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).

PhotoPhiles: Cinque Terre, Italy – The Italian Riviera

Europe, Italy, Travel

 

Monterosso in Cinque Terre

Monterosso in Cinque Terre

It’s hard to pick the most breathtaking spot in a country full of them, but this is one part of Italy that will truly wow you into submission. On the coast of the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre or “The Five Lands” comprises a quintet of quaint villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The stunning and jaw-dropping architectural beauty of Cinque Terre was created over a millennium by farmers and residents. Houses and buildings rise sharply from the sea, as do intricate rows of grapevines.

Our home base while visiting Cinque Terre was in La Spezia, a mid-sized town just south of Riomaggiore. It’s a convenient and more affordable spot to stay when visiting the area, and has easy access to the train line that runs between the villages. It’s also a great base for a day trip to Pisa (just a 1-hour train ride) or even Florence (a little over 2 hours on the train). Each town has its unique flair: Be sure to purchase a hiking and train pass to make a stop at each. We recommend grabbing an espresso in Monterosso, sharing a pizza in Vernazza, slurping up a basil-olive oil gelato in Corniglia, digging into stuffed mussels in Manarola, and topping it all off with a glass of red in Riomaggiore. (Don’t worry, the steep, sometimes treacherous, hiking will burn it all off!)

Enjoy our photos and videos showcasing one of the world’s most charming corners.

Manarola: Taking in the sunset after enjoying stuffed mussels and incredible Italian red wine.

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Corniglia from the hiking trail: Primary industries here are fishing and winemaking.

Manarola: The stunning harbor and vista in the town center.

Cinque Terre Vista

Vista point from the hiking trail, near Corniglia.

Manorial: The terraces in Cinque Terre are supported by over 7000 KM of dry stone walls.

Monterosso: JCrew enjoys coffee time along the Liguria Sea.

Monterosso: The biggest town in Cinque Terre brings in the biggest crowds with its expansive sand beach.

Handstand Steph at Monterosso.

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Corniglia: The Oratory of Rocco dates from 1480.

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Riomaggiore: Hiking along the free trail, just outside the town.

Beach in Monterosso.

Monterosso: Beautiful blues line the Cinque Terre’s most northern town.

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Near Corniglia: Cinque Terre resident selling freshly squeezed orange juice along the paid trail.