When David first found out that he would have to go to Milan for a work trip, I knew I simply had to jump on the opportunity to join him. Neither of us had traveled to Italy before and naturally, we were dying to go. I wanted to add on a few days before the work portion of the trip started, so we booked the tickets with a weekend beforehand to spend exploring another area.
After a bit of debate (and with some help from you all), we decided on Venice. Lake Como, Lake Garda, Verona, and Portofino were all in the running, but since the weather was pretty chilly, we decided a fall trip to Venice would be lovely. Not only that, but Venice just banned cruise ships and the crowds are smaller due to the pandemic, so it seemed like a good time to go if we wanted to avoid insane crowds. When I tell you we were WOWED by Venice…
[If you’re curious about what it was like to travel to Italy with Covid restrictions, I’ll add our experience at the bottom]
We left late on Thursday evening and arrived in Milan mid-day on Friday due to the time change. We flew into Milan because that’s where David had to fly into for work (he wasn’t in charge of buying his own tickets). As soon as we landed, we had to jet over to the Milano Centrale train station to take a high-speed train to Venice. We made it with plenty of time to spare. The trip was only about 2.5 hrs and they served snacks and drinks. All in all, a very lovely way to travel and I would have happily taken it all over Italy. Hot tip: the trains aren’t assigned a platform number until about 15-20 minutes before they depart, so there’s no need to be at the train station super early.
Since David’s airfare and our hotel in Milan were covered by his work, we sprung for a very nice hotel in Venice. You can imagine I did my homework on all of the options and after reading through hundreds of reviews of various hotels, I decided on Cipriani, a Belmond Hotel. We booked a double room with a balcony and lagoon view, but when we arrived, they upgraded us to a Junior Suite with a very large terrace. My jaw was ON THE FLOOR when we walked into the room and saw it (and the terrace — that view!) for the first time.
If you’re curious, the other hotels we were considering included The Gritti Palace and The St. Regis.
There was a bottle of champagne and a giant plate of fresh fruit awaiting us and we were in HEAVEN. We had dinner reservations at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Cips Club, that night. We sipped peach Bellini’s (first created at Cipriani!) and devoured Risotto. It was SO good. Easily our favorite meal in Italy.
The next day we took the hotel’s complimentary shuttle launch to central Venice. It ran every 15 mins, so getting to central Venice from Guidecca Island was very easy, plus the boat ride provided stunning views. We spent the day doing what everyone says to do in Venice, getting lost. Basically, I was just walking around losing my mind over just how beautiful Venice is. The mix of architectural styles is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and of course, so are the canals, the bridges, the everything.
We read up on #EnjoyRespectVenezia so we were mindful not to linger on the bridges for too long, but it was special to find yourself alone on one with a view like below. Even though we went during the off-season and the crowds were smaller than usual, it was still VERY crowded in some areas, like San Marco, looking onto the Bridge of Sighs and on the Rialto Bridge.
After walking around for many hours, we decided last minute to go on a tour of the Doges Palace. The Doge aka Duke was the head of Venice for centuries and the palazzo is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture. It was, of course, stunning. We also made sure to pop into churches as we came upon them. You all know how much I love design, history, and architecture, so this was a must for me.
We had dinner reservations that night but decided to scrap them for a night in at the hotel. Normally we would never do this, but the hotel experience was unlike anything we had ever experienced before and we were eager to spend some time on the terrace. We ordered room service, star gazed from the daybeds outside, and took a BATH whilst eating tiramisu…HA!
Our next (and final day) in Venice had a late start since breakfast in the room was a must. We spent the first part of the day walking around and had a wonderful lunch at Al Covo. Fun fact, one of the owners is from Texas and she is a sweetheart!
After lunch, we took the Vaporetto over to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Her home is on the Grand Canal and even if you’re not into the art, it’s worth the experience of walking around in such a grand home. That evening we went for dinner at Antico Martini. It’s kind of a tourist trap but the location next to the opera house was incredible.
I was SO SAD to leave the following day. We had so much more to see in Venice and I felt like we just needed more time. Not only that, but Cipriani ruined us and we will never get over the next-level service there. My one regret is not getting tickets to the opera. By the time we booked our flights and hotel, it was sold out. The same was true for La Scala in Milan, completely sold out. ~ weeps in Italian ~
We hopped back on the high-speed train and made it back to Milan by the mid-afternoon on Monday. We checked into the hotel David’s work had booked which was nice and in a cool non-touristy area. Whenever we have a chance to go back to Milan, I would love to stay here or here. After settling in, we got down to business (read: SHOPPING). Knowing about the VAT refund and with the prices being so much better in the EU, I treated myself to my first Prada bag. Btw, I saved $700 buying it in Italy!
That night we met up with one of David’s Italian colleagues and went out to dinner and drinks. We went to Trattoria Aurora and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So much so that I slept the morning away the next day…lol.
That afternoon we went to see The Last Supper. We bought tickets before the trip (a must!) and it was incredible to see in person. They limit group numbers and each group only has 15 minutes in the space, but it’s an intimate experience that was well worth the trip. That evening, we had dinner with a large group of David’s Italian colleagues. They picked us all up from the hotel in a party van LOL. After dinner, I packed up and booked my Covid test for the next day at the airport. More on that below…
Since David’s workweek was going to be intense, we decided that I should head home early. I was missing our kitties so badly anyway! To be honest, I feel like I hardly got to experience Milan having only 1.5 days there. It reminded us a lot of NYC. It’s very cosmopolitan, the people are SO stylish and I don’t know, it just felt similar.
I can’t wait until our next trip to Italy! It’s clear we are going to need (and want) to take many, many more.
What was it like to travel to Italy from the US during Covid?
It honestly wasn’t that stressful. Italy recently put in place new guidelines that require you to show a negative test prior to entering the country (yes, even if you’re vaccinated) and the US has the same rule. You want to get tested no earlier than 72 hrs before leaving, though I recommend waiting until you’re about 48 hrs away from leaving, as some airlines require results received no earlier than 48 hrs before departure.
You also have to show proof of vaccination, known as a Green Pass in Italy but they accept the CDC cards for Americans, in order to enter most indoor places. Tbh, I was VERY stressed trying to book a test before my flight home simply because I waited until last minute to look into it. Rest assured though, you can get a test all over the place — at Pharmacies, Urgent Cares, drive-up lanes, and in front of major train stations.
I ended up booking a rapid test at the airport right before the flight. It was 50 Euro but there was no wait, they spoke English and I had my results within seconds. Linking the website to book appointments here. The testing site is located in the Sheraton Hotel that is attached to the MXP airport, so you can be at your terminal within minutes of getting your test results.
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