It’s been two years and a kid later, but I still receive questions about our honeymoon.
I field personal emails and Facebook messages constantly about Italy and how we decide on when and where to go. I always encourage people to visit hyper-touristy locations, such as Venice, during the off season, where the atmosphere is decidedly less chaotic and far more interesting.
In this instance, we were including a jaunt to the Amalfi Coast, so we settled on mid April to mid May for this trip. Coastal locations greatly limit your window of opportunity for travel.
This is a great itinerary for someone to consider who has never been to Italy. It is easily customizable and, as you will notice, is also very easily broken down into regional travel for smaller trips.
So where do you take someone who hasn’t been to Italy? Where do you start? How do you prioritize your time? The simple answer is that there are two approaches.
When planning an Italian getaway, you must first ask yourself your overall goal.
Think about this. When Giada de Laurentiis is asked how she maintains her amazing figure while indulging in pasta as an Italian chef, she famously answers, “I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.” It seems appropriate to apply that philosophy to Italian travel. In this approach, you enjoy many places in short duration. The second, of course, is enjoying one locale in a very leisurely manner, allowing yourself of fully immerse and live freely, without slaving to a schedule.
I prefer the latter of the two, but I also don’t mind doing a bit of moving around. It’s about balance based on interests.
This is what I came up with for our honeymoon, an Italian antipasti tour, if you will:
Segment One: Venice and the Veneto
Venice is a magnificent location, but is terribly inconvenient. For our honeymoon, we decided to start in Northern Italy and work our way down, to depart from Rome. Doing so streamlines things a great deal.
Hotel: Londra Palace, located at the mouth of the Grand Canal, Londra offers a beautiful view just steps from St. Mark’s Square. It’s less expensive than our favorite hotel, Gritti Palace, but offers beautifully appointed rooms and exceptional service. I recommend it for a great, 4 star option. My only critique of this hotel is that it’s located directly in front of a vaporetto stop, which is pretty dreadful during the height of tourist season, but would otherwise be a convenience in truly any other city.
Restaurant: We enjoyed Da Ivo, a favorite of George Clooney. It’s such a cool place, loved by locals and is a small, beautiful restaurant with its own private canal entry. We’ve enjoyed Da Ivo on three consecutive trips, where they remember us each time. It’s a great feeling. I highly recommend the place, they are so kind.
Verona is easily one of the most romantic locations in Italy and I’m not just saying that because you can visit Juliet’s famous balcony …. It’s situated in fairy-tale like way, along the Adige River, at the base of the Dolomites. The famous stone bridge, an old Roman structure makes the perfect postcard shot.
I absolutely adore grabbing gelato and strolling through the market at the Piazza delle Erbe, in the heart of Verona then making my way to Sant’Anastasia, the gorgeous Gothic cathedral. Inside, you will find Pisanello’s Saint George and the Princess that is not only marvelous but further adds to the whole fairy tale vibe.
Restaurant: El Bacarin. Order the lasagne. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
Segment Two: Florence and Tuscany
In the interest of time, allow me to say that Florence is literally proof God exists. It’s a blessed place. It’s my favorite place. Go there. I intend on doing lots of in detail Florence posts, so I’ll keep it extremely simple here.
Hotel: I love the Portrait Firenze. We always stay in an apartment, but it’s too good of a secret that I am selfishly not disclosing it. Message me if you want to know. Otherwise, I like to keep it available – sorry! 🙂
If you want to stay at one of the very best hotels in Europe, hands down, stay at the Four Seasons Firenze. Get drinks at Sesto, atop the Westin for a remarkable view of the city.
Restaurant(s): See my earlier post about Trattoria Sostanza. Also recommend Buca Lapi (our absolute favorite restaurant) and Le Volpi e L’Uva (a quaint Tuscan wine bar in the Oltrarno)
Tuscany: Again, there is so much to talk about. With Tuscany, I suggest taking your time to visit the entire Chianti region. There is a lot of land from Florence to Siena and everything in between. You want to visit vineyards my showcasing the best Chianti Classico, then, south of Siena, get the very best Brunello di Montalcino.
Hotels: We stayed at three locations during our honeymoon.
Castello del Nero: Located about 45 minutes south of Florence, in Tavernelle Val di Pesa, Castello is a luxurious accommodation with a gorgeous view (and an awesome pool). Highly recommend.
Hotelito Lupaia: I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s like you’re transported into a blissful dream when you’re here. Lupaia is many things, all of them wonderful. Imagine a combination of a bed and breakfast, a rustic Tuscan farmhouse, chic furnishing, modern amenities, a personal chef, authentic cuisine, uninterrupted views of Montepulciano and Montefellonico. Wild flowers. It’s gorgeous. We stayed in the newly re-appointed Nido cottage.
Consider the following medieval hill towns while in Tuscany: Volterra, San Gimignano, Siena, Montepulciano, Montefellonico, Orvieto (Umbria, not Tuscan but south of Montalcino), Montalcino, Radda in Chianti
Castello di Velona: The views from Velona, as we like to call it, are unmatched. Situated in the the gorgeous Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany, the sunsets are unreal and nature takes over. It’s just beautiful. A thermal spa, with thermal pools and a high-end spa, the rest of the hotel is pretty modern (not my thing) but the hotel rooms retain the frescoed ceiling, tradition Tuscan decor.
Segment Three: Amalfi Coast
See my previous post on Positano for an in depth list of recommendations. On our honeymoon, we only slotted three days on the coast. We wish we had more.
We arrived in Positano by first taking a train from Florence to Rome, then from Rome to Naples. We arranged for a driver to pick us up in Naples, then drive us through Sorrento and to Positano. We visited Capri one day via private boat tour.
Hotel: Le Sirenuse. Literally the embodiment of everything La Dolce Vita. Go there if you can, even for brunch, lunch or dinner.
Restaurants: Chez Black, Le Pergola, Le Tre Sorelle, La Sponda, Ristorante Max
Segment Four: Rome
Rome is very chic and very, very difficult to take in with one go. Most people employ a full day at St. Peter’s Basilica and are afterwards left with very little time. It’s really the type of place that you need set goals based on preference. My husband and I aren’t big into Roman history, so we have eschewed spending time at the Forum or Colosseum. That might seem crazy to some, but in Rome, you have to keep focus on your priorities of touring.
Hotel: On our honeymoon, we stayed at the Inn at the Spanish Steps. The location is in our favorite area, Piazza di Spagna, in the heart of the shopping area on Via Condotti. The rooms are very reasonable and very nice, with Etro amenities. We enjoyed a balcony overlooking Via Condotti, with a direct view of the Spanish Steps, directly above Caffe Greco, the oldest caffe in Rome.
Restaurant: You must visit Trastevere, a gorgeous neighborhood on the other side of the Tiber. There, you will find Antica Pesa. It’s wonderful and a great place for people-watching and celebrity sightings.
We also enjoy Ciampini for aperitivi as well as the lounge at The Hassler.
Matricianella is an AMAZING restaurant, near Piazza di Spagna. Order the amatricianella. It’s do die for.
This is extremely long, but hopefully will inspire a trip to Italy, or two! Enjoy!