For as long as I can remember I had wanted to visit Italy. Everything about the country just seemed so dreamy. The best carbs in the world, the best wine, a beautiful language, the most beautiful scenery and monumental historical sites that just have you in awe!
I went last year for the first time, landing in Rome I had planned to stay a full 5 days. However, Rome can easily be done (in my opinion, depending on how much of a walker you are) in 3/4 days. One of the best things about Italy is the brilliant train network that gets you from one city to another. One word of advice….whatever you book to do or see in Italy, book it all online. It’s quicker and cheaper. This year, I went back to Italy but this time to Milan and Lake Como for a long weekend. Here are my top things to do in all 4 cities .
This is a bit of an obvious one. It’s one that cannot be missed. Walking up to the Colosseum will make your jaw drop. You see it in pictures, videos online but nothing prepares you for when it’s right in front of you.
Now one thing I would advise you on….get onto a tour. You do not want to be waiting in the horrendous queues. There are 100s of tour operators to chose from, they will all approach you saying they have the best tour. Choose wisely. I paid 50 euros for mine and got the tour of the Colosseum inside but also bagged in the tour of the Roman Forum. It was incredible!!!
It is amazing at how many thousands of years worth of history is all within close proximity of each other and been very well preserved. There’s a lot of walking to do around the Roman Forum therefore, wear comfy shoes. (In fact, just pack comfy for Rome). The forum is surrounded my several ancient buildings. Where the Colosseum will take around 2 hours, The Roman Forum tour is max 1 hour. The tickets for the Colosseum should include your tour of the Roman Forum.
Another famous landmark in Rome. The Trevi Fountain is beautiful and is said to make you come back to Rome if you throw a penny in! This place has to be seen in the day but also at night time with the lights on. Prepare yourself though, there’s never a quiet time around here. But it is well worth it. Advice – to get a good shot of the entire Trevi Fountain; there’s a church right opposite. If you stand at the top of it’s stairs you (where it’s less busier) you’ll be able to get a fab shot of the entire landmark! Or show up at 6am when there’s no people!
The Pantheon is a short walk from Trevi Fountain and another you can’t miss. You’ll have to see this one during the day as it closes at 6pm. The queue for this may appear long but goes down pretty fast. It’s beautiful inside and a must see is when you look up inside the dome to see the ocolus.
I know you shouldn’t say the Lord’s name in vain but JESUS CHRIST!!! You cannot not leave this continent and not see The Vatican. I would suggest you spend the majority of your day here and book onto a tour. It’s the best way to avoid the queues but also begin to understand what you’re actually experiencing. I paid 50 euros for my tour and it did not disappoint.
There is SO much to see and take in at The Vatican. Walking around the museums and seeing the art will leave you in nothing but admiration. The best is always left until last…The Sistine Chapel. This has the most intricate paint work I’ve ever seen – Michael Angelo’s – The Last Supper. Give yourself a full day to experience The Vatican and of it’s museums.
Altare della Patria
Now this can be a quick visit but if you want to get the best views of Rome….then get yourself to the big white government building…Altare della Patria. There’s a 10 euro fee to get on the lift that takes you all the way to the top. But it won’t disappoint! You get the entire view of Rome.
Piazzas & Spanish Steps
Rome is full of beautiful piazzas my favourite being Piazza Venezia, Navona, Di Spagna where the Spanish steps are and to get another wonderful panoramic view of Rome go to Terrazza Del Pincio.
You can get to Florence from Rome within 2 hours! It was super easy and comfortable. Florence is based in the region of Tuscany and is filled with beautiful architecture.
The famous cathedral (Duomo) is a prominent feature of Florence. It’s architecture is stunning, it is basically art. From which ever angle you look at it, the Dome is what gives the building it’s striking look. Now unfortunately I didn’t get the pleasure of going inside or all the way to the top of the dome to get a view of the city as the queue was incredibly long. But when I go back, it’ll be a must thing to do.
This little bridge I almost missed and walked straight by without realising it’s there. Ponte Vecchio is a small bridge compromising of nothing but jewellery shops and tiny little houses. It is worth seeing as I believe it has the most jewellery shops on it than anywhere else in Florence. It has some really cute shops along the way.
Now I didn’t quite get to the top of Duomo, but I got to the top of Pizzale Michalangelo and whoaaa!! WHOA!! 1 – it was one hell of a inclined cardio walkout (thank god I wore trainers) and 2 – you’re in a for a treat! On the way you pass a beautiful Japanese rose garden that will give you a lovely view. But don’t just stop there. Keep climbing that hill to get to Pizzale Michaelangelo for some stunning views of Florence. To get back to the city I’d recommend a bus down straight into the centre.
I was super super excited to go back to Italy and this time to fashion capitale! Milano! This time I visited for 3 full days. Although I felt I got the bulk of what I wanted to see done, I could’ve had 1 more day to explore Milan further. We got lucky with our hotel, we bagged the Nhow for a bargain (in a hip fashion district, where they had fashion week, have a Banksy exhibition and have amazing restaurant and bars). We even got upgraded to a junior suite by just asking for an upgrade. If you don’t ask you don’t get!!!
Another Italian city and another beautiful Duomo. Italy seems to have nailed it with these beautiful cathedrals. Just like Duomo in Florence and The Vatican, Duomo in Milan is unforgettable. From the moment you see it from any angle, you won’t be able to stop staring. The intricate detail of every single piece is pretty mind blowing. No wonder it took 600 years to build! Advice….purchase your tickets online at ticketone.it and get there as early as you can to avoid the long queues. You want to get the ticket that gives you access to the lift that goes to the terraces (17 euros each). The arches are stunning and will give anyone photo envy but the higher you go the more scenic it gets!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
Right next to Duomo is the luxury shopping mall Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. You purposely want to go here for 1 – to see the gorgeous building itself 2 – spin on the bull 3 times for good luck and 3 – just aimlessly wonder around the most beautifully merchandised high end stores. From Louis Vuitton to Prada, it’s hard to not want to buy anything. Oh…just don’t leave without having a delicious gelato cone from Amorino!
If we had 1 more extra day in Milan we could’ve seen Szforesco Castle, Santa Maria delle Grazie (another gorgeous Church but with Da Vinci’s The Last Super painting) and Arco della Pace.
Just when you think you’ve seen the beauty of Italy in Florence, Rome and Milan there’s Lake Como. This was another jaw to the floor moment! I know both lakes are named the most beautiful lakes in the world and I can clearly see why. Not just the lake but the city of Como is just as picturesque. As we were in Milan for a full 3 days, we managed to squeeze a day trip in. Only 30-40 mins away from Milan on the train and an 8 euro return, it made perfect sense to go! Buy your train tickets online on trainline.com
Another Italian city….another beautiful cathedral. In the heart of Piazza del Duomo this cathedral is definitely worth seeing. Entry is free therefore, you can freely walk around. One piece of advice…when you’re visiting any Duomo in Italy you MUST have your knees and shoulders covered (this includes the Vatican). If you’ve not, you may be denied entry or be given someone else’s dirty forgotten scarf to cover yourself.
This is one thing I urge you to do when you’re in Como. Get the cable car to go all the way to the top for the most stunning panoramic view of the city and of Lake Como. Not just that but you’re in for a real treat to see the range of the Alps!! It is breath taking! You can also walk further up seeing some beautiful churches and villas. The ticket for the cable care is 5 euros per person, but it’s something you don’t want to miss.
Other things…I would’ve loved to have done a boat ride and gone up to Bellagio which meant to be another beautiful town however, didn’t get the time to as it’s 1 hour from Como. But it’s on my list for next time. Food in Como is also great. As you walk further along the Lake, more towards the cable cars you have an array of fab restaurants to choose from to have pizza/pasta and a glass of vino.
Overall, for me Italy has been the most beautiful place I have actually ever seen! Every region of Italy has something different and a completely different vibe to it. There’s something there for everyone not forgetting the incredible food and wine. I am still yet to find my favourite Italian dish in the UK (Cacio e peppe). The simplicity of this dish, yet the flavours are delish!!! Getting to any part of Italy from the UK is super easy as Ryanair and Easyjet do affordable flights. We managed to get our return flight from London airports for £40. I flew to Rome from East Midlands for £30 return!!! Absolute bargain. You can grab some real good hotel bargains via booking.com too. Rome doesn’t have any major hotel chains within the centre therefore, your best bet is to get a boutique hotel and as for Milan….we’ll you’re spoilt for choice with some incredibly trendy boutique hotels.
I cannot wait to plan my next trip to Italy, which will most likely be the south. Ideally I’d like to hire a car and drive down from Rome to Naples and all the way south! Fingers crossed.