Come here to read about my opinion on Italy? The next sentence you’re going to read starts my little side tangent that isn’t related to Italy, but I couldn’t stop typing. Now I’m re-reading everything realizing I went on a tangent. If you’re ready to see my experience in Italy, scroll to the next paragraph! 😊 I have always been interested in writing my thoughts online, but the idea intimidated me because I thought, "no one cares". But I'm writing it now because I find it fun to relive the trip through writing about it and because of you! The ones out there that have an interest! I also want to share more of myself and link it with my Bella Bia Photography because there is amazing and talented photographers all around that I know narrowing it down to trust only one photographer to capture special moments can be hard. To some, having a complete stranger photograph, sometimes intimate, moments can be awkward AF. Sharing who I am can act as a filter to help your decision on who to trust to photograph special moments. If you don't think we'd vibe well, I understand I'm not a good fit for everyone. But if you think we'd vibe well working together, let's do the damn thing!
SO, Italy. Before diving in to my experience, I feel the need to want to point out that everything I’m writing about is purely my own opinion and perception on whatever I experienced and do not speak on what someone else might experience or may have experienced. I know this could go without saying but here it is!
Anyway, I spent 10 days there. 5 days in Florence and 5 days in Rome.
I went with my mom and sister. We didn't have to worry about renting a car. Honestly, unless you plan on going to multiple places out of any city and want to frequently go into the country side, then I wouldn't renting a car. You can get to a lot of places by foot or public transportation and it's one less thing you have to worry about with parking or gas. Gas? I say that because I didn't see a lot of gas stations close in the city, at least the part that we saw. I'm sure driving is fine but just be prepared to be an aggressive driver and that if there aren't lines on the road it doesn't mean that it's only one lane.
We visited the Accademia where Michelangelo's Statue of David is located. This was apart of a walking tour that we did with City Wonders. It's a place that you can visit on your own, but the benefit of this walking tour was we got to skip the line, got more history behind the different artwork that we were looking at and walked around different parts of Florence to get more history on the city as well. It means so much more when I know what I'm looking at and the hard work that went behind it. The next 3 pictures above, after the Statue of David, are of the Uffizi museum...also done with a skip the line walking tour with City Wonders. I could talk about this tour for days with and overwhelming amount of information, but I'll refrain from writing any history lessons. Last 2 pictures above are views from the Pitti Palace. The next three pictures below are also from the Pitti Palace or a view from it.
The last picture above is of is a sculpture by Giambologna. If you want to look up the meaning behind this statue it's called the "Rape of the Sabine Women." It's so crazy to think that this was once a huge block of marble. The hours of work to display a bigger meaning behind the piece.
One thing that I noticed there was a lot of all around Italy, was the amount of graffiti. Our tour guide even mentioned that teenagers climbed this statue just to put a beer bottle in the women's hand. It's not just recent generations either, in Vatican museum had carvings out of some of the frescoes that were within the apartments that have been there for generations.
I'm not big into religion but a new favorite time to travel is going to be around Christmas time because I'm obsessed with Christmas lights. The only thing that was a drag was that it still gets dark early and it is known to rain more. The cold didn't really bug me, we were walking so much that a light jacket would be just fine. We got rained on a lot but it never stopped us from walking around! Be smarter than me and get actual shoes that support your feet...or let that be a reason to go shopping.
We stayed in Florence for 5 days, but also visited a lot of other places. Below is the coastal villages of Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso). Since we traveled on an "off season", there were a lot of places that were closed and a lot less people. The views didn't disappoint! There were just enough places to pop in for a cappuccino, grab something to eat, or a souvenir. It involves a lot of walking and Corniglia had never ending stairs you had to walk up in order to get to the village. There is a way to get a little shuttle to take you to the village once you get off the train but if you're looking for a killer glutes workout, do it.
Side note, having a small but big enough backpack is GREAT idea. This one from Amazon is the one that I used. We were warned on some of our tours for pick pocket peeps and I ended up catching a girl trying to pick pocket my sister on the metro. What I liked about my backpack is that it opens to the back but there are still two small outside zipper pockets. You don't want to carry around a huge backpack because you might run into issues when going into certain museums or other touristy spots. My sister and I got caught in a torrential downpour one night that we were walking and I was worried about my camera getting wet. It didn't! Other must travel things: umbrella, big rechargeable battery, and pocket WiFi (I used Tep. I got it a couple days before the trip and had it ready to use as soon as we landed).
We ended up not doing any tours through or to Cinque Terre. We took a train and then got a pass that allowed us to go to all 5 villages. During the busy season, I'd recommend staying somewhere in Cinque Terre. We only stayed in each village for about an hour unless we missed the train. But I can imagine there is a lot more to do, like a boat ride! I really didn't look up much more than that because I knew we were going while most of the places were closed. Most of the time it was my sister and I walking around and taking in the views while my mom sat in one place...there were a lot of hills to walk up.
We ended up setting up another tour through Viator (the actual tour company that took us around was "Walkabout") to go around to different places throughout Tuscany. We visited Sienna, a family (wine) farm where we hand lunch, San Gimignano, and Pisa. The views were surreal. If the Midwest could look like like this, I'd be in love. I felt like I didn't spend enough time in these places and the day went by too quick, but it was a 12 hour tour and we saw a lot! Sienna might be my favorite mainly because I got more of a little history lesson here compared to the other places. Pisa was probably my least favorite but that could be because we didn't get a lot of time to explore. We mainly stayed around the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The second to last photo was from the back of a farm that we ate lunch at...a winery pretty much. It was unreal. I felt like I was looking at a painting. It was so peaceful, everything was so green, yes it looked like it does in the movies, and the pictures didn't capture everything. It never does though, does it?
We did the Tuscany tour the 3rd day into Italy. Averaged about 25,000 steps a day. We did so much walking that my 70 year old mother slept the entire next day. Stressing more on getting good support for ya feet if you plan on visiting Italy.
Have you seen the Gladiator with Russell Crowe? You should, it's a staple. But after you do, ignore anything that you see for a Colosseum because it doesn't look like that. It's not a big as you'd think it would be, still big, but not huge...ya feel? Picture above is the Roman Forum which still is still being excavated.
At this point in the trip I've eaten a lot of pizza and pasta. Not mad about that! Aside from the big shopping like Gucci or Versace, there weren't a lot of chain places. My mom was getting a little tired of all the carbs. My sister and I managed to find a MacDonald's and a Burger King for her (-_-).
The Pantheon is free (picture top left), but I might have actually taken a tour because, again, it's just nice to have someone tell us what we are looking at and what the history is behind it without having to look up the information. If you wanna see good ol' Frankie a.k.a the Pope, he addresses the people every Wednesday and it's free, but get a ticket day before. You get it from the Swiss guards at the "bronze" doors. The doors are off to the left. It was a pretty cool experience, felt almost like a concert to me with the drums and trumpets playing and people screaming. If you're into it and want to be get close to the Pope, sit next to the wooden barriers. He rides along the outside of it before going up on stage.
Wanna see an amazing view of Rome? Climb the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica. It's not a lot for a ticket to feel like you're dying because you have to walk 600 steps to the top...OR 300 steps because there is an elevator that takes you half way up. But trust me, it's just as painful as 300 steps sounds. It's very narrow so if you get claustrophobic, don't do it. I don't know how we got so lucky to not not catch anyone wanting to go back down during these narrow parts because they would have had to crowd surf past the people going up.
People were pretty respectful and let others take pictures without getting in the way, as expected, it's still crowded. There are guards that yell at anyone that sits around the fountain. In general, I noticed a lot of police and military personnel sprinkled around Rome and Florence as a way to keep the streets safe.
Baths of Caracalla
One of the many scenes used to film one of the John Wick movies lol. It wasn't my first thought, but my sister and I ventured here right as it opened and there was no one here. I wouldn't have thought a old public bath house would be cool to visit. This place is gigantic.
Next up, the Spanish Steps. A focal point for artists, meeting place for people, iconic place for appearances on the silver screen. A place where you can no longer sit unless you want to get yelled at by the polizia (police). A place that my mom didn't know existed until Everybody Loves Raymond shot an episode in Italy (-_-) lol. Whatever.
This ended up being a longer post than my attention span accepts and I feel like I missed things. One our local guides talked about the process of making real gelato and that's why if you want real gelato, don't go to a place that has a huge mountain of it on display and don't go to a place that sells more than gelato. To summarize final thoughts, I would go back to spend more time in Rome, I'd try more gelato places and eat more cannoli.
My first robotic response when someone asks me, "How was your trip to Italy?", is "Oh my god, I loved it SO much!" But really what I want to say is that it's always great when I get a chance to experience a different culture and see things I never imagined I'd ever get a chance to visit. For the longest time, Italy was a country I only thought I'd see on screens. I told myself that a bucket list experience would be to sit at a wired table outside a cafe in Italy, sipping on a glass of wine while live music is playing. Sounds boring right? But that would summarize all the work I had to do in order to get myself there and I just thought, with life going on, it'd be too expensive for me to make that happen. If I got to the point where I could cross that off my bucket list, I would know that I can prove myself wrong and make the (at least what feels like) impossible happen.
I was sipping on beer but close enough (insert hair flip emoji) lol.
Whether you read everything, skimmed, or just looked at pictures,
thanks for spending some time with me!