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Later this week, I am taking off for a trip to Italy that I’m pretty jazzed about. I’ve been to Rome a couple times before, but never outside the city. This time I’ll be making stops in Milan, Florence and Rome. I’ll be using one of my remaining Hyatt Visa free Suite nights and…oh, yea, also going to see Beyonce in concert! When in… Milan, right?
Although I don’t have too much time in each city, I plan on making the best of it and seeing and doing as much as possible. Here are the top ten things that I’m most excited about on our trip. Got more suggestions for me? Leave them in the comments below!
1. Alitalia Business Class: Although I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Italy after a week, at least it will be in the comfort of Alitalia’s new Magnifica business class aboard one of the airline’s A330’s. The business class cabin is configured in a 1 x 2 x 1 layout, and I’m hoping to snag one of the solo seats along the fuselage. The seats are creamy white leather and have 15.4-inch entertainment screens. I flew Alitalia in their old business class last year and had a great experience, so I’m looking forward to a nice, relaxing flight back after a whirlwind trip.
2. Shopping Along Via Dei Condotti: Also near the Spanish Steps (and the hotel!) is Rome’s fanciest shopping street with flagship stores from some of Italy’s most famous brands including Gucci, Prada and Valentino. I love walking seeing the fashions in other countries, and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up something we’ll only be seeing next season in the States while I’m there…and using a credit card that doesn’t incur foreign transaction fees, of course!
3. St. Regis Rome: While in Rome I booked a standard room at the St. Regis Rome, but I already received confirmation that my Suite Night Awards cleared for my reservation, so I’m looking forward to luxuriating in style here. The hotel is one of the city’s top 5-star properties and has just 138 rooms and 23 suites. It’s also close to the Spanish Steps right in the heart of the city so I can make the most of my time there.
4. Museums and Monuments: While I might not have time to do a whole Vatican tour in Rome, I do plan to stop by some of the fascinating smaller museums that define this incredibly historically rich city. Top of my list is the Villa Borghese set in the midst a sprawling park near the top of the Spanish Steps to check out Bernini’s sculptures and Renaissance paintings by Titian. Also on my list are the Pantheon for a touch of ancient Rome and the Piazza Navona (more Bernini!).
5. Training Day: I fly so much that a mundane daily travel experience for most Italians like taking the train between Milan, Florence and Rome is actually exciting for me. I’m taking the Alta Velocita (high-speed) Trenitalia train from Rome to Florence, which should take about 90 minutes and I’m looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the train station followed by a relaxing morning espresso in the dining car.
6. St. Regis Florence: For our time in Florence we will be staying again at the St. Regis. Rooms were very difficult to find since we added in this leg of the trip at the last minute but I was able to book on points, although at 35,000 points. Regular rooms were over $1,000 a night and luckily my Starwood Suite Upgrade cleared, so I will have a Junior suite, which takes the sting out of using that many points. I’ve heard good things about Florence and the hotel, so I’m probably most excited about this hotel.
7. The Last Supper: Of course in a land known for its cuisine, one of the most famous works of art is Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which I hope to drop by the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan to see. It’s a great stop for a quick dose of art history since it’s a quick visit and is one of those things that makes you say, “Wow, I’m really here in Italy!”
8. Carbo-loading: Speaking of supper, after all that sightseeing (and shopping!) I’m going to need some sustenance and I am looking forward to Rome’s particular mix of high-end dining and neighborhood trattorias. For the high-end I hear that Filippo La Mantia for gourmet tasting menus and Quinizi e Gabrieli for incredible seafood are the way to go, while Le Mani in Pasta and Felice draw neighborhood regulars and visitors alike thanks to hearty, classic Roman dishes.
9. I Musei di Firenze: Even though it’s much smaller than Rome, Florence is chock-full of art and must have the most per capita museums of any city I’ve ever visited. Although my time there is short, I might try to dash over to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or take a lightening tour of the Uffizi to see Botticelli’s famous paintings, though the quieter Bargello Museum with some sculptures by Donatello could be more my speed, and if it’s nice out, I might just stroll through the gardens at the Pitti Palace.
10. Flying Delta’s BusinessElite Cabin: I was able to use Delta SkyMiles to book last-minute business-class award tickets for my friends and myself at 100,000 SkyMiles and $30 roundtrip each per person roundtrip. I’ll be flying a renovated 767-300 with lie-flat BusinessElite beds, so I hope to get some good sleep across the pond. Although I know a lot of people groan at the thought of having to fly a US carrier internationally, the seats themselves are comparable to some the best business class products out there including Cathay’s new business class since they are in a reverse herringbone configuration and lie flat to a completely horizontal 180 degrees with around 80 inches of pitch, so I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep (since I might skip the dinner!).