Monday, March 9, 2020

Rainy Travel: Tour of Italia

Hey Everyone! If you followed me on Facebook, Instagram or even Twitter, you may know that I recently went on a Tour of Italy trip with my husband for vacation. And we left the day before Italy basically shut down everything. But we made it out fine, we are fine, we did call UT Health Services and they said we are not experiencing any symptoms. And I am emphasizing that because there was a post about the coronavirus on Facebook and some people were commenting that everyone who traveled to countries who were infected should be "burned alive" or "killed off." I also want to emphasize that when we left for Italy, there were only like 2 cases in Italy, and those two cases were not even Italian citizens.  So there's that.

ANYWAYS, happier thoughts. This was our first time going to Italy, it was also our first time going to a European country. If you're just joining me on my journey, the only other place we have traveled outside the U.S. is Japan and you can read about that experience by clicking here. Italy was so different compared to Japan, yet so much fun and unique!

I'll be highlighting the different cities we visted, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. I will also talk about taking the trains, scammers and any language barriers we encountered so you can plan for your own Tour of Italia!

Rome

 

Rome, also known as Roma, was a very big and very touristy place. Rome was our first stop on our Tour of Italia. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast that we booked through Airbnb (which you can receive $55 off if you use my code). It was nice because breakfast was included with our price. We woke up every morning to a nice breakfast of different croissants every morning, tiny toasts with Nutella, a juice box and coffee. Every morning. We very quickly found out that croissants, juice and coffee in the morning were very popular for Italians. So if you enjoy a big American breakfast, you will not really find that here, not even at McDonalds. Our bed and breakfast was also nicely located next to the train station to take us to our next stop, which was Florence. I'll touch on the train situations later in this blog, but if you are going to be traveling to different cities, it is best not to stay too far from your train station. 

Food

Our very first actual meal in Italy was delicious and really set the bar for the rest of the food on our trip. Our first meal, I ordered the spaghetti pomodoro with meatballs and David ordered pizza and everything was delicious. DELICIOUS! And I did listen to every travel blog and vlog that I watched before going on our trip. We ate out of the way from all the touristy sights, so that we could get a real grasp for real Italian food and not Olive Garden Italian food. Also, when we were in Japan, we had some really good Italian food. So, in Italy, we decided to eat at an Asian restaurant and it was a wonderful taste! If you're in Rome, try the Asian food!


Attractions

We actually booked our whole trip around 2 things. One, Carnival, two, Sunday church service. I wanted to experience a church service at the Vatican WITH Pope Francis. And I did not realize until wayyy too late that he doesn't conduct Mass on the weekends, he only does it on Wednesday afternoons. We flew in on Wednesday at 5 pm. We missed it. BUT we did get to receive his blessing on Sunday. So if you want to go to Rome and want to see Pope Francis, I suggest going on Wednesday and checking his schedule

We booked our Coliseum, Roman Forum and Vatican museum tours ahead of time, which I suggest you do because there were long lines waiting to get into the museums and we passed right by them. For the Vatican museums, we booked a tour that just got us in early, no one stuck around like a traditional tour. When we got to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum, that is when we had an actual group with a tour guide and I'm really glad we did that. I'm not a big fan of organized tours, but our tour guide gave us so much information and gave us time to take our pictures and explained everything in a fun way. And if we hadn't booked an actual tour guide, we probably wouldn't have known any of the back-story or found out any good information. Also, I didn't even know what the Roman Forum was and it turned out to be my favorite part of our time in Rome. So much history and great photo opportunities. 

BONUS

The weather in Rome was probably my favorite because it felt like actual spring weather. It didn't get too cold and the sun was nice and bright during the day, so it felt really comfortable.

Florence 

Florence, also known as Firenze, was a great up and happening place. This time, we stayed at an Airbnb that, unbeknownst to me, had the shower in the kitchen. The shower was small, the stairways were small, it was small. But it was also cute and felt like I was really living like a local. We also had a tiny TV, which I loved because when we are winding down for the day, I enjoy watching what other people watch in their country. Turns out Italians love their cooking shows just as much as we do.

Food

I enjoyed the night time in Florence much more than I did in Rome. I just felt like Florence was more connected (we were also more in the central area). And there was so much good food! We even ate at THE Gucci restaurant, which was just as expensive as it sounds, but the food was not overrated. And if you're in Florence you have to try All'Antico Vinaio Firenze. It is a sandwich shop. It will be the BEST sandwich you ever had GUARANTEED! They are so good that they have two stores right across from each other. You will probably have to wait in a line, but worth every minute.

Attractions 

There were quite a few things to see and do in Florence, we just didn't get to do it all. I would recommend seeing the Duomo, I can show you multiple pictures, but the amazing architecture of this building, photos just don't do it justice. You also must see David. You can see so many statues in your time in Italy, but the statue of David just takes your breath away. He is so smooth and well kept that no other work of marble will ever impress you ever again. We also visited the Da Vinci Interactive Museum. I knew I wanted to visit a Da Vinci museum while we were in Italy, and there are I think 5 museums dedicated to him, but this was, as the name suggests, interactive. It's also very fascinating to find out all that Leonardo created.

BONUS

So the first night of Florence, we found this group where one of the group members played with a trash can and string converted guitar. They sounded beautiful! The next night, we ran into them again in a completely different spot! Turns out they have an actual album and I am linking one of their song on YouTube right here.

Milan

Milan, also known as Milano, was a totally different city from Rome and Florence. Milano is more modern and industrial than the other two places. But it had it's own charm and rhythm nonetheless. Milan was also our shortest stay because everyone suggested that Milan wouldn't live up to our expectations, but if we had more time, I would've definitely taken more time to discover more of this beautiful city. My husband and I stayed in another Airbnb, this time with the shower in the proper bathroom.

Food

Since we only stayed one night in Milan, I can't speak for a lot of the food part, but we did eat pasta for lunch and I ate a roasted chicken with vegetables for dinner. I still think about that chicken to this day and I don't think I will ever forget the wonderful taste of that chicken.

Attractions

Milan has the Duomo di Milano, which is another church, BUT this one is beautifully gothic. I didn't choose to climb up any other church except the Basilica and this church. If the church could talk, I'm sure it would tell us so much history. 

And of course, shopping is a prime thing to do in Milano. I went inside a mall right next to the Duomo and it was nothing but designer clothes. I wanted everything, but our credit card told me no, unfortunately.

BONUS

So, when we got to Milan, it was the first day of Fashion Week. I didn't even plan it that way, but I was so happy that we got to be there during a very fun time in the city. We only spent one full day in Milan, so we didn't get to go to one of the runway shows, but I did look up the Milan Fashion Week club that gets designers from all over the world to come out and talk to people, show off their designers and shmooze. It was an awesome time and if you get to be in Milan during Fashion Week, just do it!

Venice


Oh, Venice. Like I had mentioned earlier in the blog, going to Venice Carnival was one of the main reasons I wanted to go. It was always a dream of mine and it's crazy to think that the dream came true! I was there and I fell deeply, madly in love right away. Venice could do no wrong to me. 

Food
The food is Venice was wonderful! There's lots more seafood options and on our first night, we had lobster with noodles and it was one of my favorite dishes.

Attractions
By this time of our trip, we were a little done looking at historical places and architecture. I even went a day without taking my camera, because I was done and I just wanted to relax. Therefore, we didn't do anything that you could do the rest of the year. We did participate in Carnival with seeing one of the Best Mask Competition in St. Mark's square, enjoying the DJ in the evening and going to a Venetian masquerade party on a boat. The boat party was my favorite. So much food and the drinks kept coming. I also found it funny that the singers and DJ were playing American songs.

The only other "attraction" we did, was going to Burano. Taking a boat to Burano took about 1 1/2 hour, but it was well worth it. Burano is a colorful island that is small, but well worth the day trip. It was so cute and so lively and, as you can see in the photo, a great place to take a photo!


Other Things

These are just some other things to note about traveling to Italy.

Trains

If you're going to be traveling from city to city in Italy, I do recommend the train. It was easy to take and of all four trains that we took, only one was delayed. I also bought our tickets early. I wasn't sure how fast train tickets run out in Italy, so I decided to get them in advance instead of taking a chance. I'm pretty sure it would be fine if you waited but if you're a planner, like me, might as well be safe than sorry. Here is the link to the train site we used.

Language Barrier

We didn't have too much trouble with this factor. LOTS of Italians spoke at least 3 different languages, in fact, everyone kept talking to us in Spanish first, before we let the know English was our preferred choice. A lot of restaurants will have menu's in different languages. We only had a few times where we thought to take out our phones to figure out some of the menu's and signage, but if you are familiar with a romance language, like Spanish, you can definitely figure out some of the words.

Scammers/Pit Pocketers

During my research of Italy, almost every vlog and blog I came across talked about the scammers and pit pocketers of Italy. I was hearing how people would cut open your bag on the train, not to wear a backpack on your back, etc. I also heard of all the weird scams people do and did witness some like the flower scam where a guy goes up to you and says "free flower" and then when you take said free flower, he will ask for money. I know, doesn't make sense. But we did encounter scammers during our trip. The most prevalent places were Rome and Florence. And David wore a backpack and he was just fine. I wore a small crossbody bag that didn't have easy access and was short enough that it snug close to the front of my body. No pickpocketing happened to us, but just be cautious and plan for that scenario.


Overall

 Overall, Italy now is in my top 3 vacations. I loved it and my husband enjoyed our time and we do want to come back. I want to come back again for Carnival and then we want to come back during the warmer months to enjoy the lovely beaches and travel to the places we didn't get to see, such as Napoli, Tuscany and Sicily. Siciliy just so I can say, "Picture it Sicily 1922.." Bonus points if you get my reference!

So if you're planning to go to Italy, do it! It was worth every penny we spent. Comment below if you would like for me to break down the places I went into their own blog posts or if you would like for me to do any other travel tips! I believe our next travel destination will be here in the states later this year in 2020. Hint, it'll be somewhere witchy 👀 Until next time, Happy Travels!




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