The country of pizza, pasta and wine, what more can you ask of Italy really? A few things about Italy when you are visiting the major cities, it is crazy busy and things do not really move fast – so be prepared!
Over the week in Italy, we toured around experiencing Venice, Rome and Florence. A lot of history and a lot to learn when visiting all these cities, but the highlight? Of course the food!
The city built on a lagoon with more than 400 bridges and laneways that could have you lost for hours. We weren’t so lucky with the weather when we hit Venice, it was a day of nothing but rain.
So we invested in a poncho and tried our best to explore the city, but it wasn’t easy so really all we did was eat and drink spritz. BUT not all was lost because we had some of the most amazing food!
First was a seafood spaghetti at Osteria L’olandese Volante, followed by a prosciutto pizza at Ristorante Al Chianti – Cucina Tipica Veneziana – like actually incredible! Also, if you are looking for some amazing gelato, Suso is your place! The caramel and lemon biscuit flavours are delicious.
The two touristy things we did for the whole day in Venice was the St Mark’s Campanile bell tower, where the wind nearly blew us off and the Libreria Acqua Alta book shop, which was really quirky and cute but VERY hard to find.
To finish off the night we did have dinner at the popular Rossopomodoro Venezia San Marco, which was nice but for the wait time, isn’t really worth it.
Our time in Venice was short, cold and our gondola ride was cancelled but was a cute city to get lost in and explore, even more, reason to go back.
The capital of Italy, it did take quite a lot of driving time to reach this one. But once we arrived we did a little city tour and my thoughts? Busy and closed off. The city is pretty confusing and all the major areas of the city aren’t open and spacious but very crowded and small – to Rome’s credit, it is an old city.
The first day we arrived in Rome was Hayley’s birthday so it was check in to our really cool hostel called Yellow and then it was off for a delish dinner. The Bramble Bar did not disappoint and even gave Hayley a free piece of cake for her birthday and a shot! The service was incredible and the food even better, you have to check this place out!
We ended the night with an organised pub crawl, which was pretty poor compared to Krakow. For 20 EURO it was free drinks for an hour at one place where it took ages to get a drink and then the second place (which was the last destination) denied have of our Contiki group.
But if you are looking for a supper club, might be more your place, but to warn you, it is packed and probably not really worth paying the taxi fare to get to it – plus the 15 EURO to get in…
Our full day in Rome was spent at the Colosseum and the Colosseum park but because it is so busy, it was really hard to keep up with what the tour guide was saying. The Colosseum is worth checking out for the magnificence of the building itself.
When in Rome (as they say), you have to see all the iconic sights like the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps and the tiny laneways of Rome – or just spend it eating A LOT. If you visit the Trevi Fountain, throw in three coins. Three means you all come back to Rome and find love, the last means you will get married.
You can spend all day walking the streets of Rome, it is very exhausting! The metro is also fairly easy to navigate, so you can definitely save money by taking public transport!
Number one tip from Rome? Be prepared to have loads of people around you! Oh, and if you stay near Yellow get the crema flavoured gelato from Gello Gelateria Artigianale, it is life-changing!!
Heading onto Florence we stopped by the Vatican for a look around. I am not religious but it was fascinating to see and learn about all the actions that take place in Vatican City. It is worth having a look at if you have the time, the art inside is stunning.
My personal thoughts on Rome? I didn’t love it, I don’t know if I would need to go back to see more, but the food is good enough to go back for.
Florence is a much smaller city to Rome and very easy to navigate around. The drive to the city is stunning through the wine country but our hostel Hostel 7 Santi, wasn’t the nicest we stayed in, but that is hostel living for you.
Our first night was easily the biggest and all started with a small walk through the city with a free Contiki dinner at a pasta restaurant. Although the meatballs were delicious the food portion was tiny, but we made up for it in drinks at the karaoke bar Red Garter.
At happy hour you can get half-price drinks, which includes a 2L cocktail! The atmosphere at this bar is amazing. The karaoke is a bit of fun but if that isn’t for you, they have a bar at the front playing music as well.
Day two in Florence was a day to explore and it all started with learning about the leather produced within Florence. Known for their leather, you will see loads of stores selling leather goods – just make sure you know what you are buying, you can get ripped off. The people selling stuff on the street are not selling it legally and it is not genuine.
Must-see attractions around Florence include the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is the only bridge in Florence Hitler did not bomb. You can navigate your way around the city and see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore church – the dome has an observation deck giving you a view of the city.
Of course, you also want to see the statue of David and finish the day with some form of cherry gelato – it is incredible.
If you are in the Tuscany region you definitely want to go to a winery. As part of our tour, we headed to San Casciano in Val di Pesa for a wine tasting and three-course meal. We tried an array of amazing cheeses, pasta and the most tender beef cheek. The winery dinner was a highlight of Italy for me!
Florence is a small city with so much history and the love for leather, jewellery and wine! To get a feel for the city, join a walking tour to learn about the history or get lost in all the little laneways!
On our way off to Switzerland, we stopped at Pisa for a look at the leaning tower. Yep, that lean is insane but all the buildings built on that piece of land is super random! What is your best Pisa shot? Comment it below!
Overall thoughts on Italy
The biggest highlight in Italy was obviously the food and the Aperol Spritz! The service is a little slow in Italy, but that is because they know people will always come back to visit.
Italy is busy and crowded but the history and architecture is just amazing – there is a lot to learn in Italy. During my time here I managed to secure some freelancing work and get work done on the bus rides in-between.
However, one thing I have learnt whilst travelling – try to stay in one place for at least a week. It allows more time to explore at a slower pace and also get more work done.
But overall for Italy, I loved the alcohol and the food, I loved exploring but I also would love to see different areas of the country, the major cities are crowded and small.
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