Milano, Venezia, Cinque Terre, Firenze, and Roma
My trip to Italy was done in two different trips. I actually flew into the Milan airport on my way to Switzerland because it was significantly cheaper, and the second Italy visit was done partially solo. My cousin, Gina, was visiting her paternal mother country through a church with her mother, aunt and cousin. Gina’s schedule was pretty rigid, so I decided to meet up with her in Florence on my third day.
I stayed in this fantastic hostel in Milan. I think it was actually one of my favorites in Europe. The entire vibe of this place was hip and relaxed. I was in Milan by myself, but with this hostel I made friends easily. It was called Ostello Bello Grande – the only thing was that this hostel was on the pricey end… When I came to check in, I got a complementary beer and the receptionist personally went through a run down of the place. This was the highlight of my stay, and I think accommodations really set the tone of a trip. Milan was nice, the weather at the time was mild, the food was great, but compared to the other Italian cities I visited, Milan wasn’t my favorite. It’s big and commercialized and doesn’t have as much character compared to the others.
Venice is not a small city. It’s sprawling with canals and boats and food. I planned on meeting my cousin, Gina, in Venice, but with her schedule, she didn’t have much free time. So we decided we’d meet up in Florence. Low and behold after my first hour in the city and visiting the biggest square in Venice, St. Mark’s Square, I see a funky little tour group with my cousin Gina following the leader. It was unbelievable. Not only did I find her in this city occupied with millions of people, but she was in the middle of taking a selfie with her other cousin. Just in time, I run in and crash their picture. The next minute, she’s screaming her head off in pure joy because we’ve found one another. It was a moment for the books.
Venice is gorgeous. The canals and the boats make the city idyllic. Some Venetian specialties that you have to try are the bellinis and the squid ink pasta. Those are both delicious and specialties for a reason. I had less than 15 hours in the city, but I think since it was so small, it was the perfect amount.
Hands down one of my favorite places in Italy. It is breathtaking. I trained from Venice to Florence, and decided a tour was the best way to see Cinque Terre in a day. I went through Viator and for 100usd I was given a full day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre (it included transportation, snacks and lunch). And the tour guides were super knowledgable and helpful. I think it was the best option because I was alone and it was convenient. Cinque Terre is made up of five different towns, each with its own specialties. Pesto started in the heart of Genoa, and Cinque Terre sits in the Genoa territory. The pesto was amazing. The lunch they served consisted of fresh seafood and pesto pasta. It was incredible.
The one thing about traveling alone is that I can so easily make friends if I want to. The tour consisted of all couples and I was the single one out. It didn’t bother me, but I think the others pitied me… but I got a free limoncello shots and gelato out of it, so I can play the victim card for free food!
Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, and in all the Italian regions, Tuscany is my favorite. The food is beyond amazing. Every dish I had was flavorful and elegant. The Florentine steak is something I highly recommend. The meat is rich and tender and taste like fine olive oil. My cousin and I enjoyed a two person set meal and it was perfectly portioned. Gina’s other cousin, Jake, accompanied us through our little tour of Florence and we were a little band of misfits. Something that Gina and I reflected on recently was during that dinner with the three of us, I mentioned that we were all apart of the dead parents club. Both Gina and Jake’s fathers passed recently and I think I was just trying to find a commonality between the three of us. This sounds depressing, but in reality I think the instant bond shared in that moment really meant a lot to each one of us.
Ponte Vecchio is the top left picture and it’s a bridge filled with vendors, usually more upscale the some of the other markets, and it’s neat to see the jewelry and other fine goods. Recommendation: ZaZa Trattoria – pictured in bottom left corner. Food is reasonably priced and very tasty!
Rome is either a hit or a miss with some people. For me, it was a complete miss. The reason being was my hostel was shit – dirty and filled with sleazy people. (But maybe that’s Rome in general.) I saw the Colosseum and that was worth the flight to Rome alone. It’s magnificent and the tours are usually really helpful and insightful. Another thing about Rome is that is really walkable and it’s the best way to see the city. I also visited Vatican City (the Pope was ironically in the U.S. at the time…). St. Peter’s Basilica is really breathtaking and the Vatican is really something else. Definitely worth the trip, but be prepared to wait in ridiculous lines.
Giolitti is one of Rome’s most famous gelato shops. There is usually a long line, but the wait is worth it. It’s cheap and so so good.
I miss you everyday Italy (more so your food than anything….), until next time!