As much as we love to travel, we sometimes need a few weeks at home to do decompress and, unfortunately, take care of those loads and loads of laundry. A travel break gives us time to reenergize, feel grounded, and plan for the next adventure.
This is also when we bring the world home though international wines, culinary experiments, and watching foreign films.
We recently discovered the San Diego Italian Film Festival has a monthly Italian film series. Every few weeks they feature a different genre – fiction, documentary, shorts, new releases, or classics. Tomorrow they’re showing Sentire l’aira (Feeling the Air), a documentary about a teen who chooses to leave his comfortable home to become a shepherd.
We love watching movies that make you think, reflect, and view life from a different perspective. We think this film will deliver on all of these points.
If you’re in the San Diego area, we hope you’ll join us for a slice of Italy tomorrow (Thursday, May 16) at 7pm. The event is at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. The cost is $10 and you’ll have an opportunity to connect with the Italian community in San Diego.
Can’t make it tomorrow? Mark your calendar for the other film nights.
We’re excited to bring Italy home!
Looking for amazing international cheeses in San Diego County. Check out Venissimo. We’ve been to their Del Mar location a few times to stock up for parties and enjoy the selection.
(Thanks to the San Diego Italian Film Festival for the invitation and delicious basket)
Many are surprised to learn that it can actually be cheaper to rent a fully furnished apartment or house rather than stay in a hotel when you’re on vacation.
This is especially true when you’re abroad in a place like Europe.
Why vacation rentals are cheaper
When we traveled to Italy for nearly a month last year, we spent only one night in a hotel room (early morning flight).
We found renting a house to be more cost effective for several reasons:
- In general, for the cost of 3-4 nights in a hotel we could rent an apartment in cities like Florence and Venice for an entire week.
- The apartments came with fully equipped kitchens, meaning we could shop at the local markets and eat our meals at home, saving lots of money.
- Check before you book, but sometimes the houses come with washing machines. This saves a trip to the laundromat… because we’d rather be sightseeing.
Why vacation rentals are more pleasant
- Being woken up by an eager maid knocking on your door at 7:30am isn’t my idea of an ideal trip. I prefer to keep my own schedule. Sometimes, I just want to cook and eat breakfast in my pajamas, even on vacation.
- Renting apartments or houses offers a feeling of space. There’s typically a couch, dining room table, and sometimes a small deck or backyard. Unless you book a suite, many hotels don’t offer these luxuries.
- When we bring home that bottle of wine from an amazing winery, rest assured there’s a corkscrew and wine glasses in the kitchen!
- It’s living like a local.
Here are a few things to consider before booking a vacation rental
Apartment location: Is it centrally located, easily accessible (are there stairs, is it on a hill)?
- Guest reviews: What do people have to say about their experience?
- Understand what’s included and excluded: Is there Internet? Does it cost extra? Are there cleaning fees? Do you pay for the electricity you use? Is there a place to park your car if necessary?
- Payment: There’s usually a credit card payment due in order to reserve the house. The remainder is typically due upon arrival in cash.
- Do your research: We have found that most apartment rentals require anywhere from a 3-7 night minimum, but this changes from city to city, owner to owner.
Want to know more? Do a Google search for vacation apartment rentals within the city or region you’ll be visiting. Within seconds, you’ll discover a number of websites with listings. Start looking at prices, location, and the amount of time you’ll be there.
You can then research hotels and compare the cost and lifestyle options.
Reader Question: Have you ever booked a vacation rental? How did it compare to a hotel?
As you cruise the waters of the Grand Canal you can see quite the water-traffic action with gondolas, water-taxis, and vaporetti (water buses) all sharing the road.
Cinque Terre in Italian means “Five Lands,” referring to five villages that lie on the coast of the Italian Riviera in the region of Liguria: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The site is so unique and beautiful, mainly due to its colorful buildings set on a steep landscape surrounded by a rich green environment that includes vineyards.
Many travelers choose to take a train or boat to get there, but you can also go by car and enjoy the best curves you’ll ever drive in Italy.
So hop in our “Ferrari” and let us drive you to Cinque Terre in our video:
This article complements our post Top 10 Things To Do in Florence, Italy.
Here are five simple, yet helpful tips to help you better enjoy your time in Florence.
Currency Exchange – How to get a better deal?
Don’t wait until the last minute to buy Euros for your trip.
Monitor the prices in advance and always check and compare currency exchange rates from different sources so you can get a better deal.
The newspaper, your local bank, and online sites are great sources to keep an eye on currency rates.
Once in Florence, there are several places to exchange money, but be forewarned they are incredibly expensive and charge outrageous commissions. My suggestion: avoid them completely, especially the airport and the exchange booths around the historic area.
If you must buy Euros while in Florence, you will get the most reasonable rates at local banks.
Watch SeeTen in your hotel or apartment
SeeTen is a great 24-hour TV channel in both English & Italian that features excellent travel advice focused on Florence and the beautiful Tuscan surroundings.
This fun, dynamic channel teaches you a lot about Florence’s history, arts, and culture.
Star reporter Chiara Valentini will give you the latest information on museum exhibits, itineraries, and other fun activities to do around Florence.
Shopping: What to buy?
Since Florence is such an artistic city, buy art. There are many art galleries that offer beautiful sculptures and paintings. Some of the popular styles are Italian Renaissance and Tuscan landscapes.
Florence is also known for its top quality leather goods.
The open markets are very popular and you can find all types of leather products such as bags, shoes, belts, purses, boots, and jackets.
Don’t be afraid of bargaining, it is expected. But bring cash since most open markets don’t accept credit cards.
There are also small boutique shops and brand-name stores for those looking to dress la Moda Italiana.
Where to stay?
There are many options in Florence and knowing where to stay might just depend on how long you are planning to be there.
If you are visiting Florence for one or two days, book a hotel.
However, if you are visiting for a week or more, I strongly suggest renting an apartment.
Renting an apartment might save you money since you can buy groceries and cook at home instead of dining out all the time. Most apartments are fully furnished with everything you need in the kitchen.
A Great Restaurant – il Porcospino
If you are celebrating a special occasion, I recommend dining at Trattoria & Wine Bar il Porcospino, located in the historic center and specializing in Tuscan cuisine.
They also have a very good selection of the best Tuscan wines like Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti, and Nobile di Montepulciano… but their vino della casa (house wine) is very good and reasonably priced.
If you have been to Florence and have more tips, please comment here. Or if you have any questions regarding your trip, please let us know. We’ll be happy to help you in any way we can. Buon Viaggio!