DIY Day Trip

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 




Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath

As soon as I read that Bath was a feasible day trip from London, I was sold on the idea. I've grown up reading and watching most of the Jane Austen collection, and from that I know that Bath used to be the place of choice for high society in England to vacation. What I didn't know is that Jane Austen herself lived there 1801-1805, and you can actually stay in her old residence.

That was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to all Bath had to offer. Alex and I went on a perfect day—it was drizzling rain the entire train ride there through the English countryside, with fluffy little sheep dotting the hillsides. Once we arrived, the greenery was so lush and dynamic that a camera couldn't even capture it (although Alex did pretty darn well).

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

Roman Baths

Roman Baths

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Roman Baths

Roman Baths

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Circus

Circus

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane
Do-It-Yourself Day Trip: London to Bath | truelane

Photos: Alex Ry

Neither myself or Alex are big on organized tours, which is why this post is titled "do-it-yourself." We made the travel arrangements and put together the schedule for the day all on our own. It's the way we chose to travel. I enjoy "slow travel," which means I could have stayed in Bath and moseyed around for a few more days, but we worked with the time we had.

HOW

Alex and I were staying in the London neighborhood of Marylebone, so we took the tube to Waterloo station where our train was departing from. I cannot stress enough:

GET. THERE. EARLY. 

Especially if you aren't familiar with London's train stations, it'll take you a bit to get to where you're going and get confirmation that you're at the right platform. You want to be sitting on the train five to ten minutes before it's scheduled to depart—not running around the ticketing lobby.

We pre-booked our tickets through Megabus, even though, yes, we did take the train. It ended up being about £33, or $40, for one person's round-trip ticket. And we actually had to end up paying a little more because I messed up: I thought our train back was at 4:30 p.m, but it was actually at 4:00 p.m., so we definitely missed it. Luckily, the fix was as smooth as possible: we bought another ticket to Salisbury station where we could catch our original train all the way back to London. Booking the entire trip yourself gives you patience for the screw-ups: we were that much more prepared to roll with the punches, rather than depending on a tour guide or organizer to get us home if we had we messed up.

WHAT

The list of things to see in Bath is not extremely vast, but it's enough. You can see a lot of them just from walking the town: the striking Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent, the Circus, and the Bath Abbey are all able to be appreciated streetside. Alex and I decided to buy tickets to go inside the Roman Baths, which cost about $18 and was a cool walk-through without the audio tour. Pro-tip for twenty-somethings with limited attention spans: always skip the audio tour. See, look, watch, appreciate, and then write down things that you have questions on or you want to know more about. It'll save you time on your day out and you won't look ridiculous wandering around staring off into the distance while a stranger whispers in your ear through a cord.

Jane Austen's residence is a bit of a walk, so go if you have energy or take a cab. The Jane Austen Centre is much closer, so if you don't need to pay homage to the exact location where the lady laid her head, you can get your fill of Jane Austen's England right in town.

Other suggestions:

Transit ends up running about four hours total, so prioritize your activities and don't worry about missing something and switching up the plan. The best part of traveling is exploration and adventure, and not knowing exactly what might be waiting around the corner.

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