La Dolce Vita: Italy

Overview: 

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’ve put together various versions of the following itinerary for first-time visitors to Italy, because I believe it does a fantastic job of visiting some of Italy’s favorite cities in a logical, easily followed itinerary that allows for you to travel by train. This gives you two full weeks to experience romanticism and beautiful spirit of Venice, the quaintness and beauty by the sea in Cinque Terre, the essence of Tuscany and incomparable charm with a stay in Florence, and the energy of the Eternal City with a visit to Rome.

This is just the beginning of what I am sure will be many, many visits to the beloved Italia.

Day: 1 Venice

Upon arrival in Venice, you will be met at baggage claim and privately transported to the hotel.

Enjoy a leisurely afternoon and evening in Venice. If I could share with you one thing I think you need to do while visiting Venice, it would be this: 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.

Day 2: Venice 

On the agenda:

Today, enjoy a private morning tour of Venice including the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's square. 

Next, you’ll set out on the Venetian lagoon and see some of the most colourful islands in Italy! This is a chance to get away from the crowds and experience authentic Venice. On this tour, you will sail to Murano to see how the beautiful coloured glass is made, then on to the pretty islands of Burano and Torcello.  After sailing past the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Public Gardens, the tip of Sant'Elena and the famous Lido beach resort, the boat arrives in Murano, known throughout the world for its glass manufacturing industry. 

The second stop of the tour is at the picturesque island of Burano, famous not only for its lace but also for the fishermen's houses painted in bright colours. Then after a short cruise, we reach Torcello, the earliest centre of civilization in the estuary. Only the Cathedral with its magnificent mosaics and the church of Santa Fosca remain as testimony of its former glory.

Day 3: Venice

On the agenda:

In the afternoon, embark on a delicious adventure that stops off at Bacari wine bars and samples their famous cicchetti dishes. Time to get your foodie game face on with some Venice cicchetti! The tour then comes to an end on the steps of the Rialto Bridge, where you can head back to one of your new favourite bars, or your local guide will be happy to point you in the direction of your accommodation. 

Tonight, even though it’s the most touristy thing you could ever do in Venice, you’ll take a private gondola ride and be serenaded as you float down the canals. Everyone needs this experience at least once in their lives. 

Day 4: Cinque Terre

On the agenda:

You will be escorted to the train station for your journey towards the Italian Riviera to enjoy your stay in the Cinque Terre.

Once you’ve arrived and settled into your charming boutique hotel, head to Vernazza to take in an Italian apertivo at Nessun Dorma, a cliffside bar with a stunning sunset view.

Day 5: Cinque Terre

On the agenda: 

Today, head down to the village of your choice and catch the morning action. It’s a great time to sip a morning coffee and watch the village come alive.

Next up, pick your beach. The beach in Monterosso is the only extensive sandy beach in the Cinque Terre, so visit this one if that is what you are looking for, here are some of other beach recommendations.    

To find Riomaggiore’s beach, go down to the marina (take the steps you’ll find on the left at the bottom of Via Colombo). When you reach the marina take the stairs to the left all the way around past the ferry dock. Just past there, you’ll find a beach. The beach is rocky, not sandy. At first, the rocks look uncomfortable, but you can arrange them to create a nice little nest.

Another swimming spot is in Manarola. You can cliff jump, or just join the Italians who set up camp on the boat launch. If you keep walking north along the walking path jutting out to the point, you’ll be rewarded with village views fit for a postcard. 

For dinner, stay in Manarola and eat at Da Billy. It’s delicious seafood with a view that is to die for.

Day 6: Cinque Terre 

On the agenda:

Cinque Terre is famous for its walking paths. Hiking the Cinque Terre trails is a wonderful thing to do, and there are trails weaving all over the region. Some are paid trails (a day pass costs 7.50), and some are not.

If you just want a taste of the trails, I would suggest the section from Monterosso to Vernazza.Take the train to the village of Monterosso, and then hike the trail to the next village of Vernazza.Spend your hike afterglow in the village of Vernazza. It’s a lovely place to spend the afternoon.

For dinner, eat at one of the best restaurants in Vernazza, Ristorante Belforte. You’ll find it down at the marina. If they have a spot on the lower balcony, take it. If not, there’s a higher one too.

Day 7: Florence 

On the agenda:

Today you’ll head to the train station for your train to Florence.  There will be a reception at train station before being escorted to your hotel.

Make your way to Piazalle Michelangelo to catch the sunset at the most beautiful overlook in the icty.

Day 8: Florence 

On the agenda:

Start the day with your small group tour of the historic center of Florence, including skip the line reservations to the Accademia to view Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

In the afternoon learn how to make two of Italy’s glorious creations, Pizza and Gelato! The professional pizza chef will guide you to making the best pizza you’ve ever tasted.

Day 9 : Florence

On the agenda:

Today you’ll head out on a private wine tour by a an amazing local Italian passionate about wine and all things Tuscany. You’ll experience the very best vino of the region, as well as taking time to appreciate the stunning Tuscan landscape. It’s a scenic safari away from the crowds of the city, with plenty of stops to take your most beautiful photos. The estates you’ll visit have been personally selected to give you a range of experiences, from a medium sized family estate, to a top winery to taste award winning Chianti Classico, Chianti Reserve, and Super Tuscan. Lunch will be on your own at a fantastic small village, and the day will also include tasting of some genuine olive oil.

Day 10 : Florence

Today you’ll be picked up at your hotel and escorted to the train station for your first class train to Rome.  There will be a reception at train station before being escorted to your hotel.

Day 11 :Rome

On the agenda:

Experience Ancient Rome- Your tour will start from the Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. From here you will admire the views of the Roman Forum and Nero’s Circus Maximus where chariot races were once held. You will then continue towards the main landmark of Ancient Rome. Your driver will drop you off almost in front of the Arch of Constantine. With your skip the line tickets you will enter the Colosseum, one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and the largest amphitheater built in the Roman Empire. Learn more about the past of the amphitheater as you walk inside it while listening to tales of gladiators, mock sea- battles and executions. Your tour continues inside the Roman Forum, the marketplace of Rome, considered the central area of political and social life around which the ancient roman civilization developed. 

Day 12: Rome

On the agenda

In the morning, meet up with a professional and local Roman guide to show you the important details of the masterpieces housed here. You’ll learn about the treasures of the Vatican with a local English speaking guide who can bring to life the incredible history of the smallest independent sovereign state in the world. This guided tour includes the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of St. Peter the Vatican Museums. VIP skip the line tickets are included with the tour.

By now you’ve worked up a real appetite. Spend the afternoon and early evening on a food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome and experience Rome like a local in one of the most unique areas and the original foodie neighborhood of Rome.

Day 13: Rome

On the agenda:

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. This is the perfect place to grab lunch, have a drink, and do some first-class people watching. 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. considered Rome’s most beautiful square. The large and lively square features three magnificent fountains. You've now concluded your stroll through what is considered the very heart of Rome. 

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.

Day 14 Rome

Today your la dolce vita experience comes to an end. But all that means is it is time to start dreaming of your next return!

Adventure of a Lifetime: COSTA RICA

Overview: Costa Rica is an adventure lover’s perfect playground. There is so much to do, see, and experience here, that your vacation will delight your senses in every way possible. Your twelve day adventure gives you the opportunity to visit the three different ecological regions that Costa Rica is famous for—the rainforest, cloud forest, and beautiful beaches -- and spend enough time in each to truly appreciate the area. Here is the place you will discover what it means to live pura vida. Let’s take a look at the highlights.

Costa_Rica_Camille_Stallings_01.jpg

Day One

Arrive into San Jose Airport and be met by your private driver who will whisk you away to your first stop in Costa Rica, near Arenal Volcano. 

Where you’ll stay: Nayara Springs Resort gets my vote as one of my favorite hotels ever. It’s the perfect blend of luxury, while staying true to it’s surroundings. Your villa features it's own private plunge pool surrounded by nature.

Photo courtesy of CNN

Photo courtesy of CNN

Day Two

On the agenda

Today you’ll experience the rainforest in a unique and exciting way by going on a canyoning adventure outside of La Fortuna.  You’ll be picked up from your hotel, and head out to jump down 200 foot waterfalls and tall cliffs deep into the rainforest.  You’ll be doing a fair share of hiking during this adventure, and your outing will include a typical Costa Rican lunch.

Day Three

On the agenda: Start the day off with a little relaxation as you enjoy the grounds of the beautiful resort. Start your day with a complimentary yoga class offered at the resort, before enjoying a lazy morning by the pool. In the afternoon you’ll experience the sights, sounds, and scents of the rainforest during your massage in an outdoor spa bungalow.

Day Four

On the agenda

See some different views of the volcano by viewing it from an ATV. The ATV tour gives you unique views of the volcano in a fun and adventurous ride. The trail will lead you through pastureland and arrives at Los Lagos de los Lirios, the only lake in the area that contains sulfur residues from the volcano. You will pass through a tropical humid forest and enjoy the area’s flora and fauna.

This evening you’ll head out to take part in a cooking class with a local chef. While learning tropical grilling and tropical cocktail recipes, you’ll enjoy amazing views of Volcano Arenal in a "pura vida" atmosphere while preparing and tasting your newest culinary creations & sipping Costa Rican cocktails.

Day Five

On the agenda

Today’s adventure involves horseback riding to La Fortuna waterfall, Your horse and guide will take you through rolling hills, pastures and the rainforest surrounding the Arenal Volcano, to the waterfall trailhead. Once you arrive, you’ll hike down to the bottom of the canyon and have the opportunity to swim in the cool waters and relax for a bit. You’ll need that energy because all those steps you took down, now need to be climbed back up!

Day Six

On the agenda

Your transfer from Arenal to Monteverde is an adventure in itself! It involves a combination of driving, boating and horseback riding, and provides you with a pleasant mixture of road, water and land. This is the most exciting and picturesque way to make the trip. Your luggage will be shuttled along and will meet back up with you in Monteverde.

Arrival in Monteverde

Where you’ll stay: Hidden Canopy Treehouse is a small boutique hotel of just seven rooms, that provides you with a bit of luxury in a treehouse with a view on the edge of the Costa Rican cloud forest.

Day Seven

On the agenda: The Cloud Forest in Monteverde offers one of the most unique climates in the world. Today you will take a (very) small group tour after breakfast to view mammals, birds and learn about the local ecology. Common sightings include the Resplendent Quetzal, Emerald Toucanette and Bell Bird. It's not all about the birds though as sloths, and the occasional monkey roam these forests as well.  

Day Eight

On the agenda

Today you will be getting up close and personal with the cloud forest,  and adding in some adrenaline. The canopy tours in the Monteverde cloud forest are the best in Costa Rica. You’ll enjoy the very best zip line tour that includes the tarzan swing, rappel, and hollow tree climb.

Sunset from this vantage point is outstanding. Enjoy afternoon 'Sunset Tea' (Happy Hour) on the main house balcony to take in the finest sunset views.

Day Nine

On the agenda

Today experience the dramatic descent from the cool cloud forest highlands towards the warmer Pacific coast in your private transfer. Your headed to the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica, to enjoy a unique luxury beach resort and an engaging destination.

Where you’ll stay: Hotel Punta Islita. This secluded property interweaves spectacular beach scenery, wild tropical forest, and colorful communities. The resort offers a complimentary collection of experiences for an active and engaging stay.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Punta Islita

Photo courtesy of Hotel Punta Islita

Day Ten

On the agenda

The resort offers a complimentary collection of experiences for an active and engaging stay. Choose from a wide variety of activities based on what you feel inspired to do.

In the evening, make sure you experience sunset horseback riding, and explore the rugged coastal landscapes by riding along the beach and up the mountains for scenic views as the day comes to an end.

Day Eleven

On the agenda

Choose to relax all day at the beach, choose more of the activities offered by the resort that look interesting, or head off the property for an exciting kayak adventure.  .

Day Twelve

Your adventure of a lifetime is coming to an end. Your private transfer will arrive to take you back to the airport for your flight home.

Romantic Rendezvous: BORA BORA

Overview: A visit to French Polynesia is about as close as it gets to experiencing paradise. Enjoy 7 beautiful sun-soaked days as you quickly slip into a slower-paced way of life and spend your days enjoying the turquoise waters and top of the line luxury accommodations in your own overwater bungalow. Bora Bora is considered one of the most the most romantic islands in the world. From the dramatic scenery to the privacy and amenities of the overwater bungalows, everything here equals a 10 on the romance scale.

 

Day One

Arrive in Bora Bora. You’ll be greeted at the airport with a flower lei and whisked off to your 5 star accommodations to begin your stay in paradise.

On the agenda

Enjoy your overwater bungalow. One of the biggest perks of a romantic stay in French Polynesia is the opportunity to stay in a traditional thatched-roof bungalow perched above the turquoise lagoon waters. Marvel while tropical fish swim below as you look through the glass floor or coffee table. Your bungalow features a private balcony with stairs to the warm water below creating the perfect place to relax in the sun, jump into the warm water, or enjoy the sunset views. Surrounded only by water and sky, you can enjoy both breakfast (which will be delivered by canoe) and the sunset (seemingly delivered by the heavens).

photo courtesy of tahiti.com

photo courtesy of tahiti.com

Day Two

On the agenda

Explore the island: Today you’ll head out for a bit of an adventure, and see some of the most amazing panoramic sights of the island. With a local islander as your guide, you’ll learn about the history and culture of their homeland. Your 4 x 4 safari will take you along hidden roads into the valleys and up to waterfalls. With lush vegetation all around you, and views of Mount Otemanu, you’ll quickly discover why Bora Bora is called the pearl of the Pacific.

This evening you are in for a treat! Enjoy a gourmet dinner with wine pairing at the incredibly intimate La Villa Mahana in Bora Bora. This quaint little establishment serves only six couples per night, creating the perfect ambiance for a quiet and romantic evening. The restaurant is tucked inside a Mediterranean-style house with beautiful Polynesian artwork. Their five-course Epicurean Menu features classic French cuisine prepared with fresh Polynesian flavors 

Day Three

On the agenda

Today is all about relaxation. Enjoy spa treatments for two at the world-class spa located at your resort. Surrounded by a backdrop of natural beauty and floral fragrances, there is no better setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. Enjoy herbal rain showers, body wraps in banana tree leaves, or fresh-flower baths.

Day Four 

On the agenda

The beauty of Bora Bora is that it is the perfect place to do everything or nothing at all. But since you are here to relax, today you might choose to spend most of the day doing the latter. Watching the clouds in the sky sounds like just the right amount of action.

This evening, enjoy the exquisite sunset aboard a private catamaran including four-course dinner and the sounds and emotions of live Polynesian music and dancers.

Day Five 

On the agenda

Enjoy a private picnic on your own motu (tiny islet in the lagoon.) Your gourmet meals will be prepared for you and enjoyed on a table set either under a coconut tree or in the warm, shallow waters along the beach. You choose!

Day Six 

On the agenda

Go underwater today. Jump into the lagoons for world-class snorkeling in the crystal clear lagoons, share a diving adventure among the infinite marine life, or join in a shark and ray feeding expedition.

This evening, celebrate your adventures at the famous local restaurant Bloody Mary's. 

Day Seven 

On the agenda

It’s your last day in paradise and you have the option to spend the day in whatever way you believe is going to bring this perfect experience to a beautiful close. I might opt for more cloud staring, but if you have a desire to be adventurous and active, go for it!

Day Eight

Enjoy the last few hours of relaxation at the resort before departure..

Argentina Itinerary

OVERVIEW: 

A 2 week adventure in Argentina and the astonishing Patagonia. Soak in the energy of Buenos Aires, explore the Lake District, and marvel at Perito Moreno Glacier during your stay in El Calafate.

Basic Itinerary:

Day 1:Arrival in Buenos Aires

-Morning arrival in Buenos Aires and private transfer to your hotel. 

-explore the city in the afternoon with a private guided city tour. Visit the most famous districts of Buenos Aires, discovering the history and modern life of this world renowned city. 

Day 2: Estancia La Candelaria

-Full day group tour of fiesta gaucha la candelaria with lunch included.

Highlight: unique experience to Estancia La Candelaria, that cherishes a part of the Argentinean history and tradition. You will horse ride and also ride traditional sulkies, admiring the immensity of the Pampas, visit the castle, and surprise yourself with the traditional dance and gaucho skills show in a creole skills exhibition. 

Day 3: Day of Leisure and Tango Show

-Spend the day exploring Buenos Aires. Consider a biking adventure around the city.

-Enjoy an unforgettable tango show performed by the best dancers and singers, while enjoying a delicious meal and a glass of wine. 

Day 4: Day trip to Uruguay

-Spend the day in Colonia, Uruguay. Transfer to dock and board the fast ferry, sailing the Rio de la Plata and arriving in Colonia around 1 hour after departure. 

 Day 5: Travel to Calafate

-Private transfer from hotel to airport to take a domestic flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. There will be reception at the airport and private transfer to your hotel.

-Visit to the Glaciarium museum, the first interpretation center about the glaciers and it's environment located on the banks of Argentina Lake, close to Calafate. 

Day 6: Perito Moreno Glacier

-Full day group tour to visit Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, a must for any trip to Argentina.

Highlight: Your exclusive glacier excursion will allow you to devote all the time you want to explore this incredible place. You will leave El Calafate and after an 80km drive will arrive at the eastern side of Magallanes Peninsula, where there are excellent vantage points. You will then walk along the tracks, with many photo opportunities along the way, where you will clearly see huge ice blocks detach from the glacier and fall into the water, causing a tremendous sound and amazing waves. A truly magnificent sight. 

Day 7: Estancia Cristina Classic

-Sail to the western front of the Upsala Glacier, then cruise along Cristina Channel to Estancia Christina. Disembark at the historic estancia, and learn the history of the sheep and cattle ranch on a visit to the museum and old shearing shed. After lunch, you will do a two-hour trek to the Los Perros waterfall, through beautiful forest offering amazing views of Caterina River and the estancia below. 

Day 8: Day of Leisure

Day 9: Travel to Bariloche

-Private transfer from hotel to airport to take a domestic flight from El Calafate to Bariloche. There will be a reception at airport and private transfer to your hotel.

Day 10: Blest

-Full day sailing tour 

Highlight: Departure to Puerto Panuelo to embark on a group tour and sail up to Puerto Cantaros at Lake Nahuel Huapi's west extreme. Upon arrival, you will hike up to Cantaros Lake walking through a beautiful Valdivian forest, seeing the different Cantaros Cascade waterfalls. You will then embark again to cross Blest arm and descend at Puerto Blest, where we will have time for lunch (not included) and visit the National Park Interpretation Center. 

Day 11: Day of Leisure

Day 12: Explore Bariloche and Circuito Chico

-Enjoy your private half day tour of Circuito Chico, including some of the most beautiful views of the region from some of the best vantage points. Explore the Llao Llao area and surrounding lakes. 

Day 13: Travel to Buenos Aires

-Private transfer from hotel to airport for your domestic flight from Bariloche to Buenos Aires. There will be a reception at the airport and private transfer to your hotel.

Day 14: Depart for Home