Two Weeks in Italy: A Travel Guide

Can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write this post…has it already been 6 months? This past September, I crashed the party and joined my mom in law and sister in law on a trip to Italy. It was an incredible two weeks, starting in Venice and ending in Rome.  I love Italy. The food, the history, the culture. Italians seem to have figured out the art of living a life that is less frenetic and chaotic and it’s just so attractive!
Scott and I brought our kids to Italy in the summer of 2016 and they fell in love with it too!
I wrote about our favourite stops, accommodations, eats and sights in Rome here.  It’s no surprise that each visit to Italy holds new discoveries and highlights… so consider this post my updated favourites for Rome as well as a guide to other Italian stops: Venice, Tuscany and the Cinque Terre. This is an extensive post, so you might wanna get comfortable?!? It’s hard to keep it short…and I’ve pared it back a handful of times already. Advance cheers to those of you who make it to the end:)

Here we go…


September marked my first visit to Venice. In my head, there were visions of canals, gondolas and their gondoliers singing and rowing. I wasn’t disappointed! (Ok side note here…it is indeed somewhat of a  tourist trap and so we watched rather than ride!) But there was much more that charmed me. The labyrinth of walkways, the quiet of the night, the open shutters with vibrant filled window boxes. What might have grabbed my heart the most? Our first morning, we awoke to a brilliant sunny day and opened the windows in our airbnb. Looking below we saw a group of elderly women sitting before easels, painting the morning view of the canal. For real? I almost cried!

Our airbnb was not only charming (umm remember the painting ladies?) but allowed us to stay slightly out of the hubbub, but close enough to walk to it.

Wander /

Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) is a must see. The pure scale of the square and the opulent Byzantine architecture are a testament to why this is the heartbeat of Venice. Yes, it’s busy, but the energy is amazing here. We found a place to grab breakfast, soaking it all in both people and pigeon watching.

Hands down the highlight of our quick visit to Venice was ferrying over to the little island of Burano. A one and a half hour ferry ride there was a welcome break for our feet and a gave a great perspective of seeing Venice from the water. Burano is known for its colourful houses as well as the are of lace making. It was so worth it, and I really recommend working this into your itinerary…you will not be disappointed. Quite possibly the most charming village yet.


The land of rolling hills covered in vineyards, driveways lined with cypress trees, stone farmhouses that are as charming as can be, hilltop medieval fortresses. Known for wine, culture and art, you would be missing out if you overlooked this region of Italy. We rented a car in Florence which allowed us to take in as much of this area as possible. To really explore, I feel like this is the best choice.

Florence |

The capital of Tuscany is Florence. Considered the “cradle” of the Renaissance, it is home to some of the most iconic art masterpieces, such as Michelangelo’s statue of David. At the hub is also the majestic cathedral, the Duomo.

Our stay in Florence was short (as in one night) so we put our Birkenstocks to the test! We covered a lot of ground.

Our accommodation at this hotel was one of our favourite stops and probably felt the most luxurious of all of them. The views of the city were pretty magical…and close to walk everywhere! Location was everything as time was precious. This central spot was perfect for being able to go back and drop our “stuff” off as needed. There was a quaint outdoor terrace where we could catch our breath for a late afternoon coffee before heading out to dinner.

Where to Eat /

Ditta Artigianale is a solid breakfast stop. Brunch cocktails, cappuccinos, Greek yogurt with muesli, french toast…in a really cute coffee shop atmosphere.

Momio for brunch. How can you tell I love breakfast? Ok so I haven’t actually been to Momio…it’s still on my list…the reviews are so good! Next time!

Trattoria Giovanni for some insanely good bruschetta..not every bruschetta is created equally and this one scored top marks.
Brunori for some darn good panini sandwiches. Wow, this place blew Scott outta the water..and that’s hard to do. Great value for huge portions.
Gelateria La Carraia  The lineup is indicative of some delicious gelato…ps the line moves fast so no fear!
Magnum Bar If you love Magnum Bars, you must make a stop here because…this is a make your own version! Well, someone makes it for you but it’s fully customizable to whatever you might dream of. I’ve posted some pics to tempt you…

For all things Florence, here is an awesome post to read…this blogger has some great tips!

Tuscany Countryside |

Tuscany is beautiful…and expansive. There is just so much to explore in the countryside and choosing where you’re going to stay is hard as the options are endless. Our strategy is choosing a location that will allow us to explore a number of different villages and provide a comfortable “home” to come back to each day.

We spent 4 days located about 1/2 hour outside of Florence in Val di Pisa at this guesthouse.  We stayed in the Loft Rondinelli which was a separate 2 bedroom poolhouse…it was seriously so cute! We found the location was a wonderful home base and so close to many tuscan villages. From this spot we easily accessed Siena, San Gimignano (must visit!) and Monteriggioni, another walled city with cute shops, restaurants and a farmers market.

A solid highlight was taking a cooking class right on the property. Actually it has been a bucket list wish for me for years! This experience was one for the memory books…and armed me with arguably the best tiramisu recipe my family has ever enjoyed!

When we came with our family we found this GEM on Airbnb. It is located in Castellini in Chianti and was a bit off the beaten path but is a working vineyard called Fattoria Nittardi. It is stunning! The wine is incredible and we just loved the accommodations. Even better than what we saw online, it was a rustic stone farmhouse with 3 large bedrooms. One of our best memories was enjoying a dinner alfresco on the property, complete with salad made from the garden’s vegetables, charcuterie from a farmers market and local rose. It’s hard to beat that. Huge airbnb score!


Where to eat |

My suggestion when in Tuscany is to ask the locals. It is pretty hard to have a bad meal here! When we arrived at our accommodations in Val di Pisa, they offered to cook us a meal on-site which was a real treat. They were also able to suggest some nearby trattorias that all served fresh, homemade pasta and other Italian fare. Like I said, it’s hard to go wrong here!

One suggestion, if you find yourself close to Castellini in Chianti, there is some insanely good pizza to be had at Tre Porte…order the ash crust pizza (just trust me, ok?).


Located on the Italian riviera, the Cinque Terre is a sight to be a seen. Five seaside villages are strung along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea making it a traveller’s delight. The landscape is comprised of terraced farms, colourful houses, rugged cliffs and beautiful views. The terrain is stunning and attracts hikers from around the world. It is possible to make visiting the Cinque Terre as a day trip, but I much prefer staying a couple of nights to get the real experience.

Where to Stay /

We chose Monterosso to be our home base. This is the only town in the Cinque Terre that has a proper beach..unfortunately, it was a bit cold to enjoy it:)

Our cute little airbnb put us in a fantastic location to walk the town and serve as a place to explore from.  A note: homes are built in tight formation in these villages and thus, rooms are very small and often narrow. Our airbnb was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom…great location and pristine clean.
If a view is more your jam, look up. When we came with our kids we stayed here.  It was up (much) higher so there was definitely more walking hiking involved but the view was magnificent.


Wander /

Hiking. This is a no brainer…except that you’ll be at the mercy of the weather on this. The rains had been prolific before our arrival and all the hiking trails were closed. On our previous visit Lexi and I hiked from Riomaggiore to Manarola and enjoyed breathtaking views. My suggestion? Wear a hiking shoe rather than Birkenstocks. Yes. We failed on that count. Nonetheless I’m still extremely glad we did this hike and would love to spend more time on the the Cinque Terre’s hiking trails on our next visit.

We visited each of the towns (by train is the most efficient) and here are some highlights:

We probably loved Corniglia the most! You have to walk up to it from where the train stops but it’s so worth it. So very charming! If you have the chance make sure to have a drink on the patio with arguably one of the best views in the Cinque Terre at Bar Terza.

Vernazza was our first stop of the morning and after grabbing a croissant and coffee, we went to the harbour to watch the fishermen preparing their boats for their workday. The highlight may have been the wrinkled old man in the speedo moving boats around like a bada$$ ha!

Another must is lunch at Nessum Dorma in Manarola. It is MAGICAL! You can also take a pesto making course that we saw others doing. The charcuterie platters/bruschetta are AMAZING here!! One of the best places to take photos as well..completely insta worthy.

In Monterosso, we ate at De Eraldo where we enjoyed a delicious dinner. (*Advised to make a reservation)

A super cute bakery in Monterosso is Wonderland Bakery…you’ll want to make a refuelling stop here!
Also recommended to us in Monterosso was Ristorante Miky. I’m going to give you the reservation speech again, because we missed out due to the lack of one…


As I said above, I wrote a fairly comprehensive post on our family experience to Rome in July of 2016.
It includes our favourite places to eat, what to do and where we stayed (it was all about the terrace!), etc.
This past September, we chose a super quirky but spacious loft on airbnb.    Located adjacent to the Pantheon, it was an incredible walking location! We walked everywhere. Also a bonus was the kitchen, which allowed us to eat breakfasts in and save our indulgences for later in the day!



Where to eat//

1. Pianostrada – Great street food, different than the traditional italian food. Fantastic ambiance and level of service, we loved our dinner here! *Be sure to make a reservation in advance if possible.

 2. Colline Emiliane  The hype was right. A family run restaurant serving traditional Italian food. Listen, you won’t get in without a reservation…there’s always a lineup of people who hang around and wait to see if anyone doesn’t show for their reso…that’s sayin something.
 3. Caffe Propaganda was a delightful place to eat before our Colosseum tour…it’s located within walking distance. Kinda like Paris in Rome. The 65 degree Parisi egg was…amazing. Who knew an egg could taste that good?
 4. Ginger  In amongst all the carbs, you might find your body crying out for fruit. We came upon Ginger one such afternoon and their fruit share platter was perfection. Oh ya, I also found an acai bowl there! Highly recommend for a fresh and healthful afternoon snack.
 5. Roscioli You have three options here: their restaurant, deli or cafe. All are delicious. If you find yourself at the cafe, you MUST try a maritozzi (yeasted sweet buns filled with whipped cream).
6.  Sant Eustachio Il Caffe  for your espresso stop. Rated the best coffee in Rome, you’ll never find out their secret…the baristas prepare the espresso drinks away from the eyes of their customers.

Wander /

Here are some new additions to my previous guide, along with some of the iconic stops.
1. Trastevere.  Located across the Tiber river, Trastevere is a vibrant and artsy area that is worth exploring. There are also many cute restaurants in this neighbourhood so plan on enjoying lunch or dinner while you’re here.
 2. Monti is a trendy hipster-ish neighbourhood located behind the Colosseum. We enjoyed walking the streets, stopping for lunch in the main hub, Fontana di Piazza della Madonna dei Monti.  On our list to visit was the Liberia Caffe Bohemian but it was closed at the time we wandered time!
3. Trevi Fountain area. Yes, it’s so crazy tourist packed but it’s fun to walk through and get the vibe! We people watched on several evenings…and had to pull ourselves away!
4. Spanish Steps. Similar to the Trevi Fountain but we loved to find a good vantage point on the steps and people watch…and soaking in some sunshine.
5. Vatican. In my previous Rome post, I talked about the tour we did with our family. On this trip, we opted for a tour led by The Roman Guy… we did the Express tour that lasts 2.5 hours as opposed to 3.5 hours and found it was a good length of time. We’ve done longer ones in past which are incredibly informative…it just depends on how many statues you want to look at!
6. Colosseum Tour. After booking the Vatican tour, we realized that if we booked with the same tour company they offered a discount (hey, it all helps!). So, again, we went with The Roman Guy . Our tour was to include the underground…unfortunately that portion was cancelled due to an event being held at the Colosseum. If you have the opportunity to get to the underground, it really completes the story and gives you an added perspective of how the Colosseum functioned.
 Did you make it to here? If so, props to you! So much information, I know! My hope is that it will serves as a resource when you’re planning to visit any of these areas. Thanks for reading. Ciao! Laurel xo