Italian Honeymoon Travel Guide: Rome and Florence
On Saturday Mike and I will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary! For our honeymoon we traveled throughout Italy by way of London, fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine. We lived in Charleston at the time so we didn't feel compelled to celebrate our marriage at another beach somewhere; we wanted to use this rare influx of money and time to travel the world.
Here's a fun fact: we planned our wedding AND built a home simultaneously, making 2012 a reallllly big year for us. My brain felt maxed out with decision making so even though our Italian honeymoon felt like a dream come true it stressed me out trying to plan it. I'll never forget going to Asheville (where we got married and we now live) for the weekend and when I got back Mike surprised me with the whole honeymoon planned and booked. Flights, hotels, rental cars, the works. I sat there absolutely speechless as he walked me through our itinerary. We would fly from Charleston to London for two nights, then fly to Rome for three days, followed by multiple night stays in Florence, Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice.
The Thing About Italy
I'd never been to Europe. In fact, I didn't even have a passport. All I knew is my high school art and European history classes, followed by my classical studies minor in college, had instilled in me a fire to see what I considered the most incredible, beautiful, storied, cultured place on the planet. And here's the thing about Italy when you actually go there: it's every bit as magical and wonderful as you dream it will be.
Honestly, if you go to Italy and you're disappointed, we probably can't be friends because you're impossible to please. Now, not every city is everybody's cup of tea. (I've found there's a general Team Rome vs. Team Florence divide that has nothing to do with their respective football teams.) And some people don't love the tight quarters and fishy aroma of Venice. But you're never disappointed you went. It's like debating whether you love cake or ice cream more. You may have a clear favorite but either way you win.
Italian Photo Journal (and Teaser)
Even though it's been six years since our honeymoon, I can still offer opinions on where we stayed, ate, and that sort of travel guide-y thing. Honestly we just took things as they came, booking tours sometimes the day before and finding darling restaurants that struck our fancy while exploring each city. I don't love scheduling every single minute of a trip when wandering and seeing where the sidewalks take you creates such an immersive experience. Figure out when/how you want to do the big things and let the other details organically fill themselves in.
I CAN confidently recommend what you should pack for your Italian vacation or honeymoon which will be its own separate post coming out Wednesday! Tomorrow I'll post part two of my photo journal PS.
For today, here are some of my favorite photos from Rome and Florence during our honeymoon six years ago.
Days/nights: Two nights, three days
Hotel: Twentyone Hotel (Grade: B+)
Guided Tours: Ancient Rome (A+); Vatican, (A+)
Restaurants: we dined al fresco for hours at several restaurants we just saw and chose along Borgo Pio near the Vatican and felt VERY Italian (A+); we ate dinner once at Rosati Piazza del Popolo and loved the view of the historic site while the food was pretty good but not mind blowing (B).
Immediately bought gelato on our first day in Rome. Mint chocolate chip FTW.
Castel Sant'angelo. AKA Hadrian's mausoleum. AKA a papal fortress. Now a museum.
Rome has the best little refreshment stands all over the city. Fun fact: you can buy a drink and just walk around the streets with it. This happened on numerous occasions.
The Pantheon. Seeing it feels like you're traveling in time, it's sooooo old.
The nasoni water fountains pipe in fresh water all over the city from nearby mountains via the original Roman aqueducts that still work today. Not only is the water safe to drink, it's cold, delicious and FREE! Mind: blown.
An archaeological dig we happened upon. Our guide (an archaeologist, coincidentally) pointed out this staircase in an ancient roman dwelling. My mind was reduced to smithereens after taking in so many crazy sights and facts touring Rome.
The Trevi Fountain, waaaay bigger than I realized it would be.
Are you not entertained??!!
A view of Rome from a Vatican Balcony.
Michaelangelo's 'Pieta,' my favorite sculpture of all time. It was actually way smaller than I realized it would be, but still breathtaking.
Getting used to seeing wedding rings on our fingers :)
More nasoni action.
What I Wore In Rome:
Days/nights: Two nights, three days
Hotel: Montello Splendid (A+)
Guided Tours: None (we wanted a break from tours but probably should've gone to the Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michaelangelo's 'David')
Restaurant: La Giostra (A+)
We made the decision to rent a car and drive from city to city. Without cell phone service/GPS. Big mistake. Let's just say our printed out Google map directions were completely useless so we relied on road signs, a compass, and some friendly locals to navigate us around. Next trip, we're ponying up for some cell phone data.
That being said, driving by car allowed us to see the breathtaking Italian countryside. Tons of rolling hills and old, old villages, like this one built into the rock. It's like driving through the pages of history.
Plus, if we'd never gotten lost, we never would've stopped at a café for directions or met the super sweet couple that introduced us to spritzes and kindly let us follow them in our car to our hotel. I mean that's just a great story.
Tried to go native with some tousled, air dried hair. Why, of all times, did I make this decision on my honeymoon in Florence??? This is the best it looked all day.
OMGOMGOMG this couple was SO stinkin' cute and also shockingly short. For reference that wall came up to the middle of my bicep.
We stayed in the dreamiest hotel called the Montebello Splendid. It was gorgeous and had this courtyard in the middle and little bridges between hallways. All the Italian charm.
Apparently feeling my outfit during pre-dinner cocktails our dinner.
SO. The best meal we had was at La Giostra in Florence. The concierge at our hotel set it up for us and we were super lucky to get the last table of the night. It's run by royalty, literally. A Hapsburg prince and his children started it and it's run on a nightly basis by one of them, named Soldano, whom you can see here in his signature jewelry and - wait a minute - a NORTH CAROLINA sweatshirt??!! (Go Heels!) Anyhoo, we met Soldano that night and he was very gracious and kind. He got our taxi back to the hotel arranged for us. If you go, get the osso bucco, it was a revelation. (That's the most food critic-y thing I could think to say, but it's really good.)
You get used to walking beers over in Italy, let's just establish that.
What I Wore In Florence:
Over the next few days I'll share my photos and travel guides to Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice. I just figured one post with all the photos and captions would get way too heavy and hard to load.
Thanks for stopping by the blog to walk down memory lane with me in anticipation of my anniversary this Saturday! I'm excited to share these honeymoon memories with you, a packing guide to use on your trip to Italy, as well as some thoughts on what I've learned makes a successful marriage. Don't worry, I don't think I'm a marriage expert or counselor, just sharing my two cents :)
Have a fabulous day friends!