“One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.”
Simply the thought of Italy makes me smile. The country has absolutely everything that I enjoy. I’m going to start with the FOOD. After tasting the delicious flavors in many parts of the country, I am ruined! Everything is so fresh and flavorful. I daydream about going back so that I can stuff my face with burrata, pizza, steak, lasagna, and well, my list will never end. I even love their vegetables. Oh and how could I forget the gelato, and tiramisu? Okay I’ll stop for real this time. Italians know how to live! “In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” We did not drink a bad glass of wine there.
The beauty of this country is absolutely unreal. We’ve been to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Sienna, San Gimignano, Pompeii, Positano, and Capri. Each city has its own personality, unique cuisine, and thing to offer. Later on, I’m going to go through some of the things we did that we loved, the things we didn’t like, and the things we wish we did.
There is so much history and culture everywhere. It is life enriching to see all of the detailed paintings, the evolution of art, the outstanding architecture, the greenery of Tuscany, the romance of the Amalfi coast, and the unique gondolas floating around the canals of Venice.
When we arrived at the airport, we had to take a ferry to the part of the town that our hotel was located. It was inexpensive, costing only 8,50 €. There is also the choice to take a private boat, which would have cost 100 €. As we stepped off the ferry, we were overcome with a beautiful, magical feeling. It was unlike anything we’d ever seen. Before going there, we knew that there were no cars, but to see small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges is truly a sight to behold.
The food here is incredible. We didn’t plan our restaurant choices in advance, because we planned to get lost and wander around the beautiful streets. We indulged in ridiculous amounts of lasagna, pizza, and gelato every single day we were there, and we were never disappointed. I would suggest going to the famous Suso for gelato, the tiramisu flavor is my favorite. We also went to Harry’s Bar to try their renowned Bellini. It is said that they invented them. Since it is an upscale place, be mindful of what you’re wearing before you visit. They are strict about the dress code; they actually sent us upstairs because we weren’t dressed appropriately, whoops! It was still a nice experience, we were treated well and there was another couple upstairs with us because they weren’t aware of the dress code either. I would also suggest going to this cool bar we found by walking past it - Frulala. They offer free samples of cocktails as you walk by, and when you’re on vacation, why not try it? They make delicious cocktails with fresh fruit. We ended up going there one night and met a few other travelers. We had the best time, meeting people while we are away is one of our favorite things to do. My last drink suggestion would be to find one of those bars while you’re walking, that serve a 2€ spritz. It’s my favorite Italian drink, it is made with Prosecco and Aperol. They are super refreshing.
You have to take a gondola ride! It’s a must, don’t skip it. Unfortunately it is a bit expensive for what it is, about 80€, but it’s completely worth the experience. It’s so romantic and when you are on the boat you can’t even believe what you’re doing. Don’t forget to take a picture on the Rialto Bridge, spanning the Grand Canal. Piazza San Marco contains St. Mark’s Basilica, and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The first time I stepped foot on it was during a sunset, the square was lit up and it was pure magic. The architecture was beautiful, and writing about it is taking me back to that moment. As you walk around the square, you can find live music and restaurants if you’d like to eat. And last but not least, we visited the island of Burano. It is known for their brightly colored buildings, and it’s one of the best places for a photo opportunity. Another place you can visit is the island of Murano, known for glass making. We didn’t get to do that but it’s on my list for next time.
Venice was beautiful and I definitely recommend that you put this location on your bucket list if it isn’t there already!
When we first got to Florence, we wandered around a bit. The streets gave me an ancient, mystical feel. Some of them reminded me of the gothic quarter in Barcelona. It feels exactly like what it is - a place of history, culture, and art.
I’ll start with the food, of course. I knew that there were staple dishes of the city that we had to try, and we started with crostini di fegato, which is a common Florentine antipasto consisting of a liver spread over a piece of bread. We went to a random deli and we tried it. Craig and I are not shy about trying new things, but even so, I still think it’s worth trying even if you’re nervous about it! Another dish they say to try is pasta with wild boar. We tried it from Hosteria da Ganino, the wild boar was nicely flavored, but the pasta was not cooked al dente. I would recommend trying it, but from another place.
The last dish worth mentioning is bistecca alla fiorentina, it’s a thick porterhouse cut of steak served rare. We went to Sant Agostino Trattoria, and I highly recommend this restaurant! For the appetizer, please get the onion stuffed with pecorino. It’s so sweet and savory, you won’t regret it. My last restaurant suggestion would be La Cucina del Gargo, it was our favorite Florentine restaurant. The service was lovely, and the restaurant has an interesting story, Chef Alessandro returned from an 8 year run as an Executive Chef in NYC to his home town. Everything is truly prepared with love, and you feel like family when you’re there. Order the burrata, and their heavenly cheesecake.
We visited the Florence Cathedral; it’s a massive sight to behold. We also stopped at the Uffizi Gallery to admire the works of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. We wanted to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David sculpture, but unfortunately we ran out of time. I also wanted to stop by the Boboli Gardens for some pictures, but we didn’t get to do that either. Make sure to add those two things to your lists.
Aside from the food and our own personal touring, we went on a full day tour of Tuscany. It is called “Tuscany in One Day Sight Seeing Tour,” if you’re interested. It includes a comfortable bus ride with breathtaking countryside views, a tour through Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa. You get to enjoy a lunch at a wine estate in Chianti, and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa up close. It’s worth the money and it’s great if you only have a limited time in Florence.
“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
Rome is the busiest and most “touristy” part of Italy, but you definitely need to make a stop here. It’s amazing to see all of the sights and artwork that we have learned about in high school, through research, or even movies. To get the true experience of Rome, you should visit the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, Roman Forum, the Spanish steps and the Pantheon. We got to stop by each location. The only mistake we made is that we missed our tour of the Colosseum and did not get to go inside; we’ll have to save that for next time! The artists of that time really dedicated their whole lives to their craft. It’s hard to believe that humans created such enormous masterpieces.
As for food recommendations, you must visit Mamma Angela Trattoria and order their cacio e pepe. When I was there, they had a special including mussels and it was delicious. Cacio e pepe is a dish that you have to try in Rome, it means cheese and pepper, and it’s usually made with Pecorino Romano and black pepper. It has a very rich taste, so it is hard to eat a lot of it, but it is delicious. I enjoyed the restaurant and the service, and I would definitely recommend it. For the best charcuterie board, you need to visit La Locanda del Prosciutto. I can’t put into words how amazing all of it was. The wine paired with the flavors of the meats and cheeses was absolute perfection. Another place I liked was the restaurant Dar Poeta, they have really good pizza and there is such a wide variety, you are bound to find something you like. For some reason, Craig and I were super fat this day and we went to another place for more food after, it’s called Grazia e Graziella. I ordered ravioli and he ordered lasagna and we loved it! This restaurant is cute and they give you a little glass of prosecco while you wait to be seated. We also met a really sweet and fun couple at the restaurant, so I’m happy that we were fat that day because they were so awesome to meet! We hung out that night and the next, shout out to Randal and Stephanie!
As for night life, I also have some input. The lively bar area is in Trastevere. There is no shortage of people or bars. Since Craig and I are in our 30s, it is slightly overwhelming, but it’s still worth visiting. We went to Freni e Frizoni for aperitivo (a drink Europeans have before dinner). It’s a hipster bar, and there was a line to get in. I had high expectations because of the great reviews, but it wasn’t my thing. If you like the hipster vibe, you’d enjoy it. We tried a bar called Cioccolata e Vino, yes chocolate and wine! How could you go wrong? It’s basically a bar that serves shots in shot cups made of chocolate - two of my favorite things. The shots also have funny sensual names to add to the fun experience. Another bar we liked was Fluid; they have great cocktails in a glittery, cool atmosphere. The floors and the tables are made with “lava lamp” liquid, to keep the fluid theme.
“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
Positano really is a dream, and that is not an exaggeration. I saw the pictures before going, but it couldn’t prepare me for what I actually saw. So far, of everywhere I’ve been, it’s my favorite place. Let me start from the beginning, we landed in Naples and wanted to visit Pompeii. Since it would’ve been out of the way to go to Positano and then go back to Pompeii, we took a cab to Pompeii and arranged for our hotel to pick us up from there. There is space to leave your luggage free of charge, and you are able to roam around the historic area. The car service then picked us up from there and the drive to our hotel was about 1.5 hours. The views were beautiful and the hotel was absolutely gorgeous. The employees were the sweetest I’ve ever encountered, they do hospitality right! We stayed at Hotel Marincanto. The hotel grounds are beautiful and every room has a balcony leading to the stunning view of Positano. There is also a pianist that plays in the evening, it’s incredibly romantic.
On our first night, we had dinner at La Tagliata. It’s a family owned restaurant located very high up on the mountain. They have a free shuttle that will pick you up from your hotel, take you there and bring you back. Let me just say that you have to go here hungry. There’s no menu but they bring you a multiple course dinner. It’s so hard to get through because you’re already full towards the middle, but you keep going for the experience! Along with all of the food, including dessert, it also includes a bottle of wine and limoncello, all for approximately 40 euros. The next day we were still so stuffed that we could barely eat. We went to Chez Black on the beach for a light lunch. Craig ordered fish and I ordered a nice caprese salad. That restaurant was really cute and it’s nice to eat on the beach. If you’d like a romantic view of Positano at night for dinner, you can try Caffe Positano. We thoroughly enjoyed their food; I ordered the spinach ravioli in a cheesy tomato sauce. I did not want it to end.
My boyfriend is a bit on the adventurous side, so he rented a vespa. Needless to say it made me extremely nervous to be on the small roads, high up on a mountain, when big buses are driving down the roads in the opposite direction, but we made it and I am here to tell the story! It was so beautiful and worth the adventure. The views were unimaginable, and we stopped at Fiordo di Furore. It’s a small, secluded beach that is hard to get to. But we found a way, thanks to Craig. Another thing to do is take the ferry from Positano to Capri. When you get to Capri there are many people trying to sell tours to the Blue Grotto. Buy one of them and tour through the beautiful Italian waters. You will get to see the Lover’s Arch, pass by Sophia Loren’s home, and see the stunning glowing waters of the Blue Grotto.
I loved Italy so much; I enjoyed every part of it. I hope that it will be a country that I get to visit multiple times in my lifetime. It will always own a piece of my heart.