Hello Everyone! I am back from my trip to Italy which included seeing Rome, Florence, and Venice and I wanted to provide you all with a helpful guide from my experience all about when to go, what to do, where to go, what to eat, what are must see’s, and plenty more. I will break it down by place, food, sightseeing, and general advice.
R O M E :
*Grappolo d’Oro Zampano serves all the classic Roman dishes and has a great wine list – perfect for a nice dinner. It’s near Campo de Fiori, in Piazza della Cancelleria. The pastas like cacio e pepe (my favorite pasta in the world) are great.
*Ditirambo – another trattoria right across the street from Grapple d’Oro. Also delicious, incredible food, and an amazing wine list. Filled with locals so you know it’s great 😉
*Cul de Sac – near Piazza Navona. Delicious food, great wine (a lot is offered by the glass rather than by the bottle, which is unusual for Italy and good if you’re not planning to drink a ton but want to try something great) FOOD!
Most famous cafe in Rome is Sant Eustachio – made with water from an ancient aqueduct?! Sant Eaustachio Caffe
*Obviously the Colosseum is a must see, what we did was see it both in day time, and night-time because it is truly two completely different sites and beauty. As for tickets to get inside, if you don’t mind not going to the bottom part of it (the underground/jail) then do not buy a ticket ahead of time because actually doing that will have you waiting in a LONG line rather than those who did not buy a ticket like us and we got to skip the line and bought our tickets right at the front and went right in. The tickets for the underground floor were sold out but we did not mind it.
*Vatican Museums (A HUGE MUST)- This includes the Sistine Chapel and most of the amazing Renaissance art in the world! DEFINITELY buy tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. We did buy them ahead of time and we were SO glad we did that because otherwise we would have waited about 2 hours or so outside in the rain to get in. It ended up taking us 3 minutes to get inside since we had the tickets pre-bought. Just make sure to print them and bring them with you! I have about a billion photos of the enchanting details of the Vatican but I can’t add them all in here, please comment and leave your email address if you are interested in seeing more! It is seriously a BEAUTIFUL and remarkable sight to see.
*St. Peter’s Basilica – also in Vatican city, by the Vatican Museums. A spectacular church – and on Sundays the Pope comes out to address everyone and on Wednesday’s between 10-10:30 AM there is a Mass and you can also catch the Pope then! If you’re into churches or art at all, it’s worth visiting. Michael Angelo’s Pieta is there.
*Roman Forum – ruins of important ancient Roman government buildings. Definitely get an audioguide to explain the ruins, or go on one of the official tours they offer every hour or so.
*The synagogue and Jewish ghetto area is nice to walk through and catch a bite to eat. When you eat there make sure to eat the famous Roman Jewish specialty of fried artichokes (carciofi alla guidia — “Jewish artichokes”). We ate at BellaCarne Kosher Grill and traditional Jewish cuisine, it was AMAZING and the artichoke was mouth-watering. Highly suggest eating there! The streets are beautiful and the food is delicious! I am Israeli born and raised and really appreciated the authenticity of the Israeli food, get some falafel, pita, and humus and you’ll fall in love!
*The Aventine Hill is a great place for views of the whole city. There is a keyhole at the Piazza, and if you look through, you get a perfect view of St. Peters.
F L O R E N C E :
*Cibreo Trattoria-Although we did not get the pleasure of dining there, my best older sister that I never had done and stated that they had an amazing, spectacular meal there. She said it was made even more special because they seated them at a table with strangers and they ended up meeting an amazing Parisian couple who they stayed in touch with. It’s the more casual, low-key half of a VERY fancy restaurant. She let us know to be careful to enter through the correct door (Trattoria Cibreo and NOT just Cibreo) – a dinner at Cibreo might cost more than the plane ticket 😉
*Antico Noe – if you’re looking for a simple, traditional, casual place with delicious food, that’s your place to go. I thankfully decided to order some roasted red peppers there were SO close to being perfection as my mothers are which is REALLY hard to do: Antico Noe
*Acquattata Trattoria – the atmosphere doesn’t seem great but it’s a delicious family-run trattoria with authentic Tuscan food that’s not too expensive.
*According to my sister’s best friend who studied abroad there: best hot chocolate– Vestri Cioccolateria and best focacceria- Pugi in Piazza San Marco. You need to take a number right when you walk in, otherwise you’ll be waiting around for a long time.
*Uffizi – most famous art museum in the city – it’s pretty spectacular but also extremely popular so it’s DEFINITELY worth buying tickets in advance! I personally only got to see the outside of the museum but if we had more time I would have definitely wanted to go inside!
*The synagogue in Florence is beautiful – maybe worth a quick visit if you’re in the neighborhood. The Germans used it as a garage during WWII. A lot of the Torah’s actually made it through WWII and were unfortunately then lost in the Florence flood in the 1960’s. On another Jewish note, there is a plaque above track 8 in the Florence train station Santa Maria Novella that notes it is the track where the Jews of Florence were deported to concentration camps during WWII.
*Santa Maria Novella was my sister’s FAVORITE thing in the whole city and one thing that I am so bummed I missed out on, she states: “It’s a perfumery/pharmacy that has been operating since 1612!!!! You go through a narrow, fancy lobby and suddenly you are in a magical makeup counter out of your wildest dreams, filled with lotions and potions and soaps that have been produced for literally 400 years, since the Medicis ruled Florence. I have no idea if the products are filled with the same toxic terrible stuff as US cosmetics, but Europe tends to be better about those things (and perhaps the fact that it’s an ancient recipe means less horrible ingredients)? Worth checking out nonetheless because it’s really one of a kind. Via della Scala 16 – easy to miss because there’s no sign.” So, if you get the chance unlike me, VISIT IT and then tell me all about it and send me some pics!
V E N I C E :
*Piazza San Marco – gorgeous main public square
*Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) – we took an official guided tour that they offered every hour or so and it was worth it: Tour Link
*Ferry (vaporetto) – the central line runs through the Grand Canal and it’s actually the easiest way to get from one side of the city to another, but it’s also just an amazing view of the city! DEFINITELY worth taking it, especially during the day when you can get a glimpse of the gorgeous buildings along the canal.
*It’s easy to get lost in Venice, but getting lost in little romantic alleyways and bridges everywhere is the best part!
* I personally didn’t have a ton of food in Venice so I cannot really suggest anything but I can say that compared to Rome or Florence it’s a lot more expensive, so most of the places we went were just OK Plus I only stayed there for about a day and half. I mostly just kept eating either pizza or pasta and obviously, crepes 🙂 .
*My sister did mention that she had a GREAT birthday dinner at a place called Zucca which was delicious and not that expensive: Zucca
G E N E R A L I N F O R M A T I O N & TIPS:
*Don’t forget to bring outlet converters, comfy shoes, umbrella, scarf, hat & gloves (if going around winter time), make a copy of your passport to carry with you and leave the real ones in a safe spot at the hotel. Staying at hotels with breakfast included is life saving and so good! Get up early, enjoy the unlimited breakfast food, ask how long it takes to get to the places you want to go, mark your map, and conquer the day!
*Buying and printing tickets ahead of time for the Vatican, and possibly Colosseum in Rome if you want to see the bottom level. Buy tickets to see and climb up the Duomo & the Uffizi at museum in Florence ahead of time as well.
*Create your contacts for each hotel because you cannot always get access to wifi and you may need the information. We needed the addresses of each hotel for taxi drivers, and the number of hotel to call and see if our friend was there because we lost her (will tell you in next note).
*We took trains to transfer between Rome to Florence and Florence to Venice, short rides no more than 2 hours, much cheaper than flight and worth it. Only note to make here is that the stops are SHORT. You need to get ready with your luggage as soon as the first alert the train gives you that you are almost arriving at your stop. The doors only opened for roughly 60 seconds!!! We were not quick enough to get our luggage and one of our friends ended up getting left at the train-stop by herself , we watched the doors close in between us and the train just left, would not stop for us. She was okay and ended up going and waiting for us at the hotel but, be aware and have a plan if you travel in groups! Make sure to know you can turn on your data on your phone if you do get separated, which is something that the 3 of us didn’t think to do but our friend that got lost did and it would have saved us a whole lot of worrying and time if we thought of that. OR you can just buy some walky-talky and bring that with you on the trip, so useful!
*As for money, it is a better rate to withdraw it out of a local ATM in Italy than bringing lots of American cash. Do bring a bit for safety or emergency but much safer to bring less and just taking out Euro’s there. On that note, make sure to notify your banks before you travel that you are traveling, if you have BofA and have their App you can do that on your cell in a few minutes. That way your card wont get blocked! They do take cards almost everywhere in Italy so that’s helpful.
*Soda is very expensive in restaurants! It costs between 3 to 6 Euros. A way you can save on eating out is by asking your waiter about a 3 course special because we got a full meal including a starter, first and main entries and sometimes even a coffee/cappuccino for the price between 10 and 17 Euros rather than one entrée for 20! So good! P.S They do NOT like giving out ketchup, and I love ketchup so it was a struggle for me, I seriously would bring and carry with you your own ketchup bottle if you need it to complete your meal like me. I actually was asked to pay 2 Euros for some Ketchup at one place.
* The people are not too friendly sometimes, try to speak other languages if you do know another language other than English, it seemed to help us get better treatment. If not, try to study a bit Italian before you go because they really seem to appreciate the effort.
*Go to local supermarkets to buy some snacks, water, alcohol – much cheaper and same quality. On that note, don’t be afraid to bargain on the streets!! They started off at 45 for something and my boyfriend got it down to 15! Pretty much, if you walk away saying it’s too expensive, they will lower the price.
*Use the metro and the bus! It is a waste of money to use cabs but sometimes necessary if traveling with lots of luggage to airport or train station, so you know, any cab that is not white, is not legit! They will scam you, so make sure to only use white colored car cabs.
*Use the resources at your hotel, the maps help a ton so make sure to grab one and carry with you! Buy touristy things before the main attractions because the price goes way high near them.
*If you are traveling in a group in Venice, split that 80 Euro gondola ride with another couple if you don’t mind, there’s room for four and you save some money 🙂 . Also , make sure to pick a pretty place to go on the gondola, some slopes are not that pretty at all!
*In florence, buy a bottle of wine from the supermarket and bring it to the top of the Michael Angelo tower with a few plastic cups to share with your friends, or just drink from the bottle like I did. Watch the sunset there it is breath-taking and there’s a local musician playing some good relaxing music.
*My last but most important tip – see everything both day and night!!! It’s two different worlds and both worth it!
I hope this was helpful , I tried to keep it as short as possible! please please please feel free to comment with any other questions you have !