I recently returned from an incredible trip to northern Italy, hitting all the highlights, touring hotels and scoping out restaurants, museums and activities so that I can provide the best recommendations and service to my clients who want to experience everything this region has to offer. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing lots of detailed posts from the trip, but wanted to provide a quick overview of our northern Italy itinerary.
Our 10-day trip kicked off in Lake Como, the land made famous by it’s beautiful scenery, lakeside villages, classic wooden boats and George and Amal. We checked into Villa d’Este, a place so beautiful I pretty much walked around with my jaw dropped the entire two-and-a-half days. (I’ll be doing a full Hotel Report on this property, so stay tuned!) We also got to visit other partner properties of The Hollyday, including Grand Hotel Tremezzo and CastaDiva Resort (which is reopening as the Mandarin Oriental Lake Como in 2019).
A must-do activity (and one of the highlights of the entire trip) was a full-day, private boat tour with a guide around the lake – everything looks even better from the water. There are plenty of little towns and villages to explore, all reachable by boat. On our last night in Lake Como, there was a wedding at our hotel, and the event was capped off with fireworks over the water (for the bride and groom, but all of the hotel’s guests got to enjoy the show). The magic of this place is uncomparable.
We left Lake Como and drove back to Milan for two days of exploring the city. I checked into the Mandarin Oriental Milan, which is stylish and chic and the perfect place to call home in one of the fashion capitals of the world. We also visited the uber luxurious Armani Hotel and the fabulous Bvlgari Hotel, two other great options for a stay in Milan.
After spending 2 nights in Milan, we drove South towards Tuscany and made a few stops in Parma to tour local factories that produce Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and Parma ham! If you choose to travel from Milan to Tuscany by car, making a stop in either Parma or Bologna, both on the way, is a great option to break up the trip.
Il Borro is such a peaceful place but there is so much to do on the estate without even leaving the property. We enjoyed a winery tour and tasting, a tour of the estate’s art gallery (the Ferragamo’s personal collection complete with works by Picasso and Warhol), a cooking class, delicious meals at the restaurants on property, and those are just a few of the many activities this estate offers.
From the countryside, we drove about 50 minutes into Florence and checked into Villa La Massa, a 16th centruty Medici villa located right on the banks of the Arno River. This hotel is the perfect place to stay for travelers who want to visit Florence but don’t want to be in the busy and crowded city center. A 20-minute drive (the hotel provides a shuttle for it’s guests) will take you from the hotel to the city center and at the end of the day after sightseeing and exploring in Florence, you can return to the serenity of Villa La Massa that feels more like a country residence on the river with sweeping views of the mountains. If you prefer to stay in the middle of the city, J.K. Place Firenze and Hotel Savoy are my recommended options!
Florence is such a great city filled with history, art, architecture and culture. I actually lived in Florence for a summer during college for a study abroad program, so it was nice to be back after all those years. On this visit, we got a private guided tour of Michelangelo’s archives at the former home of his nephew, Casa Buonarroti. With our private guide, we also visited the Opera del Duomo Museum, the Medici Chapels by Michelangelo, and the Uffizi Gallery. Visitng these institutions with a private guide is invaluable – they are extremely knowledgable and provide so much fascinating information that you wouldn’t get on your own, and they are so passionate about their city and culture, it really makes the experience more fun.
Our trip through Northern Italy ended after two nights in Florence, but what’s great about Italy is that it’s really a small country – smaller than the state of California in terms of area. With the train options or even short flights, you could start in Lake Como and end in Sicily if you planned it right. Stay tuned for more posts and travel guides from this trip, and contact me here to get started planning your next Italian adventure!