Stay connected with unlimited data in EuropeKollecting Koordinate s- unlimited data in Europe 1

Regardless of how expensive data plans are in Canada we can’t not have them, even if it means a measly 4GB a month.  Don’t even get me started on roaming charges! We usually bum WiFi off restaurants and hotel lobbies when we’re traveling but Mickey D’s and Starbucks aren’t always around. When we found out we could have unlimited data in Europe we were alllll over it.

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HIPPOCKETWIFI delivered the pocket-sized device to our hotel in London. It came in a cute pouch along with an emergency SIM card, charging cable, instructions card, and prepaid return envelope. We loved our Hippo so much we even sang a jingle whenever we pulled it out! It saved our butts so many times that we owe our flawless trip to this little guy:

  • Staying in touch with our families 24/7
  • Never getting lost with Google Maps while on our road trip
  • Making dinner reservations at hard-to-book restaurants
  • Booking ferry and train tickets on the go (barely made it back to Salzburg from Halltstatt)
  • Posting on social media to stay in the loop
  • Checking operating hours for attractions and restaurants
  • Emailing and calling brands for travel arrangements
  • Sending our #1 biggest fan (Mama Ko!) daily photos and videos so she can live vicariously through them
  • Checking bus, train, and ferry schedules
  • And the most important of all… researching the best spots for food!
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almost got stranded in Hallstatt.. barely made the last ferry/train back to Salzburg

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one of many yummy dessert cafes/restaurants we researched thanks to Hippo

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not once did we get lost on our Montenegro road trip!

Unlimited data in Europe with HIPPOCKETWIFI

What’s included in the plan?

You’ll get unlimited high-speed 4G LTE network in Europe, express delivery, prepaid return envelope from an European country, 24/7 support, and no hidden fees. Up to 10 devices can be connected simultaneously.

Note: Hippo works in 40 European countries; see this page for the complete list.

How do I rent one?

Place an online order before you go. You can have your pocket WiFi mailed to your first stop in Europe or delivered to your home (if you live in the US or Canada). Alternatively, you can pick it up from over 25,000 stores and post offices in Europe.

How much does it cost?

Prices start at 11.90€/day for 3-5 days, 10.90€/day for 6-9 days, 9.90€/day for 10-13 days, and 8.90€/day for 14+ days. Refer to this page for current pricing.

What’s the battery life?

When it’s fully charged the batter will last 6 hours of usage. It automatically turns off when it’s not in use to conserve battery.

Tip: We had it plugged in our solar backpack at all times which means we never had to worry about it running out!

More tips & info

  • If you don’t need unlimited data you can opt for 1GB/day plans
  • Rentals are available from 3-360 days
  • For more information and current promotions, visit their official website, Facebook, and Instagram pages


Disclaimer: Many thanks to HIPPOCKETWIFI for providing us with a complimentary unlimited data in Europe and for making our trip flawless! All experiences and opinions are honest and our own. We wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Skip the lines at David and Duomo in Florence!Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence

Did you really go to Florence if you didn’t see Michelangelo’s David and climb the Duomo? Because they’re the most sought-out attractions in this iconic Renaissance city, you can imagine how crowded these sites get. Why not avoid crowds and skip lines with the best tour in Florence?

Read more: Where to stay in Florence

Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence

VIP David & Duomo Tour – Best tour in Florence

We signed up for the VIP David & Duomo Tour with Walks of Italy, highly recommended especially for first time visitors. Small groups of no more than 15 people are led by an expert local guide who will whisk you back to the Renaissance era. The headset allows you to hear your guide even if you stray a little from your group.

What will you see?

  • Accademia Gallery
  • Baptistery
  • Duomo Museum
  • Duomo
  • Duomo Terraces
  • Dome of the Duomo

Tip: Make sure you keep your ticket stub so you can climb Giotto’s Campanile in your own time

Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in FlorenceKollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence

What does the 3hr tour look like?

  • Meet with your guide and the rest of your group at 7:45am
  • Skip the line and enter the Accademia Gallery by 8am
  • Tour the Gallery and see Michelangelo’s ‘David’ in relative peace
  • Skip the line at the Baptistery and Duomo Museum
  • Skip the line at the Duomo
  • Get exclusive access to the Duomo terraces
  • Bypass all other tourists and climb the Duomo
  • Say goodbye to your guide and enjoy free time on the dome

Ishmael was our guide and he was fantastic. He painted history with such depth and passion, chaining each story and masterpiece with a great narrative arc. Each tile in the mosaic ceiling, each stroke in paintings, each curve in sculptures- they were all brought to life with his explanations. If only we had him as our history teacher back in school we would’ve aced the class!

The coolest part was being on the Duomo Terrace with no one else! We had incredible views of Florence and far into Tuscany without elbows jabbing us or selfie sticks poking our eyes. This is where we got an up-close view of Brunelleschi’s humongous brick dome (the largest in the world!).

We visited in early June, the beginning of the peak season. Lines snaked and wrapped around each attraction. Unlike AS I have 0 patience. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to wait for extended periods of time under the blistering sun- or anywhere, really! It felt sooooo good to cross multiple velvet ropes throughout the day, bypassing massive crowds.

Read more: How to see Rome in 3 days

Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in FlorenceKollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence

How much does it cost and how do I book?

You can book online. Prices start at $145.79CAD per person for adults, $141.18CAD for students (ages 13-22), and $136.58CAD for children (ages 4-12). Kids under 4 don’t have to pay! The meticulous timing, special access, and knowledgeable guides are why this is the best tour in Florence.

About Walks of Italy

Walks of Italy offers tours not only in Florence, but also Rome, Venice, and Paris. For more information and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in FlorenceDisclaimer: Many thanks to Walks of Italy for hosting our VIP David & Duomo Tour in Florence.  All opinions and experiences are honest and our own; we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - best tour in Florence

Feel the extraordinary at the oldest hotel in Italy: NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa

In search of the best luxury hotel in Florence we were on the hunt for a place that’s different- a place that’s extraordinary. With a real medieval tower and original frescos from the 13th century, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa Hotel is considered the oldest hotel not only in Florence, but also Italy. We felt like VIPs while staying here, right in the center of this iconic Renaissance city.

The best luxury hotel in Florence – NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze

Location and Space

Located only minutes from Piazza del Duomo and Uffizi Gallery, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is right in the center of it all. It takes no more than a 10-minute walk to access all major attractions. We’re talking 6 minutes to the Duomo, 5 minutes to Ponte Vecchio, and 2 minutes to Piazza della Repubblica.

A stunning stained-glass ceiling graces the lobby of this historic establishment. The main hall and the lounge are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and neo-Renaissance architectural fittings. The vaulted ceiling makes this space even grander than it already is.

Staff and Service

From the front desk reps to the breakfast team, the entire staff is friendly and helpful without losing professionalism. We were surprised by tea and treats upon checking in, and were spoiled with hazelnut chocolates every evening.

Guestrooms

72 guestrooms are spread across 5 floors. Each room is different and unique in their own way; some contain original frescos like the famous Room 121. Using natural wood and warm tones, rooms are laid out in an elegant yet minimal style.

Tip: Guests staying in the Torre Monalda Suite are spoiled with a 360-degree view of the city from the medieval tower.

Our humongous suite came with a comfortable queen-sized bed with lots of natural lighting. The entire space is squeaky clean without a speck of dust! There’s a separate powder room attached to the large washroom, where we enjoyed relaxing baths and rain showers after long days of walking around Florence.

Each room is equipped with a kettle, coffee machine, slippers and plush bath robes. Luxury NH Collection bathroom amenities are restocked every day.

Note: Instead of those weak, wall mount hair dryers, I was most impressed with them providing a real hair dryer! I’m sure all you ladies (and gentlemen) with long hair would appreciate this.

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Dining

Indulge in an extravagant breakfast spread very morning at the buffet, with a wide variety of fresh pastries, fruits and juices, savoury bites, meats and cheeses, and made-to-order hot dishes. Have you ever had Prosecco and truffles for breakfast? Well you can, at the best luxury hotel in Florence!

If you want to take luxury dining to the next level, try the exclusive truffle-based menu for lunch or dinner. NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze, in partnership with Savini Tartufi’s Truffles Experience, is the first hotel in Italy to offer this one of a kind gastronomic experience.

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Other Tips and Info

  • Rates start at 230€+ for Superior Rooms, 250€+ for Premium Rooms, and 315€+ for Junior Suites.
  • Breakfast is included in the nightly rates but you can opt out when booking your stay.
  • Late checkout until 3PM is available upon availability.
  • Off-site parking is €26/day.
  • Small pets are welcomed for €20/night.
  • For more info and current promotions, check out their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

Disclaimer: Many thanks to NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze Hotel for hosting our stay. All opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!

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Kollecting Koordinates - NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze

Taking it easy in Venice

Venice- Venezia! The last leg of our 2013 Eurotrip.

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The night before in Paris was hell. On the way home from dinner, my stomach started churning in pain and I thought I was going to pass out on our metro ride back to our Airbnb. Thinking it was just a stomach ache, I sat on the toilet for a little bit and went to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat with an intense pain that wouldn’t go away. Projectile vomit and intense diarrhea took over the rest of that sleepless night.

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Where to Stay

I thought Paris was expensive enough… I was wrong! Decent hotels in Venice start at 3-4 bills a night- holy smokes! We stayed in a private room with canal view at a hostel for around $90CAD a night. Airbnb listings start at around $150- still better than dishing out 400 bucks!

Venice itself is pretty small so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. If you want to be closer to the center of the action, though, pick a place near Rialto Bridge. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in that area.

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Getting Around

ACTV is the way to go. It’s the Venetians’ alternative to busses, but on water! These water busses take you up and down stops along the Grand Canal. Their most up-to-date prices, timetables, and routes can be found here. You can purchase single tickets or tourist passes, depending on how often you’ll be using the service.

We bought single-use passes because we traveled on foot for the most part. We had nothing planned other than to explore the many alleys and canals. We signed up for the Venice Wi-Fi Network  so we have data, in case we get really lost. Even if you don’t have data or a map, there are signs for famous landmarks everywhere.

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What to Do

Get lost in the city on water! Exhausted from Amsterdam, Rome, and Paris, we were glad to just take it easy and wander aimlessly. Venice was full of life in itself; we didn’t need plans to enjoy ourselves. Its canals, its laid-back vibe, its cobblestone streets- everything about it made us fall in love with this floating city. Including this… Italian version of Pokemon? And look at all those Ferrero products!

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We bussed down the Grand Canal and got off near the Rialto Bridge.

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Eventually we found our way to Piazza San Marco. It was packed with people! (Easter break, of course it was)

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We went past the square and hopped on a vaporetto towards Murano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon famous for glass-making.

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If you can afford 80€ a pop for 20min, these gondola rides may be for you. No way in hell were we paying that!

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What to Eat

La maison de la crepe

We stumbled upon this little hole in the wall creperie when I was craving pastries. The owner really goes all out on toppings, and it was so good the first time that we made it a mission to revisit the next day. We had a general idea of where the shop was but without a map, it was nearly impossible to find again. We didn’t give up, though. After more than 30min of walking back and forth and making infinite loops, we finally found it! Getting Nutella banana crepes from this place was definitely one of our favourite moments.

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Al Timon

We went over to Al Timon in the Jewish quarter for dinner on our last evening. A vast selection of cicchetti and prosecco are available all at a reasonable price. We grabbed a couple of cicchettis and ordered a steak- they were all really yummy! We were also relieved that it wasn’t pasta or pizza again.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Venice

How to see Rome in 3 daysRome - Colosseo

Social Studies was my favourite subject in school because of the Roman Empire. I was so stoked when we booked our trip to Rome! Although a tiny bit rushed, we were able to cover (almost) everything we wanted to do in Rome in 3 days. Just don’t make the same noob mistake as we did and visit during Easter week. (but how can one say no to flight deals?!)

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Buy the 72hr Roma Pass

Passholders can visit 2 archaeological sites and ride public transportation within Rome for free. This is your key to exploring Rome in 3 days. Keep in mind that the Vatican City is not included. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill all count as one entry; so you can visit all three in one day, and another site on a separate day. We picked Ostia Antica as our second archaeological site.

Tip: Order the Roma Pass online in advance and pick them up at the airport to save time.  Vatican City is not included in the Roma Pass

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Rome in 3 days – Getting around

After landing at Fiumicino Airport, we hopped on Trenitalia’s FL1 regional train which took us to Piramide, where we switched to Metro Line B and headed for central Rome. Rome’s vast metro network is impressive. Most of its major attractions are within a few minutes’ walk from the nearest station. The stations and trains themselves can sometimes be unpleasant because of the graffiti, cleanliness (lack of), and massive crowds, but one shouldn’t complain because the fares are cheap (or free with the Roma Pass) and it’s the fastest way to get around!

You can also explore by walking. This is what we did- we covered many sites in central Rome on foot since the crowds were sometimes too overwhelming. (We did visit Rome during Easter so that was our fault) Plus, navigating through the alleys and taking in the beauty of Rome’s architecture is part of the fun!

Rome in 3 days – Where to stay?

We were on a budget so we opted to stay at a hostel (around 50 bucks a night) outside of city centre, just a few blocks from the San Paolo metro station. We had no problems for the most part but we did feel a little unsafe walking after dark, constantly wary of being pick-pocketed by the swarm of gypsies at the metro entrance.

get free travel credit when you book your stay with Airbnb

When we visit Rome again we’d stay near Termini Station. It’s the main transport hub and you can go pretty much anywhere to and from this station- the airport and all the major attractions in Rome included. Good hotels in Europe with a fair pricetag are hard to come by, so Airbnb is definitely the way to go! Honestly, though, the metro is so easy to use and convenient so it doesn’t really matter where you stay as long as you’re close by a station.

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Rome in 3 days – What to do and see?

Go wild with Rome’s history. It’s nuts! We visited some obvious choices and one not-so-obvious site.

Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill

Tip: Arrive at the Colosseum before it opens. We got there 20 minutes early and were the first ones to be let in.

When we reached the top level and laid our eyes on the massive structure for the first time, we were blown away by the largest amphitheatre ever built. The best part? The unobstructed view, peace and serenity from no crowds. It was so breathtaking I cried!

At maximum capacity, the Colosseum could hold up to 80,000 spectators. How did people sitting at the top tier see what was going on all the way at the bottom? The arena could also be flooded to create simulated sea battles.

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are both right next to the Colosseum. It was pretty cool to be walking the same paths as others did thousands of years ago- dating back to 1000BC!

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Vatican Museums

Tip: Prebook tickets online. We visited Vatican City on Apr 2, right after Easter Monday. Thanks to the advanced tickets we simply showed up at the time slot we were assigned and skipped the huge line that wrapped around the museum.

All the Renaissance masterpieces we read about in history books were right before our eyes. Our two favourites are the gold vaulted ceiling along the Gallery of Maps, as well as the famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. Museums aren’t usually our thing but this was something else. We spent hours here before ending our tour St. Peter’s Basilica.

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Read more: Taking it easy in Venice

Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and Spanish Steps

These are all within walkable distance from each other. There are signs pointing you in the right direction so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. The intricate details and symmetry on every structure are mind boggling. Sure, the Pantheon and Spanish Steps were both pretty cool, but my personal favourite was the Trevi Fountain. If you stay close to the fountain, make sure you pay a visit at night when it’s lit up!

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

We also stumbled upon Piazza Venezia when we were on the hunt for the best gelato in the city!

Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica used to be the main port of Rome; it is not a well known attraction but definitely worth a visit. We spent the entire morning here, making new discoveries every corner we turned and picturing what life must’ve been like over 2000 years ago. Everything here- from the streets, to the apartments, to the bathhouses and taverns- is brilliantly well-preserved.

Tip: Wear comfortable shoes for this massive site. The paths are rough with uneven cobblestones and dirt.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Rome in 3 days

Rome in 3 days – What to eat?

Pasta, pizza, and gelato for days. As a huge pizza fan, AS loved the food here. Me, not so much. I got pretty tired of all carb overload by day 3. There are a few darn good restaurants and joints we ate at, though!

Sapori e Delizie

A 5-10min walk from Cavour station, some say they serve the best pizza in Rome. I don’t know about that but the food was darn good. It’s a tiny, tiny place but the service is great and food is very affordable. A huge pizza and carbonara was around €10 for 2 people.

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Il Dolce Sorriso (now closed)

A renowned gelato place for its flavours and charm! We had gelato every day at different places but this was honestly the best gelato we’ve ever had. We were almost late for our flight because we wanted to get gelato from here so badly!

Update: Unfortunately it is now permanently closed 🙁

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Ristorante La Tavernetta 48

Tucked away in a small alley, this restaurant is a little hard to find. The food is excellent, the staff are super friendly, and their lunch specials are a steal. We had so much food and wine for €13 each!

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