So we’ve officially been back from Italy for a week now, and it’s hard to believe that because it seems so far away. BUT, we’re excited to write these recap posts, because that means we get to look through all of our pictures and reminisce.
Honestly, there’s no way we’ll successfully convey how insanely amazing this trip was. It covered all of the bases for a first time Europe trip, and more. We ate all the amazing food we could fit in our bellies, saw all the sites we wanted to see, basked in the Italian sun, and explored through train, vespa, and our lamborfeeties. It was a dream.
This first post will probably only cover the first few days, because they were THAT epic (and this is thanks mostly to our fabulous tour guides).
Obviously, we started with the usual hoo-rah of packing. Anyone who has traveled overseas for a few weeks knows what a feat this in itself can be. We chose backpacks since we were going to be moving locations so frequently. And Bella was clearly a huge help.
One of the best things we ended up packing was our snacks. We knew the European breakfast wasn’t exactly known to be filling (hello coffee and pastries!), so we packed a bunch of Rx and Quest bars to supplement. This helped us stay full for longer, so we could actually make it to lunch without stopping for a snack break. We also packed fruit leathers and pistachios for on the go snacks.
On Monday morning, we got up early, dropped Bella at my parent’s house, and drove to the airport. Our plan was to fly to NY, spend the night there, and then take a flight to Milan the following day. This all worked to help us save money with the flights we chose.
Our flight to NY was quick and uneventful, and we arrived at our airbnb in Queens around 6:30pm. We were hosted by a sweet couple, but didn’t get much sleep due to a VERY squeaky floor above us. Slightly sleep deprived, but fueled by excitement, we headed to JFK in the morning.
Our flight didn’t take off until 6PM, so we had about 6 hours to kill. We spent the time working on our blog and the YouTube channel, and couldn’t believe how quickly it went by. Our flight to Milan took off on time (woo hoo!) and we were finally on our way to Italy!
The flight felt both long and short at the same time. We were served dinner, and then tried to sleep a little bit. We were both enviously eyeing the girl next to us, who had an entire ROW of seats to herself, and was comfortably stretched out and fast asleep (bitter? nahhhh). We both got a couple of hours of sleep, and when we woke up, it was ‘morning’ again.
While this worked to help re-set our clocks, it was still a little disorienting since only a few hours had passed. It was around 8AM in Milan when we landed, and we were hoping that we’d successfully tricked our bodies into thinking it was morning (even though the flight is only 8 hours).
Once in Milan, we were greeted by my big brother and his girlfriend Tizzy. My brother has been living in Milan for about 2 years now, and is a badass, self taught chef (proud sister here). He makes a gnocchi that will make you question everything you’ve ever eaten prior.
At this point we were so excited that it didn’t matter what time it was, we were finally here! We dumped our stuff at their place, which is located right next to the Naviglio (Tizzy’s restaurant is also along the canal), and headed to have our first head spinning bite to eat.
We stopped at Felix Navigli and Tizzy introduced me to the best spremuta I had the entire trip. It began the addiction that lasted throughout the entire 2.5 weeks. Spremuta is a fresh squeezed juice, and their grapefruit version was out of control good. Ben got a soy cappuccino that was also a winner.
After, we walked down to a little bakery and bought veggie flatbreads. Instantly, we knew, all the hype about Italian cuisine is REAL. This was the most simple little bite – flatbread with roasted veggies – and it was easily one of the best things we’d ever eaten. Classic Italian in that it was both fresh and simple.
At this point we were both dying of jetlag, and Nick and Tizzy had to get some things done at the restaurant, so we passed out for a couple of hours at their place. This nap worked wonders, and we headed down to the Duomo.
Talk about a WOW factor. This architectural beauty does not disappoint. We were like silly little kids, overwhelmed with excitement and taking 600 unnecessary pictures. We got tickets to climb to the top. But first… FOOD!
We ate at Obica, a great little rooftop restaurant that overlooks the Duomo. They had the most insane mozzarella bar too.
I got the Zeppole’s, and Ben got a Bufala Dop pizza. I mean, is any description needed? Dough, sauce, and cheesy perfection. These guys specialize in cheese, and there’s a reason for that.
Afterwards, we spent about an hour exploring the Duomo. Getting up close with the gargolyles on the sides is one of the best parts. The expression and detail seriously brings them to life.
Next on our agenda… MORE food!
One thing we learned quickly was that Italians eat dinner late, so to get them through, they have what’s called apertivo. This is basically drinks with a bunch of little finger food snacks (which come complementary with drinks). Each place does their’s a little differently, and it was fun to try them all out.
Our first (and fanciest) apertivo was at Marchesi, a pastry shop owned by Prada. Their drinks were so beautiful, you almost didn’t want to drink them. And their snack tray was ridiculous. We could’ve stayed there for hours.
But, when in Italy, don’t stay at one food establishment too long (because then you’re probably missing out on all the other foods you could be eating).
We headed home to get cleaned up, and then went to dinner at this amazing little spot called Trattoria Madonnina. This was truly a gem in Milan. Incredibly authentic Italian – to a T. Not a word of English could be heard, and the atmosphere was straight out of a movie. Red and white checkered tablecloth, animated conversations at every table, and even a little band that came through with an accordion and a sax.
We had a risotto that absolutely melted in your mouth (that’s not an exaggeration), and a veggie farro that blew all of our minds.
The next day, we got up bright and early to begin our Tuscany adventures. The plan was to drive down to Camogli in Liguria, and take a ferry to a beach off the coast.
BUT, first we stopped at the AutoGrill. This is a fantastic little Italian version of a rest stop on steriods. You can get gas, but you can also go up into the main area, and get a snack, or go grocery shopping, or get toys… It was hilarious and amazing, all in one.
Camogli itself was a beautiful dream of a town. Right on the coast in Liguria, it was colorful and lively.
We stopped for a pre-ferry apertivo, and I continued to feed my spremuta addiction.
It was a quick 10 minute ferry ride to the little beach nook we were going to call home for the next few hours. This area was basically just a little beach portion, and it felt like being on a private beach.
We rented chairs (worth every penny) and soaked up the surf and sun.
For lunch, we walked a whole 50 steps up to the beachside restaurant, and had pesto e fagioli. This is a regional dish with spiral noodles, potato, green beans, and pesto. The pictures say it all. We’ll be eating this in our sleep for months to come.
And of course, lots of wine. Which then led to an excursion via boat to see an underwater Jesus statue. Unfortunately, the boat left them (yes, them, since I was the only one with enough sense to stay on land) to swim back alone, and that led to a whole near-drowning fiasco. Let’s just say this is one even that’s better left in Liguria.
Sun drunk (and some of us a little wine drunk still), we headed back to Camogli, and then drove down to Livorno with a pit stop in Pisa.
Of course, we had to take the obligatory Pisa pictures. We got pretty creative. Nick won the creativity contest with a picture that’s not appropriate for this blog.
We made it to Livorno around 10:30, and promptly passed out.
Our next day we woke up early (again), to go shopping for our beach day in Livorno. Livorno is an adorable small town in Tuscany, right on the coast.
We loaded up on fruit, bread, cheese, and other deliciousness, and then drove down to the ‘beach’. This was another incredibly local experience (thanks Tizzy!), and this wasn’t a traditional tourist beach. We parked on the side of the road, and the took an incredibly steep, hidden path down to a hidden cove that is loved by the locals.
We had the most epic beach spread, and spent the entire day eating, drinking, sun bathing, and cliff jumping.
It was such an amazing experience watching all of the locals here. The culture in Italy is truly unique. They’re so laid back, yet animated at the same time. Kiddos were running around half naked, groups of teens played beach games next to the water, and dogs ran back and forth between the waves and their owners. There was every age and walk of life, and everyone was just soaking up the moment.
Since no day would be complete without apertivo, we cleaned up and headed down for a coastal version, and watched the sunset.
Dinner was at another tiny hole in the wall spot that made you feel like you were in your Italian grandmothers house. We had gnocchi, fried veggies, and red wine. I’m pretty sure we should just start eating ALL of our vegetables fried from now on.
We then headed down to walk around the town, and stop for gelato (since we weren’t full enough).
Just four days into our travels, and only two actually in Italy, we were already falling into bed the moment we got home.
BUT, no sleeping in was in sight, because the next couple of days would continue to be jam packed with an epic day of vespa-ing through Tuscany, and boating around the island of Elba. So stay tuned dreamers, more coming soon!