Travel Diary - Italy
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
My favorite trip yet; I truly lived la dolce vita.
This past June, after months of planning, I finally went to Italy. There's so much information out there regarding Italy, that while planning I felt sort of overwhelmed when trying to put together an itinerary, but in the end, after reading almost everything online and speaking to a few friends (and a very trustworthy source - my sister) who've been before, I finally narrowed down the trip to 3 cities - Rome, Florence and Milan. The trip could not have been more perfect, I mean I don't think it's possible to have a bad time in such a beautiful place, but I really had the best time ever. I also think we chose a great time to go - early June, there were lots of people but not overbearing crowds for the most part and there was decent weather - we actually left about a week before the heatwave hit Europe!
The trip started off in Rome, and we got in before noon, so there was almost an entire day to explore. This is one of the travel tips I recently started adhering to more strictly (arriving earlier in the day so you have more time) and I was not disappointed. Our hotel was near to a lot of attractions so most of the time we just walked everywhere and it was quite nice strolling through Rome and taking it all in. On the first day we visited the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and stopped to dine al fresco at a cute cafe near the Trevi Fountain where of course in addition to an amazing meal I had to have Aperol Spritz (perfect Italian summer drink) and my favorite dessert of all time - tiramisu.
Rome truly is a beautiful city and you can spend hours just roaming and walking around which we did, but of course I had specific places I just had to see.
And now onto the highlight of Rome (for me at least) - a guided tour of the Vatican. I cannot recommend it enough. This was a must for me on the trip and I'm so glad we did it as the Vatican is a true work of art and it was amazing to hear all the history contained within its walls - from St Peter's Basilica to the Sistine Chapel, I was in awe the entire time. The Vatican Museum is the 4th most visited in the world so prepare for crowds but that aside, I still found our tour pretty organized and you're given head phones that connect the audio from your tour leader to you so you can follow along. It's a pretty long tour, anywhere from 3-5 hours but honestly I didn't even notice because I was so enthralled. At the end of the tour we were alloted time to get a few items from the surrounding gift shops, some of which are run by the nuns who reside at St Peter's Basilica. If you are set on seeing the Pope, Wednesdays is the day dedicated to this and you can buy tickets to sit in the papal audience or if you don't buy tickets for seating you just have to get to St Peter's Square early and view standing once room allows.
We also visited The Colosseum - another Rome landmark but didn't do a guided tour as it wasn't necessary in my opinion, but there's the option to do so if you'd like. (Viator has some pretty great options and is usually my choice when it comes to booking tours.)
Another great Rome activity we enjoyed was strolling Via del Corso which is basically a long street of boutiques, both luxury and high street, with some of the streets leading into cute alley ways with really great restaurants. We had a great brunch at a restaurant called Babette which serves a fusion of French and Italian cuisine. We enjoyed unlimited wine refills in their courtyard area, topped off by delicious food and great service from the staff.
After a few, fun filled days in Rome we took the train to Florence. Travelling between cities in Italy is quite easy which was another factor in this trip being my most enjoyable. We bought tickets in advance via the Trenitalia website and the journey was a breeze; comfortable seating ( we bought tickets that allowed for extra leg room), ample space for luggage and we arrived in Florence within an hour and 45 minutes.
Florence was a dream! It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I'm already planning to go back. It's the capital of Tuscany and considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and this is quite evident everywhere you look. It's so picturesque and I felt like I was in a fairy tale the entire time. On our first day we walked right into a group of guys playing the violin near the Duomo and it was just so perfect, I fully had a pinch me moment. Florence has quite a lot of history, so much so that UNESCO has named the city a World Heritage Site. Another fun fact - Gucci was founded in Florence as well as Salvatore Ferragamo. It's also in Florence you can see the original Statue of David by the artist Michelangelo at the Galleria dell'Accademia. (tip -buy tickets in advance and also note that the museum is closed on Mondays). The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is also located in Florence - just under an hour's train ride from Florence's main train station - Santa Maria Novella for about 20 Euro round trip.
I had one of the best meals of my life in Florence. When looking for restaurants (my favorite part of planning a trip) I came across quite a few recommendations but Golden View Firenze stood out to me the most and I decided we HAD TO dine there. The restaurant overlooks the Ponte Vecchio and our seating allowed for us to have the most perfect sunset view. From the moment you step into the restaurant, the service and attention to detail will blow you away. We were offered a welcome glass of champagne before being escorted to our seats and our waiter was really informed and friendly (he even treated us to complimentary Prosecco!) which made the dining experience even more memorable. Between the antipasti platter and the most delicious truffle pasta, I can really say dining at Golden View was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I highly recommend here!
The last leg of our Italian trip was to Milan - the fashion capital of the world. Once again, another smooth train ride - a little under 2 hours away via train from Florence. I was truly excited about this leg of the trip especially because of the shopping at the landmark mall Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II which is Italy's oldest active shopping mall. It did not disappoint! The ceilings are made of glass so you see the sky as you walk through this huge structure which also boasts the most stunning architecture. We easily spent almost the entire day here, stopping briefly for lunch before resuming our shopping day. This mall is located right across from the Duomo Milano - another landmark, so we were able to visit there before heading to the mall - knocking out 2 things on our itinerary on the same day - which is always a plus in my book.
We actually had a day trip to Lake Como planned (to see our friends George and Amal Clooney :) ) but this was not to be. We got onto the train headed to Varenna (the stop for Lake Como) and about 30 minutes into the ride, we came to a halt which probably lasted for about an hour. Apparently the night before, there was rain which led to some flooding of the train tracks so trains in and out of the town were stuck meaning we had to turn and head back to Milan. I was actually quite disappointed but decided that I can't let that upset me too much because HELLO I am in Italy and I'm sure we could find something else to do. Within half hour of arriving back into Milan, I decided we should go to Navigli. My sister who spent a summer in Milan a few years ago recommended it for aperitivo hour (basically Italians' version of happy hour) so we did that instead. About 15 - 20 minutes via subway from the Milano Centrale Station - Navigli district, is a town whose canals were interconnected and used for transportation of commercial items such as wine, meat and fish. Trade between Milan and Switzerland was also facilitated via these canals. Cafes and restaurants now line both sides of the canals and the town is currently famous for its nightlife and aperitivo options. We had a great evening eating and having some cocktails here before heading back to Milan.
Overall, I cannot reiterate just how much I enjoyed this trip; we ate a lot, some of them the best meals of my life, explored a beautiful country and did a bit of shopping. I think there's quite a lot more to see in Italy - I specifically want to visit the Amalfi Coast and Capri and finally make it to Lake Como, so most likely I'll be back. It truly was a beautiful travel experience and one I can relive over and over.