WHERE: Pisa, Florence, Siena, Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and Capri
WHEN: September 2012
HOW LONG FOR: 2 weeks
In the summer of 2012 I spent two weeks travelling around Italy with one of my BEST friends from university. I apologise in advance – this post is so backdated that it probably won’t be quite so detailed as my others, but I couldn’t not blog about this trip so I’ll share what I can! We had such a wonderful time exploring each town, eating our weight in pizza and consuming a ridiculous amount of gelato. Whilst I didn’t manage to write down the restaurants we went to, I did keep a gelato diary (priorities, right?). We had 19 each… and each of those 19 consisted of 2 or 3 scoops. For anybody wondering, we travelled around by train, which was super easy.
1. PISA (1 night)
Our first stop was Pisa, and yes, we got the leaning tower photo!
2. FLORENCE (3 nights)
We loved Florence. It was very pretty and the perfect size for exploring on foot. We went on a 2 hour bike tour to orientate ourselves which was really useful. After that we wandered around at our own leisure, visiting the Uffizi gallery, the Pitti Palace, the Duomo (Cathedral), Ponte Vecchio, Santa Croce, Santa Lorenzo, Piazza Michelangelo and the Boboli Gardens. All absolutely stunning.
3. Siena (2 nights)
We both thought Siena was very underrated based on what we had heard from friends in the U.K. We loved it! It was pretty, quaint, and quirky. We were lucky to have somebody my friend knew from home to show us around and explain a little about the city to us. Siena is divided up into ‘contradas’, which are like districts. They each have their own flags decorated with unique colours and animal symbols. We stayed in the Onda Contrada, which was blue and white with the dolphin/fish on its flag. The contradas compete in an annual horserace called the Palio, and we saw the winning contrada parade around the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo.
4. Rome (4 nights)
Our next stop was the capital city, Rome! For some reason, I managed to keep a diary of what we did in Rome, so I can give a much more detailed account of what we got up to. On our first day, similarly to Florence, we booked ourselves on a city tour to get our bearings- this time on an open-top bus. We then made our way on foot around the sites. We visited the Trevi Fountain, tossing a coin over our left shoulders to ‘ensure our return to Rome one day’. We also saw the Pantheon, the ‘temple to all Gods’ and had an expresso Roman-style on the Saint Eustachio Cafe and headed to the Campo de Fiori, Rome’s market square. We walked up the Via Corso towards the Piazza del Popolo which had a huge column covered in hieroglyphics in its centre. After that, we visited the Villa Borghese area where we rented Segways – defo worth it for only €8 for 30mins. We then stopped off at the Spanish Steps which were, ironically, founded, designed and funded by the French! We heard that the Fontana della Barcaccia next to the Steps is said to have the sweetest water in Rome.
On our second day we went on a tour of ancient Rome, beginning at the Colosseum where the historic gladiator fights were held. We also saw the Forum, which was the old meeting place and business and political centre, and Palentine Hill where it is said that Romlulus founded Rome and stabbed his brother Remus in the back. After our tour of the ancient city, we went to the Vatican City and saw St Peters Basillica. We then walked to the Castel Sant’Angelo, which used to be Hadrian’s Mausoleum before it was converted into a fortress and subsequently a prison, and crossed the Ponte Sant’Angelo which was lined with Angel statues.
On our final day in Rome we explored the Jewish Ghetto and the Trastavere, where I would thoroughly recommend the amaretti biscuits and meringues form the bakery ‘Innocente’. We walked up to Fonte Acqua Paola, a fountain on Janiculum Hill that overlooks Rome, and then headed to the Circus Maximus where the chariot races were once held.
5. SORRENTO (4 nights)
We finished our Italian adventure on the coast, in the beautiful seaside town that smells like lemons… Sorrento! From here we did a tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius with a larger-than-life coach driver called Eustachio, who powered over the Italian terrain shouting “Bella! Bella! Bella!”. We loved Eustachio. On our tour we were taken around Pompeii where we learnt about life back in 79AD and saw the heartbreaking casts of the victims of the terrible eruption. We then hiked up Mount Vesuvius to it’s steaming crater which provided us with wonderful views that my camera failed to capture. During our stay in Sorrento, we also took the ferry over to Capri. We didn’t have much time on the island, but we explored on foot and went for a little wallow in the crystal-clear sea. The perfect end to the perfect tour of Italy. Ciao Bella!