Italy is my favourite country to visit. It is one of the countries where I feel most comfortable and this can be for several reasons: the gastronomy, the language, the places... I had Italy so idealised since I was a child that when I finally had the opportunity to visit it, I couldn't believe it until I was back home. That happened in 2016, but I was able to return in 2019 and 2020 for my fantastic trip to the Cinque Terre area.
Rome, first contact
The first time I went to Italy we organised everything down to the last detail. We stayed in Rome, in a Marilyn Monroe-themed flat, for about 150€ each for a week in the Termini area. The first day we moved to the Vatican and from there we went to Castel Sant'Angelo. Then we decided to walk along Via dei Condotti (the street of luxury shops) and end up in Piazza di Spagna with its corresponding staircase and Fontana della Barcaccia.
The next day we went to see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. We were unlucky because there was an incredible storm and there were areas that we could not see. But despite being soaked we tried to see as much as we could, bought the same rain poncho as the rest of the tourists and went to drown our sorrows in pizza and Kinder Paradiso (by the way, you have to look for and try this delicacy if you visit the country).
If you want to visit the Vatican as well as the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, you can buy the tickets for everything at once (85€) and save a few euros.
Eating in Italy
Another must-try is, of course, gelato. During my second visit to Italy I discovered the Gelateria Della Palma with a variety of 150 different flavoursof gelato. All in all, it's a crazy place. You need to go with enough time because it's not easy to make up your mind. Another good ice cream parlour, but not as amazing, is Come il Latte. One thing that strikes me about Italy is that first you go through the checkout and pay for what you're going to take and then you choose, in almost every shop.
As for the food, there are two other places I would like to recommend. One is the Restaurant Arlù, very close to the Vatican. I still remember the octopus ravioli and the pear salad with Grana Padano. The second recommendation is about tiramisu. I will always compare every tiramisu I eat with the one I had at Pompi Tiramisu, the best I've ever had!
Rome's must-see sights include the Piazza Navona with its Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (if you've seen the film Angels and Demons you'll be familiar), the Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon of Agrippa, the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II and the Trastevere neighbourhood.
To finish talking about Rome, among my favourite (not very common) plans are the following: Visiting Largo di Torre Argentina and renting a pedal cart at Villa Borghese. The first of these has a history - it was the place where Julius Caesar was killed - but that's not why I love it.
The place is a sort of cat sanctuary that you can enter: Gatti di Roma. As for Villa Borghese, it's a huge park next to Piazza del Popolo. I'd set aside at least an afternoon to visit it, rent a boat or pedal cart and go for a ride.
One of the excursions I have repeated twice was to visit the city of Florence. During my second visit we took part in a Free Tour with the company Landmarks in Florence, one of the best options for getting to know a place in more depth. In it, as well as giving you historical facts about the city, reference is made to Palazzo Vecchio, Il Duomo, the Medici, Michelangelo...
On our own, we went to the Uffizi Gallery for €2 (with the student card). It's one of our favourite spots. Another good idea is to stroll along the Ponte Vecchio, browsing the jewellery shops and walk along the Arno River until you get to Piazzale Michelangelo. Once there, you'll see a statue that looks very familiar. From here you have a beautiful panoramic view of Florence.
Don't forget to try gelato in Florence! The best gelato I've ever tasted was there, but it's best if you ask the price before ordering. Don't forget to visit the statue of the Porcellino, put a coin in its mouth and hope it slips through the slits underneath for good luck.
Fined in Florence
Another thing I would like to comment on from my personal opinion: Don't even think of taking a bus in Florence. Point number 1: Buying a bus ticket is a complicated task because you don't buy it on the bus, but at a tobacconist's and some people run out. Point number 2: We took the bus up to Piazzale Michelangelo. Then from there there is no way to buy a new ticket, so you have to walk down or reuse the previous 90-minute ticket.
We had our ticket expired for 15 minutes, the ticket inspectors caught us and we had to pay a fine of 50€ each. Conclusion: It's not worth taking a bus for the distances involved and if you get a fine we were advised not to pay it next time (it's your choice, I don't know if it's that easy to do).
Naples and Pompeii
Another excursion we did was to go to Naples and Pompeii.We travelled from Rome to Naples with Trenitalia for about €20 each and once there, inside Napoli Centrale, we took a kind of suburban train that took us to Pompeii Scavi.
Getting there was difficult because we got confused and ended up getting off at Ercolano (where you take the tours to visit Vesuvius), but in the end we got clear and arrived in Pompeii.
When we returned to Naples, we saw the highlights of the city thanks to a friend who lives there. He showed us the beautiful "Toledo" metro station, Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel dell'Ovo and Lungomare Mergellina. We didn't have time to eat anything, but our friend recommended trying the sfogliatella and having a pizza at L'antica Pizzeria da Michele.
I still have so much more to see in Italy, so I'll definitely be back, as it's one of my favourite destinations in Europe. What about you? If you've been to any of these places, which one was your favourite?