This summer I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Italy with my family. It was full of stunning scenery and intriguing history. While I was planning the trip (I’m totally a plan out every detail kind of person), I searched countless blogs and friends for suggestions. I thought I would share my recommendations and tips I picked up on the trip.
We spent 10 days there and split the time between four cities– Rome, Florence, a day trip to Cinque Terra and Venice. I thought I would do three separate blog posts to make it easier to plan. If you are planning a trip to Italy I would highly recommend doing all these places but I know other places have their charms as well.
We started our trip in Rome and spent three days there. I felt like this was the perfect amount of time, but you could easily stay longer. There is so much to do here and the history is woven through every nook and cranny. The architecture is breathtaking and the food is mouthwatering. Rome was definitely one of my favorite spots in Italy. It is a little more crowded and has the feel of a big city with incredible history around each corner. Here is our itinerary for 3 days (broken down by what is closest to each other) in Rome:
We stayed at the Hotel Diana. It was a nice hotel and very central to everything but it’s not super fancy. It did have a decent continental breakfast out on the roof. Just watch out for the pigeons.
Colosseum- This was my favorite thing in Rome, hands down! It’s just so huge! We had a tour guide for this and she really got into detail and helped us understand the importance this played. The history for this place is amazing and so interesting. You do need tickets to go inside and you can buy combined tickets for this and the Roman Forum. Try to buy tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in a huge line.
Arch of Constantine
Roman Forum- this is the ruins of what's left of some governments buildings in Rome. It was very intriguing to see parts of the ancient buildings.
Capitoline Hill- we just looked at this from the bottom but it was very pretty.
Pantheon- This was also one of my favorite things in Rome. Our tour guide was able to give us tons of historical insight on this place and the details in the architect draw you in. It has a giant hole in the top of the dome which was surprising me to but our guide said it helps let light in and it supports the dome structure. The Pantheon is the largest dome structure with no reinforcements.
Trevi Fountain - This is a classic and a must see but it is crazy crowded (we did go at peek tourist time so it could be different depending on when you go). You are not allowed to sit on the fountain at all, and there are policemen there that blow whistles to anyone who does.
Spanish Steps- We went to the steps at night to get a different experience and they were beautiful. My cousin informed me before we went that people are trying to sell stuff to you all around Rome but especially on the steps and especially roses. They will try and place them into your hand and then won’t take the rose back and make you to pay for them. Be careful not to accept anything from anyone unless you want to buy it.
Vatican city- You need tickets for both the Vatican museum and St. Peter’s Basilica- buy ahead of time!
Vatican Museum (the Sistine Chapel)- This museum is a must! At the end of the museum is the Sistine Chapel which is so breathtaking! The artwork is amazing! We had a tour guide for this museum as well but there was so much to see and our group was very large so it was kind of hard to hear and follow along. If you don’t get a tour guide I would recommend looking up the highlights and just focusing on those. My mom had a technique that if you look in the gift shop first, you can figure out what the highlights and most important pieces are. There is so much art and history. I loved exploring it.
St. Peters Basilica- This place is unreal! It is the largest church in the world. The exquisite details on the inside make this one of the prettiest churches I have ever seen! It has one of my favorite statues– the Michelangelo's Pieta. There is also a statue of St. Peter and if you touch his foot it is said to bring you good luck! So many people have touched it that it is now completely smooth.
Climb dome- We didn’t get to do this because it was closed for St. Peter’s day but we heard it’s a great view of Rome. You can take an elevator part way and then climb the rest of the stairs or just climb all the stairs. You’ll need tickets for this as well.
Borghese Gallery- (Buy your tickets ahead of time) This museum is full of paintings and sculptures by Bernini, Raphael, Caravaggio and more. It is smaller and quieter than the Vatican and the work is very impressive. The stuff these artists can do with marble blows my mind! We didn’t have a tour guide and it was nice to wander around and take it all in.
Villa Borghese park/gardens- This is just right outside and gallery and it’s a beautiful area to relax in and just walk around.
Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria- this was a nice church that had Bernini’s best known statue called St. Teresa in Ecstasy inside.
In my opinion, Rome had some of the best food. On our way to our hotel our driver was telling us that in Rome they are known for: Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta. Seriously amazing), cheek bacon and Carbonara pasta. We tired all of this and the Cacio e pepe was my all time favorite. I would have never ordered this if I hadn’t know this was what they were known for and I’m so glad I got this.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO FALL INTO A TOURIST TRAP RESTAURANT WHERE THEY OVERCHARGE BECAUSE YOU ARE AMERICAN- IF THE MENU HAS NO PRICES ON IT GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
La Caravella- Favorite! Ordered the cacio e pepe
La Gallina Bianca- Favorite! Ordered cacio e pepe again and the 4 cheese pizza
Piazza del Popolo- This is a square with lots of restaurants. We ate at da Trani and I ordered the gnocchi. Incredible! We also got a penne with tomato sauce which was also good!
Hangout Cafe- this place was good but I would just go back here for their chocolate cake. It was delicious.
Suggestions but didn’t eat there:
Campo de Fiori- this is also a square with lots of places to eat.
Trattoria Cardorna- Very authentic. The owner spoke English and didn’t even open until after 8. So if we go back I am definitely eating here.
I Caruso- BEST IN ROME! When we went the lady only spoke Italian so we got some help from locals who spoke English.
**we got a tip that the gelato that is covered in the steel canisters is usually better which we found to be true!
After Rome we headed to Florence. We hired a driver because my grandma was with us and we didn’t want to take the train with her. The drive from Rome to Florence is 3 hours by driver. The train is typically a better way to get around Rome. It’s cheaper and faster, you just need to walk to final location or get a taxi.
-This is true for many places outside the U.S but if Italy is your first trip, public bathrooms besides ones in restaurants cost money to use. So be aware of this and always carry some coins with you.
* Anytime you enter a church you need to have your shoulders covered and shorts/skirts to your knees. If your clothing doesn’t cover you you can tie a jacket/sweater/scarf around your shoulders or around your waste to cover your legs. There are lots of venders selling scarfs in case you get desperate.
I fell in love with Rome and hope to go back some day! Next up is Florence which is probably my all time favorite place!