Los Angeles-based Marketing Events Manager Kristen Rochelle (35) and her girlfriend Meagan (31), a Healthcare IT Consultant, recently returned from the trip of a lifetime. After just a month of planning, the travel enthusiasts embarked on an epic 2 1/2-week, end-of-summer luxury vacation to the European countries of Italy, France, and Monaco.

“Having been to Italy once before,” said Kristen, “it instantly became my favorite destination, specifically the Isle of Capri. My girlfriend had never visited Italy before, so I was very excited for her to experience my favorite location, as well. I’m very happy to report that she loved each location as much as I did!”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Despite having only begun planning for their trip a month in advance, Kristen and Meagan did a ton of research beforehand to ensure they were well-prepared for their luxury vacation. They curated an exciting itinerary, which included top-notch hotels, restaurants, museums, unique activities, and plenty of sightseeing opportunities.

“Being a creative who is very into visuals, I selected my outfits based on the location and scenery in advance. For hotels, we knew that we wanted to stick with major chains that we were comfortable with, specifically Marriott. When it comes to restaurants, we researched options that the locals raved about, along with a Michelin Star-rated restaurant for each location. For traveling between each location, we booked short flights to maximize of our time.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Kristen and Meagan began their trip in Italy, in the picturesque town of Sorrento, where they dined on some of the most amazing authentic Italian food in a garden among lemon trees at O’Parrucchiano La Favorita. They also visited Bagni Regina Giovanna, a gorgeous secluded beach set amongst the ruins of a Roman villa on the Cape of Sorrento.

“It was a hike to get there, but SO WORTH IT. One of the main activities we wanted to experience during our luxury vacation was a private cooking class, and through Airbnb we found the perfect one, the Penisola Experience. It took place at a beautiful villa with the prettiest ocean view. We enjoyed gathering fresh ingredients from the garden and making delicious potato gnocchi, eggplant Parmesan, and tiramisu from scratch.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

“Christiano teaches you how to prepare authentic recipes that were passed down within his family. They have an optional wine and olive oil tasting that can be paired with your meal. The end result was delicious, and I highly recommend booking an experience with them.”  

The couple was able to experience the beautiful Salerno towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello all in one day. There they relaxed on beautiful beaches sipping wine while taking in the ambiance of the incredibly serene and scenic locations. Twice they ventured out on day trips to Capri, and experienced the bucket list-worthy Blue Grotto sea cave and the spectacular panoramic views from the apex of the Monte Solaro chair lift ride.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Next, Kristen and Meagan set off to Venice, where they were instantly enamored by the exquisite architecture and way of life, which includes boating everywhere via water taxi. For their accommodations, they stayed in a two-story villa in the JW Marriott Venice’s La Maisonette Lofts that came complete with its own plunge pool. Set on its own private island about 15 minutes away from St. Mark’s Square, the hotel offers a convenient shuttle, which the couple utilized to venture to the city each day.

“It was our favorite luxury vacation hotel of the entire trip, hands down. We visited Doge Palace and took a gondola ride throughout the city; such an amazing experience. I highly recommend riding when the sun is setting. The food in Venice was also INCREDIBLE. We especially loved the amazing food and drinks at Gio’s Restaurant and Garden. This restaurant is SEXY! It’s located at the St. Regis hotel in Venice and has a glamorous, vintage luxury feel to it. We were able to sit along the water and watch the gondolas go by.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Following Venice, Kristen and Meagan ventured to Rome. Their first stop was the Spanish Steps. Next, they visited the iconic Trevi Fountain, beautifully illuminated at night, and enjoyed some authentic gelato. They stumbled upon Le Tamerici Roma, a restaurant the couple found to be extremely worthy of it’s Michelin Star rating due to its delicious food, amazing service, and the overall luxury experience they provide.  

“There we had the best pasta paired with red wine and an incredible dessert of ice cream topped with olive oil. Weird combo, but it was amazing. Visiting the Colosseum was pretty cool, but can be chaotic to explore, so a full access pass is recommended. The only downside of Rome was surprisingly the food and customer service. This is where research comes into play. We tried to stay away from tourist trap locations (after a few disappointing restaurants) and were lucky to have come across Le Tamerici.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Kristen and Meagan departed Italy and headed to the South of France for their grand finale. After flying into Nice, the couple took a 1 1/2-hour ride to St. Tropez, a gorgeous city full of yachts, restaurants, and shopping. Wanting to experience a unique event while there, they participated in viewing a global competitive sailing event. Their favorite restaurant they dined at there was Le Girelier.

“There are so many restaurant options in St. Tropez, but this is one to definitely not miss out on. It is very sexy and chic, and the food is SO good. There is a great seafood selection on the menu, and while you’re eating you have an incredible view of the yachts. It’s the full-on St. Tropez vibe.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Hoping to experience a nude/natural beach, Kristen and Meagan visited a beautiful beach in Ramatuelle, France called l’Escalet. However, when they arrived they found that everyone was fully clothed in swimwear. St. Tropez was also a place where the couple experienced rude treatment on their trip.

“It’s such a beautiful city, but the customer service is horrible and the way the people react towards people of color is ridiculous, yet unfortunately, not surprising. As a same-sex couple, we did receive several rude looks. Luckily, we’re content and didn’t let that kill our vibe. Italy (except for Rome, which was similar to St. Tropez) was amazing towards us, and fully embraced us. The Amalfi Coast is full of extremely friendly people. We were always complimented and people were curious to find out where we were from. I am excited to visit again in the near future.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

Kristen and Meagan found Monaco to be very unique and different from both Italy and France. Despite the tiny nation’s close proximity to both countries, it has a rich history and character all its own, and was the perfection location to wrap up their European holiday. They visited the Prince’s Palace of Monaco and the nearby cathedral, dined at Monte Carlo Nobu, and then enjoyed a ride along the Monte Carlo Grand Prix route. They ended their last night visiting the famous Monte Carlo Casino.

“You almost feel like you are stepping back in time and onto a classic movie set. Instantly upon arriving at the Monte Carlo Casino I felt like I was in a sexy classic James Bond movie. We played the roulette tables and 007 James Bond-themed slot machines. We felt like we were in the Jay-Z ’Show Me What You Got’ music video, which was shot in Monaco. It is full of luxury and very glamorous. The vehicles are all luxury for the most part, the taxis that took us around were all Mercedes-Benz.”

Photo courtesy of Kristen Rochelle

“I can truly say this was the luxury vacation of a lifetime for me. We had the perfect amount of time to explore and enjoy each location. We experienced a mixture of what the locals enjoy and bucket-list worthy activities. I am definitely planning to return to some of these locations, especially Sorrento, in the near future!”

Sharing the exact same birthday in December, Kristen and Meagan are currently planning their birthday trip. Jamaica or Turks and Caicos are at the top of their list. You can follow Kristen’s Instagram at @urbansocial, and Meagan’s at @henndrixx for more luxury vacation ideas.

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