I had every intention of writing my Vienna post this month, but time is getting away from me and I don’t want to rush through all the details. We attended a wedding in Kansas City last weekend, and we’re headed to another wedding in Washington, D.C. this weekend, followed by some sight-seeing and a conference in Anaheim for me – so my food and travel writing has taken a back seat. However, I did want to write up a quick recap of our Italian vacation itinerary from two years ago, as our friends who just got married last weekend are planning to recreate much of this trip on their honeymoon, and it got me feeling sentimental.
2015 was an epic year for me as far as travel was concerned. For years I had been dreaming of using my education leave hours at work to finagle a trip abroad to study Spanish. I had a coworker who traveled to Chile to take Spanish language immersion classes, and our company paid for this time off as well as some of her travel expenses because Spanish is an applicable skill in our job. What an amazing opportunity! So, at the young age of 33, I planned a trip to Spain to study Spanish, and combined this with travels around Spain (solo, then with a friend) as well as Italy (with Jack).
Jack and I just returned from a two-week vacation in Europe. We visited Vienna as well as three spots in northern Italy. I hope to write up each of the cities/regions we visited in detail over the coming months, as well as some of the delicious meals we ate while traveling. Here is a general outline of our trip:
Days 1-2: Travel days
We Flew from SFO to VIE with a short layover in FRA (Frankfurt). We left San Francisco at 2pm on Saturday and arrived in Vienna by 1:10pm Sunday.
Days 2-6: Vienna, Austria
We stayed in Vienna for four nights (Sunday – Thursday). It rained for most of our stay in Vienna, but we were able to do most of the activities to which we had been looking forward. We saw one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen, attended a 4+ hour-long opera, ate incredible Middle Eastern food, ate fish cooked in beeswax, drank local wine at heurigen (wine gardens outside of the city), and explored much of this beautiful imperial city on foot.
Jack and I have learned over the years that when we travel, we don’t like to change locations too frequently. I feel like we really learned this about ourselves when we traveled to Costa Rica in 2011; we tried to see too many places in a short amount of time, and I felt like we were constantly packing and unpacking our suitcases and trying to get from point A to point B. From that point forward, we started to plan our trips differently: rather than try to squeeze in as many sites as we could, we would spend more time (typically four nights or more) in fewer locations overall, so we could really get a feel for a place and not be rushed. We followed this rule during our honeymoon in Bali in 2012, as well as our trip to Spain in 2013, with great results. I believe everyone has their own traveling “style,” and we found ours (luckily Jack and I have a similar styles!)
That being said, we bent this rule a bit when we went to Italy in June of last year. We had originally planned on spending five nights in Positano, five nights in Florence, and five nights in Rome, with occasional day trips from these spots. However, we really wanted to eat at Massimo Battura’s acclaimed restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena (pronounced MO-dee-nah), which at the time held the Number 2 spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. We had also heard that Bologna, Modena’s neighbor, was a great city for foodies. So, we decided to steal two nights from our stay in Florence to do a quick jaunt to Bologna, which conveniently was only an hourlong train ride from Florence. This ended up being just the right amount of time to see, do, and taste much of what we wanted to in this region.
When Jack and I were planning our trip to Italy last year, we knew we wanted to go somewhere relaxing to rest up before sightseeing in Florence and Rome. We struggled deciding between Lake Como, Piedmont, the Tuscan countryside, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast. After much debate, we ultimately decided on the Amalfi Coast, and we couldn’t have been happier with our decision. We still hope to visit the other spots on our list some day, but Amalfi ended up being the perfect place to start our Italian holiday.
Once we agreed on Amalfi, we then had to choose which city or town to stay in. We considered staying in Naples, as there is a Starwood hotel there that caught our eye. But we hadn’t heard great things about Naples (lots of crime, apparently zero parks – though the infamous pizza is supposed to be incredible), and we didn’t want to spend our time there taking day trips to the towns we’d rather be staying in. Praiano was recommended to us by several friends; Praiano is a quiet town on the Amalfi Coast which boasts incredible views of Positano. We also looked into Sorrento, Capri, and the town of Amalfi, but we ultimately decided on Positano.
During Jack and my trip to Italy last summer, we stopped in Florence for three nights. We had originally planned on staying there for five nights, but we shaved two nights off our stay to allow for dinner at Osteria Francescana in Modena (hope to write about that incredible dining experience soon…) Three nights was just enough time to get a great taste of Florence (or “Firenze,” as the Italians call it) – the amazing food, history, art, and fashion – and we are already dreaming about returning in the near future.
We arrived in Florence after spending five nights on the Amalfi Coast, and the first thing we noticed was how HOT it was along the Arno (side note: I swear the name of this Florentine river comes up in the “easy” Monday New York Times crossword more than almost any other word…) We were there in early June, but we were told the weather was “August weather” (it was in the 90’s Fahrenheit). As you can imagine, this fair-skinned San Francisco lady doesn’t fare too well in hot weather. The days were long and it really didn’t start to cool down until 8 or 9pm, so this definitely affected my time in Florence. But we survived the heat by eating lots of gelato and taking midday naps at our air-conditioned hotel to recharge for the cooler evenings.
Jack and I spent five nights in Rome last June and we absolutely fell in love with the Eternal City. We enjoyed walking along the cobblestone streets, taking in the history and architecture, feeling the energy of the city, and eating the amazing food. However, we had heard mixed reviews before our trip; most of our friends are fans, but others complained that Rome was too crowded and touristy. After experiencing the city first hand at the peak of travel season, I can see where one could come to either conclusion. My theory about the tourists in Rome is as follows: every major city is going to have sites that are crowded with tourists (think Times Square in NYC), but in Rome, these sites are spread throughout the city because they are ancient sites, rather than built around a city center. So, you’ll find yourself having a romantic stroll in a quaint Roman neighborhood such as Monti, with great restaurants, cafés, and shops, then – wham! – you turn a corner and you’re staring at the Colosseum, and there are tourists everywhere, locals selling cheap souvenirs, and restaurants that post pictures of their food on the menu. Once Jack and I figured this out, we were much less overwhelmed by the city, and we learned to just duck back down a quiet street when we didn’t feel like battling the tourists at the popular sites.
When Jack and I were planning our trip to Italy earlier this year, I reached out to my friends on Facebook and asked for recommendations. My friend Marc forwarded my post to his friend Donna, who had just returned from a trip to Italy. Donna (whom I have never met) generously emailed me a two-paged document full of tips for Rome and the Amalfi Coast; this list included Roscioli, a restaurant just south of Campo de’ Fiori in central Rome.
In her description, Donna wrote: “Wine and Food Pairing at Roscioli’s – you have to do this if you love wine! I found out about this from Anthony Bourdain and we ended up shipping a few cases of food and wine back. One of the best food and wine pairings I’ve ever had. But be forewarned: he doesn’t like American wines. Haha! But it doesn’t matter. The wines he pours are phenomenal, better than most American wines I’ve had.”
Roscioli actually has several different locations and functions: Salumeria Roscioli (the main restaurant and salumeria), Rimessa Roscioli (wine and food tasting space that Donna recommended), and Antico Forno Roscioli (the Italian bakery). We were not aware of these distinct spots, so when we asked our hotel concierge to book us a table at Roscioli, he assumed we meant the restaurant, rather than the wine tasting. But, as often happens in life, the mix-up was pure serendipity, and our meal at Salumeria Roscioli ended up being one of the best meals we had in Italy.