Maleficent Adventures

Travelling Around the World

Tag: Italy

9 Things To Do In Venice, Italy

Lucy and her husband went to Venice in June, here are the top 9 things they recommend:

  1. Taking in St Mark’s square with a post-dinner drink
    It is very expensive in the square, so we would only recommend one tipple to finish off your evening with a touch of class. The square is all lit up and the ambiance from the orchestra makes it magical.

  1. Views of the Grand Canal
    No matter where you cross this iconic canal, the views are always spectacular. Whilst the Rialto bridge is obviously a must see, we found it to be much less crowded on the Ponte dell’Accademia, with just as nice a view.

  1. Wander the backstreets with no destination or purpose
    The beauty in Venice lies not only in its popular tourist hot spots (Campanille, Doge’s Palace), but in the architecture of the city itself. Wandering through the backstreets, finding hidden passage ways and tiny bridges kept us busy for hours – and is also the best way to find popular local eateries and bars.

  1. Eat local
    We used the Lonely Planet guide (I rarely travel without one) to help locate osterias and ristorantes that the locals love. It not only gives you a better feel for a city, but we also found them to be much cheaper. Venice is great for its own version of tapas – cichetti, which we fell in love with and ate for nearly every meal. Our main eating rule: NEVER eat somewhere with a picture board of the food – these are tourist traps with huge prices attached.

Recommendations for Venice:

Posso Pomo Doro (Calle Larga San Marco) great modern take on rustic Italian food, fantastic desserts.

Pasticceria Dal Mas (Rio Terà Lista di Spagna) –  bakery for great cannoli and other sweet treats, we also had some beautiful macarons here:

Barco Risotto (Campo San Provolo): We asked behind the bar what all the cichetti were and then also for a wine pairing. The staff were so helpful and the food and wine were delicious!

Osteria ai Osti (Corte dei Pali già Testori) – This place was a random find, tucked away down a back street. We were aiming for Cà D’Oro alla Vedova but after being stood in the door and ignored by staff walking past us for 5 minutes we decided to take out business elsewhere – and we were glad we did. It was VERY rustic – we did not understand most of the menu and ordered blindly (no signal to use google translate!). However, the service was fantastic, the food delicious and the prosecco 2.50 Euros a glass – perfecto! We were also too busy enjoying ourselves to take any photos, sorry! There are some good ones on the google maps page though.

Osteria Dei Sapori (Fondamenta Trapolin) – perfect for a spot of people watching and cichetti:

Al Ponte Storto Osteria con cuchina (Ponte Storto, San Polo) – This place was fantastic, super fresh ingredients, great staff and a very nice quiet corner to get away from the crowds.

  1. Try the gelato
    You might think this needs to come under the food tip, wrong. Gelato is a way of life in Venice (and Italy – see our Tuscany blog), and we made it our purpose to visit as many different gelaterias as possible. All except one were recommended by our Lonely Planet guide, and were all fantastic.

Recommendations for Gelato:

Gelato Fantasy (Calle dei Fabbri) – because I am a real hunter of KitKat ice cream we sought out this place, and I was not disappointed.

Suso (Calle della Bissa) – amazing flavours, and always so crowded. Definitely try the pistachio, it comes with a nut butter top layer (pictured below) and it is phenomenal.

Alaska Gelateria (Calle Larga dei Bari) – great flavours but they were a bit melty and there were no waffle cones.

Magnum Pleasure Store (Fondamenta S. Simeone Piccolo) – We are kind of ashamed to say we visited this place, because it isn’t Italian in the slightest. However, it is delicious so: sorry – not sorry.

  1. Visit local attractions
    Whilst on this trip, we kept it to strictly food, drink and wanderings; on previous trips however, I have visited the main tourist lures.

If you are low on funds then choose one, I would recommend the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale), where you can walk through various rooms of the palace and also visit the bridge of sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri).

The Guggenheim is a great way to see a grand collection of art.

St Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is also a beautiful building to visit, but arrive early as the queue can stretch as long as the square later on in the day. There are a whole host of museums and churches well worth a visit.

  1. Visit Rialto
    We took a walking tour out of our Lonely Planet guide called “Venice Gourmet Crawl”, where we visited the Rialto market and Pescaria – where all local produce is bought by chefs and café owners for the day’s menu.

We went to Caffe del Doge a fantastic coffee shop and perfect for breakfast.

Wandered the streets, finding a great viewing point of the Grand Canal by the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia.

Finishing by Alaska Gelateria (see tip 5), which, despite flavours being good here, the gelato was quite wet and melted very quickly. Still worth a visit though.

The Rialto bridge is also spectacular at night.

  1. Visit the islands
    This time we went to Murano – home of glass making in Venice.

It is a quaint little island with a lot of shops selling glass items, and a few factories where you can actually see the glass blowers at work.

The museum here (Museo del Vetro) is also a good place to visit to learn about the processes and see the current artist installation – which is pretty much mind blowing (pun intended).

You can easily buy tickets and hop aboard the waterbus to any of the islands, which works like a metro in any city with the stops along the way signposted and arrival times marked clearly.

We had lunch at Osteria al Duomo which was fantastic! We sat out in the walled garden behind the restaurant, which was beautiful and highly recommended.

  1. Drink!
    The region produces Prosecco, so it would be rude not to sample a couple of local glasses. We particularly recommend a visit to Al Prosecco for a glass of the old style ‘natural process’ wines, where you can get a glass of unfiltered (cloudy) prosecco. It definitely has a yeasty flavour to it, but worth a try, great on a hot afternoon. One of the things you’ll also see people sipping around the city is a glass of Aperol Spritz, which was invented by Austrian immigrants that lived in Venice. Whilst prosecco suits me just fine, I can get why it is such a popular drink – it can be quite refreshing on a hot afternoon. There are also a couple of local breweries on the island worth visiting.

Bar recommendations:

Al Prosecco (Sestiere Santa Croce) – set in a beautiful square, it is perfect for people watching and was full of locals (so you know it’s good).

Bar 1 Ciak (Campiello San Tomà) – another great spot in a shaded square, plenty of people milling through perfect for sitting back and taking in your surroundings and planning your next move.

Review: Villa Casale Vorno, Italy

A few weeks ago, our family headed to Vorno,  a small village 10 minutes outside of the city of Lucca, Italy. This rustic villa set in the rolling Tuscan countryside was a perfect base for a week away with the family.

The villa had everything we needed, it slept up to 12 people with 5 bedrooms inside the house, with another bedroom situated in its own building on the property.

The private pool was located at the end of the garden along a path lined with olive trees. Whilst initially it was a little coldwe found it perfect for cooling off in the hot afternoons, the diving board helps!

Top Tip: Be sure to bring Mosquito repellent  we were bitten badly. Don’t worry, if you forget it is only a short drive to Lucca wheretwo large supermarkets are located.

Included in the weekly rental was a delicious prepared breakfast every day by Roberta, a local who would not only have everything laid out for us by 8am but would also clear everything away after and put the leftovers in the fridge for our lunch. Breakfast was typical continental: meats and cheeses, pastries, yogurt, fresh fruit  and cereal; as well as an array of local hot and cold delicacies that would change daily. We were also welcomed to the property with a prosecco and tapas spread.

The villa was equipped with afull kitchen and outdoor barbecue, perfect for self catering. The ice machine in the kitchen was a welcome addition, and very useful for taking ice buckets for drinks down by the pool. If you are not so inclined to cook on holiday, there are four restaurants in Vorno within around a 15 minutes walk..

We recommend: Ristorante Pizzeria A Bimbotto, a fantastic family run restaurant with a wide choice of local eats.

The age range of our guests was 18 months – 59 years old and it met everyone’s needs, with a highchair and cot provided. The website said that it building would be accessible as it is located at the foot of the hills – we would read into this carefully as there was no access to the pool or garden except up steps, with uneven ground between the house and pool area. Also there were no bedrooms on the ground floor – however we did not have access to the extra building.

We had a great time at the villa, Tuscany is such a beautiful region and the villa worked as a good base forexploring either by car or foot. Whilst it wasn’t modern, it had a rustic charm to it and way certainly very clean and well kept.

We’re already looking to go back next year!

This villa can be booked with Bridgewater Travel

9 Things To Do In Tuscany, Italy

Last month, we headed off on our annual family vacation, this year to Tuscany Italy. We flew into Pisa before driving to Vorno, a small town just outside of Lucca.

Here are a few things we’d recommend doing when visiting Tuscany

  1. Overindulge in the delicious food
    Italy isn’t short of amazing food that the whole family will enjoy: pasta, pizza, charcuterie, cheese, gelato …. Need we go on?

Our recommendations in Lucca include:

  • La Buca di Sant’Antonio – book ahead, because we were a party of 9 we got a private room and the service was impeccable.
  • Trattoria Da Leo – vino della casa (house wine) is delicious, all pasta dishes to die for!
  • Pizzeria Pub Io Skianto di Fabrizi Anna Maria Lo Schianto – perfect lunch spot just on the edge of the city, right next to the carousel

In Vorno:

  • Ristorante Pizzeria A Bimbotto – family run, great deco, SUPER delicious food.

  1. Sample local drinks
    Each town and region throughout Italy has its own unique beverages, be sure to ask your server for something local to compliment your food choice. We found ‘vino della casa’ did us just fine, and was very affordable! As an aperitif, you can’t go wrong with a prosecco or Aperol Spitz – when in Rome!
  2. Book a villa with a pool
    Temperatures in Tuscany, in the summer can hit heights of 40 celcius, we were so greatful to have the option to cool off with a quick dip. Make sure you buy an inflatable online and bring it with you – saves a fortune, and your pool cred 😎
  3. Visit the historic city of Lucca
    This ancient walled city is full of culture and fantastic food. Weave your way through the streets from square to square and you’ll pass some delicious gelateria, mesmerising churches and great museums.
  4. Hire Bikes
    Down the narrow streets in the cities or in the countryside, hire bikes to explore more of Tuscany. In Lucca, we were able to hire bikes and a 4-wheel cycle (perfect for keeping naughty toddlers at bay!)  by the hour to explore the city walls. Tandem bikes were also available, located near the entrance to the city on the south side – by the carousel.
  5. Visit a local vineyard
    Throughout Tuscany vineyards are abundant, scattered amongst the hillsides as far as the eye can see. We visited Montechiari Winery in Monte Carlo, and had a great time learning lots about the processes used to create their cabinet sauvignon and merlot wines from grape to wine. Surrounded by gorgeous views, we got to sample 4 wines and a champagne including appetisers for 50 Euros per person. It was so good our mum ordered a case of the champagne for her 60th birthday celebrations next year!
  6. Head to Pisa
    Home of the iconic leaning tower, head to the city to see this epic monument. Be sure to head there earlier or later in the day to snap that iconic photo with the tower with fewer tourists getting in your way.
  7. Visit Florence
    Florence is the capital of Tuscany and is a beautifully unique and majestic town. Be sure to stop to see Statue of David (Michelangelo) and Florence Cathedral.
    Get a lift up to Piazzale Michelangelo for an amazing viewpoint over the city.
  8. Take in the countryside with a nice walk
    Rolling countryside is in abundance in Tuscany, make the most of it and take your time to explore the local area.

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