Twp Days in Venice + Murano/Burano! Part of my Two Months in Europe series.
Five Magical Days in Rome! Part of my Two Months in Europe backpacking series.
Step Count: 29,634
So despite our late night last night we still woke up early to make it to our morning walking tour of “classic” Rome. We went with the same company as yesterday after our amazing experience. This tour took us through the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and more and was great at providing the foundational history of Rome. Our guide focused both on what he called the mythical and factual histories of Rome, going over the two stories behind the origins of Rome but also the two stories behind many statues/landmarks. We learnt about the pettiness of the Trevi Fountain architect who built a urn just to block the view of an annoying barber and of the feud between Bernini and Borromini.
After this we headed to the Eataly which is also in the area. The Eataly in Rome is the biggest Eataly and OH MY GOD it is heaven on earth. It is three floors of incredible Italian food, both groceries and numerous kiosks and restaurants for hot food. It ranges from fresh pasta to the most impressive cheese selection, walls of hanging meats and half a floor dedicated to wine, including a “fill your own” bottle section! We ended up being so in love we decided to buy ingredients to make dinner at home ( it was also there anniversary so there was a huge sale). We picked up Genovese pesto, gnocchi, a 4EU DOCG Chianti (!), zucchini and some fun orange and lemon drinks.
Step count: 25,770
Today we decided to take it slower and head back to the Jewish Ghetto/Trastevere for a bit more walking around and exploring. We didn’t realize that it was Saturday until we showed up to a mostly closed Jewish Ghetto but thankfully after Shul ended a lot more places opened up. We had been told so many times about the “Jewish style” fried artichokes from this area so we stopped into a place to try them. These are definitely delicious, with half of tasting like artichoke chips and half of it still super moist. We walked past the synagogue, the porticus octave and the old theatre.
Step count: 16,920
On the first Sunday of every month all the museums in Rome are free. Since we previously weren’t planning on seeing the Borghese we thought this was the perfect excuse to see it always for free! We woke up early to get there early before openings to make sure we got tickets and were greeted with a very short line. Despite very little information about this online, even though the museums are all free you still need to pay and get a reservation to get in ( which was different than the Sunday free museums we had been to in Lisbon). Disappointed but not wanting to waste our early start to the day we wandered off to explore the Villa Borghese park. The park is quite beautiful and filled with cute little coffee stands where we got morning espresso. There are a ton of tiny old buildings housing museums and even a fake Globe theatre.
For our final day we did the quintessential Colosseum day. Thankfully we had thought to book these tickets in advance so we went straight to the Palatine Hill entrance and exchanged our voucher for tickets and walked straight in no line. Honestly if you don’t buy tickets it is not a huge deal- just show up early and go to the Roman Forum or Palatine Hill entrance as there was no line for tickets here. One of the annoying changes they made is you can no longer go directly from Palatine Hill to the Colosseum, you have to go back out and around. So if you buy tickets here I would recommend walking straight there to get in early if you want to see this first as once you go into the Roman Forum you can’t go out and back in.
We ended up walking into Palatine Hill not knowing this so just committed to seeing this and the Roman Forum first. It was pretty cool seeing this first as there was no one else around so it did feel very ghost town-y. We used the Rick Steeves Podcasts as our audio guide which was amazing!!! I am so addicted to these now! We used both his Roman Forum and Colosseum one.
Loved the Sistine Chapel, the views from Gianicolo or Villa Borghese and wandering through Trastevere.
Old Bridge Gelato was amazing!!! And everything in Eataly!
Do multiple walking tours! There is so much history around every corner so having a guide helps so much! Also when there is no guide available Rick Steeves Podcasts are a new lifesaver.
Four days in Florence, aka my new favorite European city! Part of my Two Months in Europe series!
We arrived around dinner time and walked from the Florence train station to our Airbnb just across the river. We were staying in a really cute residential neighbourhood, in the Oltrarno area. This ended up being perfect as it was still quite close to everything, Florence is a very walkable city, but it was quiet at night and had access to more affordable, local restaurants.
We went to one such restaurant the first night. This one (Trattoria il Contadino) back on the Duomo side of the river is known for good Tuscan food. It is 14.50EU for two plates, a side dish, water and 1/4 litre of wine ( we definitely got more as we had three glasses each) and includes coperto and service which many restaurants charge. The plates are huge. This is definitely a place to go if hungry. Also on the way back to our Airbnb we were surprised with fireworks!! It was the end of Calcio Storico, a Florentine sporting event which is a mix between soccer, rugby and wrestling, so the entire city had come down to the Arno to watch fireworks marking the last match.
Our tour ended in Piazza di Santa Croce so we decided to head over to the famous All’Antico Vinaio for one of their famous sandwiches. The line was incredibly long, we waited just over 45 minutes, but if you have time its a fun, cliche thing to do and the sandwiches are amazing. My sandwich was the size of my face and I could not finish so either come hungry or share a couple among your group.
We then walked to the Accademia to see if we could get tickets for later today as they were unavailable online. We were able to score a reservation at 5pm so we proceeded to just get lost stumbling around the streets of Florence. This city is amazing in that if you walk a couple blocks from any given tourist attraction you can be completely alone in the beautiful streets and feel you are in a small town.
So after wandering around for a couple hours we finally got into the Accademia and made a beeline straight to David. This sculpture is just one of those things you have to see in person. It is so much more impressive and grand than the photos could ever capture. It is also so interesting just to think of all the innovation that went into creating David, with the tree trunk supporting the stature so it can be self standing.
We walked through the rest of the museum, including their special exhibit which was full of beautiful old instruments. Really great museum and not overwhelming crowded late in the day.
Between this stop and our next we stopped for a morning pick me up of gelato from gelateria de neri. This gelato was SO GOOD and its pretty central so 10/10 a must eat in Florence. My lemon tasted like the lemon were picked that morning.
In classic #taketwo style the leather shop next on my friend’s list didn’t open until 2pm so we went home empty handed.
For lunch we ended up at a cute Trattoria close to our Airbnb( Trattoria Sabatino) . Very local place with good affordable pasta and tuscan food.
After the museum we were able to go into the Baptistery and then get into the Duomo before our reservation at 5:45pm and begun the climb up. The climb up really isn’t that hard but it is a lot of stairs. My biggest reservation with the climb is that it can be super claustrophobic at times so if you get claustrophobic just be prepared and definitely go as late in the day as possible. I am only a little claustrophobic and even I got quite uncomfortable at times, especially when there are people passing you on their way down in this tiny, twisty staircase. That being said the view is 100% worth it. It was stunning from the top. The dome really does tower over all of Tuscany. We spent a long time up here just taking in the view. We made it back down before the bell tower closed so we for some reason decided to climb that to. Our legs definitely hurt way more on the second ascent but being inside the tower was really cool plus you get views of the Duomo from the bell tower.
After the both climbs we were quite hungry so we headed over to a highly recommended apertivo bar close by. Apertivo is a buffet served alongside drinks between 6:30/7-9:00. It can range from snacks to a full dinner. At Kitsch it was 10EU for an aperol spritz and unlimited food at the very extensive apertivo bar. We got great pizza, pasta, salads, roasted vegetables ( best roasted red peppers) and even literal balls of buffalo mozzarella. It was great value for money with all that food and a fun experience. Would definitely recommend using this as an excuse to get a cocktail as the apertivo is 10EU flat and cocktails are often 5-7EU whereas wine and beer are always really cheap.
On the way back from dinner we stopped by Gelateria La Carraia, a great gelato place on the Oltrarno side of the river. There is always a line but it moves so quickly you barely feel like you waited.
After we had taken about a million photos of Florence we wandered around this side of the river. We walked past the Palazzo Pitti to see if we could see any of the pretty Boblio gardens but the walls are very high so if you want to see the gardens you actually need to go to the museum.
After lunch we went to meet out tour group for our afternoon Taste of Tuscany Tour. We had really wanted to see Tuscany/Chianti but didn’t really have enough time to plan it ourselves so we settled for a planned tour. The company we went with was great because it is specifically for 18-39 year olds and they only take a maximum of 8-16 on their tours. Our group ended just being us plus two other girls our age from the States which was super nice. The tour was good but I still felt rushed at certain times and definitely missed the freedom of not being on anyone’s schedule. Our tour started off with a brief stop in Monteriggioni, a beautiful medieval town with only 42 inhabitants. The walls of the town have beautiful views over the surrounding Chianti region. After this quick stop we continued onto to the Lornano winery in Chianti/Chianti Classico. Our tour guide/driver was also nice enough to stop on top of this big hill which also had beautiful views of the surrounding area.
The winery was definitely the best part of the tour. The winery itself is beautiful with a lot of the original buildings still lining the property. We started by a tour of the facilities from the big barrels to the cellars where the wine ages. The tour was done by a winery employee who was able to give us a lot of information on the Chianti region, like the differences between Chianti and Chianti Classico and DOC vs DOCG wines. After our tour we had our wine tasting. We got to try four of the wines: the rose ( surprisingly delicious) Chianti, Chianti Classico and their gran selection Super Tuscan. This winery is especially cool because half of it is in Chianti whereas the other half is in Chianti Classico so it was cool being able to compare the two major wine regions.
After our wine tour we had time to explore Siena. Siena was beautiful but we definitely did not have enough time to full appreciate on this tour so I really want to go back on a later date. We went to this really good patisserie in Sienna called Nanini.
Dinner: Attempted to go to one place but it was closed so instead went to another place down the street, which ended up still being pretty good. The only annoying thing is they didn’t turn off their misting machine on the patio from earlier in the day so the patio was weirdly humid for night time.
Step count: 28,965
For our last day we really wanted to make it out to Pisa. Originally we were planning to go to both Pisa and Lucca, but with the high chance of rain we decided than walking around a city was probably not the plan so we settled on taking it slow and just going to Pisa. Of course the rain started exactly when we got off the train in Pisa and by rain I mean literal torrential downpour. Restaurants umbrellas were flying, the rain was pouring sideways and everyone was running for cover. We hid out in a coffee shop just outside the train station until this stopped. Thankfully when it rains in Italy it is violent but quite short. It pretty much stayed clear or very light rain for the rest of our visit.
The train station is surprisingly far from the tower and there was no wifi and we forgot to download the offline Google Map so it was a bit of a mystery at first how to get there as there are were no maps in the train station. But thankfully the coffee we stopped in gave us a map and there are some big maps on the streets as you walk away from the train station.
So after battling the rain and overcoming our lack of preparedness we made it to the tower. Its funny the tower is much smaller and more leaning than expected. I am actually not sure how it doesn’t fall over because it looks like it is literally toppling. We walked around the tower and took a bunch pictures before setting off back for main town to explore some more. The nice thing about the rain is that it was busy but not as crowded as it usually gets in high season. After exploring some backstreets we settled in for lunch and then hopped back on the train to get back to Florence for our train to Rome!
Step Count: 19,245
I really really liked Florence so this is tough. I loved exploring the backstreets and just wandering. The Duomo was stunning but also so were the views from Piazzale Michelangelo. Also wine tasting in Chianti was a dream and I really want to go back solely for a Tuscan trip now.
Loved Gusta pizza it was so good and so cheap. Plus eating outside on the street is super fun.
The market was amazing and had so much to offer, I wanted to try everything!
Book Uffizi tickets well in advance, not worth chancing it as at 9am there is already a two hour line
Definitely try to book your Duomo climbing time at night, it was not busy, not hot and we had the best lighting.
We figured that since we were walking up mountains we could at least sample different Ligurian specialties in each town. Since it was still quite early by the time we got into Vernazza we picked up a piece of Focaccia to split and some sweet cone pastries ( can’t remember what they are called). One of the cones was filled with cream and the other nutella, both were amazing. We ate these in the harbour and then wandered up a couple streets. We didn’t spend that long exploring Vernazza as we wanted to still get on the second trail pretty early and honestly not much was open.
We had initially planned to hang out at the beach but it was kinda raining by the time we got there so we headed to a bakery for cappuccinos and focaccia instead. We spent a couple hours reading and just soaking up Italian coffee culture. Cinque Terre is really nice in the sense that even though it is very touristy it still feels like people live here and a lot of locals popped in and out of the bakery chatting away in Italian. We then headed off to explore more of Old Town and pop into all the pesto shops. One cool thing about Monterosso because it is the biggest town there is still a lot of explore and we ended up finding a lot of old churches in Ligurian Gothic style in the town. These churches were more similar to Calonian gothic style on the outside as they were very understated architecturally but were painted in stripes and had very intricate insides. After church and store hopping it was finally time to say bye to Monterosso and hop on our train to La Spezia to head to Florence.