When I first travelled to Italy I was 15 years old, an absolute stunner (according to myself) and insanely popular (also according to myself). I was at the peak of my social life and absolutely DEVASTATED that I was going away over the school holidays.
I mean, how dare my parents take me on an amazing European holiday? Didn’t they understand I would be missing countless gatherings (huge piss ups at someone’s house while their parents were away)? How could they let me miss so many Sweet Sixteenths (sneaky piss ups at someone’s house while their parents were there)? Didn’t they realise I was committing the ultimate form of social suicide? What horrible, selfish parents.
I wish I could travel back in time and punch 15 year old Benita for being such a bitch for the entire four weeks my family were away. Literally ever since I returned from our holiday and realised that absolutely nothing changed while I was away, I’ve been busting to get back to Italy.
When my boyfriend, Jack, and I discovered it would be cheapest to fly from Melbourne to Milan, it was really a no-brainer/sign from God to add ten days in Italy onto trip.
WHERE I WENT:
Jack, and I left Melbourne on June 1st and arrived in Milan the following day. We stayed in Milan for two nights and then travelled to the Cinque Terre by train. We stayed in the first town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso, for three nights. Then we left the Cinque Terre for Florence, stopping by Pisa to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa . We stayed in Florence for two nights and then headed again by train to Rome for our final two nights in Italy. We spent our last day in Italy on a train to Ancona and then caught a ferry from Ancona to the Croatian town of Zadar.
I think I’ve made it very clear that our main mode of transport in Italy was trains. In case you didn’t catch it: catch the trains in Italy! Trains, trains, trains! They are amazing, affordable and frequent. We usually booked ours the day before departing a city or even the day of. You can also book online at the ItaliaRail website.
I guess you can say I was overly excited when we arrived in Milan, because every little thing required some sort of commentary from me. Some examples of this include:
- “Look at that cobbled street!”
- “Oh my God how cute are these little parmesan bowl things!”
- “Everything is so stylish here”
- “The rubbish bins are so much prettier here!”
- “Everywhere you walk there’s a little part of history” (I think I was just trying to justify to Jack why it was okay to have walked 24km in one day)
My excitement was definitely warranted though when we visited some of Milan’s most famous sights. The Last Supper literally took my breath away and it genuinely felt like I was in a dream when we walked around the Piazza del Duomo at sunset. Not to mention the shopping, which was insane (it is the global capital of fashion after all). I feel like I spent 80% of my spending money at KIKO stores all over Europe (their Milan flagship store was definitely the best though).
Eat: Grab a quick, cheap and amazing lunch at Panificio Luini, near Milan’s Duomo. For around €3 you can grab an authentic panzerotto, which is basically a deep-fried, small calzone. Don’t be hesitant if you see a huge line at the lunchtime peak- it moves as quickly as the Milanese people.
Drink: Grab an Aperol Spritz, an Italian classic cocktail, at Terrazza Aperol in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. It won’t be the cheapest drink of your holiday, but the epic view of the Duomo is priceless.
Stay: Within the historic centre. We splurged a little and stayed at the NH Collection Milano President Hotel which was only 500 meters from the Duomo.
Is it too early in this post to tell you that the Cinque Terre was my favourite place we visited? OH WELL. I said it. Do keep reading though!
I’ve been looking forward to visiting the Cinque Terre ever since one of my favourite travel bloggers, Jessica Stein, visited the five towns back in 2010. Corny confession here: whenever my studies got really tough, especially in the last year of university, I’d always go on Instagram and search up the Cinque Terre as a little source of motivation. When I finally arrived here I almost cried because I was so excited to have actually made it.
In each of the towns you’ll find colourful terraces, rows of fishing boats, cute narrow laneways, mountains that double as vineyards and a hell of a lot of stairs. Everywhere you look is just so picturesque. I can’t tell you how excited I am to go back (hopefully very soon).
Eat: Anything with pesto, the regions speciality. I had the best spaghetti pesto in Monterosso at the family owned Ristorante Ciak. So worth the wait.
Drink: At Nessun Dorma in Manarola, especially at sunset. It has the best location of any establishment in Manarola, sitting right out on Punta Bonfiglio (where all of the postcard pictures of Manarola are taken). And they do an epic antipasti plate.
Stay: Actually stay! A lot of tourist visit the Cinque Terre for a day trip, but I believe this can be a real disservice to the towns. To truly experience the Cinque Terre, spend a couple nights in one of the towns or even in the neighbouring La Spezia. Hike the trails, swim in the ocean and eat everything. We stayed at Hotel Souvenir, a family owned hotel in the heart of Monterosso.
I kinda exaggerated when I said I was a bitch the WHOLE four weeks I visited Italy with my family. There were a couple of days where I was a nice human being. And these days were spent in Florence. The buildings, the piazzas, the food and the history are just some reasons why Florence remains one of my favourite places in the world.
We only really had one full day in Florence this holiday, so I crammed in a visit to the Uffizi Museum (go super early) and I made Jack walk to the Piazzale Michaelangelo, where the view of Florence was SO worth his constant complaining. Definitely allocate some time to this beautiful city.
On the way to Rome we also visited the Barberino Designer Outlets which was very dangerous to our budgets.
Eat: In Piazza della Signoria, my favourite square in Florence. Plenty of restaurants will be vying for your patronage so you’ll probably either knock off the cover charge or score a freebie or two.
Drink: At La Terrazza Lounge Bar, at the top floor of the Hotel Continentale. While a cocktail will set you back €19, the views from the top floor floor the old medieval tower will make it all worthwhile.
Stay: In the historic centre. Florence is a walking city which means if you stay in town you won’t have to worry about public transport. We stayed at Antico Centro Suites, which was a gorgeous but affordable guesthouse in the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica.
The last leg of our Italy trip really needs no introduction. Everyone knows that Rome is home to the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Lizzie McGuire’s Italian twin Isabella. Rome also houses so much work by the world’s most famous painters and sculptures it is easy to get overwhelmed. Especially when you see how big all the queues are. BOOK EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE IF YOU CAN!
My favourite sight in Rome is actually one of the least touristy. The Keats-Shelley Memorial House is a museum dedicated to the Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. John Keats actually died in the room of the museum that overlooks the Spanish Steps. It gave me goosebumps to be there. Probably only worth visiting if you’re a literature geek like myself (Jack went for a run instead of joining me).
Eat: At Hosteria del Mercato. This was without a doubt my favourite restaurant in Italy. Tucked behind the busy Via Del Corso in a rustic-looking Italian alleyway, this restaurant had the best pasta I’ve ever eaten in my life. Big call? Go there, try the pepper and parmesan pasta and then get back to me.
Drink: Do as the locals do and grab a bottle of wine to share while people watching in one of Rome’s stunning piazzas. My favourite? Piazza Navona.
Stay: For more than two nights. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it definitely can’t be seen in one, either. We were shattered we had to leave.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACES IN ITALY? SURELY I AM MISSING SOME! I’D LOVE TO KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SPACE BELOW!
Each Monday over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing parts of my holiday and giving you some tips along the way! Next week is all about the Cyclades Islands of Greece. Stay tuned!
Click here to view ‘My European Adventure.’
THANK YOU TO CHELCIE SCHIRRMAN- GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
Chelcie is a Melbourne-based Graphic designer with an interest in publication and typography. With a keen eye for detail, she has extensive experience in branding, campaigns and logo design. Chelcie works at APR Creative in Black Rock and freelances at www.chelcieschirrman.com.