In 2013 I was able to go on a ‘trip of a lifetime’ type vacation with my boyfriend, Nate. We were gone for nearly a month and absolutely fell in love with Europe, but we kept coming back to Italy.
While In Rome I learned that you need the reflexes of a ninja to be a pedestrian trying to cross the street, that gelato is far superior to ice cream, that even the smallest and most unassuming of places can house astounding things, and that you could spend a month there without seeing all this city has to offer.
Of course we went to the colisseum, which was incredible. We also opted to go to the roman forum tour, which was fantastic. I learned so much and it was the perfect introduction to our vacation. Our favorite things were actually two free sites in the city: trevi fountain and the pantheon. We were shocked when many locals, cab drivers, and shop owners couldn’t give us directions to the pantheon.
While in Rome it would be a true shame to not visit Vatican City. I would have loved to spend more than just one day exploring all of the magic that is held within the Vatican walls. The Sistine chapel is the most well known work within the Vatican, but it is far from the only masterpiece. La Pieta, housed in St. Peter’s basilica was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. I would really suggest anyone to go and admire the intricate ceilings, floors, art, and sculpture.
Nate and I adored Naples. It was bustling and vibrant without being overwhelming. It also was more geographically interesting with mountains like Vesuvius giving gorgeous scenic views.
We wandered aimlessly and really enjoyed going off the beaten path during our time here. We loved Naples so much that we did not venture to Pompeii or Herculaneum, but it is a definite on our next trip to the area.
We visited a museum, which was empty except for ourselves. It was absolutely beautiful and housed many forms of ancient transportation, paintings, sculptures, and a very strange set of marionette-esque biblical scenes. We also walked through the historic square, which is bordered on one side by the galleria umberto which has an incredible glass ceiling and intricate architecture.
Of all of our travels in 2013, we decided that we could live in Naples above anywhere else. A return trip is officially on our to-do list. Naples seemed to have Catholic Churches everywhere, almost on every corner. Each one was different and beautiful. I cannot wait to return to explore more of this beautiful city.
When people think of Venice they think of moonlit gondola rides, singing Italian love songs, and being whisked around via paddle boat from one beautiful place to the next. This is only partially true.
We were in Venice for two days, but I felt as if that was enough for me. Venice is beautiful, there is no arguing that– but the canals are are not the best smelling. We opted out of a gondola ride because of the price, and instead we got blissfully lost. We wound up buying my favorite souvenir (hand made leather bound books) from a man who was making the paper as we came in. It is beautiful and something I will love forever. What I learned in Venice is: bring a map in your native language, never trust fellow tourists for directions, gimmicks are everywhere, and their food is fantastic.
Florence is beautiful. Their buildings, their people, their food– everything is pretty. We ended up going to Florence twice on this trip just because we did not get to the duomo on the first trip. I am SO glad we went back because this is something I will never forget.
Most of the places in Florence do not allow photos, and the Duomo was a pleasant exception. The pink and green exterior is a breathtaking beauty. It is packed with more detail than one could imagine without seeing it first hand. Every single feature is beautiful and intricate. The real beauty was climbing the 700+ stairs to the top. I thought, on multiple occasions, that I was going to have a heart attack. We were also passed by the smelliest backpackers which only made matters worse. My advice would be to eat before hand as well as wear appropriate shoes. I was in a dress and flats which was not ideal to climb the narrow and winding stairs. I am so glad that we did, though. The views are panoramic and indescribable.
The interior of the dome is painted with intricate scenes of biblical stories. As you climb, there is a point where you come inside the base of the Dome and get a really good look at the art. That climb is a little less than half way, and I would suggest it for anyone who is capable.
Aside from the duomo, you are not allowed to photograph much else in Florence. We saw the David, which was completely awe inspiring. I was not imagining the sculpture to be that large, or for the museum to house more works that are just as precious. There were countless small museums which were totally awesome, each unique (and none allowing photos- bummer).
All in all, we adored Florence and plan to visit again to really get to dive into what we missed on our first two days.
Messina is very distinct from the rest of Italy. There is a totally different vibe there than anywhere else I have been. It was quiet, almost eerily silent when we arrived on a Sunday. We walked about the city for blocks and blocks finding nothing to be open. Around the tourist ports there were a select few places to eat, but for the most part, everything was closed.
Messina has some of the most beautiful architectural pieces, including the astronomical clock. Watching it turn and reveal new objects and images was truly incredible. It is interesting to know how many man made and natural catastrophes have destroyed this city, and yet it still thrives.
The straight of Messina is gorgeous. It is full of boats of all sizes, a picturesque statue, and perfectly blue water.
My suggestion is, if you go to Messina- avoid Sunday’s for your main travel day. We used this as an extra stop over point and had very limited time here. I would love to go again and really see what this city and region have to offer!