Welcome to Italy,
Venice is a gigantic floating playground for adults with its great wine, food and rich in culture & history. A short and unique history lesson of the creation of Venice is around 400 AD after the fall of the Roman empire, Barbarians from Northern Europe swept down in droves raping and pillaging everything they could of the fallen empire. So frightened people took refuge on the Venetian lagoon in the Adriatic and built small shanty’s on stilts above it such that the barbarians with their lack of knowledge of the sea and water could not get to them. And thus, Venice was born, officially coming into existence in 421AD.
Most hotels, hostels and accommodations are very old buildings which will require an actual key to gain access. There is no modern tech on the island besides credit card machines and ATMs. And since this is all on an island where the mass amounts of tourism garbage have to be taken out and picked up by hand, loaded onto boats and taken back to the main land. And vice versa, all commodities have to be loaded up and taken over by boat, Venice tends to be a fairly expensive place to visit. There are many man/women hours dedicated to making this a highly functional and effective tourist destination. Most Even the high end, what they call 5-star accommodation is still very old and dingy looking. But I think that is part of its appeal. You go there to transition back into the past a century or so.
Venice is surprisingly larger than it appears. If you decide to walk the entire island in one day like I did, you will quickly find out that it is an entire day excursion and you will get lost in the maze of small corridors and alleyways multiple times. But this is part of the excitement of it. Everything looks the same but along the way you stumble upon very cool things, monuments, statues, great little hidden cafes and restaurants with amazing views.
There are a multitude of taxi boat services available for a reasonable price strictly for transportation or for a scenic cruise down the Grand Canal. Be sure to visit the Rialto Bridge and grab a selfie with it. A spectacular Stone Arch bridge originally built in the 12th century as a pontoon bridge then transformed into a wooden bridge in the 13th century but after a few collapses was then transformed into the stone bridge it is today in the 16th century.
Of course, you will have to take an iconic gondola ride while in Venice. There is no shortage of them, but buyer be ware this is going to cost you 80 Euros for only a half hour ride. A good idea if on a budget is find another couple and share a gondola as then will be 40 Euros each and you’ll have personal photographers aboard with you for that perfect romantic couples’ picture under and arced bridge in a narrow canal.
I visited Pisa with the sole intention on getting the stupidly ironic picture pretending to hold up the leaning tower. I didn’t think much of the Leaning tower of Pisa before I had actually seen it with my own eyes. But when I rounded that corner and first gazed upon its leaning beauty, I was completely blown away. Its much bigger than it looks in pictures and yes, it has quit an impressive lean. I had to take a few moments and just stare at it and take it all in. I would definitely recommend visiting Pisa and seeing it with your own eyes.
I also didn’t do any research on Pisa whatso ever before I arrives. I was blown away about how friendly the locals were in this town. Compared to Venice, where the locals are just slaves to the tourism industry, the locals in Pisa where very friendly, genuinely interested in where you came from and wanted desperately to strike up conversation with you. The town of Pisa itself was incredibly beautiful with The Arno river dividing the town. The locals gather at night on the rivers edge to have drinks and socialize. Around 9pm, we had decided to grab a bottle of wine and a couple of cups, and just sit along the high stone wall above the river on that magically calm and peaceful night. People watching and socializing with the odd passer by, this was actually one of my fondest memories of Italy.
We decided on an Airbnb on the outside of town being that is was much cheaper than a hotel and much nicer, the town had adequate transportation and bus routes available.
Aahhh Cinque Terre! I don’t think you have to speak Italian to figure out that this translates to Five towns. Five little fishing villages along the Liguria Coast line, extremely rich in history, so much so you can, and people have written thesis papers on it. So, I will not go into that, but essentially now in the recent passed the area has exploded with tourism because of their shear quaintness and cliff side beauty of the towns. If you come to Italy, definitely go visit each and every one of the five towns consisting of, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. You don’t have to stay in every town, and it is possible to see all the towns in 2 days, but id recommend at least 3 days stay. Pick one town or if you like to be on the move then pick two towns to stay in. id recommend staying in Riomaggiore. It was my favorite with affordable pricing and being at the very south end, you can work your way up north.
It is possible to walk from town to town, on a trail known as Sentiero Azzurro or Azure Trail. but be warned this feat will take up most of your day, and these are mountainous terrain, with very steep inclines and lots of stairs. You should be in peak physical condition to even think about attempting this. Also, the section from Riomaggiore to Manarola called the Via dell’Amore or the Love Walk is now closed. It is still possible to walk between these villages, but that trail is even steeper and much longer. There is a highly convenient train system in place between the towns, in which connects with the outside city’s as well on the North and South, with trains coming and going every 15 minutes for a very reasonable price. The train ride between towns is literally 2-5 minutes. The train ride offers brief spectacular views of the ocean side as well. So much better then hours upon hours of walking up steep inclines and stairs. Trust me, you’ll have enough stairs while exploring inside of each town anyhow.
The seafood in Cinque Terre is Phenomenal. As a matter of fact, all the food is fantastic here. Plenty of liquor stores and side stores to grab a bottle of wine and just sit on a bench up top of a cliff side and enjoy a glass of red at sunset and watch the sun go down over the ocean’s horizon. Cinque Terre is truly beautiful and encompasses the true heart and feeling of Italy.
Rome is a Huge City. Even the locals that grew up in Rome have a saying that “One can spend an entire lifetime in this city and never see all of it”. There is never ending history and art here. With the many different areas, districts and even an entire country with in the confines of the city called the Vatican, which in itself has one of the largest treasure troves of history and art with in its walls on the planet. Rome is truly one of the most magical places on Planet Earth.
I only spent a couple of days in this city so I can only speak for a couple of iconic and Instagram able places such as the Trevi fountain. If you expect to get that legendary selfie with no one else around, you’d better plan to show up around 6am just as the sun comes up. Otherwise it is overrun with tourists. With what id estimate as 100 pictures being taken per second in an average afternoon at this fountain, the fountain itself has a rich history. It is the largest fountain in the city and therefor the most famous.
If you are a Roman history buff or even if you are not, go visit the Roman forum and be blown away with the buildings and construction techniques of those ancient times. You can’t begin to understand the size of these buildings, columns and pillars they were erecting back then with purely man power until you gaze upon them with your own eyes. Learn the Roman ruler chain history timeline and be impressed with little fats such as the Romans didn’t have currency but only gold reserves. Therefor everything for the roman people was free with in the city back in those great times. They used slaves to do all the hard work and to serve them in any way imaginable.
Of course, you have to visit the Colosseum while in Rome as well. Dwarfing modern day Hockey arena’s, the Colosseum could hold from 50,000 – 80,000 people. Splurge and buy the private tour of the inside. It is totally worth the price to stand inside those walls where great mock battles took place and one on one real life combat happened where thousands of gladiators and animals lost their lives in shows of entertainment. Rulers/governments distracting the public from the political problems of the upper class with great spectacles of sport and theater was born in this era and still continues to be the main tool of government manipulation and distraction of the masses of people today.
If you want to hang out where the locals like to go to browse little shops along the waters edge of the Tiber River, head to Trastevere district. The prices in restaurants is cheap due to this being less of a touristy area and the food is delicious.
Rome is truly one of the most magnificent cities’ in the world and you should definitely check it out. The many little piles of old ancient roman ruins with in the city guarded by little fences is worth it alone. Like miniature world heritage sites. It is very multicultural with many foody options and amazing shops everywhere to purchase trinkets and gifts for friends before you go home.
Landscape – 10/10
Food – 9/10
Price – $$$ (really fluctuates from town to town and also in different areas of each city comes different prices.)
Alcohol Price – $$