After my backpacking trip through Europe early last year, I told myself I would not spend any more money going there again. Europe didn’t seem to be my cup of tea or glass of wine, or even shot of whiskey. BUT, like every situation, I broke my promise. Go figure. You would too however if you got a call from an old friend asking you to attend a wedding with her at a castle in Bolzano, Italy. I guessssssss I could make an exception for that.
My previous Euro trip taught me a lot about my ability to travel solo; it helped build up character and confidence. This time would be different though. seeing as how I’d be traveling with a friend and during a busy season. Read all about my Italy Itinerary (just to give you a better idea of where I went) included: Rome, Florence, Venice, Bolzano, and Milan. Here is what 2 weeks in Italy taught me…
Don’t visit in the busy season
Please please don’t do it. I always stray away from the busy season but now I know why I didn’t want to come back to Europe this year, specifically during this time. Every place we went to besides Bolzano was over saturated with tourists. It really takes away (in my opinion) the beauty of a place when you are throwin ‘bows just to get across a bridge or into a cafe. The prices are way higher for accommodations, food, and activities…not to mention lines longer than the one at Apple for the new iPhone release. It’s ridiculous.
Instead: Go during the shoulder or off-season to avoid crowds and raised prices. Europe in the winter, although cold is very beautiful!
It’s hot in August
Thank you CAPTAIN OBVIOUS. I think because I lived my last 5 years in Florida and Georgia, I expected Europe to not be so damn hot. I was wrong. You got the sun beating down on you while you walk for hours around cities trying to find an escape from the heat, only to find out that the Cathedral you want to go in has no air. Do not underestimate the temperature, and make sure to hydrate your thirsty ass so you make it through the day! Reward yourself with a bottle of wine, some gelato or a swim afterward 🙂
Instead: Refer to the above solution. Going outside of the peak season will ensure you don’t overheat…I always say it’s easier to warm up than it is to cool down.
The Colosseum is in the middle of the city
I KNOW people are going to laugh at me for this. I just legit had no idea the Colosseum was in the middle of Rome. To be one of the Wonders of the World, I didn’t think people walked/ drove by it every day. Like, “hey guys lets all meet up at the Colosseum so we can go to dinner close by!” I guess I assumed it would be off in some magical field in the outskirts of the city. Seeing taxi’s honking, and people yelling close made it all seem so different than I expected.
The Colosseum was underwhelming
Maybe this had to do partially with what time of year it was, all those crowds…or maybe since it wasn’t in a majestic field like I assumed…OR MAYBE because the line to get in was over 2 hours long. We ended up having to pay $40 per person MORE just so we could skip the line. Once we got inside, the tour guide would make us walk 2 steps and then talk for 10 minutes, then another 2 steps and talk again. My friend and I ended up ditching the tour and just walking around by our self. Not how the day or the feeling of seeing the Colosseum for the first time should go.
The food is just as good as they say
Pretty sure I nicknamed myself fat ass during this trip, and pretty sure I ate pizza for breakfast at least half the time. The food is over the top, and I don’t mean in a showy way. Literally, EVERYTHING was good. You know what’s crazy? No matter how much pasta I ate, I never felt that tired/full/about to explode feeling. You know, when you submerge yourself into a plate of food like a damn animal and devour everything…even the plate? Never had that in Italy! Every Italian dish I had was magical. For the most part, I tried something new at each restaurant: beef carpaccio, cheese board, risotto, spaghetti, pastas, pizzas…I was in food heaven. They don’t call it EATLY for nothin’.
Order the house wine
I’m no red wine drinker, but my friend ordered house wine every single night and rarely had one she disliked. I, however, love champagne/prosecco but still ordered all house. It’s cheap and absolutely delicious!
Stay away from restaurants that display pictures outside
I had read about this little hint before traveling to Italy and decided to test its theory. Come to find out, it’s totally true! Restaurants in big tourist areas (I specifically remember in Rome and Milan) would not only display their menu outside, but pictures to go with each one! This is a major trap, the prices are noticeably higher here than other restaurants. PLUS, one Sunday in Milan, we couldn’t find a place close by that was open, so we had to settle for one. So expensive and the food was probably the worst we had the entire trip. Steer clear of these sneaky bastards!
Instead: Venture off the path and find a local spot that doesn’t try to charge you $15 for a glass of house wine.
Plan attractions ahead AND dress appropriately
These two go hand in hand when traveling around Italy. Plenty of well-known sites like The Vatican and multiple cathedrals make you cover up to enter, while some lesser known activities ALSO make you cover up. If you are out and about, make sure you bring a scarf/shawl/jacket etc.; notice before I said Italy is hot in summer, so it’s not feasible to wear pants and long sleeves all day. Dress accordingly AND plan ahead. We missed our slot time to enter the Vatican and ended up having to pay $50 each extra to skip the 3-hour line.
Another time we wanted to climb the Duomo but the line for that was also what seemed like 10 miles long. The Duomo also made you cover up, so we were not prepared like we should have been. Luckily it worked out for the best…bringing me to my next point…
Do whatever you wanna do
Earlier last year while backpacking Europe I learned not to do shit I didn’t want to do. I don’t want to wait in lines out in the sun, or go places just to check a box off my imaginary list. I enjoyed the cities for what I saw them as, a place to eat, drink and wander. Sure, the Sistine Chapel was pretty amazing and seeing the Vatican in person, but too many things now days are hyped up, and that ruins it for me. I don’t have to like a place because you or Trip Advisor said I should. THANKFULLY, the girl I was with felt the same way so I wasn’t forced to show to bitchy side. Don’t listen to everyone, do what makes you happy!
Venice is dirty and not very romantic
Did you know a gondola ride costs $100 Euros? Did you also know that while floating down a canal in one, you are pretty much playing bumper cars with the boat in front of you? I never once saw a couple alone in a canal on a gondola. Once again, something that was hyped up and ended up being “nothing like the movies”, as my friend said.
I promise I don’t go places trying to down them. I know it might seem like I never have anything positive to say, but I am just being real and as always, these are my opinions NOT YOURS. I wanted to like Venice, I really did, but aside from eating and little shopping, there isn’t too much else to do. You get around by foot or boat, and maybe since the waterways were there is why it smelled so bad? Whatever the case may be, I was let down.
Florence is amazing
See, I can be nice every once in a while. I recommend staying in Florence a little longer than Rome or Venice (in regards to hitting every place I hit) Not as touristy but has the most amazing ambiance. The character and charm of this city during the day is crazy, and it only gets better at night. I really can’t describe it to you, you just have to go see for yourself 🙂
Outside the major cities, accommodations are cheap!
Everyone says you HAVE to go to Rome and Venice and blah blah but getting outside of those tourist destinations is where the real beauty happens! For your eyes and your wallets! We stayed in an amazing bed and breakfast for 2 nights that only cost us $35! YES, that’s total…and it had this view…
Bring only a backpack if humanly possible
I wanted to bring back every cheese, meet and painted mask I found. Um yeah, do you know how dumb I looked making tons of noise with my bright pink rolling suitcase through the cobblestone streets? These roads are everywhere throughout Italy and having to rush to the bus or train station with heavy luggage is not going to work well. Also, many places we stayed did not even have elevators so we had to barely carry up our belongings, sometimes 5 flights of steps! Don’t be stupid!
Always check your plane/train/bus ticket
Check dates, check seats, check departing locations! Check and recheck again! I’ve made the mistake more than once for booking the wrong day or showing up at the wrong train station. An honest but sometimes costly mistake. This doesn’t just go for Italy, anytime you travel you should check! Even check your bags before you have something like our lost luggage in London mishap! You can never be too sure!
The countryside was way more beautiful than any of the major cities
Wine in Tuscany, a wedding at a castle in Bolzano. These two places took my breath away. You are surrounded by mountains, lush landscapes, and some damn trees! I could never imagine having a dog in some of Italy’s major cities because it was nothing but concrete! If you must go to the cities then go, but don’t be afraid to venture out and see more of what Italy has to offer! Some might disagree and that’s okay to be wrong 😉
Morning, noon and night. There is never a wrong time (especially during the summer months) to try out their world-famous gelato!
The men are…EXTRA friendly
Italian men ooze sex appeal. From their perfectly tanned skin to their glistening eyes, their accent, their smell, their outstanding taste in clothing. The list goes on. While they lure you in with their style and charm, just know that they are very very friendly. They want to touch and explore and get in your face. Can’t say I ever felt scared, just a little overwhelmed by their demeanor. Stay cautious and aware, and you will be just fine. If Italy is where you have come to find a husband, well then you’re in for a treat! (heart eyes)
I learned a lot traveling through Italy for 2 weeks! Hopefully, I have given some words of encouragement AND wisdom to help accompany you on your next Italian trip. It’s truly a magical country with so much wine, cheese, and scenery to experience! I pinky promise on returning one day to explore lesser known places and drown myself in pizza!
Have you gone to Italy? What did you learn? Until next time…
xo Bonvoyage Babes