3 ways to experience Europe with more authenticity

There are times when we can put the emphasis less on sightseeing and more on experiencing our surroundings at a relaxed and comfortable pace.

The Perfect Honeymoon in Tuscany

There are so many things I love about the Tuscany region of Italy, that I consider it my top destination for honeymoons in Europe. And there is nothing I love more than crafting a perfect honeymoon experience.  There are two main ways you can do Italy— spend your time seeing a lot, or take your time having an experience.  For couples who appreciate the ability to soak in the true essence of Tuscany, and create lasting memories of special moments within a trip customized specifically for you, consider the following outline as a sneak peek into my version of la dolce vita. 

Begin in Florence…

Day Trip to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a stretch of five towns across the enchanting Italian riviera. I fell in love with this place far before I ever visited it. Perhaps you have too. The photos of pastel colored buildings, perched precariously on the cliffside and gazing out onto the sea are enough to make anyone’s heart skip a beat.

Last week I made my way here by way of boat on a day trip. This is the most scenographic way to go, and provided me with a unique viewpoint of the landscape. The ferry from La Spezia will take about an hour, and once you are in the villages, you can easily spend the day village hopping (except for Corniglia). You should also take the opportunity to visit the village of Portovenere, which isn’t one of the 5 villages but certainly is a worthwhile stop.

So, what are the differences between the villages? Here is a quick rundown on each of their unique characteristics, as well as photos from my vantage point of approaching the villages by boat. My suggestion would be to visit them all, and choose to spend a few nights in the one that best suits your tastes.

5 Original Day Trips from Florence

Florence has it all. There is something for everyone in the historic city where churches brush up against modern malls and restaurants. The beauty is not only encased within the walls of the city; By spreading out just a few hours in many directions, you can be led to lush, culturally vibrant experiences that will enhance your understanding of the beautiful culture. These top five Florence day-trips will add the perfect extra excitement to your Italian vacation.

A First-Time Trip to Europe

Creating itineraries for people who don’t travel very extensively can be exciting. It also can be a bit challenging in it's own way. Whereas you can have some clients who know exactly what they like and what they want to do, the flip-side is having clients who don’t know too much about what they might enjoy while traveling. Case in point- I just had a honeymoon couple return from an absolutely amazing trip in Europe that had never been, yet wanted a fully customized, off the beaten path trip that was all their own.

The hard part at the beginning though, was being able to uncover what the experience was they were after. Our literal starting point was: “We want to spend about three weeks in Europe.” No specific countries, no specific type of trip… just Europe.  A whole entire continent of goodness.

2 week Italy Itinerary

I love Italy. Like, loooooooove.  And I am speaking broadly here, because as well all know, there are many different destinations within Italy that you can visit and they all will afford you a different experience.  But since I have yet to find a region I didn’t like, I am using the blanket for the entire country. 

As such, for the past few months I have been blogging about different destinations within Italy, and sharing amazing places to stay, things to see and do, and even some detailed itineraries for some of the more popular destinations. Because there is so much to see, do, and fall in love with in this country, many people choose to include multiple destinations when they visit.

I would like to share with you my perfect two weeks in Italy itinerary, if I was headed there today. Of course, different stages of my life might produce a different itinerary, but for now, this would probably be it. It’s some of my favorite cities, in a logical and easily followed itinerary, that allows you to travel the country by train. (Have I mentioned yet how much I love good public transportation when I travel? I do.)

The energy of the Eternal City with a visit to Rome

The essence of Tuscany and incomparable charm with a stay in Florence

The quaintness and beauty by the sea in Cinque Terre

The romanticism and beautiful spirit of Venice

Take a look at the outline of my perfect two weeks in Italy and let it inspire you. 

TWO WEEK ITALY ITINERARY

But as always, what’s most important is figuring out what your perfect two weeks looks like, and making that come to life. If you are planning a trip for anywhere in Italy, I'd love for you to contact me to start planning the trip of YOUR dreams. 

Postcard Perfection in Tuscany

 

Yes, the scenery really is that gorgeous. The food really is that delectable. The wine really is that wonderful. The art really is that exquisite. All of it is true.  There are so many things to love about Tuscany, that it can be a little overwhelming when you try and wrap your head around it all and start to consider what might be best to put on your itinerary. 

My advice is this: Think about about who YOU are.  Then go from there. 

If you have an obsession with food and wine, you will be in heaven pretty much anywhere. Three of Italy’s greatest wine’s are produced here in this region, and the food is simply prepared, locally sourced, and out of this world amazing. Head up and down the region to taste each area’s specialties and fall in love with what is known as Slow Food.

If you are hoping to experience the artistic masterpieces that you’ve dreamed of seeing in person one day, make sure you include Florence.  This is a city like no other, and will surprise you time and time again, no matter how many times you visit. For such a small place, it is packed to the brim with treasures you love discovering.

Central Tuscany is where you will find the medieval hilltop fortresses, hillsides covered in vines, and rows upon rows of cypress trees. This is classic Tuscan countryside at it’s finest. The most well-known and visited part of this area is  the gothic town of Siena, which can give Florence a run for her money in terms of popularity.

If your intention is to slow down and not get caught up with all that you “must do” while you’re in one of the most exquisite destinations in the world, you probably want to spend some time in Northwestern Tuscany. Here you can really unwind and not feel the need to do much except relax and meander around hilltop villages and enjoy the regional cuisine.  This is the place to linger, but while you’re here you might as well take your picture hoisting up that famous tower.

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I cannot think of a type of traveler that could not find their own perfection in Tuscany. Whether you are looking for relaxation at it’s finest, adventures of a lifetime, an epicurean delight, cultural wonders, natural beauty, authentic city life, or anything in between… you can find it here.

Figure out what your perfect postcard looks like, and we can make it come to life.

A romantic weekend in Venice

I truly believe that Venice has more to offer than what a day trip can afford you. In large part this is because the beauty of this city happens when the day-trippers leave and the cruisers get back on their ship! If I could share with you one thing I think you need to do while visiting Venice, it would be this: The best thing you can do in Venice is get lost. Just put your map away and start turning down cobblestoned streets until you find yourself in the midst of true Venetians living a beautiful life. Herein lies the real beauty and magic of Venice.  And there really is no need to worry, as Venice is just a small island and so sooner or later you’re bound to get un-lost! When it doubt, you can always find someone to point you back towards St. Mark’s Square and find your bearings that way.

As for other top things you will probably want to see and do while you’re in Venice, here is a short list of my favorites to choose from, in between your getting lost adventures:

St. Mark’s Basilica - One of the most beautiful churches in the world, filled with thousands of square feet of mosaics. This is certainly a must-see during your visit and if you go during high season, you are able to book a free reservation time beforehand to enter.

Campanile di St. Marco - A view from the top of the Bell Tower will afford you the most beautiful panoramic of the city.

Doge’s palace - One of Italy’s grandest town halls heavily decorated with canvases and frescoes by Venice’s greatest artists.

Rialto Bridge (and market) - The stone bridge is the most famous and loveliest span across the Grand Canal. The market extends at the foot into San Polo.

Gondola Ride - They are touristy and ridiculously overpriced, but who comes to Venice and doesn’t take a Gondola Ride?! 

Piazza San Marco - This is where you will want to park yourself at a nice outdoor cafe table and enjoy the dueling string trios and piano players, and watch couple’s dance along the cobblestones.

Visit an outlying Venetian Island - Ride a vaporetto to one of the 3 major islands in the Venetian lagoon. Murano is famous for glass-making, Burano is famous for lace-making, and Torcello is where the city of Venice got it’s start.

Sure, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Venice, but that’s going to depend on your personal taste and what a romantic weekend looks like to you. If you’re thinking about adding this beautiful city to your Italian getaway, I’d love to help you customize your perfect trip.

Additional reading you might find useful:

  • For a great boutique hotel in Venice, click here for my feature on Ca Maria Adele.
  • For a trip to Rome before or after, click here, for a look at a full 3 day sample itinerary.

Rome 3 Day Itinerary

During the last few weeks, I have been showcasing sample daily itineraries for a visit to Rome, Italy’s capital city. In Day 1 of the Rome itinerary, we explored the historical sites and took in some of the most famous ancient monuments. In Day 2 of the Rome itinerary, we headed over to Vatican City to experience the splendor that exists there. The following Rome daily itinerary will be the last in this series, and would be what I would consider my personal favorite. It has less to do with seeing, and is more to do with simply experiencing.

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Day 3: The Sweet Life

For your third day in Rome, it’s time to slow down… just a little. This is the day for soaking up Rome. To take in it’s beauty, to appreciate it’s specialness, and to understand what it means to live la dolce vita. 

  • Begin the day with a visit to Villa Borghese, the largest public park in Rome. It is a pleasant reprise from the noise and heat of the city, and is home to a lake, temples, fountains, statues, and several museums. 
    • Consider renting a bike to leisurely get around the park.
    • The must-see museum here is Borghese Gallery, which you must reserve beforehand for a 2 hour visit. You will be mesmerized by painting and ceiling frescoes, along with beautiful sculptures by Bernini, amongst others.
  • Next, head down a long flight of stairs to Piazza del Popolo. Consider dining outside at Osteria St. Ana. This is the perfect place to grab lunch, have a drink, and do some first-class people watching. 
    • If shopping is your thing, you are now properly fueled to turn your attention to the several pedestrian-only shopping streets surrounding you.
  • Continue your stroll by heading down via Babuino for a visit to one of the world’s most famous squares, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square), which sits at the base of the Spanish Steps. 
  • From there, make your way to the Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most dramatic monuments, where you must toss a coin in to assure your next visit to the eternal city. This is also a great place to grab a gelato. (Suggestions: Gelateria Valentino or II Gelato di San Crispino)
  • From the Trevi Fountain, continue on to Piazza Navona, via the Pantheon. If you followed my Day 1 Itinerary, you’ve already spent some time at the Pantheon, but it’s worth walking past again on your way towards what could be considered Rome’s most beautiful square, Piazza Navona. The large and lively square features three magnificent fountains. You've now concluded your stroll through what is considered the very heart of Rome. 
  • For dinner, why not make your own delicious meal, with some help from a professional. Taking a cooking class in Rome will allow you to return home with some skills to replicate (or at least try) some of the amazing dishes you had while on vacation.
  • End your night with a perfectly made cocktail in a chic and trendy atmosphere at Hotel Russie’s Stravinskij Bar. They have a lovely hidden garden in the center of Rome and one of the cities most extraordinary cocktail lists.

Now that you've read Day 3, make sure you read Day 1 and Day 2 to get an idea of how you can make the most out of your time and have a good starting point for creating a Rome itinerary for 3 days. In addition, check out my post on where to stay in Rome for a great boutique hotel option in the heart of the city.

This concludes my overview of what I hope looks like an amazing Rome 3 day itinerary map for you to consider. Now, here is where the tough decision making comes. Do you stay longer to see and experience more of the eternal city? Do you head on to another part of Italy and continue your exploration of this beautiful country? Or do you set your sights on a different part of Europe and make this trip a multi-country exploration? Wherever your wanderlust is leading you, I hope you let Milk and Honey Travels help get you there!

To download an easy to follow PDF snapshot of the whole 3 Day Rome Itinerary, click here.

If you are interested in planning a vacation to Italy, it is one of my favorite destinations to create tailor-made itineraries for. Let's chat about what a perfect trip to Italy looks like for you.

Rome daily itinerary: Day 2

Last week I blogged about how most visits to Italy include a stopover in the capital, and how you should allocate a full 3 days minimum in order to experience the city. This blog series will share a detailed Rome itinerary for 3 days, and all the attractions you should make sure are part of your travels. To read more in depth about my Rome Day 1 itinerary, make sure to read my blog about travel tips for visiting the historic sites in Rome.

This post is for Day 2 in Rome, and will provide you with a Vatican City itinerary, and the attractions and activities I believe are not to be missed, especially if this is your first time to the eternal city.

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Day 2: The Spiritual

Vatican City is an independent city-state surrounded by Rome, and is the ecclesiastical home of Roman Catholicism. The main sites here are the Vatican grounds and Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Peter’s Square.

  • Consider visiting the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel first, either first thing in the morning, or early afternoon when the morning crowds have died down a bit. Make a reservation on the Vatican Museum’s website beforehand. 
    • If you are mainly interested in looking at the artwork, a tour isn’t really necessary. If you are fascinated by the history and learning more about the artwork, consider a tour. On an individual tour, the guide can show you parts of the museum not normally visited by the standard tours. Consider an exclusive, private visit to the Sistine Chapel for a truly unique and emotional experience. This type of tour must be reserved far in advanced, but is worthwhile.
    • The Sistine Chapel is certainly one of the world’s greatest masterpieces, and Michelangelo outdid himself with the painting of the ceiling that will take your breath away and render you speechless…which is a good thing because noise in here is frowned upon.
  • Lunch Break. All the walking around and effort it takes to gaze at past priceless splendors is enough to build up quite the appetite. Consider a quick lunch in the Piatti neighborhood before heading on over to St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • The first building you will see from Bernini’s colonnaded St. Peter’s square is the largest church in the world: St. Peter’s Basilica. Highlights inside include many works by Bernini, Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the oldest statue of St. Peter in existence.
  • Next, make your way to Michelangelo’s other masterpiece, St. Peter’s dome. When you find your way to the top, you are greeted with a breathtaking panorama of Rome, and if you time it right, the sun beginning to set over the eternal city and covering it in a rose-gold light. 
  • For dinner, chose an establishment simply known for their good food and where you can dine alongside the locals, such as Da Enzo. Here, the superstar will be the food and your meal will certainly be memorable. During the summer months, make sure to have a reservation, as it is a very small restaurant. 
  • After dinner, take the short stroll to the Spanish Steps, which will provide the perfect people-watching perch.

ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR VISITING ROME:

Where to stay: See my post on a great boutique hotel in Rome here.

Where to go next: Consider a Rome and Amalfi Coast itinerary and this beautiful resort I highlighted here.

To put this Vatican city itinerary together with another detailed itinerary for visiting the Roman historical sites, click here.

If you like these Rome daily itineraries, check back next week for Day 3!

Rome daily itinerary: Day 1

Italy is one of my favorite countries. It has all the right ingredients for everything I love about travel. The culture. The history. The food. The shopping. The beauty. The scenery. The romance. But above all, Italians have an appreciation for life that I envy and want more of. This is why a meal in Italy takes at minimum 3 hours if you are doing it right. You cannot truly appreciate a meal with loved ones in 45 minutes, and if you are eating in Italy, it would be crazy of you to try.

For many visitors to Italy, Rome will certainly be part of the plan. When you have a multi-destination itinerary, people always wonder how much time should be allotted in each place, and whether or not they deserve a stay or can be done in a day trip. What I will say about Rome is… It wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect to see it in one. If possible, I would suggest at least 3 full days in the city to ensure you get some quality time to see and do a variety of things and not feel too rushed. In a 3 day itinerary I have put together for clients in the past, we dedicated one full day to exploring the historic center, but you could easily stretch this out to a week if this is where your interests lie and ancient monuments are something you are passionate about.  

There is something for everyone in what is known as the eternal city, and any list you come across should simply be thought of as a guideline, and further tailored to fit your individual tastes.  I’m the type of person that runs through a famous museum so I can cross it off my list (and checkin on Facebook) and then would be blissfully happy sitting at an outdoor cafe and people watching the rest of the afternoon.  So, more than anything I always encourage people to pay special attention to what kind of experience they are looking to have no matter what the destination or what any fancy guidebook tells you. 

So, what would my own 3 days in Rome look like? Let’s start with Day 1, where for me it makes sense to start with the history. View this as a bit of insight into how I work and create itineraries, and use it to inspire your own wanderlust. 

Day 1: The History

The historic heart of the city, called Centro Storico, includes the Michelangelo-designed Campidoglio, the Pantheon, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, as well as the nearby Colosseum and Baths of Caracalla.  

  • My suggestion would be to start your day visiting the Colosseum and the Forum. (tip: make sure you buy the Roma Pass).  A tour of the Colosseum allows you to learn about the construction and history of one of the most famed structures of all time. It also allows you to imagine yourself as a Gladiator. (bonus points if your significant other resembles Russell Crowe)
  • Next up is the Forum, where you will tour what was ancient Rome’s showpiece centre. So much history was shaped here, and unless you are a total history buff, I would recommend a guided tour or at least an audio tour to properly put things in perspective.
  • You most certainly have worked up an appetite by now, so if you’re up for something special, have lunch at Aroma restaurant, set in a magical rooftop garden setting, with stunning views of the Colosseum. 
  • Finish your history day with a tour of the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of Pagan Rome. It is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. 
  • After a nap (when in Rome…), make your way down to Trastevere. The former ghetto is chalk full of various restaurants and bars sure to please every budget and taste, with plenty of choices for entertainment afterwards.

Additional tips for Rome:

Where to stay: See my post on a great boutique hotel in Rome here.

Where to go next: Consider the Amalfi Coast and this beautiful resort I highlighted here.

Interested in the next 2 days of my Rome Itinerary? Check back next week and I will also include the 3 day Itinerary for you to download!