Europe

One month European itinerary

One of my favourite things to do when we start planning our trip is plotting out our itinerary. I love sitting down with a map (lol - okay fine Google Maps) and working out where we want to go, how far it is between destinations, and how to make it flow in a logical way.

Our very first trip to Europe was kind of like a Contiki; we did a big loop of Western Europe, staying only a few days in each location. It was a lot of fun, but by the end we were pretty tired, and I was sad we hadn’t spent more time in a lot of the locations.

On our honeymoon I wanted to take a slower pace, visit less places and spend a little longer in them where we could. After a lot of thought I dropped Spain and Portugal from our itinerary. It added too much travel time, and I realised it would be fun to do them as a separate trip later on. I also dropped a visit further south in Italy to go to Pompeii - again because I could see us doing a Southern Italy trip one day in the future (probably in summer).

I thought it would be fun to share our full itinerary so you can get an idea about how we spent a month in Europe in winter. I hope it gives you some inspiration!

Pre P.S. We travel by train as much as possible because it’s in general the most economical way to travel (and a lot more fun than planes) so all times to the next destination given are based on train travel. It’s been a few years since we did this trip so I’m trying to do my best to determine what trains we caught.


Paris - 4 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 4 hours 30 minutes


Lucerne - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 1 hour 49 minutes


Interlaken - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 6 hours 30 minutes


Venice - 4 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 2 hours 5 minutes


Florence - 3 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 1 hour 30 minutes


Rome - 4 days

Weekend Getaway: Rome | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 1 hour 55 minutes (flight from Rome to Athens)


Athens - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 50 minutes (flight from Athens to Crete)


Crete - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Where to go, what to eat & Where to stay

Time to next destination: 50 minutes (flight from Crete to Athens)


Athens - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings
 

Time to next destination: 3 hours 30 minutes (flight from Athens to Paris)


Paris - 2 days

One month European itinerary | Miss Sweet Nothings

The Perfect Weekend Getaway: Florence

I feel like in our stay in Florence we only got to scrape the surface of what it could offer, we were there in that weird gap between Christmas and New Years so a lot of things were closed or being repaired. I will say the food was the best on our trip, so I’m very excited to share the places we’ve found.

Perfect Weekend: Florence | Miss Sweet Nothings

Friday night

After checking in to your accommodation it’s time for happy hour! Head down to the cellar door for Spumantino Verrazzano. It’s been producing wine since Roman times and is the perfect place to sit and have a few beverages before dinner. Then head on over to Trattoria Nella for dinner. I personally recommend the pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas) - it’s so hearty and delicious and (bonus points) is a local Tuscan dish.

Perfect Weekend: Florence | Miss Sweet Nothings

Saturday

Time for an adventure! After breakfast it’s time to head to the Galileo Museum. It tracks the history of science from the 15th century to the present day, and shows the instruments people (like Galileo) used to solve the mysteries of the universe (long before computers). It also has an incredible astrolab that has to be seen to be believed.

After stopping for lunch at one of the cafes along the river it’s time to cross the famous Ponte Vecchio which was the centre of trade in Florence for many years, and then go for a walk in the Boboli Gardens.

After relaxing in your accommodation for awhile it’s time to head for happy hour at Mangiafoco Cafe. Feel free to have cheese with your Aperol spritz, but make sure to save room for dinner because you are in for a treat. Dinner tonight is at Vini e Vecchi Sapori (make sure to book ahead!). It’s one of the most popular restaurants in Florence, and for good reason! The food is fantastic, the wine selection is really good and the owners are very friendly and determined to avoid becoming a tourist trap. Be warned you might need to share your table with someone (they only have 18 tables) but we found it just added to the experience.

Perfect Weekend: Florence | Miss Sweet Nothings

Sunday

After an evening out at Vini e Vecchi you might not be up for this - but if you can manage to get up and head down to the river to watch the sun rise it will be worth your time. It’s an amazing experience - you really understand what people mean when they talk about the Tuscan sun. Depending on how much time you have you could then either head to the Uffizi Museum or go for a walk to the Cathedral of Santa Maria di Fiore (or both if you have the time!).


The perfect weekend getaway: Paris

The perfect weekend: Paris

There’s something about Paris. I can’t explain it but the second I landed in Paris for the first time I experienced two different emotions simultaneously. The first feeling was one of belonging, in a way I cannot explain - though I have since read many people who have had a similar experience. The second one was a feeling of not really seeing Paris, of knowing there is more to Paris that I haven’t found yet. I still feel like that - and that’s what motivates me to go back to Paris.

This perfect weekend is a bit different from others because I’m not going to give any specific recommendations for places to eat. I don’t think I have found the best places to eat just yet,instead I have linked some helpful articles down the bottom to (hopefully) point you in the right direction. 

Friday afternoon

Once you arrive it’s time to check in to your hotel and personally I love Hotel Caron De Beaumarchais. Behind a sweet blue door (and just off the Rue de Rivoli) it is cozy and fantastically baroque. What’s great is one you’re checked in you can head out to one of the many bars in the Marais for a pre dinner drink. The French eat dinner around 8 so having an apertif isn’t just a fantastically French thing to do - it’s also a great way to pass the time until dinner.

The perfect weekend: Paris

Saturday

I hope you bought walking shoes because today is going to be an adventure, and the best way to experience it is walking. Weekends are a busy time for the museums of course so it’s important to get an early start. For breakfast I cannot suggest anything other than the breakfast at the hotel. It’s a bit expensive but it is the best breakfast I have ever had. You get a normal croissant, a chocolate croissant and a baguette (with butter, jam and honey). You also get a soft boiled egg, a kiwi fruit, some yoghurt and cheese. Oh and coffee that converted me from a mocha drinker to a coffee freak.

Properly satiated it’s time to walk down to the Louvre. The first time we went to Paris we were walking down to the Rue de Rivoli trying to find the Louvre, wandering past all these high street shops I turned my head and there it was. The Louvre was just sitting across from a H & M like it belonged there.

I tell this story because for an Australian, where no building in the city I grew up in is more than a few hundred years old, the casual clash of history and modern life was (and continues to be) the most mind boggling thing about travelling in places like Europe.

Anyway so the Louvre; it is definitely worth a visit but it is HUGE so pick your battles and don’t try and see everything in one go. In case you were wondering, seeing the Mona Lisa is worth it. I didn’t try and get close because of the crowd but it was more beautiful then I was expecting. 

After the Louvre it's lovely to go for a wander in the Jardin des Tuileries - in winter it’s beautifully barren and in summer it’s a leafy wonderland so you really can’t go wrong.

Then it’s time to head over to my favourite museum in Paris (and if I’m honest - one of my favourite in the world); the Musee D’Orsay. It has an amazing collection of Impressionist art, and it’s housed in an old train station. It’s a joy to wander through, plus the museum cafe is upstairs behind the old station clock. It’s the perfect place for a lunch break.

After lunch it’s time to wander back across the river; you can head to the hotel for a nap, go for another walk in the Jardin De Tuileries or maybe do some shopping on Rue De Rivoli. No matter what you do definitely stop at a boulangerie for some kind of afternoon pastry treat. Remember dinner isn’t until 8 so it’s totally acceptable to get an afternoon snack.

Perfect Weekend: Paris //Miss Sweet Nothings

Sunday

After the intensity of Saturday, Sunday is the day for a more leisurely pace. There are lots of sweet places to get breakfast (if you can drag yourself away from the breakfast at the hotel) and then it’s time to strap your walking shoes on again and go for a walk on the Siene.

The aim is to get to the Eiffel Tower - and yes this is quite a walk. But it is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday. Once you get to the Eiffel Tower it’s time to find somewhere for lunch before wandering back. On your walk back you should take a brief detour to Notre Dame. Now - the cathedral is beautiful - but I’ll let you in on a secret. Underneath Notre Dame is the history of the island on which is stands, the Ile de la Cite. And there is a museum that takes you through the foundations of the Ile de la Cite. For those of you that are Vikings fans this is a must.

Lot of food inspiration

Wander Guide: A Weekend in Paris by Local Milk

Alex the French Food Guy filmed a love letter to Paris

Smitten Kitchen shared where she ate in Paris

Alix of The Cherry Blossom Girl lives in Paris and shares some amazing articles


The perfect weekend getaway: Athens

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

I think since the Global Financial Crisis, Greece and Athens has gotten a bit of a bad reputation (or at least among my friends it has). So I was completely surprised by how much I loved our time in Athens. The Greek people are some of the kindest and most wonderful humans I have ever been lucky enough to meet, and Athens is home to so many incredible things to see and do. 

Friday afternoon

If you’re going to be staying in Athens you may as well stay somewhere with an amazing view of the Acropolis. And the Plaka Hotel is perfect for that. It’s nice, affordable and has a really great rooftop view of the Acropolis.

Once you’re settled in I suggest heading upstairs to the rooftop bar for a pre-dinner drink and the aforementioned view of the Acropolis. Then it’s time to head out for dinner at Efcharis; a fantastic restaurant with live music, enthusiastic helpings (seriously I thought I was going to die after our first meal there) and really friendly staff. If you’re lucky you might even get to experience their home brewed raki (I’m not certain it’s called raki in all of Greece but that’s what they called it on Crete).

This is also a good time to warn you - the smoking laws in Greece are pretty much non existent. Throughout Europe the laws are a lot more lax than they are in Australia but it was at it’s most blase in Greece. So if the weather is clement definitely sit outside if you don’t want to marinate in smoke.

Saturday

It’s time for a day of adventure! My personal recommendation is the breakfast buffet at the hotel (because if it’s not obvious from all of my perfect weekend articles so far I really approve of hotels where the breakfast is included). But if that’s not your speed there are some super cute bakeries right near by and Greek pastries are fantastic.

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

After breakfast it’s time to go to the Acropolis! You can buy a ticket that includes a lot of different sites around Athens; the Acropolis, the north and south side of the Acropolis (which is also very cool), Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Roman Agora, Kerameikos, Olympieion and Lykeion. You probably can’t get all these sites in over a weekend but it’s always good to have all these locations up your sleeve.

The best place to start is the Agora; which was the centre of life in ancient Athens. It has been allowed to return to nature which really just adds to the atmosphere. It’s a beautiful place and it’s really hard even when you see it to imagine the scale of it - trying to imagine it at it’s height, with Socrates lecturing and the market bustling.

After the Agora it’s really easy to head straight up to the Acropolis. Although there is a lot to see on the Acropolis, one thing to look out for is the Erechtheion, in high school my classics teacher spoke highly of the beauty of the columns (which are Greek maidens) because it is able to support the roof without making the women's neck look stocky.

The perfect getaway: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

After a morning of adventure it’s time for a lunch stop and then it’s time to hit up the Acropolis Museum. This museum is very unique; it’s built over an archaeological site and rather than cover this up the floor is glass to allow visitors to see the dig in action.

In addition the top floor is dedicated to a scale replica of the frescoes that surround the Parthenon (the largest temple on the Acropolis) which allows you to get up close with the incredible carvings.

Around now I imagine you’ll need to head back to hotel to relax before heading out for dinner. The street where Efcharis is also has a lot of other delicious dinner options; and they’re always happy to spruik their restaurant as the best which helps (or hinders - depending on your preference) you to pick a good place.

Sunday

First thing after breakfast it’s time to head to the National Archaeological Museum. In general the Acropolis Museum is more interesting but the one thing you shouldn’t miss in the National Museum is the Antikythera mechanism. It’s housed in its own permanent exhibition and is considered the first “computer” that was used in the second century BCE to calculate various astronomical phenomena. It’s incredible to see something so ancient that holds up to our understanding of science today.

After marvelling at one of the true wonders of the ancient world it’s worth trying to take in some of the remaining sights on your Acropolis pass; I liked Hadrian’s Library and the Olympieion (which is pictured below). They’re dotted all over the city so it’s a nice way to soak up some more of Athens; plus gives you lots of chances to stop in at various bakeries for snacks. It’s the perfect way to wind down your trip in Athens

The perfect weekend getaway // Athens

The perfect weekend getaway: Venice

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

The best way to describe Venice is beautifully melancholy; full of tiny streets, ancient buildings and its famous canals. Here is my guide to a magical winter getaway in Venice.

Friday afternoon

On arriving it’s time to check in to the hotel; I recommend Hotel Al Codega. It’s right in the centre of Venice but is quite affordable, and a really lovely hotel to boot! Then it’s time to go out!

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

We’ll save the proper exploring for tomorrow so tonight we’re just going to walk down to the famous Ponte di Rialto. Like everywhere else in Europe there are some lovely markets at Christmas in the square near the bridge. I would recommend the Italian pastries - they’re a lot sweeter than I was used to (as an Australian) but they were very delicious.

After some wandering it’s time for dinner at Osteria Enoteca San Marco and boy are you in for a treat. The food is traditional northern Italian fare, though usually with a twist. I had an incredible cacio e pepe (a dish I have a mild obsession with) and my husband still raves about the tiramasu. The wine list is extensive but very well priced - don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation!

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After dinner you can head to bed OR head down to the Piazza San Marco for a night time stroll. It is both creepy and beautiful at night. Our night walk was on a misty night and it felt very mysterious; I really felt like I had been transported back to the 1800’s. I kept expecting ladies in Victorian gowns to sweep out of the mist.

Saturday

Rise and shine! Time for the first full day of your adventure in Venezia! The breakfast in the hotel is really yummy, so feel free to have breakfast there - or head out to find a cafe and enjoy a latte.

When you’re fueled up (and if you’re like me, caffeinated) it’s time to start the day. First stop is the Palazzo Ducale; the palace of the Doge who once ruled Venice (and large chunks of Italy and Europe). I cannot explain to you how incredible this visit will be - it is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The Hall of the College literally cannot be captured in pictures.

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After marvelling at the Palazzo all morning it’s time for lunch. I know most people would urge you to “get away from the tourists areas” to find something to eat I disagree - at least where lunch and piazzas in Italy are concerned. My favourite way to eat lunch in Italy was outside looking out over a piazza. And there really isn’t a much more spectacular piazza than the Piazza San Marco in Venice. My one suggestion is to go to the left of the Basilica San Marco - the restaurants there are a lot less pricey (though still delicious).

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After lunch go for a walk along the promenade (on the other side of the Palazzo) to help work off the pizza or pasta you had for lunch and enjoy the beautiful views. When you get to the end you can loop through the park and through the suburb of Castello (where most actual Venetians live now) on your way back to the hotel.

After a few hours relaxing back at the hotel (and maybe a few drinks in the hotel bar) it’s time to head out for dinner at Ristorante Trattoria Cherubino. It’s a really lovely and cozy restaurant that does amazing risotto (and I say this as a card carrying risotto snob).

Sunday

Sunday is going to have a slower vibe; but Venice is the perfect place for a more leisurely day. After breakfast it’s time to head out and wander the streets. It’s remarkably difficult to get lost in Venice, even with all the tiny side streets and back alleyways. Having the Grand Canal running through the centre of Venice is a great way to keep yourself centred. Plus you have the train station to the north and the ocean to the south to help keep you oriented.

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

If you do want to learn a little more about the history of Venice you can head down to the Maritime Museum. Venice built its fortune on sea trade and it is truly fascinating to learn more about.

And if you’re wondering where to have lunch - head back to the Piazza San Marco or take a chance on one of the many restaurants you wander past (Italy is the only place in the world where you can feel pretty safe about getting a good meal from almost anywhere you go). Either way; a great way to end your trip is a cocktail at the famous Harry’s Bar.


Tips for travelling in Europe

I thought I would start this post with a disclaimer: These are my tips for people travelling in Europe based on my experience as an Australian.

I feel like this disclaimer is necessary because I have seen posts about tips for travelling in Australia and have found them hilarious - do other countries really not buy rounds when you're out having a drink? 

So - to any Europeans out there -there’s a chance I’ve gotten the details wrong in places, and I hope you find it as funny as I do when people write guides about Australia.

Smoking laws are different

I think the biggest one for me was that many restaurants still allow smoking indoors in certain areas - and smoking in public places such as train stations (and the Colosseum) is completely normal. It’s something to consider if you are sensitive to smoke or just don't like marinating in it over dinner. Of particular note is Greece - which doesn't seem (at least to me) to observe any rules regarding where you can and can't smoke.

Take the train

The European train system is incredibly good - we've almost exclusively used it on both our trips and love it. You can book ahead online - which I do recommend if you don't speak the language - and it is always very affordable.

Plus travelling via train through Europe is visually stunning  I'm pretty certain Mike and I spent the whole time doing heart eye emojis as we pressed our faces against the windows when we passed through Switzerland.

Dinner is much later

Normally around 7-8. This was one we struggled with, Mike and I are morning people so we would normally get up around 7, have breakfast and then head out for the day. So by 6 we were starving and would have to head out for dinner. I love participating the routines of a country and it made us feel a lot less like tourists when we pushed ourselves and waited until later to head out for dinner. It also gave us a very flimsy excuse to eat afternoon tea.

Food service is relaxed

Food forms a large part of the culture of Europe - it's something to be enjoyed; preferably with loved ones and with no rush. This is reflected in the food service, which is a lot slower than it is in Australia. This isn't bad service; it's just a different attitude to how long a meal should take. It can initially take a bit of getting used to but by the end I really enjoyed the slower pace - it feels more like how meals should be.

Enjoy the culture

European countries are so small (comparative to Australia) but so intensely different and that is all part of the fun! Drink Feldshlossen in Switzerland, eat all the gelato in Italy, ask for raki after dinner in Greece and for the love of god eat any bread you can get your hands on in France. Keep your eyes peeled for moments unique to the country you are in.

Walk everywhere

Some of my best ever memories are from our epic treks around various cities. Check out the cute little gardens that people have on their front steps in Amsterdam, wander down all the random alleyways in Venice, walk through the streets of Paris, pet all the cats in Rome (seriously do). These cities have had millennia to become as magical as they are today - and most of that magic is missed if you drive or take a train around the city.


Travel Guide: Crete

One thing we tried out on this trip was a mini trip within the trip - after two days in Athens we flew to Crete with carry on only (leaving our larger luggage in the capable hands of the Plaka Hotel) for two days. I was SO nervous about this part of the trip - and naturally all that worry was for nothing because it went completely smoothly - the only scary bit was landing in Crete because one of the engines blew something as we were coming in.

Since we were in Crete for only two days - and one of those days it snowed of all things - this will be a short entry. I will say that two days was not long enough on any of the Greek Islands - and we will definitely be returning one day.

Travel Guide: Crete // Miss Sweet Nothings

Where to go

Palace of Knossos

Mike and I actually only really went to Crete for one reason - to see the Palace at Knossos. Or, to be more accurate, I really wanted to see the Palace and I somehow convinced Mike we should do it. In reality (and I only found this out once we were there and walking around) Mike had no idea about the culture of the Minoans - which almost literally blew my mind given we are both giant history nerds.

If - like my husband - you haven't heard about the Minoan culture please go and read up on it as it is fascinating. Equally as interesting is the history of the discovery of the Palace itself in the last century and its "reconstruction" by the archaeologists of the time. 

Oh, and we saw peacocks which was pretty crazy.

Travel Guide: Crete // Miss Sweet Nothings

Archaelogical Museum of Heraklion

After seeing the Palace Mike and I went to the museum in Heraklion - it really was incredible to see how intricate this culture was, and how much of a mystery it is - even now. Seeing the Phaistos Disc was a highlight - but I think personally the two biggest highlights was seeing Mike's wonder at this civilisation he knew nothing about before he came there and the sweet little kitten who wanted to come into the museum to get out of the cold (cats were a bit of a theme on this trip apparently).


Travel Guide: Athens

Mike and I went to Greece with really no expectations - a lot of our friends who had been admitted they didn't like it - so we really went in thinking if nothing else, we could just hang out in our hotel room and relax.

We found Athens to be fun and lively and the Greek people are some of the nicest, kindest and sweetest people we have ever met. I have such fond memories of our time in Athens and I encourage everyone to visit if you can.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

What to visit?

Acropolis

The day we went up to the Acropolis it was rainy and freezing cold but it was still so incredible to make the trek up to the top. My favourite part was the Erechtheion, in high school my classics teacher spoke highly of the beauty of the columns (which are Greek maidens) because it is able to support the roof without making the women's neck look stocky. I was able to admire the originals up close in the Acropolis Museum and I can absolutely understand why he found them so captivating. 

The rain did put us off a little because some areas felt a little dangerous with how slippery it was, so I would love to go back when it's sunny.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

Athenian Agora

The Agora was the centre of all life in Athens - much like the Forum in Rome. Unlike the Forum though the Agora has been allowed to return to nature - which in many ways just makes it more beautiful; all the trees and bushes slowly enveloping the birth place of democracy and philosophy. We went to the agora on the same day as the Acropolis and because it was cold and wet we had the place almost to ourselves. It was so peaceful - and I feel so lucky to have experienced it the way we did. Although there are downsides to travelling over winter - there is also something to be said for having the Athenian Agora to yourself!

Acropolis Museum

This museum is frankly pure genius. As well as telling the tale of Athenian history it also houses the originals of all of the frescos and many of the statues of the Acropolis. Not content with that - they have replicated the main temple of the Acropolis to scale inside the museum, to ensure you get the full impact of the frescos as they appear on top of the mountain. The floor on the bottom level is see through to allow you to see the archaeological dig that is occurring under the museum.

National Archaeological Museum

Honestly, by the time we made it here we were a bit over museums so I didn't feel like I really enjoyed it the way I enjoyed the Acropolis Museum. By far the most incredible thng to see was the Antikythera mechanism. It's considered the "first computer" and for a history nerd like me it has always been a source of fascination. It didn't occur to me that it would be housed in the museum - but I was so excited once I realised it was. It's so much smaller than I imagined, but also 20 times more intricate. Truly, it is an incredible thing to see.

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

 Where to eat

First let me say, food in Athens is amazing. . Now I'm not talking fancy food here - everywhere we ate made simple and incredibly hearty food. On top of this the Greek hospitality came out in spades. Everywhere we went people were so friendly and keen to help you have a good time. Free bread (normally with tapenade) and water (unheard of in Italy) was the norm. Plus on multiple occasions they would bring out an after dinner shot (I know it's called raki on Crete - and we took to calling it raki in Athens and they knew what we meant). It ranged in flavour/strength from paint stripper to warm cinnamon spice and it was such a fun way to end the night.

A word of warning - although Greece follows the same smoking regulations as the rest of the EU they take a pretty...liberal approach to them. Essentially if you aren't a smoker and you don't want to marinate in cigarette smoke I do encourage you to sit outside (weather permitting of course).

Efcharis

This was definitely our favourite restaurant in Athens - the portions were hearty and so insanely delicious - and to top it off - crazy affordable. They also have a fantastic drinks range - I recommend Mythos beer or sangria. I think my favourite thing about Efcharis was the atmosphere. Like most Athenian restaurants they had a spruiker out the front encouraging people to come in - and we really enjoyed watching him work his magic.

They also had live music playing, on our last night in Greece we went there and sat inside. Traditional Greek music was playing and the table behind us, bolstered by liquid courage, got up and started to dance. In the restaurant. During peak service. It was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me - and it really captures in my head the verve and vibrancy that we experienced in Greece.

Where to stay

Travel Guide: Athens // Miss Sweet Nothings

Plaka Hotel

I definitey recommend the Plaka hotel - it's right in the middle of the tourist part of the city but it's also very affordable (always a plus side). The beds are comfy, the bathroom clean and pleasant, breakfast is included and the staff insanely nice and helpful. If this isn't enough to sway you to stay here, the only other thing I can add is the above photo was taken from the rooftop bar of our hotel. And if having an evening wine whilst looking out over the Acropolis isn't enough to convince you - I doubt anything would.


Travel Guide: Rome

We spent 5 days in Rome - the longest in any city on this trip. It also was the last stop in Italy. Leaving Rome and (and Italy in general) was really hard - we had gotten so used to a certain pace of life in Italy and fallen completely in love with it.

In Rome, more than any place, there is this tremendous sense of history co-existing with the modern world. For example where the Circus Maximus once stood they now hold concerts! You can still see the outline of the race tracks that were once there and it just feels so wonderful to know that it is still used as a place of entertainment - as it has been for literally thousands of years.

What to do?

Roman Forum

This is the biggest tip I can give you for Rome. If you're going to go to the ancient sites (the Colosseum etc.) buy your tickets at the Roman Forum - there is never as much of a line as there is for the Colosseum and you can buy a ticket for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill all at once.

The Roman Forum is incredible - we were there on probably the coldest day of the year  (it was -3 at lunch time) but it was sunny and just spectacular. So little remains really - so try as you might you can't quite get your head around the scale of it. I would be looking at a column that's wider than a tree and realise that there were once twenty identical columns lining the avenue I was standing on. It would have been grand on a scale you can't imagine.

Travel Guide: Rome // Miss Sweet Nothings

Palatine Hill

One of the things that always surprises me about travel is the things people and travel guides never mention. For example, did you know above the Roman Forum is a beautiful manicured garden that was built in the 17th century. I had no idea it was there, and it was lovely. I even saw a rabbit!

St Peter's Square

I have a motto for travel "Always have a reason to go back" - so when we didn't make it inside St Peter's or the Vatican museums I just shrugged and said "Oh well, gives us a reason to come back". We did go to St Peter's Square though on our first day and it was nothing like I expected. I pictured walls or guards or something to delineate Vatican City from Rome itself but there was nothing, you just walk in and you're in another country. It's so surreal.

Travel Guide: Rome // Miss Sweet Nothings

 Capitoline Museums

There are so many museums in Rome you're really spoilt for choice but I don't think you can really go past the Musei Capitoline - established in 1471 it is the oldest museum in the world. What makes it so interesting is the way it is structured - it tends to stay away from the European tradition of rows and rows of statues (which, let's be honest, can get tedious). Instead you get an interactive history of the hill the museum stands on, and this isn't just any hill - it's integral to the history of Rome. There's even the remains of an ancient temple built into the museum itself. 

Piazza Navona

The Piazza Navona is home to the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi - a fountain depicting the 4 main rivers of the world; the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plate. My favourite memories of the Piazza are of getting our morning cappuccino (at the bar of course) or enjoying lunch in one of the restaurants. We would look out over the square and enjoying watching the tourists, buskers and one day - a circus troupe! I know travel guides say to stay away from the big squares for food but we liked it - it was simple and yummy and it was good fun to be in among the action.

Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

We stumbled on this place completely by chance. We were on our way to some gardens and we stopped to admire some ruins that had been excavated below street level - when we saw a cat. And another one. And another one. Suddenly we realised that there were cats everywhere. Some of them were even coming up for a cuddle - we gave them a pat and went on our way.

That night I had a poke around the internet and discovered it was actually a cat sanctuary! In the middle of Ancient Roman ruins! In fact, it's where Julius Caesar was murdered (and legend has it that he was the one who introduced cats to Rome in the first place). The next day we went back to have a proper look and met the people who run the sanctuary. Mike and I fell head over heels in love with a sweet little kitten called Arya - we had to leave before we adopted her! I definitely suggest visiting if you love animals - it's so heart warming to see how well loved these strays are.

Travel Guide: Rome // Miss Sweet Nothings

Villa Borghese

Mike and I went for a long walk in these gardens on new Years Day - although it was the middle of winter it was still really pretty. Plus if you exit near the Spanish steps you get the most incredible panoramic view of Rome.

Travel Guide: Rome // Miss Sweet Nothings

Where to eat?

Honestly, I don't have anywhere specific for Rome - I know, it seems so insane - but we just kind of wandered into places that looked nice/where they heckled us. We ate in a tiny by the slice pizzeria on the way to the Vatican, a place called De Niro after Mr Robert De Niro (with a freakishly giant pizza oven), a proper red and white checked table-clothed pizzeria, multiple gelatarias (yes, in the middle of winter) and so many of the tourist restaurants in the big piazzas. We just had fun being tourists in Rome really - and to be fair, if you're going to go with tourist food Italy is probably one of the better places to do it.

further inspiration

Deb of Smitten Kitchen (whose taste in food I trust completely) has a few suggestions from her trip a year or so ago that I sort of wish I had looked at before we went - ah well - next time.

Mimi Ikonn shared a Rome vlog

Travel Guide: Florence

My memories of Florence are comprised of three things: the incredible Tuscan sun, delicious food and lazy wandering. Florence at Christmas can be quite busy with tourists (remember Vatican City is in Italy, so there are lots of people who visit for religious reasons) which kind of put me off a little, but I would absolutely return before heading off into Tuscany.

What to do?

Galileo Museum

Give the Uffizi museum a miss if Florence isn’t your only stop in Italy, it's always packed and there isn't a lot to see that you can't find elsewhere in Italy. Instead I would recommend you visit the Galileo Museum. It was incredible to see the machines and devices used for scientific experiments from the 15th century up until today. This is what they used to figure out how the world works; things like the laws of gravity which we just take for granted today. Also there is an astrolab that has to be seen to be believed - it was possibly one of the most beautiful things I will ever see.

Where to eat?

Florence had some of the best food of Italy - although I didn't really enjoy the touristy side of it, I would return in a heartbeat for the food.

Vini e Vecchi Sapori

This is a place that you must book ahead - Mike and I wandered in during their lunch hour and booked for that night so it isn't too complicated and it is absolutely worth it. There aren't many tables so if you're a couple you may find yourself sitting at the same table as another couple but it's strangely cozy, and really only as weird as you make it. We were seated with a Scandinavian couple and we mostly kept to ourselves except when we were trying to decipher the dessert menu - none of us spoke Italian so it was pretty funny. The waiter came at sat at the table with us to take our order, and was so friendly and helpful.

Oh, and the food is incredible, I had lamb cutlets that I still dream about. I can say, hand on heart, it was my favourite meal of our trip - and it's going up against a lot of incredible food. I think the cozy friendly feel of the restaurant as well as it's determination to focus on quality seasonal food and wine really helps put it at the top of the list. Mike and I wended our way home pretty tipsy after that meal, and it is one of my fondest memories.

Mangiafoco Cafe

Mike and I went here twice, on our first and last night in Florence. I really loved the relaxed atmosphere - it's far more of a wine bar than a restaurant but the food is really good, and it's nice to sit down and enjoy some cheese and wine. It's the sort of place I would go to every Friday night if I lived in Florence.

Spumantino Verrazzano

This was one of those serendipitous moments on our trip, on the same night we were heading to Vine e Vecchi we decided to have some pre drinks. We were on our way to a margherita bar we had heard about when we wandered past this wine bar and on a whim changed our minds.

It turned out to be halfway between a wine bar and cellar door for the winery Verrazzano - a winery that has been around in one form or another since Roman times.  We sampled a few of their different wines, I fell heads over heels in love with Chianti that night and we picked up a bottle for us. and a bottle for Mike's parents.

Travel Guide: Florence // Miss Sweet Nothings

Where to stay?

Hotel Berchielli

Mike and I stayed at Hotel Berchielli and it is an incredibly nice hotel on the river but - and this is a big but - were we not travelling in the off peak season I doubt that we would be able to afford it . 

What I'm trying to say is that it is a beautiful hotel with fantastic service but it was available to us through luck and chance, and so I couldn't exactly recommend it because I know under different circumstances it would be out of our budget.

further inspiration

Mimi & Alex Ikonn made a follow me around Florence video