Italy Travel Guide
I wanted to make sure to get this post written sooner rather than later so that everything was fresh in my mind to share with you.
Neil and I went on a 9-day trip to Italy that covered Rome, Florence, and Venice. Most of our big trips we find through Groupon, Living Social, or similar. We do this for a couple of reasons:
- It’s much less work on our part
- For multiple places, we prefer having someone who has experience with coordinating multiple modes of transportation
- It’s always been cheaper than making the same trip ourselves
We booked our honeymoon to Dubai and the Maldives this way as well and had an amazing time. We’ve also heard that the Airbnb’s in Italy are a great option and if we were to go back to any of these cities, we may choose that option since we are more familiar with the cities.
Everyone’s experience with travel is different. Some people like organized tours, some like to wing it, others go for food (ahem), and the list goes on. This is what we did on our trip and what we felt brought the most out of it, but you may choose to do things differently and that is totally fine. Travel is personal and what you make of it!
That being said, here is an overview of our time in each city.
I LOVE Roman history. I’ve always been fascinated with mythology and the rise and fall of Rome, so I knew I would love this city. We had two and half days here, which was the longest of any of the three. If I had to go back to one city, it would probably be this one just because I know there was more that we could have done.
(these are water fountains found around the city. also in Venice, but we didn’t see any in Florence)
This was the only city where we did some organized tours. One piece of advice if you want to see some of the more popular sites (this goes for any of the cities) is to purchase skip the line passes. The admission to these places is free, but sometimes the lines can reach multiple hour wait times. We bought our skip the line passes through Viator, and they have a ton of different package options that range from a simple pass to get you inside to more organized tours. We did some of each.
The Colosseum + Forum
We bought a 3-hour guided tour of both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Our tour guide was really excellent and we learned a lot about the history of both. I loved it and the hours passed in no time.
St. Peter’s Basilica (and dome)
St. Peter’s is absolutely BEAUTIFUL inside. We only bought the skip the line pass for this one, which came with a self-guided audio tour, but we abandoned that pretty quickly and just marveled at everything inside.
If you’re up for it, you should absolutely pay the 8 euros (10 to take the elevator) to go to the top of the dome. The view is incredible and even gives you an eagle eye view inside the basilica as well. You won’t be disappointed.
Something I remember from history class is that pantheon means “all gods.” I don’t know why that stuck with me, but I was excited to see it up close. There is an oculus at the top and when the light shines through it’s really cool. Here’s a picture outside which really doesn’t help you, but shows you I went. Ha.
We made time to head to Aventine Hill in order to look through the keyhole here. It lines up perfectly with the garden and St. Peter’s in the distance. My focus was off in the picture below, but if you look it up you can see the dome through the clearing.
You’ll see how I feel about art when we get to Florence, but needless to say I think the importance of these museums was probably lost on me. We went so that we could see the Sistine Chapel, but in order to get there we had to go through many, many hallways of different art exhibits. By the time we got to the Chapel, I was about art-ed out and ready to wrap up the day.
Other important sites:
- Trevi Fountain
- Spanish Steps
- Italian meals are meant to be slow. They are often more than one course and just plan on relaxing while you eat. We didn’t know this at the beginning, ordered quickly, ate quickly, and expected to pay quickly.
- You will be charged for bread. If you don’t want it, make sure to tell them when they bring it out. I was never impressed with any of the bread selections in any city, just FYI.
- There is often a service charge for restaurants. It’s usually a couple euros per person, but just a heads up.
- There is no tipping, so simply pay the total on your check! Same goes for cabs.
Honestly, the food everywhere was amazing. We chose our meals based on a combination of recommendations and Yelp searches. I wasn’t disappointed with anything we got, so honestly just doing a little research near where you’re staying or where you will be throughout the day is probably the best decision.
For the remainder of this guide, I’ll list the places that stuck out, but know that we went to many more that we found simply by looking up reviews.
Gelato — the gelato is obviously amazing. My favorite gelato place that existed in all three cities was Grom. SO GOOD. The one thing I was cautioned about by those who had lived in Italy was to avoid gelato shops that had abnormally high piles of gelato. It’s an indication that it’s not prepared there and not as fresh as ones that can be found in canisters or in open containers that are more level.
Florence is a romantic city. We were there for a day and a half, which was honestly the perfect amount of time. There is a lot of art to see in Florence, and to be honest, I just don’t love art. This city is home to the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery (housing Michelangelo’s David), but we didn’t go to either because we knew that we would appreciate other parts of the city more. If you’re an art lover, this city is definitely your jam.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (The Duomo)
This is a relatively easy hike up a hill that gives you a great view of the city. It gets most crowded at dusk because there are great sunsets, so keep that in mind when planning to go.
This bridge also houses a number of different stores, mainly jewelry, and is really a unique and interesting thing to see.
We almost didn’t make it here simply on oversight. I saw a sign as we were walking back to our hotel, and since we had several hours until sunset, we decided to go. It turned out to be one of the best decisions because this was probably my favorite part of Florence.
There’s also a museum which we didn’t have a chance to go to because the garden was closing, but I took a ton of pictures and explored all kinds of mazes in this giant garden. Even Neil, who isn’t a huge fan of gardens, loved this one.
- Buca Mario — $$$ Michelin-rated restaurant where we shared my first steak Florentine. To die for.
- All’ Antico Vinaio — this is a very famous sandwich shop — so famous, in fact, that they had 4 different locations next to each other and all had lines. You know I love sandwiches, but I will say that I’m not sure I would wait in line again. The ingredients were delicious, but the bread was so hard that it cut my mouth, which kind of ruined the experience for me.
The Cancer that I am, I adored Venice. There was so much water and I was mystified as to how everything was built amidst so many canals. Our forecast was meant to be rainy, but luckily it stayed sunny the entire time.
Bridge of Sighs
This bridge got its name because historically it would be the last place that prisoners would see before going to prison. They were said to give off one last sigh before they were taken away and no longer to see the beauty of Venice.
There’s really no one canal to see (aside from the Great Canal, which I actually like less than these), so I’m lumping them all together. There are so many canals while walking through the city that by the end of our time there I wasn’t sure if I had already taken pictures of ones we crossed. I loved them so much.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
This picture was taken atop the clock tower at St. Mark’s Square (put it on your list!), and was the last tourist stop we took in Venice. The inside was impressive, but after seeing St. Peter’s in Rome, I’m not sure any other one can compare.
Other important sites:
- Grand Canal
- Doge’s Palace
- Basilica di San Marco — we took the elevator up the clocktower to get 180 degree views of the city. Definitely advise (similar to St. Peter’s dome), but go early or late to avoid the line.
- Ponte di Rialto
Burano is a small island off the coast of Venice that was known for its lace. These days, it’s mainly known as a fishing island, so if you’re planning on having seafood while in Venice, I’d wait and get it here like we did.
The most magical thing about Burano is the color. Each house is painted a different color, an act that has carried on since they started doing so to be able to identify them from the sea. You can take a vaporetto (waterbus) from a stop near St. Mark’s Square to get there — one route (14) taking a little over an hour and another (12) taking about 45 and also stopping at Murano, which is known for its glass. The schedule is pretty easy to follow and can be found on their website.
The houses were the main attraction on this island, so I’m going to let them do the talking for me.
Some final notes:
- the hotels we stayed in did not provide conditioner or lotion
- some places you may visit might not have toilet seats. After some research, it seems that patrons would sometimes stand on the seats because the bathroom was dirty, which eventually led them to break. Because there is such a variation in Italian toilet seats (who knew), it became easier to leave the seat off once it broke. Just a head ups to strengthen those quads before you go. 🙂
- they don’t have Diet Coke, but they do have Coke Zero and Coke Light (closest to Diet Coke)
I know some of you have said either on here or on Instagram that you’re planning to visit Italy soon, so I’m happy to provide any further recommendations if you want! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Ciao! 🙂