20 Travel Tips: Italy Edition

It’s hard to believe that a year ago I was on the trip of a lifetime in Italy! Following the trip last year, I did a recap post featuring photos and brief overview so as not to bore you all with the details. HOWEVER, if you so wish to hear more about the trip, feel free to comment or email, and I will be happy to share! 

In honor of this anniversary, and to spark my own nostalgia, I decided to put together a list of helpful travel tips for first-time travelers to Europe. I’m absolutely by no means an expert on the topic, this is simply what I learned on my first trip abroad. Prior to my trip I did a TON of research on things to know before traveling abroad, so I highly recommend you do as well.

  • Europe is full of history and each city has so much to experience, so don’t stress if you can’t visit absolutely everything you want to see. This is something I had a hard time accepting during my time in Italy especially being the type-A, history nerd that I am. The whole point of going on vacation is to relax (and see the world obviously), but you can’t enjoy yourself if you’re constantly stressing over where you’re going to go next.
  • Piggybacking off of the previous tip, don’t feel like you have to plan everything out, especially meals. At the beginning of each day, Ry and I would pick out the main attractions we wanted to see, and wander around the areas. You never know what you’ll find by simply exploring! We found some of our favorite restaurants on the trip by doing this.
  • Be sure to validate your train tickets prior to boarding. Our primary means of travel from city to city was by train. The vast majority of the time, we bought our tickets at the station; I’d read a few articles prior that stated Tren Italia’s website isn’t always reliable so it’s best to purchase directly at the station.
  • Carry a small, cross-body purse and keep it in front of you — Pick-pocketing is huge in the cities and they know a tourist when they see one.
  • If you’re looking for a quick, early meal, think again! Dinner in Italy generally takes place after 7 pm and is more relaxed than meals in the US.
  • Many churches and other religious sites require ladies to have their legs and shoulders covered when you enter.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to drink for free at the various water fountains sprinkled throughout Rome.
  •  Walk as much as you can and wear comfortable shoes.
  • Watch out for scams such as people putting jewelry on your wrist, helping take your luggage off the train, asking you to sign petitions, etc.
  • Drink the house wine — it’s often cheaper, but still delicious!
  • Learn the language. You don’t have to be fluent (the locals don’t expect you to), but pick up a few general phrases that will help you out along the way. I used the free Duolingo app before I went, and it helped immensely.
  • When in Rome, visit the Trevi Fountain later in the day or at night, it’ll be way less crowded.
  • Don’t eat near a major landmark — the closer you are, the higher the prices.
  • Cappuccinos are a morning only drink in Italy.
  • Instead of a gondola ride, opt to climb to the top of San Marco’s Campanile in Venice for some incredible views.
  • Casa di Giulietta is what Verona is most famous for, but did you know that they have an Arena similar to the Colosseum where concerts and plays still take place? We had an amazing lunch at a cafe near the Arena and it was a stellar experience.
  • Don’t miss out on the opportunity to climb to the top of the Duomo in Florence. If you’re asthmatic (like myself) be sure to bring you’re inhaler – that’s 463 steps!
  • It is incredibly easy to get lost in Italy. Download a map (or carry a paper one) so you don’t have to rely on WiFi.
  • The pizza, pasta, wine and gelato are most definitely as good as everyone says they are. Definitely go all in on the food when you’re there; you’ll walk it all off during your visit!
  • Italy is truly a magical place to visit. Make sure you aren’t spending too much time behind the phone/camera, and take it all in!

If you have any questions or need recommendations, leave a comment or feel free to email me! Where are you headed next?

-K

Follow Friday

Hello and Happy {FINALLY} Friday!

I’m not going to lie to you — this has been one of the absolute longest weeks ever, but it’s finally time for the weekend and I’m so excited to share with you some of my favorite blogger friends to follow! These ladies inspire me with every post, and I hope you love them just as much as I do. I’m sharing their Instagrams on my Insta stories today as well, so be sure to give them and myself a follow to stay up-to-date on our blogs (& lives)!

Bri Car

I know you’ve seen me talk about this lady before in several of my previous posts! On her blog, Bri highlights everything from her favorite haunts in Detroit to music to her own personal experiences in her As Told By Bri series, and so much more. Being one of my personal friends, she pushes me as both an individual and blogger in ways that I never thought possible – never in a million years did I ever think I’d hold not one, but two successful side hustles. Stop in to Bri Car here!

Lauren State of Mind

A friend and fellow blogger that I admire so much is Miss Lauren – or LJ, as I like to call her – the beautiful brains behind Lauren State of Mind. Of course, I love to read up on all of my friends’ and fellow bloggers’ adventures, but one of my absolute favorite things about LJ’s blog is her One Word series. This is easily one of the most well-written, and thought provoking series that I have ever read. Her raw depiction of her encounters in everyday life put into a simple, singular word will make you reflect on your own life and daily practices.

ReadyJesset **coming soon**

A blog that has yet to be launched, but I’m anticipating due to discussion to be incredible is another blogger friend of mine, Jessah’s, travel blog ReadyJesset. On her blog, you will find tips for traveling to countries such as France, Cuba, and Belgium. Additionally, Jessah will be sharing her experiences of traveling solo, as well as those of her friends! Be on the lookout for her blog!

Comment your favorite blogs below, including your own — I’d love to read them!

-K.

24 Hours at the Biltmore Estate

24 Hours at the Biltmore Estate

Last month, I had the pleasure of exploring the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve wanted to visit America’s largest residency for years, and finally had the opportunity to stay during our family road trip to the Outerbanks.

Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt and his colleagues, the estate is teeming with fascinating history — for the full history of the Biltmore, click here. With everything from beautiful architecture, incredible food and wine and a lovely staff, it’s easy to see why thousands flock to the estate year after year.

Our visit lasted little more than 24 hours, but you could easily spend a week at the estate and never be bored. We stayed at the Village Hotel located in Antler Village on the 125,000 acre estate. Upon our arrival, we freshened up in our hotel rooms and headed out to explore. The first stop for my mom and I? The winery for some wine tasting!


We shipped home four bottles of exclusive Biltmore wine. I opted for the Library White – a sweet, Reisling-esque flavor – that includes an image from one of George’s favorite novels Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; this also happens to be one of my favorite books of all-time so I just had to have it! My mother chose the classic rosé, not only because of the taste, but because of the gorgeous illustration of the main house featured on the bottle.

We spent the second day exploring the main house and it’s gardens. Here are a few of my favorite photos from our adventures:

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George Vanderbilt was a well-read individual with a passion for literary works of all kinds. As you can see in some of the images, at this time, they are currently featuring costumes from some of his favorite novels that were turned into movies. I, being a lover of literature myself, was so inspired that I just HAD to pick up some of Mr. Vanderbilt’s favorites from the gift shop.

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This was, easily, one of my favorite places we visited during this trip. I will most definitely be making a return trip in the future — I already told my boyfriend I will be dragging him here for a long weekend!

I highly, highly recommend taking a trip here and eating at the Bistro restaurant in Antler Village next time you are looking for a getaway!

-K.

Italy Recap

Whew, it is good to be back to the blog! Those of you who follow me on social media know that I’ve been MIA for the past month due to my travels and preparations for said travels. Upon returning home from my work trip to Chicago, I came back to the office briefly only to head out on my two week trip to Italy to visit my boyfriend shortly after. Although I just returned home on Saturday, I’m itching to go right back!

We traveled to several cities including Venice, Verona, Turin, Rome, and Florence. The country is absolutely spectacular! I could make this post super long about how beautiful each city was and how much I love the history that was teeming within each one, but, instead, I will show you.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our first big trip together:

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I’m finding that I’m having a difficult time readjusting to long distance, but I wouldn’t trade the past two weeks for the world. Traveling with your significant other, especially when you haven’t seen each other in months is absolutely incredible. I’m so grateful to have spent this time with Ry exploring this beautiful country, and I can’t wait for more adventures!!

– K.

Travel Essentials

If you follow me on any form of social media, you know that my boyfriend, Ryan, is in the Air Force and has been stationed on the other side of the world for a little over a year. I’m so excited to announce that in just three short months I will be hopping on a plane to visit him for a two week Italian adventure!! This is my first time traveling internationally so I’m super stoked, but also a little nervous, but that’s to be expected. I’m mostly elated to be reunited with my guy; It’s also the first big vacation Ryan and I are taking together in our three years of being together.

Since this is my first international flight, I’ve been doing a ton of research to plan and prepare. I’ve obviously never been on a flight this long and I have the tendency to get bored easily so I need plenty to keep me occupied during my travels. In honor of this exciting news, here is my list of necessities for traveling.

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  • First and foremost, I always take a large tote bag or backpack as my purse carry-on so that I can have my essentials right at my fingertips throughout the flight. I just purchased this one from Longchamp and I absolutely LOVE it. It fits everything I need and then some. It’s even large enough to fit a laptop if you wish to bring it with you for work related trips. The Longchamp could also be used as an overnight bag for quick trips.
  • I also always bring a cross body bag or wristlet for daily use so I’m not lugging around a large tote. My boyfriend bought me this Michael Kors one for Christmas and it goes with just about everything!
  • Your iPad or laptop is essential if you wish to do anything other than watch a movie on a long flight. I intend on using mine for blogging purposes, and I may just download a few games for fun. If you have any fun game recommendations, I’d love to hear them!
  • I, personally, love the feel of having a book in my hand and, therefore, don’t download them onto my iPad. I’m still working on the Outlander series as I’ve mentioned in a number of previous posts, and I’m hoping to be on the 5th book by the time I leave. In fact, I may even bring a back up book between my layover and our train rides during our vacation.
  • Hand Sanitizer is huge for me on a plane. I know it makes me sound like a germaphobe, but I’m always hearing about people being sick after flights. Plus, you never really know how often they clean your area. Piggybacking off of the hand sanitizer, hand lotion is also necessary with how dry the air can get on a plane.
  • Whether or not I’m on a plane, I always have gum or mints on me. On long flights when I don’t have the opportunity to brush my teeth after meals or snacks, it’s nice to freshen up even the least bit with a piece. I also like to chew gum while taking off so my ears don’t pop – this may be an old wives’ tale, but I will never take off without it!
  • Earbuds- to block out screaming children, your snoring neighbor, or to simply listen to music or watch a movie. I will never ever board a plane without mine.
  • I tend to be a bit of a clumsy person so I always have a Tide To Go Pen on me to prevent stains.
  • Chapstick is my best friend – I won’t leave the house without it, let alone the country. My go-to since middle school is Burt’s Bees Original.
  • A new addition to my travel bag is roll-on perfume to freshen up before I land. For this trip, I chose the fragrance Burberry Brit Sheer – it’s a very light, floral, borderline fruity scent.

Not pictured above, but are also super helpful:

  • Advil and/or Dramamine
  • Cell phone (although that’s a given)
  • Chargers
  • Shawl/blanket scarf in case it gets chilly on your flight

What are some of your favorite travel essentials? Also, if you have any tips for me, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!!

-K.