Follow Mehreen Raheel to Italy!

It is a must to spend your birthday with your best friends, it gets even better when your best friend is your mom and you are touring Italy with her! Social Diary is giving you an insight into how Mehreen spent her vacation this fall!

  1. Why did you select Portofino for your holiday destination?

Portofino has always been a destination that I wanted to visit. It was on my wish list. I was brainstorming with my mother, we decided let’s do Italy and Europe in fall, because it is supposed to be spectacular! And it is a time when tourism and tourists are not really sprawled all over the place. So we decided to visit Italy. Also, it was my birthday trip and I choose to spend it with my mother, who is my best friend.

  1. First impressions of the country while you toured?

It was quite an experience, though we did not do the gondola, as we did not have the time for it. We walked around and had listened to the music, sound of the streets, went to these little small corner shops where you could pick up shoes or souvenirs.

  1. Which are the must-see places in Italy?

This is not the first time that I have visited Italy, but Milan definitely was the first time for me. I had been previously to Venice. Portofino is like a dream, it is like being in a post card. It is one of the most spectacular places that I have ever visited in my entire life. Naviglio is a little place which has the old canals and cafes are. It has a market which only comes up on Sunday. That is one of the most spectacular places that one must visit when in Milan.

  1. People travel to Dubai for shopping or to Nepal for a peaceful getaway. What is the specialty of Thailand? The differentiating feature?

I would recommend Italy for a gastronomical experience. I would say that fashion meets food plus it is one of the best places to ever visit. . There were personalized shops, Italian shops which made these beautiful cannoli and dried candied fruits, shoes, and bags and whatever not. It was absolutely amazing.

  1. Italy is particularly famous for its street foods and gelato. Which of these did you try?

In Milan we went to this fusion Japanese restaurant which was absolutely amazing. After that we went to Trattoria Milanese which is one of my favorite restaurants.

In Santa Margherita Belmond hotel is where we booked ourselves in for lunch, because it has the most spectacular view. I mean it is a postcard from heaven basically!

I am not a big ice cream person so no gelato for me. I preferred having the beautiful homemade trattorian food over there, from different restaurants.

We went to different restaurants at different times.

  1. What is the best place for hangout at nights?

At night we drove up the winding road which got us to this beautiful town called Santa Margherita. We had our first meal in Italy in Santa Margherita sitting on the terrace. It was a white marbled terrace; we were looking at the stars, smelling the fresh air which was coming from the sea, and giggling away like two little girls.

  1. What did you enjoy most about the trip?

Well there were a number of things. First off we went via Switzerland because wanted to fly over the Alps with my mum. We saw the snow covered beautiful peaks and landed in Milan.

On the second day, breakfast we had in the morning in Santa Margherita, it consisted of fresh croissants, yogurt and fruit. Then we took a boat to Portofino and walked around the town for most of the day. Exploring Santa Margherita’s nooks and alleys, which had their stories to tell.

  1. How was the trip to Milan?

Fashion week was happening, so we had YSL models all around us! They were there for their fittings; it was actually really, really busy. We just walked around Milan to absorb the essence of the different photo shoots happening around everywhere. We sat at this Jewish little restaurant that has the best sandwiches in town! You can ask them for freshly baked breads, juices and stuff.

I took a bus with my mother and at night we walked the streets of Milan yet again. We were absorbing essence, though it was slightly chilly, but it was really nice. At night we sat outside at café and enjoyed cannoli and freshly baked croissant with a cup of coffee.

Fashion week was happening, so we had YSL models all around us!

  1. Where did you stay at throughout the trip?

Our first stay was at Santa Margherita. We were staying there at a listed property. It was one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen in my life. Very small, very personal, and very beautiful! Portofino is about 15 minute’s boat ride from Santa Margherita. In Milan we were again staying at this old monastery which had been converted into a hotel. It was right next to this main place called Via Dante which is the central area, next to the cathedral.

  1. Deciding on what to spend on more (food, hotel or travelling) is a decision we all take. Which of these do you prefer to empty your pockets on?

I would evenly distribute between food, hotel or travelling, as I am very particular about each. So when I take a holiday, it is absolutely well planned. If one wants to pamper themselves, I would suggest going to a location during off season that is when you get the best things. Food is not usually that expensive, if you are not taking ten people out. Traveling has become expensive, considering the dollar rate and even the stay. Everything in a way is expansive, but if you plan it well you can totally wing it.

  1. Any particular shops you visited?

Beretta is my favorite go to shop, so we also went there. It’s one of the biggest Beretta stores in Europe. We also went to this small discount mall there, called Serravalle. It is 40 minutes drive from Milan. Since Milan is so up-to-date with fashion, anything that is about week to two weeks or a month behind gets on sale Serravalle is the place to pick it up from.

  1. Did you bring any souvenirs with you?

I picked up a number of herbs and spices for my pasta! I picked up these beautiful lavenders, I am a big fan! So there was this beautiful shop in Venice, where you could get everything made up of lavender. I picked up stuff to spray in the house, candles, and other lavender infused items. Next thing is candied fruits, for which Venice is known. We also got olives, olive oil, and obviously different handmade bags and shoes, and anything that caught our attention!

  1. What are the three things that you always carry with you on your trips?

Well.. I am like a little turtle. When I travel I carry my entire house with me in my suitcase. I am not a big makeup fan; I usually wear one color lipstick and have mascara. I always carry a sunblock and all other essentials.

  1. What time of the year do you recommend travelers to visit Italy?

If you want to go, September and October is the best time. September is the time if you want the place to be bustling and busy, because the entire fashion world is out there for you to go and look into. But if you want to have a quieter time, right after fashion week is the time. Hotel rates are great at this time.

  1. Pakistani currency is pretty weak atm. For those of us who haven’t been to Italy how much would you suggest we keep in our pockets in PKR to spend a quality vacation?

You know you can have a very cheap Italian trip, or you can have a very expensive Italian or European trip. It all depends on what you want to do. If you are smart with your money and you plan it well then it won’t cost you a lot at all. It is just a question of using your brain, there are so many things one can look into. I believe in absorbing the essence of the city walking in it and living each day at a time. Also reading on everything before you go is a must. I read up on everything and then went where my heart took me.

  1. What do you think is the current tourism situation of Pakistan?

It is so easy to travel around Europe. We took the train, and all we had to do was to go to the station and buy our tickets there. Also traveling through the bus is a good option. Everything is so easy and just a stone throw away.  Life is very convenient as it is in the fast lane there.