How has it been a month since the wedding?! Time is really flying, and we're working on slowly easing ourselves back into "normal" life. We learned a whole lot in the process of planning our wedding (read more about that here), and we really lucked out with the fantastic travel agency we found to help plan our Italian honeymoon.
Tip: We left for Italy a few days after the wedding. I highly recommend giving yourself at least a full day between out-of-town guests departing and jet-setting off to paradise. You are going to need time to recharge and repack after the craziness of the wedding weekend.
One other side-note before we get started...although there are some affiliate links in this post, this content is not sponsored. We just had a really great experience and want to share the recommendations with you!
A lot of people have asked me how we ended up with a local, Italian travel agent for our honeymoon. Well, after a lot of research, we decided to use Zicasso to find the perfect travel agency for our trip. Zicasso acts like a broker for luxury travel. The company doesn't actually plan your trip, instead they pair you up with 2 or 3 leading travel specialists who compete to design your ideal itinerary. If you look at the Zicasso website, you'll see there are a number of sample itineraries to browse through to get your dream vacation juices flowing. The sample trip that stood out to us was called Northern Italy Off The Beaten Path. We did not pay anything to Zicasso upfront for the service (in fact, we never paid anything directly to Zicasso), and they partnered us up with two different Italian travel agents who competed for our business by sending us custom itineraries. It was then up to us to pick the one we liked best.
The agency that immediately felt right to us was Fuoritinerario - Discover Your Italy, run by Matteo Della Grazia. Matteo is the BEST! We knew we were in good hands from the very beginning. He spent quite a bit of time making sure he understood what we wanted out of our trip, including talking to me on the phone (at 11pm his time). We went back and forth tweaking the itinerary until it was perfect before we exchanged any money, and he even sent us an Italian smartphone for us to use throughout our trip. It definitely came in handy when we needed to text him with questions or figure out how to get from one part of a city to another.
Our honeymoon started off in breathtaking Stresa, on the coast of Lake Maggiore. It's not as well known to U.S. travelers as Lake Como, making it more of a hot spot for Italians than tourists. It was the perfect first stop on our trip and gave us some time for low-key relaxation after the hustle and bustle of the wedding weekend. We stayed at Hotel La Palma (their skybar has the most breathtaking views!) and the highlight was our full-day boat tour around the islands (all organized by Matteo, of course).
Our next stop was Verona, and it was probably the one city we could have done without. It was also the one city we only stayed in for a single night. That evening, we went to see an opera performed inside an ancient Roman amphitheater. I have to admit, the experience of watching a show under the open night sky, in ancient ruins, was pretty cool. But we discovered operas just aren't our thing. I think it's safe to say this was our first and last.
Besides the opera, Verona is famous for Juliet's balcony...as in Romeo and Juliet. But be warned, it is insanely crowded near the balcony, and in my opinion, not worth it for a fictional landmark.
After Verona, we were off to Bologna and the Italian food valley. The highlight of Bologna, and possibly of the whole trip, was the Italian Days Food Experience. 1,269 of 1,336 reviews on Tripadvisor are 5 stars, and I totally get why. Our tour guide, Alessandro, had an energy that poured into day as we watched cheese masters make true Parmigiano Reggiano, visited a traditional balsamic vinegar farm in an old family attic, and toured a prosciutto factory. Don't be fooled when you read "light lunch" on the tour company's website. The lunch was phenomenal. And massive! We're talking 8+ courses. I lost count somewhere between all the wine.
Next up was the beautiful city of Florence. We stayed at Firenze Number Nine, a super modern, gorgeous hotel right in the city center. Check out the photo below of our hotel room ceiling! I must say, Matteo did an incredible job with the location of all our hotels on the trip. Other than airport transfers, we did not need to take cars anywhere.
It's easy to see why Florence is one of the most loved cities in the world. Mike and I were both in awe of the architecture and history. Everywhere you look, there is such intricate detail that just boggles my mind. How did people create all these masterpieces so many years ago? It's really amazing to see!
You know what else is amazing? That leather backpack Mike is wearing in the photo above. It was the rockstar of the trip. I wore it around most of the time, and it's lightweight but spacious enough to hold everything we needed. The real kicker is that it converts from a backpack to a crossbody bag in a snap. I could take it off my back in crowded spaces, instantly rearrange the straps, and it turned into a secure crossbody. Perfect for travel!
We ended our honeymoon in Venice. I've been to Venice before, and I wasn't entirely sure if there would be enough to see to make this visit different, but Matteo came through again with the tour guides he chose for us. This vacation was my first experience with private tour guides, and there's no doubt that private tours with local guides really do take a trip to a different level. We saw parts of the city we never would have discovered on our own (like a hidden street fest!) and had more opportunity to tailor the sites and ask questions than we would have had in a group setting.
So there you have it. If you have any more questions about what we would (or would not) do again, just let me know. We had such an amazing time, and I wish we could turn around and go back tomorrow!
This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. I would never suggest a product that I wouldn't want to buy myself :)