Travel: Italy 2018

Hey all! So I’m currently writing my first ever Travel blog post! I wouldn’t expect too many of them outside of Montana, but I’m pretty excited about this one! I want to say that this is not an “itinerary”, a list of “must do’s”, or anything along those lines! This blog post is just what I did, what I learned, where I stayed, etc! So I hope you enjoy it!

I traveled to Italy in early November. It was totally a last minute trip, I had some vacation days I had to use and couldn’t figure out where to go. So, I hopped on Google Flights, clicked the map, and started scrolling! Turns out Rome was the cheapest flight, so I went ahead and booked it! I had originally planned on a solo trip, but fortunately my mom decided to go! So- keep reading to see what we did!!

Rome:

We flew into Fiumicino. It was super easy to navigate and get around. We hired a private driver from the airport to the B&B we were staying in. He was so great, pointed out all the sights, and was overall a ton of fun! Made the trip from the airport go really fast.

Where we stayed: For the first few days in Rome we stayed at the Made in Rome B&B. I absolutely adored this place! It was on the very top floor of the building, but the building had an elevator luckily for us! The elevator could be finicky, just make sure you shut the door behind you! The building was quiet and the room was super comfortable! My FAVORITE part about this place was the rooftop terrace. Such a beautiful place to sit, have a glass of wine, and some delicious snacks! From the terrace you could see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and so many other beautiful sights. It was by far my favorite place to hang out after a long day of walking! We woke up SUPER early each morning so we didn’t get to participate in the breakfast, but the sunrise views were so worth it!

Our second round in Rome (the night before we flew out), we stayed at the Fabio Massimo Design Hotel. This was our “luxury” night, and it was very nice! The breakfast in the morning was sublime, and they even had their own barista! It was a great place to relax a bit before headed off towards the airport!

What we did: Rome is an amazing place. We got up early each morning to catch some sunrise photos as well as avoid crowds. I’m not one for crowds at all. One of my favorite things to do was just WANDER through Rome. You stumble upon so many historic sights, beautiful architecture, and fun shops! Fair warning- yes, I skipped the Vatican. I know, that’s crazy but I just couldn’t squeeze it in!

1. My #1 thing that we did in Rome was actually a cooking class! It was my moms suggestion and I was TOTALLY afraid it was going to be cheesy. We did the Shop, Cook, and Eat through AirB&B Experiences. It was my first time doing an experience through AirB&B and I totally loved it! Silvia was so much fun, and it was the highlight of my trip. We did the morning class and enjoyed Silvia taking us through the Campo de Fiori market, showing us her favorite market stalls and even getting us a discount at one of the stalls! I bought myself some truffle pesto- so delicious! For the cooking class we made two types of pasta as well as homemade Tiramisu. Silvia was even nice enough to make a short video telling Coby to not throw spaghetti against the wall anymore!

Mom & I cutting pasta!

 

Seriously how delicious does this look?

2. The Pantheon. Seriously this was so beautiful! I was not at all expecting this. The pictures make it look old and wonderful, but pictures do NOT do it justice! Wow! First off- this place is HUGE. Like, crazy unnecessarily big. We got there first thing in the morning and the entire square had maybe 20 people in it, and they opened early so we didn’t have to wait in line at all! NOW excuse me while I nerd out- this place is an engineering feat well before its time! The dome structure is both 142 ft tall and 142 ft in diameter. Along the outside of the building you can actually see the arches they built into the side walls to help support the weight of the dome! The only light comes through a hole in the top of the dome, the “oculus”. It has no glass covering it, so when it rains there are actually 22 holes in the floor of the Pantheon to help drain the water! So cool, and a must see in my book!

Van for scale, seriously this place is crazy big!!

 

The Oculus at the top of the Pantheon

3. The Roman Forum / Colosseum. Let’s face it, this is a must do if you’re going to the city! We went there straight from the airport, which was good because it was so warm and nice to walk! I HIGHLY recommend going in the Roman Forum entrance, it’s much less crowded than the Colosseum entrance. If you’re going to the colosseum, bet on a crowd! If you go to the Forum first you get to skip most of the line at the Colosseum. We spent only a couple hours here, but I would have gladly spent all day! If I went again I would have bought an audioguide or maybe even a tour guide. Some of the relics aren’t well labeled and luckily I had a guidebook to tell us about them! The only part I didn’t like about these places (besides the crowd) was all the buskers. Seriously- no one wants a selfie stick! Also you gotta watch out for all the “Instagram Models” walking around. Don’t be jealous of how great they look, instead just think how hard it is to walk in those heels!

Mom overlooking the relics of the Roman Forum

4. WANDER! Seriously this is the best thing you can do in Rome! I loved stumbling upon the random churches, dig sites, markets, and shops! We DID end up walking almost 10 miles per day (no, I’m not exaggerating), so be prepared for that. We got up early each morning to catch the sights before they got bombarded with other tourists. Try imagining the Trevi Fountain with almost NO ONE THERE. Yep, that happened, at 8 am! Don’t be afraid to sit and people watch on the Spanish Steps, admire Gucchi, Luis Vitton, and other glamorous shops on Via Condotti, and try to find the best gelato you can (by tasting them all of course!). Seriously, Rome is the city to wander about in. Each little ally has a shop, restaurant, or story to discover!

A beautiful bridge near Castel Sant’Angelo

 

Loved stumbling on this!

Best Food: Ahhhh my favorite part! The food! Right off the bat- Regoli Pasticceria is not to be missed! It’s an easy, short detour if you’re walking from the Center to the Train Station. There’s two doors, one is a little cafe and the other is the main bakery. Go in both! The cafe has delicious croissants in the morning, and the bakery has everything your heart desires! Check out the whipped cream buns- so good! Our cooking class host said that Tiramisu Zum is the best place for classic Tiramisu, although we didn’t get a chance to try it out! Also check out Pasta Chef for great pasta, any Venchi store (you’ll find them almost everywhere) for Gelato, and Beppe and His Cheeses for a snack.

To find good food, try to avoid places with too many pictures on the menu. Also places with “buskers” outside, trying to get you to come in. Search a little and you will find friendly, authentic food without having to feel like you HAVE to go to the ultra-touristy places just because they speak English! The best area for food is Trastevere, and it has a great night life!

Venice:

Where we stayed: A wonderful little B&B called Angeles Inn. We had the “Canal Room” and loved it! Had classic Venetian decor, as well as a lovely little balcony overlooking a canal! Super comfortable, and close to one of the main streets of shopping and food! Again, I didn’t stay for any breakfast! I was up so early to get out and explore!

What we did: Venice is a great place to just sit and enjoy, and explore on your own terms! Of course the major sights- the Bridge of Sighs, Basilica San Marco, and the Rialto bridge are worth seeing. I checked them out during the afternoon, but I of course went back during my early morning excursion! In my opinion- so much better! Venice was seriously my favorite place we visited, especially in the early morning!

1. One of the coolest things we did was gamble at the Worlds Oldest Casino- Casino de Venezia! I mean, how cool is it to say that you’ve gambled there? There is a $10 cover charge (that’s paid out in playing credit) and you have to show your passport, so be prepared! The Angeles Inn was literally right next door to this place so that was nice! Really a great place to spend an evening, and so fun!

2. Basilica san Marco- this place is stunningly beautiful! It’s also so very crowded. For best results I totally recommend going at Sunrise! It’s much less crowded, and the glow coming off the tiles is amazing! You’ll know you’re in the right place because of all the photographers around! We didn’t get a chance to go inside (have I mentioned how much I hate lines and crowds?), but it was still beautiful to stand and admire! Just watch out for the buskers, especially the Bird Man. He gives you food for the birds and they flock around you and land on you for photos. Yeah, the pics are probably cool but gross.

3. WANDER. I know, I’m sorry! But this was by far my favorite thing to do in all of the cities we visited! Venice is so small you can really see all of the sights by just wandering about. Plus, you stumble upon some wonderful things in Venice! It’s full of small artisans in little allies. We found this great pottery shop with a wonderfully grumpy cat. I purchased my favorite souvenir there! Just be careful wandering around Venice, a wrong turn can take you straight into a Canal and you’ll have to back track to a main road!

Venice Food: I of course had to try so much food here! As I said, we stayed on one of the main routes from the train station. So the food here was a bit touristy, but still SO delicious! Giant meringues, pizza slices on every corner, gelato at every turn! Venice is a tourist destination, so a lot of the places you will find here are “touristy”. Luckily for us tourists, they’re super delicious and most are reasonably priced! One of the places I went to even let me have Tiramisu for breakfast so I count that as a win!

Florence:

Where we stayed: This was by far my favorite place we stayed! We stayed at the Hotel San Giuliano Inn. The people here were beyond friendly, and even called my mom a few days before our trip because they were concerned about us making it to the Galleria in time to see David. They even had a fancy coffee machine so Mom could make her own cappuccino, as well as complimentary beverages. The room was so comfortable, and it was walking distance to many of the major sights. We had a tough time figuring out the lights- turns out you just take the little card out and leave it out and the lights shut off.

What we did: The main goal of going to Florence was OF COURSE to see David! But we also did a few other cool things, which of course included some major wandering!

1. Galleria dell’Accademia- we had to see the ever so famous David! Let me tell you, he did not disappoint! We were there pretty late in the evening, and actually got the last ticket time we could. Our train was later in the afternoon, and luckily for us it was pretty much on time. We got a quick cab to our hotel, where they checked us in at lightening speed so we could run to the Galleria. Luckily, it was only a 2 minute walk from our hotel. We had pre-booked our tickets online, so we just went where they directed us, received actual tickets, and was able to skip the line! From there we went directly to David. The coolest part about this exhibit I thought was the trail of Michelangelo’s unfinished works leading up to the masterpiece that is David. David actually has a ton of history involved in his making, transportation, and throughout the years. I highly recommend doing a bit of research before/during visiting for the best experience! Besides David the Galleria has many other very interesting exhibits to visit, so we actually spent longer here than I had thought!

Unfinished statues and visitors leading up to the famous David

2. Pizzale Michelangelo- this was by far my absolute favorite morning excursion. It was QUITE the walk from our hotel, but so worth it! I got up very early in order to get to the top and catch the sunrise. Once I got up to the top, the view itself was so rewarding! It was a foggy morning and standing with the David replica overlooking the city was so surreal. There was only 3 other people up there with me and we all just stood in silence and took it all in. So worth the hike up there!

3. The Duomo & Basilica Santa Croce- These two were my favorite churches we visited. We just visited the Duomo on the outside, but I’ll tell ya that was about all I could handle. To say the least- it makes a statement! It really is a masterpiece that took almost 150 years to complete! You can actually pay to go up into the dome and get an amazing view, but then there’s that crowd thing again! Basilica Santa Croce was not to be missed in my book. We got there pretty early in the morning so as not to be disturbed by the crowds. I’ll give you a hint- the main entrance is on the SIDE door, not what you imagine to be the main door. It’s a beautiful cathedral with people kind of buried all over the place. Literally, you’ll see names on the floor everywhere. The main part of visiting Santa Croce though is to visit the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo. Science and art converge in this place, and two of the most important people in history are entombed right across from each other! Their tombs are really something special to see!

Florence Food: We didn’t spend very long in Florence to get around the eating scene. After seeing David we stopped at a nearby place for some pasta, Mom had pastries in the hotel during my morning adventure, and I of course stopped in a little cafe near the Duomo for my regular morning creme filled croissant. The afternoon however, was a life changing moment. I absolutely insisted on visiting Trattoria Mario for an authentic Bistecca alla Florentina. Pay the extra money to go here, it’s worth it. Trattoria Mario is a little hole in the wall place, you’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it. Get there before noon if you don’t want to wait a bit for a seat! Tables are shared, so you get to meet some very interesting people! Rub elbows with people of different cultures while enjoying honestly one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. Also one of the largest!! Mom and I split it, which still made it an expensive-ish meal ($60 for steak, two salads, a bottle of water and a glass of wine), but it was so worth it! It’s a must-eat in Florence if you’re there!

How We Got Around:

Walking. We did so much walking in every city we went to! Mostly because of my absent-minded wandering just looking at things! We did walk about 10 miles a day, gotta work off that pasta somehow! We did take a cab 4 times- one from the airport to the first B&B, one from the train station to the hotel in Florence, one from the train station to Fabio Massimo, and one from Fabio Massimo back to the airport. The cabs weren’t too expensive at all. I highly recommend hiring a white cab, as Uber can be expensive in Italy (as well as supposedly illegal?). To get from city to city we took the high speed train from Roma Termini. I absolutely loved this! First off Roma Termini is a place I could spend a day in itself! It has so many different stores as well as great restaurants! The high speed train tickets were easy to book through TrenItalia, and we even got two for one tickets as well as a premium upgrade twice! I thought this was a really fun way to get to see the Italian countryside as well as quickly get to the places we wanted to see.

What I missed:

There were so many places I wanted to see! I of course wanted to see Naples and Mount Vesuvius, as well as Cararra and the marble quarries! Next trip perhaps! Here is a list of places that I missed that I wanted to go to! Maybe you can check them out and let me know about them in the comments!

Rome:

  • The Baths of Caracalla
  • Villa Borghese- we went to the park but didn’t get a chance to explore it much. It would be a stellar place for a picnic!
  • Borghese Gallery
  • Altar of the Fatherland- We saw this building, but you can actually go to the top of it! It’s a great place to watch the sunset (as we saw from our Terrace)
  • The Mouth of Truth- this one had a large line out in front of it but if I had more time it’s a totally quirky place I would have loved to visit!
  • Aqueduct Park- If I had more time I would love nothing more to rent a bike and bike to the park! It looks like a beautiful summer ride!
  • The Vatican- Next time I’m in Rome I will have the patience to see this place and all it has to offer!

Venice:

  • Doges Palace- You can actually go in here and walk across the Bridge of Sighs!
  • Burano- I wish I had more time to visit the outer islands! This colorful island looks like a beautiful place to visit!
  • Murano- I wanted to do a glass blowing workshop so bad!

Florence:

  • Gucci Garden and Museum- the birthplace of Gucci, how cool is that?
  • The Duomo- next time I’m going into that dome for sure!
  • Uffizi- I’m not much of an art person, but this is one of those must-sees!
  • The Boboli Gardens
  • Museo Galileo

What I learned:

  • Cats EVERYWHERE, especially in Rome. We actually stumbled upon a cat sanctuary and got a ton of petting in!
  • Don’t forget the room tax! Anywhere you stay in Italy will have a room tax, its usually 3-4 euros per person, per night
  • You can try to learn Italian, but most places and people speak English.
  • Don’t be afraid to bargain at markets! Most of the time you can get a little discount.
  • Early is better! Especially if you’re like me and hate crowds. There’s still people around, but not only will you get great sunrise views but you’ll also get some time to yourself!
  • Not all gelato is created equal! A hint to choosing gelato- pistachio gelato should be a brown-ish color, not bright green like we are used to!
  • Speaking of pistachios, they’re pretty famous in Italy! As well as lemons and lemoncello! Be sure to try some of these famous flavors! Try them in gelato, stuffed croissants, and other treats!
  • Patience. Yes, I learned A LOT of patience here! Especially in Rome. In many of the beautiful places, there will be crowds. There will also be an insane amount of selfie sticks, and “instagram models”. Everyone is trying to get that perfect picture! Just be patient and wait your turn, you’ll get your photo too!
  • Comfort is key. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, especially with all the walking. However, looking nice isn’t a bad thing! Wear comfortable but nice clothing, you’ll want to for your pictures anyways! One thing we noticed is that most tourists and locals don’t go out in gym shorts or sweat pants.

There’s so much to see in Italy! It’s a trip that I’ll have to go back and check out more!

Want to see more? Click here to check out my full photo album on Flikr! Let me know what you thought about Italy in the comments!

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