March 25, 2019

[ travel series | paris + italy ]

Posted in: personal, Travel

Y’all it is #traveltuesday and after weeks [months] of teasing you, I’m finally sharing our early fall trip to Italy with a pit-stop in Paris! Be forewarned: this is a long one, so prepare yourself. Or better yet, bookmark it and break it up into two days worth.

This trip was planned pretty last minute. After doing Spain in 2017, we knew we wanted to do Italy next. Buttt then we bought a new house and thought we would be putting it off for a little bit longer. One day I walked in my front door, and David said “Want to go to Italy?” and my jaw dropped. He had been searching flights and found one [with a full day layover in Paris] at a deal we couldn’t pass up. So there we were, flights booked and planning a 10 day trip just 6 weeks before leaving!

[ PARIS ]

We flew overnight from DC to Paris and arrived around 8am. After freshening up in the airport bathroom, we took the train straight to the Notre Dame stop. We walked up the stairs into a bustling city with a view of the Notre Dame Cathedral and I immediately became giddy. We headed to the closest cafe and ordered some crepes and a carafe of house wine and people watched. After that, we crossed the bride, spent some time in front of the Cathedral, walked along the river looking at the pop up shops, and headed all the way down to the Louvre.


We loved the square here, it had a really great vibe, was absolutely beautiful, and wasn’t too crowded. After hanging out there for a bit, we hopped in a cab and headed towards the Eiffel Tower. We headed down a small side street to snag a bottle and some charcuterie supplies before posting up on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower for a late picnic lunch. We had so much fun here. There was a guy playing acoustic guitar nearby and the people watching couldn’t have been better – if you want to watch people from around the world try to get the perfect Instagram shot, this is your spot!

 

After prying ourselves from this spot, we headed back to the airport. Thank goodness I always plan for extra time because the train station we planned to use was closed so we had to walk an extra mile to get to the next one. We made it back with plenty of time to spare and took off for Italy!

[ NAPLES + PROCIDA ]

We arrived in Naples close to midnight and headed straight to our AirBnB after a full day of travel. It was a tiny place, but had a huge outdoor terrace overlooking the city. We tried to sit outside with a glass of wine, but it was way too windy, making it cold as well so we headed straight to bed to rest up for our first day.

The next morning we walked down to the docks, grabbed some breakfast, and boarded the ferry over to the island of Procida. The water was ROUGH y’all. Pulling into the port in Procida, our ferry driver had to circle around multiple times before they could get it just right without the boat rocking like crazy. Once we safely arrived, we started heading up. We took a beautiful scenic walk that was almost straight up hill. There was a patio bar, Bar de Castello, at the top that was intended to be our destination, but unfortunately, it was all packed up due to the wind.

The views were gorgeous, but we had to make our way back down. We stopped to over look Coricella for a bit, then headed all the way down there for lunch at La Lampara.


This was our first Italian meal and it was definitely one of the best we had the entire time. The food was incredible, the house wine could not be beat, and the view was absolutely perfect. It was stunningly quiet as well, and we just kept laughing and asking if this was real life.

We probably sat here for almost two hours just enjoying being there before heading back to take the ferry back to Naples for the night. We went to Donna Margherita for our first dose of real pizza. If you know me, I’m not a huge pizza fan and even I thought it was really good. The ceiling was also covered in greenery and lemons, so the ambiance was pretty great too.

After that, we headed back to the AirBnB because we knew we had another early morning ahead of us and wanted to finally get a full night’s sleep!

[ FLORENCE ]
We took an early train to Florence Thursday morning. We checked into our AirBnB when we arrived, which was more like a small boutique hotel. It had a cute little balcony and was super clean and comfy which was SO needed. We dropped of our stuff then headed out to explore the city. We walked towards Ponte Vecchio and headed over to 4 Leoni for lunch. I heard about their pear and asparagus ravioli from multiple people and it did not disappoint! It was not what I would expect from a ravioli, but it was bursting with flavor. After that, we walked through the streets and window shopped, then ended up at the Cathedral where we sipped champagne next door. We headed back to shower and get ready for the evening because we had a portrait session planned with Molly Scott Photo! Molly and I were actually getting ready to have a wedding together and while emailing back and forth about the details, realized we would both be in Florence at the same time. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have her snap some shots of us around the city!


From there, we grabbed dinner [and more house wine] at Golden View, which was right on the river, square with Statue of David. Live music, street performers. Then it was back to bed to get ready for our weekend in Tuscany!

[ CHIANTI ]

We picked up our rental car early the next morning and set off for the Chianti region of Tuscany. The drive through the countryside was GORGEOUS. We stopped at a couple of wineries before checking into our AirBnB. The first stop was Ruffino, which is a pretty high production winery and is commonly sold here in the States. For how much they sell, I was surprised at how small and cozy their space was. It was comparable to something you would see here in Virginia. Apparently they have multiple vineyard sites in Italy though, so I guess that’s why. After a tour of their facilities, they brought us into the tasting room and we got to taste 6 wines from their portfolio.

After that, we headed to a much smaller family-run winery called Montefioralle. When  I say small, I mean they only have 5 total acres and their facilities are in a few hundred square feet sized house. The family who now owns the vineyard bought it from the local priest back in the 60’s and they produce wines and olive oil on site. Montefioralle had an outdoor patio where they sat us to do our tasting along with some snacks. Their wine was surprisingly reall great, better than some of the other big-boys we went to, so we wound up bringing some home of course!

From there, we checked in to AirBnB which couldn’t have been more perfect. When you think Tuscan villa, this was the spot. They had hammocks, a pool, and a large patio with beautiful views of the country side. After freshening up, we set out for a cooking class at another Inn, B&B Fagiolari. This had to have been one of the coolest activities of our trip. We put on our aprons and cooked veggies, pasta, and dessert with people from multiple other countries. Once we were done cooking, we all sat around a large table and ate family-style together while talking life and drinking the house wine that they make on-site.

The next morning, we headed out for Antinori. We had recently attended an Antinori wine dinner back home, so we were excited to get to tour their vineyard. Y’all, this place is incredible! It is by far the largest winery we’ve ever been to and is so incredibly modern, while still having every single material sourced locally. Their facility was literally built into the side of a mountain, so when you’re driving up, all you see is the vineyards, and you walk up a spiral staircase from their underground garage to get to the front door. The Antinori family goes wayyy back in history and have been making wine for 26 generations and it shows. These people know what they are doing!


After our tour and tasting, we were able to snag a seat at Rinuccio 1180, the restaurant on the top level of the winery, for lunch. This was one of our favorite meals of the trip, and of course we got a bottle of red to go along with it.

From there, we made our way over to Brancaia, another larger winery that is sold here in the States. Unfortunately, some roads were closed because there was a street race happening [seriously.] so we had to take a very long detour over some sketchy unpaved roads, straight up a mountain. The views at the top were beautiful, but it was incredibly windy so we couldn’t spend much time outside. Brancaia only had two guys running the place that day, and again, I was surprised at how small it was. After a short tour, they let us taste their entire portfolio of wines, which was awesome. However, it would up being silly-expensive [we reserved a basic tour/tasting, maybe we should have asked  questions when they started pouring everything…] so we didn’t take any of their wine back with us.

That evening, we stopped at a shop in town [Greve in Chianti] and grabbed some charcuterie supplies for a quiet night on patio. Unfortunately, we got news that a friend had passed when we returned to wifi. So, we watched the sun set and toasted to her that night. We went to bed with bellies full of wine and hearts full of gratitude for all of this.

The next morning, we headed back to Florence with, what should have been, plenty of time to spare to catch our train to Salerno. However, apparently there was a marathon that had shut down literally ALL of the main roads in Florence, including the one our car rental place was on. We tried every route and eventually wound up close to where we needed to be. David let me out at the train station, just two blocks away from the car rental place, 15 minutes before our train was scheduled to leave. Spoiler alert: we missed it. By less than 5 minutes. We didn’t realize when he dropped me off that the street the rental place was on was closed. He did multiple loops around trying to get there, but eventually wound up leaving the car on the side of the street, snapping pictures for evidence, and literally running in and throwing the keys at the people who worked at the rental place.

[ AMALFI COAST + CAPRI ]

Missing our train was really no big deal, there was another one leaving shortly after and we still arrived in Salerno just in time to catch the ferry to Amalfi. Guys, I don’t know why you would travel any other way. The ferry ran right along the coast, and for just a few bucks, it felt like we were getting a mini-tour of the Amalfi Coast. At one point, we noticed that planes were flying in circles around a certain spot. Turns out, there were wild fires on the mountain and instead of fire trucks, they have fire planes who pick up water from the ocean and dump it on the fire. Who knew?!

Once we arrived in Amalfi, our AirBnB host picked us up in a golf cart and brought us to the house. It was a full apartment with 2 bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a large deck overlooking town and the water. We threw on our bathing suits, packed some clothes for dinner, and headed down to the beach. We grabbed two chairs in one of the beach clubs and had some drinks while enjoying the views. After a little while, we changed and headed upstairs for dinner. We sat on the railing and had a beautiful view. From there, we headed back home and opened a bottle of wine on our balcony. The darker it got, the more we noticed a small orange dot. Eventually we realized that it was the wild fires they were trying to put out earlier! We sat there and literally watched it spread throughout the evening. I was definitely a little concerned, but apparently this happens all the time on the Amalfi coast and they just wind up fizziling out.

The next  day, we had a boat trip to Capri planned that we were very excited for. We boarded the boat with probably 5-6 other couples and headed off along the coast. We pulled into multiple little grottos along the way and around the islands where Lebron James apparently vacations. It was definitely windy and a little choppy, but the ride there was beautiful. As we got closer, the water was just so blue! We did a full loop around the island before pulling into port and heading off to explore.

We had a restaurant in mind that we wanted to go to, to we set out on foot [like we always do] to find it. It was quite a trek, a lot of the way uphill. Aaaand then, when we got to where it was supposed to be, it was shut down. We were super bummed! So instead we hopped on a bus and headed towards the town center of Capri. We decided not to do AnaCapri because we are not big shoppers and didn’t want to waste time riding to the top separately. We walked through town to a restaurant called il Geranio for lunch. The views here were gorgeous! The restaurant overlooked Faraglioni, the famous rocks, that we had just boated through.

After finishing up lunch, we headed back to the square and found this tiny little wine bar, Pulalli, that overlooked the area. It was a little hard to find, but there’s a tiny set of stairs next to the information booth that you have to take to get there. From there we headed back to the marina and returned to our boat. The weather got a little worse at that point and the dark clouds started to roll in. The trip back was very rushed and a little rocky, so we didn’t get to stop anywhere. But drinks were included, so the ride was still plenty enjoyable.

Once they dropped us back off in port, we headed to the grocery store and then grabbed some pizza and wine in front of the cathedral in town. One of our favorite activities is people watching, so we enjoyed listening to the church bells and watching everyone walk by.

The next day, we cooked breakfast and ate on the balcony. Then we headed down to catch a bus up to Ravello. We really wanted to do the hike either up or down, but since we were a little limited on time, we settled for the bus. As we walked up, there was a roofless bus heading up to Ravello so we hopped on there. It was such a tacky-tourist move, but definitely worth it. You could see everything on the ride up and they gave you headphones to plug in and listen to the history of where we were driving through. Unfortunately, as soon as we got to Ravello, which is very high up, the clouds rolled in and it started raining. We tried so hard to wait it out. We ran into a cathedral to check that out, then sheltered under an outdoor cafe and drank some hot tea to warm us up. It didn’t look like the rain was ending anytime soon, so we headed back down. We have heard such great things about Ravello, so we were bummed we didn’t get to really explore, but the good news is it was still bright and sunny down in Amalfi!

We planned on heading over to Positano that evening, so we wound up taking an early ferry to spend more time there.  Again with the ferry y’all, definitely the best way to travel! We spent some time walking around Positano, stopping for drinks and doing a little shopping. The people were so incredibly nice and everything is so picture perfect. When it was time, we caught the bus up to La Taglietta for our dinner reservations. We had been looking forward to this meal the entire time and it did not disappoint! La Taglietta is at the very top of Positano and it takes a little while to get there. During the warmer months, it is completely open-air, but with chilly nights at the beginning of October, they already had the sides down. We still had a beautiful view though. This meal was a full on experience. You pay one price and they just keep bringing you food and wine, there isn’t even a menu. It began with our choice of a bottle of their house-brand red or white wine. Then they brought out a full plate of antipasti for us to share, followed by one for fresh pasta, one with grilled meats, and a dessert plate. Everything was SO GOOD and I loved that we got to try a little bit of everything. We wound up having to rush out of there at the end though, because the bus schedules had changed that day and the one we planned on taking wasn’t coming anymore. The staff was great and called us a cab to catch the main bus about 15 minutes away. It was the last bus of the night and we made it just in time, literally 2 minutes! So we bused it back to Amalfi and called it a night.

The next morning, it was time to leave. We had a slow morning on our balcony then packed up all our stuff. We headed down to one of the beach clubs to spend a little more time in the sun before boarding the ferry back Salerno, then taking the train back to Naples. The entire trip home is a story in itself, and I’ll save that for another time. Ask me about it in person!

Y’all, Italy was freaking incredible. We had so many great experiences and got to see so many beautiful places. With that said, I’ll leave you with my number one tip for Italy: always get the table wine.

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