Travel Review: Italy
When my mom said she had to go to Italy for work, my dad, my husband and I all were quick to volunteer to accompany her. This would be my husband’s and my first trip to Europe and my parents’ second. I was a little nervous for the adventure, but it turned out to be an amazing experience. We had only 10 days to cram in as much as we could and it felt like we caught just a glimpse of everything to see! Read about our adventures below and check out the pictures we took in the slideshow above.
Our journey started in Venice. Navigating the airport to find the water taxi to our hotel was our first obstacle, but we were ultimately successful! My mom had pre-booked a private taxi and it was certainly the way to go. Our hotel was the Bauer Palladio and it was right on the water. (Note: Do not pull the string in the showers/bathtubs in Italy unless you want to receive a call from the front desk asking if you are okay. It is not a light switch! *face palm*).
After getting settled, we took the free hotel boat shuttle over to the main part of Venice. Here we saw San Marco Square, the Rialto Bridge, and rode in a gondola. The gondola ride was a little pricey but still worth it. I would suggest finding one on a side “street” and not right off of the Grand Canal. There was no line and our gondolier took us through the Grand Canal. When we were at the Rialto Bridge, I saw people on top of a building taking pictures and wondered how we could get up there. We ventured down the street and ended up at T Fondaco Dei Teseschi. This is actually a shopping mall with a rooftop viewing area! This is the BEST view of the city! Take the elevator to the top and you can get in line to go on the roof. You can also pre-book a time online if you so choose. Our hotel also had a free boat shuttle over to Murano Island where they make the Venetian glass. I highly recommend a trip over there to see how they make the beautiful glass chandeliers.
After staying in Venice for three days, we hopped on the train to Florence where we would stay for the remainder of our trip. Since we planned daytrips to other cities, we stayed at a hotel within walking distance of the train station and bus tour pickup. Our first daytrip was to Pisa. This was about an hour and a half ride on a nice double-decker bus. We paid to do the skip the line tour of the cathedral and the leaning tower. The tower is 293 steps to the top but definitely worth it. This was my favorite part of our whole trip. Make sure to get the ever-famous picture of yourself holding up the tower!
The next day, we got on a train to Rome. Here we did a tour of the Colosseum, which was a highlight of the trip. Make sure to arrive early because the area is jammed with people trying to find their tour guides. After the Colosseum, we ventured by foot to the Trevi Fountain to throw a euro in and make a wish. Next up was a tour of the Capuchin Crypt, Catacombs, and the Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano (aka “The Lasagna Church”). “No foto” here, but it was four hours of amazingness.
Being the wine lovers we are, my mom and I booked a daytrip to Tuscany for everyone. This was a two-hour bus ride through the beautiful countryside to the charming small towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Pienza. We enjoyed some wonderful food and Tuscan red wines on this tour. Even if you are not a wine lover, the scenery alone is worth the trip!
Our last daytrip was to Cinque Terre. These are five medieval fishing villages situated along the coast. We took another two-hour bus ride to get here. We then took trains and boats between the villages. We had a tour guide shuffling us around but there was also an option to explore the towns at your own pace. I think this might have been the better option since it seemed like we didn’t have much time to explore the towns.
After all the daytrips were complete, we had one final day that we used to explore Florence by foot. We made our way to the Boboli Gardens, Ponte Vecchio Bridge, and the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Donatello’s final resting place. My favorite stop along the way was the Florence Cathedral or il Duomo di Firenze in Italian. This was a GIANT cathedral, bell tower and baptistery. We got in the long line to see the inside of the cathedral, which was free. It was a 30-minute wait, but well worth it. We were also able to see the copy of the Statue of David in Piazza della Signoria. Our hotel concierge said the line to get in to see the real one is usually a three-hour wait. The copy was enough for us! Florence was a beautiful town. Get some gelato while you are there, too!
And that was the end of our journey! The food and wine were fantastic, the sites were stunning, the history amazing, and the bathrooms…well those were few and far between. Make sure you carry some euros with you at all times to pay for the public toilets, or water closets (“WC”) as they call them. Ciao! – Elizabeth S.