My Italian Adventure
I spent two weeks travelling Italy it was possibly one of the greatest trips I have ever done, this is the trip that has actually inspired me to get into blogging as there are so many great experiences to be had and I want to share these experiences so people who read this blog can go out and experience everything that I have done for themselves if they are travelling this amazing country. Although despite how amazing Italy is to travel there are some things you should watch out for, but don’t worry in this post I will cover all the things you should be aware off when travelling Italy. In this post I will talk about the trip from start to finish to hopefully provide a little or a lot of help and inspiration to people who are thinking of visiting Italy themselves. For people who are wishing visiting only one place in Italy, then this blog is split into six different locations, Venice, Lake Garda, Florence, Siena, Rome and Sorrento, so if you are thinking of visiting one of these places feel free to skip ahead straight to your chosen location. This is going to be a long post, but don’t worry I will be writing an Italy plan very soon that will be much shorter and gets straight to the point, so make sure to keep an eye out for that. With all that being said let’s get begin.
So me and my boyfriend packed our bags with enough clothes as we could possibly fit in and caught a 2 hour flight from Manchester to Venice, even on the plane I was amazed by the views from above as we flew over the Italian alps. After landing we headed down to the docks in the airport where we caught a water taxi into Venice, this is definitely the best and quickest way to get from the airport to Venice, lets face it none of us enjoy being on a busy shuttle bus when it’s 40 degrees outside, but if you’re on a tight budget then maybe a bus is best solution as water taxis will cost about 33 euros per person. Once the water taxi had dropped us off we were only a short walk away from the hotel. The hotel we booked was the Al Canal Regio, a small but nice hotel right in the centre of Venice at a decent price of £91 for 2 nights. There are even cheaper hotels to stay in but considering value for money I would definitely recommend this hotel. Once we had checked in we quickly freshened up and got out to explore Venice.
We set out on our stroll around Venice through the narrow streets, we made our first stop off at St Marcos square, the place is surrounded by amazing Italian architecture, in the square you also have plenty of restaurants to get a bite to eat with live bands playing music, just be careful though, these places are very expensive and normally come with unexpected charges such as charges for sitting outside and charges if there is a band playing at the time of your stay, luckily we already knew this as we have had family visit there and unfortunately built up quite a large unexpected bill, so therefore we had a stroll around the square and then moved on to somewhere more quiet for something to eat. In Venice the best restaurants are definitely the ones off the main streets, we found a great restaurant down one of the side streets just outside of St Marcos square were the prices were much cheaper, the restaurant was quiet, the food was great and the staff were very friendly, we also had a nice seating area outside without any extra charge, so that being said if you’re ever in Venice and looking for somewhere to eat just remember there are some great restaurants outside of the main areas. After a very late lunch we then continued to stroll around the streets, all around Venice you will find the Masquerade shops with the walls covered in beautifully decorated masks, make sure to stop off at one of these shops to have a gander at the masks as they make for a great souvenir if you wish to purchase one. Some of these shops also have the option to create your own mask if you feel like getting creative. Whilst we are on the subject of shops it feels like now is the best time to mention the chocolate and sweet shops, not only are these shops fun to walk around but the snacks they offer are some of the best you will get, we went for a walk in one of the chocolate shops and and come out nearly a stone heavier just from the freebies they were handing us. If shopping is your thing then Venice is definitely the place, as well as sweets shops you also have clothes shops, make up shops, furniture shops, you name it they’ve got it. The day was getting late and we were pretty tired from travelling so we decided to make our way back to the hotel, on our way back we stopped off at the Rialto bridge that crosses the Grande Canal to watch the sunset, this was definitely the best time to see the bridge, it was much less crowded and much more peaceful as we watched the sun go down.
On the second day we got up early and headed out for a morning ride on a Gondola, I mean it wouldn’t be a trip to Venice without a gondola trip would it. We pre-booked our Gondola to make sure we had a place on the day and avoid the long queues, the price of the Gondola ride was 32 euros each for a shared tour, there is the option to book private tours but these are much more expensive. The Gondola ride was such a good experience and definitely one of the best ways to see Venice, we started by navigating around the tight waterways in-between the tall buildings before heading out onto the Grande Canal where we had some great views of the Santa Maria Della Salute. This is definitely something you need to do if you are visiting Venice. After the Gondola ride we continued exploring around Venice, we eventually come to the Museum of Torture, it sound a little bit sadistic I know but this was actually one of our highlights of the trip, the museum cost 16 euros each and we were given an audio player and headphones that gave us a great description of all the different sections in the museum, there are some quite graphic sections so maybe cover your eyes in some parts if you’re a bit squeamish. After the museum we decided to chill out for the rest of the day to reflect on our time in Venice and have a couple of drinks, top tip, the beer is cheaper from the pizza shops. We called it and early night after a couple of beers as we needed to be up early for the train to Lake Garda the next morning. Overall Venice is a fantastic place for a short visit and and excellent starting point if you are looking to travel Italy.
On our third day we woke up early and carried our heavy bags to the train station to catch the early train to Lake Garda. To get to Lake Garda from Venice we had to catch two trains, the first took us to Verona Porta Nuova where we then had to change to a different train which took us to Rovereto, the journey in total took 2 hours 4 minutes and cost only 31 euros for business class, not to bad in my opinion considering the trains really are quite nice, you can opt for standard class but there isn’t that much in the price difference so I would definitely recommend business class. Once we reached Rovereto we then had to catch a taxi to our apartment that we were staying in, it takes about 20 minutes to get from Rovereto to Lake Garda without traffic, and the taxi costs around 20 euros. When we arrived at our apartment we met up with a friendly woman whose apartment we were renting, she was really helpful with showing us around the apartment and giving us some information about the area, she also provided us with a discount card for her restaurant. The apartment we were staying in was called the Casa Vilma and honestly it was the best accommodation of the whole trip and for the price I would definitely stay there again, in total it cost us 166 euros for 3 nights, inside there were 3 bedrooms, a large bathroom, kitchen and living room, and also a decent size garden outside, the apartment is also in a great location and only a 5 minute walk from the lake. Once the whole check in business was complete we set off out to get some food as we were starving by this point, around the corner from our apartment was a lounge bar called The Aurora the food and drinks there are incredible and the atmoshpere is really nice and chilled out, great place to go to relax and have a drink. After having some lunch it was then time to explore the area, we left the lounge bar and headed down a short road which then brought us out at the lake, I was left speechless at the sight of the lake, I had seen some good photos but nothing could compare to standing there and seeing it for myself. After a few minutes of admiring the scenery we decided to cool off by going for a swim in the lake, the water was so refreshing, it was nice change swimming in some fresh lake water instead of salty sea water. After a quick swim we then got dried and decided to go see more of the area, there is a walkers/cyclists path that takes you from Torbole to Riva along the shore of the lake, i’d recommend taking this route as it provides some of the best views of the lake, a good stop off point to admire the views is Padlock bridge which crosses the large river that flows into the lake, as you can probably guess from the name this bridge is covered in padlocks that visitors had left there with there own personal messages, so make sure to bring one with you to add to the collection. We arrived in Riva and had a stroll around the streets, there are plenty of shops here so if you’re a keen shopper then this is a good place to visit, we were on a budget unfortunately so we couldn’t afford to go splashing our cash on the things we seen, it was still nice to have a wonder in the shops though. The centre of Riva is a nice place to stop off and relax by the fountain, and to also spend some time listening to the talented buskers playing music. After a couple of hours in Riva we headed back to the shores of the lake and spent the rest of the day chilling out by the water as we needed to save our energy for paragliding the next day.
The next morning headed out early and caught a taxi down to the cable car station at the base of Mount Baldo, here we met up with the guys who were taking us out paragliding for the day, they were really friendly and a good laugh which made us feel much more comfortable considering we were about to go and run off the side of a mountain. We had pre booked the paragliding with a company called Fly2Fun which had really good reviews when we checked them out online, the reviews did not lie either, the experience was incredible and I would encourage anyone to have a go. The guys take you up in the cable car to the peak of Mount Baldo, here they strap you into the parachute and and kit you out in some safety gear, you then start to walk to the edge of the mountain when suddenly you are lifted off your feet and into the air, a pretty scary experience at first but in no time at all you are having possibly the best time of your life, you will get the best views of Lake Garda whilst up in the air and its all filmed for you on a Gopro, the SD card with the footage is then given to you at the end with no extra charge. If there was one thing on this trip that I couldn’t recommend enough this would be it, the price for the paragliding is 160 euros so make sure you get saving and get it done, you will not regret it! After we finished the paragliding we jumped on a bus back to Torbole and headed down to the shore to finish the day with some water sports. We rented two SUP’s from Circolo Surf Torbole at a price of 15 euros each. There are loads of other water sports available such as windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing. This was our first time trying SUP so we struggled a bit at first because the water was pretty choppy, but eventually we got the hang of it and a great time paddle along the lake. After an hour of paddling on the lake some storm clouds started to appear over the surrounding mountains and the wind started picking up, so at that point we decided to call it a day and head back to the apartment. That night (once the storm had passed) we went out to experience the night life in Torbole, we were not disappointed either as there is a great selection of bars that serve nice drinks and play good music. Winds Bar was definitely our top pick, live music, good atmosphere and tasty drinks, I suggest trying the Randy Bastard this consists of pretty much every white spirit ever made with a tiny splash of lemon juice, its actually surprisingly nice, just make sure you don’t drink to many of them or you may be a bit tender the next morning.
On our third and final day in Lake Garda we decided to have little bit of a lie in after such a big day the day before, we were still out of the apartment for 10 o clock though as we didn’t really want to waste too much time. We headed over to the Carpentari Bike Shop to rent a couple of mountain bikes for the day which cost us 35 euros for the full day including helmets. After picking the bikes up we set out on a ride to Riva following the cycle path along the shore and then from Riva we headed north for roughly 30 - 40 minutes to a place called ‘Parco Grotta Cascata Verone’ which is a beautiful grotto in the mountains with colourful gardens, huge caves and tall waterfalls. You don’t need a mountain bike to get here by the way but its definitely a nice change from walking or catching taxi. Entrance to the grotto is 6 euros per person which is very reasonable. The walk around the grotto was stunning, we started by heading through the caves to the huge waterfalls and from there we headed up through colourful gardens to top of the grotto were we could see for miles, make sure to bring your camera for this one as there is an unlimited amount of photo opportunities. Theres a little souvenir shops there as well with loads of quirky items to add to your souvenir collection. After spending a couple of hours exploring the grotto we cycled back down to Riva, the breeze on the way back was complete bliss! Once we arrived back in Riva we got a quick bite to eat in a small German restaurant and then cycled back down to Torbole to return the bikes. After returning the bikes we walked back down to the lake for a swim in the fresh water and then relaxed on the shore and watched the sunset over the mountains. Our time in Lake Garda was unforgettable and we have both talked about going back, to anyone who is thinking of visiting Italy you need to make sure you put this on your list of places to see, you will not be disappointed!
The following morning we checked out of our apartment and caught a 20 minute taxi to Rovereto train station which cost us 20 euros. From Rovereto we caught a direct train to Firenze Santa Maria Novella which took 2 hours 20 minutes and cost 30 euros for first class, again the train journey was very comfortable and we couldn’t fault it. We arrived in Florence and was greeted by huge crowds of people, Florence is definitely one of the most busiest places you will visit so be prepared for the large crowds, another important thing you should be aware of is that pickpocketing is quite common especially in the crowded places such as train stations. A top tip when in Florence would be to keep everything in your backpack instead of your pockets and keep it locked with a travel lock, always keep your belongings on you and stay vigilant in the crowded places. Another thing to be aware of are small scams, you will find people trying to help you in the train stations such as pointing you to the right platform, be aware these people are not doing this freely and will demand money from you after doing so, the best thing we did to avoid this is simply ignore the people who are offering their help, it sounds ignorant but it will save you from getting yourself into an annoying and embarrassing situation, if you need help then make sure you ask a member of staff. With all that being said, don’t let it put you off visiting Florence, the city is great and has plenty of things to see and do. After making our way through the crowds in the train station we walked to our hotel which took us around 30 minutes, the streets are all cobbled so pulling a suitcase through them isn’t the best idea as we found out so I’d definitely recommend catching a taxi if you have quite far to walk to your hotel. The hotel we booked was the ‘B&B Hotel Florence’ which cost 75 euros for 2 nights, a nice modern hotel and very clean, great value for money, the only disadvantage was that it was a little bit out of the way, about a 20 minute walk from the centre. We checked in and headed out, the first place we wanted to see was the Piazza Michelangelo which was a 20 minute walk from the hotel, the walk is pretty tiring on a hot day so make sure you bring some water, the walk is definitely worth it though as the view of Florence from here is epic and is probably the best view of the city that you can get, this is definitely somewhere where you will want to get some photos so make sure you camera is fully charged. Once we finished taking photos and admiring the view we grabbed ourselves and ice cream and then made our way from the Piazza to the Abbazia di San Miniato al Monte, a Monastery that you can walk around for free and is really quite interesting to see. We couldn’t stay long here as they were wanting to close so we had a quick walk around and then made our way back down to the city centre. Whilst walking back to the city centre we found an old Fort that looked really interesting so we decided to buy a ticket and head in for a wonder, the Fort is called Forte Belvedere and costs 7 euros for a ticket to enter, the Fort is a 20 minute walk from the city centre and is well worth seeing if you enjoy historical sites. Inside you are free to walk the grounds and see different art work such as statues and other interesting sculptures, the views from the Fort walls is incredible, from here you can see all the surrounding country side as well as the city. Inside the building you will find more interesting artwork and if you walk up the stairs to the terrace you will find a bar were you can sit and have a drink whilst admiring the surrounding views, the drinks are quite expensive here so maybe don’t have to many if you’re on tight budget. After exploring the Fort we walked back out onto the path and followed it down into the centre, we entered through the city walls and onto a large bridge called the Ponte Vecchio which had shops as far as the eye could see, there were jewellery shops, clothes shops, food shops and much more, if shopping is your thing then this is somewhere you should definitely consider going. As appealing as the shops were we didn’t really have the money to go buying expensive jewellery and clothes so we decided to push on and go see the famous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The cathedral is definitely one of the most impressive pieces of architecture you will see so make sure you stop off here if you are visiting Florence, if you wish to enter the cathedral then make sure to either pre book you tickets or go earlier or later on in the day as the queues get ridiculously long and you could find yourself waiting quite a while if you go mid day, a basic tour guide will cost you 23 euros there are other packages available but they will cost you more money. We decided not to enter as it was pretty busy so we went to get something to eat instead. Luckily we managed to get ourselves a table pretty quickly at one of the restaurants next to the cathedral called Duomo Cafe, the food here was really nice and considering the location the price wasn’t too bad, they also do Steins of beer if your feeling thirsty. After having some food we decided to stroll for a little longer and then head back to the hotel and relax for the rest of the day and catch up on some sleep as the early mornings were starting to take a toll on us.
On our second day in Florence we actually decided to leave the city and head out into Tuscany to a place called Bagni di Lucca to do some activities at the Canyon Adventure Park. We caught a short taxi ride to the airport where we had a car pre booked for the day, the company we booked with was Hertz and the process was pretty straight forward to organising the car, it cost us a total of 90 euros for an Audi A1 for the day, not to bad I suppose. If you are also thinking of hiring a car then be aware that the rental places take a security deposit which doesn’t get refunded for at least 7 days, so watch out with this because if you’re on a tight budget you can find yourself pretty tight on cash once they take the deposit. So after hiring the car we set out to Bagni di Lucca, the drive took around 1 hour 30 minutes and was actually pretty straight forward which was a relief as I thought the roads in Italy would of been a nightmare. We arrived at the Canyon adventure park about 9:15am as our activities we had booked started at 10:00am. We had booked the day package which consisted of the canyon zipline adventure followed by the canyon park adventure which cost 50 euros for the day, and let me tell you it was well worth the money, this place is great for anyone who likes a bit of adventure and loves to get their adrenaline going, there also other activities available such as SUP and Yoga for people who just want to take easy. We met up with our tour guide who was taking us for the zipline adventure, he was such a friendly guy and kept on making us laugh throughout the whole activity. The zipline adventure consisted of hiking through a large canyon that had a variety of scrambles, ziplines and abseils, it lasts for roughly 2 hours and its a great experience from start to finish. There are some great photo opportunities whilst in the canyon so make sure to bring your camera and snap as many photos as you can! After the zipline adventure we had break for an hour and got some food from the burger van that is on the premises, not the healthiest of food and pretty limited options so if you have any dietary requirements make sure you bring your own food. At 2:00pm we walk through the woods and down towards the our second activity, the canyon park adventure, this was a series of obstacles and ziplines through another canyon high above the water, don’t worry though you're secured into a safety line at all times. At the check in desk we were kitted out in our harness and helmets and then given a briefing on what to do on the course, the staff there were really friendly and helpful, and they speak a variety of different languages. After the briefing we were secured into the safety line and let loose on the course, straight away we were climbing through canyon over the clear blue water below, the various obstacles and ziplines were loads of fun and we had a great laugh. Below our feet we could see people gorge walking and paddle boarding on the water as we made our way through the canyon. I guarantee the experience will leave you thrilled and craving more when you have finished, I could not recommend this enough so make sure to get this on your list when you visit. There is also a photographer there who you can buy your photos off, the photos are great quality and will be something great to look at years later. We wished we had more time so we could paddle board through the canyon but unfortunately we had to leave to return the car in time, so we packed our things and went on our way back to Florence. Make sure to return the car with a full tank of fuel as they charge you for every litre and add a service charge, this stacks up quick if you have used a lot of fuel so make sure to stop at a petrol station on the way back. This was definitely one of our favourite days and is something we would be sure to do again, it was also nice to get out of the busy city and away from the crowds for a day, so if you are visiting Florence this is something you should really consider doing. Overall Florence is great if you love the city life, the shopping and the architecture, and I would encourage people with these interest to go, it is also a good base if you want to head out of the city and into the surrounding beautiful countryside of Tuscany.
The next morning we caught a taxi to Florence train station instead of walking why the walk there with the suitcases wasn’t very pleasant. Once at the train station we boarded a direct train to Siena which took 1 hour 30 minutes and only cost us 8 euros, pretty good if you ask me. Once we arrived in Siena we then travelled 20 minutes in taxi to our hotel which cost us 30 euros. The hotel was called the Apart Anghel hotel, this cost us 130 euros for 2 nights and was a fairly average hotel, the staff were really friendly and helpful but the rooms were a little bit dated, our biggest problem was that the air conditioning did not work properly and decided to blow out warm air instead of cold which made sleeping rather unpleasant. In Siena the hotels are pretty expensive and this was actually one of the cheapest we could find, so for two nights it did the job, if you were staying longer I would recommend staying somewhere else that has nicer accommodation and is closer to the centre. After a quick freshen up we set out to the centre, it took us 30 minutes to walk there from our hotel and involved walking up a rather steep hill, be prepared for this walk when you go because it can be pretty tiring in the heat. The walk is very much worth it though, the centre of Siena is a gorgeous setting of Italian architecture and stunning countryside views. The first place we stopped off was the San Giovanni Stair case, the white steps that lead up through the buildings makes for a great photo, as strange as it sounds this is probably one of the most impressive stair cases you will see. If you travel up the stair case you will then find yourself at the Duomo di Siena, the large cathedral right in the heart of Siena, this is an amazing piece of Italian architecture, the white walls of the cathedral are covered with beautiful paintings and statues for you to see. Moving on from the cathedral we followed the narrow cobbled streets through the buildings, there are some great chocolate and ice cream shops dotted around the place so make sure to treat yourself whilst you’re there. Eventually we made it to the Piazza del Campo, this is the huge square where they host the Palio di Siena, a famous horse racing event that is hosted twice a year which attracts thousands of people. It was the day before the Palio when we got there so the Piazza was already set up for the event, this was really a good time to visit as the atmosphere was great. If the Palio di Siena is something you’d be interested in then make sure you visit either the 2nd July or the 16th August as these are the only dates that the event takes place, also if you wish to get a seat at the Palio then make sure you save up because they don’t come cheap, we seen seats being sold for 400 euros whilst walking around the Piazza. Whilst in the Piazza its definitely worth seeing the Tower of Mangia, entry costs 10 euros and from the top of the tower you will get the best views of Siena, make sure to pre book tickets or get there early to beat the queues though as this can get really busy, especially around the time of the Palio. Make sure to visit all the different districts in Siena when you visit to get the full experience, I total there are 17 and there are maps available at souvenir shops for to follow and tick off each district as you pass through. Each district has their own flags and they are hung on the sides of the buildings for you to see as you walk down the streets, these are really cool to see as they are very colourful and nicely designed, my personal favourite was the Torre district flag. For dinner that night we decided to head out of the centre as the restaurants were pretty expensive, instead we went to a place called the ‘Road House Restaurant’ this place was great, it was clean, the food was amazing and the prices were a lot less than in the restaurants in the centre. I decided to go for the Quesadillas and my boyfriend went for the steak, we were more than satisfied with the meal and it didn’t break the bank, so therefore if your travelling through Siena on a tight budget then this place may be worth checking out if you want some good food for a decent price.
On our second day in Siena we were meant to be renting a car and driving to the Saturnia baths about 2 hours away, unfortunately this did not go to plan as the car hire company wanted a security deposit of 600 euros which they did not inform us about beforehand, unfortunately we did not have 600 euros to give so we decided to abandon these plans which was really disappointing as we were both really excited to see the baths, the car hire was actually only 80 euros for the day which is pretty cheap, so if you can afford to pay the deposit then this still may be a good option for you. Oh well things like this happen when travelling and we just need to learn from our mistakes, so if you’re renting a car in Siena (or anywhere else) make sure to read through the small print or call and ask questions if you are not 100 percent sure. Even though we didn’t go the the Saturnia baths I will still share the useful information we found when researching this place, the best time to go is actually lunch time as most people leave the baths to go grab some food so if your thinking of going then maybe grab an early or late lunch to make the most of the baths whilst they are empty. The baths are situated south of Siena and can be reached by car, I would not recommend taking public transport to this location as apparently it takes multiple buses to get there and the English language isn’t very common outside of Siena so asking people for advice may be difficult. The baths are completely free to enter so you don’t need to worry about money on this one, just make sure to bring you swimming gear. After abandoning our original plans we decided to head back to the centre for the day to watch the Palio. When we reached the centre the festivities had already begun, the districts had started their parades around the streets of Siena, this was really great to see and the atmosphere was phenomenal. If you are thinking of visiting Siena then I would definitely recommend going for the Palio as it truly is a unique experience. If you want a good place in the centre of the Piazza to watch the race then make sure you there early as it quickly fills out. We headed into the centre to watch the race, the Piazza was already packed out so it was difficult to find a good spot, regardless though it was great to experience this medieval event, the race itself actually only last for roughly 90 seconds as the jockeys only do three laps of the Piazza. A top tip if you are there on the day of the Palio is to eat whenever you get the opportunity as majority of restaurants and shops will close for the Palio, we learnt this the hard way and went hungry until everywhere opened up again later on in the afternoon. After the race had ended we stuck around for the rest of the day to enjoy the rest of the celebrations and walk around the shops, id recommend saving up a little bit more cash than you originally think you would need as there are plenty of awesome shops for you to spend your money in but the majority of things don’t come cheap. If you are into your museums then there is a museum of torture at the entrance to the Piazza del Campo which costs 10 euros for a ticket, there seems to be a few torture museums around Italy, they must’ve enjoyed their brutal punishment back in the old days, thankfully these techniques aren’t use anymore so don’t think your going to be sentenced to the chair of spikes for dropping your ice cream in the street, they are much more civilised now. After enjoying the rest of the celebrations we found ourselves lost for something to do so we decided to head back to the hotel. Siena really is a great place to visit for a day or two but any longer and you may find yourself repeating things you have already done especially if you’re on a tight budget, Siena can easily be done as a day trip from Florence so unless you’re there for the Palio or have organised some trips around or outside of Siena then I would definitely only recommend visiting for one day. If your are visiting for a few days and wish to get outside of the city then there are quad bike tours available in the surrounding countryside, this is something we definitely would of done if we had more time and money as the tours looked like a lot of fun, again this is a pricey activity and will cost you 320 euros, this is with a company called Tuscany Adventure and the activity lasts for 6 hours, so if you’ve got the cash then this is something that definitely looks like its worth doing.
After checking out of the hotel at unbelievably early we jumped in a taxi that we had pre booked to the train station. Our train set out from Siena at 8:18am, this was one of the longer train rides of the trip which took 3 hours 22 minutes in total and required one change over at Firenze Santa Maria Novella, the trains cost us 40 euros each in total for first class, again I’d definitely recommend the first class option as it is more comfortable, quiet and only slightly more expensive than standard. We arrived at Rome around 11:40am and went straight to the taxi station to get a lift to the hotel, before we could choose a taxi we were approached by a man who claimed to be a taxi driver but after seeing his car we decided that this guy was not a proper taxi driver as he had no visible taxi licence/plate and his car looked like it had just been pulled out of a dumpster. Stupidly we agreed to let him take us to our hotel as he claimed he was cheaper than other taxi companies, this was true but in reality it only worked out roughly 10 euros cheaper, and for an extra 10 euros i’d like to travel with a company who I know are legit, so just bare this in mind if you are travelling in Rome. Anyway the taxi cost us 35 euros for a 17 minute ride to our hotel, it is possible to get these prices cheaper if you pre book online so I would definitely recommend pre booking your taxis online if you are visiting Rome. We finally arrived at our hotel after a taxi journey that I was convince was going to be the end of us, the name the hotel was the ‘Upper Suites Hotel’ and it was located on the top floor of an apartment building, this was a new experience for us as we had never seen a hotel above an apartment building before but the actual hotel was quite nice and the rooms were modern and clean, so for the price of 75 euros for 2 nights we were completely satisfied. After checking in we threw our bags down in the rooms and set out towards the Vatican were we had a museum tour booked, the tour cost us 20 euros each and for that you can spend as long as you wish inside. Starting off we decided to walk the court yard, here you get a great view of the Vatican whilst you walk the grounds, the court yard isn’t huge so it didn’t take us long to see it all, therefore we went inside to start the tour of the museums. The tour we booked was an unguided tour so we could walk around at our own leisure, there are guided tours available but these are a bit more expensive, in my opinion an unguided tour is the best option as you can go at your own pace and wonder away from the crowds. We started by wondering around the artefacts section, here there were all sorts of different sculptures, books, coins, pictures and loads more cool stuff to gander at. From here we then moved onto the art exhibition, here there were countless amounts of huge detailed paintings that were unbelievable to see, you will find possibly some of the biggest most impressive paintings in the world whilst wondering through this section of the museum so make sure to pace yourself and take it all in. Moving on from here we then started to follow the long corridors towards the Sistine chapel, the amazing details on the ceilings will have you glancing up for the majority of tour, just make sure to keep one eye on were you are going as its quite easy to bump into someone in there. We eventually made it to the Sistine chapel, this place is unbelievably huge, on the walls leading up to the tall ceilings you will see vast amount of famous holy paintings, this place will leave you in awe, as the craftsmanship that went into creating this place is like nothing else you will see. After a good stroll around the Sistine chapel we then rejoined the corridors and made our way back to the front of the museum, near the entrance of the museum is a Cafe were we decided to stop off for some lunch, in the Cafe there is a good variety of food and drink for you to choose from at a fair price so I would recommend getting some food here as other places in Rome are really expensive. Once we had eaten our lunch we then left the museum and headed out towards St. Peters square at the front of the Vatican, the square is a great location to stroll around and take pictures, its also nice to take the time to chill out by the fountains and admire the surrounding architecture of the Vatican. St.Peters square is definitely better to visit at night when there are no crowds and everything is lit up, its a completely different experience from seeing it during the day so its worth taking the time to visit here at night. That following night we had pre booked to go on a bar crawl in Rome, this was a lot of fun and we had a good laugh throughout the entire night, the company we booked with was called the Colosseum Bar Crawl and it cost us 20 euros each to join, Rome has some of the best night life I have ever experience so make sure you free up a night (and possibly the following day if you’re planning on consuming a lot of alcohol) to take part in this epic bar crawl. The guys who run the bar crawl are a great laugh and really take care of you throughout the night, just try not to stray to far away from them as you don’t want to miss the group leaving to go to the next bar, they are pretty good at rounding everyone up though so don’t worry to much about getting left behind. Throughout the night we stopped off at various bars and clubs and took part in loads of fun drinking games such as beer pong, there is a huge age range within the group and loads of people from different countries, one of my favourite things during the night was meeting new people from around the world and finding out about their counties and cultures. The only thing I would suggest being careful of whilst participating in the bar crawl is to make sure you belongings are secured as pickpockets thrive in crowded bars, I decided to buy a pair of shorts with a zip pocket just for the occasion and they served me really well as I managed to bring all my belongings back with me, apart from that the night is an awesome experience and I guarantee you will have a really fun time.
The next morning I have to admit I was a little worse for wear, maybe I slightly overdid it with the drinking on the bar crawl so because of that we had a pretty long lie in. Around 13:00pm we finally started to function normally again so we got ready and went out to see the rest of Rome. The best thing you can do in regards to getting around Rome is to but a Metro ticket, you can pretty much get anywhere in Rome on the Metro and it only costs 7 euros for a day ticket. We bought our ticket from the station behind out hotel and jumped on the Metro, our first stop was at Barberini which is the closest Metro stop to the Trevi fountain, from here we walked 10 minutes to the Trevi fountain, which was sign posted all the way so it was easy enough to find. On the way there we walked down possibly one of the busiest streets in Rome, now if you’re walking to the Trevi fountain from Barberini then the chances are you will also be walking down this street and its worth warning you that there are a lot of people trying to sell you things or scam you, we got roped into a conversation with a guy who eventually started piling bracelets and necklaces on us claiming they were free, we tried to stop him but he was determined to gives us this jewellery, he actually walked off after doing this without asking for money which for a split second actually convinced us that he had given them to us for free, so we continued walking when eventually the guy same guy stopped us again and abruptly asked for some money for all the things he gave us, this was very embarrassing and its honestly enough to ruin you day as these people can be very rude, in the end we handed him some change and told him that’s all we had, he didn’t look pleased to say the least but like I said we did try to stop him in the first place. My advice to avoiding this situation is to keep you head down and ignore them if they approach you because as soon as you acknowledge them it’s hard to get away. the one good thing to come of this ordeal though is that no one else tried selling us anymore bracelets or necklaces after this as they could clearly see that we already had more than enough. Anyway moving on, we continued our walk down to the Trevi fountain, when we got there we were more than impressed at the sight of the iconic fountain, it consisted of multiple small waterfalls cascading down into a large blue pool which shadowed underneath the enormous statues above. This is definitely a great sight to see when you are one Rome, there is a large seating area as well were you can sit and admire the fountain so make sure to find a seat and chill out for a bit, don’t forget your camera either as you will get some epic photos here. After a nice break at the fountain we then headed back up to Barberini and jumped back on the Metro to Colosseo, this is the closest Metro station to the Colosseum and it is literally right in front of you as soon as you leave the station so its pretty much impossible to miss. From the station we walked down to the Colosseum, this iconic, ancient Roman ruin is so interesting to see even from the outside, there are tours that you can take inside but unfortunately we were to late, there was a night tour available but this was quite expensive so we just decided to wonder around the outside instead, day tours of the Colosseum cost only 12 euros so if we had gotten there in time then this is something we definitely would of done, so if you wish to see inside the colosseum then make sure you get there early enough, pre booking your tickets is definitely the best option, especially in peak seasons. We strolled around the walls of the Colosseum for for a while and then found a wall to perch on and chill out a little more as we were still a bit tired from the night before, we had a pretty easy day but considering how busy we had been since arriving in Italy we felt like we needed it, there are so many more things available in Rome that we wished we had done though so if you are there make sure to make the most of everything available. to finish the day we decided to have a meal at a restaurant just outside of Vatican City, we both opted for the Ravioli as it sounded like quite a big meal and we were starving, the meal was not big but in-fact quite small, we got three pieces of Ravioli each which we polished off in a couple of minutes, this was quite an expensive meal as well, so because of the small portions we stopped of at a takeaway shop on the way back and got a large pizza to share, it was delicious. One of my biggest tips for Rome is to be careful were you decide to eat as loads of places charge a fortune for very little portions that will leave you feeling unsatisfied, instead make the most of the take aways, they are cheap, clean and make great food that will leave you feeling fuller for longer. Overall Rome is a great place if you are looking for a short city break, there are plenty of things to see and do, and you can actually pack out a few days here with activities without breaking the bank.
The following morning we checked out of the hotel and caught the Metro to Rome Termini, here we boarded out 8:40am train to Sorrento which cost us 40 euros for first class, the train journey took 2 hour 20 minutes and required one change over in Naples. The second train from Naples to Sorrento is more of a Tram, it wasn’t the most pleasant piece of transport we caught during our time in Italy but it got us to where we needed to go. Upon arriving at Sorrento we were only a short walk up the street to the apartment we had booked. The apartment was called La Playa apartments and cost us 130 euros for two nights, the apartment is located on the main road and is roughly a 10-15 minute walk down to the centre of Sorrento so the location is pretty good, inside the apartment was clean and modern, the only bad thing we could point out really was the fact that the shower had blocked and after 2 minutes in the shower the bathroom started to flood, we reported this issue so hopefully its been fixed since. For the price this place was pretty good though, it was one of the more expensive places we stayed but that was simply due to the fact that it was Sorrento and everything here is really expensive, this apartment was actually the cheapest accommodation we could find for this location. After checking in we once again headed out to do some exploring, we first stopped off at the centre, here we found loads of bars, restaurants and shops that all looked very appealing, the only problem was that we were nearly skint of money by this point so we had to take it easy and avoid the really expensive places to eat. Instead of eating in restaurants we actually found a really great burger bar called the ‘Star Pub’ that does some of thee best burgers I have honestly ever eaten, the prices were much cheaper than the restaurants and the portion sizes were much bigger so make sure you check this place out when you’re there if you are craving some fast food. After eating we wondered around the streets for a little while to see what was there, Sorrento is a beautiful place but we actually struggled finding something to do in the centre that didn’t involve shopping, if you head down the steps towards the docks then you will find a small beach, if you enjoy sunbathing, relaxing and swimming in the sea then its definitely worth walking down. If you are more like us and prefer to explore and do activities then there are other options available, we ended up heading back to the train station to catch a train to Pompeii, a return ticket cost us like 3 euros each so its next to nothing, the train takes 20 minutes to get to Pompeii and the excavation site is only a very short walk away from the train station. You actually buy your tickets for the excavation site at the train station, a standard ticket is 15 euros and for this you get entrance, map and an audio player that talks about the history of Pompeii as you explore the ruins. We entered the site and started following the map, this place is huge so be prepared to spend a good few hours here, its definitely worth listening to the audio played as well as the narrations are really interesting and you learn quite a lot of about the history of Pompeii itself and the disaster that happened there. There is an eerie feeling walking around the ruins, the place feels like a ghost town, seeing the fossilised bodies is definitely a strange but interesting experience, you will see a few of them as you walk around the site, we actually walked into a building that had human skulls scattered along the floor which was crazy to see. There are also different objects and trinkets that have been dug up in the excavation for you see. There are guided tours available but once again these are pricey and I believe you will have a much better experience exploring the ruins by yourself just like we did. Another thing to do there is to take the bus up Mt. Vesuvius, this costs 20 euros and includes your entrance to Mt. Vesuvius National Park, the bus journey takes 50 minutes and after getting off the bus you will need to hike another 20 minutes to the crater, its hard work in the heat but definitely worth for it the surrounding views from the top. After spending a good few hours here we decided to jump back on the train and headed back to Sorrento as it was started to get late, Pompeii is an interesting day out and a nice change from the beaches and shops if you are staying in Sorrento or Naples.
The last full day of the trip had finally arrived and to make the most of the last day we had pre booked a ferry the the island of Capri to go and see the Blue water grotto, we made it to the docks for 7:30 as our ferry was booked for 8:00pm, the ferry was 45 euros for a return ticket, pretty steep but believe me its worth the money for the opportunity to see to Capri. In total there are 33 return trips to Capri from Sorrento between three different companies each day, so there is plenty of availability, if your are going in peak season I would still recommend pre booking just for peace of mind. When you get to the docks you will see the check in desks for each company so just go the the company desk for whom you have booked your ticket with and they will issue your ticket and direct you to the designated dock for the ferry. The walk to the docks is straight forward as well, you just need to head down the huge stair way from the centre of the Sorrento and follow the street straight to the bottom, there are sign posts there to direct you as well so you don’t get lost. So after checking in we boarded the ferry and set off the to Capri, the ferry only takes 20 minutes and the journey is really pleasant as you get a great view of the Amalfi cost as you sail towards the island. Eventually we docked at Capri, disembarked the ferry and headed straight to the desk for the boats to the Blue water grotto at the entrance to the docks. The queue was pretty big considering how early it was but it didn’t take us long to get our tickets and get onto a boat, basically you do not pay for entrance to the Blue water grotto at the desk on the docks, you have to pay for a boat to take you there and then you pay for entrance when you arrive at the grotto, tickets for the transfer boat to Blue water grotto costs 15 euros each and the journey takes 10 - 15 minutes. When we arrived at the grotto we then had to climb from our boat into a little row boat, not the easiest of tasks if the sea was a bit choppy so just be careful when doing this if you are visiting the grotto. Once we got into the row boat we were then taken to a floating ticket station were we then had to buy our entrance tickets which cost us another 15 euros. After purchasing our tickets we then proceeded to enter the grotto, make sure to watch you head when entering as the entrance is really small, you need to duck down low to avoid hitting your head. We entered the grotto, at first it was pitch black and we couldn’t see a thing, but as we made our way through the grotto eventually the water started to light up bright blue, this is caused by an underwater cave allowing sunlight through from the outside, as result you get a completely magical experience as you paddle through the luminous blue water through the grotto. The guys paddling the boats also start to sing which really does add to the experience, the atmosphere in the grotto was well and truly spectacular the whole way around. Our time in the grotto was only short, no longer than a 5 minutes i’d say but it is an experience I will definitely remember, this is something you need to make sure you do if you are staying anywhere along the Amalfi coast, do not pass this opportunity as it really is something that is worth doing. So after paddling around the Blue water grotto we got back into our boat which then took us back to the docks at Capri, after getting back we then decided to walk around and see as much as Capri as we possibly could. From the docks we walked roughly 30 minutes up to the town at the top of Capri, at the top we found loads of quirky shops and restaurants as well as being greeted with some of the best views of the island, from here you can see for miles over the the island and the ocean, this was definitely up there with as one of my favourite views on the whole trip. Capri is a great location for people of different interests, in the Centre and down by the docks there are plenty of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, perfect for people who like to splash some cash shopping and relax with a nice meal and drink, for the more adventurous people then Capri also has some great hikes that will take you to more remote places of the island where the views are even more magnificent, a good place to hike would be up to the top of Mt. Solaro, here you will get the ultimate views of the island, if you still wish to see more locations around the island but do not wish to walk then there is a bus available from the docks which will take you to all these places, this bus is not very big though and from what we seen it looks like it can get really packed so try to get there early or on when the buses are less busy if you’re looking for a lift around the island. After wondering the around for a while and taking in the views we decided to head down to the beach and cool off in the sea, after an intense two weeks of travelling through the country it felt nice to just stop and unwind for a bit, even though the beach was pretty busy it was still a nice calm atmosphere, there are other beaches around the island but these would probably require a bus journey if you aren’t up for the walk. A couple of hours went by on the beach and it started getting late, so therefore we packed up and headed back to the docks to catch the ferry back to Sorrento. We spent the journey back to Sorrento reflecting on the past two weeks and talking about how great the trip had been, we had seen and done so many awesome things and we didn’t want to leave, Italy had well and truly lived up to our expectations and provided us with an experience that we will not forget. The next morning we checked out of our apartment and jumped on the train to Naples, the train only cost us 3.60 euros and within hour we were back in the big city. From the trains station in Naples there is a bus that takes you directly to the airport, there are signs all around the train station pointing you to the bus station so you can’t miss it. The bus you are looking for will be called the airport shuttle which runs every 30 minutes and costs just 5 euros, much cheaper than getting a taxi. Once we got to the airport it wasn’t long until we were sat on a plane back to Manchester thinking how quick the past two weeks had gone by. So that was it, our journey had come to an end just like all good things do, we were sad to go but at the same time excited to plan our next adventure!
All in All
All in all Italy is a fantastic country to visit, there are so many great places to see it really is worth getting yourself a train ticket and travelling around. No matter your interests Italy has definitely got something for you, adventurous activities, shopping and fine dining, relaxing and unwinding, you name it, Italy definitely well and truly has a huge range of things to keep everyone satisfied. I would definitely recommend this as your first travel holiday, and by travel holiday I mean somewhere that you are planning on travelling around to different locations, this is simply because Italy is very easy and cheap to get around with the likes of the trains, its very easy to communicate with someone as well if you need a bit of assistance as majority of people speak English as well as other languages. There will also be a bit of a learning curve with your first travel holiday such as this and sometimes it is possible to find yourself in a bit of a sticky situation, the good thing about Italy is that everyone is easy to communicate with to ask for help, this is a good situation to be in whilst you build up your travel experience as Italy accommodates this learning curve better than say somewhere like China where there is more of a language barrier which might make asking for help more difficult if you find yourself in a sticky situation. All that being said, if your looking for your next travel destination then you definitely need to consider booking a flight to Italy as this place really does not disappoint!
If you made it from the start to the finish of this blog then well done because that was a long one, to everyone who has read all or parts of this blog I want to say thank you for taking the time to read about my experience in Italy, I hope you have enjoyed this post but more importantly I hope you have you found it useful and that you can take something away from this blog to help you with your own plans if to wish to visit this amazing country. If you still have any questions regarding travelling around Italy then please feel free to contact me and I will try my best to answer. If you wish to see the latest photos from my travels then follow my instagram account @theredbackpacktraveller. Happy Travels!