A Day in Capri

When you think of Italian summers you probably think of people jet setting to the island of Capri. I was in awe of Capri’s beautiful rock formations on the sea and its deep blue water. Capri is easily accessible from Naples, Amalfi, Sorrento and Positano which makes it a great side trip while on your Italian vacation. Random note: We say the word Capri wrong in America. The Italians pronounce it cah-pree.

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I have seen mixed reviews on whether or not to visit Capri. It is true that Capri is very crowded with tourists although I do think it makes a wonderful half day trip and is definitely worth seeing. I have heard of people spending one night on the island because they love the peace after all the tourists board their ferries back in the evening. Depending on your itinerary this could be a good option.

 

IMG_2303The boat ride to Capri is enjoyable – I mean who can complain about boating across the Mediterranean? I love being able to see the Amalfi coastline from the viewpoint of the water. It makes the cliffs look that much more dramatic.

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Your boat will dock at Marina Grande which is a very touristy port city. Don’t stick around here for long! From here I took an open taxi to Anacapri where I spent most of the day. Driving in the taxi up the hills of Capri was a lot of fun!

Anacapri is a tiny town on the top of Capri with lots of little shops and cafes. It is very touristy, but that is inevitable in Capri. The two main attractions here (besides shopping and eating) are Villa San Michele and the Mount Solaro chairlift.

The cute streets of Anacapri

Mount Solaro

As soon as you get to Anacapri you will see the building for the chairlift. The chairlift goes to the top of Mount Solaro where you can see the entire island of Capri. The ride up to the mountain is so much fun! I was originally scared at the prospect of taking a chair lift to the top of a mountain. Then I actually rode it and realized that since you are following the slope of the mountain, there is never a moment where you are crazy high above the ground. It definitely calmed my nerves. The smooth ride up and the gradual views were definitely a highlight of my trip! Once you get to the top there is actually not a ton to do. There is a small snack shop and some sitting areas. It’s a great place to take incredible pictures and then head back down. (Open 9:30am-5:00pm in summer and 3:30pm in winter, 11 euro, the chairlift building is in the main square of Anacapri, they have lockers available if you need to store a large bag)

 

 

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Gorgeous views from the top of Mount Solaro

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The cafe on top of Mount Solaro

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Mount Solaro is a great spot for photos!

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Riding the chairlift back down

Villa San Michele

From the main square of Anacapri walk about 5-10 minutes to Villa San Michele for more amazing views. This is a small villa with narrow walkways and immaculate gardens. I do have to say that it was a lot smaller than what I was picturing in my mind, but still worth seeing. I really enjoyed walking along the covered terrace. (Open 9am with closing time varying per month, 7 euro, follow the signs from the main square in Anacapri – about a 5 minute walk, website

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Boat Tour

Some of the most popular locations in Capri are actually on the water. They have many boat tours of all different kinds. Most tours leave from Marina Grande which makes it easy to find right after you get off your ferry. For a low cost you can enjoy a tour on large boats that pass by the sights or you can splurge on smaller jet boats (private or in small groups) that take you to swimming spots as well. I went with a large group and we took a large boat that cruised by the sights. (Although I’m sure I would have greatly enjoyed jet boating around the island!) One notable sight is the “lovers arch” which is a huge rock your boat can drive under. Tradition says that your love will be eternal if you kiss your lover under the arch. Oh the cheesy tourist traditions that exist and yet we still participate!

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I know the blue grotto is also a very popular stop for boats. I did not end up making it there, but have heard very mixed reviews. You can only access it via small rowboats that will charge you an extra fee. I think each person would need to see if for themselves to determine if its a tourist trap or a must-see.

One note on the boat tour – it can get extremely crowded on the sea so try to schedule your tour for the morning or late afternoon/early evening.

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Getting to Capri

I went with a large group so my boat ride was booked for me and I ended up taking taxis on Capri. I didn’t use public transportation but this is what I have gathered. Getting to Capri looks fairly simple since there are ferries departing from most of the major cities on the coast. Capri.net is a great resource for planning your trip. They list all of the ferry schedules here. The major cities that have direct ferries to Capri are Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano and Salerno. There are other smaller cities that also have ferry service.

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Approaching Marina Grande

Transportation in Capri

I really enjoyed traveling around the island in the open air taxis. They are parked at every major tourist spot which makes it easy to find one. It saves you time and you get to feel the island breeze as you drive around. If you are in a group or don’t mind spending a little more money, I would highly recommend the taxis.  

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One of the fun taxis!

If you are looking to save money and take public transportation there are options for that as well. You can take a funicular from Marina Grande to Capri Town and then a bus from Capri Town to Anacapri. The ticket office is at the pier and it costs 1.80 euro per ride or 8.60 euro for a day pass. Check out the Capri website for more detailed information and schedules.

My post on Capri is one of four posts on the Amalfi Coast. To complete your trip, check out my other posts on Positano, Ravello and A Guide to the Amalfi Coast.

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Views and Villas of Ravello

Ravello is one of many small towns on the Amalfi Coast in Italy ~ the gorgeous coastline south of Naples. Ravello is the quintessential picture of a small, romantic Italian town. This post is one part of my series on planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast. To complete your trip planning, also check out my post on Positano, Capri and Details of the Amalfi Coast.

Ravello is one of my favorite spots on the Amalfi Coast because it’s such a serene contrast to the other bustling cities on the coast. You feel as though you are in a castle high in the hills. (It reminded me a lot of Eze in France.) Many people will spend only an hour or two in Ravello, but I loved spending the night here. The city is so peaceful in the evening and it is nice to see everything away from any daytime crowds. If you have time in your itinerary, I highly suggest taking your time in this wonderful city!

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It rained on my first day in Ravello – but it was worth it for this rainbow!

Ravello is a small town with narrow stone walkways and gorgeous views at every turn. It’s impossible to have a bad view in this town! The main attractions of Ravello are the two large villas – Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. I thought both were definitely worth seeing. If you have time after viewing the villas, you can also shop in the pottery shops and art galleries or tour one of the churches.   

 

Villa Rufolo

Villa Rufolo was once the Rufolo family estate and is now open to the public. It has various gardens and terraces and some of the most amazing views I have ever seen! If you look at pictures of Ravello, most of them are probably taken at Villa Rufolo. Villa Rufolo is known for its music festival each July-September which features many orchestras. This might just be the world’s most beautiful concert location!

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Normally there is a garden located on the bottom terrace of Villa Rufolo. I spent a long time searching for the gardens only to realize that they were covered by the stage and chairs of the festival! I’m assuming the gardens are there after the festival concludes which would mean September through late May/early June. I was there in late June and set up for the festival had just begun.  

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Setting up the concert stage – could it be in a more beautiful location?

The city of Ravello is a very popular location for symphony concerts so check the location of the concert to make sure it’s in the location you want. The Ravello Music Festival is offered in different locations in Villa Rufolo from July-September (one location is pictured above). The Ravello Concert Society is an entirely different series of concerts that extends past summer with most concerts held inside the Annunziata Historic Building (the large building just below Villa Rufolo).

Info: Open every day from 9am-9pm with the last entrance at 8:30pm (5 euro). The entrance is in the Piazza Duomo (it’s hard to miss).

 

Villa Cimbrone

Villa Cimbrone (pronounced cheem-brone-eh) has been owned by various aristocratic families in the past and now features a restaurant, a hotel and a garden. Villa Cimbrone is known for its gardens and particularly for the views from the garden terrace on the edge of the property. Villa Cimbrone is on the edge of town so they have spectacular panoramic views of the coast. 

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They have a small cafe (they offered two lunch items) just beneath the terrace so I was able to enjoy lunch in the garden while staring out at an amazing view. What can be better than that?

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Enjoying lunch with my mom

 

I visited in June so the flowers were not in bloom. It’s funny how you forget about seasons when visiting gardens and expect roses year round! However this garden is worth seeing for the view alone and you won’t be sad if you don’t get to see flowers in bloom.  

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Info: Open every day from 9am-sunset.The entrance fee is 7 euro. Villa Cimbrone is only accessible through walking down a long pedestrian path with lots of stairs. Address: Via Santa Chiara, 26, 84010 Ravello SA, Italy

 

Transportation

Ravello is tricky to get to because it is high in the hills and is not on the main coastal road. For public transportation you can take the SITA bus from Amalfi or the privately owned city sightseeing bus from Amalfi. There are no trains or any buses from other cities. I splurged on a taxi because I had luggage and didn’t have a lot of time to wait for buses. For more info on transportation within the Amalfi Coast, check out my All the Planning Details post.

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Hotel

Ravello is a small city so any hotel you choose will be in a good location and in walking distance of the sights. One thing to consider is if you have a lot of luggage you might want a hotel close to the road (most of the town is pedestrian only). Some hotels have luggage assistance so you can look into that as well. In Ravello I stayed at La Moresca and would recommend it. My room at La Moresca was very small but very clean and with an insanely gorgeous view (I booked the sea view). Just check it out:  

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My hotel room view

There is so much I have to say about planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast, so make sure to check out my other posts on Capri, Positano and A Guide to the Amalfi Coast.

Happy planning!

 

A Complete Guide to the Amalfi Coast

I’ve traveled through a lot of Europe and naturally my expectations of a city have raised a bit. Enter the Amalfi Coast. This place is exactly what I hoped it to be. You really do feel like you have entered into an entirely different world and that life is meant to be lived this way. It is so easy to forget about worries when you adapt the Italian lifestyle of this gorgeous coastline. I would highly recommend a trip here!

When I started to plan my trip to the Amalfi Coast I felt a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things to see and everyone has their own opinions of what to do. I especially had a hard time planning out transportation because I was confused about the layout of the coast and how efficient public transportation was. Here is my attempt at making this easier for you!

Overview of the Amalfi Coast:

The Amalfi Coast is the coastline south of Naples facing Capri. There are many small picturesque cities along the coast, with the main ones being Amalfi and Positano. Smaller cities include Ravello, Minori, Maiori and Vietri Sul Mare. The island of Capri is about an hour boat ride from the coast. The Amalfi Coast is the perfect place in Italy to lay on the beach, hike in the hills and enjoy a slow paced vacation lifestyle.

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Just a warning: The Amalfi Coast is not a budget friendly destination. Hotels, food and transportation are all expensive. I am always looking out for a good deal and am not a huge spender, but this is one destination where you just have to splurge. It will be stressful to pinch pennies here and the last thing you want to do is stress in such a beautiful place!

 

Getting to the Amalfi Coast:

The closest airport to the Amalfi Coast is Naples, which is about an hour and half from most cities. Most people fly into Naples or take a train from Rome. I would not recommend renting a car because the roads are CRAZY. Seriously do not try to drive it yourself. There are crazy unspoken rules of the road and the entire coastline is hairpin turns along an extremely narrow two way street. Also parking is insanely expensive/non-existent. Save yourself the heart attack and hire a driver from the airport or train station to take you straight to your hotel. This ride is pretty pricey but is definitely worth it. Plus you will get to actually look out your window and see the gorgeous coast. A ride from the Naples airport to Positano is an average of 150 euro.

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Believe it or not this is actually a two way street!

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The road curves like this along the entire coastline

 

Beware of stairs!

Another huge benefit of a private driver is that they will drive you straight to your hotel. Each city along the coast is made up entirely of stairs and very few roads. Each city is gorgeous because of all the buildings along the cliff side, but it doesn’t hit you until you’re there that you are walking along a cliff. Everyday is a calf workout. All this to say that the last thing you want to do is to drag your luggage up these stairs. I passed so many tourists who looked like they were about to pass out from dragging their luggage up/down stairs. Try to avoid it!   

If you reallly still want to take public transportation, you do have some options. There is a train from Naples to Salerno or Sorrento and you can take the bus from there to whichever city you are staying in. From Sorrento you also have the option of taking the ferry. Walks of Italy gives a detailed overview of all your options for getting to the Amalfi Coast from Rome or Naples.

 

Transportation within the Amalfi Coast:

City Bus: Cities within the Amalfi Coast are serviced by a city bus (SITA). During peak times these buses can get extremely crowded and you might have to wait around for a second bus. Many people will do a self guided Amalfi Coast tour starting from Sorrento. This means the buses coming from Sorrento towards the other cities are very crowded in the morning and the opposite way in the afternoon. For the bus schedule, click here.

Private Bus: There is also a red double decker bus option if you want to avoid the city buses. Tickets start at 5 euro and they have stops at most of the major towns. Check out their website to download the time tables and bus stop maps. If you plan on taking luggage on the bus, keep in mind that there is no luggage area. It will have to be small enough to fit in your lap.

Ferry: You also have the option of taking a ferry to each city. If you don’t get a chance to see the Amalfi Coast from the sea, then I would suggest opting for this route. You get a great view of each city from the water. In some cases, the ferry is faster than a bus considering it’s more direct than driving on the windy roads. Note: the ferry service is seasonal (usually from April to October). The main ferry company is Travel Mar. They even have an app you can download so you can look up times.

Taxi: If you would like to opt for convenience, you always have the option of booking a taxi. They can be quite expensive, but sometimes it is worth the splurge. I booked a taxi one-way from Ravello to Positano and spent 80 euro. When I took taxis within Positano, it was 20-30 euro each time. There are many private car service companies in Amalfi so look one up to book ahead or ask your hotel to book one for you.

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Enjoying the view while taking a taxi

Staying in the Amalfi Coast:

The two most popular cities for hotel stays on the Amalfi Coast are Positano and Amalfi. Positano is the most popular (and in my opinion the prettiest) town of the coast. I stayed in Positano and would highly recommend it. Sorrento is also a popular choice, although it’s not “technically” on the Amalfi Coast. (It actually faces the Gulf of Naples.) Sorrento is where many of the locals live and is less of a glitzy tourist town than the other cities and is also farther away from the big tourist spots. However, hotels here are much more affordable. These three cities are extremely busy so if you are looking for a more low key city, you can also consider smaller cities like Minori, Maiori, or Vietri Sul Mare. These cities are much smaller and are farther down the coast which makes them less crowded.

The streets of Sorrento and the beach of Positano

Ravello is a wonderful place to stay although it is not as easily accessible as the other cities on the coast. This is because Ravello is high on a hill overlooking the coast so you don’t have the option of arriving on a ferry and the only bus service here leaves from Amalfi. I still would highly recommend staying in Ravello at least for one night. It was my favorite part of the Amalfi Coast and well worth the price of the taxi ride. (Also the hotels here are  more affordable so there’s a chance it evens out in the end.)

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Beautiful Ravello

I stayed one night in Ravello and 4 nights in Positano. I thought this was a very good itinerary and I loved both of my hotels. For more info on those hotels, check out my posts on Ravello and Positano.

 

Eating in the Amalfi Coast:

The Italian Lifestyle Revolves Around Meals: If you have never been to Italy then you might not know about the Italian lifestyle. Italians believe that all meals should be eaten in groups and fully enjoyed. They do not believe in taking food to go. Not even coffee. Italians will stand at the coffee bar and socialize while they drink. Many restaurants and coffee shops have adapted to tourists and will offer to go items (sometimes called take away) but this is not the standard. Their entire day is planned around meals with family. Generally they eat a small breakfast at home and then head to work. Around 1pm they close shop and head home for lunch and a nap. They return to work a couple of hours later and eat a late dinner – generally around 9 or 10 pm. Because of this schedule, many shops and restaurants are closed around 1pm. Most restaurants will reopen around 7:00 or 7:30pm and sometimes even later. In the more tourist cities – like Positano – restaurants will be open earlier to cater to the tourists. In the smaller cities – like Ravello – they stick to the standard Italian times. I was hungry in Ravello at 6pm and all restaurants in town were closed. There was a crowd of tourists at 7pm waiting at the only restaurant that opened that early. I was lucky to get a table. So if you are always hungry (like me), make sure to eat a big lunch or have snacks on hand.  

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It’s easy to see why eating is a large part of Italian culture – they have amazing food in beautiful places!

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I get hungry just from thinking about my meals in Italy

 

It’s all about lemons in Amalfi! The Amalfi Coast is all about lemons. They have the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen and many dishes will incorporate lemons. Lemon granita (lemon slushie) is very popular and there are little stands all over selling lemon granita. It’s only one or two euro for a cup so I had multiple a day!   Also each meal ends with a shot of lemoncello so you end each meal with a taste of lemon.

Try Caprese in its namesake region: Caprese salad was invented in Capri (a connection I didn’t make until the trip!) so naturally it’s on every menu. I highly suggest eating as much caprese as possible. In Italy, the mozzarella is consumed less than 24 hours from when it’s made so it is always extremely fresh. You’ll never be happy with American caprese again. 😉

One restaurant that I HAVE to recommend is La Tagliata in Positano. It is located high (and I mean realllly high) up on the hills above Positano. This means the view is absolutely breathtaking. The food is very authentic and the restaurant is farm to table. You can see the garden just outside! There is no menu – they just bring you what’s fresh – and lots of it! Make sure you come hungry. Since it’s so far outside the city, they will send a shuttle to pick you up from Positano, just make sure to ask when you call to book a reservation. Expect to stay for a very long, very enjoyable meal that you won’t forget for a long time (maybe forever). Website

To complete your trip planning for Amalfi Coast, check out my posts on Capri, Ravello and Positano.

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Positano – the Place of Dreams

Positano is by far the most popular city on the Amalfi Coast. When you arrive there, you quickly realize why. The whole city sits on the edge of the cliff so you have amazing sea/cliff side views from everywhere in the city. There is a special quaint charm to Positano that I rarely see in other Italian cities. It may be very crowded, but somehow you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Most of the city is pedestrian paths so you get the small town feel. Bougainvillea and ivy are seen all over the city buildings. Tiny shops and restaurants line down the small pathways. It’s the perfect place to relax and forget about life outside of this gorgeous town. I like to call it the Place of Dreams.

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There are so many things to do in Positano that it can be hard to narrow it down! There are tours for pretty much anything you could want to do and there are so many amazing nearby cities to explore. I’m going to focus on things only in Positano on this post. If you are looking for day trips outside of Positano, check out my posts on Capri, Ravello and my overall post on the Amalfi Coast.

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Charming walkways

Get on the Sea

Seeing the coastline from the water gives you a gorgeous point of view. Take a boat ride to Capri or to one of the surrounding cities. You can either rent a private boat or take one of the large ferries. There are also kayak tour options if you want to get a workout in too!

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Is the city even more beautiful from the sea?

Cooking Class

Everybody likes Italian food! Why not learn how to cook it from the best? There are many cooking classes to choose from on the Amalfi Coast. I tried the class hosted by the Buca di Bacco restaurant and it was a blast! We learned how to cook so many things – marinara sauce, pesto sauce, gnocchi, eggplant parmesan, pizza and chocolate almond cake. They even sent us home with a cookbook with more recipes. After all your hard work you get to eat the feast in their beachfront restaurant. Cooking classes are generally a pricier activity (I spent 120 euro) but I would say it is worth the money. Plus you get a three course meal so that has to count for something!

My mom and I are now Italian food experts!

Beach Time

It’s a little ironic that I flew all the way to Italy and didn’t make time for the beach! Don’t make the same mistake as me! The main beach (Spiaggia Grande/Marina Beach) has chairs and umbrellas for rent and is directly in front of many restaurants and shops. This is the most convenient (and also most crowded) beach. If you want to walk a bit farther, Fornillo Beach looked less crowded and still had chairs and umbrellas to rent (keep in mind it will still be crowded in the high season). To get there, take the pathway on the north side of the main beach called Via Positanesi D’America (it’s the pathway in front of the Hotel Covo dei Saraceni). Keep in mind that any beach you visit in the area have rocky sand so come with beach shoes. There are other beaches that are more secluded and are accessible by boat. If you are looking for something more remote check out Ciao Amalfi’s list of Positano beaches.

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Spiaggia Grande is pretty hard to miss

Views From Up High

Whether you choose to hike or eat in a restaurant in the hills, make sure to get an up-high view of the coast! There is something magical about being in the peaceful Italian hills and looking down on the city below. I had some friends take the Sentiero degli Dei/Path of the gods hike and the views looked incredible. I ate dinner at the La Tagliata restaurant and had this amazing view from my table.

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I took the below photo from my friend’s villa in the hills above Positano. If you don’t mind walking up and down A TON of steps, then I suggest renting one of the villas above town!

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Shopping

I always like to shop a little when I’m on vacation. It’s fun to see the different styles, but I rarely buy anything. Positano has cute boutique stores, but to be honest I didn’t see much that I would wear again at home. However, I still think it’s a fun activity. It is especially fun to check out the pottery. The Amalfi Coast is known for the handmade pottery in bright colors. I was very tempted to buy a big pasta bowl…

The Amalfi Coast is also known for their custom made sandals. They have leather sandals and rhinestone sandals for sale everywhere. You get to choose your heel, strap and style so it is a fun experience.They are pretty pricey – around 150-200 euro each so I didn’t buy any but I did admire all the pretty choices!

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If you like sandals then Positano is paradise

Plan Out an Authentic Meal

Make sure you get away from the major tourist areas at least once to enjoy a long, relaxing meal. Many restaurants will offer a shuttle service since they realize most tourists don’t rent cars. Some hard to reach waterfront restaurants will even send a boat to pick you up! These sorts of places require reservations ahead of time for both eating and transportation so make sure to plan it out. (And if you want advice on finding the right place then check out my post on how to find authentic restaurants.)

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Meals like this make the best memories

Hotel

In Positano I stayed at Villa Rosa. I cannot rave enough about this hotel. It was the perfect mid-priced hotel and the views were absolutely amazing. It is located in the center of Positano so it’s a great location. It is across the street from the (very expensive and world renowned) Le Sirenuse hotel, so you have similar views for a fraction of the cost. I booked the superior sea view and it was definitely worth it! They serve you breakfast on your terrace so each morning starts with a relaxing time on the spectacular balcony. If you want to stay at Villa Rosa make sure to book well in advance because they sell out quickly. I booked this room 9 months in advance and certain nights were already sold out at that time.

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My balcony – it was unreal!

If you are looking for more detailed info on transportation and general information on the Amalfi Coast check out my Details of the Amalfi Coast post.

If you are visiting other cities on the coast, check out my posts on Capri and Ravello.

Ciao!

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Visiting Villas on Lake Como

Have you ever been to a place that was so gorgeous that it was hard to put your camera down? Lake Como is one of those places. It is hard to believe that the beauty around you is real.

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My Mom and I loving Lake Como

Lake Como is surrounded by quaint villages. Transportation to each village is via ferry. You could spend each day taking the ferry to different cities and exploring their charm and beauty. I stayed in a city called Bellagio. Tiny cafes and stores surround the dock which make it easy to find a spot to get a glass of wine and enjoy the view. Bellagio is on the tip of a bend in the lake, which makes the views even more stunning.

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This was the view of Bellagio from my hotel balcony. Talk about a view!

Como is a place you visit to relax. I went with my mom to Como since it was on her bucket list for quite a while. My family has two paintings in our home of Lake Como so we were on a quest to find these locations. I thought this wouldn’t be difficult, but I was proven wrong! We found both locations in a short amount of time.

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Our first location was Villa del Balbianello. If you go to Lake Como, THIS IS A MUST SEE. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was in both Star Wars and James Bond films. Visiting Villa del Balbianello was definitely my favorite part of my trip. (8 euro for entry, 15 euro with tour, closed on Mondays and Wednesdays) The views and architecture are absolutely stunning. And the view of the lake is something you could sit and stare at all day.

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Lake

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View

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I arrived on a boat which I loved because you get to enter the villa through the ornately decorated entrance. You can also walk, which I have heard is gorgeous as well. Once you arrive, get ready to take tons of photos. This place is even more beautiful than you would expect.

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Villa monastero

The second villa we visited was Villa Monastero in Varenna (5 euro for entry to the gardens, 8 euro for the gardens and house museum). This villa was a monastery until the 1500’s (hence the name Monastero). I don’t think I have ever seen a more beautiful monastery! Part of the charm of Villa Monastero was the walk down to the villa. Check out the view from the path: Verenna

Villa Monastero has a lovely garden out front. This was my favorite part of the villa. You also get to tour inside the villa and see all the ornately decorated rooms. The village of Varenna is also a wonderfully charming city. I wish I could have stayed longer and enjoyed Varenna.

Monastero

For detailed information on transportation, hours and more check out my post on all the planning details for lake como

Villa del Balbianello is in the city of Lenno. For more information on the villa, check out their website.

Villa Monastero is in Varenna. For more information on the villa, check out their website.

Getting to Lake Como takes a bit of time, but it is definitely worth it! You take a train from Milan to Lake Como and either a ferry or bus to your particular city. I go more into detail on transportation on my planning details page.

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Cheers to a lovely stay in Italy