This post will be the first in a series covering a recent trip to Italy. Even though we’ve travelled to some pretty unusual places around the world, one of the most touristed countries in the world somehow eluded us. Perhaps it was because it is so heavily touristed that it kept us away.
I can fully understand why so many people take their precious holidays there, and why they keep coming back year after year.
However, after now having experienced the charms of Italy, I can fully understand why so many people take their precious holidays there, and why they keep coming back year after year. To say we had an incredible time in Italy would be an understatement. We completely fell in love with the food, the culture, the history, and of course, the warm-hearted people.
Our Italy journey started in Rome, with a quick transit through Naples, down to Sorrento near the Amalfi Coast. After Sorrento, we made our way back north to Florence, then the medieval town of Siena in Tuscany. Missing the ocean, we headed back to the coast in Cinque Terre, and finally ended the trip in Milan.
Rome: 2 nights
Sorrento: 3 nights
Florence: 2 nights
Siena: 3 nights
Manarola: 3 nights
Milan: 2 nights
Before I go into Rome, I should say that we would make some changes to the itinerary if we had the chance to go back in time. We would spend more time in Florence and Milan and we’d either extend the trip or remove one city (sadly, probably Rome!). It felt like we were always checking in or out of Airbnb’s or hotels the entire trip and didn’t get the chance to really settle into one place.
Every person must visit Rome at least once in their life to see the Colosseum, Vatican City, and the Forum, and all the other beautiful historical sites. However, and this is a big however, even in September in the shoulder season of tourism, there are still a lot of tourists in Rome and it starts to feel a bit like an adult Disneyland at times.
I wish Rome would limit the number of tourists (including myself) so that people can really take in the sites and spend enough time to really learn about the history. Given the number of tourists, it becomes imperative to spend the extra few Euros and purchase the “Skip the Line” tickets at all the major attractions. Trust me, it will be the best €20 you’ll spend.
Even with “Skip the Line” tickets, things are pretty confusing at most of the sites, so go early in order to find your group or the correct entrance. I also recommend going for the audio guided tours so that you can get more out of the experience. Finally, I highly recommend booking the earliest times you can to avoid the crowds. We typically went to the sites first thing in the morning; by the time we finished and were exiting, the line-ups were blocks long in some cases.
We rented an Airbnb in the Via Giuseppe Mazzini area which worked out quite well. Taxis were easy to get, although we did have to use a taxi app a few times. We never found ourselves caught in traffic or anything like that so I feel comfortable recommending that area.
There’s not much to say about the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel besides that they are stunningly beautiful and a visual treat in real life. It’s one of those places where pictures don’t do it justice.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but the Colosseum is smaller than it appears in pictures. Even with it being smaller than expected, it’s still beyond belief that people built something so robust and high in that point in history. I especially enjoyed looking at the tunnel system and trying to fathom how they built all that.
We loved visiting this fountain and walking around the streets nearby. The fountain is impressive, especially at night, but expect large crowds, all angling for that perfect shot. I gave up trying and instead decided to capture the environment instead.
Even though we went in September when summer is supposed to be over, it was blazing hot while we were in Rome. The locals said we had caught the tail end of a heat wave, where temperatures had broken records. While we were there, it was in the mid 30’s with intense sun. As a result, we didn’t spend much time at the Roman Forum. If you go in the summer or when we did, be sure to bring a hat because there’s nowhere to hide from the sun.
We loved this area and the view, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to get there for sunset or to capture a better image. I’d love to go back there at sunrise or sunset to see how it looks.
Next stop is Sorento
On the morning of our departure from Rome, we rented a car from Europcar, with the intent to drive down south to Naples and then Sorrento. Things became tense really fast and I’ll explain why in the next post, but I’ll share that you should really think carefully whether you want to drive in Italy.