Lake Como’s Villa Carlotta & Varenna

After a couple of hot days in Venice and Verona, we were ready to cool off with some time by the water in Lake Como.

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We drove around Milan arriving at the most perfect boutique hotel on the lake, Villa Vittoria. Located on the south side of the lake about half way up one the west ‘leg’ of Lake Como, it was perfect place to base our stay.

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We couldn’t have been more well looked after at this charming pastel pink hotel. The staff were outstanding, food amazing (we ate here all three nights of our stay), and the ambience was so relaxing.

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The hotel only a few rooms, so the place never felt over crowded, but it also had enough of an atmosphere in the evenings and mealtimes.

A couple of the nights we wandered into the town in the  late afternoon for an ice cream.

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The hotel was located in Laglio, famous for being the home to George Clooney’s villa, Villa Oleandra, so we made sure to check and see if George and Amal were home…

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We spent the three days we had in Lake Como exploring the different towns and villas and spending our late afternoon and evenings back at the hotel.

On our first full day in Lake Como we ventured to the Villa Carlotta, a villa and botanical garden in Tremezzo (a short drive from our hotel).

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We made sure to have quite a bit of time to explore, the grounds are immense, covering 20 acres of land. The gardens are broken into of several different sections.

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There is the Italian garden with cut hedges and pergolas with orange and camellia trees.

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The rhododendron and 150 varieties of azalea spread up the slope. Sadly, we arrived after their full bloom.

The property is also home to a variety of roses, cedars, palms, plane trees and other exotic plants.

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Make sure you find time to explore the villa as well. Filled with beautiful art, lovely interiors and beautiful views of Bellagio and the mountains.

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We jumped on a ferry and headed to Varenna for a late lunch after smelling all the roses at Villa Carlotta.

Ferries are a great way to explore the area. Driving from one side of the Lake to another could take hours, but with the ferry it only takes a few minutes.

Plus the views, you get are amazing!

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Varenna, is a very charming village on the eastern shore of Lake Como close to Bellagio. Varenna’s picturesque lanes and old fishermen’s houses are unpretentious, and we preferred the village to some of its grander neighbours.

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Not sick of gardens or villas yet, after lunch, we decided to spend the afternoon at Villa Monastero.

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This villa has a thin long garden that stretches out next to the lake, offering the most beautiful views of Mennaggio.

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The garden’s small passageways and stairways integrate themselves perfectly with the surroundings and with Lake Como in the background.

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After a full day in Lake Como we were excited for more adventures to come, we slept well ready for the next full day ahead!

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More adventures to come on Lake Como in my next post!

Steph xo

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Fair Verona

In fair Verona where we lay our scene…

The next stop on our Italian road trip was the charming city of Verona. A suitable place to stop in between Venice and Lake Como (more to come on Lake Como in the next post!), which ended up making the perfect place to sit back, relax and properly get into holiday mode.

After picking up our car from the Venice Airport, we arrived in the historical centre of Verona in time for a late lunch.

As we didn’t want to waste any time in this beautiful city with a long lunch, we popped into a grocery store and picked up some picnic supplies to take with us to Palazzo Giardino Giusti.

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Located in the East part of Verona, a short walk from the city centre, the palace and gardens offers an oasis of calm.

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The palace was built in the 16th century and the gardens are considered some of the most beautiful Renaissance gardens in Europe!

The villa has been recommended to me by a friend, and I am so glad we made the trip!

The grounds are made up of a series of beautiful terraced gardens filled with impressive cypress trees, beautiful flowers and native herbs. There is even a maze!

As you reach the top garden there is also an amazing view of the city.

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The city was glowing in the afternoon sun.

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The gardens also offer lots of quiet benches to take a pew and escape the Italian heat. This was the hottest day of the trip, so we took our tour around the gardens slowly.

After our exploration of the Palazzo Giardino Giusti, we took a turn around much of the old parts of Verona, spiralling in towards Juliette’s House.

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Sadly, we were not the only people with this idea. There were about 200 other tourists crammed in the little space. So, we took a quick snap for the memory books and continued exploring the beautiful city and its Roman architecture.

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Next stop, was the Arena di Verona, an impressive Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra, it is hard to miss with its imposing walls! The amphitheatre was built in the first century and it still in use for the Opera. Next time, I come to Verona, I am planning my trip around the Opera!

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Before dinner we got a drink at  Osteria Ponte Pietra Restorante that looks out over the Adige, with a perfect view of watching the sunset over the Ponte Pietra Bridge.

Remember to go early to snag a table outside, the view is so worth it!

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The Ponte Pietra Bridge is over 2000 years old (completed in 100 BC!) and provides a beautiful backdrop for a predinner cocktail.

We had dinner at Osteria da Ugo, a recommendation from our waiter on our Bath trip. And it ended up being the favourite of the whole trip! Nothing over the top, just a lovely family run restaurant with outstanding food.

Before leaving Verona the next morning, we drove up to Castel San Pietro’s. This is the spot you’ll want to go to for to view Verona in all its glory!

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Sad to leave this beautiful city, we took one last look, before heading off to the Italian Lakes!

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Steph xo

Arriving in Venice

Mike and I started off this summer with an Italian road trip. It was a trip we had been planning for quite some time, so when the day came to set off we were giddy with excitement!

We started our Italian adventure in Venice, a place Mike had never been to before and I had not visited since I was very young, so we were excited to discover the place together.

We arrived in style taking a water taxi through the Grand Canal and eventually to our lovely Airbnb in San Marco.

I forgot how beautiful Venice was! The city was glowing! And we loved being able to see the place by boat.

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On our first full day in Venice it was raining cats and dogs, luckily the only rainy day of the whole trip, so we decide to escape the bad weather by sticking to the museums.

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Our Airbnb was in the perfect location for exploring all the sites.  It was just a few steps away to many of the galleries, and we got to pass by a few sites on our way, including the beautiful Rialto bridge.

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First stop was Gallerie dell’Accademia, followed by The Peggy Guggenheim. The Peggy Guggenheim was by far my favourite of the two museums. I loved all the modern beautiful curated pieces and the unique setting.

It also provided a nice view of Ponte dell’Accademia.

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We ended our day at the museums with an Aperol Spritz, a Bellini, both great Italian cocktails, and some wine watching the sunset over the canals.

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On our second day in Venice we were greeted warm weather and beautiful sunshine, so we decided to head to Burano for the morning. Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon known for its lace work.

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There are frequent ferries to many of the islands around Venice and we had chosen Burano as our destination of choice because we had been told by a local that Burano tends to get less busy than Murano, unfortunately when we arrived the place was heaving with people!

We escaped the crowds by avoiding the central canals, staying off the beaten path.

As you might know I have a thing for pastel coloured homes, so it was hard not to take a million pictures of this charming island.

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Although, we had a lovely morning and lunch in Burano, next time, I would try head somewhere a bit more off the beaten track to avoid all of the tourists.

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After lunch, we took the ferry back to the Venice for a quick change of clothes. We grabbed a gelato (when in Italy!) before dinner and went for a wander in the afternoon in the Dorsoduro area.

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Crossing over the Grand Canal on our way and making sure to stop and take in the amazing view of the sun setting over this golden city.

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On the last day in Venice, we woke up extra early to see Piazza San Marco.

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We had been to the square on the first day of our trip, but it was so busy with tourists (and quite rainy!), so we wanted to get in another look before heading off.

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The early start was so worth it! It was so nice to have the place to ourselves and just a few others- our own private tour of Venice. You can watch as the city slowly comes into life.

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Basilica di San Marco looks amazing as the sun floods it with golden light.

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And you get uninterrupted views of the beautiful Dodge’s Palace.

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We sadly couldn’t stay too long, next stop on our journey was Verona!

Steph xo

My Favourite Podcasts

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I take the tube to work every day and travel quite a lot, so to help pass away this mundane time commuting I love to listen to a good podcast. I find a good podcast much easier to listen to then an audiobook, because the episodes are more conversational and they come in a shorter more digestible format. They can be a great friend on any journey from driving in a car, commuting to work, to waiting in airport lounge. They truly help make travelling feel quicker and more pleasant.

Today, I thought I would share with you a few podcasts I have been loving, as I know I am not the only podcast lover out there!

Missing Richard Simmons

Do you remember Richard Simmons? The workout guy? Well he ‘disappeared’ in 2014, and this podcast does a deep dive into what happened to him and what they think   happened. Even if you do not know Richard Simmons and his story, it is absolutely fascinating to hear about what happened to him and the theories behind why he went in hiding.

How I Built This

This is such an inspirational podcast! Every time I listen to this podcast I want to go off and start a business and take on the world! This podcast is about innovators and entrepreneurs and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode Guy Roz interviews the founders of great companies and ideas (Kate Spade, Warby Parker, Airbnb, Zumba…etc) and you get the inside scoop into the journey they took to get to where they are today.

At Home with

A new podcast, by two Youtubers I really love, Lily Pebbles and Anna Newton. For the girly girl (like me!) this is a great podcast. Each episode, has the girls going to the home of people they admire, typically people who work in the beauty/fashion industry, and chat to them about their life, success and style.

This American Life

An oldie, but a goodie. Probably, my all-time favourite podcast. Each week’s episode features a different theme that is explored in several ‘acts’. Often the themes are related to current events. The themes can range greatly from ‘Death & Taxes’, ‘Good Guys’ to ‘Batman’, there is bound to be something to spark your fancy!

Do you have any favourite podcasts? I would love it if you shared any that you enjoy, I am always looking for more to add to my list!

Steph xo

Cambridge College Touring

Over the early May bank holiday, Mike and I decided we wanted a day out of London to do a bit of an explore.

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After a bit of debate (Mike is an Oxford man), we landed on Cambridge as our destination of choice, as it is an easy hour train ride from London, with enough going on to keep us entertained for the day. We were also thinking about going to the coast, but with the English weather playing up, as usual, we thought we would play it safe and save the coast for a sunny day. Stay tuned!

Cambridge is a very charming small city, quite a bit smaller than Oxford, so not much of an itinerary is needed for a trip. In a day, you will have easily walked around the centre and most of the colleges. It would be very hard to miss anything out!

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Cambridge, like Oxford, has some stunning colleges, and most are open to the public to have a look around, so we spent most of the day doing just that!

Our favourites included:

St John’s College, probably the grandest College of them all. You get a lovely view of from the meadow behind the College.

Jesus College, which was lovely and quiet being set a bit further out than some of the others.

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Sidney Sussex College, which had the lost amazing wisterias on display. Sorry, still can’t get over these beauties!

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The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge and you are bound to come across punters. It is possible to hire a boat for an hour to see the city and get an upfront look at Cambridge College ‘Backs’.

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The city is also lovely to walk around, although a bit on the small side, it is very picturesque! We had a lovely late lunch at Trinity, before heading back to London.

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Steph xo

Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

There is a great art gallery, just over the border from Canada, in Buffalo, called the Albright Knox. It makes the perfect excuse for a day trip from Toronto, being just a couple hours drive away and close to both Niagara Falls and the outlet malls.

Although it was a very rainy day, Mum and I decided to make the journey over the border to visit this lovely modern and contemporary art gallery, as they had a very interesting exhibition on, Menagerie: Animals on View. Mum and I are both massive animal lovers and we didn’t want to miss out!

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This furry friend exhibition was assembled from Albright-Knox’s expansive collection, bringing together more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and videos.

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It features creatures as agents of storytelling, humorous personifications, and echoes of the human spirit.

After touring the exhibition, we made sure to check out the permanent collection, which we have seen many times, but is always worth another visit. The permanent collection features work by well known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.

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My favourite piece is a massive mural made of scribbles by Sol LeWitt! Wall Drawing # 1268: Scribbles: Staircase, holds the distinction of being the artist’s last and largest scribble drawing.

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The mural was made by 16 artists scribbling directly onto the gallery’s walls for seven hours a day, over 54 days, using a total of 1,717 graphite pencils. The end result is pretty spectacular! It doesn’t look like scribbles at all!

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Outside the gallery, there is nearly 20 different sculptures to explore as well.

But, we could only stay and play a little while, as the rain started up again!

Looking forward to another visit to the Alright Knox Gallery soon!

Steph xo

Vintage Shopping at the St Lawrence Antique Market, Toronto

When I was home in Toronto over the Easter break, my mum and I decided to head over to the St Lawrence Antique Market. This is a bit of a Sunday tradition for us, for as long as I can remember we have been going to this antique market to pick up rare finds and special pieces. We have found some real gems over the years!

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The St Lawrence Antique Market attracts a variety of people, you will find urban hipsters rubbing elbows with collectors and interior designers. They all know that this is the place to come for one of a kind pieces for your home or wardrobe.

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You just have to do a bit of digging first to find the good stuff!

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And make sure to arrive early, before all the good stuff has been snatched up!

At the market, you can find anything from antique books, vintage jewellery, exceptional home ware and beautiful clothing. Pieces you just won’t find anywhere else.

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Mike and I spent many Sundays at the market collecting UK and Canadian postcards, which people wrote on instead of a guest book at our wedding. It was such a nice touch for our special day, and we had such a great time looking at all the lovely old images!

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Luckily our trip was a successful one! We ended up with a great stash to take home.

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On our trip we picked up a wicker bag, a green glass fruit bowl, two mint vases, some beautiful fabric (Mum was going to use it to make a tablecloth!) and two beaded necklaces.

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The St Lawrence Antique Market is open every Sunday 7 am to 5 pm. If you live in Toronto or are in the area I strongly recommend checking it out!

Steph xoxo