Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy

The first time I traveled to Italy, it was my first time abroad—ever. I spent a whirlwind ten days in Rome, living out my Lizzie McGuire dreams and stuffing myself with gelato and spaghetti: the classic Italian vacation. This time, I was looking forward most to more authentic Italian food, but also exploring a brand new region. Italy is such a long and skinny country that the weather, culture, and overall vibe varies greatly from north to south. Although we spent most of our time in the bustling city of Milan, we made time for a relaxing day trip to the town of Varenna on Lake Como, and enjoyed a long and leisurely day in one of the most beautiful locations in the world.

Photos: Alex Ry

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane

HOW

We decided to start our day in Varenna based on casual Internet research (not to be confused with Verona), and also based on availability for the main activity we wanted to do—get on a boat. Alex and I connected with blogger/photographer duo Kristin and Luccia to indulge ourselves with some additional company during our Italian excursion, so I booked tickets for four on Trenord. Tickets were an incredibly low 6,70€ each way, so I booked separate one-way journeys from Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino and back. Arrive to the train early to avoid any potential problems—you should be sitting on the train fifteen minutes prior to departure, not running into the station and trying to find your platform.

WHAT

Our first stop upon arrival in Varenna was for food. We snagged a picturesque table at Caffe Varenna for brunch. I wasn’t super hungry, but I highly recommend the espresso con panna, which is the most decadent way to enjoy espresso in Italy, which therefore makes it my favorite.

We also allowed some time to walk around and get lost. My favorite way to explore a new city is just to wander and see where I end up, and the main walk stretches for miles to the south. There are a ton of beautiful villas to observe and explore, and many have tours available if you want to go inside.

For our boat tour, we ended up using Taxi Boat Varenna. We wanted to do a one-hour lake tour, but there were none available since we were booking on such short notice. We ended up going with the 2.5 hour tour, which was way too much of a commitment for us. It involved a tour of Villa Balbianello, which was a beautiful space where a ton of movies have been filmed, but you couldn’t touch anything or even take pictures inside (without paying), and the tour became quite dull about eight minutes into the hour. I would recommend sticking to the shorter tour and enjoying more time on the water. And for that, bring a hair tie. If you're wearing a hat, make sure it has a chin strap!

 Other suggestions:

Clearly, there isn't a ton to do in the sleepy north except for ogle at the spectacular scenery, eat, drink, and spend time on a boat—which usually happens all at the same time, and is my favorite kind of activity. Also, trust any of the gelato shops in Italy. After dinner, we stopped at one for 'un cono piccolo' and sat on the beach watching the sunset...after we finished, we went to a second shop and everyone got seconds!

Transit will run you about four hours—two hours each way—so just remember to head out with a patient and curious mind. The scenery on the way up will blow your mind and is, on its own, worth the time spent. We got some of our best shots along the way.

Questions? Ask away in the comments or shoot me an email!

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: Lake Como, Italy | truelane

Photos: Alex Ry 

Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence Group with Funjet Vacations

When you walk into a resort for the first time, you can typically tell within a few short minutes what the rest of your days there will look like. For me, pulling up to Finest Playa Mujeres in a stretch limo and being handed a glass of champagne was frankly beyond my wildest dreams, and set the stage for a uniquely tailored experience in a five-star location during my second experience in Cancún.

My sister Caitlin and I were staying in Building 6—the Excellence Club—which was an adults-only area of the family-friendly resort. Adults-only and family-friendly sections of Finest are clearly marked, and pretty equally matched across this stunning, contemporary resort. Although we were excited to get out and explore as soon as we were finished with private check-in at the Excellence Club lounge, both of us were winded from our travel days and went straight for the 24-hour room service. I tell ya, anywhere I go, a plate of french fries makes me feel instantly at home.

Our first morning, we took advantage of our beautiful rooftop terrace views with fresh espresso from our in-room machine (yes, please). One of my favorite things about resort vacations is that all you have to do in the morning is slip on a swimsuit, slather on some sunscreen, toss your book in a bag and head out—so that was exactly what we did.

Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane

But, of course, there's more to do at Finest than just relax on a cushioned beach chair and tackle your reading list. There is an open-air billiards room that Caitlin and I stopped at more than once with a fun and gigantic chess board (bucket list item!), a pool table, and ping pong. We spent one afternoon kayaking off the beach, which was a grand ol' time; we got some exercise, a little tan, and saw some beautiful views of the resort and Isla Mujeres from off the shore! Afterwards, a very necessary stop was ONE Spa for a hydrotherapy treatment and massage. The entire spa facility was as beautiful as you'd expect, set up with warming chairs, a sauna, and rocking beds that made me feel like a baby in a cradle—not a care in the world.

My favorite part of any resort never changes: the beach. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we have beaches for days, but they're cold, grey, and rocky—I didn't see a proper tropical beach until I was twenty-two, and the experience was more than I thought it could be. Sitting in powdery white sand watching the pink and orange skies as the sun sets—that moment just before twilight—is what I started to live for during long winters after I moved to Minneapolis. The Finest Excellence Club beach was clean and spacious, and dappled with luxury cabanas and beach chairs under adorable straw palapas. The perfect place to watch the waves roll in and out.

Our time was spent pretty evenly between lounging and eating, which is just the way I like it. Our concierge Gerardo spoke so highly of every restaurant that he had a hard time narrowing down one recommendation. Most of them can be found in the main lobby—the Market Kitchen (buffet), Brass Steakhouse, Tinto & Tapas (tapas bar), Lizo (Mexican), Le Petit Plaser (French), and Shoji (Japanese). The tapas bar was a fun place to spend our first evening out, since we got to try so many small plates, and got lucky with live music in the background. I even enjoyed the Steakhouse, despite the fact that I don't eat meat, because there exists the most magical cheese empanada that I'm still dreaming about. We saved Shoji for a night toward the end of our trip for a refreshing change of pace after a week of rich and spicy Mexican, Spanish, and Italian food. There's nothing like a good avocado roll.

Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane

Besides just dining, there are a ton of places to hang out and relax around Finest. One of my favorites was The Sweet Corner, which makes my number one favorite Mexican delicacy: flaming coffee. Your liquor of choice (mine is Irish whiskey and Baileys) is lit on fire, mixed with espresso and topped with fresh whipping cream. It was Caitlin's first time trying it (she went with amaretto) and I'm happy to report she was as enchanted by it as I am. If you're looking for something caffeine-free, they have a ton of delicious ice cream flavors in a fun revolving freezer.

And just about everywhere you turn, there is a bar or lounge to post up at with a mojito or a margarita or just soda water and lime (my personal preference), and none of them are ever too full, which is a relief. Resorts with swim-up bars are always toward the top of my list, and Finest has two to choose from!

As you can see, Caitlin and I greatly enjoyed our lovely and relaxing week at Finest and I hope you enjoy the rest of the photos from our stay—it was simply unforgettable.

Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
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Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane
Finest Playa Mujeres by Excellence with Funjet Vacations | truelane

Thank you to Finest Playa Mujeres and Funjet Vacations for sponsoring this post.