Ultimate Argentina: Buenos Aires & Mendoza

Why Go: In Argentina they have a saying, “Como Gardel con guitarra eléctrica,” (Like Gardel with electric guitar). Referencing Carlos Gardel, an Argentine icon and the most famous tango singer who ever lived, it means “impossibly good.” It’s an apt metaphor for the entire country of Argentina, where even the most jaded travelers find reason to gush over impossibly beautiful landscapes, vineyards nestled under the majestic mountains, and of course, endlessly cosmopolitan and seductive Buenos Aires. A city that prides itself on being more European than Latin, “BA” cultivates an aura that is at once egocentric, elegant and effortlessly sensual.

Our Ultimate Argentina Journey will take you through the collection of neighborhoods that define this world-class city: the prestige and polish of the Recoleta area with its cafes; the steel and glass aspiration of the Puerto Madero district and its modernist makeover; the shopping nirvana that is the leafy Palermo neighborhoods; and the timeworn, bohemian splendor of San Telmo, the site of impromptu tango shows on intimate plazas, world-class antique shops and small, quirky cafes.

During your Journey, enjoy private tango lessons in a Belle Epoque-era mansion, visits to some of BA’s most popular nightspots, and dinners at coveted restaurants. Days will be spent like a local, biking past architectural treasures, cruising the Parana River on a private motor launch to dine at a riverside restaurant, as well as shopping for prized leather and wool goods, local music and maybe a Boca Juniors soccer jersey for your futbol-fanatic brother-in-law.

The short flight to Mendoza delivers you to another world altogether. Explore the main avenue, brimming with small cafes serving local cuisine accompanied by regional wine and olive oil, then for dessert, pop into one of the famed artisinal ice cream shops (think gelatos with an Argentine accent). Outside the city, taste the vintages and walk through the ripening vineyards of family-run bodegas that stretch-out to snow-topped Andean peaks. And for an adrenaline-fueled finale, we’ve arranged for memorable adventures, including guided mountain biking and whitewater rapids trips, that put you in the heart of this beautiful and rugged landscape. Como Gardel con guitarra electrica indeed…

Click here to see a more detailed itinerary. To book or for more information, contact our Travel Concierge at travelconcierge@dev.wandermelon.com or call a real live person at 949.466.3526 (9am – 6pm PST, -8GMT).

Slovenia: From Coast to Cabernet

Why Go: Central Europe at its most sublime, our unique itinerary is designed to give you unrivaled opportunities to explore the scenery, spas, food, wine and culture of Slovenia, with several days in Venice, as well as an option to add-on neighoring Croatia should you want yet more travel nirvana.

A Central European gem off the main tourist track, Slovenia provides the best of the Continent in one intimate, postcard-perfect setting. Pristine mountain lakes set below the soaring Julian Alps, historic, cosmopolitan cities, and of course the sun-drenched Adriatic are its main attractions.  Our itinerary is designed to get you to all the highlights of the country, including off-the-beaten path adventures such as treks in the picturesque Lake Bled region with it’s stunning gorges and waterfalls, bicycle tours past Alpine meadows and rafting on the Soca River before retiring to your mountaintop chalet.

Goriska Brda may seem like a mouthful now, but after you experience a wine-tasting tour in this bucolic region filled with vineyards and popular wineries, it will be a name that will always bring a smile to your face, especially after a restful night at a local wine estate.

Just across the Adriatic Sea lies Venice, the next segment of this memorable journey where you’ll experience timeless highlights like St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the small, jewelbox island of Burano, renowned for its brightly painted fishermen’s houes.

Back in Slovenia, you’ll explore the endlessly fascinating capital city of Ljubljana, with its thousand years of history, where medieval walls and parapets encircle Baroque and Art Noveau archticture and a modern city bustling with cafes, shops and museums. Not ready to go home? Available extensions following Ljublana include golf and wellness experiences set near the Carthusian monasteries of Pleterje; a countryside retreat getaway that includes horse back riding, cycling, and walking tours; an ultimate wine experience that features visits to top wineries and private wine cellars; and even an Alpine romantic retreat where you will be whisked away in a helicopter for dinner and an overnight stay at a private mountain-top retreat.

Our Croatia extension is the perfect pairing, showcasing what insiders are calling ‘the new Prague,’ the Mediterranean metropolis of Zagreb, brimming with museums, theaters, and stylish boutiques all with a backdrop of ancient history and gracious Baroque architecture.  There is also ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic,’ Dubrovnik, known for its gardens, squares, cathedrals and bustling cafes. And because a little sun and stylish fun is the perfect complement to the sophistication of Zagreb and Dubrovnik, our Journey also includes a visit to the Mediterranean island playground of Hvar, where you can finish you travels with sun-soaked flourish. To book or for more information, contact our Travel Concierge at travelconcierge@echelonexp.com or call a real live person at 949.466.3526 (9am – 6pm PST, -8GMT).

Venice, Italy

Sleep

La Residenza (Campo Bandiera e Moro – Castello 3608; +39 041 5285315)
The Hotel La Residenza, an affordable gem on the Campo Bandiera e Moro in Castello, is perfect for Venetian visitors seeking a hotel off the tourist track. This restored 15th-century pink marble palace stands in the middle of a quiet neighborhood square, with small rooms opening off a central hall. This location proves ideal for  sightseers as public canal transportation is readily available. Additionally, the hotel provides numerous tourist-friendly services, including a free visit to the Murano glassworks. Rates start at 175 Euros.
www.venicelaresidenza.com

La Calcina (Dorsoduro 780; 041 5206466)
The  halcyon La Calcina has always been an intimate and friendly pensione, frequented by scholars and authors over the centuries, including John Ruskin while he was writing “The Stones of Venice.” It is located right on the Zattere Waterfront, and offers sweeping views of the Giudecca Canal.  La Calcina, which has 29 unique rooms and apartments for rent, is a pleasant place in the summer and a cozy haven in winter.  Rates from 80 Euros.
www.lacalcina.com

The Pensione Accademia (Fondamenta Bollani 1058; +39 0415210188)
This seventeenth century villa in the Dorsoduro was once a private residence, and later, the Russian Embassy. Now, showcasing its artistry and history, the popular hotel sits  in the heart of Venice at the rear of the Accademia Art Gallery. The 25  rooms have a spartan quality, but each one offers enchanting views of the canal and the hotel’s delightful garden oasis. Rates from 80 Euros.
www.pensioneaccademia.it

Palazzina Grassi
Palazzina Grassi offers guests the opportunity to live the ultimate Venetian fantasy.  Philippe Starck has redesigned a classical 16th-century property into a magical five-star retreat overlooking the Grand Canal. The beds in the five apartment suites are situated in the center of the room, surrounded by transparent glass wardrobes and large backlit mirrors, so guests will get plenty of close up views of themselves.  Coffee tables made of steel and moonstone onyx, soft rugs, and natural stone in the bathrooms soften the look to create a modern but comfortable atmosphere. Rates from US $400.
www.palazzinagrassi.com

Eat & Drink

Trattoria Corte Sconta (Calle Pelestrin 3886; 041 522 7024)
Simple but trendy, this trattoria specializes in seafood.  The vine-covered courtyard and tavern-like interior belies the complexity and artistry of the pastas and shellfish.

Trattoria da Remigio (Salizada dei Greci 3416; 523 0089)
This reasonably priced, traditional eatery is prized by both locals and visitors, so be sure to book ahead. The Trattoria da Remigio is known for its seafood creations, but a healthy amount of mainland Italian dishes will satisfy anyone looking for something other than treasures from the sea.

Al Covo (Campiello de la Pescaria 3698; 522 3812)
A stroll away from the Piazza San Marco, the charming Al Covo welcomes tourists with fresh seafood and a wide selection of reasonably priced wines.
www.ristorantealcovo.com

Al Nono Ristorto (Santa Croce 2337; 041 524 1169)
Hidden away in a covered alley, Al Nono Risorto is another treasure. There is an overall feeling of simplicity, with an unpretentious interior, and outside seating in a pleasant courtyard garden. Simple and classically Venetian meals highlight the menu, and the kitchen serves some of the finest pizza in Venice. The busy staff remains friendly, and the good value makes this a charming spot to stop for lunch.

Linedombra (Dorsoduro 19; 241 1881)
This gourmet restaurant, perfectly situated behind the Church of the Salute, features modern cuisine with traditional values in a warm and elegant setting. A floating terrace provides an intimate view of the Giudecca Canal, a gorgeous spot at sunset, and also perfect for after-hours dining.
www.ristorantelineadombra.com/index_language.htm

Osteria Santa Marina (Campo Santa Marina 5911; 041 5285239)
Osteria Santa Marina sits close to the Rialto Bridge.  This reasonably priced osteria offers an updated take on Venetian cuisine. The rough, natural design uses wood, glass, and windows that overlook the campo. While the food will not disappoint, most people agree that dessert is the best part of the meal.

Alle Testiere (041 5227220)
The small but homey spot feels more like a local tavern than a restaurant. Justifiably, it’s earned a large local following. Owing to its limited number of seats, Alle Testiere can be hard to get into, but it’s worth it for anyone who wants to try their complex seafood dishes and sample some local wines.
www.osterialletestiere.it/home.html

Ristorante da Raffaele (San Marco 2347; +39 041 5232317)
This uniquely quirky but rustic ristorante serves up traditional Italian cuisine. The expansive interior is composed of banquet halls complete with medieval weaponry and an enormous fireplace. The eccentric interior is pleasantly offset by a charming exterior balcony with a fantastic view of the activity on the canal.
www.ristorantedaraffaele.com/index-eng.htm

See & Do

Venice has been a center for the arts throughout the ages, and opportunities to see ancient, Renaissance and contemporary art abound.

Punta della Dogana (Dorsoduro 2; +39 041 523 1680)
The Punta della Dogana is most notable for its transformation; what was once a 17th century customs house has become a 21st century art gallery, designed by Japanese minimalist Tadao Ando, who managed to update the structure without damaging its authenticity. The building houses the contemporary art collection of French fashion magnate Francois Pinault.
www.palazzograssi.it/en/punta-della-dogana/museo/punta-della-dogana-venice.html

Vedova Foundation (Dorsoduro 42; +39 041 5226626)
These old salt warehouses not far from the Zattere have been turned into exhibition spaces by Emilio Vedova and his wife to house the famous Venetian artist’s work.
www.fondazionevedova.org/en

Peggy Guggenheim Foundation (Dorsoduro 704; +39 041 2405411)
Housed in the 18th century Palazzo de Leone right on the Grand Canal, Peggy Guggenheim’s permanent collection holds Cubist, Surreal, European and American abstract and avant-garde sculpture works by some of the most famous artists of the 20th century.
www.guggenheim-venice.it/

Venice Naval History Museum (Sestiere Castello, 2148/A; +39 041 520 0276 )
Once the finest shipyard in the Western world, the Arsenale still serves as an Italian naval base. Although tourists aren’t allowed to visit the Arsenale without special permission, some of its warehouses have been converted into the Venice Naval History Museum. The museum showcases Italian ships from the Renaissance to World War II, along with other ships from interesting eras and cultures, like Chinese junks and Viking longboats. The museum’s bargain entry price, coupled with the Arsenale’s gorgeous architecture, including the famous winged-lion statue guarding the entrance, make this stop a must for history buffs.

Biblioteca Querini-Stampalia (Sestiere Castello 4778; +39 041 2711411)
For some peace and quiet amidst bustling Venice, the Biblioteca Querini-Stampalia acts as a perfect refuge. Offering more than just a space for books, the building was once a Renaissance palace that was converted into a library in the 19th century. Located between Rialto and San Marco, it stays open until 11 p.m., so it’s remarkably accessible. The library is noted for its redesign by postwar artist Carlo Scarpa.
www.querinistampalia.it/

La Fenice (Campo S. Fantin 1965; 041 786511)
Despite being destroyed by fire in 1996, this opera house was restored to its 19th century glory in 2004. Although controversy arose over using the previous plans to recreate the structure, the interior is a lush example of romantic architecture and design. Opera and symphonic music play regularly. Be sure to catch a performance here at one of the most famous theaters in Europe.
www.teatrolafenice.it

Interpreti Veneziana (San Marco, 2862/B; 041 2770561)
Headquartered in the beautiful San Vidal Church, the Interpreti Veneziana are a robust orchestra who frequently globetrot to musical venues as diverse as St. Petersburg and Tokyo, but always return to play in Venice. Don’t miss a concert here.

Shop

Venice is a city of open-air shopping, divided into streets. The Mercato is a sprawling food market just north of the Rialto Bridge, which offers a cornucopia of produce and freshly caught fish.

The main Venetian shopping street, Mercerie, links the Rialto and the Piazza San Marco, and provides a variety of fashion, art, masks, jewelry and sweets  for your window shopping and souvenir buying pleasure.

The island of Murano has been famous for centuries for its glass creations, and remains a required visit for any traveler trying to soak up Venetian history, or those waiting to purchase a lasting and authentic keepsake of this historic city.

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