I didn’t know which country I wanted to talk about first but let’s be honest with each other, all of us have an unspoken bond with Italy – so why not start here? No life is complete without a trip to this beautiful country, a place that leaves you wanting to return as soon as you’ve left to continue discovering all it has to offer. Theres so much to do in Italy that it would take a time a lifetime to experience everything; so for now relax, take in the scenery and enjoy a gelato.
I went to Italy in June after spending a few days in Croatia with two friends (who are more like sisters) Ana and Andrea. I met both of these girls through a foreign exchange program for pharmacy students when they came to visit Costa Rica.
Andrea and I spent one week in Italy where we had the chance to visit Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice. So if any traveler has at least a week to spend in Italy, there are countless destinations available that will fascinate and inspire you to explore even more; and just like many places in Europe, you can do all of it by train – just like I did.
Here are some of my recommendations to inspire your Italian trip, all based off of my own personal experiences.
Rome is famous for being one of the most historically cultured and romantic destinations in the world and it doesn’t matter if you are visiting just to enjoy the great food or to see the city you will not leave disappointed. Rome wasn’t built in a day and clearly you cannot see it in one day, you need at least three.
This city is so popular that the amount of hotels already gives you enough work by just picking the right one for you. There isn’t specifically a best district to stay in, it all depends on your preferences and your style of travelling. Of course they are always hostels and Airbnb’s on every corner in Europe you just have to accommodate yourself according to your budget.
Rome is best enjoyed walking, the city is romantic and intimate and it’s the best way to find all of its hidden gems. But if walking isn’t your thing, there are always railways, buses, trams and subways that will get you quickly from point A to B; sometimes you will need to use one of these.
We arrived a Tuesday night and me being a Catholic it was important for me to see the Pope. He appears only on Wednesdays and Sundays and so I of course started my day visiting the Vatican trying to see him, but if you’re not religious and your plan isn’t to see the Pope you can always start your day differently. The Pope address his audience from one of the windows (it’s the one with the red curtain) in the Apostolic Palace on the right side of the Basilica and then I walked on the Via della Conciliazone all the way to the Castel Sant’ Angelo.
Because of the small amount of time that I had, I tried to see as much of the city as I could every day, so after my morning with the Pope I went to Piazza del Popolo. I highly recommend you going to the top of the park to see the spectacular view above. Afterwards I walked on the nearby Via del Corso, the street never appears to end, until I saw a small road that would lead me to the famous Piazza di Spagna. Take some time to sit on the spanish steps and enjoy the ambience! Now that you've spent some time resting, you can keep walking on Via del Corso all the way to the Trevi Fountain and toss a coin into its waters. Make sure you throw it over your left shoulder with your back to the fountain, as tradition. Hopefully you will have better luck than I did and when you go there the fountain wont be under repair or without any water. Even if it is, toss the coin! At least this gives me an excuse to come back to Rome.
A few minutes away, in walking distance, is the famed Pantheon; make sure that you don't miss visiting it. I couldn't wait any longer for a world famous Italian pizza, so I decided to sit and eat at a restaurant right next to the Pantheon itself. It was amusing to enjoy some, not so delicious pizza (maybe my expectations were to high), and watching all the tourists come and go.
If you're still up for some sight seeing (when in Rome, right?) you can go to the Piazza Navona to see the Fountain of the Four Rivers, the Piazza Venezia, visit the Capitolio and the Mon a Vittorio Emanuele II, the Foro Romando and end this entire walk at the Santa Maria Maggiore.
- Dress accordingly, who wants to wait hours in those long lines to not be let in simply because you decided to wear a slim dress? No one. Comfortable shoes are also a must.
- Make time - to get the most out of your trip I'd recommend 5-6 hrs.
- Where to start? My recommendation would be to do the museums first and then the Basilica and St. Peters square afterwards.
- Know when to go - the official museum opens from 9 am-6 pm Mon-Sat.
- For everyone who suffers from claustrophobia, the stairway in the Copula can get quite narrow.
- On the way out of the Vatican, don't forget to turn around and take a picture (especially in the golden hours of sunset).
Today was Vatican visiting day. Being the smallest independent state in the world, just 109 acres wide, I had to dedicate a whole day just to this place! The line to enter the Vatican Museum may be long but it moves fast. If you have an international student identification card, use it - they will give you a great discount!
Remember, you are entering into of the most important sites for the history of human civilization, you might be overwhelmed by all the beautiful works of art; especially Michaelangelos masterpiece - the Sistine Chapel. So, obviously, you will need a lot of time to see everything!
Finish your day by visiting the amazing St. Peter's Basilica and climbing the Copula (and all its 551 steps). Oh and even if you pay to use the elevator (5 euros), you're still going to to have climb 330 steps.
We start today visiting one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Roman Colliseum. The lines may seem eternal, but dont worry you can buy the same ticket to enter the colliseum at the Foro, where the lines are much smaller. The price of the ticket is 12 euros, works for 2 days and grants you access to the Foro, Palatino and the Colliseum.
After this trifecta, you can head over to Aventine Hill and see The Aventine Keyhole. The keyhole is a small and somewhat famous peephole that offers a beautiful miniturized view of the Roman city tops and a perfect view of the dome of St. Peters Basilica. No one seems to be able to say with certainty whether this was beautifully planned or a lucky coincidence. The address is Piazza del Cavalieri di Malta 3, Roma, 00153.
Trastevere is another place you can visit with various options of entertainment. You can either go and watch the sun set by the River Tevere, cross the Palatino bridge and view the Isola Tiberina, follow the setting rays of light through the narrow Roman pathways or you can dine at the restaurants lining the streets once the night comes, any of these are options to remember. In my case, I had one of the best pasta dinners of my life followed by a delicious gellato at the Frigidarium Gelateria Artigianale as the sun set.
We left Rome early in the morning. After about 3 hours in train we arrived in Pisa. It was unfortunately raining, which dampened my motivation to stay longer than necessary.
We went to store our luggage at the station and then took a bus to the famous leaning tower. Just like many others I only spared a small amount of time for this visit, but if I would have known what it was like I would have stayed at least a full day for exploring.
This place is world famous for its pictures of people posing and pretending to “hold up” the leaning tower. It is hilarious to see hundreds of people, all in different positions, trying to capture that perfect picture.
I have to admit I was one of them, and it took me at least 20 attempts just to get an acceptable shot.There was always someone walking in the way or I would miscalculate my pose, but thats part of the experience! Take as much pictures as needed and have a fun time.
Afterwards I suggest visiting the Baptistery of St. John to admire the dome. If you are like me and only planned to spend the morning here, finish your tour walking though all the small shops nearby. I couldn't leave without one of the classic Pinocchio pens.
People say there is no such thing as ¨love at first" sight but the moment I entered this city I fell in love instantly. Be ready to eat a lot of gelato, and I mean a lot of gelato. I had the best pasta of my life at the The Borgo Antico restaurant. It sometimes can get quite full but there is another restaurant next to it which is equally delicious.
It is possible to see the entire city in one day and can be done entirely by walking. Every street is full of history and loaded with subtle beauties which will make you fall even more in love of Florence. Just by typing these words makes me want to go back as soon as possible.
So lets first start with the Florence Cathedral. The streets of Florence seem to surround it entirely and every time you look down a road the Cathedral looms in the distance. Take your time to appreciate it and just as in the Vatican City make sure to dress appropriately if you are going to go inside. The lines can be long but the wait is definitely worth it. Don't forget to visit the duomo for the view.
If you want to see the famous statue of David by Michaelangelo, its only a few streets away from the cathedral in the Galleria dell´Accademia. Because I didnt reserve enough time I couldn't see the real statute but rather its copy in the Piazza della Signoria outside the Palazzo Vecchio. Then go and visit the Uffzi Gallery, which is just next door and is one of the most celebrated museums in the world.
Afterwards you cant pass up the classic Ponte Vecchio. A quick tip, go to the Ponte Alle Grazie for a picture with this emblematic bridge.
To watch the sunset the best place is at the Piazzale Michelangelo. Be ready for a lot of stairs but I promise that the view is incomparable. You could sit there for hours, I certainly did.
Once the night came we took a train to Padova to spend the night. I wasn't able to see the whole city, for lack of time, but I have to highlight and recommend having dinner at the La Scuderia Abano.
Gondolas, canals, and roads without exits. Venice is a city of romance where everything seems like a painting. Masks and murano are everywhere and you cannot leave without a souvenir. That being said, there are so many beautiful and tiny shops in all the streets. I bought Dylan an old fashioned ink pen and matching ink in an old pen shop. I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie, everything has its own piece of magic here.
Getting lost is impossible to prevent and its going to happen, but be ready for it and enjoy the moment. Pay attention to the details of all the streets. Its too hard to plan out an exact route to visit most of what Venice has to offer but don't leave without seeing: Piazza San Marco, Basilica di San Marco, Torre dell’ Orologio, Palazzo Ducale, Ponte dei Sospiri, Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and watching the Grand Canal from the Ponte di Rialto.