When deciding where to eat in Venice, my husband and I first defaulted to the idea that we’ve never had a bad meal in Italy. Then, on our first day, we encountered a mediocre lunch at a pizzeria. Although we sat outside on a glorious day, the pizza might as well been made in the United States. We vowed to be more discriminating for the rest of our trip. As a result, we found some wonderful places to eat.
As with most European cities, some of the best things to do in Venice involve visiting iconic sites. Think the Bridge of Sighs. And the Rialto Bridge. St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. Beyond those, however, this island city offers a lot more to do, especially if you stay overnight.
Venice has a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for good reason. The absence of motor vehicles creates an unusual quiet, even with the throngs of tourists. Water laps at buildings, and the meandering narrow streets become a delightful puzzle. The distinctive architecture creates a beauty that defines Venice. Taken all together, you can feel as though you’ve fallen back to another era.
On a recent trip to this Catalonian city, I tracked down where to eat tapas in Barcelona. Although we usually seek out some upscale restaurants in a given city, this time we opted for more casual dinners of tapas. Of course, we often added a bottle of cava or a carafe of sangria or a glass of Priorat or Rioja. Life was good in Barcelona!
The best things to do in Barcelona range from the ancient to the modern. The Barri Gòtic and its maze of narrow streets harken back to its Roman beginnings while the dramatic glass high-rises near the water scream contemporary architecture. And Gaudì? You cannot escape the city without visiting several of his iconic modernist buildings.
Most iconic sight: the almost-finished Sagrada Familia
Best Itinerary Theme: Visiting everything Gaudì
Best tapas: Ciutat Comtal
Wildest dining experience: El Nacional tapas
Most worthwhile day tour: Mount Serrat
Most disappointing: Not everything is within walking distance
When I visited the Netherlands earlier this year, I wanted to carefully plan where to eat in Amsterdam. Sometimes I chose by location. Other times, I wanted to satisfy my inner foodie. Not familiar with Dutch cuisine, I had no idea what to expect. On my visit I discovered that while Dutch cuisine, even at a Michelin-starred restaurant, embraces different ingredients and styles than I’m used to, the food can be delicious.
You can’t go wrong with any of the below. From Michelin-starred restaurant to casual bar, each offers quintessentially Dutch ingredients prepared in a style unique to the establishment.
During our last trip to Florence (Firenze), the staff at our hotel recommended that we try Rosso Crudo for dinner. The location suited us, being only a block from our hotel, the Domux Home Ricasoli, on a day when we hadn’t slept much the night before. We wanted something nearby but delicious as our culinary entry into the city.
Specialty: steak and pasta
Dress: Business casual
Price: antipasti 5-19 Euros; primi platti (pasta) 8-12 Euros; Steaks 17-24 Euros or, for premium cuts, 5-8 Euros per 100 grams.
What to order: steak, pappardelle cinghiale, proscuitto e melone
We never would have stayed in the Domux Home Ricasoli in Florence if my husband’s colleague hadn’t found it first. I argued that I wanted a full-service hotel, with a front desk and housekeeping, not an apartment. My husband wanted to stay in the Domux Home Ricasoli because of the reviews. Eventually I relented after reading what he had. Even so, the reviews didn’t prepare us for the luxury within. We had a real wow moment when we stepped inside. Despite my fears, our trip to Florence had begun in style.
Location: a block from the Galleria dell’Academia and down the street from the Duomo.
Most surprising: the luxurious dual bathroom with the tiled, jetted tub and rain shower head.
Room size: huge, with a living room, kitchenette with island, enormous bathroom, and king-size bed.
Disadvantage: Housekeeping every other day. Front desk is manned only during business hours.
Security: You are given a security code to be used on the front door keypad to gain entry.