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Are you taking advantage of Europe being on sale these days? I know many readers are heading over the pond. If Italy is in your plans, either now or sometime in the next year or so, be sure to read this post. After all, who doesn’t plan on visiting Italy sooner or later. I’ve got four Italian destinations for you, so let’s get started.
VENEZIA (Venice, Italy)
Venice is an amazing place. I could easily sit all day and watch the waterway life. But of course, I had to stay somewhere, eat something, drink coffee and indulge in gelato, so here are some tips for you. When I’m in Italy, I have my priorities, so let’s start with gelato :)
There’s actually a place in Venice I’d suggest staying AWAY from. It’s called Gelateria Alaska. It was on some lists of top gelato in ALL of Italy, which totally baffles me. First off, the guy working there was plain nasty. “Can I taste a flavor?” I asked him. He responded with a gruff NO. I should have walked out at this point because his energy was plainly foul, but I didn’t. And the gelato was not very good at all. Oh well. Lesson learned, stay away from Gelateria Alaska. My preferred gelato in Venice is Grom. They’ve been around for a while now and can be found throughout Italy. I’m definitely partial to their pistachio and chocolate with hazelnut flavors.
As for coffee in Italy, where all the espresso is wonderful and you better not order a cappuccino after 11am, it may seem silly to point out a particular cafe, but Venice does have a cafe I enjoyed. It has two locations in Venice and it’s called Caffe del Doge.
The best meal I ate in Venice was at a family-run small restaurant called Al Fontego Dei Pescatori. If you’re up for excitement, try the ink cuttlefish pasta. Delicious! Everything we ordered was great. The family who runs the restaurant is warm and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed the limoncello he gifted us at the end of the meal. Do eat at least one dinner at this place. You’ll love it.
For lodging, I stayed at the Boscolo Venezia, Marriott’s Autograph Collection property (category 9 – 45,000 Marriott points / night). It’s a beautiful historic hotel. I love to walk, so for me, it’s off-the-beaten-path-location worked well and I had a great hotel stay there. It’s quiet and a great spot to come home to after a long day of being out and about. Pablo, at the front desk, was one of the best hotel employees I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was great to talk with, spoke honestly about Venice and tourism, and made fantastic suggestions about where to eat and what to see. The hotel itself can be quirky because it’s an old building, so you can use EITHER the air conditioning OR the heat. They had the hotel set on air for this time of year, but we had rain and chilly weather, so I would have preferred the heat. They will bring you space heaters, though, so they’re very accommodating. My Marriott elite status was recognized and breakfast came included with my room. As you’d expect in Italy, it was an excellent spread at the buffet every day, plus you could order off the menu as well. I loved the old historic rooms and there were plenty of hooks and towel racks in the bathrooms!
I decided to give GoOpti a try after I landed in Venice from Slovenia. If you haven’t heard of GoOpti, check them out. They serve this part of Europe. I was pleased with the service, and though they cost more than if I had taken the train from Ljubljana, it saved me a few hours of time, so was well worth it.
MILANO (Milan, Italy)
Ah, Milano. This was my first time in Milan and I liked it much more than I thought I would. I’m on a Park Hyatt adventure this year, and couldn’t wait to see if the Park Hyatt Milan (category 7 – 30,000 Hyatt points / night) would wow me. It absolutely did! And the room at the Park Hyatt Milan turned out to be one of my favorite hotel rooms ever. There was something about the color scheme, the way it was laid out, the windows opening for fresh air, and the bathroom being huge that all just worked for me and lacked nothing. Simply wonderful. The staff and the hotel itself were all top notch. Cecilia, the guest relations manager, is Argentinian, so we had passionate discussions about gelato and how we both thought the gelato in Buenos Aires was the best. Of course being in Italy, we didn’t say this too loudly!
Cecilia did let me know that in Milan, Venchi was her favorite gelato place. Venchi has been around for about 10 years now and is sprouting up all over Italy and throughout Europe. They have an amazing assortment of chocolate flavors, so if that’s your preferred gelato flavor, check them out. For me, chocolate has to come with nuts, so I devoured their chocolate hazelnut.
The breakfast spread was delicious and service was with a smile. And I saw something I’d never seen before. They actually put out a meat slicing machine to slice the meat right before you eat it. If you’re in the hotel lobby later in the day for drinks, they put out nuts and olives, and I don’t know what they do to those olives, but they were incredible. After a while, I had to request they stop serving them to me!
We had a taste for osso buco (veal shanks) and the Park Hyatt Milan concierge suggested a nearby restaurant called Ristorante Solferino. Well, now I’m spoiled forever and I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat osso buco anyplace but in Milan! Best osso buco ever. Our whole dining experience was pure Italiano fun. Often in Italian restaurants, you’ll be seated quite closely to the table next to you. I actually like this as I enjoy seeing what other people order and if they are friendly, it makes for a whole other dining experience. So be prepared for a sometimes shared dining evening!
Even if you can’t get tickets to see the Last Supper, which is getting harder and harder as tour companies buy up all the tickets and then sell them for exorbitant prices, it’s worth a walk to that area of town. You’ll get out of the tourist hub and see something different. The metro in Milan is great and easy to use, so don’t hesitate to hop on the metro.
And last, but certainly NOT the least, go to the La Scala Museum. It was one of my favorite outings in all of Italy. Even if you’re not into opera, it’s a lesson in history and culture. If you go early enough in the day and there is no rehearsal happening, you can stand in the balcony and view the theater. There was also an exhibit about the life of Arturo Toscanini. Incredible man and incredible contribution he made to the arts. Don’t miss this when you’re in Milan.
Hope these tips about Venice and Milan are useful. Next up, Firenze (Florence) and Roma (Rome)! Have you been to Venice or Milan lately and have anything to add? Please let me know in the comments below. Grazie!