So sorry I’ve been MIA! Was in a little country you might know, called Italy! It was my first time there and will not be my last. To say I had the trip of my lifetime was an understatement so now I have to share all the details with you!
I 100% recommend going in October, it’s right after tourist season so prices DROP and the weather is still perfect. You also go right before the rainy season begins so it’s really a win win!
Let me start by saying flights to Italy have been super cheap recently …. I booked our trip a year out because it was the cheapest time and scored a round trip, nonstop flight from NYC to Rome (on delta) for under $500. Say what?! And if you have a Delta Amex like I do, you get free checked bags! If you don’t, totally worth signing up and right now they are having a killer offer.
We landed in Rome and our first stop was in Cinque Terre. We flew overnight so woke up in Italy and were ready to go. Rome and Cinque Terre aren’t close, but it was most affordable to fly in and out of Rome. Friends said how easy the high speed trains were from city to city, so we decided to try it out. We took the train from Rome to the coast of cinque terre in under four hours! Beyond easy to figure out, even with it all being in Italian. You can buy your tickets online in advance (cheaper) or day of at the train station or even on the app.
Our first night we spent in a villa on the coast (hotel here) and it was beyond dreamy (with the exception of the broken lift and sweat to get up to the villa). We had a postcard view with a balcony to soak it all up! With only having one night there, we soaked up the views for as long as the sun was out and then went to a highly recommended place for dinner, Rio Bistro. My first Michelin Star restaurant and so cheap for it being so. The food was beyond fresh and the seafood was truly caught that day!
The next morning we had a cappuccino on our balcony and then explored the city center. Which to be honest was more touristy than I had expected but so fun being immersed in the Italian culture! After we found the bottle of wine we had at dinner at a local shop, we hopped back on the train and headed down to Florence.
The second we landed in Florence and hopped in a cab to our hotel, I thought to myself, this is what I imagined Italy to look like. All of the beautiful buildings, vespas, long narrow streets and food for days. A quick 10 min ride and we arrived to our hotel, Forte 16. This hotel was recommended by my friend Amanda and I couldn’t recommended it enough.
We were greeted with the most incredible customer service and we then treated to a bottle of wine on the house when we go to our room. This room was truly a little studio apartment with a luxury feel. The windows opened to us seeing locals on their balconies, putting out their laundry to dry on the line.
The hotel was only a few min walk into the hustle of the city center! Our first night we put on the complimentary robes, enjoyed our wine and got ready for our first dinner in Florence. Had so many recommendations by friends to go to, but decided on Boccadama (recommended by a former professor and friend of mine who is head of the Kent State study away program, so knew it wouldn’t be a bad meal, thanks William)! And he wasn’t kidding! Had some life changing lasagna which was only $9. Like what?! And a bottle of wine was only $15! I didn’t realize how affordable the food was in Italy.
And if you don’t like wine, read this post as a drinking game for every time I saw wine and you too can feel like you’re in Italy for a little!
We started our second day in Florence right in the city center and at the Duomo. Stunning stunning stunning. Which happened to be right next to the leather markets. I went, I saw and conquered with 4 bags under $150 in probably 12 minutes time. Real leather and the best finds of my life. After shopping and sight-seeing, we stopped at a little outdoor cafe for a snack and a spritz as recommended by the locals (and my mom).
That afternoon we headed back and got ready for a super exciting evening. We had booked a tour, cooking class and wine tasting in a 600 year old castle in Tuscany, Castello del Trebbio.
Taking a cab there was incredible, being able to drive through the country side and see so many beautiful things on the way there and then we ended up at the castle. Breathless views and the castle, wow. It was a small group of about 15 touring the famous castle and learning the history. Not pictures were allowed in certain parts since the family that owns it still lives there (who we got to meet along the way too)!
After a tour of history, we headed to the kitchen. Our group dropped down to 4 which included my mom and I and another couple who we got to know well and found out they were from CT. We cooked a four course meal with an incredible Italian chef, who loved his job so much. We made homemade pasta (bucket list item), sauce and veggies, a bacon basil chicken in wine sauce and a traditional Italian cake.
Once we were done cooking, we headed to the dining room in the castle where they let us eat. HOW COOL.
Following the amazing day of cooking and wine tasting, we had our last day in Florence but it was short of amazing! We did all the site seeing and shopping (shocker)! We did everything from the David Museum to the Gucci Garden and Ferragamo Museum.
Made a stop on the Ponte Vecchio bridge and a few fun local shops along the way.
After wrapping up an incredible day of Florence, we scored a reservation at a highly recommended restaurant, La Giostra & OMG was it amazing. Can’t speak highly enough of the atmosphere, food, drinks, and service.
After an outstanding 3 nights in Florence, it was so hard leaving but I was beyond exciting to be heading to Rome. Back on the high-speed train and we were there in under two hours from door to door. Why can’t travel be this easy in the states?! We stayed in Vatican City in Rome, at Hotel Orange central location and walking distance to the train.
As soon as we arrive and unpacked, we went to the Vatican and picked up tickets for the Audience with the Pope the following morning. That night we stayed local since we had to be up early the next day for the audience, but found an amazing family run restaurant with food that did not upset! Felt right at home, and the pasta was to die for.
The alarm was set early but I knew it would be worth it! We got in line around 7am with 10,000 of my closet friends and waited to see Pope Francis. Somehow we got so close and it was chills to say the least. Such an incredible experience and on that I will never, ever forget.
Feeling blessed, we went back to the hotel, got a quick cat nap in, and went out to get our tourist on! Like I said, we were walking distance to the train and took it straight to the Spanish Steps. We hiked to the top and the view was so beautiful. We climbed back down and headed over to the Trevi Fountain (plays Lizzie McGuire music). It was everything I ever dreamed up and more, I did not want to leave.
But we were starving, so that was convincing enough! We found a super cute sandwich shop around the corner. Pane E Salame was not touristy and would highly recommended.
We finished our afternoon of site-seeing at the Pantheon, one of the best preserved buildings from Ancient Rome. Beautiful and breathless, like all of the buildings in Rome. Instead of taking the subway or cab back to the hotel, we took our waitress’ advice and walked back to the hotel. That walk was one of the best parts of Rome, just being emerged in the culture and seeing so much and enjoying the beauty of the city.
Sadly our trip was starting to come to an end and we were finally at the last day of our time. Another early morning but this time to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Let me tell you now, buy your tickets online ahead of time. You will save so much time and stress. This was hands down the prettiest museum I have ever been in and just so much culture and history. Truly could have spend all day in the museum just enjoying all of the art and architecture. You have to walk through the entire museum and then through multiple very, very long hallways and then you pop up in the Sistine Chapel and my jaw just dropped. It was pure silence inside, no talking or photos allowed. Just you, enjoying every moment of Michelangelo’s work.
With having checked another something off my bucket list, the Sistine Chapel, we grabbed a bite to eat and back to the hotel. It started to rain, and we were so upset but I think it was life’s way of saying your trip is coming to an end. Instead of the exciting night we had planned, dinner on a rooftop next to the Colosseum, we stayed local. And it was the best decision! We went into a few shops and purchased a few more things (and the killer cheetah skirt I am obsessed with) and had the best time. I found a wine shop *shocker* and the owner wrote down her favorite restaurant for me. We went and dined and didn’t want to leave, ever.
Italy now has a place in my heart and I feel like I was truly able to decompress and enjoy everything in life. Being able to go with someone so special to me, my mom, made it that much better. Until next time, Ciao Bella.