Our wedding was a totally non-traditional, Buddhist, Filipina, Italian, summer-witchy, luau, DIY, punk show in the backyard of a Brooklyn novelty museum. We did everything we wanted and it was fuckin’ rad! That said, we were ready for the most unforgettable, indulgent vacation of our lives - our honeymoon.
We’re both half Italian, so the romance was an absolute requirement.
David spent a few years of his growing life in Siena and Florence. To our convenience and my sheer infatuation, he speaks fluent Italian. As an ode to my Italian father and David’s Italian grandparents who passed away just months before our big day, we agreed that Italy was the best honeymoon destination for both of us. There was no better way observe those we lost and cherish those we love in terra nostra, our land.
David and I decided to go on a cross-country road trip because sometimes we crave absolute freedom from the confines of societal norms. Tours are fine, but more than 3 hours of being shoved into a bus and herded like cattle with a bunch of gassy strangers can feel tooooo constraining. We wanted to wander around the parts of Italy left untouched, and I longed to visit the small family village my father held dear to his heart.
We picked up the tiniest, electric/gas Fiat. Now before I go on with this story, how can you get a Fiat to do 60 miles an hour?
Push it over a cliff.
Seriously, this car is not for cross-country road trips. Regardless of the 3-month reservation for a midsized vehicle, this is all they had. I mean, making reservations for travel are pointless, right? You don’t need to be somewhat on time when you’re visiting 12 cities in a tourist country. Time doesn’t exist in Italy...until the government says you owe taxes or sends you twenty falsely claimed speeding tickets for towns you never visited before. Listen, the country is practically bankrupt because their politicians are totally corrupt, I get it. But don’t go driving around Italy unless you want Il Governo barkin' at your mailbox for the next two years. End rant.
Next to Paris and New York, Milano is one of the most famous fashion capitals of the world. Its architecture and style is a perfect symbiosis of old and new, making it an ideal tourist destination for avid shoppers. We were traveling abroad on a strict budget, so most of our shopping at high-end names like Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana were done only through a glass pane.
We opted for drifting around the Piazza Duomo, sipping on caffé con cioccolato, gawking at the sheer beauty of the M.C. Escher exhibit, and visiting the spooky ossuary of San Bernardino alle Ossa. This 13th-century cemetery and church had been known to stack the skulls and bones of Milano’s most notorious criminals. Their bodies were intentionally directed towards the altar to "face god" before being judged into heaven or hell.
In the evening we headed to the Isola Garibaldi area for dinner. With no real signs or gestures, we entered a small alley to Deus Ex Machina - a biker cafe with a luscious patio bar in the shape of a horseshoe. It directly translates to “the divinity descending from the sky offering a solution for the tragedy”. We devoured peppercorn steak, cheese risotto, and wine, then headed back to the B&B to sleep like the dead we had just visited.
On the northern coast of Italy between rocky mountains and the Mediterranean Sea lies the small, panoramic paradise called Cinque Terre, or Five Lands.
We dropped off our duffle bags at a little B&B with a hilltop view in La Spezia, then got back in the car and parked at a nearby park and ride station. There, we hopped on a train and that would take us from town to town within Cinque Terre: La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso, and Levanto (another city, just outside Cinque Terre). Train rides between villages take roughly 15 minutes with gorgeous views of ridges and bougainvilleas. **Traveler tip: if you need to use the restroom, go before and after the train station, as amenities at the station are very outdated. You likely have access to a hole in the ground with no toilet paper or sink. Also, do not forget to stamp your ticket at the kiosk before entering the train or you will be fined $50 USD by the conductor, even if you’re able to show proof of purchase.**
You can hike Cinque Terra by taking the winding footpaths between villages, taking 2-3 hours each way. You’ll want to wear good shoes as the trails ride up and down the mountain. Rest assured, you'll experience one of the most enchanting views in the world while getting in your daily dose of exercise!
It was the middle of July and the sun was scorching after a long day on our heels and toes. We were eager to get a refresher by taking a dip in some snappy seaside waters. That first plunge was so incredibly energizing! The salt against our skin and hair, peacefully floating around in clear waters. It was exactly what we needed for a full body reset. After our swim, we took 60’s inspired photos with our old polaroids and ate gelato at a tiny boardwalk bungalow.
To end the evening, we drove back to the beachside town of La Spezia, where a guitarist serenaded us at sunset with traditional Italian folk songs. For dinner, we savored freshly caught fish, grilled octopus, pasta trofie, and housemade wine at Osteria Della Corte. Romance and passion were really settling in now. We were married and making our first memories as newlyweds. There was no other way we’d have it.
Firenze - a city straight out of the Renaissance. Strolling down the cobblestone streets of Florence is an affair of the heart. It’s easy to get lost in its whimsy, romance, charm, and history. The whole city looks like a painting come to life. We could see why it was the artist’s capital of the world for three centuries, and still an inspirational location for creators today.
With over 16 million tourists coming to visit each year, it can be difficult to feel the natural rhythm of Firenze. Thanks to David and our dear friend Simone, both distinguished illustrators, we were able to experience a more local version of the city by soaking in its lesser-known treasures. I did some digging of my own on the side to find more hidden gems. Remember, keep it quiet, cause these are Firenze’s best-kept secrets… so sssshhhhh.
Biblioteca delle Oblate: We escaped the crowds and enjoyed a beer and negroni on top of the city’s university student library while catching an impressive view of the Duomo.
Piazza Santo Spirito at Night: In the past, Oltrarno wasn’t such a great area, but in recent years it’s opened up some hopping bars and hip restaurants, making it an attractive spot for up-and-coming artists. Piazza Santo Spirito hosts a monthly market where locals sell food, crafts, and other handmade goods. During our summer nights stay, we stumbled upon a youthful crowd packed in the square with drinks in hand for a night of fun. Music was ringing, conversation flowing, and nothing got too out of hand.
Le Vespe Cafe: Besides coffee and a small pastry, breakfast isn’t really a thing in Italy. At some point we started missing our morning routine of eggy goodness and boozy brunch, so we hit up this humble little spot called Le Vespe Cafe. We ordered the all benedict, bacon, and bloodies we needed for our fix without the high cost of a tourist trap.
Soulspace Centro Benessere SPA: After galavanting around all day we needed to beat the heat and get off our feet, so we headed to Soulspace. We spoiled ourselves rotten with a 90-minute massage, napped in their oversized lounge chairs, and with the encouragement of their lovely lady owner, I had a liberating swim in the pool...naked! We had the whole spa to ourselves, and it is Europe after all.
Giardino delle Rose: We stopped to smell the roses on our way up to Piazzale Michelangelo. This beautiful garden is decorated with 12 dramatic sculptures by Jean-Michel Folon.
Osteria Pastella: I put on a nice cocktail dress and David wore a tie because everything about this place is classic. From the pasta, handmade with love in front of us, to the complimentary prosecco brought to our table. We had one taste of Le Tagliatelle al Tartufo and were begging for more.
Dinner and Dancing Under the Stars: We stayed at a cozy B&B to get the most genuine picture of Firenze. Vogliamo Vivere così, we want to live like that! We thought it’d be nice to shop the family-owned grocery stores down the street and make ourselves dinner for a night to get a better vibe of what living in Firenze could really be like. We sat on outside on our candlelit patio with ferns, flowers, a faint breeze in the evening air. The meat and produce were nourishing. After a couple bottles of full-bodied, aromatic wines, we found ourselves dancing to under the stars at midnight to Frank Sinatra and old Italian hits from the 30s and 40s. We still smile when we talk about that night.
To be continued...