I have been to Rome twice, to Florence once, and yet, I still yearn to go back. The perfect timing came when I got married and was looking for a honeymoon destination. My husband has never been to any of those Italian cities I just mentioned. So the day after exchanging marital vows on a fairytale-like Nordic island, we flew back home to Switzerland, packed our stuff, and took an unforgettable road trip to Italy.
Undoubtedly, Italy is one of the most highly-recommended honeymoon spots in the world. This we realized after our two-week blissful tour around the north and central Italy. We were simply awestruck by the European country’s sheer beauty and exquisiteness. If you find yourselves in Italy, especially during the love month, do try to include the following in your itinerary:
Hike through the five villages of Cinque Terre.
Otherwise known as the “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre features five beautiful fishing villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. You can get there by taking the train or boat. As these villages sit atop cliffs, expect some serious walking. If you have the stamina for it, try the six-hour hiking trail particularly, the path between Monterosso and Vernaza. The steep, narrow goat trail provides a spectacular view of the Ligurian Sea.
“Lean” on the tower of Pisa.
A popular Italian landmark, be prepared to bump into a lot of tourists swarming around the slightly angled campanile. Don’t be shy to make the silliest, most creative poses with the leaning tower as almost everyone there is doing it anyways.
Get lost in the walled city of Lucca.
Lucca’s centuries-old defensive walls were designed by the genius, Leonardo Da Vinci. Walking or riding a bike within the walls of the city will lead you to the most interesting places: An amphitheatre, the famous cathedral Duomo de San Martino, Torre Guinigi known for the oak trees on its rooftop, the Piazza Napoleone or Lucca’s biggest square, among many others.
Relax in historic thermal baths.
Aside from being blessed with fertile grounds, majestic landscapes and generally mild climate, Tuscany is also home to many natural hot springs. The most famous include the thermal baths in Saturnia and Monsummano. We spent days at a spa in Monsummano’s Grotta Giusti, which is known for its natural cave with an underground lake featuring therapeutic hot water. The cave highlights three zones, each one increasing in heat. For your spa treatment, you can choose either “Paradise,” “Purgatory” or “Hell.” If you’re not up for this treatment, Grotta Giusti has modern thermal pools and a number of spa services as well.
Get mesmerized by the grandeur of Florence.
A cultural, artistic and architectural gem, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance or the Age of Discovery and Creativity. Florence never fails to attract visitors from all over with its rich, colorful history. In this city alone, there’s over 80 museums, 60 churches and over a thousand restaurants to enjoy. It can be overwhelming. So if you plan to stay for a day or two we recommend you first visit the popular ones: Piazzale Michelangelo, Duomo di Firenze, the Medici Chapels and Church of San Lorenzo, Piazza Signoria, Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio.
Savor Tuscan wines.
Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions namely, Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano. We visited Montalcino and Montepulciano for the most intimate wine drinking experience. The wines from these two Tuscan cities are my favorites, particularly the Brunello di Montalcino.
Stroll around Pienza in Val d’Orcia.
Pienza is the Tuscan town that first employed the so- called Renaissance urbanism. It offers stunning views of the entire valley of Val d’Orcia (or Valdorcia). All around, it is very picturesque.
Experience Siena’s medieval vibe.
Of all the old Tuscan cities and villages, Siena has wonderfully preserved its medieval past. Gothic architecture dating hundreds of years are almost everywhere. The city is built around the Piazza del Campo. Here is the perfect place to people-watch especially late afternoons.
Stay in centuries-old villas and farmhouses.
Agri-tourism is transforming charming old villas and rustic farmhouses into themed accommodations for tourists. The idea is for you to experience either the life of a farmer or a great don. Most host families also offer a good selection of activities like horse riding, wine tasting and cooking lessons for guests.
Exchange vows of eternal fidelity in Verona.
The star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, as immortalized by Shakespeare, continue to live on in the city of Verona. Lovelorn tourists flock to Casa di Guiletta to see the bronze statue of Juliet and the balcony where Romeo famously wooed his one true love. Writing love notes, posting them on the walls, as well as touching the right breast of Juliet’s statue are believed to bring luck to lovers. You can also watch the theatrical play of Romeo and Juliet at Verona’s The Arena. But don’t leave Verona without watching Guiseppe Verdi’s Aida, as well.
Bask in the sun by the Lake Garda.
Known as the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda is a popular holiday destination for those who are into watersports and other outdoor activities. Lake Garda is surrounded by mountains and small resort towns. Try visiting Bardolino and Peschiera.
Taste Valpolicella and Amarone.
Valpolicella is a viticultural zone north of Italy. It is known worldwide for producing the most prestigious and expensive Italian wine, Amarone della Valpolicella. Of course, throughout our stay in Verona, we drank mostly Valpolicella classics. On our last night, we dropped by the fancy and historic Antica Bottega del Vino where I tasted the most divine Amarone ever. It was a luscious meeting between Amarone and I.
Follow the duke’s steps in Mantua.
It starts at Palazzo Te, which was built as the duke’s leisure palace. Take the straight road to get you to the city centre where you’ll find other equally fascinating architectural works such as the Basilica of Sant’Andrea, Mantua Cathedral, and the Palazzo Ducale.
Sigh over magnificent Venice.
It sounds cliché alright, but Venice is definitely one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world. While most honeymooners jump right into the gondolas and kiss under the Bridge of Sighs, we enjoyed Venice differently. Without a map or a guide, we dived straight into the maze-like streets of Venice, crossing bridges over canals, passing by hole-in-the-wall shops, and quaint restaurants. We stayed a bit at the Rialto Bridge to enjoy the Grand Canal. Walking further, we reached San Marco and found its famous square. By late afternoon, we finally took a taxi boat to experience the Grand Canal.
Attend cooking class together.
During our cooking class, we made our very own tagliatelle pasta noodles. We also prepared some appetizers as well as a main course. It was heart-melting to see my apron-wrapped hubby chopping raw vegetables, kneading the pasta dough, and sipping red wine with me.
Eat like an Italian.
Italian food is probably the reason why I so wanted to return. I needed to satisfy my cravings for good seafood and yes, Italian wines. While my hubby had been wanting to try the Fiorentina steak. However, our visit here led us to the discovery of the black truffle pasta. Hands down, this is now both our favorite. Ready your tummies when you come here. A typical Italian meal is served in this order: aperitivo, antipasto, primo platti, secondo platti, contorno, formaggi e fruta, dolce, caffè, and digestif –all served in generous amounts. That’s Italy for you.