Get Inspired

Friday 5: Italian Honeymoon Destinations* (Round 1)

When we first started looking at honeymoon destinations, Italy was at the top of my list. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there and S has never been. When I landed in Rome for the first time while on a trip with some friends during my senior year in high school, it was the first time that I felt immediately comfortable in a place. I have a special place in my heart for Italy and I wanted to show him how incredible it is. 

Italy, in my opinion, has it all when it comes to honeymoons. Romance. Great food. Great wine. Lots to see and do. Beautiful beaches. History everywhere. Cosmopolitan luxury, if you want it. Rustic countryside, if you want it. I’m not sure about you, but I couldn’t ask for much more. 

Today’s Friday 5 is a look at some of our top contenders for Italian trips. 

1. Le Marche

If you’re looking for a quiet destination that gives you some of the rolling landscapes of Tuscany but also seaside options along the Adriatic, check out Le Marche. Urbino, a Renaissance hilltown, is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site. Monti Sibilli, which serves as a border between Le Marche and Umbria, offers the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini for hiking, walking trails, wildlife and pretty views. We looked into doing a few days in Florence and then heading to Le Marche to get away from the crowds.

Where we did consider staying: La Corte del Gusto near Arcevia (about 1:20 drive from Urbino), a collection of beautifully renovated farmhouse apartments with panoramic views of the Marche countryside.

2. Puglia

Located in the heel of Italy, Puglia (or Apulia) is a coastal region is known for dramatic seaside cliffs overlooking the turquoise waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Hot sun and white buildings set against blue sky and sea. Cliffs and caves. Unique architecture (check out the round truly), ancient ruins, and deeply rooted history. Old olive groves and rich rolling farmland make it famous for its food. (video link for email subscribers)

Where I would consider staying: Trullo Isabella near Martina Franca (That bbq! That private pool! That patio!) and I would make it my business to eat at Grotta Palazzese , a cave restaurant overlooking the sea that I've been dreaming about for years. 

3. Venice

There are few places with the allure of Venice. It’s somewhere we often hear so much about that we feel we know it before we ever visit. Uniquely romantic and sometimes mysterious with its rich architecture and meandering canals and passages. Venice is best when you get away from the crowds and allow yourself to get lost. Although it’s extremly touristy in areas, exploring the city beyond St. Marks and the Rialto would be a beautiful honeymoon (or part of a honeymoon). My one tip is to take the water taxi to and from the airport for an exhilerating ride into and out of the city.

Where I would consider staying: For an all-out Venetian luxury experience, I would probably go for the Ca'Sagredo, a 15th-century palace turned hotel on the Grand Canal for a few days. 

By Internt Consulting (originally posted to Flickr as - St. Kassian) [ CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

By Internt Consulting (originally posted to Flickr as - St. Kassian) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Dolomites

A stunning mountain region for a couple who loves alpine villages, rich and hearty food (Speck! Italian apple strudel! Polenta!) and craggy mountain landscapes mixed with lush valleys. Perfect for a week of hiking and exploring in the summer or skiing in the winter. 

Where I would consider staying: Hotel Rosa Alpina, located in San Cassiano in Badia. It has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Restaurant St. Hubertus, and a beautiful spa to treat any achy muscles after a day of hiking. Or the Villa Berghofer in Radein, between Bolzano and Trento. It has incredible mountain views from each of the rooms' balconies (really, go look!) and a cozy Tyrollean style.

5. Lake Como

Take your pick: Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, or go further afield to one of the other small towns. Stunning lakeside views of the green mountains plunging toward the water. Easy access to the surrounding towns for daytrips to sightsee, shop, and eat at myriad restaurants. Besides, if Bellagio and Lake Como is good enough for George Clooney, it’s probably good enough for most of us. 

Where I would consider staying: This pretty attic apartment in Menaggio with a beautiful terrace that looks over the lake.  

That's it for this week! While it started as a list of honeymoon spots, I fully believe that they are also "anytime" spots. I plan to keep updating these lists as I discover new places to go or stay in. I'm also going to branch out to different regions and countries over time.

Do you have any favourite places in Italy or have been to any of the ones I listed so far? Anything you think I missed? Let me know!   

Happy weekend! 

* not just for honeymoons, though!

Your vacation is not a to-do list

Travellers are really lucky these days. There's an abundance of information out there for just about every corner of the earth, big and small. Going to Paris? I can guarantee that you could spend all day (at least) looking at top 10 lists, blog posts, books and apps detailing "local secret finds" or "must-sees" sites, bakeries, restaurants, shops, etc. 

View from Château de Beynac in Beynac-et-Cazenac, France

I don't know about you, but I love to plan and sometimes it's just plain overwhelming even for me. By the time the trip comes, I've seen so many pretty pinterest-worthy pictures and have read so much advice, that I'm raring to go. I have lists of sites and restaurants lovingly organized, printed out, and starred for importance. I have grand plans of how the days could be spent. It's always going to be the best vacation ever.

Then, when I arrive, 90% of all of that goes out the window because vacations are not to-do lists. 

I've always said that half of the fun with travel is the planning process. It's the dreaming stage. Everything and anything is possible. You get to read enticing articles, look at endless pictures of beautiful vistas, and live vicariously through trip reports.  By all means, savor that time. Dream big. Get inspired. Nail down all of the big, important stuff on your itinerary like transportation and lodging.

But when you arrive, be flexible. Your trip will never be exactly the same as the ones that inspired you in the planning phase. That's what adventure is all about. Plan what you must and then be open to the rest.

When we went to London last year, I had no idea that one of my favorite moments would be having a picnic in a park near Parliament eating cheap, pre-made sandwiches from a tiny Tesco across from Big Ben. Tesco was definitely not on my restaurant list! 

A perfect picnic spot in London

Sometimes the best travel moments, the ones that leave you with indelible memories, are entirely unplanned. They don't have to live up to any preplanned expectation. They happen naturally. 

I'm not saying that you shouldn't plan for anything. My advice is to book the stuff that's important to you first. If doing the Scavi Tour of the ruins underneath the Vatican is incredibly important to you, for example, book that early! 

Then, go ahead and make that big, long, fantastical to-do list. Take it with you. Use it for inspiration and as a rough guide when you want to, but don't feel beholden to it. You won't win a prize for seeing the most sites.

A drive through the Tuscan countryside

Ultimately, your vacation is your vacation. It's a collection of moments that are yours to make. It's about finally having the opportunity to be present and enjoy a place you've been wanting to explore. So go ahead, cancel your plans to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower if you're not feeling it when you get there and the line looks like it's a billion people long. Your vacation is not a to-do list.

Getting Inspired

I sat down to my computer this morning and took a moment to look back at the last month. It was a big, shiny, happy, and full month.

I finally had some time to sit down and really tackle the Versailles guide with extra tenacity. That means the second rough draft is done and I've sent it off to some test readers! I'm pretty excited that the light is at the end of the tunnel now. I want to get this out into the world and share a new way to take a tour.

I also finished my first post for the "Get Inspired" section of the website. It's all about the charming Côte d'Azur town of Villefranche-sur-Mer. There are pictures, restaurant reviews, recommendations for things to do, where to stay, and how to get there--the things that hopefully spark your imagination and get you fired up maybe taking a trip (there or anywhere). We're swinging into the height of travel season, after-all!

This is just the beginning for the Get Inspired section. I have more towns, villages, and cities--most of them in France and Italy--already planned so stay tuned! 

And finally, my personal life got a bit more exciting. I got engaged in May and we've jumped into wedding planning with joy and gusto and, well, sticker shock! What that also means is that I've started daydreaming about honeymoon destinations. Italy? France? Spain? The Galapagos? Costa Rica? Iceland? There are so many incredible places we could go. So we're dreaming big dreams right now and planning some amazing long and short term adventures. 

So here's to a summer of adventure, yours and mine!