I didn’t know what to expect before visiting Venice besides understanding the novelty of a city built with waterways instead of roads; with boats instead of cars. I found the beauty of Venice to be that it’s a small, self-contained, winding maze of walkways and waterways which is lined with colorful buildings on all sides. My favorite activity in Venice was to wander along the less-traveled walking paths trying to avoid dead-ends. Each bridge presented a priceless view – a slice of life in this unique city, with clothes hanging out to dry, boats full of groceries or goods floating below, and of course a gondola or 10 (€80 for a half-hour loop, FYI). Venice at sunset is Venice at it’s best, as the golden light reflects off of the red and yellow buildings and shimmers in the canal. The easy way to spot an uniformed tourist was to see someone with their feet in the canals, which 80% or so of buildings in Venice drain their sewage into. While there are very few rooftops available to the public, I spotted one on top of a hotel and decided to try my luck. I paced quickly past the reception and straight to the stairs, figuring that whatever rooftop bar existed was for customers only, and the elevator probably required a room key. At the top of the stairs I found my oasis – a quiet rooftop terrace with a bar and a view of the orange rooftops of Venice. I enjoyed a beverage up top pretending to the bartender that I was a guest of the hotel (I was having a drink while waiting for my fiancé to get ready, you see), before he told me that this bar was actually open to the public. So a word of advice: if you’re ever in Venice, have a drink on the rooftop of Hotel A La Commedia.
Cinque Terre consists of five small towns on the coast of the Tuscany region of Italy. The towns are known for their pastel colored buildings right on the hilly coast. I stayed in the middle town, Corniglia, which is the smallest of the five. For me, this region was about two things other than the views: focaccia and gelato. On my one full day in the area, I took it upon myself to hike from the northernmost town (Monterosso) to the southernmost (Rioggamore). As added incentive, I treated myself to focaccia in each town, along with an Italian beer at the later stops and gelato when overheated. It was a real health-hike. The paths wind along the coast and include steep paths and steps up and over the hills between each city. Total hiking time without stops was just about 4 hours, while my total journey was closer to 8 hours. The scenic coastline includes tiered farming, giant boulders, and the clear-blue Mediterranean waters.