Firenze Sunset

8 Things I Love About Italy

I was delightfully surprised to find ourselves conquering 3 cities in Italy in just 4 days. I had spent two whole days flying in and out of Italy because unfortunately there were no overnight or direct flights available so I had to fly during the day with a few stop overs. But at least all my flights were thoroughly enjoyable and flying with different airlines gave me a whole new travel experience.

Flying American Airlines First Class from Los Angeles to Rome for USD 5.60

Flying Air Canada Business Class from Zurich to Los Angeles for USD 345

Aerial views of ItalyFiumicino Italy

Flying into Rome was amusingly scenic, so be sure to check outside your airplane window as you descend into Fiumicino Airport.

The morning I arrived at our Airbnb accommodation in Rome (my best friend would arrive later that night), instead of wanting to explore the city immediately, I chose what every exhausted mom would probably want to do the first chance they get when they’re alone…. to catch on some sleep. And so I did. For five hours. Uninterrupted. Bliss.

Even though we didn’t get a chance to visit all the tourists’ spots in Italy, we did get to see the best parts of each city and here are the Top 8 Things I Love about Italy and why I think it is one of the most visited countries in Europe.

 

1. Trastevere, Rome

Our Airbnb studio apartment in Rome, thanks to my friend’s Italian friend’s recommendation, is located in Trastevere, a charming neighborhood with cobblestone pathways surrounded by ancient buildings, vibrant trattorias, cafes with patios, pubs and small boutiques. I immediately fell in love with this neighborhood as it also reminds me of Soho in New York City.

What’s great about this neighborhood is it’s not right in the city center where all the tourists are staying which brings out an alluring local flare and exciting social scene. Trastevere also has an endless option of amazing Italian restaurants, including a restaurant where I had the best Carbonara pasta in my life (I need to check on the restaurant name again because almost all restaurants in Italy either has a Ristorante, Trattoria or Pizzeria in it – super confusing).

Trastevere RomeTrastevere Restaurant SceneTrastevere restaurant scene.

2. The Cobblestone Streets

Not just in Trastevere, but cobblestone streets and alleys are all over Rome and I can never get enough of it.

Cobblestone Streets

 

 

3. Vatican City & Colosseum – Rome

Pointing out the obvious, a trip to Rome would not be complete without a visit to Vatican City and the Colosseum. We did both and was done by noon, yes we were that efficient. Well we didn’t really get inside the Colosseum because the line to get in was over 2 hours so we figured we didn’t want to go in THAT bad and was already in awe by the majestic  structure even just by standing next to it. If you want to get inside the Colosseum, you might want to get there early to avoid a long wait. You can also purchase tickets online or at the train station. More info can be found here Rome-Museum or The Colosseum.

We took the underground train from the Colosseum to Vatican City which was highly convenient and quite cheap (€ 1.50 per person valid for 100 minutes). Getting through Vatican City security took the longest but bearable if you come before 11am. Bear in mind there’s a dress code when visiting the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica church, shoulders and knees have to be covered otherwise you’ll be denied entry.For full info on dress codes when visiting the Vatican, visit: Tours Italy or Papal Audience Vatican City.

Watch: Our Rome Trip  in just 2 minutes 

 

3. Convenient Train Line (Railway) System

While it is quite easy to get around Rome by walking or taking the train, Italy also has an effective and efficient railway system between cities in Italy and other cities in Europe. You should purchase train tickets online to compare schedule and prices, my previous blog about how convenient their train line system is can be found here, including review on Italo Business Class train from Rome to Florence.

PS: There is Uber in Rome but only Uber Black and Uber Lux are available, so you’ll be uber-ing in style when needed. There is no Uber in Florence, but quite easy to find taxis if you need transport to/from terminal or airport.If you need airport transfer in Rome, book for a car service in advance (you can do this online) so they can pick you up at the airport  with your name on a card (like you’re someone important) and the driver would immediately know where to take you (some drivers don’t speak English, including the driver who picked me up at Rome Fiumicino Aiport – but he knew where to take me so I was all set).

Several car service companies in Rome:

www.romecabs.com

www.romeshuttlelimousine.com

www.transferitalyrome.com

Some travelers have also suggested to hire a limo service (including private driver) if you’re looking to have a private guided tour while transferring between cities like from Rome to Florence or from Rome to Pompeii because they will be able to show you all the tourists attractions or even local spots in between cities (such as wineries, palaces, gardens, etc). This would be on the expensive side in comparison to taking the train with a self-guided tour of course.

 

4. Capri Island

Visiting the beautiful Capri Island was one of the highlights of our trip, having planned this out of Rome at the last minute turned out to be an excellent day-trip idea.

The best way to reach Capri from Rome:

Take the TRAIN from Rome (Roma Termini Station) to Naples (Napoli Centrale Station) – buy tickets online here     – The journey: 1 Hour 10 Mins on the Frecciarossa fast train (business class is often only €10 – €15 more expensive)

Take a TAXI from Napoli Station to Molo Beverello Ferry Terminal (15 minute journey) – easy to find outside the station

Take the FERRY from Napoli Molo Beverello to Capri     – The journey: 1 Hour, you can book tickets online or buy tickets at the terminal one way fare €15 – €22 

If you have the time, it would be nice to spend a night or two in Capri so you can explore the island much more leisurely. Check out the Blue Grotto (sacred cave) and take a stroll around Anacapri, a small town on top of the island reachable by taxi – awesome views from here. Bring some cash to pay for the boat tours and taxi rides. Other activities in the island includes hiking, shopping and water activities (boating, diving, swimming).

 Watch: Our one day in Capri in under 2 minutes (totally worth it!)

 

5. Florence

Florence (Firenze), capital of Tuscany (Toscana) region is only a 1-hour train ride from Rome and it is hard not to fall in love with this city as it has that magnetic appeal and rich historical charm. (Train tickets and how to get here – checkout #3 above). F

lorence is the center of many Renaissance masterpieces of arts and architecture, like the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and the David (in Accademia Gallery). Other attractions in Florence include Museo di San Marco, Palazzo Pitti, Palazzo Vecchio, Basilica di Santa Croce and Museo del Bargello. You’d probably need the whole week just to visit all the Museums and Palaces – if you’re into these type of things.

Another great tip is to also purchase your Museum tickets online (a few days in advance), it will cost you more but it will save you 2-3 hours of waiting in line if you were to buy tickets directly at the museum.

We stayed for one night in an amazing hotel called the Gallery Hotel Art  nestled in a hidden street near Ponte Vecchio and in the center of everything. My review of the hotel can be found here. 

The Duomo FlorenceThe Duomo – Florence 

Watch: The beautiful Florence and our favorite spots

6. The Food, Wine and Coffee

I mean…. the best Italian food can’t be found anywhere else but in ITALY. Wouldn’t you agree? The fanciest pasta (even with truffles) are relatively cheap and priced between €8 and €13. It was like carbs galore everyday for us because you eat nothing but pasta, pasta, pasta or pizza and of course wine! Our restaurant bill often comes under €40 for two people (including the wine and dessert!). I’m currently on a carbs diet for the rest of the year… (Yeah not really…. ).

Rome - Carbonara Pasta

Firenze - Bistecca

Don’t forget to order the Tiramisu!

7. The Arts

If someone like myself who doesn’t completely understand the depth meaning of an art piece can appreciate how exquisite the arts are then you would absolutely be astounded by the amazing architecture and art displays around Italy if you really know your stuff.

8. The People

Even though I think the people in LA are still the friendliest and most courteous (*wink), the Italians are certainly charming and sociable. Italians are very easy to talk to (even when they don’t speak fluent English strangely enough) and generally very helpful when you ask them for information or directions. All of our accommodation, dining and Uber/Taxi experience have all been pleasant and every single person we encountered had genuine smile and posses a common courtesy.

Overall, Italy is certainly a country I would love to revisit again because there are still places we haven’t got the chance to explore such as Positano, Cinque Terre and Lake Como. This amazing vacation is definitely one of my most memorable moments this year and I’m so grateful to my best friend Andini who had suggested this trip for us so we can reunite from halfway across the world and embark on a girls only adventure. I’m a super duper happy Mama! xo

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