As fate would have it, a good friend of mine messaged me with questions about traveling to Italy–it’s her first time traveling there and traveling outside of the United States. I said that I would do some research for her since I was excited for her upcoming trip to Italy with her family. I have visited Italy several times before. I decided to write this blog for her and to anyone else who might be traveling to Italy for their first time. Since she doesn’t know yet what city she will be visiting, I’ll just cover the cities I have actually visited. I won’t be going into a detailed review for each city, but rather listing some tourist attractions to visit. More information can be found by clicking on the links. Please feel free to add or correct any information I missed or misrepresented.
Firenze, Toscana (Florence the capital of Tuscany)
Florence is a romantic Tuscan city. You can wander its narrow streets and discover wonderful restaurants, shops, and gelaterie. It is filled with history: museums, churches, statues, and fountains. I’ve included just a few things to see and visit, but the rest is up to you to discover. Florence is a walking town and very picturesque. You can see a great view of Florence from Giardino Bardini. Here are some sights to see and visit, and here is a link to the Florence Airport.
- Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This is a must-see if you’re here in Florence.
- Galleria dell’Accadeia (Accademia Gallery) where you can see the statue of David.
- Giardini Bardini
- Il Porcellino (The Bronze Pig) at Piazza del Mercato Nuovo. Rub the snout to ensure that you’ll come back to Florence.
- Palazzo Pitti and Giardino Boboli.
- Ponte Vecchio. This is the bridge that crosses the Arno river.
- San Miniato al Monte. Carlo Lorenzini is buried here. He authored Pinocchio. You can also see great views of Florence from here.
- Uffizi Gallery. You can see the works of Botticelli.
The town of Pisa is close by if you would like to visit the Leaning Tower. Entrance to the tower is limited since only a certain number of people are allowed inside at a given time.
Travel Tip: Have coins handy in case you need to use a public restroom. Prices will vary but they are usually between 1 to 3 euros. Don’t be surprised to encounter a restroom attendant when you enter a facility. And speaking of money, you can save on expensive transaction fees and exchange rates by getting Euros at a local ATM rather than at the exchange bureau at the airport (in the U.S. or abroad). To save even more on exchange rates, ask your bank if they offer a rate free, pre-paid credit card for your travel.
Milano, Lombardia (Milan the capital of Lombardy)
Milan is a fashion capital and it is also a gateway to the Italian Alps. You can visit the stunning Lake Como by train. And if you arrive here by plane, you can take a train from the airport, Malpensa, right into the city of Milan.
- Castello Sforzesco
- Duomo di Milano. This is an amazing cathedral. You can even walk on its roof.
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This place is free to walk around in. There are shops and restaurants here.
- La Scala Opera. This is a historic opera house. If you get a chance to visit its interior, it is worth it.
- Santa Maria delle Grazie (to see the Last Supper “il Cenacolo”). If you’re planning to see “The Last Supper”, I highly recommend getting your tickets ahead of time and finding out when they open. The painting is highly visited, but they only allow a number of visitors at any time. Please verify any information concerning this attraction.
Travel Tip: You might be surprised to find that shops, banks, and other services are closed around noon. Mind the hours as these places will be open for business later in the day. On Sundays, some shops and markets may be closed.
Napoli, Campania (Naples the capital of Campania)
Napoli holds a special place for me because the people here are warm and welcoming, especially if you speak Italian. They will suggest, however, that you learn the dialect, Neopolitano. Their airport is Aeroporto Internazionale di Napoli. Naples is a crazy city–just watch the traffic. Anywhere you go to eat, it will be exquisite and delicious. There is a pizza rivalry between Naples and the neighboring city of Sorrento that you should take advantage of because the pizzas are incredible in this part of Italy. One thing to be very aware of if you visit Naples: do not wear jewelry. Theft is rampant here, but you can avoid this by being careful of your belongings.
- Capri. This is the island you would see from Naples. There are ferries and tours that you can take to visit the island.
- Castel Nuovo
- Castel dell’Ovo
- Ercolano (Herculeneum). Herculeneum is almost overshadowed by the popularity of Pompei, but you can take advantage of this as there are less crowd; however, this doesn’t mean that it is less spectacular than Pompei.
- Galleria Umberto I
- Museo di Capodimonte
- Museo Nazionale della Ceramica Duca di Martina
- Piazza del Plebiscito. This is a large piazza with many attractions near it: Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola; Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli Vitorrio; Giardinoi del Molosiglio.
- Pompeii. This is the tourist attraction here in Naples, so there will be a lot of tourists. The grounds can be cumbersome for people with mobility issues as most of the pathways are cobblestone.
- Vesuvius. Beware of the walking stick scam before you climb up to the crater–they don’t tell you that they ask for a euro when you return the sticks. On the upside, you just might find some inexpensive souvenirs here. I bought a cap for only 3 euros! Be also aware that people with mobility issues will find this a very difficult activity to partake in.
Travel Tip: Protect yourself from theft by keeping wallets thin and in your front pocket–even better if you have a money belt. I would be wary of carrying around a purse, but just be aware of your surroundings. Keep small bills handy, but hide larger notes and credit cards hidden away. If you have access to a safe at your hotel, use it to store your passport. And be sure to have a copy of your passport on you as well as a digital copy stored in a cloud service like Evernote, Google Drive, OneNote, etc.
Roma, Lazio (Rome the capital of Lazio as well as Italy)
This is, of course, the capital of Italy; the city most people visit while in the country. The airport is called Fiumicino or Leonardo da Vinci Airport. With that in mind, you will encounter many groups of tourists. There is a lot to see in this Eternal City so be prepared to walk and where the right shoes for the activity. You can also take the subway or metro to save some distance.
- Colosseo (Colosseum) Be aware that visitors need to be able to climb steps, sometimes uneven, if you’re planning to explore this attraction. There tends to be a lot of tourists. Outside the Colosseum, you can take pictures with gladiators for a small fee.
- Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). This is a delightful and awe-inspiring monument, but best of all it is free! Be prepared to be surrounded, however, by groups of tourists. And don’t forget to toss a coin over your left shoulder into the fountain to ensure you will return to Rome. You may want to visit this twice: during the day and the evening when the fountain is lit.
- Metropolitana. You can get around Rome using the metro.
- Palatine Hills
- Piazze (plural of piazza or town squares). There are a lot of piazze to visit in Rome. Here are some to visit:
- Piazza Barberini
- Piazza Navona
- Piazza del Popolo
- Piazza di Spagna
- Piazza Venezia
- Vatican City. Be careful when buying tickets for the Vatican City. Make sure that you can enter St. Peter’s Basilica as well as other attractions like the Sistine Chapel. Often times ticket bookings are not connected to one and another. Be also prepared for long lines and large crowds of tourists. You can also climb to the top of the cathedral or the cupola. Before entering the basilica, be sure to dress modestly. Sending postcards might be a thing of the past, but you can mail a postcard from the Vatican and have it be stamped from the Vatican.
Travel Tip: Bring a second battery for cameras as well as an external battery charger for cell phones if you’re planning to take pictures with your phone. Be sure you have enough space on your phone for pictures–I’m looking at you iPhone users. If you are going to use a camera, be sure you have enough memory capacity on your memory card or bring extra cards just in case. If you’re using a camera without wifi capabilities and want to upload photos to Facebook or another internet service, you can connect the memory card to a laptop or you can connect it to your phone using this type of gadget.
Venezia, Veneto (Venice the capital of Veneto)
This is a unique Italian city, a wonderful place to go out and return by cruise ship. If you’re flying into the Marco Polo Airport, it is easy to take the bus and arrive in Venice at the Piazzale Roma. You can also take the water bus or water taxi known as a vaporetto. Be prepared to navigate through narrow streets and flooded squares–depending on the tide. There are cheap plastic boots that you can buy if you’re encountering flooding in places, but the city does provide raised walkways when appropriate. Be prepared to take massive amounts of photos! Venice is one of the most picturesque Italian city you will visit. It is breathtaking if you’re planning to leave here (or arrive here) on a cruise ship.
- Basilica di San Marco
- Campanile di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Belltower)
- Colonne de San Marco e San Todaro
- Palazzo Ducale
- Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square). This is free to visit. It’s an immense square filled with shops and restaurants. Most tourists find their way here to take pictures and just take in the spirit of Venice. There are times that this area may be flooded so be aware and be prepared–you just might be buying a pair of those rubber boots.
- Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs)
- Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge)
- Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia. You can buy water bus (vaporetto) tickets in front of the train station to go to the island of Murano to see how Murano glass is made.
From Venice, you can take the train for a very reasonable fare to go visit Verona or Padua (Padova). You can visit the “home” of Juliet, of “Romeo and Juliet” fame, in Verona. Verona is a picturesque and quaint town. In Padua, you can visit Saint Anthony’s Basilica or Basilica di Sant’Antonio.
Travel Trip: When having an Italian dinner, take your time and savor your food. It’s not out of the ordinary to spend two hours or more at dinner. And it’s not out of the ordinary to order pizza as the first course (primi piatti on the menu)–don’t worry there are more choices for the second course (secondi piatti). Try the tiramisù if you want to taste the real thing, but don’t forget all the other wonderful Italian desserts just waiting for you to enjoy. And wherever you go in Italy, there will always be a handy gelateria nearby.
For further Italian tips, click on the link to a list of videos from Wolter’s World on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=wolters+world+travel+italy
And for other travel reviews, you can check out my reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a great place to go to read reviews from travelers like yourself.