I thought it was only fitting that I write my first real travel blogpost about Italy…. I just sooo fell in love with it and can’t wait to go back (to be honest I feel that about almost every place we have been to, but Italy ranks a tad bit higher :-)).
The history, the architecture, the art, the food, the views, the people… I could go on and on, but wouldn’t be saying anything about this country that hasn’t been said before. So I will restrict this post to some recommendations/ suggestions based on our experiences – We did a couple of weeks spanning Rome, Capri, Positano,Tuscany and Florence.
Venice, Milan, Lake Como… So many more on the must-visit-next-time list (happy sigh!)… do share your suggestions!
My top tips for Italy
Planning your vacation
- If you plan to drive yourself, book an auto transmission car in advance. Unlike some other countries manual transmission is the norm in Italy, and if you are driving here for the first time, given the crazy local driving habits, a bit of advance planning and the premium for an auto transmission vehicle is TOTALLY worth it! Do also check to ensure that your GPS system is on English-speaking mode BEFORE you drive out of the parking lot of your service provider. The road signs aren’t very good, so a GPS would really be handy. If you plan to stay in Tuscany region, a car is pretty much needed get around the various villages.
- If you are a stickler for un-creased clothes, carry one of those small travel irons. Most hotels do not provide an iron and ironing board, but only a maid service. That would be just fine, except the EUR 10+ per piece that most places charge you (plus the tips that the mid expect)… a bit much if all you are looking to do is iron out a few creases that normal packing clothes in a suitcase causes.
- If you are planning to visit Rome and would like to visit museums, do book the Villa Borghese in advance. If you have 4 or more days in Rome, then do go there the first day and book your slot for a couple of days (or more) later. They only allow a limited number of visitors per day, and it is really quite popular a destination that gets booked out.
- If you love food (and wine), spend at least a couple of days in Tuscany, and take the time to book a cooking lesson in advance (if you are into that sort of thing). You have to taste the food to believe it…. The fresh ingredients are the secret (or so we were told). There are lots of places that do cooking lessons – so do some research in advance and book a lesson if you are keen (I would recommend Villa Bordoni)
- If you are planning to visit Florence, stay at Palazzo Magnani Feroni. It’s truly an experience worth remembering. If you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, check out some travel websites like lastminute.com – you may get lucky and get a fantastic deal, like we did.
Things to do
- Rome – Take some wine and short eats with you in the evening and picnic on the Spanish Steps. It’s a fantastic way to relax and soak in the city after a hectic day of sight-seeing. Enjoy people watching in this beautiful setting. You may get lucky and have some folks break out into song and music, to add to the joy of the experience. (Oh, BTW the water in the fountains of Roma is drinkable! So save yourself some money and simply refill your empty water bottles at any of the many fountains dotting the city.)
- Capri – If the weather is good and you can afford it, rent a yacht and enjoy the views and the sun, along with your own food, wine and music. There are plenty of nice spots for a dip in the water as well. The emerald grotto is amazing (and free)… better than spending money on the touristy boat tours that take you around the island and charge you an arm and a leg for a fleeting visit to the Azura Grotto.
- Tuscany – Do try to catch a meal at the Ristoro Di Lamole in Greve in Chianti and get an outside table if you can. I still dream of the food!
- Eat many, many, many gelatos – It doesn’t matter where you eat them. I don’t know what the Italians put in it… but it sure doesn’t taste the same anywhere else in the world.
On a side note, have you ever seen the movie ‘Eat, Pray, Love’? I hadn’t read the book, but only saw the movie cos of Julia Roberts (no surprises!). Can’t say I liked it. But there is one randomly edited scene in the movie which shows her sitting on a bench and having a gelato, with a happy, happy face. All I can say is that once I went there and actually tasted the gelatos… I finally UNDERSTOOD that scene :-p