Italy is on almost everyones list. Tuscany, along with the rest of Italy was on the top of mine. I have encountered many people who are just astounded by Italy’s beauty and culture, I had to see what all the hype was about so I booked a ticket to Rome to start my 12 day tour of Italy.
It was Semana Santa in Spain so I had 12 full days off to go wherever I wanted. I chose to commit to just Italy so I could get the full experience and see as much as possible. My plan consisted of 4 cities, 3 plane rides, 2 trains, 1vineyard tour, and a whole lot of food. I’ve gathered all the moments worth sharing so here is a quick guide to touring Italy.
Sights: In Rome I checked the obvious sights off the list; The Colosseum, The Pantheon, The Trevi Fountain , and Vatican City. The sights are all worth it, the crowds and wait time can be significantly reduced if you book your tickets online. I waited about 15 minutes to get into the colosseum and 45 minutes to get into the Vatican because we had online tickets, but the non ticket lines went on for miles.
Accommodation: I stayed in the Rose Guesthouse on Via Sforza, only a 5 minute walk from the Colosseum. I absolutely adored this tiny little b&b, it was just a 3 bedroom apartment with a kitchen and two bathrooms. The staff was very personal and accommodating, they gave us advice on what to see, how to get there, etc. Every morning the host offers a continental breakfast (toast, cereal, yogurt, milk). However, they do not offer anything like eggs or meat so if you have dietary restrictions be sure to bring your own food because they allow you to cook in the kitchen.
Food: Everywhere, I am reluctant to not give out specific names of places but every place we walked into was outstanding. Italian food truly lives up to the hype. Go into any restaurant and you will not be disappointed. Rome is a huge city and you will always be able to find some good food close by, make sure you stock up on breakfast food because restaurants don’t really open before 11 and breakfast in Italy is usually just a croissant. There were gluten free/vegan options at almost every restaurant in Rome if needed.
*Place to note: Grezzo on Via Urbana. I stumbled upon this place looking for some gelato and realised it was a raw chocolate store. Everything is raw, vegan, organic, and gluten free. They have gelato, cakes, chocolates, and pastries. This place is a must go if you are following a certain diet or just interested in a healthy treat!
Sights: Santa Maria Del Fiore and Tuscany. I was only in Florence for 2 days So on the first day I explored the city and came across some beautiful cathedrals and on day two I ventured out into the Chianti region for a tour of some wineries.
Accommodation: I stayed at the Soggiorno Primavera B&B in Florence right next to the train station. The bed was the comfiest bed I have ever experienced in a hostel/B&B they also came with huge down comforters which was a plus! The B&B did not offer breakfast but the host was very helpful and caring. He sat down with us for about 20 minutes; telling us where the best food was, when they were open, and what to do. Be sure to note that they do not have a kitchen, but the B&B does offer a fridge and water heater.
Food: Pizza. I found the best (gluten free) pizza I have ever eaten in Florence at Ciro and Sons on Via del Giglio. The restaurant offers gluten free and vegan options (they even cook the gluten free pizza in a separate oven). The restaurant was flexible and pretty much let me build my own pizza (which is not common in Italy).
Sights: Canals, St. Marks Square, Gran Canal. When arriving in Venice I was shocked when I learned that it is actually all canals (I was picturing some streets or cars for delivery or commercial vehicles but there were actually none once you get inside the city.) Seriously all you need to do is explore the streets and the canals, each canal has its own personality and charm. I took a gondola ride through the canals and out through Gran Canal which was 100% worth it! The gondolas can get expensive usually around 80-100 euro but it can be split with up to 8 people. A cheaper option for getting on the canals is to take the water taxis or any other form of public transportation because they all go through the main canals!
Accommodation: I stayed at Albergo Antico Capon which is located in Santa Margherita Square. The hostel was very small and offered no breakfast, but once again the man who runs the small hostel was so kind and hospitable. I would recommend this place to someone who is looking for a serious budget hostel (less than 15 euro per night) that is still clean. I fully inspected the room and it was impeccably clean. In this hostel you get way more than you pay for because it is run by someone who genuinely cares about his city and is more than happy to share his thoughts with you.
Food: Pasta, I found the best pasta in Venice, even just the simple tomato sauce was outstanding, but that is found pretty much anywhere in Italy.
*Place to note: Grom is a gelato place all over Italy but I discovered it in Venice, it was a little pricey but so worth it. All of their ingredients are from raw materials and everything in the store is gluten free (even the cones!). They offer a full list of ingredients for every product and list them in front of the containers so there is no confusion. The staff was very friendly and patient, this place is a must go!
*Place to note: Libreria Acqua Alta on Lunga Santa Maria Formosa. This little bookshop is a charming place to pick up old books or postcards. There is a staircase made of old books that leads up to a lookout of the canals and there are also other lookouts that you can use to get up close and personal with the canals.
Sights: Pompeii and Cathedrals. Okay so I was in Naples during Easter Sunday and Easter Monday and during those times literally EVERYTHING is shut down, everything. There will be a few restaurants open with strange hours but do not expect to find anything open on Easter Sunday and Monday. I was lucky enough to be able to hop on over to Pompeii that Saturday and tour the sight. About 30 minutes by metro will get you right in the sight of Pompeii and is was 12 euro to enter (6.50 if you are from the EU). If you are interested in history and ruins, Pompeii is the place to go, it is literally just a sight, there are some restaurants located directly outside but they are overpriced and geared toward tourists. A lot of people pack lunches if they plan on being out there for a while.
Accommodation: I stayed in the Buonanotte & Buongiomo B&B. It is a large apartment with about 4 rooms and probably holds less than 20 people total so you can get a personal experience. The host cooks breakfast every morning which is usually just pastries and donuts, but you are welcome to bring any food in and cook it yourself. He also makes everyone their coffee drink of choice. The host was very friendly and accommodating, he also sat down with me and told me what to do and see. The atmosphere in the hostel is very welcoming, I would recommend this B&B to a solo traveler who is looking to get a more off the beaten path experience in the city and make friends.
Food: Pizza, Naples is said to be the best pizza in Italy (if I was there longer to do more pizza research I wouldn’t be surprised if it was). The pizza was outstanding, one place that stuck out was Starita on Via Materdei. The place opened at 7 and by 6 pm there was already a line out the door, they get you in quick and the pizza is made very fast so no need to be intimidated by the crowds.
The sights are all beautiful and the people are very friendly. The food lives up to the hype, I promise. There is so much more of Italy I want to see, but seeing the 4 major cities really gives you a feel for the country and they are all very easily accessible. Feel free to share any advice you have for traveling through Italy!