Of all the places we visited on our 9-month journey around the world, both of us feel Santorini deserves to be on our top 10 list. You’ve seen the iconic pictures — awe-inspiring how they built the city into the mountain — and it’s everything you have ever imagined. Actually, even more so for Natasha – she ranked Santorini as her top experience during our world sabbatical.
The moment your ship arrives in Mykonos, you’ll notice white buildings everywhere with the blue roofs that provide the backdrop you were expecting about the Greek islands. It’s amazing to experience the island – even the streets are white to help keep the buildings cool and reflect the sun. Plus, there are no cars on the narrow streets, making it great for young kids, who can run around as you explore.
Entering the port of Katakolon, you’ll have the option to travel 4 hours to Athens or an hour to Olympia. Both options are exceptional, as they ooze history at every turn. When traveling with a younger child, however, we recommend the closer Olympia, which is home to the original Olympic Games. Ancient Olympia is an archeological site with more than 70 structures from ancient Greece, dating back to 4,000 years AD. It’s truly impressive, and there are tons of open spaces for your child to run and play safely.
We didn’t have any expectations of Kotor; in fact, it wasn’t even on our radar. Our original cruise stop was supposed to be Istanbul, but we were rerouted due to security issues. Natasha didn’t even know it existed and was wondering where we were going and if it would be any good after Mykonos and Santorini. But boy, were we blown away! It’s stunning; old school medieval times – with cats (read on). Just pulling into port while on the Adriatic Sea, we were able to take in the most incredible scenery of the medieval city that is still surrounded by its original fortification walls as it was generations ago. The city only truly began seeing tourism in the 2000s, so its relatively undiscovered. Pictures don’t even do it justice.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring the Amalfi Coast?
Every picture you have ever seen of the Amalfi Coast on Instagram is THAT– the coast looks just like the photos you have seen. It is so stunning and, for Natasha, the highlight of our tour of Southern Italy. For me, Pompeii blew me away – the archaeological site is the most preserved of any site I’ve ever seen and it feels like you are transported back in time and able to visualized what Italy was like centuries ago. When we visited Naples, it was through a Mediterranean cruise – the last stop of one of our favorite cruises we took with our son. Taking a tour that incorporates stops in Sorrento, Pompeii and a drive along windy cliff roads overlooking the sea will be a long day, but for us, a definite you should do when in port in Naples.
Rome is our favorite Italian city. It is basically an open-air museum – it was built so long ago that even if you didn’t rush around to see the sights and just walked around, you are walking through so much history at every tour. But Rome is also a very modern, living, breathing city. Most of the cities we visited in Italy, especially Venice, are 95 percent tourists with the Venetians who live outside the city coming in to earn money from the tourists. In Rome, you have tourists, but you also have a thriving city — the future of Italy is being built in Rome while the other cities were cities of the past. Rome feels authentic.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend exploring Murano and Burano?
Venice is not the only island in the Venice’s Northern Lagoon that you can explore. With inexpensive ferries, island-hopping is a piece of cake, even with children, and the islands of Murano and Burano can be enjoyed with just a few hours of exploration. One island is renowned for its glass. The other? For its colorful buildings and lace. Both are charming and if you are spending more than a day in the Venice area, take one of those days to visit these islands, as we actually found this to be our favorite day when we were in Venice.
Venice is one of those must-visit cities in the world, and certainly one of the most unique cities we visited. Venice is a series of tiny islands that were once inhabited. When refugees escaping persecution from Rome began hide here, they began building the city from the marshes using wooden poles dug deep into the bottom of the lagoon to create foundations that have now stood solid since 421 AD. While it’s a cool city that you should see, it is definitely more touristy than we prefer. It doesn’t feel as if anyone actually lives on the island; it feels like one giant tourist trap. Plus, Natasha found it the water stinky in some places.
Why The 2 Idiots recommend visiting the Hoover Dam?
When you think of Las Vegas, you may not think of it as a destination to visit with a toddler, but it is. Las Vegas has so many cool sights to visit in and around it, that we used the city as a base and then took a day trip to see the awe-inspiring Hoover Dam — an engineering marvel, it truly showcases the greatness of mankind’s ability to create. We consider the Hoover Dam a must-see (one of Natasha’s all-time favorites) and as an easy drive from Las Vegas, be sure to add a day to your itinerary to include it on your trip.
Florence is a historic and charming city, with some of the best markets for shopping. However, we found the city was similar to Venice: You’ll walk along the streets and it’s buzzing and exciting but 90 percent of people there are tourists. The only Florentine people were taxi drivers, tour guides and people servicing the tourists. Everyone lives outside of Florence, in the Tuscan countryside.
That said, if you are a history or art lover, you’ll be fascinated by the history and art found at every turn. This is where the Italian Renaissance began, and museums and churches are filled with the works of the Italian Masters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt. The Medici family, one of the most power rulers of Italian history, owned this city, and the imprint they left is everywhere.