Are you guys ready to tour Italy in 11 days?! Oh my goodness, it’ll be the trip of a lifetime. You guys are going to love it!
This blog post has been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to share our Italy trip itinerary with you guys for over four months now, ever since we got back from Italy (August 22, 2017). Sorry it’s taken me this long to post, but hopefully you’ll find the content helpful and insightful even if it’s coming to you a bit late.
Our vacation was 13 days long, where the first and last days were both spent traveling to and from Italy (Boise-Venice, Naples-Boise). If we subtract those 2 days from our entire trip duration, we are left with 11 full days of Italian exploration.
11 days was a great amount of time for our trip; we felt that it gave us enough time to see a lot of the places we wanted to see and do a lot of things we wanted to do, without feeling like the trip was too short.
Like us, most people can’t take much more than two weeks off from work at a time, as life is busy and people have responsibilities. But if you can manage 13 days off and you’re wanting to explore Italy, this is the perfect post for you.
Without further ado, let me take you through our Italian journey!
This blog post will cover:
- How to prepare
- What to pack
- Where to go
- What to do (transportation, hotel, sights, eats)
There is so much to cover, so let’s get started!
1. How to Prepare
Request time off work
This is a no brainer. No time off work-ey, no time for play-ey.
If you’re your own boss, determine which days make more sense for you to leave on a trip without stressing about deadlines and commitments. If you have a boss, make sure you speak to him/her to figure out which dates make most sense for you to leave the office. Plan ahead and leave everything taken care of, so that you’re worry-free while on vacation.
In our case, our vacation time highly relied on my husband’s work. He has a virtual reality startup and it’s crucial for him to direct employee’s work on the daily. To plan for our trip, he made sure he communicated his intention to leave for two weeks and left a bunch of stuff taken care of prior to leaving; he also made himself available via phone or email while in Italy.
Determine what kind of traveler you are
Here is where everyone is different. Some people like to be structured and organized when they travel and some people like to play it by ear and see where their adventure takes them.
Find out what kind of traveler you are and what kind of experience you want. Do you want to see as much as you can in the limited amount of time you have in that country? Or do you want to be a free spirit, spend time talking to the locals and go from there? There is no right or wrong, so pick according to your liking.
For us, we like structure. We feel that with structure we are able to take full advantage of the limited time we have abroad to see all we want to see. Especially in a country like Italy that is packed with history, scenery, art, etc.
Get recommendations from friends & family
Do you have friends or family members who have been to the country you’re wanting to visit? If so, take them out for a coffee date to learn from them as much as possible. Ask them questions and let them give your smart recommendations.
If you don’t have people close to you who have been to the country you’re wanting to visit, no biggie! Find blog posts (like this one!) that can help guide you. Bloggers are great and unbiased resources that have a lot to share.
For us, we had my brother as a great Italian resource. He had been to Italy many times, so he was our perfect suspect! We got on the phone with him and he was able to recommend places he thought we’d enjoy the most. He said that, knowing us, he knew we’d love Venice, so Venice had to be the first place we went to and spent the most time at. He recommended Florence as the next stop, because it’s a must for all things architecture, art, food and wine. He then recommended Rome, because of it’s history and art, but said to spend the least amount of time there as he knows we don’t necessarily enjoy big cities. Lastly, he recommended the Amalfi Coast, where he knew we’d find cute towns by the ocean, with romantic sceneries and great seafood.
Learn about the country
There is nothing better than building up the anticipation to travel to a place. It gets you extra excited about the location and it makes you appreciate your trip THAT much more.
A great way to do this is by learning as much as possible about the place, about its people and its history. Study up on the main attractions and the cool events that are coming up. Heck, even watch fun movies filmed in the cities/towns you plan on visiting, so you can get a feel for all that awaits!
Once we had a good idea of the stops we wanted to take, we went to Barnes & Noble to browse through all of the visit-Italy books.
The one that caught my attention the most was called Best of Italy by Rick Steves; it included all the places we wanted to visit, good maps and great recommendations. We bought the book and I read all about Venice, Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast for the next two weeks. My husband and I also watched a few classic movies filmed in Italy prior to our trip, and we loved every second of it: Roman Holiday, Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat Pray Love, The Italian Job, Just Married.
Book flights, hotels & trains in advance
This is a crucial step, because without these, your trip would obviously never happen. You need a flight to get there, you need places to stay and you need to figure out how to go from one place to the next.
By booking your trip two to three months ahead, you’ll get better rates and a better selection. Here is where organization and structure come in handy, as nailing down your trip’s itinerary is an important step in completing bookings in advance.
Since we were set on Venice, Florence Rome and Positano, I began looking into flight and hotel options. Nailing down how long you want to stay at each location is important for this step; you’ll need this to know how many hotel nights to book at each location and how much time you’ll have available in each place to prioritize sightseeing.
Deciding how long you’re going to be at each city is also important so that you can figure out your transportation needs.
We figured out that trains was our best form of transportation from one city to the next, so we booked our trains in advance via TrenItalia. We booked all of our train rides in 1st class, because the price difference wasn’t much, and the seats were much more comfortable and spacious.
2. What To Pack
There are three little things that you must bring with you in your carry-on luggage and guard like gold, as without these you’d be stranded.
- Valid Passport (and visa, if applicable)
- Credit Card(s)
When traveling internationally your passport is crucial, and when traveling to places that require a visa, your visa is crucial too. It’s important to make sure these two are not expired, as you don’t want to run into any surprises at the airport.
Credit cards are important as all hotels require a credit card to keep on file during your stay, and you’ll also need it to pay for tours, food, etc.
Cash is important, because there are quite a few places and transportation services that simply don’t take credit cards. Plus, cash is also great to have on hand for tipping.
Consider the weather
Once you know all the places where you’ll be stopping, do these two things:
- Check the 10-day weather forecast
- Check the annual weather averages
The first will let you know what the forecast looks like for the next few days, which is great because you want to pack about three to four days prior to your trip. Not before, because you may have to use some of the things you put in your bag before you take off, and not too much after, because it could add unnecessary stress before your trip.
The second will give you a great overall idea of what the cities’ weather averages are, and allow you to prepare for those days for which the 10-day weather forecast doesn’t show.
Packing based on the weather is ideal, as you’ll bring clothes and accessories that will allow for a more comfortable stay.
Another thing I like to do is pack based on the activities we’ll be doing. You want to be equipped for all the fun things you’ll be a part of, and be well dressed for the occasion.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Will I be walking and touring around?
- Will I go swimming?
- Will I workout?
- Will I go on fancy dates?
Then, based on your predictions, bring clothes and accessories to match those activities. It is better to have more than less, so think about this, but try to estimate as best as possible, since baggage weight is also an issue and you don’t want to travel too heavy.
Consider the culture
There are places in the world that have cultures very different than our own. A lot of times, culture (or religious believes) dictate the way people dress. Make sure you do a quick online search before your trip, to learn a little more about the culture you’re going to be visiting. Resources like Best of Italy by Rick Steve contain this information.
If you plan on visiting churches, sanctuaries or any other sacred places, there’s usually a dress code you’ll have to adhere to in order to get in. Find out what those are and plan on packing an outfit that respects those customs.
This is not a crucial piece of the puzzle, but it can sometimes make our travel experiences that much better. Especially for us girls, since, for the most part, we like to feel pretty everywhere we go. If you want to feel extra special on a date night while on your trip, be sure to pack cute clothes that make you feel just that: special!
And since it’s never a good feeling to feel overdressed or underdressed in a situation, do a quick search and figure out what people are wearing in the cities you plan on visiting. You’ll find that fashion bloggers love to share their outfits while on vacation, so there are a ton of great resources out there that can show us what’s “in” and what’s not.
Electronics are super essential in our modern world. Most of us need our:
- Noise cancelling head phones (essential for movie watching)
- Tablets (essential for movie watching & reading)
- Laptops (for work, in case you have deliverables)
Before you leave on your vacation, make sure you pack all of the electronics you think you’ll need.
Important: remember to pack each device’s charger & to request international internet access to your provider (this is HUGE, especially if you want Google Maps to guide you and if you want to access apps that can give you restaurant ratings).
Also, if you’re traveling to a foreign land, where electric sockets are different from America’s, be sure to buy an adapter in order to be able to charge your stuff. Amazon sells some great ones; this is the adapter I bought for our Italy trip.
I recommend packing any and all electronics in your carry-on, as we’ve had valuables stolen from our luggage before when traveling internationally.
3. Where To Go
Now we’re at the fun part of the post! Where I share with you all of our Italian stops, where we stayed, how we travelled from place to place, what we did and where we ate.
Here’s how our 11-day Italy trip was broken down:
- Arrive in Venice
- Day 1 – Venice
- Day 2 – Venice
- Day 3 – Venice
- Day 4 – Travel to Florence
- Day 5 – Florence
- Day 6 – Florence
- Day 7 – Travel to Rome
- Day 8 – Rome
- Day 9 – Travel to Positano
- Day 10 – Postiano
- Day 11 – Postiano
- Fly Home
You guys ready to be taken on a journey to the best spots in Italy? Here we go!
Oh Venice. What a dream it was! So rich in history, unique and beautifully constructed. Like a work of art.
It’s literally a place that I would only think to see in my dreams.
Yes, our first stop in Italy was Venice. And as soon as we arrived to the airport, we could feel the humidity that only places close to the ocean have. The humidity alone got us way excited about all that was to come.
We had no idea what kind of transportation we’d need to get from the airport to our hotel (hotel was located in St Mark Square), seeing as though Uber does not exist in Italy and there are no actual taxi cars.
So once we had our bags with us, we approached the closest information center and asked where we could go for water taxis. They directed us to a mini transportation hub and after telling them where we needed to go, they recommended a few options.
We took the Alilaguna boat from the airport to the St Mark Square area stop, which was only a two minute walk to our hotel. The photo below was taken from the Alilaguna boat, and it was pretty much our first sight of Venice.
Here’s all the transportation we took while in Venice:
- Alilaguna airport boat. This is what we took from the airport to our hotel. It’s not a taxi, as private taxis were about €150 per ride, but it was also not the ATVO coach, which would’ve taken forever to arrive to our hotel with all the stops it makes. The Alilaguna was a convenient “group boat” that had only a few stops before our hotel.
- Walking. We walked everywhere! It felt so great to tour around by foot. We experienced a lot this way, and got “lost” in Venice’s cute back streets. There is so much to see by foot and so much to take in. With Google Maps available in our phones, it’s so easy to navigate by foot.
- Vaporetto. This is the most common form of transportation for all of those who work, live and tour Venice. It goes all around the island of Venice, and also to nearby islands, like Murano and Lido. It’s affordable and convenient. We took the Vaporetto whenever we needed to go far distances. It felt really safe and it was extremely well run.
- Water Taxi. We only took a water taxi once, when we were headed back from our hotel to the airport to catch our flight to our next Italian destination. We took a taxi instead of taking the Alilaguna or the Vaporetto, because it was a very hot day, we were a bit tired and we had a lot of bags with us. Our hotel’s concierge called a taxi and fixed the rate for us, so we knew to trust the taxi.
- Gondola. We only took a gondola once, at the very end of our trip, literally two hours before we needed to head to the airport. I recommend taking a gondola ride at night, after a nice meal and perhaps with a bottle of wine, because it makes for a more romantic scene. Also, be sure to get your own gondola; even though it’s more expensive, it’s private and allows for you to customize your ride as you wish (music, history lessons, etc.).
We stayed at the Bauer Il Palazzo, a 5-star hotel.
It’s a gorgeous and classy hotel, right next to a gondola stop by the water. From our room we could hear the gondoliers signing in the morning on the water. DREAMY. Breakfast came with our room and it was literally the best hotel breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Their buffet was excellent; lot’s to chose from and very fresh.
The Bauer Il Palazzo hotel was perfectly located, close to St Mark’s Square, but far enough to where it felt private and you could not hear a lot of noise.
This is a 5 star hotel and it shows. Our room had classic Venetian decor and a very “European” feel to it. The bathrooms had amazing toiletries (some made the old venetian style, like the merchants used to sell them back in the day) and came with bathrobes and slippers (which are a MUST for me at hotels).
Also it was the only hotel in Italy, from the hotels we stayed in, that had a decent gym! Oh, and can’t forget to tell you: the view? AMAZING.
On our first morning there, which was coincidentally my birthday, we woke up at 4am since we were so jet lagged, and ran to St Mark Square to watch the sunrise. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The Square had not one person when we arrived and it was beautifully quiet, peaceful and grand. I highly recommend this experience!
Our stay in Venice was our longest stay from all the stops we had during our trip. We had 4 full days in this beautiful city and we did a lot.
We mostly walked and “got lost” in the streets of Venice. Getting lost is a term that a lot of travelers refer to as what happens to you when you’re visiting Venice.
All the little passageways, streets and bridges, through which you roam, can get tricky and confusing to navigate.
Now, getting lost must’ve been what happened to visitors back in the day, when smart phones were not in the picture. With Google Maps, we felt we knew exactly where we were and where we were going at all times.
It was wonderful to put comfy shoes on, and hop out of the hotel after breakfast, to explore every Venice corner. The weather at the time of year we visited (August) was perfect; it was hot, but the days were sunny and the skies were blue, which allowed us to see everything perfectly clear.
What we visited:
The Grand Canal is sort of the main “street” on the island, so this is something you won’t miss even if you tried.
If you hop on a Vaporetto, starting at the train station (Ferrovia), you’ll be able to tour around the whole island and see palaces, churches and museums from the water. If you want, you can hop on and off at every stop to explore a bit further, until you reach the San Marco Square stop. This is a must to see Venice at a high level!
St Marks Square (Piazza San Marco)
This one is one of my personal favorites. Maybe because it was only a few steps away from out hotel, which made it super convenient for us? However, I feel like the main reason we loved it was due to all the beauty within.
While at the square, cover the following:
- Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco)
- Built in the 11th century
- The most gorgeous basilica I’ve seen in my life
- Where the body of Saint Mark is actually buried!
- Entry is free, but you can skip the line if you reserve online (€2)
- To avoid lines: go early (9am) or late (6pm)
- Attire: must cover shoulders and knees
- Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
- Home of the ruling duke
- Most powerful half-acre in Europe for 400 years
- Wallpapered with masterpieces by Veronese and Tintoretto
- €18 combo-ticket includes Correr Museum
- To avoid lines: buy combo ticket at Correr Museum across the square, then go straight to Doge’s Palace turnstile, entering at the pre-paid tickets entrance.
- Correr Museum
- Great place to get an easy overview of Venetian art and history
- Quiet place to go for when the piazza is too crowded and/or hot
- €18 combo-ticket includes Doge’s Palace
- San Marco Campanile
- Best view in Venice! (especially at sunset)
- Replaced old tower that crumbled in 1902 (1,000 years after being built)
- To avoid lines: go early (9am) or late (6pm)
- Bridge of Sighs
- Bridge that connects the Doge’s Palace with the prison.
- It’s name’s history: supposedly a condemned man would be led through the bridge to the prison, take one last look at glorious Venice, and sigh.
- Pretty cool to walk through.
- You can get there through the Doge’s Palace.
This is Venice’s top museum. It’s full of highlights from the Venetian Renaissance era. €9 and free every 1st Sunday of the month. Least crowded on late afternoons after 5pm, and on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sunday mornings.
This is one of the most famous bridges in the world! And for good reason, because it’s absolutely gorgeous; it’s grandiose, yet delicate. It’s a thick bridge that crosses the grand canal, which has shops along the way, and a nice market that surrounds the bridge (where I personally got some amazing spices that I am still enjoying; been adding them to my zoodles and using them for rubs…totally recommend you get some!)
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
This is not a must, but something both my husband and I really enjoyed. It’s a cute palazzo turned into a museum, which is owned by Peggy Guggenheim, hence the name. You’ll see art from some of the best: Picasso, Dali, Pollock. It feels like a home, because it’s a warmer space and it’s very welcoming, but it’s definitely a place to see art, as it has some really unique pieces that are worth the stare!
We were surprised at how little foot traffic this place had. We were able to get in and out no problem and it felt like we had an attraction all to ourselves. It is a gem and it is definitely worth stopping by, especially if you don’t love crowds. Here you can see great Renaissance art, from some of the masters, such as Donatello, Bellini and Titian. And the cool thing is that the art is displayed in the place it was made for: a church.
For breakfast we only ate at our hotel (Bauer Palazzo), since their breakfast buffet was included in our stay and it was one of the most delicious breakfast buffets we’ve had; their cheese, bread, coffee, eggs and fruit were outstanding.
But for lunch and for dinner, we ventured out. Venice was one of my favorite places to eat in all Italy, because their fish was fresh and their side dishes were light. I love eating meals that satiate my palate, but that don’t leave me feeling too heavy, and Venice definitely delivered.
Our favorite Venice restaurants:
- Chat Qui Rit – Lunch and wine. We went here for my birthday at around 3pm for some wine and tapas. It was a super quaint space, very cozy and friendly. We ordered great wine, a delicious cheeseboard and split a light pasta dish. A fun little spot for apps and drinks that is quiet and welcoming.
- I Rusteghi – Lunch and wine. We went there for lunch after a lot of museum visits. We were the only ones there and got amazing service! We ate the freshest and most delicious caprese salad we’ve ever tried, along with a great Italian cheese board. We paired our food up with wine from the area, and we were in heaven.
- Ristorante Lineadombra – Dinner. A quiet setting that is very romantic and right by the water. The restaurant serves upscale Venetian food and offers a great wine list. We enjoyed wine, cheese, house made pasta and a salt-naked whole fish.
- Ristorante Al Conte Pescaor – Dinner. Cute little place, tucked in a quiet corner. Service was fabulous, very attentive. We enjoyed wine, caprese salads and a vegetable risotto.
- Antico Martini – Dinner. We went here for dinner to celebrate my birthday. It was recommended by our hotel’s concierge. I tasted the best gnocchi (ricotta zucchini gnocchi) I’ve had in my life here, so if you’re into gnocchi, you must try this place. The branzino was fresh and outstanding too, and the ginger carrots paired with my entree were out of this world. An amazing dining experience.
- Suso – Gelateria. Hands down the BEST gelato we had in all Italy. You’re going to have to trust me on this one! Their gelato is sweet and creamy and everything Italian gelato should be. They usually have a line, so it can be a bit of a wait (worth it!).
- Caffe Florian – Coffee and drinks. This little gem is located on the Piazza San Marco, and it is a great spot to go to at night after dinner to grab coffee and drinks. They have a lovely band playing live music outside and the ambiance is wonderful.
Venice captured our hearts completely. It was the first city we visited in Italy, (and the first city I visited in Europe), so Venice will forever be special to us. It’s also a place that is unlike any other place on Earth: a city built around water, where people use boats for transportation, where palazzos exist instead of buildings and where some of the greatest works of art exist.
Our 2nd Italian stop was Florence. We were sad to leave Venice, but very excited to explore other regions of the country.
While in the train from Venice to Florence, we could already see the difference in the landscape and lifestyle between the two locations; sort of a “foreshadow” of what was to come.
We took TrenItalia from Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze S.M. Novella. The entire train ride was a little over 2 hours, so not long at all, and the ride was extremely pleasant. In the train we got free prosecco and snacks, and we watched the movie Casanova, which was perfect because the movie was based in Venice and we loved seeing all we had learned about displayed on the flick.
Once at the train station, we took a cab to our hotel. Our hotel was DREAMY. A big villa close to Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooked the entire city. Our hotel had literally the best view in all of Florence. We were so blessed to have been able to have the view we had every morning and every night; it felt as if we were part of a real life Italian romantic movie.
While in Florence, we basically used the hotel’s shuttle to get back and forth from the hotel to the heart of Florence, and then just walked.
We walked all around; Florence is not that big of a city, so we were able to manage just fine. Plus, this way, we walked off all of the gelato we enjoyed (which Florence is known for) and all of the delicious Tuscan food we ate.
I think we took a cab once or twice, but that was it. Be prepared to have cash in your pocket, for things like cabs and such, while touring around. It’s always a good idea.
We stayed at Villa La Vedetta, a 5-star hotel.
It’s a beautiful villa, close to Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks all of Florence. If you like quiet, serene, classic and elegant, this is a good hotel for you.
It’s located only 5 minutes away (driving) from the center of Florence, and they offer a complementary shuttle that can take you to and from, which operates every hour on the spot.
The beauty of this hotel is that it has the best view of Florence, which you can enjoy from the comfort of your bedroom window or from their main deck area where they serve breakfast.
It was amazing to wake up, open the shutters and get that gorgeous fresh Florence view every morning simply by opening our window.
It’s really quiet too, so we were able to sleep in and feel completely relaxed.
The hotel offers a great little oasis, with gorgeous gardens and it’s own pool. A perfect place to relax and/or play with your family. We also enjoyed their classy restaurants (for breakfast and lunch) and took advantage of it’s location to get some nice, long walks around the area.
The staff was extremely helpful and they tried to make our stay as magical as possible; helping us book the best restaurants and a fabulous wine tour in Tuscany.
We re-read the Florence part of our Best of Italy by Rick Steve book, to remind ourselves of all of the places we knew we wanted to visit while in Florence (recommended by Rick Steve).
This was a great thing to do, as it allowed us divide our time well to be able to tackle most of the places we wanted to see without the stress.
What we visited:
This is one of the first places we visited in Florence, since it was so close to our hotel. It’s a large plaza that has a panoramic view of Florence. The square was dedicated to Michelangelo, and has bronze copies of some of his marble works: the David and the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo.
They sell food and drinks there too, and I personally think it’s a romantic place to go with your honey and enjoy the view. Especially at night. This is free; doesn’t cost anything.
This bridge has been standing since Roman times. And while Rome “fell”, Florence didn’t, which allowed this bridge to remain a bustling trade center along the river.
Right before the sun sets, get yourself and your honey a gelato, find a quiet spot near the bridge by the river and spend some quality time together staring at this romantic sight. This is free; doesn’t cost anything.
We went to the Duomo twice. Once, on our first afternoon in Florence, to grab some gelato and sit outside on the plaza that surrounds it (where no traffic is allowed, by the way) to admire it’s beauty from outside. And a second time, on our very last day in Florence, where we bought tickets through a tour guide that took a group of 10 of us up to experience the Duomo’s Dome from within.
Buying tickets through this tour guide was a bit expensive, but totally worth it, as we did not have to schedule a time to go in (like you normally have to do) and didn’t have to wait in line. We were tight on time, and couldn’t leave Florence before experiencing the Duomo, so we were happy to splurge a bit and get that taken care of. We found our tour guide outside the Duomo itself, and the company he works with turned out to be very professional and organized.
The Duomo has the third-largest nave in Christendom, and it’s outside facade is covered in gorgeous white, green and pink Tuscan marble. It’s definitely a sight to see, and in my husband’s opinion, it’s what makes the Florence view when you’re looking at the city from afar.
The best part of the experience is climbing the duomo’s dome, which gives you a peek inside the cathedral, allows you to take a peek at the techniques used for building such a massive dome (the “dome-within-the-dome” construction that Brunelleschi came up with) as you’re climbing up, and takes you to the very top of the dome, where you get amazing 360 degree views of Florence.
This place is huge. It’s a sight to see because: it’s a palace, has a gorgeous interior and exterior, has the second best collection of paintings in Florence, has gorgeous gardens, and has a few museums inside.
In it’s Palatine Gallery you’ll walk through one palatial room after another, and you’ll see great works of art on the walls. You can also visit the royal apartments, 14 to be exact which is where the Pitt’s rulers lived in the 18th & 19th centuries. Super cool to see.
The cost was €13 per ticket.
This is where the David is. Wow, the David. Simply dreamy. Probably one of my favorite pieces of art I saw in Italy. They built the Accademia around the David, so that the space in which it was displayed would do the piece justice.
We could not stop staring at this majestic, big (very big, HUGE) depiction of one of our Bible heroes; with my husband, we studied David not too long ago, so knowing about his life and his stories, definitely made his sculpture that much more interesting to us.
That is pretty much all we saw there, and we spent the majority of our Accademia time with Michelangelo’s David. It wasn’t very crowded and so it was pretty easy to go in and move around.
The cost was €12.50 per ticket.
This was art galore. The biggest collection of Italian paintings anywhere in the world, featuring art by Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo, Giotto Caravaggio and Botticelli (yes, his glorious Birth of Venus is there). Only 600 people are allowed at a time so there’s usually a long wait; the cost per person is €12.50.
We probably spent a good 3 hours there, going room to room, trying to take all that beautiful art in. We also got an audio tour each, which explained most of the works to you, at your own pace.
Important: get a Firenze Card! This €72 pass will get you a 72 hour access (starting from the first entrance) to 72 museums! With the card you can enjoy priority access to museums with no need to make reservation. We used it to get in to all of the sights mentioned above.
The food in Florence is very different than the food we experienced in Venice. In Venice you find a lot of sea food (since it is right by the sea), risotto and polenta, whereas in Florence you find a lot of steak and seasonal ingredients (whatever is the most tasty and fresh during that particular time of year).
In general, Tuscan food (Florence is in the Tuscan region) is very simple and abundant with local produce, mellow cheeses and grilled meats (since it is inland). It is also said to have the best gelato in all Italy, so be sure to keep this in mind on your next visit.
Our favorite Florence restaurants:
- Cucina Torcicoda – lunch. We went to have lunch at this delightful restaurant for my husband’s birthday. It was recommended to us as one of the best pizza places in Florence by one of the locals we spoke to. It was literally the best pizza of my life. No joke. Everything about the pizza we ordered was perfect: it’s crust thickness and consistency, the flavor combinations, the toppings-to-crust ratio, everything. 100% recommend this place (especially if you like pizza; but they do have a full menu as well if you want something else).
- Enoteca Fuori Porta – lunch. Cute and quiet enoteca with an awesome patio to enjoy a light lunch and wine outside. We came across this place as we were walking from our hotel to the center of Florence, and it looked like a really serene and yummy place to enjoy lunch. We took a risk, sat down and ordered some food and wine. I got a greek salad (best I ever had, seriously amazing) and a delicious honey-walnut-brie crostini.. Simple food, but incredibly tasty. A nice spot to enjoy food and recharge.
- The bastions of St. Nicholas Trattoria & Pizzeria – lunch. Another good looking place we stumbled upon as we walked to city center form our hotel. This place is right across the street from Enoteca Fuori Porta. We ordered some delicious (and extremely affordable – €10 for a full bottle) house wine and a yummy tuscan salad. Quiet, calm and awesome service.
- Acqua al Due – dinner. This place was recommended to me by my sister (who lived in Florence for 6 months) and by a friend (who also lived in Florence for about 1 year). We went there because they both raved about it and told us it’s a restaurant we simply can’t skip. The food was great; we enjoyed their house wine, a sampling of their appetizers, a sampling of their salads and a sampling of their pasta dishes. The restaurant’s atmosphere was cozy and their service was wonderful. Usually crowded, so be sure to make reservations.
- Relais Villa l’Olmo – dinner. We had the pleasure of visiting this lovely wine estate to enjoy a one-of-a-kind dinner, and we were able to do that because of a wine tour we took on one of our last days in Florence (read more about wine tour below). The dinner we had here was very family style, because of our tour, so we had a bunch of delicious salads and pasta dishes to choose from…as well as amazing appetizers and wines to start. They didn’t serve us dessert, but I saw that they did offer dessert on their regular menu, so I ordered a tiramisu. Their tiramisu? IN-CREDIBLE. Nothing like it.
- La Carraia – gelateria. Probably our favorite gelaterias in Florence, and Florence is known for their gelato, so that tells you a lot. We tried bacio and pistaccio. Simply amazing; so creamy and delicious.
Tuscany Wine tour:
We booked this wine tour with the help of our hotel’s staff; they recommended it and they arranged it for us. A Tuscany wine tour is something we knew we for sure wanted to do while in Tuscany, because of my love for wine and my love for the Tuscan scenery. We basically told the concierge what we were looking for and they found the perfect tour for us.
The wine tour we took is called: Florence Town’s (small-group) Tuscany Wine Trail.
It was €129 per person, and it was money well spent. The wine tour started at like 3pm and lasted until 9pm. We met at a central point in Florence with the tour guide and the rest of the group, the tour guide directed us to the van, we hopped on the van and on we went to explore the Tuscan countryside.
Definitely recommend it! The only con of the whole tour was that the van that took us from winery to winery did not have AC, which was sort of tough, since it was the middle of summer.
We stopped at 3 wine estates:
Every one of them was unique and beautiful. And all of their wines were to die for. We ordered a few Chianti Classico bottles to be shipped back home to us, so that we could enjoy a little bit of Italy in the comfort of our own home and remember our trip with every sip.
Florence was so much fun. It’s a vibrant city that inspires freedom, creativity and romance, and we felt so blessed to have been able it enjoy it! Our favorite parts were the architecture, the views, and the pizza and wine. Three days here was too short, but given the duration of our trip, we really couldn’t extend it any further if we wanted to see other parts of Italy. But we know we’ll be back for more someday!
Our 3rd Italian stop was Rome. At this point, we were two for two on our trip: blown away by our two Italian stops (Venice and Florence), each unique and wonderful in its own way. We felt like we had still more to exploring left to do in Florence, so we were bummed to leave, but we were definitely excited for ROME! The capital of Italy and a major history hub.
We took TrenItalia from Firenze S.M. Novella to Roma Termini. The entire train ride was about 1 hour and thirty minutes, so even shorter than the train ride from Venice to Florence, and again, the ride was wonderful. We had prosecco and snacks and watched part of another Italian based movie: Eat Pray Love. It was lovely.
Once at Rome’s train station, we took a cab to our hotel. And then, while in Rome, which was only 2 days total, we did a lot of walking to get from one point to the other and took a few cab rides when the distances were too far away (like from our hotel to the meeting place of full day tour of Rome we took).
We stayed at Hotel Indigo Rome – St. George, a 5-star hotel.
The first thing I noticed when we walked in to our hotel, was the smell. It smelled like a spa; clean, welcoming, soothing and captivating.
The place was a bit dark and cold feeling, but as soon as you talked to the people at the front desk, you realized the place was actually warm. The staff was really friendly and nice, and did what they could to make you feel at home. They took us to our room, and it was a bit on the small side (like most spaces in Europe), but every bit elegant and first class. A very comfortable room, and the beds were glorious.
The hotel is known for their spa, so the room amenities (like bathroom soaps and shampoos) smelled great and felt really nice.
The hotel had a tiny gym, which we used one of the mornings; we took with us some exercise bands we had brought from home, and used their limited equipment to supplement those for our workout. The small gym did the trick! We were able to get a good workout in and it felt great.
The hotel offered a breakfast buffet, which was not included with our hotel rate, but we went for it anyway because of convenience. To our surprise, it was delicious.
I must say, Europeans really know how to do breakfast buffets at hotels. Every hotel we had been to, including this one, had amazing breakfast buffets. So many options, so fresh, so filling. And the coffee was great!
Hotel Indigo was well located. This allowed for a quick cab ride to wherever we needed to go: dinner, tours, etc.
Just like in Venice and Florence, we did quite a bit of walking in Rome. We didn’t have as much time in Rome as we did in Venice and Florence, but we packed our days with tours and sightseeing, so we can see and experience as much as possible of what Rome had to offer.
The night we got there we went out to dinner, and once we came back to our room, we re-read the Rome part of our Best of Italy by Rick Steve book, to remind ourselves of the top places we knew we wanted to visit. This was important, as it allowed us to jump on a computer, and look for the Rome tour that best suited our needs. We booked the tour online for the next day. This tour was a really long tour (7.5 hours) and very comprehensive, showing us as much as possible of Rome all in one day.
The tour was called: Walks of Italy – Rome in a Day.
Our tour guide was really great. He was funny and seemed like he loved the American culture, so we felt really welcome and comfortable. He was also really knowledgeable and kept us all on schedule, which is hard to do, considering there was so much to see and explain.
The tour also came with free entrances to all sights (and no waiting in line!), a free gelato tasting (yum!), transportation from one place to the next when the sights were too far from each other, and a 1 hour and 15 min lunch break.
What we visited (with the tour):
This 2,000 year-old-stadium is one of Rome’s (and Europe’s) most recognizable landmarks. It was built at the peak of the Roman empire, around A.D. 80, for public spectacles and gladiator contests. The Romans built this 150 feet high amphitheater, so they could share the “fun sport” with as many people possible.
Since the Romans were better engineers than artists, the building was more functional than beautiful, and even though its essential structure is Roman, you can find a lot of Greek influence in the facade (columns). Only a third of the original Colosseum remains, as an earthquake destroyed some of it and most was crated off to build other buildings during the Renaissance.
It’s a monumental sight, and it’s something I recommend everyone visit at least once. If you go in the summer, like we did, be prepared to sweat; make sure you bring a large bottle of water with you and a hat to keep the sun off your eyes.
View of Arch of Constantine
This arch stands between the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, and it is free and always open. This beautiful sight to see, which is very well preserved, commemorates the acceptance of Christianity by the Roman empire.
Emperor Constantine had a vision he would win under the sing of the cross; then, Constantine actually defeated his rival Maxentious in AD. 312 to become to sole emperor of the Roman empire, and legalized Christianity soon after.
View of Roman Forum
We didn’t actually tour around within the Roman Forum, but we got to take a good look at it (from a few different angles) from the outside. The Roman Forum is probably one of the most (if not the most) important pieces of real estate in the whole Western civilization, as a lot of important decisions and events took place here. It is ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center, and the common ground in between Rome’s famous seven hills.
Inside it, you can find: the Arch of Titus, the Forum’s Main Square, the Temple of Antoninus Pious & Faustina, the Temple of Castor & Pollux, the temple of Saturn, the Temple of Julius Caesar, among others.
Make a wish! This fountain is just dreamy. Just like you picture it would be; and it is way more majestic than the replica you see in Las Vegas (we go to Vegas a lot, hence my point of reference haha).
We were given about 10 minutes, by our tour guide, to stay here and enjoy it. We took pictures, threw a coin in to make a wish and enjoyed the atmosphere. A must see!
Oh man, this place. It has it’s own air, I swear. As soon as you walk in the Vatican City, you feel different. Probably because you’re walking on the world’s smallest county (with its own postal system, armed guards, helipad, mini train station and radio station) and one of the world’s holiest places. Among many sights within the Vatican City, you’ll find St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican Museums, which are the two that we visited.
The Vatican Museums contain four miles of displays, making it Europe’s top three or four houses of art. There is so much to see, and I would definitely recommend a guide to help you see the most important pieces and explain what they are to you. Plus, a guided tour will allow you to skip the lines, getting you right in!
This dome temple was built two millennia ago (yes, two millennia!) and it was probably one of the most influential art buildings; served as a model for the Florence cathedral dome (which launched the Renaissance) and for St. Peter’s (which capped the Renaissance off). Roman engineering can be appreciated here as well, as it’s circular design is mathematically perfect.
Inside you can find decorative statues and many famous people’s tombs, like Raphael’s for example. It is a gorgeous temple, made with beautiful material. Make sure you’re covering your shoulders and knees, as otherwise you will not be allowed in.
This was one of our highlights in Rome. We entered it after our tour through the Vatican Museums, and we were wow’ed. So majestic and impressive. Before going in, our tour guide gave us a quick lesson (with charts and cheat-sheets, so awesome) so that we could be prepared to observe it all and know the history behind it. Also, tip: you can’t really speak once inside, you have to be super quiet, so learn prior and then observe away! Did you know the Sistine Chapel is the Pope’s personal chapel and where a new Pope is elected?
St. Peter’s Basilica
After the Sistine Chapel, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica. There’s a handy shortcut from the Sistine Chapel directly to the Basilica, which saves you a good 30 minutes of walking; the shortcut is exclusive for authorized guides and tour groups, so if you take the tour we did through Walks of Italy, this will apply to you too!
St. Peter’s Basilica is the richest and grandest church on Earth; that just says it all. It’s a beauty to behold, inside and out.
IMPORTANT: All of the sights mentioned above were experienced via a tour. It was an amazing tour, and I highly recommend you take it. makes your sightseeing so much smoother and you learn a lot more.
The food in Rome is somewhat similar to the food we experienced in Florence. At least in the sense that it is in-land, so it offers a lot of steaks and heavier dishes than in coastal areas. You’ll find delicious bruschettas, prosciutto e melone, fried snacks and spaghetti a la carbonara. Also, a ton of delicious gelato options.
In general, Roman food is pretty homestyle; food didn’t come out from emperor’s and people’s kitchens, it came out of commoners’ kitchens. Therefore a lot of the food is simple, fresh and seasonal. Which explains why there’s a fondness for tripe, brain and pigs’ feet (note: I did not eat this, as I am not fond of organs nor feet haha).
We were only on Rome for two nights, so we did not get a lot of time to explore the food scene too much. However, below you’ll find a list of the few restaurants we really enjoyed and would recommend for you to go!
Our favorite Rome restaurants:
- Enoteca “Cul de Sac” – wine shop / lunch. This place was recommended to us by our tour guide; he told us that he personally goes over there whenever he’s feeling like enjoying good wine and good apps to go along with his wine. We trusted him and went in. It was great! They had a very large wine list and delicious food. The service was super friendly and we felt very welcome. Their baba ghanoush and cheese boards were both fantastic! Definitely recommend this place.
- Dar Poeta – pizza and dessert. This place was recommended by my sister, and she told us we could not leave Rome without stopping there, so we did. And we were SO GLAD we did. They are famous for their pizza and calzones, so we ordered a pizza to share (the crust so good, and the ingredients so fresh!) and a Nutella calzone (which was to die for!). Very affordable wine as well.
- Gelato di Roma – gelateria. Best gelato in town, recommended by our tour guide. They have a ton of delicious flavors, so you have a lot to chose from. They offer different kinds of desserts and sweets too, so if you’re feeling like you’re all gelato-ed out and in need something different, this place has got you covered.
Rome was everything we thought it would be: influential, traditional, old, inspiring, beautiful…delicious. Even though it’s the capital of Italy, it was not as busy and intense as I’ve seen other capitals to be. It was very pleasant and tranquil, and the people were very kind and willing. I identified myself a lot with this city, since I grew up in a capital city too (Quito), and it reminded me a lot of the environment and pace I was used to in Ecuador.
The oldness of it sort of felt soothing to the soul. I’m telling you, Rome is a must.
Our 4th Italian stop was Positano. This gorgeous southern coastal town is located in the Amalfi Coast, where romance dreams come true.
If you’re looking for picturesque, peaceful and beautiful, Positano is for you. Glistening waters, warm sunshine and mediterranean style architecture on cliffs…ahh, it is breathtaking and definitely worth the splurge!
We took TrenItalia from Roma Termini to Naples Central Station. The entire train ride was about 1 hour and ten minutes, so a relatively short ride. And the ride was very smooth and peaceful. Again, we enjoyed prosecco and snacks and chatted about our experiences so far.
Once at Naple’s train station, we went directly to a travel information (customer services) desk and asked for them to recommend a good taxi company that could take us to Positano. They helped us schedule a fixed price ride with a good quality taxi car, and off we went to one of the most beautiful places on earth: the Amalfi Coast.
Once in Positano, we mainly used the free shuttle the hotel offered to get from the hotel to restaurants and shops. Other than that, I think we took a cab once, since we were running late to a dinner reservation and did not have time to wait for the shuttle to take us (as the hotel’s shuttle only ran every hour or so).
We also did a lot of walking and stair climbing (Positano is packed with stairs…since the town is built on cliffs, that’s kind of expected). But walking was always welcome as not only did it serve as our daily cardio, but it gave us a chance to slow down and really observe the details.
And since our Italy trip ended here, at Positano, we asked the hotel to book us a taxi to take us back to Naples (from where our plane departed). The concierge was able to get us a taxi ride with a pre-fixed cost for our own peace of mind and to avoid any crazy rates due to unexpected traffic. The taxi drive was about 1 hour and a half.
We stayed at Le Agavi Hotel, a 5-star hotel. It is built into a cliff and overlooks the bay of Positano. It’s decorated simply, but it is extremely comfortable and almost every corner of the hotel has a gorgeous view (even from the shower!).
We loved their breakfast buffet; it had a great selection (gluten free options too) and all their food was extremely fresh tasting. The view form the breakfast room pretty incredible as well; an amazing day to start your day.
They offer a complementary shuttle service, which drives you to the center of Positano ( a 5 minute drive), where all the cute shops and restaurants are at. We used this service twice a day, it was very convenient and saved us quite a bit of cash.
Our favorite part was their pool. The pool area is very serene, and if you go early enough, you’ll have to all to yourself. They serve amazing drinks and apps in the pool too, so you can spend all day under the sun too, if you’re looking for a day of total relaxation. Again, the view from the pool is amazing and the sun chairs are super wide and comfortable. We’d spend all morning here, shower and get ready for dinner in the evening.
It felt like a romantic and relaxing getaway for sure.
This hotel did not have a gym, so we used our exercise bands in the room and worked out from the room. Yup, we got creative! The hotel room was extremely spacious, so we had no problem getting our heart rate up and getting our muscles pumped in this space.
Oh, and did I mention that this is the ONLY hotel in Positano that has a private funicular train? It is this funicular train that what takes you up and down the cliff, from the lobby area to your room, to the pool and to the beach. Super interesting to ride; it was a whole new experience for us.
This is the only stop in Italy where we did not do a lot of sightseeing. We mainly chilled in our hotel during the day, and walked around in Positano in the afternoon/night. We shopped in their cute ceramic shops and hopped from one delicious restaurant to the next.
Positano is a place where the living is easy, and we decided to do just that on our last days in Italy: leave easy. Like a good Italian would.
Save Positano for last, as you’ll absolutely love a few laid back days after all the crazy walking and touring you’ve done in the bigger cities.
Positano’s food is very light and it offers an amazing selection of fresh seafood and vegetables.
In the summer we were able to enjoy lots of seasonal produce, such as: zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil and cucumbers.
Lemons are a huge staple in this gorgeous coastal town; they not only make it to many of their seafood dishes as an important ingredient, but they are the star of the show in their very famous limoncello drink (which is served almost everywhere in the Amalfi Coast). Lemons also make an appearance in Positano’s art; a lot of their ceramics have cute little lemons painted on them, and we were sure to bring some home with us to remember our stay!
Even though we stayed at our hotel for every breakfast and mid day snacks by the pool (think caprese salads and such), we tried some great Positano restaurants we fell in love with both for lunch and dinner. Find them below!
Our favorite Positano restaurants:
- Casa e Bottega – lunch. We came here twice. It was THAT good. Also, it didn’t hurt that the restaurant itself was adorable and totally welcoming. If you’re into healthy and fresh eating, you’ll love this place. They offer delicious smoothies and juices, all made on-demand with all the fresh produce they display on baskets. We ordered zucchini noodles with burrata cheese and tomatoes as our main meal. It was to die for. Never in my life had I tasted something so fresh, simple and good.
- Ristorante Saraceno D’Oro – dinner. Our first dinner in Positano was here. It was recommended to us by our concierge, as a nice place to enjoy good seafood, pasta or pizza. The place was right off the windy/thin streets that go through Positano, and they have a few tables outside that actually almost touch the street itself. I would personally recommend to get a table inside, to prevent smelling the slight pollution from the passing cars and to avoid feeling like you’re going to be ran over. My husband ordered a pizza, which he loved, and I got sea bass and ravioli. It was a delightful meal and wonderful wine. Service was top notch.
- Next 2 – dinner. This was another great recommendation from our concierge. It was a bit more fancy and elegant than our first dinner. This restaurant is owned by the same lady that opened Casa e Bottega, and so we knew that it was going to be good before we even got there. The atmosphere was gorgeous and peaceful, and the service was fantastic. Very attentive and willing staff. We drank good wine and enjoyed an appetizer (Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Pumpkin and Zucchini), salad (Pink Grapefruit, Cucumber and Red Onion salad), pasta (Ravioli with Ricotta Cheese, Rustic Tomato Sauce, Aubergine and Rocket) and fish (Swordfish, Puttanesca, Cherry Tomatoes and String Beans).
Positano is a honeymooners paradise. It’s the best place to relax, sleep well, eat well, tan, shop, walk and get some good photos. We absolutely adored it, and were so grateful to it after a few killer days of non-stop exploration in Venice, Florence and Rome. There is something absolutely glorious about Positano, and I think it’s got to do with the town being built on cliffs and having that shiny glossy ocean winking at you everywhere you go. Come here ready to be pampered and to feel rejuvenated. It is heavenly.
Hope you enjoyed the read, and hope these tips help you on your next Italy trip. If you have any questions, or would like to share some tips of your own, be sure to comment below. XO