So a little break from Interiors and Manchester but I just have to write about my amazing adventure in Italy. I had been planning this trip for a year and had waited ever so patiently (or not in the case of my friends and workmates!) for September to arrive. The main reason for visiting was for a wedding of our close friends, for whom I was honoured to be bridesmaid. We decided to combine this with a road trip around Northern Italy.
Stops covered were Lake Como, Milan, Parma, Modena, Portico & Florence and these are just a few snippets of the journey...
First stop of the trip was Lake Como. We arrived late at night after driving from Milan Airport and the crazy winding roads in the pitch black meant we didn't have a clue where we were, or what our surroundings looked like. It meant the best surprise first thing in the morning though.
Our apartment was found via AirBnB - Residence Le Terrazze. You definitely need a car to get up here but it is sooo worth it. The views are insane and there's a private spa with a hot tub and pool which was right up our street!
I don't think I've ever been somewhere so beautiful, I just couldn't get over the view. No wonder all the celebs including George Clooney call it home.
As I mentioned before, staying up in Perdelo, you would be wise to hire a car. But everywhere else in Lake Como is pretty accessible using the lake ferries. We only had 3 days to explore and managed to see Bellagio & Varenna. It was pretty tough prizing ourselves away from the apartment if i'm being honest.
One top tip if you are staying in the Varenna area is to go and eat at Crott Del Meo. It was the first and best meal of the whole two weeks. Authentic Italian cooking that served whatever chef was cooking that evening. Absolutely delicious.
Stop 2. Milan
It was a whistle stop tour of Milan as we did it in less than 24 hours. We stayed in the Navigli district which is a bit Northern Quarter-esque in the sense that it was once run down and has now become the trendy area to drink and eat. Set on a series of canals, this is the home of Aperitivo time. Most of the bars have a massive buffet selection which you have access to when you buy a drink. It was a really cool atmosphere and definitely reminded me of home.
Next Stop: Parma
Parma was a pretty surprise and a lovely afternoon was spent wandering the peaceful streets en route to our next accommodation. I just loved the coloured buildings - they were so cheerful basking in the sun. The churches were also some of the most beautiful that we saw throughout the whole trip. It was so non touristy and quiet on that random wednesday that I wouldn't want to stay there longer than a day or two but who knows it might come alive when the sun goes down.
Home for the night : Al Vigneto Farmhouse
We had pre-booked a farmhouse in the Emilia Romagna hills over looking Parma for an authentic foodie evening. After a slight mix up, we were greeted by the owner who looked after us extremely well. He fed us his own vineyard Lambrusco (3 euros a bottle!) and hooked us up to a local restaurant - Trattoria Leoni where no one spoke any English but we got by with a little help from google translate and our foodie instincts. The food was insane and we had such a lovely meal on the terrace overlooking the city.
The night spent in the wilderness alone was a little spooky for me and the lack of air conditioning combined with a mosquito fight meant an unsettled sleep but waking up to another amazing view was totally worth it. The breakfast was also delicious, setting us up for the next destination.
Stop 5 : Modena
We went on the hunt for a balsamic producer and accidentally stumbled across the world's oldest. Acetaia Giuseppe Giusti is a unconspicious building in the middle of the countryside. The family has been making balsamic vinegar since 1605 and you can just turn up and take a tour for free. It was so informative and the best bit was being able to taste all the different products they produce, including the 100 year balsamic which would set you back 500 euros!
Ciao Bologna - Stop 6
Bologna was probably the least researched part of our trip - we knew very little and to be honest I wasn't that fussed about going. By this point most of our friends had made it to the wedding venue and I was desperate to see them and celebrate. But boy am I glad we stopped here. Beautiful Bologna, full of life and vibrancy. This is clearly a student town which meant it was bustling with bars and restuarants and shops. It also has the most covered walkways in Italy which was handy for the afternoon downpour we experienced - if only Manchester city council would take note!
We had a great day exploring and an even better evening soaking up the nightlife. This was also the first place we had a proper espresso martini - I rate places on how good they are! We had the real bolognese which doesn't involve an inch of spaghetti and drank excessive amounts of Limoncello. Perfect!
Wedding Destination - Portico Di Romagna
This tiny Italian village in the heart of the hills was invaded by the Brits for a weekend and for that I apologise! Portico was founded in ancient times along the road to Florence and came to be known first as a market place during the Roman times. It captured my friends hearts so much that they decided to get married here and invite us all along for the ride.
The hotel that looked after us all was Al Vecchio Convento and I cannot recommend this place enough. Marisa, her family and her staff attended to our every whim and made sure we were well fed and drunk at all times. This place is truly magical and I cannot wait to return.
It was the best weekend filled with love and happiness and it was beyond perfect.
Last But Not Least : Florence
Florence was by far the busiest place we'd been for the last two weeks and seeing lots of tourists was a shock to the system! Our group had now grown from 4 to 8 plus my friends adorable baby so we needed a good base in the heart of Florence. AirBnB provided the most beautiful apartment in the heart of Florence. Saverio and his wife were the best hosts, providing us with everything we needed. Their apartment is gorgeous and I even debated not writing about it to keep it our little secret so we can back again and again!
Florence itself was just how I imagined it - beautiful historic buildings wherever you turn. We took a free walking tour on the first day which is something I've never done before but our friends highly recommended them. It's a great way to get your bearings and see some things you would never normally see. And all for free!
After that our days were spent wandering the city, stumbling on random streets and enjoying the sunshine. We climbed the Duomo and admired the amazing 360 views but to be honest, the view from our own private roof terrace was second to none!
One of the guests from the wedding party recommended we go to the Sculpture museum whilst in Florence - The Bargello. It's way quieter than the Uffizi museum so if you don't fancy the queues and the crowds, this is the one to go to. It has a beautiful central courtyard which is really peaceful and the sculptures are memorizing.
The last night of our trip was spent on the roof terrace, drinking prosecco and reminsicing on everything we'd experienced over the last two weeks. It was the most full on holiday I'd ever done - i've never been struck by the travelling bug and the thought of backpacking round Asia has no pull whatsoever. This was absolutely perfect for myself - I saw so many beautiful places just two hours from home that will stay with me forever.
Thanks for reading, apologies for straying away from the interiors theme but I just had to document it all!