Stendhal Syndrome, also known as Florence syndrome, is characterized as rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion, and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art. This is how I felt almost every day of the two weeks I spent in Italy recently. There are an overwhelming number of beautiful places you can visit but I managed to narrow it down to ten of my favorites from Milan, Venice, Rome, and Florence.
- Bar Luce at Fondazione Prada – People seem to either love or hate Milan, but I absolutely loved the city. While the Fondazione Prada museum is a little off the beaten path, it’s definitely worth the visit. And when you’re tired of viewing art, you have to refuel at Bar Luce, the Wes Anderson designed café on site. I can attest that the food is as good as the design.
- Villa Necchi – Ever since I saw the film I Am Love, I’ve been dying to see Villa Necchi in Milan. The 1930’s designed private home is open to the public and was even more inspiring than I imagined. Our small private tour allowed for personalized attention to our interests. I peeked at the old kitchen, and into closed closets still filled with designer clothes.
- Marchesi – While the original Pasticceria Marchesi opened almost 200 years ago, the newest shop on Via Montenapoleone debuted during my visit to Milan. Prada recently bought the company and the décor in the new shop references their chic embroidered fabrics while the quality of the pastries and candies remains the same. If I had any room in my suitcase, I would have brought some home–it was that good.
- Venice & Ca’Rezzonico – I’d never been to Venice before and I’m so happy I made the trip. We had lovely weather which meant some of the museums were not as crowded as usual. The most beautiful of all the ones I visited was the 18th-century decorated palazzo Ca’Rezzonico on the Grand Canal. Make sure you climb to the top floor to see the spectacular art collection in addition to the gorgeous interiors.
- Gritti Palace – One of the chicest hotels in Venice is the Gritti Palace, which underwent an extensive renovation a few years ago. Luckily, it still retains all the charm of the original. Either splurge on a room, or order a spritz at the outside bar that overlooks the Grand Canal, and watch the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen.
- Fortuny Showroom and Garden – You need to make an appointment to visit the Fortuny showroom on the island of Giudecca in Venice but it’s worth the trouble. After viewing the traditional fabrics made in the adjacent factory, take a walk through the garden before heading back across the lagoon.
- Doria Pamphilj Gallery – I made a short trip to Rome while in Italy, and while it might have been easier to skip it since it was out of the way, I am happy I was able to see the truly breathtaking Doria Pamphilj Gallery. It’s hard to believe the 17th-century palazzo is still a private home with the family living in the private apartments adjacent to the gallery. It also boasts one of the most valuable art collections in the world.
- Palazzo Pitti – By the time I reached Florence, I was pretty exhausted but a rainy day was the perfect time to visit the Palazzo Pitti museum. The former residence of the grand dukes of Tuscany now houses important art collections in sublime period rooms. Also part of the complex are the extensive Boboli Gardens which are probably more fun to visit when it’s not raining.
- Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella – While there is an outpost of Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in downtown New York, it can’t compare to the original location in Florence. The pharmacy was founded in 1221 by Dominican friars which makes it one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. I love buying soaps and lotions in his historic frescoed rooms.
- Castorina – If you think you’ve seen everything in Florence, head to Castorina to be amazed. The back room houses thousands of wood carvings that often replace those that have seen better days in Italy while the front rooms offer beautiful wood objects that make perfect gifts. I bought a green hand-painted obelisk that I will always treasure.
While I do suggest you visit all of these places, the best thing to do in Italy is to get lost and discover the distinct beauty of each city for yourself.
All pictures by Heather Clawson. For more, go to Habitually Chic’s Instagram to see what Chico’s items she brought with her. Her packing list is as good as her “must see” list. And for her great site go here.