brainer, but nonetheless it’s a good reminder. There’s a high concentration of people in and around Milan and when they approach, they aren’t afraid to get in your personal space. Stay alert and don’t make yourself an easy target for pickpocketing. I kept one hand on my purse at all times and gripped it to my side. Do not put your purse down for any reason. I felt fairly safe everywhere else we traveled, but I definitely had to be more aware in Milan.
And there you have it, my top 5 tips for shopping in Milan. It is a once in a lifetime experience, so make sure you are prepared and ready to conquer.
That's all for now! In my next post we will be exploring Lake Como. Be prepared, it is one of the dreamiest places on earth!
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