According to a webinar I took several months ago, Iceland, Ireland, and Italy are the top trending destinations of 2017. If I look at my own bookings so far in 2017, I can confirm that this is true of my clients!
But the most popular destination?
Undoubtedly, being the trendy traveler you are, you’ve probably thought, “Hmm, I’d like to go to Italy.” So I’ve put together a series of blog posts highlighting the Italian cities my clients have most recently been to. I’ll list must do’s and give suggestions about where to stay and eat! This post is all about Venice and Florence.
When Should I Go?
Like all the answers to questions I give my clients, it completely depends on what you want to do. If your goal is to avoid the heat and crowds October is the month for you. Summer is the high season—not only in terms of crowds, but also temperatures. And as Christmas approaches, tourist season ramps up again.
If you’re looking for a unique time to visit, try visiting Venice during Carnival (which always takes place just before Lent)—just be warned that up to 3 million people attend this event—it is not for the faint of heart.
The entire city and its lagoon are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the most exceptional cities you could visit: a city without a single paved road, and instead, water. Venice has an air of romance about it; whether it’s because of the gondolas, or the architecture (or the pigeons) Venice has a special place in everyone’s heart.
Where to Stay
I recommend staying on Venice Island—it’s far more convenient. But as you might imagine, the more convenient the hotel, the more expensive it is. So for a more moderately priced hotel I recommend Hotel Rio. It’s steps away from St. Mark’s Basilica. Each room as its own en-suite bathroom (which I know is very important to us Americans) and air conditioning!
Prices start at $220/night for high season and $196/night for low season.
Where to Eat
Ristorante da Mario alla Fava. Seafood? Check. Vegan options? Check. Beautiful dishes? Check. In the words of one of my clients, “Maybe our favorite [restaurant] in the entire trip!” The smoked swordfish ravioli comes highly recommended. (My stomach just started grumbling looking at pictures of their food!)
What to Do
A trip to Venice isn’t complete without taking a gondola, and luckily for you, there are a myriad of options and price ranges. The least expensive gondola rides include other people and no singing, while on the more expensive end you can get a private gondola ride and dinner, or even learn how to steer a gondola yourself!
Another must do in Venice is St. Mark’s Basilica, and the best way to experience it is to attend mass there. St. Mark’s holds mass every day, but if attending mass isn’t your speed, you can take a tour. And always opt for a skip-the-line ticket—they are worth their weight in gold!
A lot of people feel completely satisfied spending only 24-48 hours in Venice. But if you’ve got your sights set on a longer stay, there are many more sights for you to check out. Visit Doge’s Palace; take a selfie with your sweetie on the Bridge of Sighs; make a Carnevale mask; or if artisans are more your thing, visit the Murano and Burano islands, famous for their glass and lace respectively.
How to Get Around
If you are arriving to Venice by plane, taking a water taxi or pre-reserved shuttle to your hotel is the best choice. Water taxis can be a little bumpy, so just be prepared. Otherwise, walking is very easy to do in Venice, or if you’re going farther than you’d care to walk, take the vaporetto. It’s Venice’s public transportation system, and a unique experience!
Travel Agent Expert Tip: Venice is an endangered city. The sheer uniqueness attracts thousands more tourists than the population. The city has been cracking down on irresponsible travel practices, so make sure to check out this link.
Traveling responsibly and respectfully is a key element of sustainable travel.
Venice is often visited simply for its singular ambiance, but Florence is visited for its art, art, ART! Whether you’ve just got to check out Michelangelo’s David or the Uffizi Gallery, you’ll certainly get your fill of art.
Where to Stay
Hotel Perseo, plain and simple. It checks everything off my list in a good hotel: great location, fantastic staff, comfortable, beautiful rooms. It’s right down the street from Il Duomo, each room has its own bathroom, and some rooms have views of the dome.
For a slightly more affordable (though just a bit less convenient), choose San Frediano Mansion. The owners have worked to maintain the 15th century building and its 19th century style. As one of my clients noted, “We felt like we were staying in a palace!”
Where to Eat
For a cozy, relaxed atmosphere, and authentic Tuscan food (as well as vegetarian options) make sure to stop by Pepo!
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a guided bike tour that lets you sample some of the region’s best food.
What to Do
If you’re one to check things off your bucket list, then you absolutely must see Michelangelo’s David. Be sure to book a tour or get a reservation, otherwise you’re not going to get to see him. (Same goes for the Uffizi Gallery.)
While in Florence, be sure to check out Il Duomo, and take a guided tour that lets you go up into the dome itself. Not only will you get to see inside the dome, you’ll get some stunning views of the city.
If you’re planning on jam-packing your days full of museum-visiting, a Firenze Card is the way to go. For €72 you can visit 72 museums for 72 hours. (And they’ve made it easy to remember!)
If you’re sticking to the Venice-Florence-Rome route, Florence is an excellent hub from which to take day trips. Pisa is an easy day trip. Florence is conveniently located to visit the wineries and countryside of Tuscany. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could even take a day trip to Cinque Terre. (But I think it deserves a visit all its own—I'll be talking about it in another blog post.)
How to Get Around
The best way to get to Florence is by train. Flights from the US are generally cheaper into Venice.
Walking is easy around Florence, but if you’re coming to Florence from Venice, remember that there are cars now. The traffic and bustle of Florence can seem a bit overwhelming compared to Venice, but you’ll get in the swing of things in no time!
Travel Agent Expert Tip: In Florence black numbers are building numbers and red numbers are shop numbers. This will help you find your way around the city more easily!
But of course, when planning your trip to Italy, make sure you are doing things you are interested in. If you don’t really care about art, and are more interested in ruins, perhaps Florence would not be the right choice for you. Or if you easily get motion sickness on boats, maybe Venice should be avoided.
Either way if you have a travel agent helping you out, you know you’ll have a good trip!
(Be sure to check back for my next Italy installment on Rome!)
Now get out there and go!