A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to get to travel the world a bit with my family. We took 16 days out of our busy lives and ventured to Germany, Austria and Italy. We spent most of our time in northern Italy where my husband's family is from.
We left from Miami International Airport (MIA) and flew into Germany. We live pretty far from MIA, but it was significantly less expensive for us to fly out of MIA then the closest airport to us. It was worth the drive. Our flight left at 3:50 pm and arrived at 8:15 am in Berlin, Germany. We had a connector flight in Berlin that took us to Munich. Our flight was a bit late getting into Berlin, so we had to dash through the airport to make our connecting flight. The airport held the flight for us and we made it, however, our luggage did not. We arrived in Munich and watched the luggage carousel go around and around to no avail. Our luggage eventually came in 3 hours later on the next flight.
We got our rental car and we were off to Innsbruck, Austria for our first stop. I had printed out directions before I left, but many of the smaller streets were not marked, so the directions were pretty unhelpful. Thankfully, we had an international phone and we were able to use the navigation system on it. Word to the wise, when they offer the navigation system to you at the car rental in Europe, get it.
We arrived at the Basic Hotel in Innsbruck Austria. It was a great location right downtown. The room had a gorgeous view overlooking the mountains and the window brought in the most wonderful fresh mountain air.
|View from our room at Basic Hotel Innsbruck, Austria|
I had arranged in advance for dinner in Innsbruck at Buzihutte. Buzihutte is a small casual mountain restaurant that has local Austrian cuisine.
The restaurant is pretty secluded up in the mountains. The hotel thankfully advised us to take a taxi to find it and we did so. By this time, we had all had about 2 hours sleep in the last 24 hours and we were all in need of a good meal. The menu looked absolutely fantastic! The hostess and waitress were very kind to us. In our sleep deprived and hungry state, I think we "raised some eyebrows" by pretty much ordering the left side of the menu! The meal was so so good. A highlight of my trip.
|I could eat this everyday!|
In the morning, we ventured back out into Innsbruck and took a ride on the Nordketten (the mountain cable car). The Nordketten can be picked up downtown and takes you all the way to the top of the mountains. It was breathtaking! It was June, but there was still plenty of snow at the top.
We left that afternoon for our next destination; Frisanco, Italy. Frisanco is a lovely little mountain town near Maniago. We stayed at the Albergo Alle Alpi. It was our home for the next 10 days. The Albergo is not a luxurious hotel by any means, but we needed someplace affordable to stay for 10 days. The staff that runs the inn is very kind and hard working. We had some of the best dinners during our trip in the hotel restaurant.
After visiting with family members, we took a side trip overnight to Parma, Italy. Being someone who cooks and writes about food, I was very interested in seeing production of the local Italian specialties. Before we left, I had set up a tour through Parma Golosa of some small production facilities of parmesan reggiano cheese, traditional balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto ham.
We drove 3 hours from Frisanco to Parma. On our drive to Parma, we stopped off for lunch in Verona, Italy at Antica Torretta. I chose Antica Toretta because it was very highly rated on Trip Advisor. Our lunch at Antica Toretta was very very expensive and unfortunately the food was just okay. Verona was quite tricky to drive in and out of, but it did have some beautiful views.
In Parma, we checked into the Astoria Residence Hotel. The hotel was reasonably priced and quite comfortable. The front desk was very helpful and a wonderful breakfast was included with the room. The hotel is a short walking distance to the pedestrian area in Parma which is filled with wonderful shops, bars and restaurants. This was my first time to Parma, Italy and I really enjoyed it. I would love to go back and spend some more time there.
The next morning, we headed out early for our parmesan, balsamic and prosciutto tour with Parma Golosa. Our tour guide, Davide, was wonderful! Everyone enjoyed the tour!
The tour ended with a fantastic lunch at a vineyard. I felt the Parma Golosa tour was a great value and I would recommend it.
After lunch, we made the drive back to Frisanco. We were pretty tired the next day and just spent the day hanging around Maniago and going to the local shops. We also did laundry, which wasn't magical, but it needed to be done. As you can see, the City of Maniago was founded in 981! Maniago and the sounding area has a lot of character. They take great care to preserve the historical nature of the city.
We also spent some time in Spilimbergo, Cividale del Friuli and beautiful Poffabro, Italy which is next door to Frisanco. Poffabro is truly a special place.
The next stop on our trip was Venice. Venice is about an hour and a half from Frisanco. We drove to the Venice Airport and dropped off our rental car and hauled everyone and everything a 30 minute walk to the Alilaguna ferry. The weather had turned very hot. We waited a while and took a long crowded boat ride to Venice. The trip took about an hour.
Once in Venice, we stayed at the Villa Laguna on the Island of Lido. Villa Laguna is a 5 minute walk to the vapparetto / water ferry and about a 15 minute vaparetto ride to Saint Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco); the heart of Venice. The hotel was a great choice. We had a beautiful room that was right on the water and looked out onto St. Mark's square.
Villa Laguna has a gorgeous outdoor dining area where you can relax and watch the ships and boats go by. I loved almost everything about it. If you are planning on going to Venice, I would recommend considering staying on Lido. I feel you get more for your money (accommodation wise) and it is more authentic. We ate at the hotel a few times and it was very good.
|View from our hotel room at Villa Laguna Lido / Venice Italy|
|Patio at Villa Laguna|
We stayed in the Venice area the next 3 nights and did all the regular Venice stuff. Here are a few of my favorites:
Visiting the Fish Market:
Having brunch at Caffe Florian:
Opened in 1720, Caffe Florrean is the oldest cafe in Venice. It is in St. Mark's Square. It is a great place to sit outside for lunch or to order a bottle of wine and watch life go by for an hour. They have a wonderful live orchestra that usually plays as well.
We also had a memorable lunch at Osteria La Patatina. We happen to walk in the restaurant by chance. It was 90 degrees outside and I saw it had air conditioning. At that time, that was pretty much enough for me. However, we ended up having a great dining experience. We ordered the mixed seafood plate and as you can see it was fabulous! Everything we had from the restaurant was delicious.
And yes, we even took a gondola ride:
By this time, we were on day 15 of our trip and as enjoyable as it was, we were all starting to get a little tired. It was time for us to make our way back to Munich, Germany for our flight back. We had traveled by car, plane and boat and it was time for our train ride. Train travel in Europe is wonderful and very inexpensive. If you can take the train in Europe, I highly recommend it over driving. Our 8 hour train trip from Venice to Munich went through the Alps. It was relaxing, very beautiful and a pleasure.
|View from the Train Car|
Since we were arriving in Munch late, I booked a hotel right across from the train station at Europaischer Hof. The hotel was okay. The beds were comfy, but it was very hot outside and the room had no air conditioning. The heat broke during the night and somehow went from very hot to very cold rain.
The area immediately surrounding the hotel is a bit rough and has several youth hostels. It is pretty noisy at night. If your just needing a decently priced place to stay near the train station then it is pretty good. The hotel had a awesome breakfast included with the room. The staff was wonderful and very helpful. They let us keep our bags at the hotel after check-out until we left later in the day. From the hotel, it is a reasonable walk to the site seeing area. Alternatively, you can take the subway 2 stops or catch the hop-on hop-off tour bus.
After a bit of a restless sleep and 16 days of travel we set out for our last day of adventure in Munich, Germany. There was a cold rain coming down and everyone was a bit tired, but we all wanted to "go for it" one last day.
We took the subway to the Marienplatz historical district and headed out for a walk to look around and find the Hofbrauhaus.
The Hofbrauhaus is one of Munich's oldest beer halls and it has a lot of history. Some people say it is too touristy, but I loved it! It was huge, packed, loud and fantastic. We ordered lunch and a beer. The beer was a huge 1 liter! The food was simple and very delicious.
After lunch, I had a few sips of my gigantic beer and knew we had gave everything we had to give. My heart was full and my energy was getting empty.... It was time to head home.
The next day, we had a ten-hour flight from Munich leaving at 7:30am. I had booked us a room at the Kempinski Hotel connected directly to the airport. We checked in early, ordered a little bit of room service and relaxed the rest of our last day. The staff at Kempinski was so gracious and everything was perfect. It was a great end to a great trip.