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Northern Italy : Summer, 2016

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Italy is one of my favorite destinations. My fascination started from childhood, learning about the architecture and society of Ancient Rome, and was further developed after I studied there for half a year during my undergraduate degree. As a constant source of inspiration, I was excited to return this summer for a two-week roadtrip through Northern Italy.

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Milan is a great starting point in Italy from the East Coast. I’ve seen flights as low as $500 roundtrip from New York City, so make sure to set price alerts for last-minute trips. This time, I used points on Flying Blue with Delta. Make sure to book in advance and use points to upgrade!

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Late afternoon flight to Milan, so we head to the airport early. Once you land at MXP, take the train to Cadorna and a cab from the station shouldn’t be that far to most neighborhoods. I check into our Airbnb on Via Solferino and booked a massage at the Armani/SPA. The area between is a perfect place to wander and get lost before getting ready for dinner at one of my favorite pizza places in Milan, Dry.  

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We sleep in to make sure we’re rested from the flight and start with an early lunch at Peck. To walk off the amazing buffet, we cross the city to see the Roman Ruins and the Basilica di San Lorenzo. Next stop is a walk back near the Duomo. For a great view, stop into the Novecento Museum for some great shots. Afterwards, we stroll through the main piazza and into the Galerie Vittorio Emmanuele. Apertivo time is not to be missed and for another amazing view of the Cathedral, we sit on the terraza of the Aperol Bar. Last stop before getting ready for dinner is the Fondazione Prada. It’s one of my favorite museums in Europe and the Bar Luce is perfect for a late afternoon coffee. We head back to the apartment to get ready for dinner at Taglio and going out in the Naviglio neighborhood

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We stop at Pavé to pickup some coffee and treats for the afternoon train ride to Venice. Once you arrive at the station, the vaporetto will take you to the islands where your accommodation is located. If you’re staying for a few days definitely buy the 48 hour pass or higher. After we check-in to our Airbnb, we get back on the vaporetto to see Burano. It’s about a 40 minute boat ride, but you get beautiful views of some of the smaller islands. Once we arrive, we walk around the colorful streets before dinner at the famous Da Romano. Just as it gets dark we head back to Venice for a nightcap at Harry’s Bar.

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Venice is extremely touristy, but if you know where to go it’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful historic cities in the world. We start our day at Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the former Palace residence of a prominent Venetian family that was renovated as an art museum. Next stop was a beautiful lunch at Il Ridotto Restaurant, near St. Mark’s. Definitely book in advance for a table at this Michelin star restaurant and enjoy an afternoon glass of vino. After lunch we head to the Negozio Olivetti, right off St. Mark’s Square. If you have even a remote interest in architecture, make sure to drop in to see one of Carlo Scarpa’s masterpieces, and also provides a historical overview of the company. We keep wandering and end up at the Palazzo Grassi. Personally, contemporary art in adaptively reused structures are my thing- but I think everyone would enjoy a visit! We stop for some gelato and we continue to wander back to our apartment. For dinner we just grab some fine charcuterie and end up for fancy cocktails at Hotel Grand Canal

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Today we start the road trip, so we wake up early and try to get to the famous Calatrava Bridge without many tourists- get up very early for this! We take the bus to the airport to pickup our car and head on the road. We are going west towards Vicenza, to stop at the famous 16th-cenutry Villa Rotunda, designed by Palladio (grandfather of “classic” architecture). I was actually surprised it was open during the summer, but make sure to check before. If not, you can always peak through the gates! Next stop is Verona, the city famous as being the backdrop for Romeo and Juliet. It’s a great place to stop for lunch at Caffe al Teatro. Our first stop was the Castelvecchio, one of my favorite buildings. You can read the history about it here! Next we do some shopping and end up at the Casa di Gulietta, home of Juliet’s famous balcony. It is so, so crowded in the courtyard. Try to arrange a private tour, if possible! We keep wandering, picking up more gelato before heading back to the car. We are headed to our final stop, the home exchange at Lake Como.

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The past few days were jam packed, so we take this day to rest and enjoy our home exchange. The pool has a lovely view overlooking the lake and we head down to the local hotel for a nice pasta dinner.

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Today we started to explore Lake Como. We took the ferry to Como and started at the Beach Club, Lido Villa Olmo. Great place to spend the day sipping wine and swimming in their pool, or jumping in the lake. Next, we took the Funicular to Brunate for a nice sunset panoramic view. Grocery stores are limited in Como, so we take advantage of it’s opening and grab some fresh pasta, tomatoes, and mozzarella for a home-cooked dinner at the apartment.

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The apartment has a pool so we relax there and catch up on some reading before heading to Bellagio to meet friends. Lake Como is actually a series of towns around the lake and you can easily take luxury, air-conditioned buses around the lake for a quicker ride than by boat. Bellagio is the perfect town to stroll around, enjoy the panoramic views from one of the hotel terraces, and grab some authentic Italian fare. My favorite was the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Also had a amazing meal at one of the trattorias, but didn’t get the name!

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Because I’m more an explorer, than a relaxer on trips- we’re on the road again! Our first stop is the town of San Pellegrino, yes, that famous one where all the bottled mineral water comes from. They have an amazing spa, Terme San Pellegrino, and it’s a great start to the day. Drives through Northern Italy are simply breathtaking, so make sure to convince your partner to do the driving! Next stop is the city of Bergamo. We head up to Alta Citta, one of the most beautiful historic towns I have ever been too. We were able to walk-in for lunch at Da Mimmo, probably one of my favorite meals the entire trip. Beautiful setting and the restaurant has been in the same family for over sixty years! We continue walking, stopping to grab a cappuccino at one of the local cafes before driving back to Lake Como.

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No stop to Lake Como is complete without going to Villa d’Este. Recently converted to a 5-star hotel, the 16th century former palazzo and gardens are open to the public and lunch is a great option. Perfect for taking photos and daydreaming of those classic Italian movies from the 1960’s. You really do feel transported back in time. Next, we journey to Isola Comacina, just a short drive north. This private island is famous for it’s restaurant, but we are there for the hiking and to explore to churches and archeological sites. You can hire a boat to take you there and it’s a perfect place to exercise after all of those pasta-heavy Italian meals. For sunset, we head back to our apartment to enjoy one of the last nights of our trip.

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Switzerland is less than an hour drive, so we head to the town of Bellinzona. They are famous for their castle. Unfortunately it was raining, so we didn’t get to explore as much as we wanted, but the high altitude and mountains provided a beautiful, misty background for photos. It felt like we were in Ireland until the sun came out. They have a great museum, the Castelgrande, where you can learn the tumultuous history of the town. We drive back through Lugano and stop for a nice meal. Another beautiful lakeside town, perfect for a post-dinner stroll.

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Today is our last full day, so we decide to take the car and explore the western side of Lake Como. Menaggio is a great town to shop and walk along the lakeside. We stopped in a little cafe for breakfast to do some people watching. Our next stop was the Villa La Gaeta, famous for being the residence of Mr. White in Casino Royale. You can actually rent this Villa- will definitely look into that next time! There’s also a nice biking path, just north of the Villa that we stumbled upon. We hiked for a bit for a nice view of Lake Como and then headed back to the pool at our apartment to enjoy our last night.

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Up early to drive back to Milan for our flight home. So glad I got to see this region of Italy. It’s perfect for any type of traveler, but anxious to get home to prep for graduate school beginning again!

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Everyday from 7pm to 9pm, Milan celebrates Aperitivo time to eat finger food. Usually many lounges, cafés, and bars offer buffet that includes food which can be eaten by hands/fingers. It is merry time for people as they chit-chat, mingle, and enjoy the great food.

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Only 3 to 4 Gondolier licenses are issued annually. To qualify, applicants must be able to finish an extensive training after passing a rigorous exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolas operating in Venice today.

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Celebrated by Shakespeare, who made it famous as the romantic setting for the moving tale of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a splendid, ancient corner of the Veneto region, nestling between the river Adige and Lake Garda, and intimately linked to their waters.

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At the peak of the Roman Empire, some of Rome’s wealthiest leaders retreated not to Pompeii or Capri, but to the shores of Lake Como. Pliny the Younger, an imperial magistrate, built two resorts in the region – the Comedia and the Tradedia.

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