A Taste of Italy: The Ultimate European Inspired Staycation
As a self-employed, wanderlust struck twenty-something year old, I’ve been blessed with the flexibility to travel throughout North America the past few years. However, I am embarrassed to admit I have yet to step foot outside of North America! Horrible, right? One of my 2017 resolutions is to get my butt out of North America – and have finally made (big!) plans for this spring. When Loews Portofino Bay Hotel graciously offered to host Ashley, Stephanie and I for the weekend – I knew this would be the perfect staycation to curb my appetite for European travel!
Inspired by the seaside town of Portofino, Italy – Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando® transports you to a European oasis. When checking in, we were greeted with the friendliest of staff and directed to our little slice of paradise overlooking the stunning waterfront. Walking into our rooms we were greeted with chocolate covered strawberries and champagne! Loews Portofino Bay Hotel sure knows how to make a girl blush! The room felt luxurious yet cozy, decorated with European inspired artwork and super comfortable plush beds. The real cherry on top was our beyond gorgeous balcony perched overtop of a harbour filled with boats! The view was so authentic we could have sworn we were in Italy! In fact, after posting a photo of our view on Instagram a reader emailed me wishing me a fabulous time in Italy (she had studied there abroad!).
We were blown away by the gorgeous European touches across the entire property. From cobblestone streets to Italian cypress trees decorating the property we truly felt we had escaped our Florida bubble and entered an Italian paradise.
During the day, we enjoyed the three stunning pools on the property for a little R&R. One of the pools has a giant water slide mirroring a Roman aqueduct! We opted for the “adult” pool, free of whiney children and overflowing with piña colada and mojitos! We had our own (private) cabana and servers and soaked up some rays! As entrepreneurs who are constantly monitoring our emails for important messages from clients, we were pleasantly surprised with the complimentary Wi-Fi that extended beyond the hotel and into the pool areas.
During our stay, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel hosted their infamous Harbor Nights Romantico – an event held under the twinkling lights of the Portofino’s picturesque Harbor Piazza. We were treated to a variety of select red, white and sparkling wine. As a red wine enthusiast, I was impressed with their colorful red wine assortment including Zuccardi Malbec, Palladio Chianti, Santa Julia Dulce Tinto, Pico Maccario Barbera, Le Charmel Pinot Noir and Tellus Merlot. The menu included delicious gourmet food from each of the hotel’s on-site restaurants including seared mahi mahi escbecha, tagliatelle pasta, grilled braciole stuffed with butternut squash and spinach gnocchi with pomodoro. Don’t even get me started with dessert! We indulged in an endless supply of triple chocolate gelato, champagne sorbetto, milk chocolate raspberry panna cotta, raspberry coulis and chocolate covered strawberries. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Oh hi, pretty view! The sunset was even more breathtaking across the harbour and contributed to the romantic Mediterranean ambiance of the night. Ps. how cute is my black floral embellished romper?! The tied trumpet cuffs sold me immediately. It’s comfortable and chic for an elegant night out!
One of the biggest perks of staying at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel is it’s close proximity to Universal Studios! A 10-minute boat ride, in fact. Guests of the hotel are offered exclusive theme park benefits including the Universal Expresss Unlimited ride access which allows you to skip the regular lines in both theme parks all day! Y’all this is a game changer for theme park rides with lines that are literally hours long. The Florida sun is unforgiving the majority of the year, so you don’t want to be waiting in a line in 90-100 degree weather. I can confidently say I wouldn’t attend Universal Studios without it. This $89 Universal Expresssm is FREE to guests at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll also be treated to an Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, one hour before the theme park opens! I had never been, and y’all it’s incredible! As someone who never actually read the books (I know, I know – I’m bad!) I wasn’t as thrilled as self pronounced Harry Potter nerds Ashley and Stephanie. But I was blown away visiting Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley! Ollivanders Wand Shop in Diagon Alley is a must visit with hundreds of wands to choose from!
After a long day at Universal Studios, we opted for dinner at Universal CityWalk, located adjacent to the Universal Parks. We have many memories at CityWalk, but when we heard of a new restaurant, The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. This restaurant is a chocolate lover’s dream with Steampunk feels. The story behind it? Chocolate obsessed Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome (and her robot Jacques) built the emporium to share her love and knowledge of chocolate with the world. Chocolate can be found in the most unsuspecting of dishes on the menu including coffee and chocolate stout chicken wings (which were #amazing). We ordered a ton of appetizers including the truffle fries, baked brie (my favorite), roasted brussels sprouts (Stephanie’s favorite!), coffee and chocolate stout chicken wings and chocolate almond bread. For my entree, I enjoyed the grilled teriyaki salmon over vegetables and jasmine rice!
When walking into the restaurant, I spotted a couple of girls holding a milkshake with a cupcake on top. My eyes immediately lit up and I knew I couldn’t leave without indulging in one! Let me tell you, there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to dessert at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Featuring a variety of one-of-a-kind desserts including artisans milkshakes (served out of mason jars!) and delicious sundaes make sure to save room for dessert! I chose the Red Velvet Milkshake comprised of vanilla ice cream and entire red velvet cupcake blended together! The dreamy concoction is finished off with raspberry sauce, rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry on top! This milkshake can definitely be spilt 2, 3 or even 4 ways!
After dinner we explored the gift shop – comprised of hundreds of chocolate-themed souvenirs! Your wildest Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory dreams will come true as the shop is filled from head to toe with chocolates, candies, cotton candy machines, and so much more!
Overall it was the perfect staycation and has me super excited for my upcoming trip! If you’re looking for a hotel while staying in Orlando, I’d highly recommend Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. If you have kids, or are a theme park junkie don’t forget to grab tickets to Universal Studios!
Thank you to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel for our hotel and dinner accommodations and a wonderful trip to Universal Studios! As usual, all opinions are mine alone.