Its been just over a month since I returned home from an incredible 2 week trip inter-railing around Italy. I have finally got round to sorting through all my photos and stringing some sentences together to write about the trip. In one word it was INCREDIBLE!
Italy has always been high up on my list of countries to visit, seeing the colosseum in Rome, riding a gondola in Venice, leaning on the tower of pisa or eating my way through every gelatoria in Florence. I honestly could not pick one city to visit first. The past couple of years I’ve gone on tour operated trips for a few weeks at a time and travelled a vast area of a country. When deciding on what this years “big trip” would be, I thought it would be fun to travel around the best of Italy. Both Dan and I are keen travellers and were up for the challenge of planning a route and inter-railing around this magnificent country. I found some super cheap flights at the end of last year and we went from there.
Why did we chose Italy?
If this isn’t obvious from the photos… why would you not chose to visit Italy?
Although it may be small, Italy is such a diverse country. You can be in the mountains one minute, kayaking in the lakes the next and soaking up all the historic sites in cities like Rome within an hour. Aside from the beautiful views, Italy is well known for their cuisine, every country I know imitates the Italians but you really can’t beat authentic Italian food – they just know how to cook! Italy is teaming with art, history and culture, which makes this a fabulous country to get lost in, whilst immersing yourself in gelato and spaghetti.
How did we book/plan the trip?
Like I mentioned earlier, I was led in bed late one night and scrolling through sky-scanner for cheap flights, at this point I had nothing in mind. I used cheapest location for the months April/May and it listed all the cheapest flights for those months. I found cheap flights to Venice and flying home from Rome for £30 a flight… without even really asking Dan I had basically booked this and then began to build our trip around the dates flying out to Venice early on the 28th of April and flying back from Rome late on the 13th of May. We both made a list of the places we wanted to visit and then combined them, luckily they were pretty much the same. We then worked out how long we would roughly want in each place as we had listed the things we wanted to see and do, along with my trusty Lonely Planet guide, we were sorted.
I then used booking.com to reserve our accommodation in each city. We had a mixture of hotels and apartments in each place. We used the map to filter the accommodation as we wanted the best locations for our budget and they all turned out amazing – all bar one!
When deciding on what cities/places we would visit, we looked at the map and how logistical it would be to get to each place, I did want to visit Naples but it was just a tad too far away from the rest of the trip for us to fit in this time. We looked online at inter-rail passes which start at around £83 but upon insider knowledge (Italian friends) we were advised that the trains in Italy are very easy to use and cheap so not to bother with a pass and to buy single tickets when we were there. I’d say that actually with the amount of trains we got and the journeys we did a pass would have actually benefitted us but there wasn’t a massive difference in cost.
I bought a Lonely Planet Guide (as I do for most places I visit), these guides are both informative and a great read if you are a travel geek like me! They offer great insider expertise to help with planning your trips.
Using our list of places to visit we researched online the best places to get tickets as we knew we’d need to pre-book the popular tourist attractions. We even struggled to get tickets for a few things as we had left it until about 2 weeks before our trip, so my advice would be book way in advance. Especially for places like Florence, Venice and Rome (very busy with tourists).
We decided taking backpacks over suitcases would be more convenient as we would be on the move in busy cities, walking through cobbled streets, flooded with crowds. I’m not saying they were easy (mine was a beast!) but they were better than having to drag a suitcase around.
Italy is known for preferring cash over card payments so I made sure I had a bit of money in hard cash and then used my monzo card the rest of the trip. I found that most places accept card, all of our hotels and apartments did. It was just the smaller, side street cafes and tourist attractions that were cash only.
The trip itself
We started in Venice, this was honestly one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. We were blessed with beautiful weather, in high spirits as we had just arrived, feeling fresh and raring to go. We delved straight into authentic Italian cuisine, pizza, pasta, coffee and gelato all in the first day! We strolled through the different canals and colourful streets. I absolutely loved the Basilica and walking round the Doges palace. The bell tower offered fantastic views of the city and of course we enjoyed a romantic gondola ride through the Grand Canal.
Next stop was Milan, this was about an hour train journey from Venice and that flew by. The trains are so clean and spacious, very different from the south west trains I’m use to in the UK. The scenery between Venice and Milan was honestly beautiful. Milan as a city was probably my least favourite part of the trip, and somewhere i’d probably not hurry back to. There’s not tonnes to do there however we visited the famous Milan Duomo, climbing the impressive 250 steps to the top, visited the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci and “window shopped” around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. I also enjoyed one of the best pasta dishes of the entire trip at a family run restaurant right by the grand central station. We had a slight blip with our accommodation which resulted in us having to find another hotel… but we can laugh about that now…
After a short stay in Milan, we were off to Lake Como. We stayed on the Lecco side of the lake in a town call Pare. We stayed in such a wonderful, family run hotel with the most incredible lake and mountain view from our room. I loved getting lost in this natural wonder. Pare itself was very quiet, we had an afternoon of walking around and it seemed like we were the only ones there…. the next day we hopped on a bus to the centre of the lake and visited the town of Bellagio – my favourite part – it was so humbling just taking everything in. We visited the gardens, had lunch on the lake before taking a ferry over to Varenna for gelato and some more breathtaking scenery.
Florence was the 4th city on our list and one I was really looking forward to visiting. I can confirm it didn’t disappoint! I could not believe our luck when we arrived at our apartment, situated in the centre of Florence with the most incredible view of the Duomo which I was in complete awe of the whole time we were there. On our first night there, we just sat on the sofa gazing out the window for a good 10 minutes or so. Florence is full of colour, art and history – not to mention the incredible food – basically what Italy is all about! We visited the two main galleries; Uffizi GallerY and Galleria dell’Accademia. I was so impressed by both but if I had to pick one, Michaleangelos “David” stole the show for me. One of the highlights has to be the food market ‘Mercato Centrale’ – a buzzing atmosphere, amazing fresh food, anything you could fancy was in the market! I also loved climbing the bell tower and the top of the hill for the great views of this beautiful city.
After an incredible few days we were on the road again, this time to get that all important cliché photo in Pisa (it had to be done!). We kept our stay here short and sweet, staying really central in a great little apartment about 5/10 minutes walk from the tower. Pisa was fun and relaxing, a great in-between stop between Florence and Rome. I had the best coffee of the whole trip in Pisa at the cutest cafe – ‘dolce pisa’.
Our last stop was Rome! Some say we may have saved the best until last…. what a city! Full to the brim of history, every corner you turn you are faced with ancient history starring straight back at you. The Roman forum, the Palatine hill, the Colosseum, Borghese Gardens, Trevi fountain, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. This city honestly blew me away and I can’t wait to write about it in more detail. I’ve never visited such a culturally rich city as Rome. The food, people, history, art and atmosphere is like nothing else I’ve been to.
What an incredible trip it was… so grateful for the experience and chance to visit all the amazing places with the best company.