Get ready for all of my gushing, this is going to be a LONG one! Tony and I spent 17 days on vacay visiting NYC, Portugal, Italy, and Paris! It was a true whirlwind of incredible experiences. I’ll share some highlights, top places to visit, and little travel tips with ya as well as a TON of pictures!
A NEW YORK MINUTE
New York is one of my favorite cities. This was my second visit to Manhattan, and Tony’s first! It was really fun to show him some of my favorite places and see all the major sites again. We knew that flying to Europe, usually included a layover in NYC so we decided to just extend our stay for a few days there. I was VERY fortunate to win The Tonight Show tickets for Thursday’s show, which was absolutely insane! We got to see Ariana Grande, Nick Kroll, Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez (seriously a dream.) Check us out, because we made TV!
We were true tourists and visited the Brooklyn Bridge, High Line, 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square, Washington Square Park, and Top of the Rock. We also checked out a few new items, exploring Brooklyn and seeing the Yankees play in the Bronx!
Royalton Hotel – incredible customer service, great rooms, really awesome location
De Fara Pizza – best pizza in Brooklyn!
Bluestone Lane – my fave coffee shop in the whole entire world
Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company – delish bagels by the High Line
Maison Kayser – breakfast and bakery
Stanton Social – swanky dinner spot (make a reservation!)
- Take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s free and takes a similar path as the $18 tour ferry.
- If you’re there a few days, buy a multi-day subway pass. You’ll save money in the long run!
PIT STOP IN LISBON
Our flight had a seven hour layover in Portugal that allowed us to hop off the plane and explore the city for a little while! It was kind of hectic – landing in a foreign place, not knowing how to navigate the airport or how to get transportation + being on a time crunch! BUT – it was so beautiful to explore Lisbon! We visited the Time Out Market to try pasteis, and walked around the city. It was a very pretty few hours. I don’t know that I would recommend hopping on and off a flight the way we did, though. It was exhausting and left us a bit wiped. We hope to visit Portugal again someday!
Time Out Market – tons of different food shops
- Taxis and Uber are about the same price and not a bad way to get around if you’re on a time crunch!
EVENINGS IN ROMA
Our expectations for Rome were set kind of low, to be honest. A lot of people had told us that they didn’t like Rome in comparison to other Italian cities. We only had a day and a half in Rome, but it was truly magic. The Colosseum, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps- oh sweet beauties! Waking up and stumbling into the plaza of the Pantheon felt like an actual dream. We explored the city and saw every site we could soak in. Also – ITALIAN FOOD!!! RECOMMENDATIONS:
Casa Bella Pantheon – a really cute hotel that feels like an AirBNB, just steps away from the Pantheon!
La Casa Del Caffé Tazza D’oro – the BEST coffee and croissants we had in all of Italy
Old Bear – a delicious “off the beaten path” dinner spot
Giolitti – really tasty gelato
Il Panino Ingegnoso – a delightful sandwich shop, just ask him to surprise you with a fun creation!
- Book ALL sites in ADVANCE! You will skip a whole lotta lines
- The bus system is really great for getting from site to site!
- If there’s pictures on the menu, find a different restaurant (you’re in a tourist trap!)
- Bring an outfit that covers your legs and shoulders if you want to go inside Sistine Chapel or St. Peter’s Basilica
- Plan your transport from the airport well! Our hotel had a private car for us that was the same price as a taxi.
A NIGHT IN NAPLES
Napoli – home of the pizza! We spent just one night here, as we transitioned from Rome to Positano. It wasn’t that delightful, but it was an inexpensive place to crash for a night. The pizza truly is DELISH, and I’m pretty sure we even got caught at a touristy place. But it was still really good pizza! We spent most of the evening just lounging, grabbing gelato and resting from our long exploration days before.
- Research your area for lodging, you want to stay in a safe area!
- Eat all the pizza all the time.
THE PARADISE OF POSITANO
This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been! It is absolutely surreal and photos do NOT do it justice. We had to take a private car from Naples to the hill town of Positano on the Almafi Coast. Our hotel was only accessible by about 100 steps, so a very kind porter met us to get our bags. The views from the hotel were SO divine. They had an entire lounge room for us to wait in and sip coffee with croissants while our room was prepared. We spent the next couple of days lounging in beach chairs, walking the town, and soaking up every ray of sunshine.
Hotel Miramare – the STAFF is SO FRIENDLY! And the views are incredible. If the weather is good, ask about their private boat tours (we couldn’t do it because the weather was a bit off.) Breakfast is served in a beautiful dining space with a view!
La Tagliata – pretty touristy but the views are good and the food is decent for the experience you get! They have a shuttle through town for free!
Ristorante Saraceno D’Oro – really yummy seafood dishes!
- Lounge chairs are expensive on the water, but if you order any food or drink at some of the little places on the water you can stay as long as you’d like!
- THERE ARE A LOT OF STAIRS! You’ve been warned. Now you can’t complain.
FALLING IN LOVE IN FLORENCE
My favorite spot in all of Italy, sweet Florence has my heart. The architecture, the culture, the beauty, the food, the EVERYTHING! We went to the Accademia to see the statue of David, took in the views of the Duomo, and wandered the lengths of the city. I arrived wearing a dress, but could not stand walking around in it because I was so uncomfortable. So, we stumbled into a little boutique and picked up some true Florence fashuuuun. Also – never knew I could have a crush on a building, but dang the Duomo is FIIIINNNEEE!
Casella ’18 – really yummy food, great location, cool atmosphere
L’Antico Vinaio – a great sandwich shop, everyone’s “must stop” in Florence!
Vivoli – our second fave gelato in all of Italy!
- Again, book things in advance and skip all the lines!
- Florence is totally walk-able, you can see everything in a day (but you’ll probably want to stay longer!)
DAY TRIP TO VENICE
We were able to take a two-hour train from Florence to Venice and explore the stunning island for a day! Speed trains are a wonderful thing. Venice is CRAZY! It’s flawlessly beautiful, and oh so crowded. But hey, ya can’t miss Venice. Because we knew our time was limited and the crowds would worsen through the day, we did a gondola ride right away. Its a little bit pricey but SO worth it! The water taxi is also a great way to get a cheap boat ride through the island. There’s a lot to take in when you’re visiting Venice, but its all pretty close to each other! You truly do not want to skip out on visiting this amazing city on the water.
Acqua & Mais – the BEST calamari and shrimp street food we’ve ever imagined
Boutique Del Gelato – our number one fave gelato place in ALL of Italy!!!!!
- Get a water taxi pass for the day, you can see more of the city and rest your legs while you take in some beautiful sites!
- Budget for a gondola ride, you’ll be sad if you miss out
So while visiting Florence and Venice, we actually stayed in a villa about 30 minutes outside of Florence. We wanted to get a taste of true Tuscan living, and it was SO incredible. Tony was brave enough to drive a rental car through the hills, which made this experience even more magical! Breakfast each day came from stocking up our kitchen from the inCoop market and we were able to visit some really cute little villages. We also stopped at some major hill towns such as Siena and San Gimignano! Instead of booking a cooking class, we booked a winery tour. They gave us a delicious lunch, showed us the vineyards, and we brought home some olive oil from here as well!
Fienile, Colline del Chianti – hosted by Francesca & Fredrica – gorgeous home in a great spot!
Jumangi – THE BEST SANDWICH OF ALL TIME!
Il Focolare – Florentine Steak. That’s all you need to know.
- If you’re comfortable with it – rent a car! It makes Tuscany such a fun and beautiful experience.
- When parking for visiting Florence, park at Villa Costanza and take the trains in. There is a free lot there and you can park all day!
Paris was our last stop on the trip. The city is actually as romantic as the movies make it seem. The Eiffel Tower really will make your heart flutter! We explored the Moulin Rouge, wandered the Louvre, saw the bells of Notre Dam, and went to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. We would love to come back someday and see a little bit more of the culture of Paris, because we definitely played tourist for the most part.
We didn’t have any specific “memorable” meal from Paris. Everything was really good. One thing to note is the difference between a Cafe and a Restaurant. At a cafe you just sit wherever you want, no waiting for a host to seat you and the atmosphere is relaxed. A restaurant will usually have a Prix Fare (fixed menu) and be more upscale.
- The Notre Dam line looks long, but goes quickly. You need separate tickets to take the stairs to the Bells (and its a LOT of stairs.)
- Get tickets in advance for the Eiffel Tower – its not much more expensive to go to the top level and you get to stop on the middle level for as long as you want!
- Tickets are easier to get online for the Louvre, come prepared and get in quickly.
- The Metro is SO easy to navigate if you have access to your phone’s maps.
- CDG Airport is really sucky. Be cautious of the taxis, check your luggage carefully, and consider flying into a different airport…
YES, THEY HAVE DISNEYLAND IN PARIS
and you better bet your bottom dollar that we visited it! For Disney nuts like us, this was a no-brainer. The park is about an hour and a half train away from the city and the train drops you off right at the gate. We did every ride that we could, starting with the ones we don’t have in Anaheim. Our top fave “new rides” were Crush’s Coaster and Rock n Roller Coaster. Their Hyperspace Mountain is WAY faster and crazier than the one in CA, and it was fun to be able to do Tower of Terror again! The magic was not EXACTLY held to the same standard, but it was still a magical time.
- Use the app if you have data, it will help you monitor wait times for rides!
- Skip the “Studio Tour” – its mostly just like one Pearl Harbor set piece and a couple from Dinotopia…
- Do Crush’s Coaster during meal times or right away, the wait is always pretty long
- Be on the lookout for Disney Paris merch that you can’t get online or at other parks! I got special edition 25th Anniversary ears that are SO cute!
SUM IT UP
Everything about this trip was seriously so amazing. Even the “hard” or more difficult parts created really fun memories. We were SO thankful for the opportunity to trek across the globe together and create such amazing moments.
Our favorite part? Exploring the cities in Italy
Our favorite meal? The sandwich at Jumangi!!
Our favorite “touristy thing?” The Eiffel Tower at night. When it sparkles, your heart flutters.
Lessons learned? SLOW DOWN. Italians live a laid back lifestyle that we truly envied. It forced us to evaluate our own life and how “busy” we always are. We’re trying to implement slower meal times and enjoying our time with friends without a time constraint.
Top recommendation? Get data for your phone – its easier to get around.
Would we go back? Abso-fricking-lutely.