Rolling hills covered by vineyards and sunflowers, small-town festivals, fresh local food, and of course, abundant supplies of some of the best wine in Tuscany. Montepulciano was the highlight of our time in Italy, and with good reason!
Ah, Bologna. Our stopover in Italy’s culinary gem was far too brief. With a mere 24-hours to explore it was critical that we focus our priorities. So we passed on the culture and shopping and focused on one very important activity: eating as much as we possibly could.
Bologna is known among tourists and Italians alike for it’s delicious food. From homemade bolognase sauce (called here by it’s proper name: ragu), to local charcuterie delicacies and refreshing pignoletto wines, it’s pure foodie heaven. On top of that, Bologna is a pretty cool city in it’s own right. Somewhere inbetween Venice’s fancy facades and Naples rough grittiness resides Bologna. It’s an average city, in as much as any Italian city steeped in culture and history can pretend to be average. With a major university in town there’s a younger, more vibrant air. It’s the perfect place to wander the streets taking in the culture, between bites of food and sips of wine, of course.
Boats and wine are two of my favorite things, ever.* So as I’m sure you can imagine I was ridiculously excited to be traveling to Venice. I mean, the city is built on a giant canal system! Boats are not only the norm, but often the only option to get around. And Italy is home to some of my favorite wine varietals in the world. Plus, we’d be meeting up with two of our good friends from San Francisco. Really, could it get any better?
The only thing giving us pause…budget. In addition to it’s architecture, history, and waterways, Venice is also famously Italy’s most expensive city. For two travelers on a strict budget we were a little anxious going in. But, with some careful planning and a few tricks along the way we were able to have an amazing time without totally destroying our bank account. Here’s how…
At only 9 years since it’s independence from Serbia and the former Yougoslavia, but with known civilizations dating back to the 6th century, Montenegro is the (second) newest old country in Europe. This blend of old and new could be felt in the historic Old Town fortresses that now housed trendy hotels and restaurants. It could also be seen in the pop-up stands along the roads where locals sold their homemade olive oils and fruits to beach-goers from all over Europe. In spite of (or perhaps because of?) a long history of political and boarder changes, the people we meet seemed rather unfazed by the latest developments.
Our decision to visit was initially spurred by Schengen visa regulations — since Montenegro has not yet joined the majority of Europe under Schengen it meant we could spend our time exploring the country without the anxiety of knowing our 90-day clock was counting down. It also checked an important box for me: visit a country that we didn’t know existed before we started out on our trip.
Korčula was the perfect antidote to yet another week of gluttony and back-to-back sightseeing in Ireland. A 2ish hour ferry ride from the port town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, Korčula is one of the quieter islands in Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. The old town resembled a mini Dubrovnik with white stone houses crowded together in the ancient city walls, their bright coral red tops standing out against the picturesque green mountains beyond.
Once inside the walls, the town could be a bit overwhelming at first. It was, like most beaches in Europe, packed full of tourists off of the ferry boats and private yachts. Happily, the apartment we rented through a local travel agency was a short 10 minute walk outside the city’s walls – close enough for easy grocery shopping, but far enough from the all-night partying in town.
Ica, Peru is a small-ish town about 4-6 hours south of Lima, making it a popular weekend getaway from the city. The climate is dry and desert-like, and it’s perhaps best known for its wine and pisco Bodegas outside of town. Ica is Peru’s primary wine and pisco producing region, and we were excited to both check out the local wine culture and taste the national beverages!