Italy….Just the mention of it conjures up so many good memories for me. The country manages to squeeze in so many delights into its narrow peninsula, and it pains and thrills me that I have yet to discover more. Like a kid with candy I want to devour the whole place up in one go but on the other hand I want to savour it and absorb as much of the place as possible with no time restriction.
Here is my Italian #HighFive places to visit:
My first experience of Italy was on a lucky (I say lucky because it was free) trip with work to the wonderful city of Rome. It had been a dream to visit this place for as long as I can remember and what a way to start exploring this country. As soon as I arrived, I was somewhat surprised and transfixed by its sprawling suburbs. As a tourist we sometimes forget that people and life actually exist outwith the carefully preserved tourist pockets of a city. So to see the Italians live out their normal lives without a mass of tourists in front of them was really refreshing. Of course being on an organised trip those preserved tourist areas were the only thing on my agenda that first visit – certainly not a negative thing especially that they are adorned with iconic, historic and magical ruins.
I stayed at the lovely Hotel 47, which I would highly recommend if you want the more modern boutique experience. It is within walking distance of all the main tourist areas, has a lovely rooftop terrace and is spotless.
- Walking through central Rome is like an outdoor museum. The historic buildings and ruins sit majestically in the bustle of their surroundings but one of the highlights was definitely the Coliseum. To step into something that was steeped in so much history sent goosebumps all over my skin and its eerie emptiness that day added to the atmosphere.
- Standing in the entrance of the Vatican was a sight that I will never forget. Inside was even more marvellous with statues, painted ceilings and long marble hallways, which eventually led into the well-known Sistine chapel.
- A trip into a royal castle in the surrounding hills was a specific highlight for me. Arriving in the evening, large candles adorned its entrance and we were lead into its old walls where a string quartet played beautiful music. Six large tables strewn with white linen circled around an ancient stone well and I was served the most amazing food and wine that I had ever tasted.
A three hour train journey from Pisa is the beautiful town of Loro Ciuffenna in Tuscany. The journey may be long but the stunning countryside on the way was breath-taking and the cool air coming in the windows and whipping around the carriage was a welcome relief to the warmth outside.
We were driven by car into the tiny village clinging to the hillside where we stayed at the recommended Dimora Casa Eugenia. This old beautiful building clung to the side of the gorge and looked over the expansive valley. We were lucky to be given a beautiful room with separate lounge that looked out over the valley and the sound of the running water from the river outside could be heard which felt so tranquil. Carlos and Francesca the owners welcomed us with a smile and were always so helpful providing us with information on the surrounding areas and they also provided us with an amazing breakfast.
- Taking a walk around the surrounding area was magical. Covered in vineyards, olive groves and dotted with small churches was a dream to walk around and the echo of the village clock made it feel like I had travelled back in time.
- Sitting in a small café looking at the surrounding hills and eating fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.
- From Loro Ciuffenna, we visited the beautiful city of Arezzo. Small enough to walk around, and its historic centre was gorgeous and a lot less busy than the more well-known Tuscan cities. It was adorned with beautiful cathedrals and churches and its small cobbled streets led onto beautiful squares where we sat and had lunch in the warmth of the afternoon sun.
The birth place of Gucci and Roberto Cavalli, Florence or Firenze as it’s known in Italy was one of my favourites because I loved its artistic charm and decadence. The river Arno cuts through its centre passing by the iconic Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) and the towering Duomo (Cathedral). Its rustic allure distracts you from the tourists that engulf this city and you can lose yourself in its narrow winding streets often stumbling upon delightful coffee shops and antique stores.
We had originally planned to stay in the oldest hotel in Florence – Firenze Porta Rossa; however, due to overbooking at our originally planned hotel, we were transferred to a suite at the NH Anglo American Hotel.
- Crossing the river on the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), which has an array of jewellery and antique shops.
- Climbing the stairs to the top of the Duomo (Cathedral) to see a spectacular mural on the ceiling and of course an enchanting view of the city’s rooftops.
- The amazing coffee and sweet shop in the shadow of the Duomo called Scudier.
- Wandering the antique and interior design stores and seeing the world famous Florence Design Academy.
- Seeing the beautiful works of art from Michelangelo and Leonardo Di Vinci at the Uffizi Gallery.
Verona might not be your first choice when visiting Italy but I highly recommend this beautiful little gem. Less busy and frantic than Rome or Florence it still holds all the charms of these larger cities but on a more relaxed pace. The Surrounding area is gorgeous with the cascading Adige River and the neighbouring hills.
We booked an apartment online called Antica Verona .This charismatic little apartment was located on the second floor of a beautiful building called Pallazo Camozzini in a quiet section of the historical centre. Its wooden beams and shutters and beautifully painted walls felt like I was transported to another era and its cosy charm immediately made me feel at home.
- Within the building where we stayed there was the occasional opera, which is discounted to any guests. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this but we did opt to see Aida in the spectacular open air coliseum called Fondazione Arena Di Verona. It was otherworldly as we sat on the old steps as the sun went down and opera filled the air. At over three hours long, I do recommend that you purchase a cushion and of course some wine to add to the romance of the evening.
It was always a dream to visit this floating city and it did not disappoint. Stepping off the train was like walking onto a film set. An array of floating taxis await passengers to whisk them down the Grand Canal to their place of choice, passing iconic buildings such as Basilica di San Marco. The canal buzzes with life and it’s not until you float off onto one of the narrow back streets that you feel like you are in another world!
If you want to be centrally located and be surrounded by old world charm and sophistication, I recommend the beautiful Hotel Ai Reali .I was transfixed by this gorgeous hotel. We stayed one night in a deluxe room adorned with 18th century Venetian style with hues of reds, golds and creams. Despite its historic style, it was still full of all the modern essentials. What sets this hotel apart from other hotels is that you can arrive directly to its door by boat, which adds to the Venetian experience.
- Arriving to the hotel by boat.
- Wandering the maze of streets without a map and stumbling over beautiful hidden waterways, squares and coffee shops.
- Taking a speed boat down the Grand Canal.
Not in my high five but still worth a mention…….
Industrial and fashionable
Small and charming
Mountainous, mystical and beautiful.