Italy


VENICE 


Comprised of several little islands connected by over 400 bridges, Venice is a city boasting romantic piazzas, 17th century palaces and over 150 gondola-dotted canals. It is truly one-of-a-kind — completely built on the water with no cars in sight. Below you’ll find my favorite things to do, eat and see in this magical city.

STAY

A&O Venice Maestre  Sitting just outside of the historical city center, A&O Hotel‘s newest property is conveniently located right by one of Venice’s main train stations (and is an easy 20min train to the heart of the city). Guests can choose between different levels of rooms (private, shared, etc.) and the modern, clean design is consistent across all levels. I love staying with A&O because it’s a way to travel affordably and stay in a nice place without making too many sacrifices (as you would in a youth hostel). They always have complimentary wifi, breakfast in the mornings and there is always a lobby bar serving up cocktails and coffee. The multi-bed rooms make it super convenient when taking a group trip and there is always a friendly crowd of travelers mingling downstairs. Venice especially is quite an expensive city, so A&O was a great choice to have a weekend trip without breaking the bank!

EAT

Enjoying an evening spritz & live music at Ristorante Quadri

Cantina Do Mori Head to this tiny, standing room only bar for an amazing wine selection and Venice’s answer to tapas — cicchetti. It’ll be worth it, since the establishment has been serving up customers since the late 1400’s, they’ve pretty much got it down to a science by this point. ;)

Ristorante Quadri  Ok, you miiiight not want to have a full meal here, since the Michelin starred restaurant is quite pricey. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab your morning cappuccino or evening Venetian Spritz. Fun fact: Venice is the birthplace of the popular summer cocktail Aperol Spritz, but in the city you’ll just see it on menus as “The Spritz” or “Venetian Spritz”. On a summer evening, sitting outside Quadri and listening to the live quartet play amidst the twinkling lights of Piazza San Marco is worth the pricey cocktail.

Another option for a pricey cocktail with an incredible rooftop view: La Terrazza at The Danieli Hotel.

Rossopomodoro  Head to this popular pizza joint located just off Piazza San Marco for some of the most amazing Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had. It may be a chain with other locations across Europe….but the pizza (and it’s very affordable price!) makes it a worthy lunch option.

VIEWS

Classic sunset views on the Ponte dell’Accademia

Ponte dell’Accademia  Unlike the popular and picturesque Rialto Bridge or Bridge of Sighs, The Ponte dell’Accademia is unassuming in itself. However, as one of only 4 bridges to span The Grand Canal, the magic of visiting at sunset is obvious in the unobstructed view of the canal opening into the lagoon.

Piazza San Marco  This grand central square is the heart of the city and has an array of important, historical sights. Climb the campanile (bell tower) for spectacular sea and city panoramic views, marvel at Doge’s Palace or wander inside the grand Basilica (cathedral). I’d recommend getting there early (sunrise walk, anyone?) to avoid the hoards of crowds that hit the square by mid-morning.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi  Located just next to the oldest bridge in Venice, the Rialto Bridge, this historical building now houses a luxury shopping mall and cocktail bar. The real gem, however is the free access to their rooftop terrace, with sweeping canal views as beautiful as the Fendi bag on the second floor. ;)

Check out some of my favorite Venice snaps below:

 


CINQUE TERRE 


The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. “The Five Lands” comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

STAY

Sunset from our balcony at Hotel Porto Roca

Sunset from the balcony at Hotel Porto Roca

LA BAIA DI RIO  Nestled high into the hills of Riomaggiore, this small hotel boasts incredible city and ocean views. It offers an array of rooms and is managed by very friendly locals who are ready to lend a hand whether it be with your baggage or dinner reservations. 

HOTEL PORTO ROCA  Located on top of a tall hill in Monterosso (warning: it’s a bit of a steep incline if you don’t ride by car), the recently refurbished rooms are very modern for Cinque Terre standards. The pool is breathtaking and the sweeping views of the ocean will leave you breathless. Monterosso is also known for having the most restaurants and biggest sand beaches, as well as the central train station, making it a great home base out of the 5 villages.

MARIA CAPELLINI ROOMS  Located on the main square/harbor of Vernazza and right by the water, you won’t miss a beat! Many say Vernazza is the most picturesque of the five villages, and after arriving to it at sunset via the hiking path from Monterosso, we have to agree!

EAT

Pesto pasta at Ristorante Gambero Rosso in Vernazza

Pesto pasta at Ristorante Gambero Rosso in Vernazza

RISTORANTE GAMBERO ROSSO  Incredible seafood and pasta located right by the Vernazza harbor. After a long day of exploring, a glass of their house white wine paired with pasta or fish by candlelight is just the ticket. The pesto pasta is required, since Cinque Terre is where pesto originated!

RISTORANTE MIKY  This tiny, more upscale seafood spot on the new town side of Monterosso might have a long wait, but once the massive seafood platter is delivered to your table, you won’t regret it (we meant it, everything under the sea is included)!

VERTICAL BAR RIOMAGGIORE  Italian pub and bistro with quick service and live music. Try the espresso martini if you’re feeling adventurous. Seat yourself anytime!

VIEWS

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The trail from Monterosso to Vernazza

THE “LOVER’S WALK” is the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola and is among the easiest of the hiking trails. You can even walk a little out from either town and feel like you’re standing over the sea. We recommend going at sunset for the ultimate romantic experience.

THE ROCKS AT THE BASE OF RIOMAGGIORE These big boulders are easy to climb on, sit on, bask in the sun on, whatever you want! We love the vantage point from the rocks looking back up on the tiny colorful village of Riomaggiore. Grab lunch to-go and eat it here!

TRAIL FROM MONTEROSSO TO VERNAZZA  At a normal pace, this trail took us about 3 hours to complete. While not overly strenuous (we took our cameras on the hike), there were a few steep inclines that left us panting! It is absolutely worth it though when you round the massive sea-side hills to see the bright oasis that is Vernazza. Dotted with cherry blossoms and periwinkle succulents, this trail is beyond dream-like.