Every year, The New York Times publishes a list of its top picks for places to visit in that given year. This year's list of 52 Places to Go in 2015, provided an interactive look at places around the world, from Macedonia to Cleveland to Cuba. While I wouldn't turn down the chance to go to any of these places, I have had the chance to visit a few for myself so I thought I'd share my own top four picks from the list (four is much more manageable than 52, am I right?!).Read More
Well, this is it. The end of an era...Actually, its just the end of our trip to Italy!
We ended our Italian adventure by driving from Milan to Rome - this was the longest drive we made, and I feel it is worth mentioning the Autogrill. The interstate system in Italy is a bit different in that its a lot harder to come by a fast food joint for a quick bite right off an exit. Enter, the Autogrill! Truly, this place is amazing! In most cases, the building spans over the highway and will have everything you need, including a cafe if you're looking for a full meal, snacks, gifts, wine, groceries...Autogrill has it all.
We arrived in Rome pretty late at night, but Rome is one of those cities where its impossible to go more than a few blocks without seeing something amazing. This is only amplified at night when all the monuments are lit up, so by the time we had arrived at our hotel, Aleph Hotel Rome, we had our second (or third or fourth) wind and were ready to explore! We walked to the Trevi Fountain and then the Spanish steps before enjoying a nightcap, and finally, crashing.
The next day, never ones to shy away from exploring a city, we walked the mile and a half from our hotel to Vatican City. In my opinion, walking is always the simplest, easiest and best way to explore a city (its healthy too!). We took in all the sites along the Tyber River and arrived at the Vatican Museums in time for our reservation. I know I said it in Florence, but seriously, do not even attempt to go to the Vatican without pre-purchasing tickets. The lines! The pan-handlers! The LINES! Save yourself! I bought our tickets off tickitaly.com and we walked right in, bypassing literally thousands of people in the line!
After leaving Vatican City, we walked a short ways and found a quiet lunch at nearby a restaurant to begin working on our strategy to see as much of the city as possible (we really only had this one full day in Rome). Kyle discovered that Uber was offering a two hour tour for 150 euro, and we decided to give it a shot. If you're ever in city like Rome, where there is so much to see and you only have a short window of time, this is a great way to get around! We were able to see Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Capitale, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and Aventine Hill all within our two hour window! Our driver took us right up to each monument, we hopped out to take pictures or grab coffees, and then we were off to the next sight. We saw as much of Rome as possible at lightning speed, but with a rain storm coming in and a very short amount of time, Uber saved the day!
That evening, we took a walking food tour in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome and enjoyed some of the best food, company and conversation of our trip. Eating Italy came highly recommended and did not disappoint! As part of our Twilight Trastevere tour we enjoyed wine and appetizers in a cellar that dates back 150 years before the Colosseum, sampled Roman street food, went behind the scenes at local bakery and enjoyed the best.gelato.ever.
How else could we end our trip than at a cafe overlooking the colosseum?! * Tip: While, the pictures were amazing, this is actually a huge tourist trap. We had one drink and hightailed it out of there to enjoy a nice meal at a jazz club and cafe just down the street from our hotel called Elegance. Sounds swanky, right?! The staff was so welcoming and friendly, there was great live music, the food was delicious and the people watching...magnifico!
By far, one of the coolest experiences of my life was going to Expo Milano 2015, otherwise known as the World's Fair!
While we did not plan this prior to our trip, by the time we arrived in Milan we had heard so much about the Expo that we knew we had to go. With 145 participating countries and covering almost 500 acres, we really only cracked the surface on our one night visit to the Expo grounds. The sheer size of each pavilion alone was impressive, but coupled with some of the most innovative architecture, exhibitions, landscaping and more food options than I ever thought possible, the Expo blew us away.
Expo 2015, which is expected to draw 20 million visitors to the city of MIlan, is largely to thank for many restoration projects around the city, including the Duomo and Navigli canals that Kyle and I visited. It also played a large role in Milan's selection as #1 in The New York TImes' list of 52 Places to Go in 2015!
*Tip: Skip the Chinese food and go to Turkey for a gyro and some baklava!
Milan is located a little over an hour south of Lake Como and I was especially excited to visit for two reasons: first, I had never been before and second, THE LAST SUPPER!
Driving into Milan during morning rush hour is a truly Italian experience that everyone should try at least once! No, really - you're going to love it! *Tip: When driving in Italy, stop signs are more of a suggestion and aggressive driving is the only respectable way to operate a vehicle. So don't be afraid to drive it like you stole it.
Santa Marta Suites, our hotel in Milan, was a small boutique hotel of only 8 rooms located right in the heart of the historic city center. We absolutely loved this hotel and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. Each room is different, the customer service is superb and it offers a very unique experience!
After arriving in Milan, we quickly located the iconic Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are stunning. The entire Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by shopping options and, when in Milan, one simply must shop! We wandered by the high end shops located within the Galleria, including the first ever Prada store, and then made our way to some of the flea markets lining the side streets. This is where we really had fun! There were so many vintage purses, scarves, dresses, hats, and ties!
That afternoon we made our way to Navigli, Milan's canal district, where we decided to cool off in a cafe. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to be there right in the middle of preparations for men's fashion week...helloooo, male models!
The next day, we took a walking tour of the city with Dark Rome. Again, great company, great tour guide - highly recommend. The tour took us into the Duomo where we saw the statue St. Bartholomew Flayed, through the Galleria and along Milan's Brera district, which is a great spot for restaurants, or if you are so inclined, a croissant with a brownie inside (I was sooooo inclined)!
We made our to Sforza Castle, where Leonardo lived and worked while he was painting The Last Supper, before ending at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where I ticked yet another item off my bucket list!
The history behind The Last Supper and da Vinci's painting techniques and processes are incredibly fascinating - he was testing out a new method in which he used eggs in his paints; the number 3; the face of Judas is thought to be the face of one of the monastery's priors who had angered da Vinci; the "fresco" began to deteriorate within a few years after it was completed; monks actually cut off Jesus' feet to install a door so that they could reach the kitchen faster; the church was bombed during WWII and the painting was only saved because of protective sandbagging. But, I digress. Needless to say I was, and there's no other word for it, pumped to have finally seen this piece. Mission accomplished.