This year, I was blessed to travel to and experience two and a half incredible weeks in Italy, one of the most traveled destinations in Europe! Another one of our bucket list destinations we can check off, and with confidence say that the assignment was understood. There is so much history, art, and BEAUTY all around you everywhere you look in each of the cities we visited. I took hundreds of photos, but they do not do the actual sights justice. The 4 cities we chose to visit are:
Before I get into the details of our visit in each city, I will give you some tips and tricks on what to expect when traveling to Italy.
Italian is the main language spoken, but If you don’t know Italian, you should be fine. We were able to communicate adequately with a mixture of English and Italian. I was even able to communicate with some of the restaurant waiters in Spanish.
The currency in Italy is the Euro. We mainly used our cards for most purchases as most restaurants and shops make it extremely convenient to use the Tap and Pay card machine. I would also use one of the ATM machines to withdraw some Euros for small purchases.
A must have when traveling to Europe is a universal wall adapter, because their plugs are not the same as those in the United States. It is definitely worth your time to research which one would suit your needs, purchase, and have it handy.
Just a word of caution, please be aware and mindful of your belongings at all times. Italy is safe, but the pick-pockets are everywhere, and they are SKILLED! They get you when you are not thinking about it, especially after you arrive in the city and are preoccupied with luggage. Wear your bags and purses in front of you. A group of kids almost got me when I let my guard down while hauling heavy luggage to our hotel in Venice, but God’s grace was and will always be sufficient.
The absolute best way to travel between cities is definitely by train. You can sit back and enjoy the beautiful country side as the high speed trains exceed 160 miles per hour, efficiently and quickly getting you between cities.
Don’t be afraid to get out and walk! Google Maps will definitely be your friend while you are out and about exploring the different cities.
First of all, if you have never flown business class, you are really missing out on the paramount of comfort, especially for those over night flights. I have been a faithful fan since our Greece vacation. Here are a few pics of our business class experience.
After arriving in Malpensa and gathering our luggage, we maneuvered our way over to the train station and took the high speed train into Milan Central. This was my very first ride on a high speed train, and I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth and efficient the service is. After arriving in Milan and getting checked into our hotel, we explored the city.
If I had more vacation time, we would have definitely stayed longer in each city or even visited other cities and seen more sights, but I am grateful and blessed for the vacation time I did have saved up, because it allowed us to have one heck of good time during this vacation. Some of the popular must-see destinations that we visited during our 4 day stay in this city were:
This is your chance to experience the ultimate shopping experience as all of the luxury designer shops have gathered together and can be found in this gorgeous structure unlike any other.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen in my life… one interesting fact about this cathedral is that it protects and houses one of the actual nails that held Christ to the cross!
The Last Supper
First of all, I had no idea this world renowned work of art is actually painted on the wall of a church, and that it is so huge! It covers the entire wall! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to behold this masterpiece.
The Teatro alla Scala
Italy’s greatest opera singers, and many of the finest singers from around the world have performed at La Scala. The theatre is one of the BEST opera and ballet theatres worldwide. It does not get any better!
Day Trip to Lake Como & Bellagio
Kudos to Trip Advisor and Get Your Guide for an awesome and entertaining bus ride out to Lake Como. Once we arrived, we took an exhilarating cruise on the lake where we were able to see some of the most beautiful villas and gardens. We stopped in the beautiful town of Bellagio afterwards for a wonderful lunch, shopping, and some refreshing gelato.
The Navigli (Canal District)
The atmosphere here gives you romantic dinner date vibes as you dine outside under the absolutely stunning sunset with a refreshing cocktail or glass of wine in hand.
This was my first taste of the popular alcoholic beverage, the Aperol Spritz. It gives you a bright orange flavor with a hint of bitter, and is mixed with prosecco and soda water. It has become one of my favorite cocktails.
For the second leg of the trip, we took the high speed train over to Venice, and the city is just as picturesque and charming as you would imagine. There are boats, gondolas, and canals everywhere! A lot of people complain about the unique smell, but if you live around the ocean and marshes (i.e. coastal GA, like I do), you are quite familiar with the smell. After getting settled into the hotel, we spent 3 days exploring the city.
The entire city is built on water and the main mode of transportation is by boat around the city. We mainly walked around the city to get to the more popular, must-see destinations. During our 3 day stay in Venice, we seen:
The Rialto Bridge & Market
This bridge is the oldest of 4 bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It is also the most famous because of its history and architecture.
Piazza San Marco & Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
This is the city’s main public square where the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral are also located. The cafes are known for the various bands playing live music. The Doge’s Palace is the epitome of luxury and opulence with intricate and ornate decorations, carvings, paintings, and statues all around.
The St. Mark’s Basilica
Talk about awe inspiring… this basilica is truly a complete work of art, from the gorgeous, intricate details of the architecture, to the jaw dropping, golden mosaic tiles that cover almost the entirety of the ceiling of the basilica!
It is well worth the effort to just get lost around the city. We were able to see some of the most amazing sights unexpectedly. You really are not truly lost as long as you have google maps to get you back on track. And of course, we couldn’t visit Venice and not take a Gondola Ride around the city.
For the third leg of the trip, we took the high speed train over to Florence, home of many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. There are statues and amazing architecture literally all over the place, everywhere you look! We encountered some hidden gems as far as quaint café’s, leather artisan workshops, and our favorite, the delicious WINES! For our 3 day stay, the must see destinations that we were had the pleasure to see are:
The views from atop the Piazzale Michelangelo are the most breathtaking in all of Florence! You are able to see an almost 360 degree panoramic view of the beautiful city. It is well worth the walk, and definitely a must see.
Piazza della Signoria
The beautiful main square in the center of Florence is known for its famous statues, The Palazzo Vecchio, and the Neptune Fountain. It is also known for its significant political life and history.
This is the most striking and oldest bridge in Florence Italy that is still in existence. It crosses over the Arno river. This is where you would want to come to shop for your precious jewelry.
Boboli Gardens (Giardini di Boboli)
This is the perfect place to come and enjoy nature, after you have had enough of the museums and the city center. These absolutely beautiful manicured gardens date back to the 16th century and there are beautifully worn statues and grand architecture… all located behind the Palazzo Pitti.
We took a day trip via tour bus out to Tuscany which included stops in Siena (where we went to a wine tasting with lunch), San Gimignano (where we were able to taste some of the best Italian gelato on the planet), and a stop in Pisa where we seen the famous tower.
Duomo di Siena
Galleria dell ‘Accademia di Firenze featuring Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s La Primavera & The Birth of Venus
For the Final leg of the trip, we took the high-speed train over to Rome, where we were totally submerged in ancient Roman architecture and history. Let me tell you, Rome does not, in any way at all, LACK in the “things to see and do” department. We only had 5 days to get in as much sight seeing as possible… but we welcomed the challenge. After getting settled into the hotel, we enjoyed these must-see destinations during our stay.
The famous former Roman temple that was built to honor all of the Roman Gods, is now a Catholic church. The dome was the largest in the world for 1300 years and to this day remains the largest unsupported dome in the world. Its diameter is 142 ft.
One of the most beautiful squares in Rome, this piazza is home to the Fountain of the Four Rivers and the Fountain of Neptune.
The largest ancient amphitheatre ever built, and still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world. It is most famous for gladiator fights, executions and animal hunts.
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill
The heart and main meeting center of ancient Rome, and will continue to be glorious symbols of Rome’s past.
The Vatican, Sistine Chapel, & St. Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican is its own separate state surrounded by Rome, and it is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. We were truly lucky to get inside because the line was literally wrapped around the city twice! It is so worth it to get the skip the line tour tickets as we took advantage as many opportunities as we could. Unfortunately photography is prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel, and I was not able to get a photo of the iconic ceiling masterpiece. And of course, the majestic and beautiful Basilica and the catacombs beneath are not to be missed when you visit this sacred, holy place.
The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps are definitely a must see stop in Rome simply because they are Grand, Iconic, and absolutely Beautiful. There are also several high end designer shops nearby and the perfect opportunity for some shopping.
The Trevi Fountain
When visiting the Trevi Fountain you are supposed to toss coins into the water. 1 coin toss means you will have a nice return to the Eternal City. A second coin toss promises you’ll find love. A third is supposed to guarantee you will get married.