A Day Trip to the Artsy Tuscan Town of Pietrasanta, Italy

Europe, Italy, Travel

Big & Small took the train up from Lucca to the chic Tuscan town of Pietrasanta to enjoy an artisanal chocolate festival and the opening of the stunning Roberto Barni exhibition. The Italian sculptor’s works were scattered around the main square (Piazza del Duomo) and the former 14th-century church of Sant’Agostino. To be honest, our main mission of the day was to snatch up a whole lot of handmade chocolate, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover such a charming artistic enclave full of trendy boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.

Here’s a look at our day and night (when the town really comes alive) in Pietrasanta.

Roberto Barni Exhibition in Sant'Agostino, December 2017

Roberto Barni Exhibition in Sant’Agostino, December 2017

Roberto Barni Exhibition in Sant'Agostino, December 2017

Roberto Barni Exhibition Outside Sant’Agostino, December 2017

Where's Big?

Where’s Big?

Balloon Lift Off

Balloon Lift Off

Yes, those are chocolate heels.

Yes, those are chocolate heels.

Cioccolato di Modica: Specialty chocolate from Sicily with an especially grainy texture that allows the cacao to bounce off every individual tastebud. Small highly recommends the 85% variety.

Cioccolato di Modica: Specialty chocolate from Sicily with an especially grainy texture that allows the cacao to bounce off every individual tastebud. Small highly recommends the 85% variety.

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48 Hours in Lake Como on a Budget

Europe, Italy, Travel

On our busy tour around Northern Italy—which included Trieste, Venice, Bologna, Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona—Big & Small fell head over heels for the spectacular Lake Como. With its glistening waters rippling against the foothills of the Alps and its scenic towns colored by stacks of modest abodes and luxury villas, it’s hard not to fall in love. Even big-name celebrities like George Clooney and Madonna have been unable to resist its charms.

This kind of high-profile place can be intimidating for budget travelers, but Big & Small were able to keep costs low while taking in all the natural beauty and effortless elegance of this Italian gem—it just takes a little strategizing. Here, we offer some tips on how to enjoy a quick 48-hour trip to Lake Como on a budget. And click the video above for more information!

  1. Visit in the Low Season (Early Fall/Late Spring)

    Lakeside Views

We are total believers in low-season travel, which typically means fewer crowds and lower prices. We visited Lake Como in mid-September, an ideal time to capture some rays on the lake and take in all the lakeside attractions.

  1. Stay in the Town of Lecco

Lecco, Italy

Located on the south-eastern part of the lake, Lecco is in a strategic position. You can get there in under 40 minutes from Milan or Bergamo via train, and you can easily hop on a ferry to access other major towns along the lake. It’s a cool little city, too, with great shops and restaurants. We found a spacious AirBnB studio in Lecco, just a 2-minute walk from the lake, for about $65 (USD) per night. Check out the video to see what we got for this price!

  1. Bounce on the Lecco Trampolines!

Sure, you can take a nice jog lakeside, but how often can you find a trampoline with such a spectacular backdrop? We happened upon a small outdoor trampoline park, about a 5-minute walk north of the Lecco ferry terminal, and enjoyed 10 minutes of jump time for just €2 per person. It was a great adrenaline boost before our busy day on the lake.

  1. Skip the Car and Get Around Via Ferries and Trains

Forget the stress of navigating narrow, curvy roads (and fast Italian drivers!), and sit back and relax on a ferry or train. Lake Como is filled with cute towns to discover, many easily accessible without a car. Tip #5 below is our recommended day trip for hopping between two of the lake’s most popular villages.

  1. Take a Day Trip to Bellagio and Varenna

From Lecco, take a 90-minute ferry to Bellagio (€8,30). This posh town boasts world-class hotels and restaurants among its hidden alleys, cobbled stairways, and panoramic lake views. Schedule in a few hours to walk around the historical center and grab a panino or gelato. Here, you’ll find a few recommended walking tours through nearby mini-villages as well. From Bellagio, take a quick 15-minute ferry across the lake to Varenna (€4,60). Upon arrival, take a stroll along the shore-hugging path, part of the 6-km Greenway dei Patriarchi. When you’re ready to head back, make your way to the Varenna train station for a 25-minute train back to Lecco (€2,90). Transportation for the day totaled to just €15,80 per person (these prices are from September 2017).

48 Hours in Slovenia: Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Dragons, and More!

Europe, Slovenia, Travel

Big & Small had a quick two-day trip through Slovenia. Play the video to find out the 5 things you should absolutely do when visiting this beautiful, peaceful European gem.

1. Explore the center of Ljubljana. This small and tidy capital is easy to walk and full of high-quality food at reasonable prices.

2. Visit the Ljubljana Dragon. The Ljubljana dragon is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the city. Symbolizing courage, grandeur, and power, the dragon appears on everything from car registration plates to buildings around town. The one you’ll want to see stands majestically on the Dragon Bridge.

3. Walk up to the Ljubljana Castle. The castle is a key landmark of the town. Originally a medieval fortress, it was constructed in the 11th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. The hike up is a nice little workout and totally worth every step.

4. Visit Lake Bled. Lake Bled is just 35 km (about a 1-hour bus ride) from Ljubljana, making it an ideal day trip. Located in the Julian Alps of the Upper Carniolan region of northwestern Slovenia, the lake is the sparkling center of the town of Bled.

5. Walk around Lake Bled. The perimeter of the lake is only about 6 km. Take your time winding around the lake, taking in the mountainous landscape and the adorable Bled Island, the only island in all of Slovenia.

Learn more about Slovenia in our video above!