Buongiorno! Here we are at the very last stop on our Heritage Honeymoon - Benevento, Italy. This is the city where my husband's family originated, and it's not far from Potenza, where my maternal grandfather came from. Benevento is inland from Naples, and it is by no means a tourist destination - which made it both exciting and complicated to travel to. But honestly, we were up for the challenge, and the opportunity to visit someplace so meaningful outweighed any complication.
We ended our trip to Split, Croatia and flew to Rome, Italy. There are several SPU>FCO flights, which made that route most convenient. From Rome, we took a Trenitalia train from the Roma Termini station to Benevento. This required a lot of planning in finding the best train times that would work with the flight times, but we were able to create an itinerary that worked. Trains in Europe and Italy in particular are frequent, fairly reliable, affordable, and safe. We opted for first class (which wasn't expensive at all!) on the way to Benevento and it was a very pleasant 3-hour trip.
The fact that Benevento is not made for tourists made it the most authentic travel experience I've ever had. We really felt like locals by the time our stay was complete! What was so charming about the city was that it was modern only in the necessary ways. Otherwise it was like we stepped back into a simpler time, between the ancient ruins, tight cobblestone streets, hanging clotheslines, and the silence and absence that occurs during siesta time mid-day. If you ever find yourself in this Italian city, I hope you'll reference my recommended to-dos and to-eats below!
All in all, our mini trip to Benevento was a relaxing way to end a whirlwind Heritage Honeymoon, and it brought us even closer to our roots, which was the core goal that we wanted to achieve. This city may be unknown to tourists and travelers but it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Where will you go where no one else does? What can you discover about yourself through travel? If you are interested in planning your own Heritage Honeymoon or Heritage Holiday, I would love to help. Click here to learn more.
And if you're interested in reading about the other stops on our Heritage Honeymoon, please check out the links below!
Stop 1: Cardiff, Wales
Stop 2: Zagreb, Croatia
Stop 3: Split, Croatia
Thank you so much for following along in our journey.
Ahh, Split, Croatia. This was a stop added onto our Heritage Honeymoon purely out of the desire to go somewhere coastal in one of the countries that our ancestors had come from. I had been hearing more and more about Croatia and we decided that it would be the perfect country to explore, both inland with a quick trip to Zagreb, and on the coast with a visit to Split. We found the perfect tour that began in the capital city, traveled through the country with a stop at Plitvice Lakes National Park, and concluded in Split.
We fell in love with Split and I now think of it as one of my favorite places. Most of why it's so charming to me can't be explained; it needs to be felt. But I'll share about our favorite experiences here in the hopes to inspire you to one day visit and feel it, too!
Another tip: Avoid the restaurants along the Riva promenade - they're more touristy and less authentic.
Spending a few days in Split was relaxing yet exciting, and while we felt like we were on vacation, we also got a chance to feel like a local, staying in an apartment and going to the supermarket, cooking meals, doing laundry, etc. The ability to walk to so much was so welcomed, and not once did the city feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If you have the chance, get yourself there. And soak in all the sunshine for your soul that you can find in Split.
The second destination of our Heritage Honeymoon was Zagreb, Croatia. I learned that my family from Croatia lived just outside of Zagreb, so I was extremely excited to get there. We had a less-than-perfect arrival (our plane was delayed leaving London because it had been struck by lightening on its way to London, and then our baggage took forever to arrive once in Zagreb) but hey, we all know that travel isn't perfect! We, and our bags, made it safely, and I knew it was a good sign when "I Got You Babe" was playing in the taxi on the ride to our hotel. We checked in and went straight to the bar for food! We only had the following day to explore the city before we traveled onward, so we made the most of it by seeing, doing, and eating as much as possible. Check out the list below for everything I recommend for a quick 24 hours in Zagreb.
Outside of all of this, one of my favorite experiences in Zagreb was seeing my very Croatian maiden name, a name I will probably never see on much of anything ever again at home. It was on a car plate because there is a dealership group by that name just outside of the city. Are they family? I'll probably take a Heritage Holiday to find out.
We didn't get a chance to have too many meals in Zagreb, but here's what we liked best:
If you couldn't guess, we stayed at the Esplanade. It's a remarkable building that's in just about every list of best hotels in Zagreb. Opened in 1925 for passengers of the Orient Express, the hotel has become known for housing famous guests ranging from movie stars to politicians to music artists. It was a mix of beautiful and creepy that made us feel fancy and important, even if just for a day.
Our next destination from Zagreb was Split, the second largest city in Croatia. Rather than flying there, we opted for a tour through Portal Travel Agency in which we were picked up at the Esplanade in Zagreb (at which time we loaded our suitcases onto the tour van), toured through the country with a few hours stop in Plitvice Lakes National Park, then dropped off in Split. In our opinion, this was the best way to travel between the two cities!
It poured rain the entire day, which made our photos from Plitvice Lakes less-than-glamorous, but the advantage was that the park was less crowded, and still just as beautiful! There are 16 lakes to explore via wooden pathways, surrounded by waterfalls, limestone, and genuine, untouched nature. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so you can't swim in the lakes. This is a must-see during a trip to Croatia, and one that you will never forget.
Here is a link to the tour that we booked in case you want to go for it yourself! Stay tuned for more about our stay in Split. And for help planning your very own Heritage Honeymoon or Heritage Holiday, click here.
And just like that, we were off. Our whirlwind wedding weekend was beautiful and wonderful in so many ways, even despite a little rain. Just a few days later, after gifts were opened, leftovers consumed, and family members back at home, we finally embarked on our Heritage Honeymoon. First stop: Cardiff, Wales.
Why Cardiff? // To be honest, Cardiff wasn't our ideal destination from the start. What we discovered through our Ancestry.com research was that my husband's family was from the north of Wales, from Wrexham. What we discovered through hours of logistical research was that it would be a little difficult to go directly to Wrexham and later to our other destinations in other countries. So, the next best thing in our minds was to visit the capital city of Wales - Cardiff. We wanted to get a sense of the history, culture, and lifestyle, and we knew this South Wales city would give us just that. It's also the perfect base city for day trips and excursions to other places, not to mention its proximity to London for travel purposes. So, we boarded our planes to Detroit > Amsterdam > Cardiff, a rare route directly to Cardiff airport (most visitors fly to London and take a train to Cardiff) and had a beautiful stay in one of the most friendly cities/countries I have ever been to. Here's a few recommendations based on our days wandering through the beautiful Welsh countryside.
We were able to see most of these things through a WhereWhenWales tour. If you have limited time in Cardiff, I recommend booking a day tour to really get the most out of your stay and see more more of the country. There are plenty of tour operators in Wales, but I can say that this one was very special. You'll learn about things like the history of the Welsh flag, why the royalty isn't actually from Wales, what a "window tax" and a "free house" are, how many kinds of sheep there are in Wales (and what their markings mean) and so much more. Plus, Jan is a delightful human and very knowledgeable tour guide.
And that's a wrap on Cardiff and South Wales. I'd love to go back someday to explore the rest of the country and interact with those sweet, friendly Welsh people that we met at literally every turn. But for our Heritage Honeymoon, we were on to the next stop: Zagreb! Since there aren't too many major flights out of Cardiff airport, we decided to take a train to London Paddington from Cardiff Central, which was super easy and took just about 2 hours. From London Paddington we left the train station just for lunch and then hopped on the Heathrow Express train directly to the London Heathrow Airport. V convenient.
And hey, thanks for following along so far. It really means the world to me to have the opportunity to share about this very special experience that we worked so hard to create. For help planning your own Heritage Honeymoon or Heritage Holiday, drop me a line here, and stay tuned for more highlights!
Earlier this year, I shared some info about my upcoming Heritage Honeymoon and how my now-husband and I planned out where we would be traveling to. As we sit in the Detroit airport waiting to board our flight to Europe, I’m excited to share more about exactly how all of the plans have come together:
Creating a Rough Itinerary // When I originally had the idea for a Heritage Honeymoon, I knew that it would involve a lot of planning because of how unique and specialized the itinerary would be. So, once we determined the cities and countries we would visit, I started by laying out the basics, considering how many days/nights we would stay in each place, ideally. This, of course, changed as we actually got down to booking hotels and transportation, but having a rough outline gave us a guide to work with, and a starting point.
Being Flexible // The first things we booked were our flights to and from Europe so that we had a Heritage Honeymoon shell to fill in with all of the details. But, this required a certain flexibility in order to get to a price and plan that we were comfortable with. See, our last destination was to be southern Italy, to the towns of Benevento and Potenza. The nearest airport to this region in the direction of home is Naples, but I knew that we would need to take a train to Naples before flying out, and that that could take time. So, I considered how the logistics would actually work, and how we could make it more comfortable for us. We ended up booking a flight home from Rome, which was cheaper and required less flight connections. And, I decided to give us an entire day to take the train from Benevento to Rome, sleep one night at a hotel in Rome, and wake up the next day to fly home. The priority of flexibility helped us with booking most of our trip, and it paid off when it came time to make the big decisions.
Looking Ahead in the Itinerary // This is MAJOR KEY to planning a Heritage Honeymoon. As mentioned earlier, we had the **ideal** itinerary set, but we were flexible to make changes – and we did. After booking the main flights, we looked to secure the rest of our transportation between cities, knowing that we would find hotels that suited our stay no matter what. But I knew it wouldn’t be wise to just follow the itinerary and book it exactly. I had to look ahead to future cities/travel days before booking earlier ones, to make sure that everything lined up correctly. For example, I had originally planned 3 nights in Split before heading to Italy. But when I took a look at flight options, and also train options throughout Italy, I realized that it would be better to stay one extra day in Split and transportation options would be more abundant the following day. Looking ahead and considering the chain reaction of decisions was so helpful in making plans.
Touring it Up // Something that I really love when traveling is participating in day trips and day tours. I love these types of excursions because they allow you to see and do more, hear from local guides, ask questions, and spend time with other people from different places around the world, sharing in a travel experience together. For our Heritage Honeymoon, we set out to book at least one tour or excursion in each place that we were planning to visit. These are the details of our trip, planned out after flights, trains, and hotels, but they will ensure that we make the very most of our experience!
We are so very excited to kick-start our adventure with one of the biggest adventures of our lives so far, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share it with YOU reading this right now. I hope you feel inspired to take your own Heritage Honeymoon. And if you’re not sure where to start or feel intimidated by the whole thing, don’t worry! I am here to help you. Write me about Heritage Honeymoon consultations and I would be happy to offer my advice, feedback, and encouragement.