One of the first things people ask about when I tell them about the trip is "where are you staying?". The answer is a mix of places - some vacation homes, some hotels, some hostels. I thought I'd put together a list of the places we've stayed at so I remember and in case anyone else wants to follow in our footsteps. This post will update to the subsequent entries as we go!
Paris - AirBnB (October 2-9)
This tiny flat was in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, which is a fantastic place. It's in the Jewish neighborhood and bustling, full of shops and parks, a 10 minute walk from Nortre Dame, a block or two from a metro, and down the street from a fantastic Shwarma/Falafel joint. The place itself has everything you need - a tiny kitchen (though you will likely want to eat out most of the time), a washing machine (huge if you have limited clothing like we do), wine openers, and super fast internet. That's no joke fast internet, compared to what we get in the US (comcast), and especially when compared to the really bad internet in Italy. One other perk on that internet - Netflix works in France, which is huge when you feel like having some downtime.
Milan - Hotel San Francisco (October 9-10)
A we were only going to be in Milan one night prior to going to Lake Como I opted for a hotel, and the Hotel San Francisco was a great one for the price. While a fairly nondescript business hotel in a neighborhood outside the central area, it had solid if slow wifi, a surprisingly solid included breakfast, and a clean room with comfortable bed.
Lake Como - AirBnB (October 10-12)
Our experience in Lake Como was colored by the excessive rain we had while we were there, but the AirBNB we stayed at was very pleasant. There was one big surprise, however: on the map it looked like a 10 minute walk from the town center of Venezia (it's on a town above, Vezio), but that walk was up a monster hill with minimal lighting.
We did walk it a number of times and without the rain it really wasn't that bad (you do need your headlamp at night, however), but we took advantage of the full kitchen to eat a great ravioli dinner one night. The apartment was the bottom floor of a house, and was quite nice - it was painted orange, and had a full kitchen and large bedroom. It seemed like a castle when compared to Paris. The wifi didn't really work, however (this was our first experience with the poor internet in Italy).
The house's host, Roberto, was a great guy - he picked us up and dropped us off from the train station, and took us down to the town the next day in the pouring rain. He also gave me an umbrella, as I didn't bother bringing one. He didn't speak much English, and our Italian is more or less non-existent, but somehow we managed to communicate a bit (I broke out my Spanish, which I found out is fairly close to Italian) - he told me he is 47, not married but living with a Polish woman because he likes to be free, and has never been on an airplane. Really nice guy.
It was also a bummer that it poured on our full day there and we missed the Castle.
Venice - AirBnB (October 12-15)
We stayed at another AirBnB as Venice is quite pricey, and I picked a better (and more expensive one) than I could have. This one was spacious, and fully stocked, including a bottle of Prosecco awaiting us in the fridge. The 7 minute walk from the train station meant a 20 minute walk from St. Marks square, but that was fine as Venice is a great town for just wandering in. It also was in the Jewish neighborhood (as our place in Paris had been), and gave us a good chuckle and we kept staying in the Jewish neighborhoods (without a plan to).
Without a washing machine here, and needing to do laundry, we hand washed a bunch of stuff and hung it up using my portable clothesline. This proved to be challenging as the clothes dried very slowly. It worked a bit better when I moved some stuff out to the line outside, but the menace of rain convinced me this wasn't an idea without downside.
The wifi here was also really bad when we arrived, but by moving the TIM Wifi Pocket (this is what most people have here) by the window the signal was improved dramatically. I think these devices are some 3/4G devices, and I wonder why these are prevalent - maybe there isn't the infrastructure in Italy?
Milan - Hotel Nhow Milan (October 15-16)
During our days in Venice we became convinced we needed to get our visa to visit India as soon as possible, so we elected to go to Milan the next day and forgo a day in Cinque Terra. A bummer, but couldn't really be helped. Unfortunately most of the hotels in Milan seemed to be very expensive or unavailable (as the Hotel San Francisco was), I suspect some convention or something must have been in town.
Luckily I used the Hotel Tonight app and booked the cheapest hotel within the main city, which turned out to be the Hotel Nhow in the fashion district. This place was almost too trendy for us, akin to staying at a W. It was chalked full of art, had the lights turned down low, and was full of people dressed well. It was fun to stay in the fashion district (watching all the models go by), and I'm actually glad I got a chance to see that part of the city (even though it did cost us a night by the water). This area is a little further from the center of town than the Hotel San Francisco is, but has a much better vibe in the neighborhood (and the hotel itself is no comparison much nicer) - the Nhow's block itself is a bit desolate, but one block over, by Ermangildo Zegna's HQ, are lots of cute restaurants and shops.
The breakfast at the Nhow was outstanding. It was a full spread with everything you could imagine, and I engorged myself on yogurt, fruit, and fancy juices.
Cinque Terra (Corniglia) - AirBnB (October 16-18)
We spent 2 nights in this little BnB run by an old Italian guy named Beppe, who was a great character. He came down to introduce himself, but spoke no English, so we bumbled around a bit telling each other a bit about ourselves. He thought Nisha was Chinese somehow (which gave me a big laugh), and was pleased to hear that she was part Italian.
The town of Corniglia is very beautiful, on a hill overlooking the train station and the ocean (our first ocean on our trip!). The first night we arrived had a magnificent sunset, which we enjoyed the hell out of with drinks. I had a glass of wine and Nisha tried the Spritz, which apparently is a mix of wine, an apperativ, and soda. When we arrived it was raining so we paid 2.50 euro each and took the little bus up to the town, but subsequently we walked up and down the hill, which isn't more than a 10 or 15 minute walk (albeit with a ton of stairs).
The apartment itself was 2 small levels, with a little loft with the bed. The full kitchen proved to be useful as we again made ravioli, which was spoiled a bit for me as I got a bit sick here (perhaps from the mussels on the first night?). The wifi didn't really work well, going in and out.
Florence - AirBnB (October 18-21)
This studio apartment in Florence was a 15 minute walk from the train station, but it was rather hot and humid when we arrived so I was overheating when we arrived at the place and met our host, Lorenzo. The apartment was in a beautiful old building (in general all of these buildings we have been staying in are probably older than the US!!!) inside of a flat, which was interesting. It was a single flat split into 3 separate rooms, each with it's own kitchen and bathroom (I assume? At least ours was). This meant the washer in the shared space was off limits to us, but the actual room itself was quite nice. The room had a small but efficient bathroom, a kitchen, and lots of natural light.
The location itself was about a 15-20 minute walk from the downtown area, but this came with a few advantages: one was that on our way to the apartment we spotted a park with a great outdoor swap meet, which we (especially Nisha, but me as well) enjoyed for a couple of hours. Across from the swap meet was a fantastic Gelato place, which we really enjoyed (a lot more than the 7 euro cone Nisha bought a few days later). We also found a great locals restaurant 2 blocks away that we really enjoyed, which was a lot cheaper than the dinner we had at the uber-crowded Il Cinghalle Bianco in the downtown.
The wifi here was again spotty, going in and out.
Siena - Hotel Il Corso (October 21-23)
We were only staying for 2 nights, so I elected to go for this small B&B/hotel in downtown Sienna. The location itself was fantastic (right downtown, a block from the main square), and the room itself was small, nice, clean, and comfortable. It came with a daily breakfast, which was decent.
Again the wifi was spotty, but somehow I was able to skype with my mom on the night we arrived.
Salerno - AirBnB (October 23-26)
We stayed at an AirBnB in this non-touristy town east of Amalfi for 3 nights, and enjoyed it. The host, Francesco, was really nice, welcoming us with a basket of treats for our honeymoon, and we really enjoyed the bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, cookies, chocolate, and wine he got us. Salerno itself seems like more of a normal city than the towns we have seen chock full of tourists, and we stuck out more here than anywhere else (lots of pointing here instead of perfect English in the restaurants).
The bed itself was a pull out couch, but it was fine, and I spent a good amount of time in it as I picked up some stomach bug and was down in the evenings (though we managed to visit Pompeii and Capri during the days). We had a full kitchen (no plates, for some odd reason), and it had a washer which we used twice and hung our clothes outside (which dried really quickly in this ocean air).
The wifi here was again spotty, but got a bit better when I messaged Francesco about how to find the router, which I moved higher in the air next to the door.
Rome - AirBnB (October 26-30)
This one-room studio seemed pretty large, as it was larger than most we've stayed in this month, and especially as it's in the historical central Trastevere neighborhood. From our studio we could walk out and find a fruit/vegetable market, restaurants, and a good number bars and gelato spots. The Roman Forum, Colosseum, and Pantheon were also walk-able, as well as an old ruin currently occupied by cats.
The unit itself had a good sized queen bed on a low platform, a kitchen, and decent wifi once the Vodafone device was placed outside the window. It also had a nice little table which I could use as a desk and adds some semblance of a home.